This week saw our class receiving the first proper lesson, lecture or workshop depending on how you relate to it.
Our group on BA(Hons) Photography at University Of Wolverhampton has been split into two groups, one group spending the next 6 weeks on B&W photography and ultimately producing a series of B&W images on the brief , “The Path Is The Journey”.
One of the first phrases Matt used was “Photography is very revealing about yourself” which I found to be an insightful comment and made me think about how I present subjects of my photographs, whether they be people, buildings or vehicles.
Matt displayed a series of photographs by Mark Steinmetz and asked the group to contemplate what the series represented and in some cases what we considered the picture to be about and the emotions it brought about. Some of the images shown were stunning and some, whilst great images, were street photography images capturing the people on the road or in an airport in everyday situations. Few of them were seemingly posed and all rather natural. All images being black and white evoked a nostalgic quality for me and whilst i’ve never been to some of the places in his photographs, I can relate to where they might be and what the environment in that are may be like. Primarily through movies and tv shows like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, American Ultra for example, that all show the small town America with empty streets, big gas stations etc.
Reading further on Steinmetz, other photographers are mentioned such as Walker Evans, Helen Levitts, Vivien Maier and some of Cartier-Bresson. Lots of images on the web but many of them are poor reproductions of images in published photo books.
The vocabulary used to discuss some of the photographs is still alien to me, I tend to have an engineering mindset around photographs and composition in general and feel less comfortable when discussing emotions, feelings or interpretations. Matt and Jack had a discussion about Formalism too which, put simply, is the art of creating a technically great image and paying less attention to the subject. Jack said that Formalism is still a very talked about concept in photography and art whilst Matt argued that it was definitely a no-go topic to use formalism related descriptions for photographs of late.
Interesting that two fine artists have such diametrically opposed views on a single topic such as this, but shows just how subjective art is to every single creator and viewer.
Once Matt had finished, Jack stood to talk briefly about Colour Film Photography and to give us our brief which is “The Colour Of Change” and in 6 weeks time we should have produced a series of at least 5 images, contact sheets, test prints and more in the dark room from a camera that we’ll begin to experiment with next week.
The brief points out that a story should be told of an aspect of life, or even ones own life that has changed in some way recently. May the brainstorming begin!!
Next week another lecture on Colour photography whilst the B&W Group go out with cameras, but that’s due to colour processing being a little more complex than monochrome print development.
After I’d finished the lecture and workshop I headed to the lift, for a ride to the 7th and top floor so I could take a photo downwards from the top of the staircase. It’s a great stair set with plenty of light in different places and the yellow stripes make it look even more dangerous to my factory-safety-trained eyes. I tried a photo with just the stair case and bannisters but it lacked something so I thought to put my feet through the gap on the stairs to make it a little reminiscent of those adventurers walking on top of huge chimney stacks in russia!!
Looking up from the very bottom of the building,, in the basement level where photographers are stored, the picture looks very different. There is a lack of colour with the concrete being punctuated by some timber occasionally. Again , it appeals to my engineering mindset as it could be a long tunnel down to somewhere or even a horizontal structure where a starship might enter a dock in a sci fi film, until you realise it is actually just a huge staircase.