Thursday, 9 February 2012

Seminar 1 ‒ “The Commission ‒ The Portrait Issue”

Finlay MacKay, ‘Changing Pace, David Weir’ for ‘The Road to 2012’

MacKay’s portfolio includes sport and portraiture as well as complex advertising productions that draw on graphic novels and the work of contemporary artists, such as the Scottish painter Peter Howson. For the National Portrait Gallery/BT Road to 2012 Project MacKay has moved away from a traditional sports approach.  By observing and responding to the narratives that the athletes and their training locations present, he has created a series of contemplative scenarios to tell a story of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games from a singular perspective.

MacKay uses a singular perspective to create a bigger picture of the Olympics. Instead of  just simply having the athlete in a training ground he has used a different approach and decided to surround him with a natural landscape. The camera position he has used means that he doesn’t just focus on the athlete, but also the surroundings as well, as they become a vital part of the photograph.

Ulrich Gebert ‘Freischneider’ 2004

In Ulrich Gebert‘s photography work, nature – explicitly the botanical – as raw material for the human being who, incidentally, likes to maintain order comprises but just the outer layer of the analysis of the relationship between human being, shrubbery and patterns of order. In addition to pictures of vegetation, tamed and cut into form, „Freischneider“ also portraits the men who carry the blades? Garden and gardener are set face to face; the confrontation resembles a culprit/victim relationship; this is characterized by gestures of suppression and a hierarchical conception of order, correct and incorrect design.

The separation of garden and gardener demonstrates that a physical confrontation between man and nature is hardly necessary anymore to validate the claim to power: an upright position shows empowerment, upon the plant world. Dressed in uniform, the helmet shows the gardener is armed and ready to protect himself, immunizing him against doubt and wounds from his branches and foliage. The human being presents himself here as an oversized armed Giant; the campaign against the vegetation in its absurd disproportionality turns out as a caricature of modernist dominance-over-nature fantasies.

 Gebert uses a close up camera angle to capture the expression of the gardener, also the way his body and head is placed shows that this was maybe posed. Gebert has also used bright lighting, to highlight the saturation of the colours of the gardener’s uniform.

Toby Glanville ‘Actual Life’ 2002 (Teacher)

Actual Life presents work made in Kent by the British photographer Toby Glanville over a period of three years, from 1997 to 2000. The setting for Glanville’s work is largely rural and yet he generates a response to people and places that is entirely contemporary and compelling. Like the best photographs, Glanville’s restrained and delicate colour images are both simple and densely weighted with the complexities of time and space.

The remarkable thing about Glanville’s work is that he has allowed his subject their uncertainty; we seem to see the conflict on their faces. When a pose is a solution to a problem, the interest of the problem disappears. He has not forced his subjects to make a decision about themselves. He likes to experiment with the subject and how they would react to the camera. Glanville’s portraits of people reveal but never expose the person completely. There is enigmatic straight forwardness about the ways in which Glanville’s subjects look at the camera; and it is usually the camera that he wants them to look at.

What I think Glanville’s tries to show us in this particular series is the absurd poignancy of our wish to be prepared. Glanville has used natural light to create this image, you can see the direction of the light from the window on the right hand side of the photo. This series of of images is all about having a simple approach to photographing a person and capturing colurs in a delicate way. By using soft natural lighting this allows Glanville to capture the delicate colours. Although this image is very simple it still looks posed, like the subject was meant to stand in this specific spot for a particular reason.

After looking at all three hotographers the one similarity they all seem to have is they all appear staged or posed, whether it’s a facial expression or a particular way they are standing nothing is natural. Individually they use lighting and certain camera positions to highlight the subject and make them react to the camera in a way the photographer wants. Each photographer wants to capture the subjects relation to their surroundings in that particular moment in time, highliting on their body position and facial expression.

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