18-31 July: Sun Pier House Gallery, Chatham – Residency

Following the walk with Elspeth Penfold, she asked me if I would like to do a joint residency with her using images I had taken from the walk.  This shows us setting up:

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The following are the images I exhibited:

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It was the first time I had done a residency so felt it was valuable experience and a chance for my work to be seen away from the local area.

22 July: Big Cats, Smarden

A few years ago I had visited the private zoo for a photo day.  This was a fund-raising Open Day for the public so an opportunity to take some more images.  However it was very overcrowded and so was difficult at times to get near to take good images.

The following are some of the ones are which I took:

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The following showed some interesting tattoos.

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17 July: TSE Walking Group

Elspeth who set up the original Turner Contemporary group held another walk as part of a TSE symposium day for the University of Kent.  I was commissioned to take images of the walk for her.  This in turn led her to ask me to do a joint Artist in Residency with her at Sun Pier House Gallery, Chatham.

The following are some of the images from the day:

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16 July: Fort Burgoyne, Dover

An invitation was sent by Dover Arts Council advising that the site would be open to local artists for one day.  It provided an opportunity to take images of a site of historical interest which is rarely open to the public.  The site has been used since Napoleonic times with evidence of gun placements, and during WWII it was used as a weapons storage facility.

_L0A0944Although a bright sunny day, the light inside the buildings was challenging in places and the resulting images did not truly show the textures and decay that were evident in places.

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This lady was taking advantage of the sunshine and I loved her hat!

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6 Oct: A guided walk to The Waste Land with Dr Ian Jones

CLORE LEARNING CENTRE, TURNER CONTEMPORARY

Ian had suggested setting up a reading group for those people who are unfamiliar with the poem and the first meeting was held at the gallery.  There was a good attendance to this event and the space and lighting enabled me to take some better images than those taken at the Yacht Club.

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It is interesting to note those people who are regularly supporting the group, and also to see what a cross-section of knowledgeable, talented people who are attending.

 

14 April: Final Thoughts and Influences.

VIDEO SUBMISSION

Having had the experience of making the initial proposal I found this a most helpful and informative exercise and it enabled me in turn to investigate changes which needed to be made for the final submission.  After spending time looking closely at the films of a very diverse range of filmmakers from Jean Cocteau, through to Terence Davies, Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji, it made me analyse and focus more closely on exactly what I wanted to achieve through my own video.

I found scenes that did not involve any human presence particularly thought-provoking and created for me personally a greater involvement with the chosen subject. However, I soon realised that it would be virtually impossible to avoid a human presence due to the subject matter I had chosen. As the video concentrates on people begging and living on the streets, a human presence is in fact pivotal to my video.  So my challenge was to try to find a common ground, to relate what I wanted to show and not merely depict people and scenes in a purely documentary way.  I also wanted to use other influences to guide my own practice but still use my own voice.  So the work particularly of Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji influenced the  way I had previously thought about the importance of the speed, and the flow of one scene to another; the mix of incremental sound and audio and to create a general pace for the work as a whole .

As a first attempt at making a video it brought the need for technical expertise into play and also emphasised the importance of smooth panning shots, and the ability to create different levels of focus, through such things as zooming in on a subject.  The ability to be able to use my Canon 5D MKII to do the filming was a great asset, although I soon realised that the audio capabilities of the camera were somewhat limited, so in turn I used a Zoom H1 hand-held  recorder when I was undertaking the interviews. This also made it easier in the editing process when I wanted to treat the audio aspects separately from the visual recordings.

As a photographer such things as composition become almost automatic over time and filming itself was an exciting experience.  The general public seemed almost to disregard me and seemed less suspicious than if I was out taking pictures with my camera. It also highlighted the need for the necessary equipment, such as filming on a tripod or monopod and the ability to film on the move whilst holding a heavy camera.  This is something that I need to prefect with the acquisition of the correct equipment.

As a result of the initial proposal it was also it was also necessary to reduce the amount of content as the resulting work would have been too long, so this in turn made me look more closely as what was important to include and in turn what to remove.  For example,  I did not finally include any of the interviews I had recorded with members of the public but merely included those taken with people who had experience of begging and living on the streets.

The editing process, whilst time-consuming I found was personally challenging, exciting and  a very creative process.  It highlighted the importance of audio as an instrument to create atmosphere to the visual element of the film.  Initially I had intended to  include music appropriate to the subject matter, such as Tom Jones’ ‘I want to go home’, but realised that it is preferable to have instrumental tracks only, so as not to create any influence on the viewer, whether intentional or otherwise.  I was also interesting in being able to mix in different layers of audio and in turn fine tune such things as when sound fades in and out on a scene, and to lead in to the next scene.

WRITTEN ELEMENT

The word count limit for the written element of the submission meant that whilst initially I had intended to compare a film by Zineb Sedira with one by Zarina Bhimji, I could realistically only focus on one film.  So I chose Yellow Patch  by Zarian Bhimji, which had made a lasting impression on me having first seen her work in December 2012.    The written element of this submission can be seen via the following link:

 http://wp.me/p463VC-pe

Personally I have greatly enjoyed discovering the work of people I may have come into contact with before but not looked at so closely.  As a result I now find that I particularly view film footage in a different way after having made the video.  With everything that one does we become more critical of our own work, or find ways that it could be improved if we were repeating the exercise.  In this respect learning in turn enables one to gain expertise and together with it the confidence to progress in the future.

Mixed Media Project – Written Element

MIXED MEDIA PROJECT

WRITTEN ELEMENT

An investigation into the influence of bias on the photographic and moving image

As viewers we regard unfavourably those photographic images that have been overtly manipulated, in instances such as to change the physical appearance of celebrities or public opinion for political gain; such as the image of O.J. Simpson on the cover of Time Magazine in 1994.  On considering bias, it is to be questioned as to whether or not bias is a less overt form of manipulation, and whether it is ever possible to produce work which is completely devoid of bias on behalf of the photographer or filmmaker.  This essay will look at the film ‘Yellow Patch’ (2011) by Zarina Bhimji, a 35 mm film shot in India; to determine if her work provides evidence of personal preferences and inclinations.  She is a mixed media artist who has worked with installation, photography and video.

Bhimji was born in Uganda in 1963 to Asian parents, who were later expelled to the UK by the Idi Amin Regime in 1974.  This appears to have led to a search for her own sense of a personal and national identity through her work, having returned to her ancestral country to investigate how things currently exist.  The film follows a documentary format which Tagg (1988, p.12) refers to as having, “transformed the flat rhetoric of evidence into an emotional experience of drama.”  It is also more realistic than what Howells and Negreiros (2014, pp. 207, 208) refer to as, “photography’s ‘frozen’ reality (which) … frees the viewer from the constraints of time and space.”  Prosser (2006, p.72) also adds that film in turn provides the ‘fourth dimension’, an extension of that moment in time which photography captures. The exhibition by Bhimji at the Whitechapel Gallery (2012) provided a collaboration of both still and moving images, where images related to the supplementary film to form a cohesive whole.  These in turn enabled the viewer to engage with the subject matter on a much deeper level.

“The dominant tradition in film”, according to Sontag (2009, p.244) “has centered upon the more or less novelistic unfolding of plot and idea”.   However films particularly within the gallery setting, go beyond the mere narrative towards the ideological, and a view that it is not necessary to present work through more conventional means. Sontag (1979, p.143) also stated that the nature of photography (and in turn film) is such that, “one is not obliged to choose; and that preferences are … merely reactive.”  Bhimji (2012, pp.18, 19) states that “it is important … to remain allegorical if (she touches on) … the subject of politics” but she is interested in creating an emotional response to the material; that which Walter Benjamin (cited in Sontag, 1979, p.76) described as, “to see a new beauty in what is vanishing”.  The viewer concentrates on the evidence they are presented with, and history continues to resonate through to the present bringing new meanings and outlooks towards our increasingly diverse and multicultural environment.  Bhimji states on her website, that she is interested in the “location of light”, and in turn that stillness has the ability to almost create “a suspension of everyday life”.

In Yellow Patch there is a marked absence of the human presence but it makes the viewer stop, contemplate what they are presented with and in turn be still for a while; what Barthes (2000, p.27) refers to as ‘Punctum … that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).”  However Barthes (2000, p.38) also proceeds to state that, “the object speaks, it induces us, vaguely, to think (and that) …no meaning at all is safer.”  Bhimji is not merely playing safe but depicts her personal interpretation of what she has seen and the need she has felt to share this with the viewer.  It does however also show the constraints and decisions she has made in turn as to what not to depict in her work.

The film has an almost ethereal effect with a virtually monochrome palette of colour interspersed with a brief patch of yellow on the trim of the sari as shown in Fig.1, the cobalt blue of the breast of the peacock, and the red and yellow in a stained glass window. We are not told as to what the yellow patch refers, so it possibly may be a metaphor for the vibrant saffron colours of India, the trim on the sari or the quality of changing light.

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Bhimji has used three layers of audio within the film, music by Abida Paveen, ambient sounds and radio recordings.  Together these provide strong clues for the viewer together with the slow contemplation on the images. The repetition of the ambient sounds and radio recordings create an almost ghost like environment, as if the former employees were still working in the buildings, with historical evidence suggesting abandonment from events that had previously occurred.

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The absence of any voice-over commentary further emphasises what is referred to as, “the fact that strong emotional events often resist linguistic expression” (Bhimji, 2012, p.23).  She uses very slow panning shots and her photographic influence can be seen in the chosen composition and subjects on which she focuses; old files dusty and decaying in the Colonial Office (Fig.2), cobwebs, peeling paint and deep cracks in walls (fig.3) with traces left behind of former human habitation.

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Fig.3

Nature appears to be slowing taking over buildings long abandoned such as the Haveli Palace (Fig 4).

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Fig.4

 Within the buildings aspects left behind allude to a former time of prosperity, now long gone since the fall of colonialism and the end of the Raj (Fig.5).

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 Fig.5

There is a slow panning shot of a statue of Queen Victoria (Fig.6), mutilated either by design or the ravages of time; the bicycle to the right showing a modern trace of a human presence.

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Fig.6

The final part of the film moves to the working port of Mumbai Harbour (Fig.7) and symbolises the fact that life has continued but the affluence of former times has long gone and life is still a struggle.

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Fig.7

As one grows older for many there is nostalgia in looking back at the past and an affinity for places known as a child.   For Bhimji, her decision to visit India and her ability to gain access to the sites enabled her to understand the lasting effects of a dispersed population, and the life her parents had been forced to leave behind.  The decisions she made as to what to document, how to go about it and what she hoped to achieve by so doing, is evidence of her own personal bias.  This is also evidenced by the editing process in making the video, what she decided to include or leave out reflects her views and beliefs as to what she felt was important.  It is also problematic to envisage being able to produce a piece of work which can ever be completely devoid of any personal bias in its formation.

                                                                                                                  Word  Count 1158

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Azoulay, A. (2014) The Civil Contract of Photograph. New York: Zone Books.

Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography, How Photography has changed    

                              our lives. London: Quadrille.

Badger, G. (2010) The Pleasures of Good Photographs. New York: Aperture.

Barrett, T. (2006) Criticizing Photographs, An Introduction to Understanding

                             Images.  New York: McGraw Hill. 

Barthes, R. (2000) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Berger, J. (2008) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books.

Bourdieu, P. (2003) Photography A Middle-brow Art. Oxford: Polity Press.

Bright, S. (2011) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson.

Campany, D. (2010) Photography and Cinema.  London: Reaction Books.

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collier, J, jnr & Collier, M. (1986) Visual Anthropology, Photography as a

                                Research Method. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph As Contemporary Art.

                                London: Thames & Hudson.

Flusser, V. (2007) Towards A Philosophy Of Photography.

London: Reaktion Books.

Fried, M. (2012) Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before.

London: Yale University Press.

Gidal, P. (1979)  “The Anti-Narrative”, in Screen Vol.20, No.2

Gray, C. & Malins, J. (2004) Visualising Research. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

Hall, S. (1993) “Encoding, decoding”, in During, S. The Cultural Studies Reader.

                           London: Routledge, pp. 91-103.

Hall, S. (ed.) (2010) Representation, Cultural Representations and Signifying

                               Practices. Milton Keynes: Sage Publications.

Howells, R. & Negreiros, J. (2014) Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ingledew, J. (2005) Photography. London: Laurence King Publishing

Jaeger, A-C. (2010) Image Makers, Image Takers. London: Thames & Hudson.

La Grange, A. (2008) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers.

Oxford: Focal Press.

Marien, M. W. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History. London: Laurence King.

Prosser, J. (ed.) (2006) Image-Based Research. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rose, G. (2014) Visual Methodologies. London: Sage Publications.

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography. London: Penguin Books.

Sontag, S. (2009) Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin

Books.

Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography? Abingdon: Routledge.

Shore, R. (2014) Post-Photography, The Artist with a Camera.

London: Laurence King.

Tagg, J. (1993) The Burden of Representation, Essays on Photographies and

                         Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press  

Traub, C., Heller, S. & Bell, A. (eds.) (2006) The Education of a Photographer.

New York: Allworth Press.

Van Alpen, E. (2005) Art in Mind, How Contemporary Images Shape Thought.  

                        London: University of Chicago Press.

Walden, S. (ed.) (2010) Photography And Philosophy, Essays On The Pencil Of

                          Nature.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wells, L. (2009/a) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

(2009/b) Photography, A Critical Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wheeler, T. (2010) Phototruth or Photofiction? London: Routledge

Whitechapel Gallery. (2012) Zarina Bhimji. London: Ridinghouse.

Woods, T. (2009) Beginning Postmodernism.

                              Manchester: Manchester University Press

 

Website: http://www.zarinabhimji.com/

http://www.zarinabhimji.com/video_yellowpatch_part1.htm (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Azoulay, A. (2014) The Civil Contract of Photograph. New York: Zone Books.

Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography, How Photography has changed    

                   our lives. London: Quadrille.

Badger, G. (2010) The Pleasures of Good Photographs. New York: Aperture.

Barrett, T. (2006) Criticizing Photographs, An Introduction to Understanding

                   Images.  New York: McGraw Hill. 

Barthes, R. (2000) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Berger, J. (2008) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books.

Bourdieu, P. (2003) Photography A Middle-brow Art. Oxford: Polity Press.

Bright, S. (2011) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson.

Campany, D. (2010) Photography and Cinema.  London: Reaction Books.

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collier, J, jnr & Collier, M. (1986) Visual Anthropology, Photography as a

                        Research Method. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph As Contemporary Art.

                        London: Thames & Hudson.

Flusser, V. (2007) Towards A Philosophy Of Photography.

London: Reaktion Books.

Fried, M. (2012) Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before.

London: Yale University Press.

Gidal, P. (1979) “The Anti-Narrative”, in Screen Vol.20, No.2

Gray, C. & Malins, J. (2004) Visualising Research. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.

 

 

Hall, S. (1993) “Encoding, decoding”, in During, S. The Cultural Studies Reader.

                           London: Routledge, pp. 91-103.

Hall, S. (ed.) (2010) Representation, Cultural Representations and Signifying

Practices. Milton Keynes: Sage Publications.

Howells, R. & Negreiros, J. (2014) Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ingledew, J. (2005) Photography. London: Laurence King Publishing

Jaeger, A-C. (2010) Image Makers, Image Takers. London: Thames & Hudson.

La Grange, A. (2008) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers.

Oxford: Focal Press.

Marien, M. W. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History. London: Laurence King.

Prosser, J. (ed.) (2006) Image-Based Research. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rose, G. (2014) Visual Methodologies. London: Sage Publications.

Sontag, S. (1979) On Photography. London: Penguin Books.

Sontag, S. (2009) Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin

Books.

Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography? Abingdon: Routledge.

Shore, R. (2014) Post-Photography, The Artist with a Camera.

London: Laurence King.

Tagg, J. (1993) The Burden of Representation, Essays on Photographies and

                         Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press  

Traub, C., Heller, S. & Bell, A. (eds.) (2006) The Education of a Photographer.

New York: Allworth Press.

Van Alpen, E. (2005) Art in Mind, How Contemporary Images Shape Thought.  

                        London: University of Chicago Press.

 

 

Walden, S. (ed.) (2010) Photography And Philosophy, Essays On The Pencil Of

                        Nature.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Wells, L. (2009/a) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

(2009/b) Photography, A Critical Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wheeler, T. (2010) Phototruth or Photofiction? London: Routledge

Whitechapel Gallery. (2012) Zarina Bhimji. London: Ridinghouse.

Woods, T. (2009) Beginning Postmodernism.

                              Manchester: Manchester University Press

 

Website: http://www.zarinabhimji.com/

http://www.zarinabhimji.com/video_yellowpatch_part1.htm (2011)

 

 

 

 

26 March: Looking further at the work of Zarina Bhimji

I have found by going back and looking again at both her work and that of Zineb Sedira that there were aspects that became more prevalent, and more similarities between them I was first aware of.  I first saw the work of Zarina Bhimji at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in December 2012.  This exhibitions covered 25 years of her work and at that time I was particularly motivated by her use of photography and film together in an exhibition.   Like Sedira she was born in 1963, and her family moved to the UK in 1974 following the expulsion of the Ugandan Asians under the Idi Amin regime.

She works with photographs, large-scale film installations and  mixed media artefacts, and her work seems to be a constant exploration of cultural identity and history with reference to India and East Africa.

Her first film that received critical acclaim was Out of Blue (2002) which is a visual journey across Uganda with accompanying sounds of fire, birds and human voices.  One thing that is particularly noticeable in her work is the absence of the human presence, although in Out of Blue there are fleeting almost ghost-like figures that briefly appear, but the viewer realises that she is more interested in the surroundings and creating an atmosphere.  She explores the buildings and what has been left behind; a row of machine guns and rifles lined up against a wall, suggesting the aftermath of violence and war, yet abandoned as they stand.

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This image formed part of the exploratory work which she undertook and later became the film Out of Blue.  It shows the inside of one of the buildings at  Entebbe Airport, a place of departure for the Asians leaving for the UK.

In 2012 her film Yellow Patch (2011) was nominated for the Turner Prize and this will be explored in more detail in my Mixed Media Essay.  Bhimji was interviewed by the publisher Phaidon about the film, where she states that she is not interested in people (http://uk.phaidon.com/aganda/art/picture-galleries/2012/january/18/zarina-bhimjis-world-without-people/) but she is interested to “… conjure stories about those who were once present and urge us to question why they are no longer there.”

The film looks at the landscape and architecture, with smooth slow panning of the scenes, an accompanying soundtrack of thunder, birdsong, radio broadcasts and the sounds of the government buildings as they must have been when they were busy and bustling with people.  They are now abandoned and in varying stages of decay, almost as if the people left in a hurry, with files still in evidence on the shelves.

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One thing that is very apparent throughout her work is the amount of research she must have undertook and also the fact that the artifacts were made available to her to document and film.  Her work She Loved to Breathe – Pure Silence (1987) was an installation of eight photographic tinted images sandwiched together between plexiglass sheets and suspended by indivisible wire from the gallery ceiling.  One frame includes a pair of latex gloves with a government stamp on the back.

ilr15 schermafbeelding-2012-01-16-om-11-19-25The exhibition book, entited, ‘Zarina Bhimji’, 2012, The Whitechapel Gallery, London: Ridinghouse, refers to the exhibits as evidence of a Home Office procedure whereby Asian women arriving at Heathrow Airport in the 1970s, were forced to undergo virginity tests, to determine if they should be allowed to enter the UK for marriage.  This procedure was subsequently proved to be illegal but seems truely shocking to find out that this had taken place.

The work by Bhimji appears to be very politically motivated however the way it is presented leaves it very much up to the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions.  She is not preaching but merely stating the fact that this was how it was.