Hidden Rivers

I am very proud and happy to invite you all to the final show of the BTEC National Diploma of Photography from Kensington and Chelsea College !

The private view is on the 17th of July 2014 and all photographers will be there to present their work done during this very busy year. It will be a great place to meet emerging photographers and to discover new talents. The show will be on for a week so feel free to pop up and have a look !

Here is the exhibition catalogue.

Don’t know how to get there ? Have a look on this map !

 

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Four Natural Elements

This essay is about four artists I came across while doing some researches. It is not the kind of photography I am usually interested in, but their work is very interesting and I feel like sharing my ideas and thoughts about their ephemeral creations.

I don’t claim the copyright of the images in this post. They all belong to the photographers which the name is specified in the image title.

Andy Goldsworthy was born in Cheshire, England, in 1956 and currently resides in Scotland. He studied at Bradford School of Art and Preston Polytechnic, and has been making art in the environment both rural and urban, since the mid-1970. He is an Andrew D. White Professor at Cornell University. Over the past 25 years, Goldsworthy has gained a significant reputation for both his ephemeral works and his permanent installations that draw out the endemic character of a place. The artist works with natural materials, such as leaves, sand, ice and stone that often originate from the local site. He said, when talking about his work : “When I touch a rock, I am touching and working the space around it. It is not independent of its surroundings, and the way it sits tells how it came to be there.” His work influenced a whole generation of Land artists.

Richard Long was born in 1945 in Bristol, England. He is a sculptor, photographer and painter. Within a year of his departure from St Martin’s College of Art, Long was closely associated with the emergence of a new art form, Land art, having already produced such works a “A Line Made by Walking” (1967); a photograph of the trail left in the grass by walking back and forth in a straight line. Richard Long made his international reputation during the 1970’s with sculptures made as the result of epic walks, sometimes lasting many days, to remote parts of the world. Guided by a great respect for nature, as for Andy Goldsworthy and for the two following artists, and by the formal structures of basic shapes, especially circles, he never allowed facile exotic connotations to intrude into his work, although some of his sculptures evoked the mysterious connotations of ancient circles and other such monuments.

Richard Greaves was born on the other side of the Atlantic, in Montréal, Canada, in 1952. Since 1989, the self-taught Quebec artist has devoted himself to the creation of a huge architectural environment that is in constant expansion. It is located in Beauce, Quebec. It sprawls out in a forest, on a plot of land that he bought with friends and where he has chosen to live. Cabins he builds appear to be on the verge of collapse. Like houses of cards, they defy the laws of gravity and approach utopia. Celebrating asymmetry and banishing the right angle, they shatter the norms and principles of construction. They tip us into an unreal world and put our senses and our perceptions to the test.

Néle Azevedo is a visual artist, born in 1950 in Brazil. She works with video, installation and urban interventions, but she is best known for her “Melting Men” interventions that she stages in cities across the globe. She carves thousands of small figures and places them on city’s monument where audience congregate to watch them melt. The installation is a critical reading of the monument in the contemporary cities. In a few-minute action, the official canons of the monument are inverted : in the place of the hero, the anonym; in the place of the solidity of the stone, the ephemeral process of the ice; in the place of the monument scale, the minimum scale of the perishable bodies. Environmentalists around the world are adopting her work as climate change art. The interventions have become known worldwide as the “Army of Melting Men”.

These four artists construct sculptural forms out of natural elements. Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long use materials they find in the landscape. Richard Long’s circles result for example, from reflecting on desolate places he inhabits over two or three days rambling until the environment determines the forms he wishes to create within it, while Andy Goldsworthy is interested in reconstructing the landscape to enhance its vista. Richard Greaves on the other hand, quite literally constructs architectural monuments out of man-made materials he discovers in the environment, not to enhance the landscape like Goldsworthy or Long, but to subvert it almost as a protest against modernistic tradition. Néle Azevedo is the odd one out for the element she utilizes in her work, although natural, are the ephemeral element of frozen water, sculpted into creations that are then placed into the landscape.

The word installation, common currency these days, is mostly associated with conceptual or other forms of art work “installed” in a gallery or public space. The art of Goldsworthy, Long, Greaves, and Azevedo, are what can be termed site-specific, for their work can only be viewed by visiting the locations where it is installed. To overcome this limitation and bring their work to a wider audience, their installations are photographed in the landscapes and spaces they have been created, and exhibited in private and public galleries. However, the meaning of their work reproduced in photographic form subtracts the essence of place, and without the spatial surroundings which either inspired or motivated them to choose the locations they are set in, removes the viewer of images from the natural substances they are made from, including meteorological elements of wind, rain, sunlight and heat, or the opportunity of experiencing them in the three dimensional forms they have been created in. Deprived of the visceral experience of Goldsworthy, Long, Greaves, and Azevedo’s art, their work depicted in photographs and “installed” in galleries, could in itself be a form of subverting the art world’s commercial market place for their work cannot be sold unless in print form. Setting these questions, and ensuing limitations aside, these four artists could be described as performance artists, except instead of observing them perform live as they create, deconstruct, reconstruct, subvert architecture, or place ice sculptures in the landscape, we can only witness their performances after the event. We are left to view the aftermath of their creative performances in the (forensic) proof of photographs, unless fortunate enough to stumble across them at work in situ, and distil what these four artist’s are attempting to convey to us. Magic, mystery, folklore, fairy tales – Greaves’s tumbling architecture is reminiscent of Grimm’s – ancient rites and rituals, novel landscape gardening? All these components can be read into their work, and much more, but what is prevalent and overriding the superficial interpretations which could easily be placed at the feet of Goldsworthy, Long, Greaves, and Azevedo, is the primal urge to either make sense of the natural landscapes we find ourselves inhabiting by transcending it into aesthetic shapes and forms, or like Greaves, building on it, or bearing gifts such as Azevedo’s ice sculptures which, after time, melt and nourish the earth with her creations. Fundamentally, the photographic prints of each artist’s work displayed for us to wonder over, captures the essence embodied in all of us, to leave human traces in our ever shifting and changing world.

The copyright to these images belongs to the photographer or artist and/or the artist’s representative, agent or publisher. This work is expressly not of a commercial nature and where possible, each image has been credited with the artist/photographers name, image title and date. The images are shown for illustrative purposes only and to accompany text. I claim no ownership or rights to the images shown and a full bibliography to the image sources is to be found in the catalogue.

Sources :

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/index2.html

http://neleazevedo.com.br/

http://www.artbrut.ch/en/21017/3/past-exhibitions/richard-greaves–anarchitect

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/long-a-line-made-by-walking-p07149

http://www.richardlong.org/

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/press/2004/andy-goldsworthy/andy-goldsworthy-bio.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/andy-goldsworthy-art-in-a-natural-environment/8230.html

Erwin Blumenfeld

Erwin Blumenfeld‘s work is a constant source of inspiration in my personal work. He is a highly creative and talented photographer. I have seen an exhibition of his work in Paris, during the Paris Photo show, at the Jeu de Paume. I discovered there all the facets of his photographic career and I felt like writing a bit about him. Hope you enjoy !

I do not claim the copyright of the images in this post. These images belong exclusively to Erwin Blumenfeld.

Erwin Blumenfeld was a photographer famous for his fashion photography. His images have been published all around the world. People start today being interested in his personal work, which contains drawings and collages, experiments, portraits and complex self portraits.

Blmenfeld was born in a Jewish family in Berlin in 1897. He started photography when receiving a camera as a gift in 1907. In 1913, his father died and he had to stop studying to help his family. He started an apprenticeship in the women’s garment trade, which is probably going to influence his later pictures. In 1915, he met the artist George Grosz. They will stay friends for life. In 1918, they both took part of the Dada movement. Blemenfeld made collages, drawings and wrote poetry.

In 1918, after the war, he went to Holland to meet his fiancé and tried different way of earning money as an art seller, novel writer and finally opened a leather goods business in Amsterdam in 1922. In 1932, when moving his premises, he discovered an operational darkroom. He started taking pictures of his customers and his friends to make a bit of money. He also kept working on his personal work by taking portraits and nudes of women, experimenting with light, shadows and processes, clearly influenced by Man Ray and other photographers from the Surrealism movement, and started thinking about going to live in Paris.

In 1936, he arrived in Paris with his wife and his two children, and decided to become a professional photographer. He set up a studio and started doing some advertising and photographed Parisian artists. In 1938, he met Cecil Beaton, who helped him to secure a contract with Vogue France. For the 50th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, he takes his famous photograph of Lisa Fonssagrive wearing a dress by Lucien Lelong.

In 1941, Blumenfeld left Paris for New York to escape the war. There, his career started to take a much bigger extent. When arriving, he worked immediately for Harper’s Bazaar and got his own studio in 1943.  He soon became the most famous fashion photographer of that time. His experiments with lights, shadows, colours and processes, but also his in depth thoughts about psychology in portraiture and his ability to set up scenaris in his pictures were a great advantage. His famous Vogue cover was published in 1950 and is still used today on design products. He photographed actors, singers, aristocrats and launched the career of some famous top models. In 1948, his work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1955, he stopped his contract with Vogue and worked on advertising. He also realised a few short movies and kept working on his personal work.

Blumenfeld died of a heart attack in 1969 in Roma. He is known today mostly for his fashion photography, but his personal work reveals much more of his psychology and his research of his own identity.

La Jetée, Chris Marker

This is a part of the movie “La Jetée”, directed by Chris Marker in 1962. It is a science fiction movie, but the amazing thing about it is that it is all made from still photographs. Knowing that it has been created in the 1960’s, it means that each photographs in this movie had to be printed and then filmed, which is quite a performance and must have been a very long process. Besides this, this film created a strange feeling in me. May be I am getting to used to modern and fast movies, but after a while staring at the screen, I had the illusion that the images began moving. Characters started blinking, moving their fingers… which is completely impossible of course. I smiled when I realised that when watching any movie, we are actually looking at plenty of pictures put together, also giving the illusion of moving, when they are technically not.

This movie inspired Terry Gilliam for his movie “Twelve Monkeys“, realised in 1996, which I love.

They both deal with madness and that’s why I feel inspired by them. Often, we hear of someone the word “mad” but it is actually very difficult to define this word in complete objectivity. These movies talk about these differences of point of view. Who’s mad ? Who’s not ? Could we actually say that people live in different realities instead of categorising them ? The fact of being “normal” is often defined by society more than by individuals, so who decides ? Are “mad people” victims of society ?

I definitely recommend these two movies. Sadly, once you have seen one, you will know the end of the other.

Hamburger 40 cents, William Klein, 1955.

Hamburger 40 cents, William Klein, 1955.

William Klein is an American photographer born in New York in 1928. His work is both subversive and subjective, as he tends to represents how he sees the world through his photography.

The Paris Photo exhibition was the first time I could see, or the first time I could really look at Hamburger 40 cents from William Klein (New York, 1955). It is an amazing picture. I always love reflections in windows, I am really inspired by those in my own work. The print was huge, and I lost myself in the hundreds of details, shapes and tones present in this image. After a few minutes, I went away, but turned back few seconds later for a forgotten reason. And only at this moment I saw the reflection of William Klein on the window, appearing like a ghost behind my back.

It is a really strange feeling. First I wondered how I missed it. I actually spent a while staring at the picture before I left. I went back to look at it, and then the meaning of the picture changed. It wasn’t an urban landscape anymore. The fact we can see himself in the image made me think of the role of any photographer, his place in life and the way ones have to work.

Photography is for me the act of capturing a moment, a fraction of second or longer, which is gone when the shutter closes. As one knows, that moment will never come back. But photographers, by being behind the camera, don’t live this moment. They live their own second, they are somewhere else. They don’t actually see the moment they are capturing. And sometimes, they probably would like to. Maybe William Klein wanted to be a part of this moment he was catching. He didn’t want to be left out of the picture. So he used his reflection, the projection of his image in the scene to go against this feeling of not living the moment he finds interesting and beautiful. And this way, he is today immortalised having a drink with other New Yorkers, watching this busy urban landscape.

Thierry Fontaine, lumieres, 2012.

Thierry Fontaine, Lumieres, 2012.

I saw this photograph in the 2013 Paris Photo Show which takes place every year in Paris in the Grand Palais. I stayed quite a few minutes in front of this picture of Thierry Fontaine. First I thought it was because of the strangeness and the darkness of the picture. It almost looks surreal, like a dream vision. This picture looks completely absurd, as if the bulb were used to light a fire in order to create light, which is actually the goal of a bulb but when it is linked to electricity. But I understood quickly it wasn’t only that. It is actually coming from an important memory which always brings deep feelings to me. During an evening, when I was 18 years old, a fire started in my flat. I was with a friend, sitting on a sofa in my bedroom. While talking to him, I felt a wave of hot air on my cheek. I turned back and realised the fire was just behind us, licking the walls and the windows. We run out in the hallway and then understood it was impossible to call the firemen because our phones were in the burning room. We had to switch the fire off by throwing buckets of water on it. It was extremely hot, dangerous and we couldn’t breathe properly. We did it, but this experience was really traumatic.

It took me a long time to feel all right next to a fire, and I still panic when I see strange smokes anywhere. Today my feelings about fire are really complex, even a bit primitive. Sometimes when I look at it I am scared, of course, because it brings strong memories of this experience, but I am also fascinated by the beauty and the power of destruction this element has. And it then becomes an internal conflict. I want to go away because of the feelings it brings back but in another hand I find it beautiful and I want to keep observing it. I feel like an animal following conflicted by its instincts, as if I was becoming suddenly primal and conciousless, fascinated by something I don’t understand. It is a thing that always catch my eye in pictures and makes me look more the photograph. A lot of my personal work is inspired by these strong emotions. Sometimes it looks like I was trying to capture this fire in my pictures in order to control it and so to feel safe.

Tony Ray-Jones, Bultins, Clacton, 1967.

I first saw this photograph in the Science museum of London, in the exhibition “Only in England“. It was taken by Tony Ray-Jones in 1967 and represents a large group partying in a Butlins camp. Butlins is a chain of large holiday camps in the United Kingdom. Butlins was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families. The scene takes place in what is probably a ballroom, which has a high ceiling and large paintings on walls. In the front, people are doing a race by group, holding their hands, while some others are sitting in the background, watching and commenting the race. Everybody looks quite happy and is wearing nice clothes; the sunlight comes in by the windows. It is a happy and funny scene.

However, there are two details in this picture that make it even more interesting and give deeper meanings than just a typical picture of an English middle class group in holidays during the 1960’.

The first one is the expression of the first woman in the front. It is really difficult for me to figure out if she is laughing or expressing pain. She is kneeing down in order to give the way to the woman behind her. This second woman looks like she is grabbing her arm really brutally and is hurting her companion on purposely.

The second detail is the man standing between the two first groups in the front. He is probably controlling no one is cheating during the race. He is got a really creepy smile. It makes me think about these men which had to control workers in work camps.

These two details give for me another sense to this picture. This quite happy scene of holidays becomes a torture scene. Their activity was at the first look quite funny but becomes now completely absurd and disturbing. The fact that other people are actually watching it and laughing about it makes me think about gladiators fight from the antiquity that was called “games” at this time. This picture was first depicting the beginning of holidays camps, the creation of a new habit, the evolution of the way people see holidays and summer in general. It now depict the absurdity of it, the way people do things because they think it will make them happier but then end up in hell, with plenty of other people they don’t like, doing things they hate but keep smiling to persuade themselves it is the right thing to do.

It is interesting as well to notice that this was a really big part of the style of Tony Ray-Jones. His pictures were documentaristic, but were most of the time including satirical facts and a lot of humour, as is this picture.