Monday, 28 May 2012

Assignment Five – Two comparisons found recently

Two interesting pieces of work have become known to me over the weekend, both of which offer some comparison with my work for Assignment Five.

The first arose when I received my copy of ‘Behind the Image’ by Anna Fox & Natasha Caruana, the next in the Basics of Creative Photography Series published by AVA Publishing. I havn’t looked at the book in any detail at all yet but, flicking through, my eye was caught on Page 127 by a Karen Knorr image – ‘Those who fear ...’ from the ‘Gentlemen’ series, made in the 80s.  What caught my eye was the square format portrait of a man, with centre-justified text below; text that was clearly more than a caption but part of the ‘art’ she was creating.  A bit of internet research revealed that she had produced two other series, ‘Belgravia’ and ‘Country Life’, both of which are made up of images in a similar format.  This is a link to the ‘Belgravia’ series - 'Belgravia' - Karen Knorr.  Her arrangement of text and image is very similar to my original arrangement; and the principle of the combination is also interesting, especially when I note what she says about it in the notes accompanying ‘Belgravia’.  She says:

“The meaning of the work can be found in the space between the image and text: neither the text nor the image illustrate each other, but create a ‘third meaning’ to be completed by the spectator.  The text slows down the viewing process as we study the text and return to re-evaluate the image in light of what we have read.”

Karen Knorr, in notes accompanying her series ‘Belgravia’,

I wish I’d read that before or during the work I was doing.  It both informs and articulates what I have been attempting to do with the image/text combination.  I also note what she says about her subjects performing their identities “... in a collaborative fashion ...” with her; and that there is “... real complicity between us.”  I don’t think I got as far as being able to claim that of my series, but it was true in a number of cases; partially true in most; and with a bit more practice and development, might be true of other work in the future.  I certainly like the principle.

In contrast, and related to the principle behind my own series, is a more recent piece of work from Italian photographer, Gabriele Galimberti, which appeared in The Times Magazine last Saturday 26th May 2012.  This is Galimberti’s website - Gabriele Galimberti – and this is the series that was featured - Toy Stories.  The series shows children from all over the world, photographed with their toys.  The accompanying notes on the site say “Who doesn’t remember a favourite childhood toy?” – and there is the obvious comparison to my own images of mature adults with items, often toys, that they still retain from their childhood.  The notes are written by Arianna Rinaldo, and she goes on to say of one’s favourite toy – “The one that sometime, dozens of years later, we find at the bottom of the closet.  And we let a tear drop.”  A touch of sentimentality creeping in there, perhaps – but we’re into the same emotional area at least – memory of childhood; the links between childhood experience and the adult; the feelings evoked by the physical manifestation of a childhood experience in the form of a toy/possession still there in adulthood.

I am a little puzzled by one aspect of Galimberti’s work.  He does, it seems from the notes and from the article in The Times Magazine, collaborate with both parents and child in creating the image.  It would be hard not to when photographing young children, of course.  But it seems that he seeks to organise the ‘set’ into what are perhaps best described as ‘formal’ patterns.  This one of a boy with his Lego is a good example - example.  The formality of that presentation seems to be more about the photographer than about boy, which puzzles me, as I say.  Would Niko, aged 5, choose to lay out his Lego in that way?  And what does the portrait tell us if that order and formality is, presumably, being imposed on him and his favourite toy?  I’m not sure.  Still, an interesting series and it makes for a useful comparison to the work that I have been doing for Assignment Five.

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