Sunday, December 9, 2018

Photography II Final Project

Artist Statement

            It is easy to observe and judge objects, situations, and concepts that are familiar to us as correct or normal. What happens when one is confronted with the other is something that heavily depends on the individual’s perception, previous experience, and sub sequential analysis. Though it is possible to overcome one’s personal prejudices in order to accurately and fairly appreciate what is unfamiliar, it is impossible to completely eradicate feelings of uncertainty or wariness when initially examining that which is not clearly understood.
            The images I capture reflect the correlation between the unknown and the uncanny. Through the objects and situations displayed in these photographs, I intend to capture the cautious wonder with which we regard the unreachable unfamiliar, and how the act of exhibiting strange objects adds a barrier of separation that impedes us from accurately understanding and accepting what we see. Although we may experience various degrees of curiosity and appreciation for the endless foreign entities we confront, our inherent nature and cultured experiences force us to approach obscure matters with weariness. My inclusion of images that evoke, either separately or simultaneously, both the sublime and the disturbing allude to the distinct interpretations we concoct when we observe unfamiliar subjects and objects. By utilizing domestic spaces and figurines, I hope to articulate the importance of perspective, how one’s point of view changes the meaning of what is seen. The details within these images encourage an honest and in-depth examination of the extent to which we allow our prejudices and familiarities to influence how we judge what we don’t understand. Much like the complex world around us, within these photographs there is always more than meets the eye.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Jae Emerling's final chapter focuses on the photograph's ability to transcend the limitations of time and its unique ability to retain a sense of life through its paradoxical existence.

As mentioned on page 167, "a temporal sensation traverses space," which I think attributes directly to  the idea that the photograph retains the capacity to open a pathway towards the future with what is past. The created images transmit the sensations that epitomize what occurs within them. Photos act as the vessels through which we can create the future through the past, in other words, they give us an opportunity to experience the possibilities from what is gone forever.
"The act of recollection is not about what actually occurred, but about what remains 'as yet unlived' in the past, that is, open to the future" (Emerling, 177).
Additionally, creating an image actualizes the "inhuman vision of the camera," which allows us to confront a perception that we alone cannot experience or recognize (Emerling, 167). This assertion acknowledges the photograph's capacity to simultaneously be alive and dead, meaningful and meaningless, but never natural or passive. It is a medium that surpasses normal human capacity through its frozen depiction of what once was because its "presentation of stillness has no equivalent in human vision, let alone memory" (Emerling, 175). The still image grants us with a viewable receptacle through which we are freed from our human restrictions and given an opportunity to discover and explore what would normally be out of reach.

Though images possess this imbedded potential, it is also the responsibility of the viewer to accept the challenge posed by the image and to subsequently analyze even those components which already seem to have a recognizable meaning. This is where the distinction between signs and objects comes into play; "we recognize things but we never know them" (Emerling, 182). If we allow ourselves to succumb to the pleasure of simply drawing subjective associations between signs and objects, opting for reminiscence rather than discovery, we miss the unique opportunity of the image.
"What a photograph thinks is not what it says" (Emerling, 188)
"Whereas signs are read, images encounter us. An image comes from without, comes toward us, and forces us to think" (Emerling, 182).
"For Proust, essence is not 'the seen ideality that unites the world into a whole' but it is 'an irreducible viewpoint that signifies at once the birth of the world and the original character of the world.' This 'character' is that the world does not exist for us; there is no image of the world as such; the world is not the gestalt of innumerable viewpoints. Essences open only through art" (Emerling, 184).
"The whole was never whole; it was never one but was always, in advance, a multiplicity" (Emerling, 185).
Since interpreting signs alone cannot lead us toward the full entirety of the photograph's prospect, it is also important to recognize that the image itself is a fragment of the whole, never a totality. The living image gives the virtual "a body, a life, a universe," a "life higher than the 'lived'" that is "neither virtual nor actual" but "possible, the possible as aesthetic category" (Emerling, 190). I understood this to mean that though the image's very nature inevitably hinders its own potentiality, it is through its very existence that its 'higher life' can be, because it is up to the viewer to recognize and distinguish what lies beyond its 'body.'

If we were to distinguish the distinct experiences one can have with an image, studium refers to a general, enthusiastic commitment, whereas the punctum "reveals the ontology of photography" (Emerling 188). It is highly important to distinguish between and engage in both approaches because through these recognitions the viewer can separate what is initially perceived and what these perceptions allow us to discover.
"A punctum is the point at which the contradiction reconciles itself: the essence and uniqueness of photography is its contingency, not only its dependence on time but its existence away from time as something both 'past and real.' Its essence is its 'real unreality'" (Emerling, 188).
Vilém Flusser's Towards a Philosophy of Photography provides further points that take the photograph's ontology into consideration. Flusser asserts that "every single photograph is the result, at one and the same time, of co-operation and of conflict between camera and photographer," which calls into question the implications of this interaction between humanity and technology (Emerling, 193). Is the camera itself exerting control over the photographer, and to what extent? Does it redirect the photographer's intentions, or is it the photographer who succeeds in utilizing the camera for their own intentions? These questions push the reader to consider the "way in which cameras absorb the intentions of human beings within themselves;" they force viewers to question the extent of a photographer's freedom. To me, this signifies that our own agency, something we usually trust and rely on wholeheartedly, is no longer reliable when interacting with the photograph. It is the inability to synthesize human and technology that challenges us to consider the roles that each component plays in such a seemingly straightforward practice; to recognize the inefficiency of our current understandings will let us challenge our thoughts so that we can acknowledge the pathways that photography has opened for humanity.

Thierry de Duve asserts that "an image requires language to be applied to it in order to be read. And this in turn demands that the perceived space be receptive to an unfolding into some sort of narrative. Language fails to operate in front of the pin-pointed space of the photographer" (Emerling, 175). Do you think this implies that our dependency on spoken language to communicate consequently limits us in our efforts to truly understand the photograph?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Blog Review #12
LensCulture introduced me to Jill Booker's Shards, a series that depicts the artist's process of "tearing images apart and piecing them back together into new forms as a cathartic form of creation." Her use of both analog and digital techniques encourages viewers of her work to further examine the layers created by her mix of tactile and digital. Her processes also encourage discussion pertaining to the evolution of the photograph and what qualifies as a photograph.
"Her multiple layers of interpretation are essential for unpacking and analyzing our memories and sense of self."
I personally enjoyed this series because I felt intrigued by the evident texture present within the images. After reading more about the work, I further enjoyed the intended purpose behind the photos, that of destruction and losing oneself, and of the reparation that one undergoes afterward. Knowing this, the images seem to evoke a poetic vibrance, and the lack of color add a feeling of nostalgia and sadness. I absolutely love the contrasting textures within the components because it almost looks like the viewer is looking into a vortex of different, overlapping realms.
"In them I could see this feeling of falling apart and losing my sense of self, with the roughly-sketched outlines representing the beginning of me finding myself again."
Overall, I find the artist's decision to work with memory quite interesting because her procedures, which include morphing, tearing, and editing, resemble the very nature of her subject.
"The collages are quite flimsy, which mirrors the way memories fade and warp over time."
Shards 4 © Jill Booker

Shards 2 © Jill Booker

"I am fascinated by memory. It is such a powerful influence on our lives, but it is also ever-changing. Old memories fade and are changed by new experiences and understandings. Memories blend together over time. Sometimes imagined events and wishes even blend in with those memories. In spite of these changes to our thoughts, we trust and believe in them, and they are an important part of shaping who we are. The odd-numbered pieces in the series represent the process of simpler memories gradually building up into a fuller, more complex memory system - an autobiography."

Shards 1 © Jill Booker

"I think the idea of 'glitches' and putting the pieces together is also so important in this series. There are times when we feel like we have lost our way. We aren't sure who we are or who we want to become. Perhaps part of working through that lies in memory - searching for connections that will help us put the pieces back together. The even-numbered pieces in the series reflect this. They develop from the fragmented, ill-formed, empty versions of self to the sketching-in of a well-defined, more complex self that has internalized the memories."

Shards 6 © Jill Booker

Shards 8 © Jill Booker

Shards 3 © Jill Booker

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

WIP Critique #4

  • What was/is the initial idea, how is it evolving?
    • My initial idea began with an intention of inspecting the cultural aspects that connected different societies. The idea I seem to be heading towards and expanding upon now deals more with the idea of the "other" and how we perceive that unknown, unfamiliar "other" when it is put on display, subjected to examination and critique. For this reason, I am starting to focus more on the types of objects I photograph, mainly non-perishable objects that one would expect to be put on display. However, through the incorporation of mirrors and their reflections, as well as adjustments to the prints' lighting, I hope to add an aura of uncertainty or discomfort, which is what individuals normally experience when they are confronted with what is foreign to them. By presenting objects that would otherwise seem normal in unnatural, uncanny, or otherworldly settings, I hope to effectively encourage the viewer to question the way they comprehend things and to what extent they allow their personal prejudices, views, and customs affect their perceptions of the "other."

  • Why do you feel the images you selected to print for this critique are your strongest, from among the group of new images? (i.e., what was your criteria for selection)
    • I believe that the images I chose to print for this critique are my strongest because I think they clearly incite feelings of uncertainty and confusion, and promote a sense of curiosity and need to question from the viewer. In terms of what I am trying to accomplish with this project, I think these are important points to convey through the images I ended up choosing. When selecting the images I would present, I thought that showcasing a side-by-side of the same subject photographed differently would highlight the importance of perception and how it relates to my ideas surrounding this project. 

  • What specific questions do you have about the work in terms of how someone other than yourself might interpret the imagery?
    • Do you think it is more effective to photograph objects like these, that already have a cultural or personal connotation attached to them, or would my intended message be better conveyed by showcasing objects that are mostly devoid of any kind of political, social, or cultural connotation, and instead manipulate their environments to make the image seem more sinister? Is lighting an important part of this project, or does the composition of the images take precedent over their illumination? Are both equally important in this context? Do you agree with my reasoning for utilizing larger prints? Is it important to include the outlines of the display cases in certain photos in order to emphasize the idea of deliberately examining and judging the foreign, or is my main idea better conveyed by displaying objects that exist in an uncertain realm?

  • Why do you feel the selected images most strongly convey your conceptual content?
    • I believe these two images are the strongest because they convey an unsettling or uncanny feel, which I believe accurately parallels what we feel when we are forced to confront what we do not understand. I decided that experimenting with photographing objects close up and farther away would help me communicate my ideas because it emphasizes the various opinions and impressions that can exist for a single entity, concept, or object. I tried to include as wide a variety of images as possible in order to experiment with what works well together when seen and compared side by side. 

  • How do you hope the formal treatment and scale impacts the interpretation?
    • I hope that my choices regarding scale impact the way that the viewer decides to view the images. I decided to print my images at a larger scale because the need to examine the details within the images would, I think, be encouraged by printing them at a larger size. I think the larger scale impacts the images because it encourages the viewer to analyze them not as mementos or as found images (something that could potentially be unintentionally be conveyed through smaller sized prints), but as pieces that are meant to be further scrutinized. I think that by depicting images of the unsettling, unascertainable "other" at a larger scale, the sense of uncertainty and of the image's status as an imposing presence will be more effectively conveyed. Through its larger size, the print and its subsequent subject matter are unavoidable and inescapable. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Blog Review #11.5
I became interested in Israeli documentary photographer Gili Benita's Kodoku 孤独 displayed on the AINT-BAD website because of the artist's intention to examine the extent of loneliness in Japan. The gorgeous composition of his photographs coupled with the shades of color remind me of traditional minimalistic Japanese paintings, and the distant but purposeful presence of human figures within the vast landscapes truly evoked feelings of both loneliness and wonder. There is a deafening silence among his pictures that impedes the viewer from admiring the scenery without also contemplating on the situation or sentiments of the seemingly forsaken figures.
"In my journey, I was able to find the difference between loneliness and solitude, and the positive presence of the existence of personal individualism."
The artist commented that after these figures helped him to discover the line between loneliness and solitude, he himself no longer felt alone. To me, this epiphany indicates the extent of self-discovery each person can reach when they open their minds to the wisdom and lessons offered by those who differ greatly from themselves.

All Images © Gili Benita

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Blog Review #11
This week the AINT-BAD website introduced me to artist Jordanna Kalman, whose work considers themes of loneliness, femininity, and individuality. Her series Little Romances caught my attention because of its consistently monochromatic color palate and the interesting yet minimalistic details that characterize her images. I enjoyed how the images appeared to interact with the world outside of their frame, which also reminded me of the relationship between the documented, untouchable past and the consistently fluctuating future.
"When considered as an object the photograph exists physically in the world, it belongs to someone; it gets held, it has weight, value. I've been interested in this concept for some time." 
I really enjoyed the interaction of the repurposed photographs - static and unchanging - with the physical elements that add another meaning to them, such as the flowers or torn opaque paper. Much like the artist clarifies, the clash between the photograph and the physical external objects creates a dialogue that the viewer feels far removed from. I love the minimalistic style and the calculated use of color and objects because it forces the observer to focus less on conventional aesthetics and more on the actual composition surrounding the repurposed images, and how this challenges the original photos' intensions and meanings.
"In Little Romances I photograph prints of my photographs and they become a physical object; my object. I surround them with elements from my garden or other personal items not to evoke nostalgia or sentimentality but to deepen my physical connection/claim to these images and distance them from the viewer. The object-image becomes obscured, repurposed, diverted, so that its original intent remains safe from viewing and at the same time it explores a new narrative." 
you were upstairs sleeping when I shot this, 2017, archival inkjet print, 8x10"

tendrils are prehensile and sensitive to contact, 2017, archival inkjet print, 8x10"

commota est terra, 2018, archival inkjet print, 8x10"

number two of five, 2018, archival inkjet print, 8x10"

heavy narration, 2018, archival inkjet print, 8x10"

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Blog Review #10
The Photo-Eye Blog website introduced me to an exhibition of Jo Whaley's Echoes, which is currently on view at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. According to Photo-Eye, Whaley's images "highlight human relationships with nature." The artist's consideration for observing the color and form of the natural world intrigued me because the images emphasize humanity's prioritization of dissecting and understanding the world rather than appreciating and respecting it. I was also drawn to these photographs because of their compositions, which reflect an evident critique of the way that nature is exploited, extracted, and repurposed to fit whatever need or narrative we please. Whaley's Clematis was my favorite piece because I was initially drawn in by the flower's color, and as I examined the image further, I realized that its arrangement evoked the symmetry often present in nature, but done so in a way that alludes to the influence of human interaction.

Image © Jo Whaley

Wisteria, 2012 Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 18.7 Inches, $2,000 - Jo Whaley

Eucalyptus, 2012, Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 18.3 Inches, $2,000 - Jo Whaley

Leaf, 2016, Archival Pigment Print, 11 x 9 Inches, $900 - Jo Whaley 

Clematis, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 24 x 18.5 Inches, $2,000 - Jo Whaley