exercise 2.3: Der Grund… a response to my family album

This is still a work in progress, but this version includes a series of elements that work well for me and are also pointing towards where this as a moving image piece can go.

I showed a very short clip as part of Saturday’s study group, and afterwards edited my longer clip further (tidied up the beginning and end, slightly sped it up throughout).

It is a response to my family album and as such also possibly exercise 2.3 The digital family album (though as a moving image format it is rather different to the option given).

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 09.09.17.png

– as to the explanatory frame for the title in its various meanings: the ground and the reason.

Wendy pointed me to Sam Taylor-Johnson piece Brontosaurus (2005) which I link to here.

L. pointed me to Gillian Wearing’s (1994) Dancing in Peckham.

— both of which are rich reference points. Brontosaurus strikes me most obvious in the reverence that various sites refers to it as a key piece the authors had encountered and how moved they were by the combination of slowed down dancing and the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. The piece of music is 80 years old; it interestingly is almost entirely devoid of cultural markers for me (I will have heard it before but it doesn’t have many connotations at all), but it is through its embedding in a (US-American) context of funerals and war films (such as Platoon) that it receives is poignancy and Taylor-Johnson’s own description of it being “a dance of death and a dance of life; a tender eulogy” (Taylor-Johnson 2014); Wearing’s early silent disco in a shopping mall that could also just be a market is irreverent and playful in mood. The quality of the youtube clip is poor but shows a simple setup of a static camera and her dancing in front of it. Passers-by take notice (or more often don’t).

>> privacy and publicness of these two pieces in their production are radically different.

>> purpose and role of the recording is very different too: Wearing’s performance seems at least as important as the video (if not more so), Taylor-Johnson’s is produced for the video (and the performance is for the camera and the post-processing and exchange of music).

>> I am interested in unpicking the relationship between dancer and camera and viewer a bit further: they seem rather distinct from each other, and I am interested in what they will tell me further about my own relationship to it in Der Grund.




Taylor-Johnson, S. (2014) Brontosaurus (1994), http://samtaylorjohnson.com/moving-image/art/brontosaurus-1994, accessed 3 April 2016.





exercise 2_1: the artist as curator

I had written about this exercise as starting point for the whole assignment quite some time ago. And yet, I have found it difficult to decide on the final images.

They are these:


I took Joachim Schmid’s Archiv as starting point for a grouped arrangement on a single sheet. And, yet, following my manual montages from A1, I was interested in something more temporary: these are family album images, they came to me in a box, and I felt it wasn’t up to me to create an album, if their initial owners never glued them in an album (well: this is not strictly true: a few of them have dried glue at their back, so at one point they clearly were placed in an album).

I placed them on white board, on a table, natural light from the top streaming across – the shadow cast tells you as much.

The typology?

It is all about the feet. Set 1 shows us people without their feet; set 2 shows us images which depict the whole person, including their feet.

None of these images have any significance to me: they were bought on ebay last summer: some as a set of about 40, others (including the Wehrmacht soldiers in set 2) as small sets. A few of them are dated (e.g. set 2, top second left with 1942; the soldiers also clearly from before 1945). Some of the clothing indicates 1950s, others situate them in the 40s or 30s. All of them have been processed in Germany, some stamped with a West Berlin district name.

There is more in this to develop:

  • white point and light source to be equal across the images
  • alignment of images, set 1 has one slightly ajar
  • pencil marks to designate position, or possibly a horizon line

I realise that I find them almost impossible to curate and edit beyond the typology itself: what order and what arrangement; it seems that endless possibilities result in none for me in this set.

The shadow is distinct and desired. It references the physical nature of these prints, it places them somewhere (if not at some time). I took a couple of images to experiment with this effect of place/time positioning by changing the angle of the camera but also then working with the glossy surface of a couple of them:

P1110070 P1110065

The images that started these were those of my granddad’s box of photos from WWII in Norway. The impact of them remained too strong for a single exercise, and like a few times before with family photos, I chose to make them strange, move them along once and settled on the family photos of strangers. The effect of this move has been strong and palpable. And even more, I was surprised to see that the 4-6 photographers of these sets did not cut off the feet of their subjects: the photos in set 1 are virtually all the ones of a set of 60 with the feet unintentionally missing (and one of them show’s people standing inside a ditch), while Otto’s photos show 60/200 without feet of which 30/200 seem accidentally left off and I will need to search again for those that show the feet as part of the entire body of the subjects.

Another issue that had stalled the completion of this exercise was the fact that Otto’s box only exists as poor quality scans and I felt I needed to handle the images in order to create the typology.

My absented feet

I played some more with the photos of my feet on the bed, trying out different ways of making my own feet disappear.

  1. A rough Ps edit to erase the feet:
    My absented feet_WIP1_P1100880

    It is a similar idea to Eva Stenram’s Drape series (2012) which is one of the most fascinating images that that coursebook shows. The whole series is a elaborate covering up of vintage pin-up models with some of the surrounding furniture. There is something in the formalist constraint that intrigues me in the series alongside the ability to change the surface of those spaces by cloning and filling in furniture extensions – mainly: the drape of curtains (note: link to House’s net curtains) to throw back to the viewer the expectation of voyeuristic pleasures.
    > Stenram’s images exchange figure and ground; they also use the curtains as traditional markers between public and private in this process (Gola 2013)

    >> my own image works with the absence in a rather different register: it is not about voyeurism and public/private markers. It is rather crude at this stage in terms of its playful defiance of expectations: that feet should be visible and present. I am uncertain as to its meaning right now, but will continue with this for a while.

    The image makes me feel quite elated.

  2. Some manual covering up with graphite. The oily surface of graphite fascinates me and I have been interested in building up flatness through dense applications of graphite. So, here are a few ways of covering my feet, and a little bit of playing with the shiny surface the graphite creates.



The bottom left is effectively a rubbing of the desk texture onto the foot, the bottom right is done with a hard pencil and some shading. It needs a stronger sense of the reflection, as this is what I like best in the bottom photo: the reflection flips the image plane in unexpected ways, effectively creating an opening. It reminds me of the poor rendering of a recent short video I took about the effect of sunshine through metal fencing – the video is here (and should be visible with a public setting). — The compression makes some of the haze and movement appear flat and uniform: effectively folding the picture plane upwards and creating a cavity/ void, in which then e.g. an opening could be inserted, the video ruptured or similar… this is a screen shot of one of those scenes, and if viewed on a large monitor the flat areas become rather extensive.

— these are some initial thoughts on digital alteration, effectively destruction of the image through compression that may lead on to some further thoughts and experiments on absence.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 18.07.03.png


P. Gola (2013) Eva Stenram: Cord Prize winner for Drape. Lens/scratch, 28 August 2013, http://lenscratch.com/2013/08/eva-stenram-cord-prize-winner-drape/, accessed 24 February 2016.

Exercise 2.3 The digital family album

I started to unpack my idea of performing different feet as stand ins. I also realise that this blog is chronologically confused: I clearly seem to have little interest to fill in exercises, feedback etc. as I go along; I appreciate that that will not help viewing the blog.

… in the current case, this is the follow on from Exercise 2.1 The artist as curator. This exercise exists offline but in order to finalise it, it will need some extensive photoshopping and cleaning work that I seem to be putting off (I upgraded from CS4 to CC a few weeks ago, and while no problem exists with regards to Lr, I am conscious that I had been working with a rather old version of Ps and am still daunted to move forward).

In any case: Filling in absent feet, or even Standing in.

The idea: a clean studio set up to photograph myself wearing different shoes and boots, performing different personas, roles while standing in different footwear.

The first shoot took place on my bed (where else) as it provided the best natural light set up and a clean wall. I tried several shoes and barefoot.

The focal lens is about 250mm equivalent, ISO 200, f5.6 and various speeds with AF on part of the feet and remote control.P1100880P1100882P1100885P1100886

Some post-processing to increase saturation, +0.5 exposure.

I want to use a white sheet. A reflector on the right hand side, possibly wait for more sunlight to come in from the left.

The box entered the set up when the first picture inadvertently looked like this:


– I laughed out loud: in my attempt to provide the feet to the footless images,  I was also becoming footless.

The box is improvised. It is very wobbly and unstable, I needed to balance off the wall in order not to move about and there seems to be something quite fitting about this sinking in, instability in the set up, which I want to consider further.

Alternatives would be:

  • standing on the floor, without without a cushion
  • use large plywood sheet to stabilise the mattress
  • create stills of shoes and socks without me in them
  • a complete portrait of myself standing on the box on the bed

Other thoughts:

  • not sure I can be different people by wearing different shoes (which are all mine_
  • what about the legs, trousers, socks, tights?
  • conscious of my bunions. Yet, they are my gran’s heritage, and as much as the feet were missing in my grandad’s photographs, so is she (while already married at the time), so she possibly enters the scene by my misshapen toes.
  • I was concerned of not getting the dirty shoes onto the bed sheet… balancing on one foot and on the box to take trainers on and off; again: that seems strangely fitting.


Exercise 2.1 : layout variations

The first exercise is about curation. I had identified the box of WWII images of my grandfather as starting point, being intrigued by many of the candid photographs. Joachim Schmid’s arrangement of the Archiv series intrigued me and I wanted to play with the white page and its emptiness. I identified 59 images that fulfilled the criteria I was keen on exploring and narrowed this down further to a narrower criterium still.

Here are two initial versions. The images are rough – scanned at 300 dpi at a Kodak booth, they aren’t tidied up in any way; and this detracts hugely in my mind as Schmid’s series is characterised by its pristine paper on which he positioned the actual images. I will need to think about this further if I want to take these images further still.

2_1a web2_1b web

I have no title for these yet. I am tempted to call the final selection:

‘And they were turning away’. It is one of the few titles my grandad gave an image. It’s written on the back of the one with the sheep. I think the sheep image is the only one of animals among the 200+ images.

The images are part of a typology, which I have mentioned before. Is this typology visible? What do the images narrate in combination and arrangement?


Most recent Pecha Kucha for Study Day

GH_PK Feb 16 (1 of 20)

[clicking on the image will take you to the flickr slideshow]

This is the slideshow from the last study day. I had been certain that I didn’t want to talk to the slides, as usual, but wanted them to run silently. I wasn’t sure though how to articulate that request; I came up with the idea to tell folk that I was doing a performative audio thing and put my iphone on the table. But instead of hitting play, I hit record, so was in fact recording the room rather than playing to the room. So, the slides were playing for 7-odd minutes and I think after a few slides people began to suspect that there wasn’t going to be a sound.

After the slides, I briefly said a few words on the images: that they were all taken in Israel – something that Wendy was asking. That this house was built with the same materials in 1935/36 as that of my grandfather. The materials for this house in Jerusalem were exported through the Ha’avara Agreement, one of the few routes by which German Jews could move their possessions out of Germany under the Nazis. That we spent a lot of time in the car during my visit. And that this was the week that the violence in Jerusalem was escalating rapidly.

The feedback on the silence was very positive. And so was the feedback on the images. – These are not the images that I had intended to show, but I couldn’t get my thoughts on how to present the current project materially far enough to make sense to me.

I managed to say that these images scare me (I hadn’t been sure beforehand if I would be able to talk about emotional register but hoped I would); and was alert enough to register that that emotion was very different to what others saw in them. I stuck with the fear and the overwhelm for a bit and realised that it lay in the context that is absent from these images: they are images of conflict and violence (in past and present) and yet they portray themselves in melancholic beauty. My fear of them (as well as the images that e.g. have come out of the House project) lies in the acts of translation and negotiation to produce these images in the context in which I take them.  The feedback was immensely useful: it pointed me towards war photography, notably Northern Ireland and how Willie Doherty, Paul Graham and Paul Seawright present unremarkable images that nonetheless resonate with and speak to the violence of where they are located.

So: I need to research what is needed to activate these images – be it text, juxtaposition, or something else entirely to bring some of their context into the field so that it communicates alongside the images.

There are a couple more series and artists suggested. I will get to them in a new post.



collating public images as archives

okay, I started to look at how to retrieve images from a certain date and location.

This started with me wanting to see how to access images taken on the day that I went into Jerusalem’s old town and Holy Sepulchre… it being a tourist destination and, on a day when the knife attacks were escalating, one of the few places in the old town that was busy, I wanted to find images taken there and during the time that I was there, perhaps I was even on one of the images.

In any case, this is ongoing.

The images dated 7 October and that include Jerusalem on flickr are in this search here.

The images show a range of things from that day: the first rain in Jerusalem that autumn, the demolition that I heard the previous morning, a tourist who was at the knife attack in the old town as it happened; the metal detectors at Jaffa Gate, the time is indicated as much later than when I was there, so I’m unlikely in that image; the empty old town streets; the clouds and the sun of that morning, a funeral.

[I will add other searches as I figure them out. From a first instagram search I see how flickr is much more processed, of things (rather than people)]