Author Archives: khs101

The National

The Anglian National Pilgrimage to Walsingham in Norfolk colloquially known as The National takes place in May every year. It is perhaps an event that many people would be surprised still takes place in Britain. Events around the pilgrimage take place over a week end and on the Sunday, there is a procession from the Shrine at Little Walsingham to the Abbey ruins where a Mass is held.  In the pictures below I have tried to capture obvious character of some of the priest and Bishops in the procession

This was not an event I set out to photograph it was something I discovered while driving home one Sunday.

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Reflections on people and Place

It was with some trepidation that I started out on this course because I have never enjoyed taking formal portraits. At the start of the course I let this irrational dislike almost overwhelm me and I struggled to get started. However, having finished the course I feel that I have learnt a lot. I even to started to like enjoy taking portraits although I accept that this never be my favourite photographic Genre.

Throughout the course I have include reflections on my work and lessons learned in my assignment submissions and post I wrote on my tutor’s feedback. In addition to this the remainder of this post revisits each section of the course and summarises my thoughts and lessons learned.

Part 1 – People aware

.I learnt from the people aware section of the course was that I could take reasonable portraits something I had little confidence in doing previously. In his first feedback my tutor also pointed out that I could improve the compositions in my work by cropping. As someone who started photography using slide film I had always felt it was important to capture the image in the camera and not rely on post processing while I have done more cropping and other post processing since I switched to digital but after this comment  I started think more more about this aspect of my work. As a first step after receiving this feedback I went back and updated my assignment one submission spending more time on post-processing.

While I was working on part one I researched the classic portrait photographers Horst P Horst, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. I also looked at the work less well-known artists like John Hedgecoe, Jane Bown and Guy Bourdain. I think I learn about the range of different portrait styles and approaches from this research. It certainly made me appreciate portrait photography more but I am not sure that it really impacted the work I did for part 1.

When I saw the the exhibition of work by Gillian Waring and Claude Cahun at the National Portrait Gallery towards the end of my work on this course I realised that I could have done so much more in this section of the course but I felt it was too late to go back and change everything.

Part 2 – People unaware

I started the people unaware section with a more confidence than the previous part because street photography had been a genre that I had enjoyed working on over the years. I was lucky that as I worked through this section I had the opportunity to see and exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work at the Sainsbury Centre. I have long admired Cartier-Bresson’s work and seeing his actual prints rather than looking at reproductions in books and on the internet, was a revelation. In retrospect I believe I could have thought more about how my work in this section could have been more influenced by Cartier-Bresson perhaps I should have gone out with the idea of creating a Cartier-Bresson style pictures something I probably would not have achieved but which could have given my work another dimension.

Looking back, I can see that the work I submitted for the second assignment, was not my best there were some strong images from what was a very colourful event. However, as my tutor pointed out in his feedback I really hadn’t thought about a narrative when creating and selecting the work instead I had picked my favourite images and tried to write a narrative around them. Effectively, I had tried to force the pictures to fit a narrative I had in my mind, but which was not at all obvious to anyone else. Looking back at this submission now I am disappointed with it, I didn’t really prepare enough for the shoot and go looking for pictures that fitted a theme and that really shows.

I continued to peruse a wide range of research looking at artists mention by my tutor is his feedback eg Cartier-Bresson and Philip-Lorca di Corcia as well as vising a number of exhibitions eg the exhibition of Oshiuchi Miyako’s work at the Getty Center.

To characterise the work I did while working on this section I have  submitted for assessment four pictures of commuters that I took for one of the exercises  .  I feel this set of pictures are stronger than those I took for the assignment and capture the quiet desperation felt by many people travelling to and from work by train. A big lesson for me from these pictures that good work can be done in a familiar location and a distant location like New York does that I used in assignment 2 does not necessarily result in good work.

Part 3 – Buildings and Spaces

During part three “Buildings and Spaces”  I wanted to explore taking pictures of many different types of space and while working on assignment three I deliberately choose a  wide range of different types of location. I wanted some spaces that were bright and colourful and others that were dark and more uniform in colour. Looking back at some of the work from a technical perspective I believe I should have not be afraid to use higher ISOs and accept a higher level of noise, for example some of the series in the Guggenheim museum would have benefited from this. Despite this some of my favourite pictures from this course were taken as I worked on this section.

My tutor again pointed out the need to be more aggressive in cropping and post processing, for example the picture on the left below was the version I included in my submission and the one on the right I reworked after reading his comments by creating a tighter crop to put the group I wanted the viewer to focus on more towards the bottom right and cloning out a number of distracting parts of people.

I have included the reworked picture above and  some others from this part of the course in the prints I submitted for assessment.

When I was working on this section of the course I continued to visit exhibitions and research photographers. During this time, I made the first of two visits the Radical Eye exhibition at the Tate Modern. I really enjoyed this exhibition because it gave me the chance to see actual prints of the work of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn that I had previously only seen in books. I also liked the examples of Paul Strand’s work in the exhibition and went on to do a deeper study of his work.

During this part of the course I believe my technical ability in low light photography improved and learnt to not be afraid of taking pictures where some areas were blurred. From a general workflow perspective, it re-enforced the need to plan shots in advance, the locations (The Guggenheim, Tate Modern and Waterloo station) where I had visualised images before visiting them worked better than those that I visited without a clear plan.

Part 4 – People interacting with place

When first  received my tutors feedback for my fourth assignment, I felt my he had been quite harsh in his comments although looking back having finished the course I  have more sympathy with his views. I believe there were some strong pictures in the assignment but there really isn’t an overall narrative about borough Market, some wider-angle shots showing more context could have anchored the idea the location being Borough Market rather than any random market.

Again my tutor raised the issue of cropping and I have reworked two of my favourite pictures from this assignment and submitted them as prints for assessment. For example, in the revised image on the right below I have cropped out some unnecessary detail on the right, particularly the person in the very pink jacket. To keep the aspect ration the same I also cropped off the top which added little to the original image. Finally I increased the overall brightness of the image to make the green pillar on the  left more than the foreboding dark space it was in the  original.

In retrospect I don’t think Borough Market was an ideal subject for this assignment, I took the pictures in winter and it was very dark which forced a combination of high iso and low shutter speeds resulting in many pictures not sharp enough to include. I think I learnt an important lesson here. I either need to choose subjects for work like this more carefully or alternatively I could have pushed the iso much higher and gone for a retro noisy and high contrast black and white presentation.

Part 5 – On Assignment

Before starting work on this assignment, I studied the work of Vanessa Püntener and Martin Parr as suggested by my tutor. The work of Püntener really made the idea of a creating a narrative about a place through a set of pictures much clearer to me. I had previously researched the work of Marin Parr but going back and working through the images from his book the Last Resort again helped me understand how the capture the essence of a place through a series of pictures.

For this final assignment I did more preparation and planning than for any of the previous ones. However, I did not end up the set of pictures that I had originally planned showing happy families enjoying their holidays. Rather I created a set of pictures that show misery and even disappointment at the reality of an English holiday. Perhaps what I have captured here is the reaction of people trying to recapture happy times in their past but time has moved on and neither the location or peoples reaction to was the same as when they were younger.

I did study Martin’s Parr’s book “The Last Resort” before embarking on this assignment and although I started with the intention of not creating a similar vision when I look at my pictures there is a somewhat surreal almost Parr like quality to some of them so subconsciously I could have been more influenced by his work than I realised at the time.

My tutor did point out some issues with some of the pictures in my original submission and I have revisited the pictures I took and made some substitutions in the set I have submitted as hard copies for this assessment. I Believe that the new set of images I put together after this feedback (here) has a stronger more consistent narrative and looking back I am not sure why I selected some of the pictures in the original set. I can only think that I still felt the need to force a narrative that really wasn’t supported by the best pictures that I had taken. I think a big lesson I can take away from this assignment and indeed my work through the entire course is that the preparation and planning pay off.

I think the lesson I can take away from this assignment is that the preparation and planning paid off resulting in what I believe is some of the best work I did during this course.

Assignment 5: Tutor Feedback

I think the feedback from my tutor for assignment 5 was very helpful, it certainly made me look at the series of pictures that I submitted again. Generally, I agree with his comments and have gone back and updated the series of pictures. I have made the following changes

  • Picture 1 – Chalet life – I have substituted a picture that includes more of the context of the chalets, I struggle to think of a building like this at the edge of a car park as beach huts although they do serve a similar purpose.
  • Picture 4 – Before the rain – I have substituted a picture that is more focused on a food stall and people considering making a purchase which I have called “The snack” because of the expression of happiness on the face of the woman carrying her food over to where her partner and child are waiting.
  • Pictures 6,7 I replaced with another beach scene entitled “Time to relax” and two scenes of people in the town “tea with mother” and “When is my next pint coming?”
  • Finally, I replaced Picture 10 with the one called “A memory of a good time”
  • I also changed the title of picture 11 to arcade because although the idea of a woman bring her dog to the arcade to play bingo I agree with my tutors comments that in the picture the dog is just too small to feature in the title.

The new set of pictures are shown below:

Changing half the pictures in this series may seem excessive but having read my tutors comments I realised that I had again tried to find pictures to tell the story in my mind rather than let the pictures tell their own story and this had caused me to include two poor pictures 8 & 10 that were no sharp enough and two pictures 6 & 7 that were just out of place in this context.

I tried to look at the website of Ville Lenkkeri’s that my tutor referred me to but all I got was an error implying that the website was not working, this may be a temporary glitch and I will go back and try again another day.

I did look at the work of David Spero that was also referred to in my tutor’s comments and found this particularly his set of images of churches which featured a wide range of buildings that had been converted into places of worship. The series featured, houses, shops, industrial buildings, offices a cinema and flats above shops. I also liked his pictures of parks some of which are reminiscent of pictures I have taken in the past. The settlements series that my tutor referred to shows buildings that self-sufficient families and groups have built in woodlands. I can see the a parallel with my work in that the pictures show a reality that probably does not live up to the original dreams that lead to the creation of these communities.

I believe from this assignment I have learnt finally that cropping pictures to get the best possible image is something that I really need to focus on. I also spent more time post processing these images than in many previous assignments.

The other big lesson has been however much planning I do, in a situation like this I will not get all of the pictures I imagine, and I need to let the pictures tell their story and not try to force them to tell my preconceived story.

The full set of my tutor’s comments are available here.

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask

 

WaringThis exhibition was interesting if at times unbalanced and a little muddled, its overall theme seemed to be around creating and manipulating identity. Both Claude Cahun and Gilliam Wearing have created work that shows them moving between genders and personas in their photographic self-portraits. Cahun was part of the Surrealist movement in the 1920s and much of what remains of her work dates from then. Wearing is working today and acknowledges Cahun as one of her influences.
The exhibition starts with one Cahun’s images from her series “I am in training do not kiss me” along with Wearing’s homage to this work called “Me as Cahun”. Cahun’s image gives the impression of her as a circus act sitting heavily made up holding what, today at least, look like rather comic dumbbells. To me this sense of humour is largely missing from Wearing’s picture in which she is wearing a mask and makeup took like Cahun, sitting in a very similar pose and holding another mask.

When writing about an exhibition like this there is always a temptation to present it as a competition, who is the winner the 1980 Surrealist or todays conceptual artist? I do not want to fall into that trap so I will discuss each artist’s work independently before drawing some comparisons at the end.

Claude Cahun

Claude Cahun was one of the few woman Surrealists in Andre Bretons group in the 1920s but her work was largely forgotten until she was rediscovered in the 1980s. Since then her work has featured in many exhibitions around the world.
Due to her sexual ambiguity Cahun’s work is very much in tune with the sexually ambiguous looks that are popular with today’s Instagram generation. She has been called by critics “Cindy Sherman before her time” and has been positioned her as a forerunner to the work on many artists working today. However, there is no evidence Sherman or many other artists whose work critics claim was preceded by Cahun had ever heard of Cahun before she was rediscovered. However, Gillian Wearing is of a few artists who does acknowledge Cahun as an influence.
Cahun has a complex character, born Lucy Schwob she changed her name to one she regarded as being gender neutral and in her self-portraits, she appears in both mescaline and feminine dress.
Some of her work has a surrealistic style, notably the picture below of her reflected in a mirror with close cropped hair and sexually ambiguous dress. As her eyes are looking to the right the camera her reflection in the mirror looks quite different from the face the camera sees directly. It almost looks like we are seeing her twin through a window rather than two pictures of the same person. Considering this work was created in 1927, it looks very modern, It has a style that is reminiscent of the 1980s or perhaps even more recently.

Mirror
The picture below of Cahun as “a dandy” shows a very male persona both in dress and pose. This picture is perhaps a typical example of a  Cahun self-portrait in a masculine persona it shows that rather than just dressing in male clothes she is able to project through her pose more of a male presence and does not look like many pictures of women in drag.
claudecahundandy
In another work from the 1920s she appears in a female persona wearing a clock decorated by masks. We can think about this image as having a message, which is the real me the face you see or one of the masks?

cahun-masks
Masks appear in several Cahun’s works, like the one below her posing naked except for a mask.
021-self-portrait-kneeling-naked-with-mask-1995
Cahun was imprisoned and even at one time sentenced to death during the Nazi occupation of Jersey. Shortly after the war she is seen in the self-portrait below dancing on a sea wall that had been built by the Nazi’s this image a care free celebration is perhaps a comment on the defeat of the Third Reich or just an expression of joyous relief that occupation is over?
Claude-Cahun-Self-portrait-on-sea-wall-1995.31m
In a more obvious way the picture of her biting on a Nazi medal seems to be a clear statement of victory over the Nazis.
Nazi
Claude Cahun wrote “Behind this mask another mask, there can be no end to these disguises”, this thought is reflected in some of the examples of her work above. Which is the real Claude Cahun? Dressed as man she doesn’t look masculine but neither does she look like a woman in drag similarly dressed as a woman she does not look feminine but again neither does she look like a man in drag. Her work is all about creating her own identity or perhaps many different identities to mask her true personality.
Claude Cahun’s work was largely forgotten until she was rediscovered in the 1980s.In her latter life she lived in Jersey and much of her work was destroyed during the Nazi occupation but what remains has made her something of an icon for art critics who have praised her blurring of gender and identity and recognise in her work themes that are much more common today

Gillian Wearing

Gillian Wearing is one of the so called YBAs (Young British Artists) who emerged in the late 1980s she is best known for her work documenting everyday life through photography and video. A lot of her work focuses on individual identity and blurring the line between reality and fiction. This exhibition is not a full retrospective of Wearing’s work rather it focuses on her self-portraiture. In this work as she often uses makeup and more recently computer image processing to appear as others or herself at different times of her life.
Position in one of the first parts of the exhibition was a work with a similar theme of multiple personas to the Claude Cahun mirror picture above. In Wearing’s self-portrait, she is seen sitting holding a picture of her sitting holding the same picture giving the idea of an infinite number of persona’s rather than just two in Cahun’s work.

wearingmirror

Masks also play a significant role in Wearing’s work, she has used masks in a series of work where she recreates herself at different ages, for example “Self Portrait of Me Now in Mask” shown below. Initially this work looks like a straight forward self-portrait but looking closer around the eyes the edges of the mask can be seen, looking more closely the mask gives a rather unrealistic almost frozen appearance to the portrait.

wearinginmasknow
Waring has also used masks and other prosthetics to appear is self-portraits as other members of her family or other famous people. The works below “Self-portrait as my brother” and “Me as Mapplethorpe” are examples of this aspect of her work. In all this work Wearing is stretching the idea of self-portraits and confusing the concept of persona.

Finally, there are examples of portraits by Wearing of other people where masks are feature, for example the portrait of Shami Chakrabarti the human rights lawyer and campaigner where Chakrabarti holds a mask of a sterner looking version of herself. This portrait is a response to those people who in the past criticised Chakrabarti for her worthy mask like face but in the context of this exhibition it appears as yet another way presenting different personas or perhaps question what is the real persona of the subject.
NPG 6923; Shami Chakrabarti by Gillian Wearing
Before visiting this exhibition, I had not been aware of Cahun’s work and had not really looked at Wearing’s work beyond the series of pictures of people holding up signs on which were written statements which represented what they wanted to say. I really enjoyed the exhibition and found it very thought provoking, I wish I had seen this work before starting the people and place module. If I had I would have taken a very different approach to some of the early exercises and assignments.

Assignment 5: People and Place on Assignment

For the fifth assignment, I had to select my own project with the proviso that the subject should be related to the material in the People and place module. I started out with some grandiose ideas but then common sense prevailed and I realised that I would need to choose a topic that could be developed around a location that was close to where I live so that I could easily visit it enough times to obtain a satisfactory set of pictures. As I live in an area that is popular tourist destination in summer I decided to work around the idea of people holidaying in Britain or taking a staycation as the popular press likes to say today.

Within ten to twenty miles of my home there are many different types of holiday destinations, firstly there is Burnham Market or “Chelsea-on-Sea” as many locals refer to it which is dominated by affluent second home owners mainly from London.  Then there are coastal towns being rapidly gentrified like Wells-next-the-Sea, several wild life sanctuaries visited by keen bid watchers and finally Hunstanton a traditional British seaside resort.

In some ways Burnham Market would have been an interesting topic showing how the upmarket shops and restaurants and often ostentatious displays of wealth make it very different to other surrounding towns and villages. However, in the end I decide to focus on Hunstanton and try to show what a holiday at a traditional British resort is like in 2017.

Client Brief

I wrote my self the following brief for this project:

Deliver 8-12 photographs that document what people could expect from a holiday in Hunstanton in 2017. To illustrate one of a series of magazine article about the different types of holiday destinations in East Anglia. This is not intended to be a series of articles marketing resorts by glossing over the realities of life with dramatic sunsets etc but rather a true picture of what each these resorts are like. Neither should the pictures resemble those used in marketing brochures or on postcards.

Planning

Following the feedback from my tutor on my last assignment I looked the work of Vanessa Puntener a Swiss photographer who has produced several projects around life in the Alps and Martin Parr’s famous work “The Last Resort”. It was not my intention to try and create a vision of Hunstanton that was as bleak as Parr’s vision of New Brighton. Although for many years Hunstanton has always been a little shabby and in places a little run down it has never had the piles of litter in the streets that Parr shows in New Brighton. Hunstanton is a small resort town and over the years it has largely survived on day trippers and caravaners it has never suffered the level of depravation that has been seen in larger resorts.

My original intention was to create a set of pictures of people obviously enjoying themselves on the beach, the promenade and around the town. I didn’t wat to take pictures of the sunsets the area is famous for or the gardens along the cliff tops that appear in every brochure published by the local tourist board.

When planning the shoots for this project I started off by writing lists:

What makes a good holiday, eg

  • Sun, sea and sand, pony rides, fun fair, amusement arcades, entertainment, food

Key places in Hunstanton, eg

  • Beach, promenade, gardens, stripped cliffs, beach huts, golf, crazy golf, bowling green, sailing club

What do we associate with seaside resorts, eg

  • Fish and chips, café’s, ice cream parlours, souvenir shops, rock, colourful buckets and spades, nets for rock pooling

Merging items from the different lists I ended up with about 50 ideas of shots I could try and capture: eg

  • Families on the beach
  • Eating take away on the promenade
  • Colourful displays in shops
  • Looking out from pub or café
  • Panic in beach hut
  • Water sports eg Sailing, kite surfers

I spent a lot more time preparing for this assignment that I have done in the past and while I did not end up capturing pictures that fulfilled many of my initial ideas having a list of potential subjects did help me focus on areas and not wander around just looking for a shot aimlessly.

Taking the Pictures

I visited Hunstanton six times and took more than a thousand pictures while working this assignment, I was there in bright sunshine, cloudy conditions, rain, high winds all the kinds of weather you get at an east coast resort in summer. What became increasing clear to me over the first two shots is that whatever the weather few people seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were many more miserable people than happy people. Initially I went out looking for happy scenes but it increasingly became clear that the more interesting picture were those of people who were not obviously enjoying themselves and gradually my theme moved to the grim reality of seaside holidays and far away from my initial concept.

My final selection of twelve photographs is show below followed by my reflections on this work.

Staycation

The twelve pictures below capture a view of a holiday in Hunstanton, they portray it as quite a grim experience in doing this I am not trying to be disrespectful to the people in the pictures or to the town rather I hope I have captured the experience for some people that is very different from that pictured in tourist publications.

Assignment5-1

Chalet Life

 

Assignment5-2

True Grit

 

Assignment5-3

Is that rain?

 

Assignment5-4

Before the rain

 

Assignment5-5

Inclusion

 

Assignment5-6

Wishful Thinking

 

Assignment5-7

Why isn’t it like yesterday?

 

Assignment5-8

Resting

 

Assignment5-9

Why am I here?

 

Assignment5-10

Even the dog is suffering

 

Assignment5-11

I take my dog everywhere

 

Assignment5-12

Time to go home?

 

Reflections

I tried in this series of photographs to capture a vision of the reality behind the glossy picture people often have of seaside holidays. I have shown these pictures to several people and the overwhelming response I get is how grim and depressing they make Hunstanton and its holiday makers look. I have not captured what I had in mind when I wrote the original brief but I believe that I have created a set of pictures that capture the experiences some people get from a day by the sea.

If these were to be used to illustrate a magazine article it could not be one that was promoting the pleasures of a holiday in Britain. Perhaps they could illustrate an article charting the gradual re-emergence of British resorts as they pick themselves up from what were much worse times twenty or thirty years ago.

One of the difficult decisions I had was whether to select these pictures or a set that showed a more positive side of Hunstanton. In the more than 1000 pictures I took during my visit to Hunstanton there are a lot of happy people enjoying themselves. However, the more times I visited the more I was struck by the number of miserable people and eventually I concluded that this had to be my theme.

As I said in the introductory text above I did a lot more planning for this assignment than I have done in the past. As I knew the town from many visits in the past I could plan several locations for shoots along with the pictures I hope that I would get in each one. In general, I believe that this really helped although in many cases I never got the pictures I had visualised as I was creating my plans. However, I do think that during this assignment I have learnt the value of planning and returning to a location several times. In many of the earlier exercises on this course I just walked the streets with some vague ideas of what I wanted to shoot and while I got some good shots it did take much longer than the more focused approach I used here. Making several visits enabled me to review the work I had and identify gaps that I needed to fill in a narrative and to be able to reshoot ideas that had not quite worked.

Thoughts on the pictures

In “Chalet Life” and “True Grit” I was trying to capture the determination people have to enjoy themselves on a seaside holiday. Perhaps “True Grit” is really about the determination to redo things that the woman had done in the past?

Rain is an ever-present feature in a British holiday, “Is that Rain” and “Before the rain” try to show how people try and work around rain.

“Inclusion”, today the seaside is a very inclusive place; young, old many people from different ethnic background and to me this picture really captures this theme. Whoever you, whatever your problems you can come to the seaside

“Wishful thinking” and “Why isn’t it like yesterday?”, some days the traders along the promenade have bad days either the weather is bad of perhaps it is just that no one shows up. Years ago, the beach would have been packed every day in the summer and café’s full but those days have ling gone.

“Resting”, “Why and I here” and “Even the dog is suffering” are trying to question why people come to Hunstanton when apparently, they hate either the seaside or the people they are with. Do they have some sense of duty that causes them to visit or are they just trying to relive happy childhood memories? With resting I did consider cropping out the child on the right hand side but in the end I preferred the picture with the child there

“I take my dog everywhere”, I couldn’t resist this shot, why take your dog in a push chair to play bingo? The inside of the arcade also really reflects the faded glory of many of our seaside resorts.

“Time to go home”, I think this picture sums up the thoughts of many people who visit seaside resorts when the weather is less than perfect.

As I said at the start of this post I did look at the work of Martin Parr and Vanessa Puntener at the time I was starting on the assignment. While I did not go out and try reproduce the style of either of there artists work Puntener’s work did encourage me to include some wider shots to give context to the my images and show that these are photographs of a seaside resort. As I said previously I really did not want to create a Parr like vision of Hunstanton but perhaps there is more Parr influence here that I was consciously looking to include. The amusement arcade picture and the couple ignoring each other outside the Chalet have some echos of picture included in the last Resort but I was not thinking about this when I took them.

 

The Radical Eye

The Radical Eye: Modenernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection
Tate Modern, Nov 2016-May 2017

I went to see this exhibition twice while it was on, once shortly after it opened in November and once in January. On both occasions, I thought I was one of the most best exhibitions have seen for a long time. As well as feature the work of photographers I had studied while working through this module eg Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Paul Strand it also featured work by photographers I have long admired Man Ray, Edward Weston and included original prints of classic 20th century works like Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother.

With such a wide-ranging exhibition of great works it is hard to know where to start when writing a review so rather than trying to write about the full range of work I will focus on a few works that really stood out for me.

Firstly, the portraits of Irving Penn really stood out for me, perhaps this was because I had done some research of Penn’s work before visiting for the exhibition for the second time. I was surprised by the power of this work particularly the portrait of Salvador Dali where the sitter really dominates the tight space he is posed unlike the portrait of Noel Coward who seems to be intimidated by the space and is apparently trying to shrink back into it.

For some years I have admired the very precise work of Edward Weston and seeing the classic 1936 nude study below with its careful pose and lighting in its original form was something of a revelation.

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I have always liked the work of Man Ray and the chance to see prints of many of his works was good, if I had to pick one of the it would be Tears shown below. I really like the way the woman is staring upwards, almost like a silent movie star expressing excessive emotion which is echoed by the huge glass tears.

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The very surreal headless swimmer captured by Andre Kertesz in his “Underwater Swimmer” was another picture that stood out for me. It is a great example of a photographer capturing exactly the right moment so the swimmers head effectively invisible. Also, this work was displayed as a contact print which made it appear like a little jewel that you needed to stare intently add to appreciate all the detail.

images

Although I have largely picked out portraits and other pictures of people there were also a lot of other types of work included. There were many examples of close-ups of objects out of context and architectural studies using exaggerated perspectives. Of this work, I liked Aleksander Rodchenk’s picture of the Shukhov Tower taken in 1927. Today this type of perspective distortion is common but it was new in the 1920s and it really seems to work with this curved steel tower probably making it look much more interesting that it really is.

images (1)

The one picture in the exhibition that disappointed me was Edward Steichen’s portrait of  Gloria Swanson. I had seen another print of this in a exhibition in the USA a few years ago and had been very impressed but the print at the Tate just seemed dark and gloomy. Perhaps this was the effect of the wide gilt frame the print was mounted in? Whatever the reason it really didn’t have the impact of the previous version I had seen.

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This exhibition was a rare chance to see such a large collection of famous works in one place, generally I thought that in most cases seeing the original prints gave me a much better opportunity to appreciate the work than looking at what I increasingly realise are rather poor reproductions in most books.

The National

The Anglian National Pilgrimage to Walsingham in Norfolk colloquially known as The National takes place in May every year. It is perhaps an event that many people would be surprised still takes place in Britain. Events around the pilgrimage take place over a week end and on the Sunday, there is a procession from the Shrine at Little Walsingham to the Abbey ruins where a Mass is held.  In the pictures below I have tried to capture obvious character of some of the priest and Bishops in the procession.