Assignment One: Combined Image

Produce a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings. Use traditional ‘cut and paste’ techniques to produce a series of photomontages using elements from two to five original or found photographs. Re-photograph the finished piece.

Using digital montage techniques produce a digital montage using elements from a minimum of two and a maximum of five digital files. Use components you have shot yourself.


Water is something that humanity has cherished since the beginning of history, and it means something different to everyone. (Fagan, 2011)

Water is the commonest symbol for the unconscious. The lake in the valley is the unconscious, which lies, as it were, underneath consciousness, so that it is often referred to as the ‘subconscious.’ Carl Jung

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable. William Wordsworth

I decided quickly that I wanted to take the landscape option. I mourn the loss of summer every year but find that getting out with my camera in autumn can help the transition into the colder seasons. Instinctively I was drawn to local areas of water, we are fortunate to have an accessible canal network and a lake locally. I decided to work on a series inspired by the local lake, I didn’t necessarily want it to be about the lake but wanted to use that as the catalyst and see what developed.

I took photographs over a number of days.  I did not want to limit myself to a particular perspective so they were quite wide-ranging in scope from points of detail to the lake itself, from the houses around the lake to the carpark that provides access to the playing fields. The lake is a very popular public space; it has an active angling club, is concerned with wildfowl and conservation and is a two minute walk from the local small retail park.

Initially, I thought I might pick up a theme about the creation of the lake itself and the housing estate in which it is located. It is an entirely human made lake created to manage the water drainage for the estate. Originally the land that the estate and lake were built on was a plant nursery, particularly known for its Rhododendrons. My mum used to work there when we were children and it was a huge change to the area when the land was sold for development. I wondered about the politics of such changes and the tensions between perceived need and environmental impact. Not to mention the money that has been generated, the small retail area recently changed hands for £16.6m.

I wasn’t sure this was a direction I wanted to take and instead I became more interested in why I was attracted to the water, what was it that made it such an obvious choice for this assignment? I had been doing a project of my own around ripples and here I was again turning to the water. I started to do some research about the connection between humanity and water and came across ‘Blue Mind’ (Nichols, 2017).

Nicholls (2017) talks about the difference between Blue Mind and Red Mind, and that our red minds are toxic, over-stretched and overstimulated. This helped me decide what I wanted to do was create a series that worked with my emotional response to the water rather than a representational landscape.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein

I then mind-mapped some word association about the lake to try and understand my connection to this body of water:

  • Space
  • Movement
  • Grand vista
  • Blueness
  • Symbol of: change, purity, life and wisdom
  • Calm
  • Reflection/s
  • Subconscious
  • Emotions
  • Transformation and change
  • Tranquillity
  • Peace
  • Happiness

I started by experimenting with different images and introducing water into the actual production process, soaking and bleaching the photographs. Folding, shaping and bending to echo the shapes of the water. Printing on acetate to create layers. Having researched other photographers working with constructed images I also thought I might build the collages rather than flat cutting and gluing. I started by just overlaying the different images.

After reviewing Corinne Vionnet’s layered work I also wondered about the images of lakes that others take and whether we have an archetypal view of a lake. I collected a range of images from royalty free sites and created a contact sheet.

Twenty small lake/landscape photographs

Lake views

It was fascinating to see that just in this small collection there are lots of parallels – the big vista, leading lines, a specific vanishing point, strong horizons and lots of blue! I also noticed that they are mostly composed of triangles and used that to create a series of four collages. It was interested to note that even though I broke up and subverted sky and water my eyes were still making sense of them of lakescapes.

As I finished this I noticed piles of the offcuts I hadn’t used in the above set and liked the abstracts they suggested. I also played with some digital versions.

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.  Henry David Thoreau

While I was quite pleased with the results they felt emotionally distant and weren’t as evocative as I was looking for so I went back to my original images and decided I would go for a much simpler and cleaner approach that concentrated on the water rather than a ‘lakescape.’ Jung believed the archetypal nature of water was a reflection of the emotions and the unconscious. Water represents the often unknowable depths of our inner life. It can both sustain life and be a threat to it when it rages out of control. I decided on using the background ripples as a strip rather than using the whole page as it spoke to me of panoramas and horizons. The different overlays are used to convey a range of emotions and give a feel for the water.

I then took the same ripples into a digital process to create the final image.

I shared my process and the images at a Thames Valley Group meeting and got a positive response as well as some suggestions, like creating a physical ripple with an acetate print (instead of on paper). Group members talked about the final set evoking a sense of peace, of wondering what was beneath the surface, and liking the physical ripples. We talked about what water meant to us and one member described his experience of being a sailor and the importance of coming on deck in the morning and seeing the horizon, a moment that created a sense of calm and reassurance.

Preferences for the digital versions varied across the group. My preference is for serenity as the final image. From my perspective it speaks of the benefits of connecting to water  and nature as well as acknowledging we all have hidden depths we don’t, or can’t always access.

Digital collage of blue ripples and leaves

Serenity

References:

Fagan, B. (2011). Elixir: a human history of water: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Nichols, W. J. (2017). Blue mind: Macro Edizioni.

Constructed images

In working through Part One I have come across several photographers/artists whose constructed images and processes have proved particularly stimulating. I was thinking this might be something I wanted to follow up for assignment one, although I’m not sure it qualifies as a traditional ‘cut and paste’ technique.

Daniel Gordon

Colourful collaged image of plants and pots

Daniel and Gordon, Ratatouille and Smoke Bush, 2014

I am always fascinated to see the working practices of artists and photographers. I am struck about the levels of layering that Gordon uses in his work and while he uses a lot of found images his constructions take them into new contexts and meanings. I like the juxtaposition between 2D and 3D and the fact that when looking at the work it is not always easy to tell if they are photographs or paintings; the original objects or facsimiles. I think they are partly about challenging the nature of photography and its associations with ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ although Gordon suggests his work does not have an overt message. He does however; recognise the importance of their materiality and construction.

A question for me is, why not just create everything in the computer? But, without seams and faults and limitations my project would be very different. The seamlessness of the ether is boring to me, but the materialization of that ether, I think, can be very interesting. http://thehighlights.org/wp/daniel-gordon-interview

Gordon talks about his processes here;

https://youtu.be/r-XnQ2Wsxl8

Anastasia Samoylova

Collage of different pictures of water

Anastasia Samoylova, Glaciers, 2015

Samoylova is a new artist to me but given my assignment one is going to look at water and nature I was really happy to have found her. I like the constructed nature of her work and that she is directly addressing idealised nature and landscape and like Vionnet is addressing our received cultural symbols through using found images.

My work explores the ways in which photography is used to illustrate concepts of the Beautiful and the Natural in contemporary visual culture. Through my practice I examine photographic typologies of landscapes culled from stock and public domain image libraries online. My research focuses on widely circulated nature-themed images that depict such cultural constructs as Nature, Environment, and Beauty, the concepts that ultimately illustrate our world view. Each of my tableaus is an aestheticized environment constructed out of idealized landscape pictures that manifest the conventional views of the Beautiful in nature. By investigating the formal aspects of such depictions, http://www.h18.be/artists/anastasia-samoylova/

Her vimeo lecture gives a useful insight into the development of her work. https://vimeo.com/102738193

Calum Colvin

Calum Colvin Sacred Ibis 1995

Researching Gordon and Samoylova reminded me of Calum Colvin’s work, a photographer I had first come across some years ago. Colvin combines a very constructed and sculptural approach with painting and photography. He also uses found images and references contemporary cultural symbolism.

I was interested in ‘documentary’ photography but quite quickly realized that this was one element in a whole range of possible areas of enquiry inherent in the medium. I realized that I could use the monocular viewpoint of the camera to encompass a whole range of concerns.

…Anamorphic perspective has been around for a long time, since the 16th C. I am interested in work that concerns this, as it presents a kind of other world, floating between reality and vision. Photography, with its monocular eye, ideally suits this technique, which I try to marry with cultural artifices.  http://www.electricscotland.com/art/calum_colvin.htm

Colvin talks about a work based on Robert Burns: https://youtu.be/wYy-dJ-Tc28

Whether for this part of course or further down the line I am interested in exploring this area of construction and seeing how I can make it my own and not a poor derivative of the distinctive work of these artists.