‘I’m especially pleased to see you engaging straight away with photography as a visual language, which is the priority of C&N after the strongly technical and visual skills approach of TAOP’.
The above comment from my tutor, Robert Bloomfield, gives the gist of the positive side of his feedback on my first assignment. There were no negative comments, but my tutor did identify areas where slight changes would have helped create two stronger sets of images.
I was asked to elaborate on my thoughts when choosing to make one set in black and white, and the other in colour. My first thought here was that splitting the photographs into colour and monochrome, made an instant and very clear separation. I had researched the work of Eugene Atget, and found a beauty and stillness to his images. His images were for the most part void of people, probably because the long exposure times would have required people to remain very still. I described in my assignment introduction how I wished to demonstrate the ‘timeless beauty‘ of The River Shannon. I suppose what I really mean is that I want to show, in a similar way as Atget, images of a river at peace, a river that can be viewed with nostalgia of better and happier times.
My monochrome images appear a little like black and white versions of modern day colour postcards. My tutor challenged my approach to the black and white set, asking that I try to discover my own idea of the river’s beauty. This is something I have not yet tackled but will in due course. I gave equal weight to the city and river in my monochrome set as I wanted the city and people of Limerick to be represented, as the relationship between man and the river is at the heart of the two stories. In the colour set or negative side of the story the people are represented by the flood defences i.e. sandbags. I chose to shoot the negative side of the story in colour, as colour gives a very current, gritty and real feel to the images. While looking through my PDF learning log, my tutor was drawn to comments I made regarding the reasons Joel Sternfeld and Joel Meyerowitz gave up working in monochrome, favouring colour photography. Both of these photographers are concerned with recording the beauty in ordinary everyday life, real life. Joel Sternfeld once said that ‘black and white is abstract, colour is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world. Colour is the real world’. This statement by Sternfeld echoes my feelings on the choice of colour for the grittier side of my story.
Both sets of images, are for the most part void of people, this adds to the sense of peace and stillness. For me that act of including people to the images, would have been like the inclusion of living witnesses, who could put a precise time and date on the moment. Particularly with the black and white set, I wanted images that are ambiguous in their nostalgia, so could have been taken anytime within the past decade or so.
A real letdown in the colour set was the inclusion of the flood barrier image. The rhythm created by the continuous use of sandbags is suddenly interrupted by the new element (flood barrier). Below, I’ve included some alternative images of sandbags, one of which may have been a better choice to help with the coherence of the set. My use of the weather in the two sets of images was in fact incidental. As my tutor suggests, I could have utilised the weather more by contrasting gloomy or dramatic skies as against peaceful blue skies.
The use of diagonals and other elements of design by Jeff Rich in The Watershed Project, were particularly influential to my composition for this assignment. His composition afforded many of his images to remain tranquil, yet the dynamic nature of the water is always present. Please follow the link to a post on The Watershed Project.
Overall, I’m happy with my tutor’s feedback. He has a feel for where I am, and I have an idea of the direction in which I need to move. After all, isn’t that the purpose of the first assignment.
Update 30 July 2015
While working on Assignment Two, I spent some time walking The Grand Canal, photographing my journey. This journey helped me to resolve the lingered question from this feedback, with regard to finding my own idea of The River Shannon’s beauty.
Below I’ve included eight of the 100+ images edited from my Grand Canal walk.
Atget Photography (2015)[online], available: http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Eugene-Atget.htm [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
Daylight Multimedia (2009) ‘Daylight January 2009 Podcast’ ,
, available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwACRZaDLQk [accessed 13 Apr 15]
FlakPhoto.com (2012) ‘Watershed: The French Broad River’ [online], available: http://flakphoto.c/content/watershed-the-french-broad-river-jeff-rich-rod-slemmons#photo-1 [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
Gaebe, C. (2012), ‘Color is the Real World: Joel Sternfeld at Luhring Augustine’, Art in America Magazine, available: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/news/joel-sternfeld-luhring-augustine/ [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
Maya (2012) ‘Eugene Atget’ ,
, available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYFdUeIdmJg [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
Meyerowitz, J. (2014) ‘JoelMeyerowitz’ [online], available: http://www.joelmeyerowitz.com [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
Rich, J. (2015) Jeff Rich Photography [online] available: http://www.jeffreyrich.com/work.html [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
San Fedele Musica (2013) ‘Meeting with the photographer Joel Meyerowitz in Milan 28/10/2013’,
, available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO3DvdwgUYw [accessed 13 Apr 2015].
The Rad Pho (2013) ‘Joel Meyerowitz 1981 Street Photography’,
, available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDSGWy1CU78 [accessed 13 Apr 2015].