Sunday, 29 April 2012

From Back Home

Maybe you can’t really go back home.
But this is where I’m from.
These images pay homage,
to the people and landscapes that are my origins.
I’ve returned to something my body and emotions recognize.

JH Engström, 2009

Friday, 27 April 2012

Studio to Crumpsall

So, I was able to hang out with Monika and Mike for most of the day last Wednesday. They met me up at the studio to hopefully recreate the photographs we made the previous time. Mainly because of my concerns with the framing of the photograph. Afterwards, we made the difficult journey to their cosy home in Crumpsall through the rain and battering wind.
In my head I somehow knew that when I got their, no matter what the size of their place was, my eyes was going to be awakened to something grandiose! And, it was.
Walls beautifully covered with various materials, and patterns, with feelings of being in a far away place, I was in their home. 
I had intended to photograph them at home in a way I did not plan to do for the work I am current making (does that make sense?) I had been writing plans to do a separate piece of work focusing on friends in their Manchester homes. Starting with photographs of the exterior, making my way in. 
And so I made my way in...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Busy Bee concerned with Blossom Leaves

It is pretty late, and I am going to resign soon. Today I got two shoots sorted, I will have to wait until tomorrow though to see the verdict. I am hoping they came out great.
Monika and Michal came back to the studio with me, and we managed to work our way through two films, reworking the previous shoot. Afterwards, I dragged quite a lot of equipment up to their humble home in Crumpsall; a small palace. So much character in such a place.
Photographs hopefully to follow tomorrow, in the meanwhile, here are the hanging plates I have been collecting, along with some (just a few!) blossoms.  


Full and Empty 

My Darling

Recipe For Friendship

Monday, 23 April 2012

Admission Free

The Wild (Throwback)

In order to ‘fix’ or improve the current project, I only went and thought of a whole new piece of work I want to work on whilst spending some time on the reservoir today. 
I ought to leave pictures alone and stop trying to batch them into projects, but it can’t be helped sometimes.
Anyway, these photographs happened over a year ago, I rescanned them last week for some reason. I don't think I had copies of them stored anywhere beside a few 10x8 darkroom prints.

Monika and Mike

"It was great, exceptional even." Was one of the things I said just after spending time in the studio with Monika and Michal, I was excited to see the results. I, however made the silly mistake of not considering that once I photographed Mike by himself in portrait mode on the RB67 I would need to rotate it back to landscape to photograph them both together.
The result of that was very tight portraits, which can be seen here. 
It was an amazing conversation, I could see how their dynamics worked, it wasn’t completed one sided, they spoke about shared memories and travels and what was so great about it was that they had to fill each other in every now and then about things they had missed out.

This week I'm heading back into the studio with them to almost recreate this photographs (it won't happen the same I know that) but we will see what we can do. I will also be heading over to their home with some kit and spend the afternoon with them, making some images..  

Saturday, 21 April 2012


Had the opportunity to talk with an Ice Cream van owner by the name of Ian whilst me and Alex was trying to get some work done for the Ronald McDonald project.
It was really great to stop for half and hour and talk about what we were doing, how good the weather was currently being to us and how good it was for his business.
Ian went on to tell me how he has been in the Ice Cream business his whole life and still loves it. He’s sons and daughters are all apart of the larger business owning vans themselves.
He allowed me to take his portrait a few times there next to the van and he welcomed the opportunity for me to come back with him one day and do a large family portrait with all the ice cream vans lined up, which is something that interests me very much!
Weather conditions were great but the time of day we were out wasn’t the best, the sun was high in the sky producing a mass amount of light, so the shadows and light hit hard. Many people were passing, many customers were gathering, so it wasn't a great time to stop, pause and be at peace, but I got these two.
The framing should been improved, I am not a fan of the front of the van cropping out of frame, and the saturation of the van isn’t to my taste. Very strong reds. I will get a chance to photograph Ian again, so I don't feel at loss. Next time I will be working with a lens more suited for portraiture.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Still Life - Josef Sudek

I wanted this to be a brief write up on some of my latest findings but I realised that I could not do that without explaining the current slump I have been in. I say slump, it is probably just a mixture of lack of enthusiasm combined with poor weather (which equals slump-I know). 
Today, on one of my few trips back and forth to the library lately saw me pick up a Josef Sudek book entitled ‘Still Lives’. Sudek a photographer I am fairly familiar with over the years by looking through his books with no focused aim, however this time around it was different. 
When, during the war, I used to look at my window and photograph it, I often discovered that something was happening on the ledge. That became increasingly important to me. Some object, flowers, a little stone, anything that evoked the idea of separating out these still lifes and making them into independent photographs. I think that photography delights in ordinary things. And I delight in the life of things. - Josef Sudek in an interview with Anna Farova, 1976.
This interview of Josef Sudek was taken from the beginning of ‘Regarding What Goes Beyond’ an essay by Jan Marius Tomes. It highlights that it was the wars doing that brought Sudek into the line of Still Life works.
The reason that I wanted to look in to Still Life photography was whilst I have been casually brainstorming ideas to work with my current work with portraits of people and couples I have also been shooting a separate body of work to tie in nicely with the portraits. 
To date the way it has spanned out, the work has looked at hanging plates, flowers, shrubs and busy natural landscapes. I have been hunting and hunting within these moments to seek some kind of symbolism to work with my ideas and themes. 
Still life photographs can be something so excellent, that is everyday, that is things you often miss during your daily routine, and it can also be something you stage. Like, how you stage your cup of tea next to your plate of toast, or a flower vase next to the window. There is a lot of paths working with still life, and what I want to get out of it is experimentations that work with a theme of emotions, connections, relationships, power, growth, life, death - and with that comes the research.
Josef Sudek’s The Last Rose, 1956 was the photograph that I focused in on first. A busy photograph when you think about it, but it’s main character is the glass of water filled with three roses, its back drop, a condensed window with rain present on the other side. The dark space on around the window, not evenly square is perfect. It sucks you in, and allows you to enter this quiet space. 
I then noticed a few more similar photographs dealing with flowers in water filled glasses and immediately liked what I saw. For these still life photographs I am also drawing inspiration from paintings, we shall see the results soon hopefully. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A look at Elina Brotherus - The New Painting

Le Printemps, 2001

Elina Brotherus, born 1972, Helsinki, Finland is an artist that I keep a close eye on, just to see what new material she is creating. For me, the work she has continued to produce over the past decade and longer have been more than exceedingly good, putting her in the forefront of contemporary artists working with photography. 
I was first exposed to Brotherus’s The New Painting (2000-2004) series, work that really does force the viewer to analyse the photograph in front them in the way you would do a painting. Brotherus’s says this about the work ‘Photography is the new painting, said my friend Edda Jonsdottir, director of i8 gallery in Reykjavik. With this somewhat provocative sentence in mind in June 2000 I start my still on going series, “The New Painting”. I use contemporary means of expression (large format colour photography), but I owe a lot to the aesthetics of classical figurative painting. With the camera I try to approach the same problems that painters have been dealing with for centuries: light, colour, composition figures, in space, projection of the three-dimensional in the two-dimensional. I find these questions fundamental in all visual arts.’ (Elina Brotherus, 2001)

Der Wanderer 3, 2003

Elina Brotherus is known for including herself as the model in her photographs. Older works focused more on the inclusion of her in the photographs, the emphasis on self-portraiture, identity and the problem with representing oneself. Again she is seen within the photograph but she describes that it now presents this person (often times her) as ‘an object of investigation, not for the inner properties but for the external ones. The person in the picture is a model, in the same sense as painters have been using models.’ She questions how figures interact with space and with each other, and how light reveals the body form.

The next extract is from Elina Brotherus’s website, where she discusses what has motivated her to produce The New Painting.
The colours of a photographic print are not given; the “correct” answer is not hidden in the negative. It is surprise how much can be done in the darkroom. Chosen the colour of the sky can be just as arbitrary as choosing among pigments of oil paint. This came like a revelation to me when working on the The New Painting. All there is, is a vague impression of “how it was” on the location, and a choice that has to be made by the artist when printing. This is why I have started to take notes, in the spirit of Bonnard, in order to remember what things looked like.
Photography, unlike painting, has a direct link to the reality. This is both its enchantment and its curse. People tend to treat photographs as documents: who is this person, or where is that place? I would prefer that we pay more attention, not only to the subject matter itself, but to how it is shown: what visual choices has the artist made, how has he/she solved certain problems, what is the structure of the image, the mood of it, how are the colours tuned? How does it affect us as viewers?
        • Elina Brotherus 2006
I am attracted to the work of Elina Brotherus, for one, the images are visually pleasing, they open your eyes to what she is trying to portray, and she also understands the loss of power and control to the audience. Her work searches for the beauty in the landscape just as paintings did/do and it establishes the photograph as a valuable art form, very much like Wolfgang Tillmans valuing the photographs place within the museum. 

Der Wanderer 4, 2003

Nu Endormi, 2003

Der Wanderer 5, 2003

I was very interested in the way Brotherus worked portraiture and the focus on body form into the landscape with care on beauty and pose. When I had begun working on the work now called Transient Bodies, my motives were based on the relationship with the individual and the landscape as one, but it tried to connect the too to make this aesthetically pleasing image that opted to consider the beauty of landscape photography such as the works of Ansel Adams and the portraiture of Bill Brandt. 

Der Wanderer 2

Der Wanderer, 2003

Orage Montant, 2003

Very Low Horizon, 2001

Broken Horizon, 2001

Figure au Bord de L’eau, 2002

There is so much beauty in this photograph to read from, the beauty of the landscape, the beauty of the figure. You want to know what he is looking towards, what has brought him to this raw unmanufactured landscape. I had not seen this image before I started to work on ideas of my own, but this would have certainly inspired the work I wanted to produce. It is inspiring me right now in fact, such beauty and craft.

Baigneuse de Saturnia, 2003

All images shown here are taken from Elina Brotherus's book The New Painting, all copyright goes to the artist and publishers, if you are interested in Elina Brotherus and the work she produces visit her website here

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A look at Photographer Kevin Kunishi

All photographs in this post are Kevin Kunishi’s who holds copyright to these images, you can view the rest of his work at his website here.

The grave of Benjamin Linden

I don’t remember what publication notified me of the work of Kevin Kunishi, it could of been Foam, it might have even been Vice, (in fact a google search reveals that it was Hey Hot Shot!). Now that I can recall, this photographer who studied History first 10 years prior to a MFA in Photography at San Francisco has certainly interested me a great deal. 
I begun looking at his project Los restos de la revolucion, a body of work that looks at his prolonged stay in the highlands of Northern Nicaragua, studying Sandinistas and their opposing Contra veterans.
His artist statement is as follows;
After receiving my undergraduate degree with an emphasis on U.S. foreign policy in Central America, I wanted to move beyond the broad recital of policy and ideology within textbooks and explore the personal experiences of individuals directly affected by those policies. This body of work was created between the years 2009 and 2011, during a prolonged stay in the highlands of Northern Nicaragua. These photographs are from a larger series consisting of portraits of Sandinistas and their opposing Contra veterans, as well as artifacts and landscapes significant to the civil war that took place in Nicaragua during the 1980s. In 1979, after over a decade of struggle, the socialist Sandinista movement in Nicaragua overthrew the dictator, Anastasio Somoza. The Sandinistas quickly began the work of applying their social and ideological values in the hopes of creating a better Nicaragua. Unfortunately, the United States government had other plans. In the cold war environment of the 1980s, the prospect of a socialist/communist government gaining a foothold in Central America was deemed unacceptable. The CIA began financing, arming and training a clandestine rebel insurgency to destabilize the government. These anti-Sandinista guerrillas became known as Contras. Between 1980 and 1990, Nicaragua became the battleground of conflicting political ideologies; the promise of a bright future was lost as the nation descended into civil war. Although these two sides held polarized political philosophies, their survivors are united by the burden of a war-torn history. As political ideology evolves, dilutes or disappears, the horrors of war endure.
              • Kevin Kunishi 

This is just a few from Los Restos de la Revolucion the full work is here

The photographs that came from Los Restos de la Revolucion told a narrative of exactly what was going on there. Visually Kunishi uses photography as a tool and is not held back in any way, producing and combining moving portraits, focused still life’s, and beautiful landscapes. I was very captivated from viewing Los Restos de la Revolucion that I almost missed out on some of his other projects and his portraits.

The portrait of Carlos, only has one actual portrait photograph, and the other two are still life photographs. I find the way he has documented this is 100% effective. A portrait is also about where a person lives, and what a person owns and their interests. It is hard to capture all of that in one image, Kevin Kunishi composes the portrait of Carlos in between a what could the place where Carlos sleeps and a photograph of a hand-made boat imitation. 
It made me think about the way I have been laying my own work out, something that is just as important as the content of the image. You want it to be at its most effective stage, because of the lost ownership of the work once handed over to the audience.

Here is Kunishi's feature in Hey Hot Shot!