RESEARCH ASSIGNMENT 5

My starting point for this assignment was the work of Minor White that I explored in assignment 4. I have begun my research with artists between the time of Minor White’s practice and contemporary photographers. I have looked for practitioners who share some of Whites ideas, particularly photography as a representation of an idea, abstraction and self-expression.

Brett Weston (1911-1993)

Brett Weston began photographing with his father Edward Weston when he was just 13. He understood how the camera can transform through abstraction and design, as well as through the contrasts of black and white.

                     

 (Brett Weston – Artists – Steven Kasher Gallery 2019)         (Bunyan, D.M 2019)

He often flattened the plane, creating layered space, an artistic style often seen among the Abstract Expressionists and modern painters like David Hockney than other photographers. He was credited by historian Beaumont Newhall as the first photographer to make negative space the subject of a photograph. As he progressed he moved with the same natural objects more towards stark high contrast and careful design to portray pure form.

Banyan Roots, Hawaii 1979 Brett Weston 1911-1993 Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of Christian Keesee Collection 2013 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/L03492

 (Tate, 2019)

References:

Brett Weston – Artists – Steven Kasher Gallery (s.d.) At: http://www.stevenkasher.com/artists/brett-weston?view=slider (Accessed on 18 October 2019)

Bunyan, D.M. (s.d.) Brett Weston Broken Window – Art Blart. At: https://artblart.com/tag/brett-weston-broken-window/ (Accessed on 18 October 2019)

Tate (2019) Brett Weston 1911-1993 | Tate. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/brett-weston-17308 (Accessed on 19 October 2019)

Walter Chappell (1925-2000)

Chappell was from his teenage years a friend of White which influenced his move from poetry, music, and painting towards photography. In 1957, Chappell studied photographic printmaking technique with Minor White, and wrote and edited for Aperture magazine whilst helping White workshops.  He was also a student of Edward Weston and followed Stieglitz’s tradition of looking at photography as a means to a deeper reality and in this sense equal to painting, poetry and music, “ His richly toned black-and-white images exuded an almost tantric air of concentration and often considerable sexual charge” (Smith, 2000). He also worked with Ansel Adams in San Francisco. His photographs are quite mystical and intense:

     

                     

    (Walter Chappell home, 2019)

His idea of equivalence is interesting “an equation that is all at once. It takes in the entire mind. Everything works for a moment. The blessing of the photographic image is the precision involved” which he says then becomes an emblem of eternity (Hakon Agustsson-hakon@PhotoQuotes.com, 2019).-

References:

Walter Chappell Home (2019.) At: http://walterchappell.com/photography.htm (Accessed on 19 October 2019)

Smith, R. (2000) ‘Walter Chappell, Photographer of Nature, Is Dead at 75’ In: The New York Times 12 August 2000 [online] At: https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/12/arts/walter-chappell-photographer-of-nature-is-dead-at-75.html (Accessed on 26 October 2019)

(Hakon Agustsson-hakon@PhotoQuotes.comhttps://www. PhotoQuotes. com – info@PhotoQuotes. com (s.d.) Photography Quotes by Walter Chappell. At: https://www.photoquotes.com/showquotes.aspx?id=663&name=Chappell,Walter (Accessed on 26 October 2019)

Stieglitz (1864-1946)

Stieglitz was the first to introduce and name the concept equivalence in the 1920’s, which is an experience not a subject. The equivalence is what goes on in a viewer’s mind and corresponds to something in them internally. Equivalence also refers to the inner experience a person has while they are remembering the mental image later.

Stieglitz expressed through his landscape photographs ideas and emotions rather than visual facts, for instance his series Songs of the sky and Equivalents which appeared as images of clouds but actually represented his ideas and philosophies; in these he hoped to arouse in the viewer the emotional equivalent of himself at the time he captured the picture and wanted to show that the content of a photograph can be different from its subject.

    

    (Alfred Stieglitz, 2019)                        (Unrarified Air, 2019)

The idea of the Equivalents series was to form a correspondence between visible and invisible worlds. He often shot landscapes in soft focus as a way of elevating the particular to the general (Jussim and Lindquist-cock, 1985:80) and minimising distractions, to generalise natural things to represent abstract ideas and emotions. The Equivalents are disorientating and seem to lack any connection to the world beyond them, their framing cuts them off from the world outside.

References:

Alfred Stieglitz | Equivalents | The Met (2019) At: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267451 (Accessed on 10 November 2019)

 Jussim, E. and Lindquist-Cock, E. (1985). Landscape as photograph. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Unrarified Air: Alfred Stieglitz and the Modernism of Equivalence | Modernism / Modernity Print+ (2019) At: https://modernismmodernity.org/articles/unrarified-air (Accessed on 10 November 2019)

Minor White

Points recalled from my research and essay for assignment 4:

  • He opened up the act of seeing, had great observational skills
  • White appreciated aesthetics and but also things beyond this and beyond the visible world.
  • By exposing details, often removing context to enable through reflection new significance to be assigned to subjects.
  • White appreciated aesthetics and but also things beyond this and beyond the visible world.
  • Alternative meanings abound in his work which was often abstract, symbolic, and metaphorical. He called this a cinema of stills which he wanted to be looked at with heightened awareness so their associations/ emotions could be appreciated.
  • He believed that equivalence operated on 3 levels: graphic, metal, and in feelings.
  • White talked about losing himself in something, to the point that you have a heightened concentration and may feel oneness.

Further thoughts on Minor white and equivalence:

  • Equivalence is a function, an experience, not a subject or a certain appearance.
  • The power of the equivalent for the expressive-creative photographer “lies in the fact that he can convey and evoke feelings about things and situations and events which for some reason or other are not or can not be photographed” (White and Adams, 1984). The subject object are chosen for their expressive and evocative qualities.
  • White described his mind as blank when photographing but in a peculiar way; blank as in uncritical but sensitized to anything happening both when photographing and viewing a photograph afterwards (Minor White, 1952).
  • White gave us a new language to explain photographs, not in terms of what you can see but in terms of what a photographer was feeling or the emotions an image invokes in the viewer.

 References:

 White, M. and Adams, A. (1984). Minor White. [Millerton, N.Y.]: Aperture.

White, M Camera Mind and eye (1952)

Learning points:

  • Try flattening the plane to create layered space
  • Consider negative space in a photograph as a subject
  • The idea of equivalence as where everything in that moment works at once
  • Subjects can be chosen for their expressive and evocative qualities.
  • Expose details, and remove context to enable through reflection new significance to be assigned to subjects.
  • Think about a series as a cinema of stills, to be looked at with heightened awareness so their associations/ emotions can be appreciated.
  • Strive to make images memorable
  • Research other expressionist photographers mentioned by Minor White, Gerald Robinson, Arnold Gassan and Frederick Sommer.

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