Surfaces and strategies – week 4

This week’s presentations encouraged a subversive approach to photography – images captured without human agency, images harvested from the internet to create virtual travelogues, images of soldiers lifted from computer games, the use of cameras in novel ways to create unexpected or random outcomes.

In the face-to-face weekend in Amsterdam last September, we were assigned in groups to plan and undertake a mini-project. My mini-project was to explore aspects of vice and virtue in Amsterdam – e.g. the ubiquitous bicycle contrasting with the sleaziness of the city’s red-light districts. My task was to photograph the latter, not an easy task as discretion was clearly needed and, whilst casual browsing might be tolerated, photography certainly was not.



I therefore devised a system of prefocusing the camera, setting it to take images at intervals of a few seconds and, with the camera slung over my shoulder taking random photographs, went for a walk along one of the more notorious streets. This resulted in a number of quite atmospheric images, two of which I have posted earlier in this journal: Amsterdam

For this week’s task, I set up my camera and tripod on the seawall at foot of our garden focused on a groyne marker which is largely covered at high tide, but exposed at low tide. The camera was programmed to take a photograph every 15 minutes from high tide at midday until nearly midnight. Fortuitously, it was almost a full moon. I captured a sequence of 42 images, a selection of which I append below. As a landscape photographer it was an interesting experiment in the changing quality of light.


Here is a link to the full sequence: Tides

This was perhaps my first venture into conceptual  photography and I was pleased with the positive feedback received.

In London, earlier in the week, I visited the Barbican Centre’s generous joint exhibition of the work of Dorothea Lange and Vanessa Winship:

Dorothea Lange is of course most celebrated for her images of “dust-bowl America” during the Great Depression. She said: “The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera.”  Her photograph of the “migrant mother”, in whose face is reflected all the misery of forced displacement,  is one of the defining images of that era. The exhibition traces Lange’s career from her early days as a portrait photographer for San Francisco’s high society to the socially committed documentaries which characterised her subsequent work.

Vanessa Winship’s elegiac images of the fading American dream – the series entitled she dances on Jackson – are particularly memorable as are her Balkan sequences. However,  the set-piece which concludes the exhibition – And Time Folds – with its pot-pourri of black and white and colour photography, including found objects, for me struck a jarring note.


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