Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Elliott Erwitt - A Natural Comic

I guess one of my first inspirations right back at college was Elliott Erwitt. He has such a sharp eye for finding the comedy in everyday situations and he captures it brilliantly. I have seen some of his photographs countless times and they never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Erwitt, E. 'New York City, 1974'.

Take for example, ‘New York City, 1974’. I love the way that it is composed in such a way that it takes more than a quick glance to notice the full joke. The first thing your eyes are drawn to is the tiny Chihuahua wearing that ridiculous beret and staring blankly into the lens. Then you are gradually drawn left to the boots of the owner that dwarf the Chihuahua.  It is only then that you notice the HUGE legs of the Great Dane.

Erwitt, E. 'Segregated Water Fountains, North Carolina 1950'.

I think what possibly inspires me the most is his ability to handle serious issues in the same manner. One of my favourite Erwitt images is ‘Segregated Water Fountains, North Carolina 1950’. It goes without saying that he is commenting on a very heavy and serious issue but he still manages to be successful through using his trademark style. What hits me the most in the photograph is that the two sinks are interconnected by a water pipe, which surely defies the object of segregation.

Erwitt, E. 'Florida Keys, 1968'.

Erwitt is clearly a natural comic. I have never seen anyone else with such a fantastic eye for humour in the everyday whilst also having the ability to create a picture that captures it in such an eloquent and telling way.

Truly inspiring. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Jem Southam - Landscape Stories

Jem Southam’s ‘Landscape Stories’ provided so much of the inspiration for my current project that I feel the need to declare my love for it.

I think what I love most about Southam is his sensitivity towards the landscape. You get a real sense of love for the subject, and what really impresses me is that he achieves this without ever needing to shout about it. It is shot in such a delicate and eloquent way that it fills me with warmth, despite most of the photographs being shot on typically drab British days. Maybe that is because I share the same feelings for these places and this weather… I would be really interested to hear a foreign opinion on this work!

Southam, J. 2005 (Landscape Stories)

‘Landscape Stories’ comes across as extremely personal and sentimental whilst also maintaining the utmost integrity. I get the feeling from the pictures that these are places where he has lived, rather than him just passing through. He has a complete understanding of the landscape and has a genuine relationship with it.

Southam, J. March, 1999 (Upton Pyne)

It is very easy to compare this book with some work from Joel Sternfeld (another photographer that I love!), largely because they often adopt quite a similar visual style. However, after first impressions are out of the way it becomes clear that they operate very differently. To me, Sternfeld’s pictures don’t come across as being as personal or as sentimental as Southam’s. Unfortunately, the work of both has so many levels that it is extremely difficult for me to understand why. Maybe it is because I get the impression with Sternfeld that he is a bit more of a passer-by in his landscapes than Southam. That is not to say that I love Southam’s work any more than Sternfeld’s because I don’t. I just love them for slightly different reasons.

Southam, J. January, 1999 (Upton Pyne)

The Exploited Forest

I don’t want to turn this into a blog largely about my own work but it is probably a good place to kick off the blog. I guess what I am doing at the moment would fall more into the ‘beautifully mundane’ category than the downright ‘positive’.

A bit of background for you…

The Forest of Dean has a rich heritage of coal mining dating back hundreds of years and it really boomed during the industrial revolution. However,  after the Second World War, mining in the area was no longer economical and one by one they began to close. In 1965 the last of the major gales was forced to close and now only a few collieries remain.

Obviously this has all had a major effect on the landscape, but gradually the land is beginning to recover and cover over the traces of what was once there.  Today, there is fortunately (for me) still plenty of evidence and this is what I am photographing. I am making quite mundane (but hopefully beautiful) pictures that celebrate the landscape whilst also holding some subtle reference to what was once there. My aim is that I will not have to explicitly reference what the spectator is looking at but that they will gradually build up an idea as they look through the entire work.  It is a work very much in progress.