Saturday, 20 November 2010

Helmut Newton French Vogue 1975

Helmut Newton's photography is remembered for pushing nude photography to its limits.
He established a style that bordered on erotic, stylised scenes which could be interpreted to be sado-masochistic and fetishistic.

In this photograph the two females appear to be together, to be in a relationship and then again because of the female in her nudity against the clothed female suggests a different meaning. Is she a stranger, is she trying to seduce her? Why is the female dressed as a man?
The female wearing only a hat and stilettos examines the suited figure. She is dressed in a striking designer suit which suggests that she is part of the social elite.
The nude is positioned behind the other figure. She has her leg stretched out before her. Is this a barrier she is not permitted to cross?
Newton gives the viewer part access to the female body, with certain parts not visible. She touches her arm in a fond, loving way. This move rejected by a lack of response. The setting is one of affluence, probably near to a sumptuous hotel in an area of luxury and privilege. The suited figure appears to be wealthy and famous, quite arrogant in gesture.
I think the image is inviting questions. There is a surreal feel to the mood and there is a confusion of thought in trying to make sense of the message behind the image. Why has Newton portrayed the female in immaculate make-up, wearing serious stilettos, mostly naked and seen on the arm of a socialite. Is it that the artist is trying to create a unique imaginative world for us to lose ourselves in for a few moments, or is it that the artist wants us to decide whether
or not we believe that art is a dirty word and we respond with erotic thoughts.
Perhaps the artist wants us to see the pose as a form of fashion advertising, allowing the viewer to interact and idealise the self. Women dressed as men in fashion terms is considered modern and unthreatening. Or perhaps the artist wants us to consider transgender problems in society. Whatever the thinking, this is a strong, stunning image by Newton.

Documentary Photography

White Angel Breadline - Dorothea Lange 1933           
                                                         Ruins of central Gronzy - James Natchwey 1996

Documentary photography is used by artists to communicate something of importance to make a comment that will be understood by the viewer. They entertained us by showing us places we never hoped to go. War photography, slum photography, cult photography, have been used to heighten a sense of social consciousness with an audience.
Similarly in painting, favourite subject matter for realist artists included genre scenes of rural and urban working class life, scenes of street life, as well as nudity and sexual subjects. Realists portrayed real people not idealised types, the focus was on showing specific facts of modern life, it asked the spectator to see without prejudice. Millet and Courbet challenged the viewing patterns of the Salon- going public because they themselves, as artists were attempting to look at the world through different eyes.

My choice of artists Dorothea Lange and James Natchway are renowned for their talent and exceptional technique in photography to capture the despair and suffering of their subjects. Despite having very different moods in their results, they still share certain characteristics of what it means to be a good photographer.
Both of them are able to create images that have a power to move emotions, touch hearts, tell stories and captivate those who see them. They become a part of the scene and the people they are photographing do not notice them, enabling a more natural and moving result.

Dorothy Lange had quite a disruptive, painful childhood and this would affect the way she portrayed people in her work. She lived in her own words, “a visual life”. Lange could look at something despairing and find the beauty in its image. I have chosen her photograph ‘White Angel Breadline’, as it is a reminder today what is happening around the world. Dorothea Lange makes us think about how millions of people will be feeling about social difficulties and rejection. The image is powerful as it focuses on one person’s solitary state of existence. The figure is clasping his hands around an empty cup. We feel that although the man stands with his back against the other men, he is representative of all the figures in the picture. Lange was taught that she had to know the feelings, including the pain of other people in order to like herself.

Natchway, a war photographer is intent on exposing the truth and giving us information which was filtered by the government. He quoted “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated”
Natchway’s photography focuses on the harsh conditions of war and the emotions felt by those caught within them. In his photograph ‘Ruins of Central Grozny’, the composition is quite artistic, but the point is rather the expression of sadness on the boy’s face together with the destruction that is evident behind him.
Both photographers have used the lighting in the images to lure the viewer into the experience, for example in Lange’s work the focus is on the man’s hat. It is battered and worn with every detail shown. It conveys a feeling of hope.
Natchway has captured light which shows clearly the left corner of the destroyed buildings, this is a reminder of the mass destruction  that war has on people and places.
In conclusion, the power, the beauty, the messages behind documentary photography has an important place in modern times. Eli Siegal quotes “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after ourselves.”


Henri Cartier Bresson

The elements within the composition are clear and strong. The contrasting lines and repeated geometric shapes create a sense of movement through the image.
The cobbles and stones show slight corrosion and are interrupted by the cold, straight, lines of the stair rail.
The viewer is dragged into the picture and wants to explore the trail of the steps and then the eye moves to the moving figure and the angle of the road.
The intention of the image is to suggest and explore someone being spied upon, the eye from above will survey any movement below and take note of any sudden changes.
It is a clear, detailed composition with an interesting angled viewpoint.
The figure arouses suspicion and questions need answering. Who is the figure? Why is he in such a hurry? Who is chasing him? What is he rushing away from?
The image gives the impression it was taken a long time ago. One gets a feel of a city surrounding, with the image being captured early in the morning. There is an air of quiet and mystery. The figure and background relate well together. The photographer wants us to think about the figure and at the same time admire the linear and textured qualities of the street.
It is my view that the artist is making a comment in this work. One thinks about how people can be watching from afar and this feeling is created here.
We are forced to think about freedom and everything that that entails in everyday life. Our thoughts keep going back to the person on the bike. Will he escape from the surveillance?

Shizuka Yokomizo - Stranger

This image appears more obvious in the way the artist
exposes the figure to the night. It is contemporary and gives a clear impression of the living area in an oriental setting. The figure fits the surrounding, it does not look out of place.
The focus is on the young man. He appears calm and at the same time a little apprehensive about what comes next. His identity and purpose is questioned. There is a sense that the figure could be in danger if he stays in that position. What goes on behind him and is there anyone else nearby or is he alone?
The image was captured using zoom lens, the photographer being quite a distance away but still being noticed by the subject. The contrast between dark and light creates the impression that this figure is on a stage, is publicly being observed, is interacting with the photographer.
This image is different to the first as the figure is confronting his photographer, not escaping. There is a different mood set here which makes the viewer a little anxious, a little unsettled.

Nan Goldin

The closeness of the figure suggests the importance of the image.
The viewer is drawn in to interact with the figure in role. Obviously in drag but what is the meaning of the composition? Preparing for a night out, the curlers, make up, fingernails, all important props in the world of dragqueens.
The black and white makes the figure appear strong and in control unaffected by the straights on the streets. He is out to have fun. The photographer has captured an expression of sheer determination and rebellion and interacts well with the figure to convey the right mood.
Shizuka Yokomizo Stranger’s photograph is similar in the way the figures are engaging with the photographers. Nan Goldin’s is easier to understand with the strong shadows defining the hand and face in detail. This image is clearly presented and the closeness to the subject creates a feeling of caring and protectiveness.
Each of the three images are exciting and very well composed but very different in mood and meaning.