The built up landscape - Is it possible to find a sense of beauty within neglected and abandoned spaces? It can be a common concept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This can therefore make finding beauty within neglected and abandoned spaces difficult for photographers as there may be sense of conformity to what others believe beauty is. This notion however creates variety within different photographers work; it opens a door to an audience to see many different ideals as to what beauty may be. It sets a challenge and goes against the normal values that seem to define beauty. Since the invention of the first photographic image in 1825 photography has been widely dominated by portraiture. It can be safe to allude that this is because of the time frame it was created; drawings and paintings up to this point had predominantly been in use for portraits as it was a sign of wealth, power or social status. But now a new, easier way would naturally be welcomed in. this however is not the only reason; again it mainly served as a means of representing the upper class of society. However because of this bourgeoisie element it can be a strong point for consideration that Photography as a whole would not be the multi-billion industry that it is today. Compared to the creation of the camera and photo, the venture into beauty within neglected and abandoned spaces can be considered as a relatively new one. Only in recent years have people decided to come away from what is accepted as beautiful and express more individual opinions to express new ideas of what beauty can be.
The above photo is named Genesis of a icon, taken June 5th 1908. It shows the Manhattan Bridge, 4 years before completion. This is a prime example of what many may claim to be, beauty within neglected and abandoned spaces. Taking note of the year, it hints at the kind of time period this style of photography came into fashion, supporting an earlier point. However photos around this time were most commonly taken in the city and built up area; this brings into question the photo above and most others in its category, its credibility of being abandoned, neglected and yet still thought of as beautiful. Can something man made like this image documents truly be beautiful whilst so evidently unattended? To oppose this notion, with this particular aspect of photography, artists are free to a certain extent to explore and interpret their ideals on neglected and abandoned spaces. Michael Kenna is an English photographer born 1953, in the town of Widnes Kenna is now known for working with black & white landscapes. He attended Upholland College in Lancashire, the Banbury School of Art in Oxfordshire, and the London College of Printing. During the 1980s, later moving to San Francisco where he worked as a professional printer. Kenna's photography focuses on unusual landscapes with ethereal connotations; He shows a strong aptitude in the manipulation of light achieved by photographing at dawn or at night with exposures of up to 10 hours. “I gravitate towards places where humans have been and are no more, to the edge of man’s influence, where the elements are taking over or covering man’s traces.” This photo was taken in Ratcliffe power Station, Nottinghamshire, England 1984. This is a prime example of how artists are challenging this beauty myth a lot of photography seems to conform to as it expresses a strong sense of neglect an abandonment but in a unique and innovative way. The cooling towers standing derelict, testament to their neglect in a way only enforces this abandoned and empty sense. This is one of Kenna signature black and white landscapes, however from surface appearances it does not seem Kenna has used the notorious 10hour long exposure as it is inherently different from most other in this project that he has used this technique on; something he has shown a good depth of skill for, countless times throughout his work travelling the world. Even so this piece of work has kept the principals of black and white the same, achieving an almost similar outcome whilst at the same time creating a stronger relevance to the beauty we may see in neglect and abandonment.
when studying Michael Kenna's work you may want to give credit to the notion that if he was not using his tried and proven black and white technique; if he had not found himself being known most commonly for this aspect of his work, he may not have travelled the world and would not have been led to the locations we see today. This therefore brings into question the 'in the moment' spontaneity aspect that can be widely argued; makes the difference between what some may consider basic imagery to great photography. Especially to the location, has he researched before hand? Or has Kenna seen an opportunity for a photo on his travels? The latter, may answer why there is one photo taken for a whole project in a single country then twenty in other, similar projects. Paul Politis is a self-taught photographer from Montreal, Quebec. Politis has been making photographs since 1988, originally in the traditional darkroom, however since 2005 he has been working digitally.
“In my photography, I attempt to capture moments in time that have a quiet emotion to them. I tend to avoid human presence, instead focusing on the objects that humans construct, maneuver and discard. Through patterns and shapes, and light and shadow, I hope to kindle in the viewer empathy for the objects I photograph, or to view them as a personification of a part of themselves.” This Photo by Politis is named ‘Doorway to abandoned house’. This title, however fitting for both abandoned and neglected aspects, finds difficulty in achieving beauty within the established idea we have of it today. We see Politis’ Idea of photo worthy beauty, challenges the conventional images we have come to recognise as symbolic of beauty. It can be widely argued that to find beauty in photography an artist should look into portraiture or elegant landscapes that insight peaceful emotions; however this is a subject matter that has become repeated and saturated within the vast amounts of images that try to find this sense of beauty that we as an audience no longer see. What Politis has attempted to do here is capture the complete opposite of this definition in the hope he finds serenity and a moment in time as he mentions that reflect a quiet emotion. In turn in collaboration with neglect and abandonment Politis finds a sense of beauty that remembers a time gone past where this house fulfilled its purpose and possibly created beautiful memories. This particular door gives strong evidence to the idea that this was once a happy home as it has a domestic feel about it, however old it has gotten. In which case this would only strengthen the sense of abandonment; something
that was once populated by a family and now left to the elements to decay until a strongly evident neglect appears. This example is a contrast to the majority of Politis’ work in the abandoned and neglected category. If anyone were to familiarise themselves with a wide range of his photos they would find that he tends to work at a wide angle and a reasonable distance away from the subject matter, the close up photo shown here is very oppositional to this predominant concept of his. It can be argued that to capture and emphasize a neglected sense under the banner of beauty Politis has to ‘get up close and personal’ something that he may not be attempting in his other pieces; for something like a doorway such as this it would be difficult to give an accurate account of its detail and strong connotation to beauty and neglect if you were to capture them from a distance. However to oppose this notion it can also be argued that he is attempting to create variety within his work with a mixture of different frames that show a clear skill base and possibly to develop his work further, as he is self taught photographer since 1988. Parallel to this abandonment sense Politis sets out strong symbolisms of the effects of time, which as we know neglect and abandonment can be a product of. Time is a very strong connotation to capture in any form of photography and unlike beauty is more easily represented. This sense of time is present in a lot of Politis' other images, he finds locations that have been left to overgrowth and have strong links with nature, by doing so he shows a rough estimate of how long a location has gone on with the signs of aging and neglect, all without an interest in redevelopment of the subject matter or surrounding area; as if to say that the locations he chooses have been lost to the elements of nature over long periods of time. Idris Khan is a London based artist; he was born in the UK in 1978. Since completing his Master’s Degree with a Distinction in Research at the Royal College of Art in London in 2004, he has received merit internationally for his simplistic, but emotionally charged photographs; he also works closely with video and sculptures, which has aided his international praise. He is now considered one of the most exciting and insightful British artists of his generation. “It is hard to avoid the aspect of time when producing what one sees as a photograph. The viewer observes one of my images as something that is not a frozen moment but an image made up of many moments and that is created over ‘time’ rather than taken.” Since becoming and established photographer Khan has expanded his repertoire to include sculpture. For the most part of this he tends to use materials such as steel plates, cubes and stone slabs. Khan’s more recent works work extends to a commission in the British Museum in London. Beforehand however his work has found itself to the permanent collections of institutions from around the world such as The Saatchi Collection, London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. This is a very bright past for a fairly new photographer.
Khanâ€™s mindset is more adjusted to that of a painter than photographer, however he still utilizes the tools of photography to create his much loved work. Photographing or scanning secondary sourced imagery such as pages from the Qurâ€™an and reproductions of paintings. After doing so he then builds up the layers digitally, manipulating the brightness and opacity where he sees fit to achieve what is shown in the example shown. The resulting images can be argued to be a completely new creation of what was once someone else's work and a sense that he has almost entirely given a different meaning to what the original photo had produced. When looking at the photo above it can spark some controversy as to whether it does actually depict a neglected and abandoned space, this is through the means in which it was created. As most people studying him know Khan creates these images through layering and opacity, this therefore raises questions to the reasonable point; does the original image portray a sense of beauty within neglected and abandoned spaces? And if not how Far can Khan really go in terms of digital editing to change it so it does? Nonetheless the finished product can still be viewed as a beautiful example of neglected and abandoned spaces. This is through the jagged and uneven layering of the same, through this we see that any defining lines within the piece become blurred, colours become grey and have a scratch look about them. This in turn creates a damaged feel supporting the abandoned sense khan may possibly be trying to achieve. Sarah Pickering was born in 1972, England, she now lives and works in London. Pickering utilizes the medium of photography for her research into authenticity and plausibility into truths. Her images capture the gritty reality of the location. She has worked with emergency services over the course of her career to create some of her more recent pieces of work. Her work has been exhibited around the world, most
notable cases being The Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Art and Antiquities at Meessen De Clercq in Brussels. This particular image is a natural choice to take when searching for beauty with neglected and abandoned spaces. Not only has Pickering found a good medium between beauty and abandonment, it can be argued she has also beauty within simplicity; the flat colours that break this image down to two dominant colours lack substance, there is a very low contrast which deemphasizes a lot of the features and shapes in this photo to the point where we only really notice the two bleak looking doors, the effect of this however is that it highlights a sense of emptiness. Following Pickeringâ€™s work process, leaving the manipulation of her photos to a minimalistic perspective, an audience can find another level of support to the sense of neglect and this lack of attention to colour. Pickeringâ€™s work is interesting in the way it challenges the ideology behind what achieves beauty within a neglected and abandoned space. This is through the same sense of simplicity mentioned earlier. A typical more common view of neglect and abandonment could consist of representations such as, rust and decay; this is something that does not bare a big influence on this photo. Sarah Pickering sets a strong link with not only abandonment but also other elements very in tune with modern day issues such as unemployment and homelessness. Capturing abandonment in this way spurs up connotations with poverty which in some countries such as Spain has led to whole towns being built but never lived in. The simplicity of the subject matter but untidiness of the locations leads to this conclusion about Pickering's image. In today's society we all live in a world where 'casual photography' is becoming the dominant practise, where Facebook; a social media site owns 4% of all photography ever taken in history. This makes the job of what I consider to be a 'real' photographer a lot more difficult. This 'real' photography has been pushed, expanding its boundaries, encompassing topics that promote individuality and personal expressions such as beauty with neglected and abandoned spaces. To contrast this title, artists who choose to dive into the world of the urban landscape recreating the same techniques and concepts, applying them to imagery that show a priority on architectural compositions can similarly come away with an achievement of finding beauty within the urban and built up spaces. people who live photography will always find new innovative techniques to present beauty for whatever subject their work requires of them and will strive to supplement the challenge artists give the confines of photography as a subject. This therefore gives plausibility to the notion that the ever growing popularity in urban and built up spaces will and is becoming a title that will dominate mainstream photography for years to come for as long as we as a society show a dependence on building bigger and higher architectural marvels such as the ever growing skyline of London. without this idea of beauty we believe, to feel safe within the work we present to the world photography would lose momentum very quickly. I believe it is important and at the core of what makes photography develop forwards that as artists we must push the boundaries and challenge the established ideas of this beauty myth most, if not all of us have to some extent.