CRITICAL REVIEW OF PRACTICE ANDREW BARROW
THE INTENT The intent of this current work is to explore the potential of macro, abstraction and graphical forms within the wine context. The current practice is to be split into three individual, stand-alone, mini-projects concentrating in turn on abstracts of wine bottles and wine glasses (Figure 1), graphical imagery (Figure 2) and lastly light through glass (Figure 3). The final selection of images are all intended to be viewed as framed individual photographs with potential for prints to appear in wine shops and bars, wine-focused hotels, wine business receptions and in the collections, exhibitions, galleries and restaurants maintained by numerous wine producers (Figure 4). They are intentionally removed from the clear advertising bottle shot or lifestyle photograph usually associated with wine imagery (Figure 5).
“The desire for symmetry, for balance, for rhythm is one of the most inveterate of human instincts.” (Wharton, 2015)
Influences are many and varied ranging from the drawings of a Russian artist from the 1930’s, works by Sudek, compositional ideas from Larry Fink and the modern architectural images by Gospodarou, industrial imagery from the 1950’s by Broomfield and through to contemporary colourful and graphical photographs by Felder, Bonham and Kasten.
Figure 1 - Mini-Project 1 Wine Abstracts, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 2 - Mini-Project 2 Graphical Imagery, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 3 - Mini-Project 3 Light Through Glass 8 ‘Beetle’, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 4 - Example Intended Display Location Viarde.com
Figure 5 - Decanter April 2018, traditional wine imagery
INTRODUCTION Symmetry and balance have been the mainstays of my work to date. Careful framing, perspective lines leading the viewers eye into the image, and a reliance on centring the focal point (Figure 6) and/or utilising to the full the rule of thirds concept. The resultant images are safe, restful, pleasant and seldom challenge the viewer. But Fink states that "If the picture doesn't have energy, it's because perfection was its goal. A picture doesn't have energy if it's too symmetrical or overwrought by constipated intellectuality" (Fink, 2014 p.30) Energy I equate with tension. Finks images have such attributes - odd hands reaching in from outside the frame, strange gazes from people often directly at the camera and so on. It is this energy, this tension, that lifts his imagery and photographs in general above the ordinary (Figures 7 & 8).
Figure 6 - Wine Tanks, Occhipinti, Sicily, Andrew Barrow, June 2016
Figure 7 - Pat Sabatine's 12th Birthday Party, Larry Fink, 1981
Figure 8 - Pat Sabatine's 8th Birthday Party, Larry Fink, 1977
Figure 9 - Joni Mitchell, Anton Cobijn, 1999
This tension is also evident in Anton Corbijn’s photograph of Joni Mitchell, Santa Monica, 1999, (Figure 9). Again, stressing the need for me to break from the center-focused idea of perfection. Corbijn states “My work is not quite perfect. Perhaps it still contains something of life. Because perfection often prevents the work from breathing.” (Corbijn from Heine and Finger, 2016, p.92) The Concrete Wine Tanks photograph (Figure 10) certainly does not ‘breath’; the image is oppressive, dark, claustrophobic and menacing and relies heavily for impact on the leading lines. Far from the welcoming, touristic shot the winery would have preferred. It conveys the wrong atmosphere.
Figure 10 - Concrete Wine Tanks, Andrew Barrow, November 2017
Sudek demonstrates this eye for energy too. His Jardins de Prague 1950 photograph has a leafless tree disrupting the linear progression of an image-dominating path (Figure 11). His Chateau de Prague 1936 has a bold, almost abstract, edge to it as a chimneys shadow strikes through the image like a snooker que about to pot a ball (a manhole over) (Figure 12). This dramatic shadow dominates, in stark contrast to the sun-drenched monolith that is casting the shadow. An example too of juxtapositions. For me, as a viewer, the white tower hardly registers on first viewing, it being so far out of the centre of the image. It acts more as a border than an integral part of the image.
Figure 11 - Jardines de Prague, Josef Sudek, 1950-54
Figure 12 - Troisieme Cour, Chateau de Prague, Josef Sudek, 1936
Figure 13 - Dans de Jardin Magique, Josef Sudek, 1957
Sudeks strongly evocative capturing of the shafts of light in lâ€™Hospice des invalides and those from St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague (1928) resonate in artistic beauty but his Dans le Jardin Magique (Figure 13) to me does not match these high expressions. The unusual panoramic ratio places the white garden chair not on a rule of thirds line, nor in the middle under the highest point of the background bush which is where I imagine I would have moved it to or positioned my camera to make it so. An example of my innate requirement for balance and symmetry being up ended again. That panoramic crop I do appreciate however in being my preferred method of giving an expanded context to a subject, as with this image of a hill-top town in South-Eastern France (Figure 14). Sudek also frames the subject with its near featureless black surrounds juxtaposed against the whiteness of the chair and also manages to raise questions in the mind of the viewer over what the other, scant, features seen are â€“ stepping stones? A log? A parasol?
Figure 14 - Brantas, Rhone Valley, France, Andrew Barrow, June 2016
“She calls her style of photography (en)Visionography, a new name for photography and a concept saying that fine art photography has to do much more with the vision of the artist than with the subject or how the camera captures it, this being what sets free the imagination and creativity of the photographer” (Gospodarou & Tjinthelaar, 2004, p.11)
It is this stark white verses black graphical style that also drew me to the work of Julia Anna Gospodarou (Figures 15 & 16). Her long exposure shots of modern buildings and other structures are striking in their minimalism and abstractness. A substantial amount of processing is required to produce each of her images; something in my own practice I am keen to avoid.
These arresting images, while beautiful, do demonstrate that what she presents is not what was seen at the time. Gospodarou obviously had a final image in mind, a vision, that maintains her style and builds on her reputation. Having a final image in mind is a concept I have now been applying to my own work more extensively. The viewer could be forgiven in thinking Gospodarou’s images are true representations but given that they are long exposures – un-perceived by the human eye - and the amount of processing required to reach the final result they are clearly not.
Figure 15 – Like a Harp’s Stings III, Calatrava Bridge, Athens, Greece, Gospodarou 2014
Figure 16 – Ode to Black (Black Hope) III – Animus Block, Atrina Tower, Athens , Greece, Gospodarou, 2014
Figure 17 - Stainless Steel, Andrew Barrow, November 2017
But their influence on my own work is marked. The striking contrast between the highlights and the deep shadows directly influenced my black and white series of Stainless Steel Tanks. It was emphasising the light against the dark that led to the images being processed as black and white (Figure 17). But the use of an old vintage lens led to a different slant to the desired result; something that did not require extensive processing and would be difficult to replicate outside of the equipment used. The work from the 1950’s and 60’s by Maurice Broomfield is also an influence (Figure 18 and comparison Figures 19 & 20). As an entry in my CRJ mentions “Immediately the black and white work from the 1950's struck a cord - so similar to my own black and white work from the winery. While Broomfield looked at Britain's heavy industry - textile mills, steel works, paper manufacturers and so on the similarities to my work is striking. A human element appears, of course, though the figures look stiff and staged; people being noticeable for their absence in my work... “ (AndrewBarrow.Online, March 2018, Images November 2017)
Figure 18 - Taper Roller Bearing, Daventry works of British Timpkin, Maurice Broomfield 1957
Figure 19 - Stainless Steel Tubes, Dagenham, Maurice Broomfield, 1958
Figure 20 - Wine in Cellar, Oxford University Andrew Barrow, August 2017
This specific aesthetic styling led directly to a series of primarily black and white macro shots of corkscrews; taking the banal and trivial into an interesting image (Figures 21 & 22). As Szarkowski says "compelling clarity with which a photograph recorded the trivial, suggested that the subject had never before been properly seen, that it was in fact perhaps not trivial, but merely filled with undiscovered meaning, that such objects and scenes were perhaps overlooked and could only be seen through photographs themselves." (Szarkowski, 1980)
Figure 21 - Macro Corkscrew, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 22 - Macro Corkscrew, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
This was the intention; to look closely at a trivial item and produce images that made the banal interesting. But the resulting set failed to excite, especially when viewed against the colour and vibrancy of other work, the other mini-projects. Another entry in my CRJ states that “it is apparent that the b&w’s are, while not 'lacking', not exactly pushing the boundaries. While unique and a fresh departure they could be viewed as verging on the cliché. If not of corkscrews then certainly similar images abound. Any artistic dimension hasn't been stretched.” (AndrewBarrow.Online, March 2018) But from these close-up images stemmed the first mini-project, the Wine Abstracts (Figure 23). Here it was to again take the trivial and familiar and create images in which the viewer questioned what they were seeing; as Michaels states. “Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be” (Michaels, 1989 p.116)
Figure 23 - Macro Abstract 4, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
MINI-PROJECT 1 – MACRO ABSTRACTS Continuing the exploration of the abstract form from wine related items - the final selection for this mini-project is an example of macro expressionism; as Felder explains “Macro Expressionism is a term used to describe a style of photography which focuses on enlarging small subject matter in a non-objective manner. Macro Expressionism emphasizes what is important in the photographer’s frame at the moment and isn’t concerned with the representation of the object as a whole” (Felder, 2014 p.3) Where Felder predominantly works in colour her images benefit from having little seemingly in focus (Figure 24). With the metallic and glass objects I am working with here I felt there was a requirement for ‘something’ for the eye to rest on.
Figure 24 – Selection of Abstracts by Carlin Felder, various dates
What I have discovered in this new macro exploration can be summed up by Rexer “…the most common accentuates the camera’s own data-gathering capabilities to frame unfamiliar view of recognizable or at least stable subjects. It amounts to a game of hide-andseek, a deliberate alienation that can become extremely complex and implicate aspects of meaning, cognition, and emotion in photography. The game can be exaggerated by repetition or multiplication and accentuated through darkroom developing strategies or digital manipulation” (Rexer p.19) The interpretation of the scale and the signifier of the abstracts is fluid with the viewer able to apply their own interpretation. The use of colour was deemed important here, the images lack much in terms of impact and interest if converted to black and white (Figures 25 & 26). It was also suggested that colour sells, especially to the intended market – wine bars, board rooms, bottle shops and the like. The images comprise macro shots of embossed wine bottles, etched wine glasses, twisted wine glass stems, reflections and plays of light on liquids (wine). To a greater degree than the Macro Abstracts mini-project collection these images are totally abstract enabling greater viewer interpretation.
"Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot physically see with his eyes… Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an explosion into unknown areas.” (Arshile Gorky From Stewart, 2015, p.16)
Figure 25 - Macro Abstract 12, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 26 - Macro Abstract 12 black and white version, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 27 - Graphical Imagery 7, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
MINI-PROJECT 2 – GRAPHICAL IMAGERY The second mini-project (example Figure 27) stemmed from an interest in providing colourful, graphical images influenced by a food series taken by photographer Jess Bonham (Figures 28 & 29); one of several contemporary photographers it was suggested were worthy of investigation. This mini-project was the first acting as a ‘farmer’ with previsualization and planning.
Figure 28 - Data Dinner Series, Jess Bonham, 2013
Figure 29 - Data Dinner Series, Jess Bonham, 2013
Figure 30 - Preliminary Sketch For A Poster, El Lissitzky, 1920
Each of the resultant graphical images continued with the corkscrew theme and combined it with simple graphical forms made from coloured and printed card. Each also utilised the tension/energy idea taken from Fink. The graphical forms used by the Russian artist El Lissitzky made in the years immediately after the First World War and Russian Revolution provided some stimulus to the artistic component (Figure 30), as did images such as one in Kinfolk Magazine Issue 25 (Figure 31).
Figure 31 - Untitled Uncredited Kinfolk Magazine Issue 26 2017
What I am attempting with this mini-project can be summed up by an online resource “Graphical photography is an image style that utilizes shape, geometry and colour to resemble something that might be drawn or designed. Photographs that are considered graphic in nature have distinct curves and lines, colour contrast and highlight geometry within a particular scene” (Digital-Photography-School.com, 2010) A visit to the America’s Cool Modernism Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford revealed a plethora of artists whose use of lines, blocks of colour, geometric patterns, flattened space, angularity and use of abstract forms were enlightening, (Figures 32 & 33) as detailed on my CRJ. These components are what I am attempting to incorporate to one degree or another in this Graphical Imagery Mini-Project. (See also Colour Experiment on my CRJ)
Figure 32 - Red Circle, Louis Lozowick, 1924
Figure 33 - Metropolitan Port, Joseph Stella, 1935
The interwar period is manifesting itself as a prime period of influence for me. Art Deco designs, Russian Constructivism and the works of Lรกszlรณ Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Nikolai Suetin (Figures 34, 35 & 36) a combination of lines, blocks and circles such as the circular Art Deco rug (Figure 37) have all influenced this mini-project. As have more contemporary photographers such as Mitch Payne (Figure 38). For my images, those that prominently feature wine bottles, I selected those with highly graphical labels to enhance this overarching style. (A little contextualised background on Rodchenko appears on my CRJ)
Figure 34 - Composition A XXI, Laszlo Moholy Nagy, 1925
â€œThe best photographers today carry the history of photography with them. Even when they are making something new they are always referencing the pastâ€? (Rexer, YouTube 2014)
Figure 35 - Komposition, Alexander Rodchenko, 1918
Figure 36 â€“ Suprematismo, Nikolai Suetin, 1920
Figure 37 - Art Deco Rug, modern interpretation
Figure 38 - Cocktail, Mitch Payne, 2006
MINI-PROJECT 3 – LIGHT THROUGH GLASS Lissitzky led ultimately to Sir Roland Penrose and his Portrait from 1939 (Figure 39). Which sparked a brief dalliance into a combining graphical forms with text which were ultimately rejected as being less about the image and more about the text (Figure 40). It was the ‘House the Light-House’ by Penrose, (Figure 41), where it was pointed out to me that, amongst the organised chaos, there were little images of refraction along the bottom border that led to investigating light and its effects, a critical incident moment.
“She investigates how light creates and complicates space by photographing often intricate models comprised of coloured planes and mirrors” (Rexer, p.150)
Rexer highlights the work of Barbara Kasten (Rexer, P160-1) whose Studio Construct series comprises arrangements of glass panes and the shadows they cast in some glorious abstract images (Figures 42 & 43). While I find the Studio Construct images highly engaging; I felt the lack of controllable lights and a large studio space curtailed much experimentation in this direction; the potential of using refraction or at least shining a light through glass appeared to provide an attainable series of images for this mini-project.
Figure 39 - Portrait, Sir Roland Penrose, 1939
Figure 40 - Wine Quotes Poster, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 41 - House the Light House, Sir Roland Penrose, 1983
Figure 42 - Studio Constructs 8, Barbara Kasten, 2007
Figure 43 - Studio Construct 1, Barbera Kasten, 2007
This mini-project, Light Through Glass, is a further collection of abstracts. Where the Macro Abstracts called on extreme closeups of a portion of a wine glass stem, an embossed crest on a wine bottle or a slither of light around the rim of a wine glass, these abstracts concentrate on patterns made by light (Figure 44). The use of a single light, shone through differing water and wine filled glasses, emphasised the texture of the surface the light interacted with; the texture of wood, plastic, coloured paper, or metal. Further experimentation included the addition of wine bottles and finally shards of glass from the same, now broken, bottles. The macros are of a tangible item, even if not immediately apparent under the viewers scrutiny. These images, taken with a ‘normal’ camera lens are intentionally flat and are non-corporal abstracts of light until the introduction of the bottle or corkscrew gives a sense of scale and immediate context to the whole series (Figure 45). While the first images are intended to again raise the question of what the viewer is seeing, the latter are more obvious and easier to interpret. The crop (16:9) was selected to emphasise the spread of the light across the plain and enable them to be viewed or hung either horizontally or vertically. While the photographs featuring the bottles and corkscrews are fun and colourful the intent is not to provide the viewer with too much meaning however. As Sekula mentions “the photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning” (Sekula, 1982, p.91), so those shots have not been included in the gallery submission.
Figure 44 - Light Through Glass 5 ‘Jelly Fish’, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
Figure 45 - Light Through Glass 23, Andrew Barrow, March 2018
GOING FORWARD The three mini-projects detailed above all led my current work down avenues I hadn’t considered previously. Historical influences and context hugely aided their development. All have potential for further development although it is the abstracts that most excite. Ideas are already forming of shooting through scratched glass (probably polycarbonate) and expanding the Light Through Glass series perhaps with movement.
WORK IN PROGRESS MINI-PROJECT LIST and GALLERY LINKS Mini Project 1 – Macro Abstracts https://www.andrewbarrow.online/blog-1/final-selection-mini-project-1-abstracts Mini Project 2 – Graphical Imagery https://www.andrewbarrow.online/blog-1/final-selection-mini-project-2-graphical-imagery Mini Project 3 – Light Through Glass Abstracts https://www.andrewbarrow.online/blog-1/final-selection-mini-project-3-light-through-glass
REFERENCES: AndrewBarrowOnline. 2018. Maurice Broomfield. 2nd March 2018. AndrewBarrowOnline. [Online]. [2 March 2018]. Available from: https://www.andrewbarrow.online/blog1/maurice-broomfield By El Lissitzky - ArtDaily.com; Photographer: Perry van Duijnhoven, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25610051 By El Lissitzky - http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/el/elc.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17869453 D. Stewart, Abstract Art Painting: Expressions in Mixed Media, New York, 2015, p. 16. Digital-photography-schoolcom. 2010. 5 Tips to Create Graphic Photographs. 7 November 2010. Digital Photography School. [Online]. [4 March 2018]. Available from: https://digitalphotography-school.com/5-tips-to-create-graphic-photographs/ Duane Michaels in Brooks Johnson, Photography Speaks (New York 1989) Felder, C.M (2014). Manifesto of Expressionism in Macro Photography. : . Fink, L (2014). On Composition and Improvisation. (1st ed.). New York: Aperture Foundation. Gospodarou, J.A & Tjintjelaar, J (2014). From Basics to Fine Art Black and White Photography - Architecture and Beyond. [Online]. Digital Publication: . [2 March 2018]. Available from: https://sites.fastspring.com/juliaannagospodarou/instant/frombasicstofineart Heine, F & Finger, B (2016). 50 Contemporary Photographers You Should Know. London: Prestel. Rexer, L (2013). The Edge of Vision The Rise of Abstraction in Photography. New York: Aperture Foundation. Lyle Rexer on Richard Caldicott at Sous Les Etoiles Gallery. 2014. YouTube. 18 February, Sekula A 1982 â€˜The Invention of Photographic Meaning,â€™ in Victor Burgin (Ed.) 1982 Thinking Photography Macmillan Press Ltd London Shafaien, C. 2017. See Attached Mementos and security blankets: Why some inanimate objects take on spiritual significance. Kinfolk. 25(-), p. 29. Szarkowski, J., 1980. The Photographer's Eye. 2nd ed. London: Secker and Warburg. Wharton, E (2015). The Decoration of Houses. UK: Dover Publications Inc; Facsimile edition .
Figure 46 - Shoot Setup for Light Through Glass Mini-Project
Figure 47 - Shoot Setup for Graphical Imagery Mini-Project
Review of work in progress for MA Photography, Falmouth University, April 2018