Final Exam

I have been interested in the dichotomy between the two places I spend my time most, those being the city and the suburbs. Rather than just portray the differences as they are, I tried to blur the lines between the two places by applying color treatments , as well as making color a central focus of the piece much like William Eggleston achieved with his photographic work. I have written extensively on my love for psychedelic music, artwork, and the like, and I believe this project represents a culminating statement on the kind of art I enjoy as well as the kind of photographic art I’ve experienced and assimilated this quarter.

 

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Assignment 5: Psychedelic Sub-Urban

Credit : Christina Pawlowski

 

Credit: Christina Pawlowski

 The two photos above were taken by my friend Christina about a year ago and served as partial inspiration for how I framed my work for this assignment. I have been interested in the dichotomy between the two places I spend my time most, those being the city and the suburbs. Rather than just portray the differences as they are, I tried to blur the lines between the two places by applying the kind of color treatments that Christina used, as well as making color a central focus of the piece much like William Eggleston achieved with his photographic work. I have written extensively on my love for psychedelic music, artwork, and the like, so I believe this project represents a culminating statement on the kind of art I enjoy, the kind of photographic art I’ve experienced this quarter, and something different from the other assignments I’ve completed already.

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Blog Post #9: Reflections on Photogrpahy

I have never been much of a photographer. Not on family trips, not on vacations, not immortalizing friends on social media, et cetera. It’s just never been a means of self-expression to me, as I have always valued the esoteric qualities of music more so than any other artistic medium. That is not to say that I doubt the power of photographic images. As a history major, we focus intently on primary source material and photography compromises a large part of what we look at in studying modern history. Take this extremely disturbing and famous photo from the Vietnam War:

Credit: Ausvets.com.au

 It is an extremely powerful photograph, and one that surfaced when the war began to cause friction with popular public opinion, given that the U.S.-allied South Vietnamese commander was the one about to pull the trigger. This is not a historical or political referendum, but a way in which I have always looked at photography until now. Being completely honest, I still wouldn’t call it my number one means of expression, but I have certainly gained a better appreciation of it now than I have when the quarter started. Making collages, while difficult and probably above skill level, was a lot of fun, as was looking at modern photographers (in my case, William Eggleston, who I think has influenced both my photography and music). This multi-dimensional approach to learning photography was helpful and rewarding. Political and/or historical photography will always remain as powerful imagery given what I study most of the time but getting a closer look at the creative process within a whole other artistic discipline was rewarding both at its most base form of learning a new skill and how it connects to my other artistic endeavors. Without trying to make a lame pun, learning photography in this class was responsible for a widening of perspective.

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Blog Post #8: Foodie Photography

I love food. I wish I could afford to eat like a foodie but I can’t. Luckily, I can cook semi-decently and thought that another possible avenue would be to photograph food. I have never been into arranging the food on a plate so it looks visually appealing (nor do I believe just slopping it on with no consideration is the way to go either), but I would be willing to explore it so as to make a visually appealing photograph. I especially like to cook with a variety of vegetables, though I am not a vegetarian. They’re more colorful and vibrant than meat anyway. This would connect well to my assignment 3 project, “Vegetable Man.”

Credit: Simply Recipes

 I especially like to cook chilaquiles, a Mexican breakfast dish with fried tortillas, eggs, and a whole host of vegetables for flavor and color. One interpretation from an online recipe site is included above. This would be merely one example of a colorful, cooked food that I think would apply well to the photographic discipline.  There is a certain artistic quality in this sense and there are plenty of ways to either edit in faces to be gazing at the food, play up certain color gradients, and other such methods of editing photography.

Credit: Lewandowski.net

 Another potential candidate and deliciously colorful dish is the Cajun dish Maque Choux. It’s a kind of corn chowder that varies recipe to recipe, but the focus on corn, bell peppers and celery guarantees a color cornucopia of potential photos t work with. This is merely a brainstorming phase that I am kicking around in my head but the possibility of utilizing it remains in the back of my mind.

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Blog Post #7: Sub-Urban Concept

After transferring to DePaul in 2009, I spent about a year and a half living in the Logan Square neighborhood. While I had grown up about a half-hour outside of the city, this was my first time living in an urban area in every sense of the word. The contrasts between my suburban upbringing and the monolithic city were large to say the least. In the past couple months with graduation fast approaching, I moved back in with my parents in the suburbs. Again, the contrasts have been extremely apparent and I yearn to move back as soon as possible. Nevertheless, I have noticed the similarities and differences with a (hopefully) perceptive eye and think that it would be a good idea for a photo series and assignment five itself. It doesnt’ matter where you go sometimes because there will be signs everywhere saying one thing or another. Stop signs are universal. Handicap signs are universal. The major differences I’ve noticed can be labeled as semi-obvious, namely construction versus more of a focus on quiet life and nature. Nevertheless, I believe the two would work conceptually together with a bit of colorful and possibly psychedelic editing styles of course. I would not want to merely present each area as it is, but do dire things with the color gradients that would perhaps distort and blur so everything falls into one giant colorful mess. I believe that this would both serve the purpose of the photographer’s series idea as well as leave me plenty of room to improve my editing on each photo, which is admittedly not one of my strong suits. Either way, I have already started taking preliminary photos in following this idea and hope that it turns out as good as it sounds in my head.

Here is one fun thing to photograph in my hometown. I don’t believe I will, but it is a gorgeous piece of architecture.

Credit: Iguogo

 

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Blog Post #6: Record Covers and Assignment 5 Inspiration

My overall obsession with music and representing it has been a running theme throughout this class. On that note, I wanted to try and derive inspiration for the last assignment with record covers. As I have tried to get at the heart of representing music through photography, I believe that looking at record cover artwork can lend a kind of photographer’s eye to the process. It does not have to necessarily be a photogrpah, but a way something looks that serves as a artistic representation of what is inside (like music). I am a huge vinyl collector and holding a giant piece of album art in your hands is one of the many joys of buying records as opposed to CDs, where everything is downsized and fitted a specific way. You cannot fold out a CD the same way you can fold out a vinyl sleeve. This becomes an absolutely important aspect of it and that is why it holds such significance. I have included some of my favorite pieces of album artwork which I may use in the assignment itself or try and frame my pictures in the same way as a conceptual aspect. Of this, I am not quite sure yet.

 

Miles Davis, "Bitches' Brew"

Faust, "Faust"

Can, "Ege Bamyasi"

 Each piece is distinctive and holds a clue as to what the music sounds like, what the artists’ message is, how they wanted to visualize what they made, and other such conceptual ideas. I would mostly like to distinctively show my photographer’s eye the same way these artists have made their artwork inseparable from the music. These conceptual art ideas have been swimming in my head all quarter and I am now feeling comfortable enough to act on them and bring them to life as much as humanely possible.

I cannot end this post without including a little bit of music to demonstrate my point. The following track is from Can off of “Ege Bamyasi.”

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Blog Post #5: Reflections on Photography and Music

During this quarter, I have spent a lot of time considering the connections between music and photography. Creating music has always been my only form of artistic expression and so I cannot help but draw certain connections to my past experiences in creating. Recently, I have started playing finger-style guitar with finger picks on an acoustic 12-string. In an open tuning (where the strings are tuned to a chord, such as C or G), the sound is lush and surreal. The material I have been writing is supposed to evoke an image and feeling, as the music is instrumental. This has mostly driven my thoughts on this subject, and some of the resources I use to compose inform photographically as well. I like to attempt to be semi-conceptual when writing a piece of music so I wanted to share them as well as reflect on the inherent connections between these two mediums of artistic expression.

The above photo is a scan of guitarist Robbie Basho’s “Esoteric Doctrine of Color and Mood For 12 & 6 String Guitar.” It is interesting to think about music in terms of color, but I feel as though this provides the link to a pastoral scene, much like a photograph in the vein of William Eggleston. Color and mood are both two very important concepts to keep in mind when photographing and the ability to paint a scene through photography connects to painting a scene through music. It is possible to photograph something depressing and uncomfortable just as it is possible to create such a scene by tuning to open D minor (the saddest of all chords for those of you who have seen “Spinal Tap”). Here is a sample of Basho’s incredibly moving music to illustrate my point. If anyone could provide the link between a portrait and a musical composition, it was the spirituality of Basho’s guitar playing.

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Blog Post #4: Reflections on William Eggleston

I really enjoyed researching and examining a photographer for assignment #4 and I could not help but think about the ramifications for the next assignment as well as the final. Since I was exposed to William Eggleston’s work, I have been playing with the idea of trying my hand at some landscape photos in the suburbs or other areas that lend themselves to that kind of representation. While I found out that many critics did not think much of his work, I think his photos brought a certain element of style and grace to what might normally be considered a rather boring way of artistic expression. His eye for very distinct forms of what compromised southern culture was probably the strongest idea that resonated with me and I thought about how I could do that here in Chicago and the surrounding areas.

There is a certain beauty to what Eggleston accomplished without always including people or trying to get too bogged down in scene setting. Real life is interesting enough if you have an eye for elevating the mundane to something greater when you view it as still life. This is something I found most apparent in his work and something that I believe I could do if I start carrying my camera with me everywhere. This is a possible fifth assignment for me and I am rattling a lot of ideas in my head based off the various pieces of work we’ve looked at in class and the inspiration of every day existence. We shall see where it goes.

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Blog Post #3: Notes on Vegetable Man Shoot

There were a number of things I wanted to achieve with the shoot for assignment #3. For one, I like to make musical references whenever possible, even if it comes out a little hokey sometimes. As I said in another post, Pink Floyd’s “Vegetable Man” is a goofy psychedelic rock song that I thought would be fun to bring to life. I had my brother put on a colorful dress for that reason (and I owe him a big thank you for exploring the idea of cross-dressing in the name of a project). He was also a good sport in sticking carrots and green beans in his nose and ears respectively, which could not have been too comfortable. I am also a pretty goofy guy by nature and so I thought between the music reference and the inherent jokes, it was a very good representation of my imaginative super hero.

He's a fighter

The picture above is an outtake from the shoot but I think illustrates the goofy nature very well, since he looks like he is attempting to conjure something out of the yellow onion with the red variety waiting in the wings. This would’ve been hard to use for the collage aspect of the assignment but it is a fun photo on its own merit and is an illustration of what I was trying to encompass with the subject matter and tone. I have perhaps thought of revisiting these kinds of themes for assignment #5 but I am unsure as to how it would work within that setting. I cannot say I have lots of faith in my photoshop skills to do a lot of collage work but this assignment has served as inspiration to possibly revisit that idea in the near future.

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Extra Credit: “I Myself Have Seen It” by Kiki Smith

I went to see the “I Myself Have Seen It” exhibit by Kiki Smith at Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art. Smith is primarily known as a sculptor but this particular exhibit focused on her lesser-known photographic works over the past two decades or so. While there were a number of photos portraying real life subjects, Smith’s sculptures mostly took center stage as represented through her photographic lens. This raised some interesting points on the linkage between different mediums of artistic expression and how they often inform one another rather than detract from the overall artistic message.

Credit: Block Museum of Art

Smith is often identified with the feminist movement of  art, and her work does reflect this tendency. However, it would be incorrect to merely assume that this is the only concept she is concerned with. Erotic representation compromises a large part of her work, as evidenced by the photograph above. The look on the sculpture’s face, the deep black of her eyes, the way the lighting reflects off of the eyes, and the vulnerable position in which she lays, and the ruby-red lips all inform this sensibility. The fact that this is a sculpture allows for Smith to have full control over the look, positioning, and the minute details that are often so hard to achieve with human models. The use of sculptures like the one above suggests a number of possible interpretations. Using sculpture could represent the exploitation of women’s bodies in major media photography as something created rather than realistically portrayed. It could also be a way to escape this rather negative idea as well. Both her physical artwork and photographic representations are unquestionably dark in tone (in message rather than color, though this applies as well) and this leads me to believe that her subject matter is not completely celebratory of the female figure. Nevertheless, there is a very particular beauty in what Smith attempts to show, straddling the line between morose and exultant.

Credit: Seattle Times

In the photo above, where Smith portrays a real human subject, the major ideas sprouting from her work remain the same. It is a legitimate question if the figure is deceased in a bouquet of  greens, yellows, and oranges, which are heavily contrasted by the dark clothing of the model. The fallen basket of fruit raises some biblical allusions, another concept Smith has become known for throughout the years. The dark depth of the forest suggests a foreboding element present in the rest of her work, but this particular image stood out to me because it was one of the rarer examples in which Smith used a human subject to continually represent the concepts present in her sculpture work. It was chilling to see this figure with eyes closed, sprawled out hazily while surrounded by a melancholic setting where darkness is contrasted with the dying leaves of autumn. Again, there is a celebration of female form that also questions the merits of it at the same time.

Credit: Chicago Art Magazine

The exhibit will remain at the Block Museum of Art until mid-August and I would certainly like to attend again to try and understand even more of Smith’s fascinating work.  The ideas behind sculpting a model to photograph gave me many ideas of cross-referencing different artistic mediums, especially because I am mostly a musician and rather new to photography. I will elaborate upon these ideas further in another blog post.

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