Monday, 27 May 2013

Photographic style – four different ones

The task for this project is to provide succinct (<100 words) summaries of the style of four different landscape photographers? That’s the question. I’m going to try for a reasonably wide mix and I’m going to dive in with Joe Cornish and add in Richard Billingham for a rather different approach. I’m quite taken with Robert Adams – both his images and his somewhat philosophical style of writing on photography. That leaves one more – and in keeping with my penchant for slightly off-the-wall choices I’m going with Thomas Joshua Cooper – who I discovered in the April 2010 issue of BJP -  because his work with oceans and moving water overlaps with my own developing interests.

Joe Cornish

This summary is based on the work published in First Light (from the reading list), although a quick review of his website shows that these are a fair representation of his style and output.

Cornish photographs UK landscapes with a clear focus on the quality of light. His shots are formally composed, with a very heavy reliance on rule-of-thirds, or sometimes 50:50, division of the frame. Use of a wide-angle lens on a large format camera  predominates, producing images which are pin sharp from foreground to infinity with very smooth graduations of colour and tone. Colours are vibrant and tend to warmth, as befits his preference for morning or evening light, but even shots in diffuse lighting conditions show this tendency. Despite their formal beauty they feel somewhat predictable.

Richard Billingham

This summary is based on ‘Landscapes 2001-2003’ which is also a recommended text for the course.

Billingham’s landscapes feel very ordinary. With the exception of a tendency to place the horizon line in the centre there is little obvious attempt at formal composition. The colours are muted, the lighting is frequently quite harsh, and the subject matter is not obviously special. Many have a difficult to define light on the middle distance, and the foreground often appears slightly soft when compared with the very sharp horizon.The overall impact is of a family photo of somewhere that is significant only to the photographer.

Robert Adams

Based on ‘What can we believe where?’ and ‘The new west’

Adams takes black and white photos of everyday America, frequently displaying the impact of man on the environment, and avoiding any sense of grandeur. The images themselves are most often composed of mainly mid and light tones with few, if any, areas of deep shadow, providing a sense of bright sunlight. The image format suggests a large format camera, which is at odds with the informal compositions which frequently ‘’break the rules’. Content is clearly king and the photos are best viewed in groups to provide a narrative.

Thomas Joshua Cooper

Based on the images in BJP Issue 7775 (Apr 2010) and a google image search.

Cooper takes high contrast black and white photos of seascapes and sometimes rocks. The blacks are generally very deep and the whites very bright, reducing the subject to lines which provide a sense of restlessness and movement with an occasional snatch of foreground to provide an anchor. Many of the images remind me of abstract expressionism.

More thoughts

This is an interesting exercise – those photos which interest me most are the ones which give me most difficulty in analysing. Is this because the personal attraction makes it harder to see those things which I take for granted? Or is it simply that the more interesting photos are marked by content, rather than style, so that any description of style is bound to be brief.

On a slightly related note I struggling to work out what to do with Assignment 5 – I think I need to do tis kind of analysis on Hatakeyama to establish an idea of his style that I can transfer to my own work for the Assignment.

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