Friday Inspiration: Michael Kenna

Looking at my notes I was surprised to see that I have never included Michael Kenna in my Friday Inspiration series. His minimal landscape work resonates with me in a deep way. I enjoy the space that he provides the viewer for their own thoughts. The range of subjects that Kenna has photographed is quite impressive from minimalist Japanese winter landscapes to a power station in England to his daughter’s kindergarten classroom. Quite an inspiration.

I was excited a few years ago when I saw a short trailer for a documentary following Kenna as he photographed in Shinan in Korea. Yet I never was able to find the full length documentary until recently. Check out ‘A Letter From Shinan’ below.

Moody Monday

I’ve enjoyed editing images on my phone over the last couple of years. The game I play on instagram is that I can only post images there that have been taken and edited with my phone. This is less impressive than it was say 5 years ago but I’m sticking with it.

The apps that I have on my phone for image editing generally push me out of the zone that I would be otherwise be in if I were editing the images on the computer. I’ve been wondering over the last couple of weeks whether I’ve really been exploring the full potential of my images with my conservative image editing and so I’m going to play and push a little. As Brian Eno says go to an extreme and retreat to a useable position.

The first image is above. One version in color and one in black and white. With do you prefer?

More to come!

Friday Inspiration: Paul Hart

I had a hearty dose of nostalgia when I first came across the work of Paul Hart. I grew up in the north east corner of South Yorkshire, close to the borders of East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. The mining village where I lived was surrounded by farm land and so biking out of the village in almost any direction I would see vistas such as the one above.

Paul Hart has published three books of his work – Truncated, Farmed and Drained. Farmed and Drained are the first two books in what will eventually be the Fenland trilogy. Francis Hodgson in the preface to Drained describes his work this way “Paul Hart is a photographer interested in the slow harvesting of hidden truth from the ordinary places that most of us pass by”.

His images have a special resonance with me. I wouldn’t have thought to stop and take photographs of what for me was the everyday but I wish that I had. The view from our upstairs window used to be across a farmers field, the canal and the river with an odd little house on the bank between the two. I have no idea if the house is still there because the housing estate that has sprung up on the fields obscures the view. Paul’s work reminds me that as photographers we have a duty to photograph our everyday as well as the spectacular scenes.

The Bio on Paul’s webpage tells us that he’s working with ‘cumbersome analogue equipment in and unfashionable area’. I’m personally glad that he is and hope he keeps at it.

Check out more about Paul here and listen to him describe his truncated series below.

Back After a Break

Well that was a longer interlude than I had expected!

I’m quite literally blowing the dust off things around here as I get back into the swing of things. I’ve got a lot of things still to do as I turn the lights back on.

I have just put up a new website that I hope you will check out: www.andrewnixonphoto.com.

I will continue to add photos to the existing portfolios on the site and add new portfolios as I finish photos. I’m working through my archives and editing photographs with a fresh perspective and new tools.

More to come…

Deconstructing Vision

I have been thinking about a framework that I can use as scaffolding for my on-going and future projects.  In other areas of my life I have found that having a flexible road map for what you’re working on to be enormously helpful in actually getting projects out of the door.  As part of this process I have been deconstructing some of the basic assumptions that have served me well up to now and trying to reassemble them.  Unfortunately I have parts left over which means either I’ve found a better way or broken something.

I started with vision, which I had interpreted as the way that you see the world. Looking at a dictionary definition of vision I found that vision was described as:

  • the faculty or state of being able to see.
  • the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.
  • mental image of what the future will or could be like.

Or to put it another way vision is the change that you want to cause to happen.  For instance it  could be telling the story and raising awareness of a disenfranchised group of society, shining a spotlight on the growing crisis of climate change, or mobilizing people to stop using the ocean as a dumping ground.

Vision therefore is not really unique, I know there are many others that are concerned about the state of the oceans and share the vision of clean oceans that will be able to support a diverse population of marine life.   How you express that vision and work to effect change most certainly could, and should be, if you draw on and incorporate the experiences that have shaped you.

Friday Inspiration: Alec Soth

Soth

In my stumble through contemporary landscape photographers I recently found Alec Soth, and particularly his recent photo book ‘Songbook‘ in which he is exploring physical social interactions in a world of social media.

I’m still digging into the rich world of Alec Soth, there’s lots to go at! His self published book ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi‘ caught the attention of the curators of the Whitney Biennial in 2004 and his inclusion in the exhibition launched him on a larger stage. The image above from his ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ project was used for the poster for the exhibit. He became a nominee of the Magnum Photos agency in 2004 and a full member in 2008. Since his first book in 2004 he has produced over 20 others, including Songbook, and a number in collaboration with writer Brad Zellar. He founded the publishing company Little Brown Mushroom in 2008 to publish his own books and those of others interested in a similar narrative approach to telling visual stories. A very busy guy!

See Alec talk more about his work in the videos below.

Alec Soth et Roe Ethridge (April 28, 2013) from Paris Photo on Vimeo.

A Formula For Making Meaning with Photography

I am just about moved into my new office which while exciting means that I have piles of magazines and books that I have to sort through, organize and get on bookshelves in a semi-logical order. It’s more work than I would like it to be and also means that in the interim I have to hunt for books that I need for reference.

I was recently looking, unsuccessfully I might add, for some books on alternate processes when I came across Terry Barret’s ‘Criticizing Photographs’. I’ve read and reread ‘Criticizing Photographs’ multiple times over the years and struggled each time. I feel that it’s not that complicated and yet continue to struggle. On this visit I found an interesting equation buried in one of the chapters:

Meaning = Subject Matter + Medium + Form + Context

While I’m not going to argue whether this is right or wrong it’s useful to occasionally stop and think about how the choices that we make as photographers influence what we’re trying to say with our photographs. There are a couple of takeaways for me from this that mostly relate to context and medium that I want to dig at a little here.

By my own estimation much of the photography that I deliberately look at is in that collected in books. While this should have rung some bells for me it took the above equation for me to realize that the way that we present our work will have a significant impact whether we fully realize our intent for it. A single image from a series may work just fine but may not have the impact if it were seen as part of the larger project presented in a book. It also struck me that regardless of how you arrange images for a gallery show there’s still not the same strong physical connection between images that can be achieved by placing images on facing pages in a book. It’s not necessarily better, just different and certainly worth paying attention to as you’re developing projects.

The message is in the medium or not. Perhaps as much or more than most I can get sucked into the technical aspects of photography and forget that you’re supposed to actually be saying something. At the end of last year I took a brief detour into the world of photogravure. Even though I had read Brooks Jensen’s piece on testing the quality of inkjet prints against traditional photographic prints including photogravure the tactile experience I had with the Norman Ackroyd print I had recently acquired drew me on. That and the fact that what I knew about photogravure seemed to me to be ‘real’ printing and involved an element of craft that I had come to believe that making an inkjet printing lacks. I even went as far as meeting with a local expert to discuss how my photographs would translate to photogravures – her answer they wouldn’t. Too much open white space. The nagging feeling that I was chasing a gimmick pushed me to abandon the idea and focus on finishing something – any of the various things that I’ve started would be a good idea right about now. I wonder how many other people get sucked into a similar technology vortex, chasing something that doesn’t necessarily add to what they are trying to say.

I’d be delighted to hear what you have to say – add your voice to the conversation in the comments