Collaboration – Discussing Epistemology and how we develop perceptions with Psychologist Dr Huw Peterson

Having completed the shooting and editing phase of my project, I felt the need to really comprehend the concepts of Epistemology and to define exactly what I was trying to accomplish with this set of images. I had set about writing a brief text to serve as an introduction to a photo book and also to provide accompanying text my new website.

I arranged to meet with a consultant Psychologist who I was hoping would review the images and the introductory text and perhaps offer some words of advice and further explanation. I met Dr Huw Peterson in Bristol and we discussed the project in some detail. Our conversation added clarity to my goals and allowed me to update my text with a new level of understanding.

Some of the topics we discussed in detail included:

  • The concept of constructivism. Jean Piaget’s theory that knowledge (or learned knowledge) as an outcome of experience. Those experiences are derived from perceptions. I had already previously studied the work of Piaget during my teacher training so it was not entirely new to me. Our conversation however allowed me to develop my prior knowledge into a new and relevant context suitable for this project
  • Looking into Constructivism in more detail, we considered the idea that prior knowledge will always sway perception unless we have no prior knowledge. We will always be influenced by our social context. From this statement we can make assumptions that if we know a small about of knowledge about something, adding more information will allow us to build on that knowledge and lead us to develop deeper perceptions.
  • We moved on further to discuss our social context. We concluded that our perceptions are typically based on a social narrative which creates a dominant discourse in our lives. By this we are defining the idea that our perceptions are influenced by social conditioning from the world around us. It would be fair to say the only person able to develop a perception and then a truth from given information without some sort of influential factor would be a new born child. This effectively means that anyone viewing the images will approach the experience with a preconceived idea. This was an interesting point and has led me to reconsider the design of my book cover. I will be removing the dust jacket to present the book as a blank entirety as possible.
  • Our conversation drew to an end as we considered that perceptions can be an immediate visual experience in the context of my images and that our perceptions fit into our pre-existing belief system. Our conversation concluded with us deciding that once we have made up our mind of what we perceive to be a truth, it is very difficult for us to correct our initial perceptions.

Based on the discussion I had with Dr Peterson, I have re-written my introductory text for both the book and website. The text now reads as follows.

Natural Perceptions

The series Natural Perceptions challenges human decision making in developing conclusions from given visual stimuli. 

What the eye sees is not always real. The perceptions of truth we develop can easily become devoid of reality. Truth, knowledge and belief have become blurred notions of everyday life. In a digital age of social media and news outlets with camouflaged political bias, separating fact from fiction has never held more importance. Living within in a global culture of untruths and misinformation, decision making based on critical analysis of information presented is becoming a forgotten skill.

Psychologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget discussed the theory of Constructivism in the early nineteenth century. It was Piaget who devised that knowledge and learning are an active and constructive process where the learner constructs subjective knowledge on the basis of active experience and perception.

“Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality.”

Jean Piaget

Without perception, we have no real knowledge. Perceptions exist as multi layered conclusions derived of the senses and not fact. The things we see and hear lead us to develop perceptions based on what is presented to us.

This collection of photographs allows the viewer to negotiate a discourse surrounding the conclusions they may impulsively make and to perhaps see beyond what is initially presented.

I am extremely grateful for the time Dr Peterson took to review my photography and writing, which has allowed me to clarify what it is I am aiming to achieve with this project. 

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AOP Student Awards 2018

I have never entered a competition before so this is a first for me. I spotted the Association of Photographers student competition online and thought this could be an excellent opportunity for exposure that would potentially enhance my professional profile. I have entered five images from my current project Natural Perceptions.

Leigh Woods – 7/4/18

I went back to the woods again after a week or so, and the area feels noticeably different. The forest floor has changed colour as the first sign of spring begins to appear. The thicker, wiry foliage seems to have taken my attention on this shoot. I can feel the project moving away from the more pictorialist views as I shoot more abstract scenes based on texture. I collect a few samples from the woodland floor again and shot them as still life at home, I am not entirely happy with these images. I think they need to be reshot perhaps.


Edited Images


Contact Sheets

Funding my project – Arts Council

I have finally confirmed that a public exhibition of the Natural Perspectives project will take place at some point in 2019. I am waiting to hear exactly what dates the show will be open to the public. The venue confirmed is the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, which is very close to the Leigh Woods location that the project is being shot in and I am hopeful will add a local context to the audience viewing it.

In the meantime I have been working on an application the The Arts Council to help me cover the cost of the exhibition. If any of the images are sold during the exhibition this will offset the initial cost of setting up the show but I am not relying on this.


This is still very much work in progress but the costing I am working on currently includes:

20 of 16″x16″ frames, to include 12″x12″ mount @ £300

20 of 12″x12″ Giclee prints on High White Cotton 315 gsm paper @ £288

20 of A6 caption cards mounted on 8mm foam core @ £15

12 days of my own time @ £300 per day.

15% contingency.

Total £4833.50

 

 

Easter 2018 – Berlin and Amsterdam

Over the Easter break I had the rare opportunity to take some time off from work. I flew to Amsterdam for three days and then flew on to Berlin for a further three days before returning home. Travelling around Europe is something I have always enjoyed, specifically the diversity that the different European cultures offer. Visiting vibrant cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin allowed me to view some fascinating work, some of which are relevant to the work I am currently creating.

FOAM Amsterdam

Lucas Foglia: Human Nature

Foglia’s Human Nature images were iniated as a response to hurricane Sandy in 2012. When scientific world established a link between the enhanced strength of the hurricane and the effect of the human world on the natural world, Fogia started documenting it. The images displayed range from humans submerging themselves in the natural world and studying it, through to mankind damaging and profiting from it. The series of images are detailed colour documentary images with a deep rooted message behind them regarding the relationship we all have with the natural world.

The link I can make here to my own work is that this series of images have an important and less obvious hidden meaning. Foglia is encouraging us to consider the way we interact with the natural world around us, and to adopt a friendlier approach to it. These are powerful images that have a poignant meaning to all of us.

C/O Berlin

Irving Penn Centennial 

The C/O Gallery in Berlin were hosting a major retrospective exhibition of the work of Irving Penn. While the editorial portraits and abstracts were interesting to see in person, the images that really appealed to me were the studio still life images of flowers and Cigarettes.

In the case of Cigarettes however, Penn literally found his subjects on the street. By bringing them into his studio and carefully creating these minimalist compositions, he transformed one of the most widely consumed and discarded products of consumer society from that of pure detritus into a symbolic representation of contemporary culture. This transformative act resulted in one of the most elegant yet direct expressions of post-modern artistic practice.

The images were a substantial part of the show displayed in their own space. Printed using the Platinum Palladium process, they have a unique warm aesthetic quality to them. Selecting discarded cigarette ends from the streets, he has isolated them from their original setting. The Cigarette images especially resonated with me and the still life studies I have been shooting. This in practice makes the viewer reconsider what is being presented. Penn has created a symbolic representation of twentieth century contemporary culture with these images  This has helped me make some sense of my own practice, and has allowed me to move forward with my own still life image making.


References

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. 2018. Lucas Foglia – Human Nature | Now at Foam – Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.foam.org/museum/programme/lucas-foglia. [Accessed 03 April 2018].

C/O Berlin. 2018. Irving Penn | C/O Berlin. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.co-berlin.org/en/irving-penn. [Accessed 03 April 2018].

Hamiltons. 2018. Irving Penn – Cigarettes | Hamiltons. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.hamiltonsgallery.com/artists/irving-penn/series/cigarettes/. [Accessed 03 April 2018].

Leigh Woods – 35mm film – 13/3/18

My original intention with this project was always to shoot on medium format black & white film. I started by doing a test shoot digitally and then began overlaying the images in Photoshop. The aesthetic I am achieving appeals to me and so the film idea became slightly forgotten about.

Although I am making digital images that I am happy with, I decided it would be interesting to satisfy my curiosity and shoot some film. I shot a roll of 35mm Ilford HP5 in the woods before scanning them to recreate the same layered effect I was achieving with the digital images.

I think the resulting images are interesting and have a organic aspect to them. With the concept of this project being centred around initial misconceptions we might come to, the film images have a slightly more wholesome and unaltered feeling to them. This is an interesting outcome for me, as being the artist, I know am aware of their analogue origins. Unfortunately I am not convinced that the viewer would realise this without a prompt and hinting to the secrets of the images does not make sense with the concept.

Additionally, I feel the dynamic range of the film images is too shallower and this tends not to lend itself to the layered digital process that I have been using. For these reasons, I will continue with the digitally captured images as the project moves forward. 

Idris Khan

I have decided to research the work of Idris Khan as I am using similar techniques of overlaying multiple images to create singular digital composites in my own work for the Natural Perceptions project.

Khan works across several mediums including sculpture, painting and photography but it is his photographic work I am primarily looking at. Khan reinterprets images to develop meaning beyond what is originally presented. By overlaying images and creating composites, his work arrives conclusions that develop the work featured further that originally intended. This is a continuous process of creating, adapting and erasing, yet the original essence of the sampled images is retained. Idris Khan’s work investigates the notion of memory and draws on the history or art and music, together with philosophical and theological ideas to develop inspiration.

Homage to Bernd Becher is a digital composite of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Becher’s were a married couple who collaborated to catalogue former industrial architecture that was rapidly disappearing across Europe and North America in 1960’s and 1970’s. They are well known as proponents of the New Topographics movement which focused on recording and finding beauty in the banal. The Becher’s grouped images of similar redundant structures on grids to present them as records before they were demolished.

In Homage to Bernd Becher, Khan has overlaid the contents of one of the Becher’s most famous grids to develop the work into one single image. The original Gas tower images are still visible with a lower opacity over each other, and this is a process I am using myself within my own work. The Becher’s original intention was to create a piece of work that recorded the structures as they were, but Khan has blend these images together to reinterpret their work. By placing the images on top of each other, Khan has introduced themes of variation and change into the work and goes on to highlight the concept of creating a historical archive that the Becher’s originally intended. The passage of time and a nod to the historical context to Becher’s efforts are present in Khans reinvention as he reflects upon memories of what was once present and develops these records into something new.

Khan has also worked with the photography of text and created composite images of entire books. He has photographed the Qoran in this way, as well as Susan Sontag’s On Photography. The resulting images created present blurred lines of text with occasional clarity enough to make out single words. These images differ from Homage to Bernd Becher in that the original text becomes largely unreadable and it is left to the viewer to decode the message being represented. There is a visual metaphor present in these images, as the viewer is permitted to absorb the entirety of the text in an instant. Again, these works reflect on notions of time and memory, and adjust the viewers perceptions of those notions. A book should be consumed across a period of time, yet here Khan is encouraging the viewer to break that convention by consuming it in an instant.

I find Idris Khans work very interesting and challenging. Renegotiating the relationships we hold with time and memory are challenging concepts for the viewer to understand. His work is about breaking away from the codes and conventions we develop as children to process memories, and encourages us to reinterpret behaviours we all rely on as adults. I can draw several parallels to my own work with the Natural Perceptions project, where I am inviting viewers to reconsider the response they develop to my work. The digital process Khan uses within some his photography is also similar although his outcome is more abstract than my own.

Looking at Idris Khan’s work has given me new avenues to explore within my project that reach far beyond photography. I am now keen to develop the project in the direction of viewer response. I am able to understand that I have a potentially playful edge to my work as I invite the viewer to challenge their viewer perceptions and conclusions. The Natural Perceptions project was always about imagining and challenging the viewer to see further into the photographs, and now I can see it is key to the work that viewer experience should reinforce my initial intentions.


References

The Guardian. 2018. Between the lines | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2006/sep/02/art. [Accessed 20 March 2018].

Victoria Miro. 2018. Victoria Miro. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.victoria-miro.com/. [Accessed 20 March 2018].

Wallpaper* Magazine. 2018. Human traces: Idris Khan explores the horrors of war in haunting new show | Wallpaper*. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.wallpaper.com/art/human-traces-idris-khan-explores-the-horrors-of-war-in-haunting-new-show. [Accessed 20 March 2018].


 

Andreas Gursky – Hayward Gallery – 8/2/18

On February 8th, 2018 I took my own students to the Andreas Gursky retrospective at the Hayward Gallery as part of their Visual Communication Unit. This presented a perfect (all expenses paid) opportunity for me to carry out some primary research for my own studies too.

The Hayward Gallery closed for two years for renovation and the Gursky retrospective was installed as the key exhibit to relaunch it. The space itself was opened in 1968 as a purpose built arts venue with five gallery spaces. It is a well preserved example of brutalist architecture and is mainly constructed of exposed concrete. The internal spaces feels slightly suppressive and I feel this does in some ways detract from the work being displayed. That said, the Hayward is a large venue with areas of extended ceiling height, so it lends itself to the display of Gursky’s work for the purpose of scale.

Gursky is known for his large format abstract landscape images and social scenes. His images challenge the viewer to look closely at what is presented to them, and this is exactly what I am hoping to achieve in my own project. Gursky blends multiple images together to create hybrid scenes that spell out his message. This is also an area I can draw a parallel on with my own work.

“Gursky makes photographs that are not just depictions of places or situations, but reflections on the nature of image-making and the limits of human perception.”

With my own explorations into the theory of human perception, I had looked at Gursky’s work before. One thing that became immediately obvious to me is that this is a body of work that needs to be seen on the walls of a gallery to really comprehend it. The scale of Gursky’s work is a significant factor and this cannot be fully understood by looking at the images in a book.

They are also very tricksy in their representation of the world. In fact, these are not so much observed as made worlds” 

This work is all about detail, that is both initially noticed at first glance, and then again much closer. The images are shot on large format film and with a huge depth of field, so the closer the viewer examines the work, the more detail and information becomes accessible. 

I felt my trip to visit the Gursky retrospective was a very worthwhile exercise. It has given me further ideas to explore in terms of challenging viewers of my own work and assumed perception as I develop my own project.


References

Andreas Gursky | Southbank Centre. 2018. Andreas Gursky | Southbank Centre. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/hayward-gallery-art/andreas-gursky. [Accessed 07 March 2018].

The Independent. 2018. Andreas Gursky, Hayward Gallery, London, review: Great and fascinating detail | The Independent. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/andreas-gursky-hayward-gallery-review-a8175891.html. [Accessed 07 March 2018].