Week Five.

October 11, 2011

War Photography.

I read the news….less often than I should. I rarely search out photos regarding current wars, because I know that they will deeply disturb me, and there is nothing that I can do for anyone in the pictures. Some of the photos we looked at in class from the past 100 years of war photography were extremely familiar to me, partially because I have taken many photography classes, and some are so striking and recurrent in the media as icon or propaganda that one could hardly not recognize the image.

After reluctantly doing a google image search for Abu Ghraib, my general reaction is that of horror and anger. The images show members of the military posing with dead prisoners, torturing others and generally documenting scenes that dehumanize  the prisoners. The military persons are in positions of power, while the prisoners express helplessness and humiliation.

One of the images I found most striking was this one:

The photograph features a woman wearing recognizably military clothing, standing in a hallway holding a rope that is tied around the neck of a middle eastern man lying on the floor. He appears to be wearing no clothes, and is trying to prop himself up on his hand. It looks as though the photograph was taken after the man had been drug across the floor, and he is attempting to stabilize himself. The open barred doors of the hallway behind, the messiness of papers scattered about, also contribute to the uneasiness of the photograph. I chose this image to repost because it seems to characterize the horrible acts committed at Abu Ghraib but also because it characterizes that aspect of every human that has the capacity to do unspeakable things to other humans. Americans can be excessive in pride but neglect the inherent capabilities of of all humans (even Americans) to do unforgivable things.

Simon Norfolk is a war photographer who makes pictures of terrible things that are beautiful. He photographs destroyed cities and residual elements of warfare in a way that is exceptionally breathtaking. They are simply beautiful photographs. Norfolk is both praised and criticized for his gorgeous pictures, as the beauty of the photograph can mask the devastation while glorifying the act of war. However, I think the aesthetic ease of the images can also draw in viewers who may have simply moved on, and by examining the wonderful tonalities, colors, and compositional elements, one is also forced to look at the emptiness of the destroyed spaces. By forcing viewers to appreciate the lovely picture, Norfolk simultaneously forces a kind of memorization of the scene, embedding conflicting emotions of pleasure and disgust.

I read the article written by Florence Waters, “Death of the Historic War Photograph.” Waters discusses the impact of images on the internet on the impression war photography makes on its viewers. She writes:

Our current obsession with trying to prove that war photographs of the past are fakes too, shows that we have entered an age where we are far too concerned with truth and lies to dwell on the moment of suffering.

The danger with this attitude is, of course, even when the truth is staring us in the face we might all too easily bury it along with the rest of the internet duds, without sparing a thought for the dead.”

People do seem more preoccupied with the veracity of photographs than the meaning they are meant to communicate, especially concerning war photography. It is also important to note the vast quantities of photographs of current events available; if an image is too unsettling, one can simply click “next” and move on, whereas in the past some of the most striking images were published in multiple places and there were generally fewer images to look through.



Photographic anxiety: should we worry about image abundance?.

Cyanotype Workshop!! FREE!

September 27, 2011





Hello all!!!

Ever wanted to learn how to make photographic prints in a deep prussian blue? Need a few pieces of art for your sadly bare walls? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

This Sunday there will be a cyanotype workshop and art sale at the Open Source Project in Tempe. A few photo nerds and myself will be outside the OSP, probably drinking coffee and talking about art or other nonsense. We will provide paper, and objects you can use to make your photograms, but if you wish to bring something small, like fruit or flowers or anything semi transparent, be our guest! All of us have used this process before, and can answer whatever questions you may have regarding its possibilities and functions.

We will also be offering student artworks for sale, and will be holding a raffle, so if your pictures don’t turn out as well as you hoped, we can help!

Contact me if you need directions or have questions:

Kelly McNutt




The wonderful exhibition “Alternative to What?” juried show opened today. A couple of  my friends organized the show, and they asked me to make the guest book. I used coptic binding with book board and this amazing blue Japanese paper, and they even made me a little title card!


Go see the show! The info is at:  melissafergusonphotography.wordpress.com

So far this week.

September 13, 2011


September 12, 2011

For one week, I took a picture at 8am, 3pm, and 8pm. Even in the short period of seven days, patterns in my whereabouts at certain times emerge.



Week Four.

September 12, 2011

1. Write a few sentences about each presentation.

Group 1.  Images included mostly advertisements, family photos, and labels. The student included everything, yet encountered fewer images than he expected. He said he thought there would be more photographs everywhere. The images seemed to reflect less of the character of the student, and more of what was seen during regular activities in regular places (Costco + Scottsdale).

Group 2.  Most of the images were taken in the mall (Arizona Mills). They can be found at every turn; they are dramatic, with attractive models and bright colors. This student actively found images to encounter, and therefore to photograph. In the context of the mall, most photographs were used as elements of an advertisement, with text and other graphics, instead of being viewed exclusively as photographs. The student chose a public place where many go often and see photographs without realizing it. Even though it was not necessarily a regular day for the student, it reflected an experience with photographs that an average person might have.

Group 3. The student paid much attention to the framing of her pictures, which included storefronts, the internet, ads, labels, magazines, etc. The viewer can assume the imagemaker’s interests, food preferences, what she searched online, photographs that may be her own (opened in photoshop) etc. However, in reality, she may not have chosen any of the objects but simply observed them.

Group 4. The student included images of ads, the internet, fashion, celebrities, family photos, movies, food packaging, posters, etc. There were tons of images. The student reframed the photographs in their images, so in rephotographing photographs the viewer might be under the illusion that it is the original. This portrayal of photographs gave a kind of experience with each picture, with little context as to where it was taken.

Group 5.  The students images contained DVDs, restaurants, Starbucks, etc. Since we know the images were made in a 24 hr. period, viewers know that many images made in one place might imply a long period of time spent in that place. There were pictures taken all over Starbucks, of ads and posters geared towards employees, so by the images alone one could guess that the student worked there that day. Class thoughts:  how revealing is this one day out of the context of a person’s life? It could represent hundreds of similar days, or one unusual day–there is just no way to know by looking at the images.

Group 6.  The student included images taken of the internet, food labels, posters etc. at school, while driving. A few images included a hand holding up the object with a photograph on it, the student was showing the audience something specific to their experience.

Group 7. The student showed TONS of pictures of a computer screen with tons of photos on it. His photos accurately represented  the experience of searching the internet. There were a few other pictures, but most were of a computer screen. He said, “I tried to take a picture while driving, but…” “—It takes practice,” said Betsy.

Group 8. This student showed many images that were taken in her former workplace, an ad agency. She said working there made her more aware of advertisements, which were also numerous in her image presentation. She noted that doing this assignment made her “hyper aware” of the photographs around her.

Group 9. The student’s images were taken with a tight composition; there was not much context, so the viewer could make various assumptions about where the photograph was encountered, what it was a part of, who put it there. There were many many many computer screen photos, since the student actively searched for images on the internet. The presentation revealed the overwhelming nature of images experienced on the internet.

Group 10. Most images included were of posters, CD and DVD cases. Some context was included in the frame. The student attempted a few photos at work (Target) but encountered more than photographs, he got in trouble for ignoring security policies of in-store photography. In the class discussion, Betsy made a point that “we give up our right to photograph yet we’re photographed the minute we walk in…”

Group 11. This student included lots of newsprint ads, with no context, even photographs on the wall, on books, etc. They even photographed a show at the Step Gallery that was about high tuition rates. (“High tuition makes my cat sad.”)

2. What is the overall impression you get after watching the presentations? Do you feel overwhelmed? How did people address the assignment differently?

After watching the presentations, I definitely felt overwhelmed, especially by the images of computer screens. It is amazing how much data can bombard our brains in a single day; and that we have to filter what we pay attention to and what we remember. Otherwise, we would spend more time paying attention to images all around us (like the day of the 24 hr assignment) than doing anything else. This assignment showed us what would happen if we had zero filters, if every photograph had equal value, if we had to pay attention to everything in sight.

The assignment sounds like it could be objective, but there were several decisions each student made when going about carrying it out. First, each chose a day to dedicate to this assignment. Some chose days they stayed at home, others chose days they went to school or work. This choice dictated the majority of the photographs each person encountered. Second, each student, to some degree, either actively searched out places that would have many photographs (or retreated to somewhere they knew there would be few photographs), or they went about their day as they would normally. The assignment did not force one to do one or the other, however students had various experiences according to their own choices. Finally, some students showed the surrounding area of the photograph, say that it was lying on the ground or on a shelf; whereas others chose to crop out any information regarding where and how the image was encountered. Again, neither is right or wrong, but each way guides the assumptions made by viewers of the presentations.

3. How did you address the assignment, and how was it similar/different to others? What was the effect on you of creating the assignment and observing others?

I tried to do the assignment 3 different days. The first, I spent the morning photographing every photograph as I was supposed to, but as my day got busier and busier I would realized that I missed a photograph because I wasn’t paying attention (I was doing whatever I needed to do that day.) By the third try, I had conditioned myself enough to be aware and ready to take every picture I needed to. On one hand, I was more ready to take on the assignment for a full day, on the other, I felt almost as if I could not do much else but look, seek, and notice any photographs. Thinking back, I probably would have used the internet on a normal day, and encountered photographs there, but I think the idea of having to take a picture of every image I saw online was…exhausting. I think I avoided it. I’m not sure if that is good or bad, since I notice photographs so much more because of this assignment (which, I believe, was the point of the assignment).

I tried to vary the amount of context I revealed, but it seemed that some students chose context or no context exclusively. I think I was more interested in the images that showed at least a little context, because it allowed my mind to make connections to other images and to experience the image more like the student did when they took the picture. The experience of the photograph as a part of an object was more interesting to me than the reframing of an existing composition.

Week Three.

September 11, 2011

1.) How was the 24 hour shoot? What did you discover? What did you discover looking at your images all together? Did you enjoy it?

The 24 Hour shoot was enjoyable. I did the assignment on a day that I mostly stayed home, and went in to the nonsilver lab. I think if I had chosen a different day, the outcome would be vastly different. Even after the assignment is complete, I find myself being highly aware of photographs around me at all times. They are integrated in labels and advertisements, which are all over the place.

2.) Briefly discuss the ways in which the design of cameras had affected who uses them.

Large format cameras are used when fine detail is desired, or when the resulting prints will be very large. The equipment required for shooting and processing also requires significant financial investment, so it is generally unavailable to the public. Medium format is used when recording fine detail, though is less than large format, it benefits from mobility and  is less costly. Professional grade DSLR, consumer DSLR, and 35 mm cameras are favored for their flexibility in use, and tend to be less expensive to process than medium format. Finally, compact cameras are small and can fit in ones pocket, and are desirable for their ease of use and portability. They are also inexpensive and therefore more accessible.

3.) What do you think are the most significant differences between film photography and digital photography? Support your choices.

Digital photography has replaced film photography in the commercial field because of the cost, time, and uses of images. When using film, every frame costs money, in the cost of film, processing, and storage. Digital images, however, can be used immediately after shooting, and can now be stored cheaply and used at any time. Film has become more prevalent in art photography than anywhere else.

4.) Do you personally shoot film? Have you ever? If so how did/does your experience with film differ from your experience with digital?

I shoot both black and white film and digital images. In my experience, digital is easier to shoot because you can see your results immediately, and make changes without much trouble. However, film keeps me from making decisions carelessly and the time and labor required in processing and printing is significantly more satisfying.

How it Goes.

September 10, 2011

Dealing with digital images can be confusing and frustrating, especially when you can’t find the files you are looking for, and you just had them! So, this is my general workflow when it comes to handling my digital files. It is also somewhat ideal…I do, unfortunately, have folders all over the place with various groupings of images. However, since I have written out the plan that I usually stick to, I am hoping that it becomes a consistent habit.

Week Two.

September 10, 2011

1. What kind of camera do you shoot with? How often do you take pictures? What do you take pictures of?

I have a Nikon D7000, and a Chinon….it’s an off-brand 35mm from the 1980s. They were bought out by Kodak. I take pictures several times a week, usually of people who are around, oddities in my environment, or anything I find interesting or incongruous.

2. If money were no object what kind of camera(s) would you have? Why? Would it change your relationship to photography? If so, how?

My dream camera would probably be the fanciest DSLR you could think of. Or a Hasselblad (film or digital). Or  a Leica. I think it would change some ways I make pictures. If I was using a huge, expensive camera, I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying it with me everywhere I go. But if I had a small camera with incredible quality, people around me wouldn’t notice so much when I am photographing them (or near them). As of right now, I don’t always take my DSLR everywhere with me. It is large, heavy, and can be more of a distraction when I am trying to be discrete–and I don’t know if that would change too much if I had a bulky high end camera.

3. Have you ever used a film camera? What kind? What do you think the main differences are? Do you think you take different pictures with different cameras?

I have used both my 35 mm Chinon and a cute blue Holga. Unfortunately, neither have any automatic settings (such as aperture/shutter priority, auto focus) or reliable light meters. This can be frustrating when the subject is in motion, or when the light of the scene is changing. I certainly take different pictures with different cameras. When I use my 35mm, I take my time, and usually photograph things that are stationary. I don’t use the Holga any more, but when I did it was much the same; and it was so unpredictable that nearly all the negatives were terrible.

4. Do you know the menu on your digital camera thoroughly?

I sure do. I may not understand every single function, but I know where to find everything I need.