This weeks session was a one on one with Jon Levy founder of Foto8. For the session we were asked to create a fantasy portfolio comprising of sourced images reflecting these things…
a) the kind of work that first inspired them to become photographers
b) the kind of work they hope to be making in the years after they graduate
c) the images that have always been the most formative and influential to their own style as a photographer
Once we had created our portfolio we sent the work to Jon Levy and he then discussed these images with us via google hangout. questioning ideas like why did I choose them? how do they relate to my work? whats the common theme? and where should I go from here?
These are the notes I made during the 15 minute session…
And this is my more considered response to the session…
Jon Levy first noticed the wide variety of my chosen images, from style and nationality in the work I chose. There was a strong divide between east and west culture and methods of photography. We began to talk about what interests me, I broke it down into 2 areas, work which aesthetically influences me and work which inspires me through message and meaning.
David LaChapelle – aesthetics
Pierre et Gilles – aesthetics
Photographer Hal – Meaning
Cindy Sherman – Meaning
Makoto Aida – Meaning
Mariko Mori – Meaning
I then told him about how doing my symposium had allowed me to pick holes in my own life. i thought I was an activist but really I had consumerist tendencies Jon Levy saw this as my strongest point, from this we focused on how all these photographers work have contradictions in them, and contradict each other. Even within my images choice I had contradicted myself, I had chosen advertising photographers and activist photographers. Levy told me to “Draw from the issues I cannot resolve” and to “focus on emotion”. I strive to be an activist, make a difference in the world, but I am polluted by consumerism. This is true for most people too, everyone always has who they really are and who they want to be. he also pointed out that whilst I kept on saying fantasy/ fiction photography all the photographers work stemmed from real issues. They are “Fantasy pictures, but not Fantasy ideas.”
So now he had talked me through where my strong point lies we began to talk about the difference between the East Asian photographers approach and the Westerners approach. LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles produce meticulously planned high cost sets, keeping there work detached form the real world. But using references from popular culture and the iconography of religion and classic painting styles to enable us to link it back to the culture we know. Cindy Sherman does the same but purposely makes the images look like “snap shots” referencing 20’s-50’s Hollywood films. The Japanese photographers Mariko Mori and Makoto Aida don’t rely on sets, money or attention to detail. They create a character and place it in reality, adding the sense of randomness but relating back to our society directly. These are two very different approaches, one is more of a public performance relying on the public to become part of the photos, the other realies on semiotics and pop culture references to create a staged image. it was initial intent to create some elaborate set in a studio, but when talking about these images with Jon Levy I realised the public technique is more effective on me, using a fraction of the money and equipment Mariko and Aida’s work both speak stronger messages to me than LaChapelle’s does. This “cheapness” of the image making also add’s a sense of reality, even though we know the images are staged, they still retain the right amount of reality to connect it to the spectator.(I need to look into this more) What I want to do is find a middle ground, create something which is visually beautiful but still has an impact and strong message with that raw nature. The outcast in this bunch is photographer Hal, he adopts the techniques of LaChapelle creating a studio situation, but with Hal’s work the originality of the idea is so striking it needs nothing else but the subject and plain background.
Looking at all of this has taught me not to have such a clear idea of the final piece before I have my concept. I might end up having to produce images in public, or I might find that the subject is so strong I just need a plain background. I need to focus on the my concept, this contradiction and create my character based around that, work out what my image is trying to make people feel and then decide how this would best be depicted.
This si something I need to do soon as I am away for most of April so aim to have my finished plan if not finished images by the end of march. The session really helped, I am looking forward to this weeks task and speaking to Jon Levy again next week.