Art photography – opportunities and limitations – A Self-Reflection
At today’s cross disciplinary hangout (https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/forum-live-discussion-and-feedback-sunday-29th-july-11am-uk/7716/42), my topic raised how to photography best flat artwork, e.g. glossy paintings, was explained in a tutorial by photography tutor Clive in a comprehensive and technical way. His 101 tutorial, a comprehensive guide to overcome frustrating issues with ‘bad representation’ of paintings or drawings. It triggered discussions and my further reflection on what I want to achieve, to make a photographic images resemble the original work visually in front of me, or something else.
During POP1, I uploaded a few monochrome abstract paintings for peer feedback, and I was facing issues with how to get a digital image across to others so that they get a reasonable idea of how the physical painting actually looks like. Questions of tonal values, contrast, white as white or grey hue, and glossy surfaces appeared. In context of my current course I am facing technical questions of video and still images. A question that triggered already discussions with peers and tutors of whether to record and photograph me myself or hiring an assistant or professional photographer. What I should focus on where cross disciplinary work starts.
My recent longer break – off coursework, reconstructing studio and office spaces after my relocation, I have now the luxury to own two daylight studio lamps, a DSLR, a tripod, and a mirror – and space to make images of my work at the wall, in progress or finished. Hoping to get some more standardised, and quicker routine in taken images of my work.
Clive guided (his written guide available at: https://oca-discuss.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/original/2X/e/edc32699c8033c7b91d99b80c893ae216c5b208b.pdf ) us through steps of post-edit (Photoshop), how to adjust values and how this is going to impact visual perception of the image.
So why all the fuzz? Here some of my thoughts on pro and con:
PROs – Why Yes:
- to avoid communicating through ‘badly photographed’ images:
– sending to my tutors, assessment team and peers when they will not be able to see them as physical work
– and to make a good first impression (in other occasions where I would need to submit upfront digital images)
- understanding what and how photographic reproductions are different from the physical object and how possibly to change aspect of attention
- photographic reproductions can be part of a greater body of work (alongside physical paintings and video etc. – the quality of outcome need therefore to be high, as long ‘low images quality’ is not part of the concept)
- I don’t want to get frustrated with necessities (and making digital images of my work is required of being a distant learner)
CONs – Why Not:
- I am not a professional photographer and time better to spend on making paintings instead of ‘wasting’ time to photograph them, let experts do the work (with my direction)
- Photographic reproductions are different and possibly an art object in itself, but doesn’t fit into what I want to do and show to people.
The beauty of hangouts is that it is not a problem solving event, with different perspectives and ideas flowing together – and eventually into my brain and body. Topics of representation, reproduction, photographs as separate art objects, and LoFi (brought to the table by Alan) versus high tech equipment and execution made me ponder my purpose and rationale. Also the question how and where to focus and spend my time on (Jennifer: ‘life is too short’). Reminds me of a statement by the American painter Brice Marden in an interview in TURPS Banana issue #20) in discussion on commissioning and the exterior non-painting work related to it:
“I just find it takes up all my time trying to paint.”
Asking myself: What does take up my time? And what do I want taking up my time? My recent break, longer than initially thought, undergoing time consuming and at times less ‘productive’ activities (admin, office, registration; procrastination)
=> How much time do I want to invest personally in photographing my art work versus making my art work? If I would make photographs of my paintings in order to print and circulate those as giclee or reproductions (an idea that actually crossed my mind, the business side of making art?), then I think I would sacrify my work on paintings (need to prioritization)
=> As documentation or as integral part of the body of work? Talking recently with Carline Wright on her art practice and that for her photographic reproduction as documentation is not part of her work. Actually, she uses it only a trailers to communicate future events with potential customers.
My recent visit to the large Bruce Nauman retrospective made me aware of how technology can support or limit my perception. A comparison of Nauman’s video work on ‘Contrapposto.’: 1968 and 2016 . Both video using the technology of that time, and both showing a setting of the artist’s studio, more or less unstaged. From our perspective today, the video of 1968 would be LoFi with a camera recording his movement with no obvious post-edit and on one single TV-set aka screen (he was 27 and two years after his MFA), and 2016 HiFi using state-of-the-art 4K and 3D technology with 120 frames/second (now, he could truly afford all fancy equipment, at the age of 75) showing all kind of details (one still image – Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies I through VII, 2015/16; image credit Schaulager Basel, 2018)
- Manual white balance
- parallel planes of artwork and camera
- 45 degree two light sources at camera level
- avoid mixed light sources
- avoid camera flash light
- even illuminance
- usage of reflective shield or even white paper (as second light source) if one e.g. shoots in front of a window or single light source