Lewis Baltz, The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California

https://www.cca.qc.ca/en/issues/11/nature-reorganized/176/the-new-industrial-parks-near-irvine-california

Referenced by my tutor in our chat following my submission of assignment one, these are shots of what, on the face of it, fairly uninspiring subjects.  However by selecting small sections of theses buildings or areas on the estates Baltz creates something that is both familiar and yet somehow odd or even eerie.  This shot for instance, with the weird areas where it looks – I’m guessing – like some sort of climbing plant was, reminded me of the nuclear shadows on the wall at Hiroshima

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Lewis Baltz – West wall, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa, 1974.  Taken from the article referenced above.

I’m not too sure about the statement that in the article:-  “Under the harsh light of a rectilinear universe full of the closed doors and enigmatic façades of the new industrial parks, the artist gives life to surfaces and textures, captures both the opaque and the transparent, and seems to project, beyond the deceptively banal frontal views, the buildings’ entire life cycle. This tension between the difficulty of the subject and the formal beauty of the resulting images gives the work its visual power.”  I dont think these do “project….the buildings’ entire life cycle.” and to me this why they work as abstract pieces which retain an element of mystery.  As you don’t know what is going on there behind the walls and doors in the photographs.   It may be that this statement is based on on a broader viewing than the seven shots used in the article but based on those seven I think this is stretching what you can get from the images.

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Lewis Baltz – Southwest wall, Ware, Malcolm and Garner, 16722 Hale, Irvine, 1974. Taken from the article referenced above.

What they do show is that even the most banal subjects can produce some intriguing and often beautiful landscapes.

I liked this quote by him “A lot of people liked albums, family snapshots, but I never did. I liked the photographs in Real Estate office windows, which are technically correct and heartbreakingly empty. “

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Boston

This was mainly a social visit, the fact that it was St Patricks Day while I  was there may give some sort of clue, but nevertheless I did manage to get a couple of viewings in.

The first was in the Panopticon gallery inside the Hotel Commonwealth.  The gallery is, to all intents and purposes, a long corridor in the hotel but to me it worked well as a setting for display.

At the time I visited the gallery it had an exhibition entitled “In the Garden” going on with works from Christine Collins, Beth Dow, John Grant, Brenton Hamilton, Cig Harvey, Wendi Schneider, David Graham White and Joshua White.

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While the display mostly worked it was interesting to see how the Hotels existing lighting and the gallery’s more specific lighting clashed on occasion.

The second visit was to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, which had as its main exhibition “ART IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET 1989 TO TODAY” described on the institute’s web site as  “Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today examines how the internet has radically changed the field of art, especially in its production, distribution, and reception. The exhibition comprises a broad range of works across a variety of mediums—including painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video, and web-based projects—that all investigate the extensive effects of the internet on artistic practice and contemporary culture. Themes explored in the exhibition include emergent ideas of the body and notions of human enhancement; the internet as a site of both surveillance and resistance; the circulation and control of images and information; possibilities for new subjectivities, communities, and virtual worlds; and new economies of visibility initiated by social media.

As an exhibition I thought it worked very well, with a special mention to the very knowledgeable guides, and a really varied and involving array of exhibits.

 

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Anicka Yi Fever and Spear,2014
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Kate Cooper Rigged, 2014-15
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Mark Leckey GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, 2010
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Simon Denny Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of  David Darchicourt Designs for NSA Defence Intelligence, 2015
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Paul Pfeiffer John 3:16, 2000
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Dara Birnbaum ComputerAssisted Drawings: Proposal For Sony Corporation 1992/2017

 

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Nam Juin Paik Internet Dream 1994

 

Assignment One – feedback summary

Overall Comments (Tutor’s response in italics)
• Considered to be a project with some mileage and scope for developing further. Absolutely. It’s really good that our conversations so far have pointed to a student who’s
well aware of the richness and photographic potential of his immediate environment.
As well as aesthetic possibilities, the fact that you’re tuned into the political (and ‘cultural
political’) aspects of everything bodes really well.
• Shots also need to be taken at closer proximity.I think so. This assignment feels like a first salvo, and the trick now is to think about how the aesthetic possibilities can be
developed. One of my minor criticisms of this first ‘draft’ is that there’s a certain lack
of variation. This does tend to be one of the gripe I’ve got with the photographing of
wind farms, and photographers can tend to think of them from afar. Getting closer not
necessarily feeling the urge to include their entire structure would certainly open up
the possibility of you a) making something that is more idiosyncratic and b) experiencing
them in different ways.
• Try isolate structures, accentuating the intruder aspect. Yes. While, from afar, they
have an obvious impact, what happens if only a small part of them is seen juxtaposed
against the landscape?
• Maybe investigate the background to development of wind power. Yes. There’s much
to be explored here. Nuclear power, after the terror it prompted in he 1980s, seems
to have been ‘sanitised’, and it’s enormously interesting that supposedly environmentally-
friendly structures like wind farms prompt such outrage in the areas they’re
located. Is it also worth focusing your research around the tensions between the
countryside and the city, two spaces that are increasingly seen as polar extremes?
Look at local/national attitudes both for and against. This would be interesting. Are
they actually rather more than just hulking structures of metal, and is it possible that
they’ve come to signify much more, eg political attitudes, the tensions between the
city and the country, something to do with class?

• Keep taking more photos in all weathers and try and get closer to subject. Yep. They
are structures built to withstand and make the most of extreme weather conditions,
so photographing them under different meteorological circumstances will no doubt
give you different ways of establishing the mood and tone of the work. It’ll also give
you the opportunity to potentially produce a blog post or two on the practicalities of
photographing under such circumstances. All the photographic equipment in the work
will make not a jot of difference if you find yourself out in a rainstorm with inadequately
waterproofed boots!
• Consider issues of power (in both senses) driving infrastructure. Absolutely. This is
more than just the generation of energy; a whole set of issues around corporate,
political and cultural power are there to be explored.
• Look at corporate literature promoting and informing wind power. Yes. How do these
industries represent and promote themselves? And what about any literature/ discourses
that support or challenge them?
• Emphasis change look at partial sightings/glimpses etc. Yes. See above re isolating
smaller parts of the blades/ structures. Less is more, etc etc.
• Play around with sequence and add/delete shots as appropriate. Definitely. I think
this is the way to return to and revise this one- just keep shooting and think about
how the sequence can be refined. As you do this, I’m confident that you’ll start to become
clearer on the themes you’re interested in. In a nutshell, the underlying research,
like the photographs themselves, should follow the formula ‘expand your research
so as to narrow your focus’.
• Discussion on how once feared nuclear power is now considered a reasonable option
(also referenced Edge of Darkness Tv Series). Yes. Looking at popular culturalnot
just photographic- representations of different power sources will certainly help to
inform they way you look at and think about everything. Edge of Darkness is a great
example- the whole series was underpinned by gloom and paranoia and a fear that
nuclear power would lead to certain armageddon. The widespread investment in nuclear
technologies since stands as a dramatic reversal of this idea. Also take a look at
the Protect and Survive series of state-commissioned nuclear war commercials from
the 1980s. They say much about the era’s position on nuclear power.
• Look at how rural spaces are used perceived work/leisure. This is a slightly smaller
theme here, but one still worth exploring. The spaces you’re looking at are broadly
constructed in the popular imagination as ‘leisure’ spaces and places of rejuvenation,
but they are also industrial spaces and places of labour. Further reading around this
will no doubt add more detail to your approach.
• Health impact of wind power vs economic benefits. It’s really odd that such apparently
‘benign’ sources of power are subject to such criticism and hostility. As you said,
a huge dimension in this seems to be the ‘NIMBY’/ class-based response, which often
seems to hide behind the suggestion that wind farms are not particularly useful of
efficient. Something else to look into…

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of
Creativity
• Queried why black and white and the use of colour was discussed. As black and
white was chosen to highlight the wind turbines in their environment as they tend to
lose an element of their prominence in colour shot. However, this Should be considered
as an option to illustrate this. Before I actually viewed the work, it did seem to
make sense to shoot in b/w, but I’m not convinced that it’s more effective than colour.
It’s all part of the research and development though.
• Use of sound might be an interesting angle (reference was made to assignment 5 in
this respect.). Definitely. The sound generated by wind farms could certainly be utilised
to interesting creative effect. The Tim Edensor article on the Peak District that I
mentioned (attached) is from an issue that includes writing by Julian Holloway on
sound’s connection to place. I haven’t read it, but it sounds potentially useful.
• More variety in shots would be beneficial. Yes. But this will no doubt come with further
explorations.

Coursework
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
Looking promising. Glad to see you’ve been looking at Jim Mortram’s work!!!
Going forward, with so many really promising ideas already flying around, the coursework
and exercises will be particularly important in helping you to see what’s worth developing
and what isn’t.

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
We obviously touched on a number of research leads to follow, so it’s pretty essential that
you set up a dedicated research section on your blog. Blogging about any particularly useful reading or viewing you’ve done will not only be important for assessment, but also in helping you to keep track of everything.

Suggested reading/viewing
• John Fiske’s ‘Reading the beach’ essay in his Reading the Popular book will give you
some ways of conceiving of the nature- culture dichotomy that could be particularly important as you develop the work.
• The Tim Edensor article on the Peak District I mentioned is attached, and comes from
Landscape Research journal, one to keep an eye on. I’m sure there’l be stuff in there on
wind farms.
• The Lewis Baltz book is called The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California. There are
plenty of images online, as well as a good deal of commentary. The project has perhaps
been subsumed by the New Topographics exhibition that it was part of, which is also worth
some further research.
• Mitch Epstein’s American Power is more recent and will definitely provide with you much to chew on!!!

Pointers for the next assignment

There are some really good ideas already in the offing, so the trick now is to push on with
the reading and to shoot as often as you can, honing each individual set-up and tweaking
the sequencing/ meaning of what you produce. At this stage, don’t hold back- give yourself
lots of options and see what starts to take shape. As ever, feel free to drop me a line if
there’s anything I can help with.

Challenging Landscape Course

This was a weekend course held in Keswick, and run by Paul Hill and Maria Falconer. The idea was to look at landscape both traditional and urban, through a number of different viewpoints/angles including conscious framing; irregular vantage points; using light both natural and artificial to create theatre; using landmarks; meditative space; intervention of man; time and land; responding politically and/or historically to the land and the psychological metaphorical landscape.

We had a presentation in the morning with some familiar, and not so familiar, images used to illustrate the various aspects of landscape photography.  We were then tasked to go out and take shots, locally in Keswick on the first day and in Buttermere on the second, to illustrate these.

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Assignment one

Beauty and the sublime

The assignment asks you to provide a a series of photos illustrating your individual interpretation of of beauty and/or the sublime.

My take on the brief is both a personal and a localised one.  Personal because I am fascinated by these objects as i think they have a sort of beauty or grace about them, and localised because they surround the village where I live.  As I write another wind farm has been approved and construction is due to start soon.  To me there is a sense of awe about these structures as it is not until you get close (or see something nearby to give a sense of perspective) that you realise just how tall they are.

They are, in my view, something would ordinarily be ignored for the more traditional forms of landscape and are regarded by many, although not by me, as blots on the landscape.  They do I think provide a stark contrast to the normal perception of the Scottish countryside and also a surprising one as they are by necessity located in hilly areas and hidden by both the landscape and the forests on it and these glimpses of them is something I have tried to capture.  I also think, and this may be me being a bit fanciful, that there is something alien and almost menacing about them (particularly when only partially viewed) in that they do not seem to belong where they are and being so prominent do not blend in to landscape in any way.

I intend to further develop this assignment into an ongoing project and get different views of the structures.  I am in the process of trying to get permission to get to the wind farm premises or sites as normally they are out of bounds and take some close up shots of the wind farm and the work that goes on there, (with regard to the latter point I think a shot of the signs indicating this is something I need to incorporate)

I chose to present the shots for the assignment in black and white as I felt this accentuated the turbines (which are always white) and chose the high resolution mode as because of the pixel shift it gives some sense of motion as well as providing a better sense of detail.  As a result I used a tripod and a cable release.  I think compositionally the set in the main works well and in future additions I need to think about more alternative ways of  showing these structures.  I might try to find other ways of illustrating the movement, such as stacked shots or long exposures and also try to to shoot in different weather conditions if feasible.   Additionally I used mostly the 150mm end of my 40 -150 zoo, equivalent to 300mm in full frame terms and I think I might try some further images with my 300mm lens (600 in full frame) to get some closer and different types of shot. The choice of views were, in the main as a result of regularly travelling that particular route and mentally marking the places that I thought would provide effective shots.

At present with this project I have been shooting the more accessible and visible structures but I want to extend this to other sites I’ve yet to visit.  I am struggling to think of influences that have have directly impacted on the way I have shot this assignment but would possibly think that I have absorbed something from the landscape work of McCullin and also Steve Gosling, an Olympus Ambassador whose work I greatly admire.

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With regards to the assessment criteria i would make the following comments:-

Demonstration of technical and visual skills.

I think I am okay with this side of things although, as stated above, I would want to expand this set with further variety of shots.

Quality of outcome

Again I think this is okay and my view is the set works as a whole, although it could be revised depending on further images.

Demonstration of creativity.

The weakest area I think and one which can be enhanced by further shoots as indicated above.

Context.

Difficult for me to comment on as as the research I have done has not directly impacted on this set of images but has I suppose steered me away from the more traditional landscape approach.

 

 

Exercise 1.9: Visual research and analysis – social contrasts

The exercise asks you to find and select two different pictorial social perspectives of the same place.

The place I chose was Dereham in Norfolk.  The reason I chose was this town that crowded funded a book called Small Town Inertia, by Jim Mortram which is an incisive look of those dependent on benefits and or care in that tow.  In contrast to Jim’s stark black and white images i thought it would be interesting to see what images of the town were on Google.  As I suspected the first images that come on the Google search were of what i call postcard images, showing the town in a favourable, if not very exciting, light.

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Dereham by Suzy Taylor from explorenorfolkuk.co.uk
Dereham 2
Uncredited photo from the Dereham Town Council Website

Compare these with Mortram’s photos which while mainly set indoors give a glimpse of a side of Dereham (and probably applicable to a lot of places) that is not often seen or thought about.

Small town 2
copyright J A Mortram

 

Small town 3
copyright J A Mortram

Jim’s website is https://smalltowninertia.co.uk/

I’ve perhaps taken the easy option in selecting one of the two photographs showing social contrasts in one image with this image taken of a street beggar outside an expensive whisky shop in the royal mile, Edinburgh:-

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Taken from Byronv2’s site on flickr – https://www.flickr.com/people/woolamaloo_gazette/

The other, again perhaps obvious, choice is one looking at city slums and this I think is a great image:-

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High-rise luxury apartments with amenities like a beautiful swimming pool and tennis court can be seen separated by one wall, right next to, the sprawling slum known as ‘Paradise City’ – favela Paraisopolis – in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Image: Tuca Vieira/David Fenng

Exercise 1.8: Zone System in practice

I’m still playing about with the Mamiya film camera but am still predominantly using my Olympus system for most of my work.  The main camera in this system is the OMD E-M1ii.  For a micro four thirds sensor the dynamic range is pretty good although like most cameras there are very occasionally times when it cannot cope with the extremes of light and darkness.  Most of the time, with judicious use of exposure compensation and/or altering metering style it can cope with most of what is required of it. The exercise asks you for three examples and I’ve included two shots which I think demonstrate this and one where the camera, despite those adjustments, is perhaps beginning to struggle.  It should be noted also that when shooting landscape I tend, although not always, use what Olympus call High Resolution mode which take several shots shifting pixels slightly to give a much bigger, and more detailed, file.  The limitation of this function is that the smallest aperture you can use is F8, although with the size of the sensor this still gives a good enough depth of field.

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This was a shot taken while exploring around the Martyrs ‘ tomb in the village recently.  (you can just see it poking up in the top left of the opening. This has had no post processing done and is a Jpeg export of the raw file.
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This was taken on the single track road to Stranraer on a very Bright day.   It was important to get all the ground detail in and exposed correctly without blowing out the sky although it is a bit close.  However reference to the histogram in Lightroom revealed no dreaded red alerts to blown highlights and there was between a third and half a stop leeway before they appear.  Again this has had no post processing done and is a Jpeg export of the raw file.

The third shot is, I think, more problematic as the area outside the doorway is a tad overexposed but not blown, although still coherent as an image:-

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With a slight adjustment to highlights it becomes more acceptable – one of the advantages of exposing to the right:-

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