Hi there, WELCOME TO MY BLOG!
It’s Manu here. You are about to flick through my Tafe photography Blog. I will be investigating and talking about different photographic techniques with the intention of obtaining a set of picture inspired by different historical movements such as pictorialism, cubism, pop art, modernism among others. A bit of history, planning, experimenting and final result are gonna lead the way along this journey.
Fist stop, PICTORIALISM
Started in the late 1800s, the movement goal was giving to an emergent photography a more important role in the world of arts ruled by painting and sculpture. Artist such as Robert Demachy, Alfred Stieglitz, George Seeley, Julia Margaret Cameron, Frank Sutcliffe, Gertrude Käsebier, Peter Henry Emerson or Ken Rosenthal would seek the sense of aesthetic necessary to attract the viewer through a different approach to photography using different technique to accomplish the task. These are some of the technique:
– Use of soft focus cameras
– The calotype process was preferred, where the uneven surface of the paper would make details somehow confusing
– Combination printing; Steichen and Stieglitz, amongst others, would use gum to multiple print a negative onto a platinum image, mainly to reinforce the depth of tone in the shadow areas of the platinum image
– The manipulation of the negative such as scratching or painting over it
– Gum bichromate, which greatly lessened the detail and produced a more artistic image
Here are some examples:
Alfred Stieglitz ‘The Terminal’, 1892
Robert Demachy ‘Speed’, 1904
Julia Margaret Cameron, ‘Portrait of Angelo Colarossi’, 1867
George Seeley, ‘Winter Landscape’, 1910
Often the same pictorialists came from the experiences of painting or sculpture and converted the rules of the arts to photographic practice. Influenced by the movement of Impressionism, the Pictorialists abandoned the study in favor of open spaces, to better capture the spirit and the light of nature. The artist is selective with the topics: blurry landscapes on cloudy, rainy or foggy days; fuzzy portraits of female figures; allegoric images, classical poses…constantly seeking and transmitting the emotion and artistic interpretation that the strict rules of general photography would not transfer.
Pictorialism gradually declined in popularity after 1920, although it did not fade out of popularity until the end of World War II During this period the new style of photographic Modernism came into vogue, and the public’s interest shifted to more sharply-focused images. Several important 20th-century photographers began their careers in a pictorialist style but transitioned into sharply-focused photography by the 1930s.
15 FEB 2014 – PICTORIALISM: EXPERIMENTING
And so the challenge starts. Recreate a pictorialist shot with minimum post editing effect. I collect a bunch of items that could recreate the effect of a pictorialist photo: stockings, a clear plastic lid, Vaseline.
The plan is coming up with a subject that could be suitable for a 100 years old picture. I am avoiding modern sights such as cars, buildings, advertisement, logos and sign. People are also avoided on a close shot in order not to catch unsuitable clothing. Unable to predict how the final result will look like, I am going to test my pictorialist tools in different light conditions (full daylight, night time and evening) and with different subjects. Rain is forecasted over the weekend, that will help to recreate the right ambience, great!
Saturday morning, the weather is over casted, a light rain is falling. I turn the autofocus of my D800 off and I take advantage of a dull rainy day to take my first set of pictures. I’m looking for an old building, not much of those around Cronulla beach… I eventually come across the old stone gate surrounding Dunningham Park, that will do. I’m using a brown stocking to cover my lens, no Vaseline filter. I end up taking about 30 pictures, over, right and underexposed one; I include people walking around with umbrella, other without human presences and a few more with my umbrella around. I’m not happy with the majority of them, as soon as I open them in Lightroom I delete the lot except 2 with my umbrella as a protagonist. Here is the first of the two, straight from the card, no editing whatsoever:
It’s just ok, the stocking brown color has given me the effect I was looking for; trees details are lost, the ocean is hidden due to the mist and the umbrella fits in the setting. After moving the scene around and playing in post with white balance and other bits and pieces, I get this one:
More or less, just as flat as the previous.
17 FEB 2014, PICTORIALISM
Next step, night shot. It’s 9,30 pm, I’m cycling through ‘Cronulla Mall’ back from Monday class. Great, none is around. Same tools, drop the settings to low f numbers (did not do it before as the pics are fuzzy enough due to the stocking). I’ll take a bunch of shots, some with double layer of stocking, others with a single stretched layer to finish with.
Straight from the card, stocking in stretch
Even with some post, could not be any more boring! Mmm… need to work on it a bit more. Night shooting not a great result, I just did not manage to get an interesting picture.
The last set taken on Tuesday, last evening before class. Landscape is my style.
This time I’ll try with a disposable lid and Vaseline, with and without stocking over the lens. After spreading and clearing the lid with Vaseline, I’ll end up creating a sort of frame around the lid, the center it’s sort of clear from it. The f number is not low as it should be. No need, the plastic filter makes it fuzzy enough.
THIS IS THE BEST ONE YET. Not the best one I’ve ever seen but best of my small collection at this stage.
I also tried with some different subject found on the beach:
Coming next are my last three editing:
This two above are pretty average, though I thought the next one is a bit more interesting…
…a bit for the geometric composition, a bit for the overall feeling that I get from it. I guess it won’t catch people attention though.
19 FEB 2014, PICTORIALISM
I have just presented the pictures to the class, pretty much what I just said. No major result for the last of the three stones picture. The fuzzy landscape did get a positive feedback from Eraldo.
So, after the first trialing, I get the message that Eraldo wanted to transmit to us; it does not necessarily have to be a retro style picture, Pictorialism it’s a style, not an age. Therefore it may be applied to a modern subject or molded to my own contemporary style. Next round: same style, customized contemporary subject. In class, we get to know some modern pictorialists: such as Todd Hido; brilliant, I love his portraits along with the landscapes:
I also research some contemporary pictorialist photographers, coming across this Spanish guy Juan Ramon Martin Catoria. Very nice works, here are some examples:
Eraldo also suggests us to take modern subjects such as cars or architectural stuff and turn it into pictoralism. See how I go with it…
My new gear? Rounded plastic lid, with Vaseline and my cheapest lens, an old kit wide angle zoom. Architecture and interesting buildings in general are my target subjects.
First stop the beach, the lifeguard shelter may do the trick. I take a about 20 shots, different angles, with and without people. Are are just a bunch of them (along with more discarded subjects):
Of all the pictures a I keep one, which, after editing, looks like this:
Then I seek for a bit more of a building, I come across the old Cecil Hotel, now a residential tower. Nice roman style columns, it’s gonna be the one. Unfortunately the full day light is not helping, the sun is high in the sky just where I don’t want it. About 20 more shots, 2 are my favorite, the first a bit too out of focus, here is the second (and more contact prints):
Will show to the class and see what they have to say…
23 FEB 2014 – PICTORIALISM
Inspired by Spanish Martin Catoria, I look for more buildings, dramatic geometric shapes broken by tree branches. Although I guess it’s missing some fluffy white or grey clouds, I get a possible shot in Central Sydney:
And with this particular photograph I guess I have taken all the subjects that I had in mind. Feed back time is coming.
Got feed back on Wed Prac class and the overall result is well acceptable. All my selected pictures have been showed in class and I had the chance to explain how I did it to the all class. I am happy with the outcome.
05 MAR 2014
One last class regarding Pictorialism, we head out and Eraldo shows us how to simply turn a normal shot into Pictorialism. We look for a place without modern references (signs, buildings…), one of the gardens of Tafe will do. A bunch a pictures with simple settings (low f number, slight out of focus) and without any special filter and we get back to class to ‘pictorialize’ the photos in a few simple steps. Once the picture are imported to LR, Eraldo just hits the presetting in the develop module: presets > b&w toned presets > antique, a bit of vignetting, splash of noise…done!
My photos look like this after the simple post: