Category Archives: Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple

Assignment Five – Planes, Edges and Depth in the Urban Environment

This assignment was submitted in print form to my tutor so the same book forms part of my assessment submission.

Brief

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph
must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new
information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention
to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There
should be a clear sense of development through the sequence

For the last assignment in EYV I have chosen to produce a small book of photographs and text which looks at how perspective depth is perceived in the two dimensional image and how this may be used in the representation of the urban landscape.

Firstly I should say that in embarking on this line of enquiry I soon discovered that I had bitten off a good deal more than I could chew, bearing in mind the amount of work time I should have sensibly allocated to the assignment.  Although I found the learning interesting I realised that I had swum rather too far from the shore and getting the actual photography and printing done took more effort than was warranted.

Through talking to my tutor I concluded that a physical submission was a good idea for the final assignment so I settled on the idea of a book format.  I could have sent the images away for printing but I’ve not had much success with this in the past, the results often being somewhat lacklustre and not infrequently dreadful.  The submission is mirrored on this blog.

It’s all about the edges…”

Making sense of a flat image may seem simple and intuitive but is in fact a complex process:

“The camera and the retina see the same luminance in an image, which is a combination of reflection (in the words of [Edwin] Land, “the language for delineating objects”) and illumination (“the language for displaying illumination”). The visual cortex in the rear of the
brain processes this luminance signal from the retina, separates reflection and illumination, and recombines them in a very special
way to show us the world as it truly is, visually. The brain first detects edges, separating those edges into illumination edges and reflection edges. Then, it uses complicated algorithms to process the image into our perception of luminance, called luminosity or brightness. This is an important point, and bears repeating: Be mindful of the difference between actual luminance and our perception of luminance, called luminosity. An unprocessed image direct from the camera is a straight luminance image, hence the disparity between what we visually perceive and what we get in a photograph”  (My emphasis)

George Dewolfe in Presence — George DeWolfe. Retrieved June 11, 2017, from Web site: http://www.georgedewolfe.com/pdfs-other-downloads/

Dewolfe examined a number of paintings by acknowledged masters and converted them to monochrome, the better to observe the way that visual planes were delineated and emphasised to give the illusion of three dimensional depth.  He noted that edge contrast, layered soft and hard edges along with opposing tonal values combined to produce this effect, a fact known to painters for hundreds of years.  He worked out how this technique may be applied to photographic images to give more convincing perspective and ‘presence’ and I’ve attempted to implement this in these photographs.

File:Theo van Doesburg Composition XXII.jpg

Theo van Doesburg – Composition XXII (1920)

In the painting by van Doesburg (above) the flat planes are abutting each other but by clever use of edge effect and emphasis an appearance of ‘layering’ is achieved. In this example the effect does not appear coherent – each plane can be seen to move forwards or backwards according to the way that the visual process manipulates the forms.

The Inaccessible City

I was interested in following through with the idea of the flaneur and what partially hidden views may make themselves visible during saunterings in the backstreets of a city.  We don’t have any local city so I made do with some nearby towns, seeking out aspects of the built environment which presented themselves as plane-on-plane structures with a strong sense of perspective.

“The modern flaneur navigates the visual excess of the urban terrain, as new perspectives spring up everywhere like so many sideshows, as the everyday life of the city is compressed into socio-historical structures of the spectacle. The flaneur becomes a visual sampler of commodity culture, piecing together a multifaceted city and refracting it through the artist’s prism of the visual fragment. Surrounded by surfaces and flattened perspectives on all sides, the flaneur’s sense of space no longer accords with the views of classical geometry,”

Unmapping the City: Perspectives of Flatness – Edited by Alfredo Cramerotti  – Intellect  2010

The material shown in the photographs is inaccessible but visible, though the limited opportunity for a varied viewpoint imposes restrictions on the way the picture may be composed – it’s not possible to change the view much because you can’t get to where you’d like to be, there are too many houses, sheds, walls and fences in the way. 

“The versatile photographer is taken by the city and goes with the flow, a semiotic transformer in the ‘journey-form’, grasped as the rhythm of perspective. The photographer, like the DJ, scratches the surface of the photographic record and interferes with the visual coherence of the city, producing differential perspectives from those laid down by the ‘ordered diagramming of the cartographer”

Kern in Harvey 1989: 267 Harvey, D. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Oxford, Blackwell, 1989

Evaluation and reflection

*   This series of ten images was the result of an investigation into how depth can be conveyed along with an appreciation of the way that towns are constructed.  I delved rather too deeply into the technical and theoretical aspects but managed to surface before becoming overwhelmed.

*   I decided to submit monochrome prints because I could more easily control the appearance of the prints

*   I’ve been considering the way that images are viewed currently – so many photographs, so few pictures – which led me to ponder the idea of simple book presentation.  I’m also thinking about whether files deserve to be printed and bound even though they may be far from perfect and whether this may contribute to my developing visual skills.

*   The treatment of the edges and planes does give a sense of depth and perspective which was not as noticeable in the originals so I am satisfied that this approach has some validity in photography.

*   Despite the foregoing positive results I am disappointed in the photographs themselves – they do what they are intended to do but I don’t really like them much.

Seaton 1 axm 2 axm2 backs planes-Recovered Brid 1 Lyme 2 Lyme 3 lyme 4 lyme 5 rous 1

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