Dean O'Brien's Blog

350mc: Working with Photography in Context ‘Light as a means of Understanding’

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Todays lecture brought me back to basics with the the importance of light.  I remember when I first started at college a few years ago I discovered the light is everything as far as photography goes.  How I control it. where it falls and how to use it to make an image.  Without a decent understanding of light and how it works making my images would be impossible to create.  I am not just referring to using a camera either.  Pinhole cameras require a great amount of skill and timing to produce images, many of which are of superb quality when used correctly.

We covered a variety of artists and photographers such as Darren Almond and his ‘full moon’ body of work.  Berlin photographer, Karen Stucke’s ‘Sleeping Sister’ series of long exposures had an almost ‘impressionistic’ feel. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s image of  Radio City Music Hall was more about presence than absence of the light within the image.

Then we looked at artists who used a brush rather than a camera.  Caspar David Friedrich stated ‘Close your bodily eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye.  Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards.  A picture must not be invented but felt.  Observe the form exactly, both the smallest and the large and do not separate the small from the large, but rather the trivial from the important.’  Much in the way that we pre-visualise how our images will appear in our camera this referred to how a painter would pre-visualise his image.  His image of ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ (1818) being has a fantastic, powerful feel displaying man standing high above nature.

The image that captured my attention most was ‘Woman Reading a Possession Order’ (1997) by photographer Tom Hunter.  This was inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s painting of ‘A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window’ (1657).  Tom came to talk at the university two years ago and showed off his work which was based around classic paintings.  The way they differed was that these images had a modern day narrative to them.  This also emphasised the relationship between painting and photography.  A connection that is so apparent even in todays digital world.  The way in which the light falls upon the woman in the image (reading the possession order) has a holy, almost angelic feel about it.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

November 1, 2011 at 6:19 pm

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