Skip navigation

MOOD AND ATMOSPHERE
Lucinda Chua is a freelance British photographer. Born in London and raised in the countryside, her initial career path was a musical one. In 1998 she was awarded a scholarship to study cello, piano and singing along with classical composition, but by 2007 she graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a First Class BA Degree in Photography. Not only is she a recognised, award winning “Young Artist” she’s worked for the BBC and Channel 4. A recent shoot of her’s was a promotional event for BBC broadcaster Charlie Brooker. It’s fair to say she is gaining momentum in the field very quickly. She comes under the classification of Mood & Atmosphere thanks to a number of different components including props, prop placement, lighting and colour.

This double image from her “Selected Portraits” work. The image is entitled “Lacrosse at Johnson State College” and depicts 2 lacrosse players in the hallway of their school. The spotlighting on the walls behind them and the fill in flash (bounced off the ceiling by the looks of things) accentuating details in their facial expressions create that sombre tone. There’s a feeling of angst. Her subjects are vital to what she does, as using the same techniques with subjects of a different age group or sex just wouldn’t work in the same way. The subject choice adds such nuances as the possibility of peer pressure and their scraggly, worn out appearance makes me think they’re exhausted.

Sarah Hobbs was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1970, and began to photograph when she was seven years old. She studied photography in the University of Georgia and has become a well known contemporary photographer. Her work is said to be an embodiment of negative human traits. There’s a distinct lack of human presence in all of her work which allows her to focus entirely on her prop usage to put across said negative traits to the viewer. The following image is Untitled, released in 2002.

It shows a writing desk in a room with plain walls and a window in the background. There is a consuming number of discarded pieces of paper littered heavily in on the floor, so much so that the papers are stacked higher then the level of the writing desk itself. This is a beautiful metaphor for the number of discarded ideas a creative person will have to find the perfect creation. The use of discarded paper is a perfect visual representation and shows that if these physical paper ideas weren’t discarded as easily as our mental musings then our minds would be the same; cluttered up to breaking point.

Alfred Hitchcock was a motion picture director whose most well known work is his 1960 picture ‘Psycho’. Widely considered to be the greatest film director that ever lived, he’s a household name today. He had a troubled upbringing; his parents were said to be exceedingly strict, his father on occasions sending him to the police station with a note asking the sheriff to lock him up. His mother would make him stand at the foot of her bed for hours when he misbehaved. It is experiences like this that gave birth to the iconic Norman Bates character from “Psycho”, arguably the most moody/atmospheric motion picture ever, suspenseful in every last second. I think for an artist to hold his ideas so close to his heart as Hitchcock did with this particular film and character, is what wields the greatest reproduction of these feelings in the chosen artistic medium. Psycho was filmed in Black & White so the tonal use of colour wasn’t there for him as a tool to contribute to the atmosphere of the film. Instead he had the entire field of shadowing at his disposal.

This particular screen shot from Psycho is from a scene where the main protagonist is driving down a highway in the rain. It’s a very suspenseful scene where the most eerie score imaginable plays the sonic landscape, accentuated further by the lack of dialogue. It’s becoming more and more apparent that to create atmosphere with a human presence, the effectiveness of the mood relies heavily on the subject’s ability to create the mood and not just the skill of the photographer/cinematographer.

ABSTRACT IMAGES

Aaron Siskind (born 1904, died 1901) was a respected American abstract photographer. He didn’t dabble in photography until he received a small camera as a wedding present. It’s said that he started taking images on his honeymoon and realised the truly immense artistic potential of the medium soon after. He worked in the same faculty as another photographer, Harry Callahan, from 1950 in a number of design schools. His photography centres mostly around the study of natural subjects and architecture. A lot of his work is an expressionistic style; that is to say it makes little sense conventionally. You may say it’s meaning is open to interpretation, but its beauty is an unquestionable constant. His early work in social circles was based on nudes and their depiction through inanimate objects, but later on in his career he “radicalised” the photographic medium by implementing the abstract form of expression.

Paul Strand was an American abstract photographer raised in New York. He had a basic interest in photography until visiting art galleries in school urged him to develop his hobby into a passion. He since became a pioneering photographer, helping it become a recognised art form throughout the 20th century. He also made motion pictures for a time, his first collaborative effort entitled “Manhatta”, a silent film, was released in 1921. He was first exposed to abstract type images at the age of 17 when studying with Lewis W Hine. The majority of his abstract work concerns light falling upon man made structures, the subsequent shadows and how the shadows affect such things as form and shape. The following image from 1915 was taken on Wall Street, New York, the most prolific financial district in the world. It deals with those very elements, light and shadow. The gaping monolithic archways of the adjacent building bombard the viewer with a geometric  presence. Perspective is another huge factor here; the rectangles become smaller with distance and the parallel shadows of the businessmen are elongated, signifying the possibility that the sun was still rising when the photo was taken.

Craig McDean is a much younger photographer (born 1964) and is most widely recognised for his fashion photography. Though he was born in Manchester, he now works and lives in New York city.  He originally planned for a different career as a car mechanic. With a starting point as Nick Knight’s (another recognised photographer) assistant, his editorials appeared in small magazines; he was soon featured in huge figures in the fashion industry such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue including work for Calvin Klein advertisement campaigns. His work takes root primarily in fashion photography, but there are a lot of abstract elements throughout his visual designs. This photo shows Uma Thurman’s shoot for a magazine. Her hair, clothes, make up and expression are all typically fashion-shoot standard. The most noticeably abstract part of the image is the overlaid graphic design element of a butterfly. Adding in graphics that stem from a non-photographic root is an intriguing idea. While the graphic in this instance covers the face of the actress, masking her features slightly, the butterfly in tern enhances her beauty in a natural sense. The graphic is also symmetrical and gives the illusion of symmetry in the subject it’s concealing.

Other abstract techniques Craig McDean adds to his otherwise-conventional fashion images include using light-altering props like this tinted perspex, and having the model spit colourful fluid toward the camera.

CHALLENGING CONVENTION

Uta Barth is a 53 year old German photographer who grew up in Berlin and has since emigrated to Los Angeles. She challenges convention with her work with the absence of any foreground objects. Much of her work breaks certain conventional rules of most modern photography as it isn’t focused sharply. She’s featured in many great galleries and museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. Her work is said to be “suggestive” and not descriptive; I think this implies in a sense that it is up to the viewer to make what they like of it. A viewer may feel the following image is just a wall, a blank pointless image of plain white. Others may see an empty canvas, to fill with what you wish. Barth opposes a conventional, archival approach to photography put forth by the Dusseldorf school of photographers by capturing image of home interiors with natural lighting. In some instances of her work the lighting will produce a beautiful gradient of changing colour. She’s also experimented with natural subjects like trees and branches. With these pictures, she used post production techniques to alter their appearance such as inversion, and other artificial colour reproduction methods. A great deal of these images are so artificially affected, they begin to take on a photogram-type quality.

Alexey Titarenko studied for his degree of fine art from the Department of Cinematic and Photographic Art at Leningrad’s Institute of Culture in 1983. Because of soviet ties in the country, and being an artist independent of communist propaganda, he wasn;t able to openly declare himself as a photographic artist until 1989 when he created Ligovka 99, a photographers’ exhibition space that was independent of the Communist ideology. He works almost exclusively with black & white and his primary focus is long exposure and multiple exposure imagery. The following image is a multiple exposure shot with each individual image being overlayed onto eachother. This is what causes the people to blur into a dust cloud effect while the still constants, like the railing, stairs and background building, remain solid. Because the people and by extension, all life in the image is incinerated by the dust effect, the majority of his work has a deathly apocalyptic feeling.  “The City of Shadows” (the body of work of which this image is presented) deals repeatedly with this burning of life. Even in other works where this precise process doesn’t occur, the people are still blurred slightly by long exposure, or the contrast and tonal quality of the images make that eerie vibe. His prints are all square format, so medium or large format, and I think the use of film and the grain it can produce are other contributing factors to this feeling.

Nancy Burson is know as quite an eccentric photographer. Her main abstract work comes in the form of composites; these are multiple images that are combined and overlaid to make a new image. Most notably, she works with facial features, taking segments of different people’s faces to combine a completely new person. The fantastic thing about it is the believability of the new creation. The following image is a composite. It’s a creation that combines the speculated typical features of Lord Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammed, and Buddha. It’s a very clever concept of religion, that all deities are one, they all have an origin in the same story and have been taken apart and adapted for different groups of people around the world. What’s most intriguing to me about this image is the yellow build. The face almost blends in with the background completely. This is due to an exceedingly minimal level of contrast between the darkest and lightest shade of yellow in the image. It’s clever because an optical illusion occurs; when looking around the face, the rest of the face that your eye isn’t looking at can appear to change. I doubt I’ll take this technique under my wing to carry forward into my work as I intend my images to be vivid and sharp, but the level of experimentation and the amount of thought that went into it are truly inspiring.

INDUSTRY, BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES

Werner Mantz is another German photographer born in 1902. He photographed at first at the age of 14 and studied the art formally from the age of 18. Over his career he photographed architectural elements almost exclusively after an early start in advertising and portraiture. He was discovered by a respected architect and began to photograph his housing estates in Cologne. His style of photos are reflective of their subject matter. For instance, he focused readily on themes such as geometry, symmetry and alternative angles, all of which are elements integral to the architecture itself. I’m particularly fond of this image because of the shadows. He must have timed it to perfection as he’s captured a perfect 45 degree shadow under each balcony. The building is framed perfectly within the frame, each edge of the face of the structure completely parallel to the edge of the photograph. An underlying meaning could be the take over of man over nature. I think it can be seen as a testament to man’s dominance over the elements, and how something as awesome and celestial as the sun can be synthesised and manipulated and tamed at man’s will. Initially I thought structural photography wouldn’t be this expressive and open to interpretation or experimentation until I saw this collection of images. It’s most definitely a consideration for me now.

Andreas Gursky was born in 1955 and was heavily influenced by mentors Hilla and Bernd Becher while studying at Germany’s state art academy. His photographs cover a broad range of visual themes in his architectural work.  A key aspect of his work is nothing to do with the subject at all however; his methods of presentation is truly impressive. His architectural prints often exceed 100 inches in size. To maintain sufficient quality when blowing the images up to these gargantuan parameters, he’d use a large format camera. These giant prints are  a reflection of his subject, towering skyscrapers and elongated bridges. The following photograph shows a Super-Kamiokande, a Japanese observatory deep underground which detects supernovas, huge star explosions, in our galaxy. It’s an incredibly important operation, but in turn a very understated one. This contributes directly to the image’s celestial beauty. Each individual gold circle is an observational lens. The curvature in the grid pattern gives us some perspective of the sheer scale of the structure, a pinnacle signature of Gursky’s image. I can’t begin to imagine how beautiful witnessing this image in its native format would be. I’m intigued by this idea. It wouldn’t be economical for me to present my images on huge 100 inch prints, but my camera is more than capable of producing images at the industry standard “high definition.” If I were to digitally present my images, I could render them in high definition for the maximum potential in viewing experiences.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: