Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Assignment 5: First Set

A key step in moving towards completion of an Assignment is to assemble the first set of possible photographs and pin them up for contemplation.  My pin board is a 30" monitor, but the process is the same.  I look at the set several times a day adding and subtracting, changing the processing a little, and even heading out to retake the photograph if I feel it is necessary.  I am actually pretty happy with what I have now and think I am starting to build a photo essay of Richard-Strauss Strasse.  11 photographs is not a novel, more an editorial, so the essay will be short and perhaps simple, but interesting and hopefully challenging.

I have also road tested a number of the images on the Flickr student forum, which must be done with care, however, I take an interested response there for a good sign that an image is working at some level.  I am also very grateful for a quick dialog with Clive that basically concluded that like it or not now is time to commit and finalize this assignment. Another useful comment was advice from a fellow student to first of all get on with it (thanks Pete), but also to keep the same aspect ratio on the photographs which will drive a greater sense of narrative flow than continually changing.  I agree and with that this set is becoming a big departure from my former practice of almost arbitrary cropping coupled with colour rather than mono.

Today, I also managed to do a little more photography.  A couple of potential images needed a rework, a wider angle lens was needed so I pulled my 7-14mm (14-28mm in real money) out of the drawer and revisited a couple of sites.  This was also a welcome relief from a very tough workload at the moment.  I started work this morning at 5am, stress was keeping me awake, so I just got up a got on with it.  Better to deal with the problem than fret over it.  Walking with camera in hand and a mission in mind is an antidote to most things.

So here are is my working set of 19 possibles:

Technically this is not such a good image, I struggle to balance both sides of the photograph, however, I think it is very telling.  I chose this door bell box at random, then looked at the names.  Out of the 12, at least 5 are non-German.  This points to the multi-ethnic make up of the street and Munich in General.  The pieces of paper also point to low rent, smarter places have nice little brass plaques.

I struggle a little with what this is supposed to say, but I like it as an image, the scooter hints at a younger mobile population with a sense of fun.  The dour doorway hints again at a lower rent area.

Just around the corner on the side of one apartment block, this photo shows how people make their tiny balconies into a small garden, we all need space and air.  I think this points to the sense of place people have and the need to mark a place as their own

My wide angle permitted a different look to some photographs, this is one I reworked today.  The strange bench points to a community with creativity, the building behind, well glass and steel, very German.

Another wide angle rework of an image I had previously taken.  I want to look behind the facades in my strip photo, to show more detail of where people live.  The building is very striking and alone would be interesting but no more.  The Apotheke sign in the foreground is important as it shows how organized life is here and also suggests a slightly hypochondriac mentality, there are chemists everywhere here.

This juxtaposes disorder with order, a tiny blot on an otherwise pristine world.  I think this photo might be important to break the orderliness of other photos. The problem is that it is very much like the strip images.

Non-negotiable, this simply makes me laugh, I keep thinking off what would happen if it really toppled.  Ick.  These little blue portaloos are everywhere here, they sprout whenever some building work is beginning, they are a direct sign of wealth and perhaps the need to continually update the quality of the buildings that make up the street

Another sign of the times is this estate agent.  This was an empty office a year ago.  Estate agents are very uncommon here, to see one on a main street is very unusual.  The temporary nature of the sign and lack of any refurbishment of the building suggest that this is an opportunistic and temporary presence, but it does reflect the gradual upmarket move of the area.

 German word for Shark is Hai.  I am a diver, this amuses me, but otherwise is a rather dull picture.  What is more telling is that the full work would be Hair, Germans increasingly turn to English for words to make the dull sexy.

Better, than the last one, this has a few potential meanings.  The first is that they left the dog on its own outside, no one would ever steal a dog and no dog here would be badly behaved neough not to be left alone for a while.  Most supermarkets support a bunch of bored looking dogs waiting patiently for their human to finish the shopping.

One of my thoughts for this set is to use photographs of people in place of people.  Imagery is everywhere, advertising thrusts faces at us.

Another sign, this time an advert for a Bavarian group, tradition is alive and well here, supporting a rather slapstick comedic genre. Fly posting is very illegal and quite rare, instead utilities often place a poster container on their various access points and sell the space for advertising.  Mostly for cultural events.

Fun play on words, but one done nervously.  Einfahrt (entrance) has been subverted with a W to make it a Weinfahrt, but they pulled their punches and used brackets to make sure no one was confused.  A keeper I think.

Doubt that I will keep this, but it is an interesting symbol of change.  Germans don't do a weekly shop, they buy a little food 2 or 3 times a week, freshness is highly valued, especially bread.  The result is that we have far more but smaller supermarkets.  This is a real change, Internet grocery shopping with delivery to the door, a real change for this country.  The shops all close at 8 here, but deliveries are permitted until 10 - unheard of!!!

Another keeper, Marxist-Leninism in a modern market economy, great.  Or perhaps simply that the EU elections bring out all flavours of extreme politics.

Alternatively there is the appeal of the highly traditional

One question that I must answer soon is whether to actually include people or not.  So far people are absent. Legally the issue is with obtaining prior permission to show a face that is prominent in an image.  Someone who is incidental to a landscape photograph is OK, as is the back of someone's head.  The only German Street photographer that I know is Siegfried Hansen, the people in his images are always somehow obscured.  I need to think about this, but if I do allow people into the photos, this is a one for inclusion, it carries many messages about health.

This is also a little fun, showing a little more of the structure of the street and also the German desire to be green manifesting in transporting a bed on a bicycle.

This photographs, might be marginal as we can see her face, but it is very small.  Not sure about the graphical quality of this shot,but the cigarette in each hand points to a very german vice.

Well there we go, a first stab at narrowing down to a manageable set from which to develop my assignment submission.  2 more days to go before I spend Saturday writing up my submission notes and sending in this assignment.  Then I will do that very Bavarian thing and enjoy a liter mug of beer or two and a large piece of a pig.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Assignment 5: Epiphany

Finally!  For the past few weeks I have been working on this assignment without really understanding the end point.  I was creating photographs with a linking theme, but slacking a way to tie them together that meant something to me.  Without that I risk a muddled statement at best, pictorial drivel at worst.

First the definition of Epiphany from  Wiktionary

  1. A manifestation or appearance of a divine or superhuman being.
  2. An illuminating realization or discovery, often resulting in a personal feeling of elation, awe, or wonder.
  3. (Christianity) Season or time of the Christian church year from the Epiphany feast day to Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent (See Epiphany).

Number 1 is very unlikely to apply to me unless you count seeing a man dressed as Spiderman in the department store the other day.  Number 3 is long gone, even the special beer is no longer available.  That leaves Number 3.  

Following is the German law for photographing people:

Recht am eigenen Bilde 
Bildnisse dürfen nur mit Einwilligung des Abgebildeten verbreitet oder öffentlich zur Schau gestellt werden. Die Einwilligung gilt im Zweifel als erteilt, wenn der Abgebildete dafür, daß er sich abbilden ließ, eine Entlohnung erhielt. Nach dem Tode des Abgebildeten bedarf es bis zum Ablaufe von 10 Jahren der Einwilligung der Angehörigen des Abgebildeten. Angehörige im Sinne dieses Gesetzes sind der überlebende Ehegatte oder Lebenspartner und die Kinder des Abgebildeten und, wenn weder ein Ehegatte oder Lebenspartner noch Kinder vorhanden sind, die Eltern des Abgebildeten.
§ 23
Ausnahmen zu § 22
(1) Ohne die nach § 22 erforderliche Einwilligung dürfen verbreitet und zur Schau gestellt werden:
1. Bildnisse aus dem Bereiche der Zeitgeschichte;
2. Bilder, auf denen die Personen nur als Beiwerk neben einer Landschaft oder sonstigen Örtlichkeit erscheinen;
3. Bilder von Versammlungen, Aufzügen und ähnlichen Vorgängen, an denen die dargestellten Personen teilgenommen haben;
4. Bildnisse, die nicht auf Bestellung angefertigt sind, sofern die Verbreitung oder Schaustellung einem höheren Interesse der Kunst dient.
(2) Die Befugnis erstreckt sich jedoch nicht auf eine Verbreitung und Schaustellung, durch die ein berechtigtes Interesse des Abgebildeten oder, falls dieser verstorben ist, seiner Angehörigen verletzt wird.
And a mixture of Google Translate and help from my wife, Heidi (not a literal translation, but the meaning is correct):
Right to their own image
Images may be put on public or widespread display only with the consent of the person portrayed. If the person is paid for their image, permission is assumed. For 10 years after the death of the person portrayed, consent must be obtained from a relative. For purposes of this Act, the surviving spouse, domestic partner and children of the person portrayed must be consulted, or if neither a spouse, partner or children are still present, the parents of the person portrayed.
( 1) Without the required consent , images may be distributed and showcased if:
  1. The images are from the realm of contemporary history
  2. People appear only as an accessory in addition to a landscape or other location
  3. It is a picture of a meeting or similar event, where the depicted persons have participated
  4. If a person paid for the image to be made that image may be used in promotion
( 2) Even if permission is granted by a person since deceased, the family may still prevent publication if the photographs compromise their reputation.
The net is that in Germany it is illegal to share a photograph of a person without their written consent.  I also understand that it is illegal to even take a photograph of a person without their permission.  A quick Google brought up plenty of cases of violence towards the casual photographer. I have been rather casual with these constraints, but it is getting harder.  I am noticing a progressive increase in hostility and am really pretty fed up with it.

Hence the Epiphany! Instead of fighting the law, let's go with the law, but make that a part of my work.  As it is is illegal to make photographs of people, then absent people from my photographs, but make that absence very visible in the set.  I will tell the story of Richard-Strauss Strasse entirely through the signs and symbols that represent the people that live and visit there.  This will sadly mean dropping some photographs that do have people in them, but it will create a more coherent set of images and a statement of sorts about privacy and it's impact on artistic expression.

In the mean time I have been out and about with my camera once again this time with this thought in mind

I find this type of photography suits my mind set and sense of place in the world.  I am a bit of a loner, comfortable in my own company.  I enjoy going out with friends, but I am not a member of any clubs or societies, well not beyond the OCA community! This course has pushed so hard on the idea of people as the only subject for social documentary and I have really struggled with this.  Now I am back to Social Landscape, pretty much where I left off my Landscape course with the study of Innenhof.

Social Documentary has been a largely negative experience,but one that has taught me a lot.  Learning about your strengths and likes requires first an understanding of weakness and dislike.  I now know where my interest in photography lies and it aligns with what I can do here in Germany.  Perhaps this is why most famous German photographers create imagery on a grand scale, the intimate is basically illegal...

Next step will be to assemble a first set of 11 photographs to accompany my street views.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Assignment 5: Getting There

Not 100% sure I am really getting there, but I am making progress, getting out every day or so with my camera.  The overall idea of what I am trying to create is settling into place, a portrait of a street, exploring what it means to be German in 2014 and what signs and symbols tell us about society.  The style is landscape, but detailed landscape.  I am very much back where I wanted to be when I finished Landscape.  Work has picked up again, lurching from crisis to crisis, which is not really helping.  I seem to be in a permanent state of exhaustion which is not conducive to creative thought.

I also got the dreaded letter from the OCA this week informing me that my course time is nearing an end, that I must complete by 6 June, or in my case 18 May.  As it is the 10 May today, that means I am getting towards the end of this Assignment, whether I am ready or not.  I am still a little bruised by the lack of understanding and flexibility shown by the OCA, but I am not going to change things now.  I still get the odd, "Screw It" thought, but rapidly squash that idea, I want this degree and I hope soon that I can start enjoying my photography once more, 2 years of this course has been a misery.

This blog entry is really just a checkpoint on the photos I have been taking and a way for me to look at each critically and comment on them - it is a way of filtering towards the final set.

 This one amuses me, even the children here are deeply suspicious of photographers.  I am not focusing on people for this assignment, however, this image has some charm.

 I am always looking for highly ordered, structured scenes that conform to my way of looking at the world.  This is one.  It illustrates the tidiness of German street furniture, however, this is looking out from my chosen street so I should not really include it.

 Not sure, here.  A detail and an interesting one about a local flea market, but I think too simple even for me.

 Another shot I have been working with.  I am trying to find a way to combine the word Wein (wine) on the side of the building.  It would have been nice to have some people sitting there, but then again, that proably would have prevented me from taking the photograph.

 This is a look into the Innenhof of one of the apartment blocks lining the street.  The formed concrete is quite reminiscent of WW2 German structures, very brutal but functional.

Signs in a window can say a lot about the locale.  The problem here is that the day was too bright, I need to return when there are fewer reflections.  This has potential, although I have another similar shot that include s a house number that I think is stronger.

Happy Days - liquid lunch.  The omnipresent bicycle brings an extra dimension of fitness to the shot of two rather middle aged overweight men.

A play on words, Einfahrt (Entrance) has been subverted into Weinfahrt.  The sign points to the parking for the Garibaldi Wine wholesaler.  Another small detail, perhaps poiting to the fact that humor is not unknown in Germany, contrary to many stereotypes.

 I have been experimenting with a variety of long shots of the street, this one using a telephoto for compression.  I will use such a shot to define the structure of the street, but also to show how insanely Green everything is.

A close up of the Graffiti I included in my last post.  I think I prefer the wider shot, it makes a better statement, of the tiny blot in an otherwise pristine landscape.

Maybe a slight jibe at the fact that not all is perfect, I would not want to use a chemical loo anyway, but especially not one that looks like it is about to topple.  This may also serve as an illustration of the continued development of the area.

 The previous two images are variations on a theme.  Most German neighbourhoods will have a fruit and veg stall placed conveniently near the exit from the tube station or a major junction.  With this shot I am trying to combine the bicycles with the fruit stall to carry the healthy living message which sharply contrasts with the beer and sausages image of Munich.  People here are very active, very concious of their health, but also still enjoy beer and sausages.

Perhaps a contrast with the previous image, this Pizza delivery car points to the continual rise of convenience food.  Germans like good food, but are very much not a nation of cooks.  Eating out is cheap, but so is home delivery.  I also like the casual use of the sidewalk as a road.

I don't have an overall message here, other than that I am making progress, assembling a set of images that will be strong enough for the assignment, well they must be.  7 days to go, tick tock, tick tock!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Assignment 5: Landscape Elements

Now that I have decided to work this more from a social landscape perspective, I have spent a little time exploring the street and thinking about how the shape and position of things could help to build the narrative of the set.  This has not been easy and I am starting to worry that the subject simply might not be visually interesting enough.  Fellow students have been very positive about the strip photo, and I think this is a good element, however, I am concerned about the rest.  I cannot stress over this too much as the clock is ticking now.

I am also starting to think about a possible fall back should this simply be rejected.  Part of the problem with my deadline is that in 3 weeks I head out on vacation, scuba diving again.  I have used underwater photographs already in both TAOP and DPP, however, in neither case did I really consider the process of diving and all it entails, from a diver's perspective, but also from those who work in the dive base.  I need a couple of weeks vacation, but perhaps a mission will be fun.  I could see how a visual essay on diving could work, so maybe I have some insurance.

In any case back to the current assignment.  In the following shots I have been trying to explore how a photograph can say something about German society.  In particular, during the last year or so a number of new shops have appeared on the street, Body Kult, Naturheilpraxis, and an Immobilienburo.  All say a little about German society.  Body Kult has a couple of messages, first of all the contiued use of English to make things sound more modern (go figure) and the cult of fitness that makes the average German a good deal fitter than other citizenry of the world (my observation only).  Body Kult, is, however, one of those faddish things where they claim to be able to get you fit with 20 minutes of electro-therapy a week.  The NAturheilpraxis is the exact opposite, a purveyor of alternative natural medicines, something taken very seriously in Germany.  Finally the slow creep of the state agent has arrived.  Estate Agent offices are rare here, but growing in numbers, as people gradually shift from renting towards buying.

Each of these photos says something about Germany, but none is particularly interesting.  But maybe that is the point, this is an essay, not a glamour shoot.

Straying slightly away from the immediate confines of the street, this shot is just across the road looking back to my section of Richard-Strauss Strasse.  I may rework this to use a tele rather than a wide angle, to better emphasize the fruit stall.  The message here is again fitness, German's cycle a lot and use public transport.

The above two shots are details that highlight elements of German society.  Michaerl Jackson is very much missed, but also this shows how small adverts for cultural events are found all over.  This type of advert is never for a product, always for an event.  The second shot shows typical door furniture.  All house numbers in Germany use the same blue plaque, by law.   The plaque tells you what street you are on and the arrow tells you which way the numbers are ascending, very ordered, very practical.  The smaller sign explains who owns the building and how to contact them should you be interested in renting locally.  Details like these say quite a lot about how people live here.

I also spent some time in the side streets immediately adjoining my strip.  I am looking for images that lead the story along. Building work is continually done to improve the property, landlords have a duty and also a practical need to maintain rental property at the highest quality.  It would be very strange to find run down rental property here.  The world around is also very green, plants are continually being added and gardens are an integral part of shared rented accommodation. Even where there is no garden, people try to make one.

Vandalism is rare, but does happen, this little example about all I have seen locally.

Not sure about this one, but this van is a sign of the times as Germans begin to adopt the internet for shopping, even grocery shopping.  The irony is that they deliver until 10pm, 2 hours later than the shops are themselves legally permitted to operate.

I have odd feelings about these photos, I am struggling to understand if they are good enough.  They are very simple, very basic, but together I feel a story is beggining to form, which is the point of the set.

I am giving myself until next weekend, to complete the set.  I will try and get out to shoot every day this coming week and then work on the submission next weekend, I will then have one extra weekend to mull over things before submitting.  Maybe my diving idea is better, but my time runs out before I get back from the vacation, so in the end I think I am comitted now.