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Week 4: Free from the Apparatus?

This weekly topic was discussing a relationship between the human and his apparatus. How can we free ourselves from the apparatus when doing photography? Is it still going to be photography after all?

The first activity: We were supposed to find an example of a photographic image not made by a human, then share and discuss: is a human truly not involved?

These were my thoughts: Responses of my peers were various, however had one thing in common – everybody agreed that the human involvement is inevitable. A few examples I found interesting: Satellite images or Google street view are good examples as well as number plate recognition camera. No one personally take the photographs however, they are all set up by humans to capture the photos. A few other people talked about camera traps, too. Another peer of mine also mentioned a scanning electron microscope, presenting a very detailed image of a bee. Apparently the process was all automated and the only thing he did was press the ‘start button’. I found the images quite impressive as they are showing details that human eye is unable to see. It is not so different than a satellite image from that perspective – somebody commented on that.

The second activity: We were expected to produce a mini-series of five images relating to our research project, without using apparatus that is familiar to us.

I decided to do a virtual tour through my boyfriend’s game because the setting is a beautiful castle with gorgeous surrounding. The castle represents a perfect place I would love to use for photography in real life. However, finding such a place is very unlikely.

Owen Evans, Cubeo Other people got very creative with their approaches. My favourite posts were scans of roses – they were really beautifully done.

.. I spent hours scanning roses trying different methods. Lid closed, lid open, darkened room, daylight lit room..

Another great post was a few ‘landscape’ images that are lumen prints.

‘Mitchell argues that landscape is best used, not as a noun but as a verb ‘to landscape’..

.. B&W photographic paper is exposed to the sun and whatever is placed on the paper leaves a trace or memory of its existence. The materials placed on the paper create a reaction with the chemicals in the paper which can produce an array of colours the longer the paper is left out. To fix the images I scan them. If they are left in the light they will continue to develop and become a ‘living print’..

I also really liked someone’s photographs taken by a pinhole camera made of a beer can! In terms of using untraditional apparatus there are a few other artists worth mentioning, too: 1) Nine Eyes of Google Street View is a project made by Jon Rafman.

It is both an archival project and a conceptual meditation on the state of photography in a time of automated image making on a massive scale.

In 2008, Jon Rafman began to collect screenshots of images from Google Street View. At the time, Street View was a relatively new initiative, an effort to document everything in the world that could be seen from a moving car. A massive, undiscerning machine for image-making whose purpose is to simply capture everything, Street View takes photographs without apparent concern for ethics or aesthetics, from a supposedly neutral point of view. 2) Abelardo Morell has invented his tent camera – a device that utilizes a periscope-like optical mechanism that brings nearby views directly onto whatever ground is beneath the tent. show how the immediacy of the ground we walk on enhances our understanding of the panorama, the larger world it helps to form. I wanted to find a way to make these well-known views of familiar and iconic places into my own private discoveries. - Abelardo Morell

The resulting photographs are a mix of image and texture. The image is that of a common scenic view; the texture, however, is derived from the land itself, the very spot where one stands to experience the scenery. The ground cover – dirt, tocks, grass and sand – typically lies at the onlooker’s feet, ignored in favor of the vista. Morell, conversely, ties the ground to the scenic view, transforming the geology of the landscape into his canvas. - Jamie M. Allen, Picturing America’s National Parks (2016) 3) Miroslav Tichý was a Czech photographer with an unusual photographic device.

He took thousands of surreptitious pictures of women in his hometown using homemade cameras constructed of cardboard tubes, tin cans and other at-hand materials. Most of his subjects were unaware that they were being photographed. A few struck beauty-pageant poses when they sighted Tichý, perhaps not realizing that the parody of a camera he carried was real.

His images question the reality and its imitations. He is particularly interested in the virtual universe, by enactments, the false and the double. In the coded universe that is the video game, his incarnation prowls the virtual space not like a gamer, but like a photographer.

The photographs are not traditional images made with a camera, but screen shots of computer renderings that capture landscapes and portraits. When the images are on display in a gallery setting, he frames the work and shows them within thick white mattes that art photographers have used since the inception of the medium, furthering our assumptions and expectations about seeing art photography. I appreciate the new approaches of capturing our surroundings. In today’s world when almost everybody is an owner of a camera and has at least a basic knowledge of taking photographs, it is necessary to come out of the comfort zone and experiment in order to discover new and unique ways of creating.

Am I free from my apparatus?

No, I admit it. In my practice of a self-portrait photographer I actually have to use two devices in order to take photographs – one is my camera and the other one is my phone which I’m using to remotely control the camera.

How am I not just another ‘button pusher’?

In my opinion, being a self-portrait photographer is not a very usual way of doing photography. It is more difficult as I have to take over two (or three) roles at the same time – the photographer, model (and assistant). However, it gives me complete freedom in terms of what to shoot, when, where and how.

To keep my work fresh I experiment with different props, which are either created by me or they are casual household items. I also try new approaches in terms of testing the possibilities of my camera and making deliberate ‘mistakes’ - I play with over and under exposure. I also like blurring the scene and subject by slowing down the shutter speed. Or I create a variety of effect by getting ‘unwanted’ objects close to the lens as they add the photograph different textures.

My other favourite way of experimenting is distorting the light by placing props in front of its source. Depending on what outcome I’m aiming for I use a variety of items – glass creates glitters, fabric adds textures, plants enhance shapes, etc. I even achieved a great effect by lighting up a colander.

These photographs are examples of my experimenting.

Lucie Nechanicka, 2019-2020

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