The idea of physically manipulating a photograph in some way so as to produce a new image was something I hadn’t done since the days of long hours in the darkroom. My early attempts re this involved hand painting black and white images.
Cutting or tearing a photograph seems to be a technique used by many artists and others glued cut out photos onto other photos to create their new image. All manipulations appear to have been tried at least once by someone. The work of John Stekazer, Melinda Gibson and Jerry Ulesmann were three who work appealed to me most.
For my manipulation I wanted to try and stay within my two running themes, the impact of the modern world on the environment and myths, tales and legends.
For my initial feedback session I had merged two photographs and digitally cut out one so the other would show through.
In an attempt to find buildings other than churches that would be more recognisable and add a context to the image I focussed on fast food outlets. These ‘modern’ buildings of glass and plastic and their garish signs, normally in red, yellow or both, have been appearing all over the world and many at places where tourists come to see historic landmarks.
On a recent visit to the Great Wall of China, an iconic landmark of world wide proportions, I was dismayed to see a series of fast food outlets at the base of the hill, most prominent being a Sub Way. These outlets were within view of the Great Wall and carried the name of this landmark in their bill boards posted throughout the ‘tourist’ village which you have to pass through to get onto the wall. The entire atmosphere of the trip changed as we trudged past Sub Way, a burger bar, pizza and so on. Its not that I object to places to eat at these tourist spots but their signage is so garish and bright and attention demanding that the actual charm and beauty of the place was lost. Every tourist attraction we went to in China had the same outlets leading up to the entrance.
My first idea therefore was altered to look at fast food outlets cutting out the buildings and signage and replacing this with an idea of what was there previously.
On a trip to the Yorkshire Dales recently myself and friends made our way to Gordale Scar, an impressive gorge with a waterfall forming part of the route up. The site had been ‘managed’ in that a neat and tidy footpath led the way from the road to the waterfall. Convenient for less able tourists, an eyesore to me as it just didn’t appear natural in the stunningly beautiful landscape. Walking back to the road we found a mobile café had arrived while we were at the waterfall, towed by the impressive Landrover Discovery parked next to it. Again I don’t object to the idea of a place to stop and have a drink but mobile ‘burger’ vans at beauty spots are viewed by me as the thin end of the wedge which if unstopped will lead to perhaps “Gordale Scar sponsored by KFC or McDonalds”. In fact I am very surprised that the big chains haven’t yet created mobile versions of their fast food outlets invading every tourist spot on the planet.
So I modified the cut out idea. A beautiful landscape sponsored by……. the test image below should give you the idea, but I ask “IS THIS A WORLD YOU WANT?”
Hand colouring black and white photographs
Another idea I wanted to pursue was hand colouring black and white prints . The website below contains one artist’s method of hand colouring black and white photographs and although they are simply landscape shots lacking any real concept or meaning they are pleasing to look at.
Bob Keefer’s work is subtle giving the feeling of an early Victorian photograph or daguerreotype Some example of his work is below. Although the subject matter is not exactly what I’m trying to develop the method used in colouring the photos is one I’d like to try.
Researching this technique there are several techniques used from photographic dyes to watercolour paints. Each medium suggests the use of an absorbent photographic paper such as fibre based. Resin coated shouldn’t be used as it doesn’t absorb the dyes easily and can lead to blotching. With only a couple of fibre based images at my disposal printed about 15 years ago, I need a session in the darkroom to make some more prints to use. Key to the final image’s success though are quality images to use. While the basic concept for this version of the assignment is still being developed, taking more photos maybe counter productive as I still have no real plan on what I need.
My one attempt so far.
One angle I am exploring is tribal art. Many ancient civilisations, such as Native Americans, Mayans, Aztecs Maori’s and several African tribes used face art in their ceremonies and rituals. Even our European ancestors the Celts were renowned for their use of the blue dye – Wode applied to the whole body before going into battle.
Using black and white portraits my idea is to hand paint the tribal design appropriate to the style of the sitter. For example a man dressed in a business suit and tie could be described as a leader. His face make up would therefore be based on a tribal chief. A person in uniform such as a traffic warden would be painted in a warrior’s war paint design.
There are several source books I’ve found for the designs, namely a couple of National Geographic publications and a book on Maori Art. Additionally works by Sebastião Salgado and Jimmy Nelson both show tribal face designs.
Sebastião Salgado image
Jimmy Nelson image