THE OTHER FAMILY

In this identity project, I decided to capture the vintage alter ego’s of my parents with their shabby lindy hopping fashion. My mother used to be in The Military Wives Choir which would commonly perform at military associated events, some of these events would be at a number of 1940s themed events such as The War & Peace Show which had influenced both her and my father to dress up in the 40s style.

I would personally see this “vintageness” becoming a big part of my parents personality which influenced me as a photographer to capture it, in addition many friends of my parents with the same hobby had the same characteristics within themselves as well creating no difference between them and my parents. I too was interested in dressing up in the 40s style since I used to perform drama back in secondary school and pantomimes.

Visual References  

Larry Sultan

Larry Sultan grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley, which became a source of inspiration for a number of his projects. His work blends documentary and staged photography to create images of the psychological as well as physical landscape of suburban family life.   Sultan’s pioneering book and exhibition Pictures From Home (1992) was a decade long project that features his own mother and father as its primary subjects, exploring photography’s role in creating familial mythologies. Using this same suburban setting. The child photographing his parents reverses the social norm, complicating the sense of power, identity, and self-creation experienced on either side of the camera.

The photographs in Sultan’s series show the rather unspecific personalities of his parents which the photographer is desperate to further discover since he doesn’t truly know who he is. Larry had quoted that he had made a recreation of his father which would be his recognised self. When Larry was younger he had seen both a photograph of his father and himself at the same age, he always saw this comparison as himself being younger than his father. The photographer would search through movie stills, snapshots and business pictures of his father to try and find the younger father than Larry’s age from then till now.

This photography project was a collaboration between Larry Sultan and his parents and I think this documentary series had been a visually interesting journey. This visual reference has the parents as primary subjects that are creating familial mythologies, my identity project has a little few similarities with the parents but in terms of their alto ego characteristics within their changed fashions.

WALKER EVANS

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2000-2015) reports  Walker Evans is one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Furthermore, that his elegant, crystal-clear photographs and articulate publications have inspired several generations of artists, from Helen Levitt and Robert Frank to Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Bernd and Hilla Becher.

The photographer was best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression.

Walker Evans had a project named “Simple Secrets” which had included some people wearing clothing that had similar styles to the era that I and my family had re-enacted upon. Other than the clothing, I was also intrigued by the compositions of the sitters in the “STUDIO” image.

 

 

walker evans 1936

DOROTHEA LANGE

dorothea_lange2

Dorothea Lange was best known for her chronicles of the Great Depression and for her photographs of migratory farm workers. Like Walker Evans, she had also created for the U.S. Farm Security Administration (FSA) investigating living conditions of farm workers and their families in Western states such as California. Most of the workers had come west to escape the Dust Bowl, the lengthy drought which devastated millions of acres of farmland in Midwestern states such as Oklahoma.

Since there were many images of rather depressing portraits since the photographer was well known for capturing The Great Depression, I needed to find some photographs that were a little more visually relevant to what I have been trying to create myself. Eventually I encountered these two images.

The photograph of this classy gentleman chilling on bench in 1936 and a smiling shabby woman standing outside a café in Richmond Virginia. The man wearing the hat would remind me of my father since he likes to wear a similar hat but with a coat while my mother would have the similarities of the furry coat and dress since she has owned these types of clothing in her wardrobe.

Lastly, I had come across a photograph by Dorothea in 1938 of J.R Butler, The President of the Southern Tenant Farmer’s Union in Memphis, Tennessee. From my visual perspective, his pose and facial expression would remind me of myself looking more casual and honestly less happier or cool with the vintage style since I personally wasn’t as passionate as my parents.

JIM NAUGHTEN 

Naughten (2015) quotes

“Every summer thousands of people from all over the world
gather in a Kentish field and leave the present firmly behind.
They step out of their routine daily lives and transform into
historical characters from the First and Second World Wars,
often with such vigour and obsessive attention to detail that
its hard to imagine them in contemporary settings. Taking
on a different name, identity and sometimes even a different
tongue, the role players re-enact battles and drills from an
imagined past. It is something more than acting, a collective
fantasy played out on a massive scale”.

“Photographed against a plain background in a portable studio,
the re-enactors seem to gaze beyond the viewer in to another
time. Their uniforms and costumes are precise in their detail,
but the artist confuses our perception of what we are seeing.
The time and space are ambiguous and this disconcerting
effect gives the viewer the feeling that they are looking at
both the past and the present simultaneously. Naughten tells
us nothing of his sitters;’ lives, nor does he express a view
on their activities, but raises questions about collective
perceptions of history and our own relationship with the past”.

Naughten’s novel re-enactors (2009) states that photographer “August Sander in comparison represents the straightforward image of a specific person and is said to reveal something of the soul of that person or in the case to represent a stereotype of a profession such as chef, postman, policeman”. Naughten’s (2009,2015) portraits would invert this equation by deliberately providing the audience with not the real person being photographed but of people pretending to be others from the past which would be around the years of both the first and second world war which would be the protagonists chosen characters who are stars in their own inner dramas. These re-enacting portraits being shot against a neutral backdrop strips all the context away and leaving just behind the uniforms and facial expressions which are the key points in the photography’s presentation or appearance.

Mark Rappolt who describes ” The face out of Time” cited in Naughten (2009) captures people who he claims balance a fetish for historical accuracy,  with a appetite for fantasy that enables that person to take on the guise of someone else. It is his view that this is their attempt to keep history alive.

5_12 JN5_7 JNMilitary_Odyssey618Military_Odyssey1434

The photographer has developed his production in a studio with a plain background while I have developed my photography in the natural spaces of my house and some vintage events. The subjects have defiantly got their similarities in style such as the soldiers and the civilians. I was glad that my family’s wardrobe had the same styles & colours as the other clothes on the re-enactors within the photography by Jim Naughten since this part of my development shows more visibility of visual referencing unlike the photography of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange since the two photographers use black and white in their eras.

The facial expressions of the models haven’t been quite as jolly my parents since most of them have an emotionless face which probably connects with the costume they are wearing, while my mother for example would act like she is enjoying herself in terms of her being prepared for an event. Jim Naugten’s re- enactors would play their role while being photographed as well as my parents but perhaps with different things going through their minds in terms of the interesting acting, my parents are lindy-hopping civilians while Jim’s people are more war based which looks rather more intense and less friendly.

FASHION IN THE 40s (mainly America since lindyhopping originated in that country)

19403Autumn-Styles-in-1947-500x345

Paul Phipps (2015) quotes that “Fashion in the 1940s was a good mix of comfort and glamour. There were specific outfits that were meant for specific times of the day. Some of their designs look downright modern even by today’s standards”

Paul Phipps (2015) also argue men’s suits, ties and hats were common in public while women wore dresses and skirts however, they still didn’t wear slacks yet. In addition to the women, they mostly wore were a pair of gloves that matched their outfit. Fur was very popular, as were animal skins. Crocodile purses, wombat collars, lambskin lining, and leather sleeves.

The blog Old School Fashion – Men of the 1940s by Lauren Shoff from America’s Best Racing quotes that “by the end of the war, America saw the development of the style that is most often associated with the swing era. Clothes were full-cut again, and shirts and coats came in a wide range of colors. Hand-painted silk ties were worn by men who wanted to express their individuality. A man’s accessories became a key to their style as single-breasted jackets were taken off to dance and celebrate. Ties were crucial, and cufflinks and suspenders became popular. Almost every man wore wingtip, spectator shoes, and the wide-brimmed fedora was worn by everyone from gangsters to the president”.

WHAT IS REENACTMENT?

Vocabulary.com defines re-enactment as “a restaging or recreation of an earlier event. History buffs do reenactments of the Civil War, where men grow bushy mustaches and pretend to shoot at each other with muskets.” as an example. In further explanation, “To enact is to do or make something, and to reenact is to do it again. A reenactment is the action of performing a new version of an old event, usually in a theatrical performance. If you’re interested in history, you might enjoy watching a reenactment of a major battle or speech. In a reenactment, people try to get the details as close to the original as possible. Doing reenactments is a hands-on way to learn and celebrate history”.

WAR POSTERS AND BACKGROUNDS

With a theme in relation to the 40s, I thought it would be a good idea to inspect a couple of war posters with their styles and colours, the famous “We Can Do It!” poster was one of the most colourful posters I came across, the other two posters had rather more plainer backgrounds, one looks like a poster that had been around for a long time which effects the print making it turn more of a brownish colour and the other is white for some focus on the details of the clothing.

MY DEVELOPMENT

These images have been my starting points, with this vintage style photography idea in mind I had looked at what clothes to wear, who I am photographing and location or background. these key elements have been randomly played around with for a search of a starting point that is strong enough for me to establish an actual photo-shoot that would importantly connect with the characterisation I am trying to represent in terms of how things have changed in my life and family.

DSC_0074DSC_0086DSC_0218DSC_0229DSC_0260

When inspecting these images  I had definitely seen how I have developed towards an image that would stand out in character. The backgrounds have been very challenging to find and use in terms of this theme, but like most key points about portraits with having a sitter speaking for itself with its face,clothing ,pose etc., I had ended up focusing on my sitters and myself which would show the viewers not only just a picturesque picture of a person doing their hobby but also the imaginative character within that real character being photographed which may not have one answer, but answers in terms of what a viewer of the photograph might think. The plain background would allow the viewers in doing so in terms of the format or there would be a distraction behind the characterisation. With the military uniform in a plain background, I as a viewer ignoring the background would be inspecting the detail of the clothing just like I did when coming across  the details in the war posters with clothing, and other aspects.

MY IMAGES

DSC_0258 (2)DSC_0270DSC_0303DSC_0308

In final development, the reenacting had its moments captured on camera while further interpretations were discovered unexpectedly, the format of this drama was not planned before the shoot, so I and my parents had to ideally develop many elements that were in relation to the 40s. Planning before shooting in terms of this may have improved creating the photographs dedicating to the past, but these photographs had interestingly and ambiguously ended up creating vintage identities also portraying the peculiar and curiosity, I would look at these images knowing I had used the 1940s as an inspiration… but who have I captured?

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Larry Sultan Bio [Online] Available from: http://larrysultan.com/bio/ [Accessed 13th December 2015]

Sultan, L. (1992) Pictures from Home. New York: A times Mirror Company.

Retrowaste (2015)  Fashion in the 40s  [Online}  Available from: / [Accessed from 13th December 2015]

http://www.americasbestracing.net/en/the-latest/blogs/2013/06/2/old-school-fashion-men-of-the-1940s/

1940s Fashion – Fall Suits for 1947

Naughten, J. (2009) Re-enactors London: Hotshoe International

Jim Naughten (2015) Re-enactors [online} Available from: http://www.jimnaughten.com/project/Re-enactors_intro [Accessed: 13th December 2015].

The History Place. (2008) Dorothea Lange Migrant Farm Families [Online] Available from http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/lange/ [Accessed: 13th December 2015]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2000–2015) Heilbrumm timeline of art history. [online] Available from: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm  [Accessed: 13th December 2015]

Vocabulary.com (2016) Dictionary Definition: Reenactment [Online] Available from: http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/reenactment [Accessed: 9th January 2016]

 

 

EVALUATION

My inspiration came from Larry Sultan and Jim Naughten, Sultan took photos of his parents while Naughten took images of re-enactors, something that my parents both enjoy. The two approaches combined offered me an excellent opportunity to further develop my skills. I had come across images of family or couples which had poses with emotionless faces that covered up the real characters.

Overall the photography had curiosity in terms of unclear poses and facial expressions which creates an ambiguous meaning instead of just having 1940s clothing, the answers to this eccentric drama remains a mystery, I thought at first this was criticising, however in further inspection, The series rather developed more interesting images in the respect of the photographs expressing anonymous interpretations for viewers to depict on.

My feelings when developing this project were thrilling since I was combining both the hobbies of photography and re-enacting into one project, this may have had worries in terms of struggling with the cameras technical side, but honestly had been very enjoyable to perform on.

The camera settings were challenging to control, mixtures of sunlight appeared every few minutes which made me constantly tweak the camera to improve the exposure. However, the positives in this project were the creative skills of re-enacting of I and parents, my mother had creative knowledge as much as myself to ideally perform poses and facial expressions which I found beneficial because it built bigger opportunities of capturing photographs that were strong enough to be final images, however my father was finding his acting more difficult and the only solution that worked for him was characteristically posing with my mother.

When analysing, I learned throughout my development. I was at first focusing on the 1940s style in terms of clothing and some acting that would narratively fit it, but the acting part in development was a struggle for me, however, new interpretations were discovered and would support the photograph which may have been curious, but leaves the viewers to spend more time to investigate the acting instead of only seeing one narrative.

I could have worked harder to create better images with my father, he was more of a lindy hopper than an actor in clothing, so something that was related to the 40s dance could of been a bigger opportunity for me to capture my father being more of another character. As for the soldier, I also could have had the same representation as the one of the final images along with my father. With the camera, I could have tweaked with the ISO settings more than mostly using the white balance.

I would definitely use the ISO more to improve the exposure on some occasions in the photo-shoot, I also would of got my mother and father to try on more costumes as I was the only one to try on the most costumes, my persuasions towards my father wasn’t as clear to him, so perhaps a little more thinking and planning in terms of possible ideal actions for my father could of been further developed.

 

 

 

THE CLASS OF ALBERT EINSTEIN & JOEY ESSEX

albert-einstein-mechanics-1

In this image of Albert Einstein, the photographer has captured some of the key elements to enhance the person’s identity. The facial expression shows him looking upwards giving the appearance of deep thoughts or concentration along with the black and white layout that bonds with it, it could be argued that he is looking into an unknown space. His hands have been placed in a certain way almost if they’re a prop, this pose represents an intelligent person, and in contrast an image of somebody scratching their head for instance would portray somebody who is unsure of themselves.

His clothes and hair indicates how he feels about his visual presentation to the world as a human being despite his social class, he wishes people to see him as an intelligent, creative, thinker who would prefer to listen to him rather than what he looks like.

Joey Essex

In this image of Joey Essex, the photographer has captured rather different elements to enhance identity in contrast to the photograph of Albert Einstein. The purpose of the photograph being taken is more recognisable in terms of the photograph being on a magazine open to the public, the character being portrayed is a physically glamorous looking man that is proud of his body as he has no shirt on similar to a peacock showing its feathers to attract females.

The prop being held is an aftershave for men which would influence magazine customers to find and purchase the product so to emulate him. The angle of the face looking downwards with the eyes looking at the camera represents confidence within the model as the touching of the product against the chin persuades the viewer that he endorses the product.

IMAGES

http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/style/articles/2012-03/13/joey-essex-gq-style-photos/viewgalleryframe/4

http://www.spaceandmotion.com/albert-einstein-biography-pictures.htm

 

THE PORTRAITS OF RINEKE DIJKSTRA AND CLAUDE CAHUN

Physical Likeness of Rineke Dijkstra:

0410-034 003-A

Rineke Dijkstra is a Dutch photographer born in 1959 who is well known for capturing her subjects in moments that are both self-conscious and unwittingly revealing. I will be focusing on this style from the artist within her commercial beach images in 1992.

These beach photographs were taken in many countries such as America, Britain and Poland, the subjects were young teenagers in their beach swimwear, the photographer basically planned not to specifically speak towards these young sitters, but to make them break out of their characterisations and become a form of physical likeness within their feelings of awkwardness. The subjects adopt a standing pose more or less of their own choosing before Rineke would take the shot with her 4×5 inch camera.

I was interested in this uncommon way of photography since I would usually see the beach as a happy place while Dijkstra’s photos of the beach are rather used as an un-distracting background to create a large amount of focus on the subjects that express what Rinkeke Dijkstra is capturing for her project.

It would have been a little more extra special if I saw this exact photography in different environments since the sitters can become this form of physical likeness in other places than beaches such as the cities for example which I thought would be a good recommendation because other people in the background showing their characteristics while the main person or sitter would have no characteristics will show an interesting comparison.

Characterisation of Claude Cahun:

claude-cahun

Claude Cahun was born in 1892 in Nantes, France, her artwork encompasses writing, photography, and theater. She is most remembered for her highly staged self-portraits and tableaux that incorporated the visual aesthetics of surrealism that express her from being a Jewish lesbian to another random character or person. Cahun has dressed up as many types of characters such as the opposite gender of a man, a doll, a fairy and other religious icons.

The Don’t Kiss Me The Art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore” (2006) quoted that in the 1920’s Claude Cahun’s narcissism photographs suggest that her rejection of traditional femininity went beyond that pursued by the fashionable New Women of Paris. These self-portrait photographs not just show stripped feminine garbs, but also with Claude’s shaved head which is an extreme version of the close-cropped hair of the New Woman. Sometimes, the artist’s aim seems not to have been to affect boyishness, but to strip herself of gender characteristics altogether in pursuit of some core of self.

I personally was interested in one of her most famous self-portraits taken in 1927 which was a photograph of herself with creative makeup on her face and the shirt with the text saying “I AM IN TRAINING DON’T KISS ME”. This is because that she was creating a combination of both a changed person and thought provoking mystery prompting questions to be asked. I would describe her appearance as a clown, not for the sake of comedy but for the mixed gender and surreal performance that would make viewers asked those prompted questions.

References  

TATE. (2003) Rineke Dijkstra: Artist’s Talk Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/rineke-dijkstra-artists-talk. [Accessed: 13th November 2015]

Michael Fried “Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before (2008)

Don’t Kiss Me “The Art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore (2006)

 Images

Rineke Dijkstra at the Guggenheim til the 8th October

http://courses.washington.edu/femart/final_project/wordpress/claude-cahun/