Informing Contexts – Week Seven

Speaking Photographically

Considering the Trilogy work of Daniel Gustav Cramer this week has helped me formulate my ongoing work in my head some more.

For me, it is his comment that his work uses a concept as a starting point but it becomes ‘an echo of its own voice” is reassuring. I have been struggling of late to determine the disparate content of some of the images that I create. They may not at first seem to link together or have anything in common but through editing choices and an idea of how they will be viewed will no doubt assist in the process of clarity.

Cramer’s work feels to me as if it has been created without a prescriptive formula yet they work together as an outcome as they are linked by a lack of human imprint; they show everything and nothing – they reveal and conceal.

When I first saw some of these images as single photographs, my mind was perhaps confused by their flatness, yet some offered a little more intrigue.

In each component there is an image that appears to offer a door to more information. Or at least the opportunity for the viewer to make up a story. Photographers whose work has this element within it appeals to me.

I have always adored the work of Henk Van Rensbergen. Images that give that sense of the place having never been touched by humans or of the ghost of their being have always intrigued me. Rensbergen introduces his latest work No Man’s Land with the text: One second after midnight, somewhere, sometime in the 21st century, mankind disappears…

The subsequent images are beautifully lit and feature an array of named animals. Hermine makes my heart ache, while Madame Delvaux makes me unsure whether to laugh or be nervous. They all have that sense of foreboding delivered in books such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy or in films such as I am Legend.

And as Cramer’s Trilogy, although they are not ‘flat’ they are initially confusing – what do they mean, why are the animals there, what has happened, who will help, do they need help – they work in a way to mesmerise and build a craving for more. With Rensbergen’s work, I would suggest that they would be able to stand alone as individual images a little more readily than Cramer’s – I feel this as Cramer’s images work best for me as a set, they have more power when working together. And this means his choice of edit is even more crucial to the success of the work. In a 2010 Klat Magazine interview with Chiara Parisi, she wrote that the complexity only really appears once one comes across several of these works together and I would agree. Charles Darwent went on to reflect what he calls a 21st Century philosophical crisis of faith at the heart photography in Cramer’s work – he finds this through the way the images “tease us by offering, always and at once, a pair of equally plausible choices: abstraction or representation, depth or flatness, a human author or a mechanical one”.

Woodland ©Daniel Gustav Cramer
No Man’s Land ©Henk Van Rensbergen

This helps me think about my own choices of where and how to disseminate my work. Rensbergen’s work is part of a wider photographic group through Snoecks 2017, a limited edition photo book, while Cramer’s work has been exhibited widely attracting much comment. Did both achieve what they set out to do?

It is the work of environmental photographer Mandy Barker that provides a context that could be akin to my own work. Speaking about the intent of her work she says it stems from a childhood interest in photography and time spent along her local coastline where, as time went on, she began to discover plastic and manmade debris, and she describes it as making her want to share what was happening with others. It is very apparent that scientific fact underpins the work she creates, and she collaborates with scientists globally on her projects. In her artist statement she describes this as “essential to the integrity of my work”. This is the same for me. When I create images that comment on an environmental issue, I need to have based my ideas on facts and as with Barker’s work, the resulting photographs may not be documentary records of human impact (as more like Burtynsky) but they will lead the eye and intrigue the mind. What I like most is her awareness and willingness to adapt her work for a wide audience – to draw people in – without losing her self in the pictures.

My own practice is continually informed by history, particularly the early photographic endeavours with anthotype and cyanotype process playing a big part in how I make work. Philosophically speaking, my practice is an evolving reflection of my thoughts at the time but in relation to my topic, which can seem pretty heavy, I aim to imbue a sense of optimism and belief in humankind – it is in our nature to survive and if rethinking the impact we have will do this then that is a positive step. Economics has a major influence on my broad subject matter; many environmental problems are caused through business-related endeavours and the ethics of those do not always sit comfortably with me. These topics are forever shifting my ideas.

But when considering how and where my work can be disseminated and consumed, I am pleased to already have a commission to visually interpret a new piece of software that can aid farmers to support bumblebees. This software is currently being piloted in Cornwall and to help share its story I have created artwork for an exhibition but have also created postcards of some of the artwork so that people can help disseminate my work and that of the project further. Media coverage will support the sharing of this and additional workshops are planned in future.

For my practice, with its focus on environmental issues, it is collaboration and educational events that I believe will play a major part in how I share my work in future. Add to this online, books, galleries, magazines, science journals/organisations, social media, talks, residencies, festivals, workshops etc. I aim to continue to research traditional and more unusual settings to share my creations.

References

Klat Magazine, Chiara Parisi interview with Daniel Gustav Cramer: http://www.danielgustavcramer.com/infotxt.html [accessed March 11, 2017].

Charles Darwent: http://www.domobaal.com/exhibitions/41-07-daniel-gustav-cramer-01.html [accessed March 11, 2017].

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