Tag Archives: OCA

Arles: After War

This is a genre with which I struggle all the time. I really do not see the point of going to a place after something momentous has happened there. However Arles managed to make some sense of this genre for me.

I started with Don McCullin as I knew that later in the day this exhibition would be thronged. I was rewarded by being one of only a couple people in the Eglise Ste Anne.


I was also happy to find that the “After War” in this exhibition refers to where McCullin sees himself at present. Much of his early work was done around Spittlefields in London, before he became a war photographer. There were a number of images of a homeless woman called Jean and many homeless Irish men. What I found shocking was that much of the work was created while I lived in London at the end of the 60’s and beginning of the 70’s. For me it was Swinging London..

mccullin_2 mccullin_1

There were several shots of Palmyria, Syria. These were made in peacetime, long before there was any trace of war.There were many dark brooding images of Somerset which, apparently, McCullin made when he returned from war torn regions.

Jan Morvan’s work Battlefields was, for me, a real After War set of images. He photographed places where war had taken place back as far as the 12th century through the American Civil War to North African wars and on to the modern central European wars. Morvan is a Parisian who used to work as a photojournalist. In 2004 he decided to abandon the action fields and to concentrate instead on making images of places where war had happened. The work took ten years to complete and ranged over many centuries and many countries. After war, the blurb says, nature once again becomes the imperturbable mistress of the place. Maybe it is still too soon in Misrata….


The Siege of Misrata

I did find Morvan’s work thought provoking principally because it was so wide ranging and the whole question of why we never learn that war causes massive destruction but often changes little.

Alexander Guirkinger’s exhibition, Maginot Line, is a series of the almost hidden and often unnoticed traces of the Maginot line which was constructed in the 1930s around France’s borders to protect the country from invasion by neighbours. Guirkinger photographed the traces from above, not entering any of the remaining tunnels of underground spaces. I felt this was a mistake and the resulting images lacked attraction. His IR image did not speak to me. However the images of fortified houses were eerie and interesting in their way.


Alexandre Guirkinger


Dominic Nahr

However I was still asking why After War has become a genre in photography. Have we lost the guts to participate as witnesses in war? Only Dominic Nahr showed real war images in Arles. I went to his ‘walk around’ and was moved almost to tears by his passion for South Sudan and its warring factions. He traveled with one of the rebel groups and explained the difficulty of photographing war. But hearing him tell his story  of this fledgling nation one could almost smell the horrors of war.

Looking Back at the Media’s Image of September 11, was my next After War exhibitions. Although this was marked as an exhibition where there were workshops, I was unable to catch any of these. I was especially interested in this group show as I had recently completed my essay on Joel Meyerowitch’s Aftermath on Ground Zero. I became even more excited when I saw that the artists here included many names that I had researched in my OCA work.

The theme of the work was “How  short a time the horror of images lasts”. This is becomming more evident with the continuing terror attacks.

The first artist exhibited was Hans-Peter Feldman with Front Pages. hans_peter_feldman_1It was interesting to see how a professional put together this exhibit. I had stuck front page images from a couple of newspapers in my learning log… Feldman worked in, what I would consider, a Germanic manner. Dozens of newspaper front papers were sourced and photographed then the front pages were lined up like soldiers on the wall. I lost inerest after the first ten….


Adam Broomberg and Olivier Chanarin, whom I had met (virtually) in my research had a single image in this exhibition. I found it interesting but a little too playful to express the enormity of the tragedy it represented. However on reading the blurb, which I did after viewing the image i understood a little better what the artists were saying. The blurb read: reduced to simple cubes these ‘American targets’ are transpositions of data based on an image analysis code the photographers designed. Each colour and size matches a resolution, colour or distance from the subject. The analytical grid is based on the New York Times front page dated 12 September 2001. The forms underscore the reality gap between the effects of weapons of mass destruction and those who remote control them like a video game. The shift to a schematic world recreates the prospects for a critical voice in a increasingly precarious society evoked by these obviously flimsy colour cubes.

jojakim_cortisBeside the above image was JoJakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger’s work. They according to the label on the piece borrow famous media images to recreate scenes from contemporary history, in the studio, taking care to leave the constituent parts visible. A double immortalisation of the facts, their work is a stage where the set outside the shot suggests the multiple ruses, modern techniques allow. I found this image surreal. I kept asking myself why would anyone go to all this effort to recreate a tragic scene. The work involved and the end result were extremely interesting. Maybe this is the ‘value’ of such work. Another work in this genre was that of


fontecuberta_1Joan Fontcuberta,  another artist known, virtually, to me so I was anxious to see his work. As an ex science teacher I feel I have something in common with him. He reworks images using software to make montages, collages and all kinds of counterfeit documents. The image he created, using free photo mosaic software, made use of 8,000 images he found on Google. The words he used to search Google were extremely interesting: God, Yahweh and Allah. I loved this work.

dress_front_pages_DSC2531Thomas Hirschorn claims his work is a way of connecting the unspeakable to the abstract. I am not sure what exactly he means by this phrase as the mannequin was anything but abstract but presumably the abstraction is in the fact that the figure has nor had nothing to do with 9/11






Jean-Paul Curnier

But the most impressive installation of this group exhibition, for me,  was the work, Breaking News, which involved banks of TV screens on which was playing reports from the 11th September 2001. It was electrifying. The space was only a couple of meters square with these floor to ceiling screens blaring out the news. That well worn phrase ‘lest we forget‘ came to mind. I have made a short video which I am converting to put on Vimeo.


Back to Arles




Assignment 5 Diary: Constructed realities and the fabricated image

8 April 2016

Just received fellow student Chloe Chalk’s collaborative video on Spring time where you are. I was happy that I took part as so few students did.

Got my assignment 4 sent off. So now to assignment 5…

Am still thinking about alternative bacteria images but am getting no where….

The students of Visual Arts, here on the island, are setting up their work for their final assessments.

10 May 2016

Off to see Highgrove garden in UK. May meet Prince Charles!!! No camera as Aer Lingus have a 7kg restriction on baggage…. Will keep eyes open and reflect on things. Uo at 7 a.m. to mow the grass after two days of torrential rain and intense heat.

20 May 2016

Back in Ireland after a fairly traumatic week. Highgrove shut due to flooding and little alternative offered. Family problems so Highgrove seem incidental…. Grass coming in the windows on return, rain coming down in sheets, no possibility of mowing…

So it was on with my research. Read masses about Gregory Crewsdon. Jury is out on his work. He gives me the creeps as a person but I don’t have to like with him, just research his work…

23 May 2016

Spent the whole weekend visiting the exhibits of this years graduates of the BA Visual Arts degree course held here on ‘my’ island. I have written a review of the show.

24 May 2016

I made some video material of the student show which I will need to edit before using. This resembles cleaning the oven for me. I keep putting it on the long finger – but I WILL get there. I need to buy an idiots guide to editing videos. Too many people have never bought this book and their video material reflects it!!!

Amazon have informed me that they will refund my money for the book Aftermath as it has never arrived. The outsourcing shop they used apparently sent two copies but these have never arrived – maybe they are coming by Royal Mail donkey….

31 May 2016

Worked all yesterday on research for assignment 5. Really enjoyed it. Have written it all up but need to organise the sub posts. Hoping to go to the Grayson Perry exhibition, here in Maastricht, today. Childminder doing the minding today so grandparents have a day off!!!.

6 June 2016

Did my recording for this assignment with Terry Farnell, another photographer who lives on the same island as me. He is a very reticent guy but he agreed to do this and I found it very interesting. He understood what I was trying to do as he had studied for his degree in Photography. I then wrote it up later that night after a couple of hours had elapsed. I found it interesting as I feel my memory is suffering as I get older.

I now want to re-read all the work done up to this point before I set out on the final assignment. I will use my physical log to set up story boards and to try to assemble my ideas. It is all going round in my head at the moment.

Had an opportunity to try to advance my “Unseen” images this weekend. It is one I would rather not have had but nonetheless one always has to be open to opportunity…. My husband had to go to the local hospital on Saturday due to a fall in the garden. His arm was badly bruised and cut and since he is on medication it bled copiously. While we were there I asked the nurse if I could photograph her cleaning and applying the bandages. I felt this was a perfect bacteria image. i want to find some newspaper headlines about bugs in hospitals to add to it…

7 June 2016

Managed to set up a Skype with Chris Coekin, my tutor. It was very useful and good to put a face to a name.  He had no serious issues with my essay. He agreed to advise when I was ready to submit encouraging me to defend whatever decision I made on presentation. The whole experience was reassuring.

He asked about what I intended to do for Assignment 5. I outlined what I had in mind. I told him I needed to put various options down on paper before I could decide on whether to present this as a video, a single image or a sequence of images.I also discussed my limitation with lighting, living as I do on an island. He encouraged me to record all my efforts and to include these.

10 June 2016

I had hoped to do some story boards for my upcoming constructed image(s) while working in the craft shop yesterday.. No chance I was crazy busy. This was good since I work on commission… I am thinking of roping in my son who will be visiting for the weekend and is about the age of my bassoon player when I first knew him. My son is also a whizz with projects – nothing is a problem.

13 June 2016

The weekend came and went and only got to make a couple of  photographs of my son down at the abandoned caravan. The rain hardly stopped long enough while we were at home…..

Decided to check out weather forecast for tonight looks reasonable. Will have to use husband disguised as he is a bit old for the part!!!! Bur he is willing which is great. Grandchildren were fascinated by the idea….

Need to get down to the site during the day and strim down the grass which is now as high as the windows of the caravan. My tutor thought this will  add atmosphere but I need space to place the tripod and lighting.  Am getting excited about this. Have been apprehensive up to this.

Will do some story boards today.

14 June 2016

Great fun last night setting up my “Making it Up”. We rolled out three extension leads from our electric buggy park down the road to the site of the abandoned caravan. Got my husband dressed up in a black top and my black bonnet. Used my big garage mechanic’s light and brought some LED lights. Took some shots and a couple of videos. I have collected all I have made into one file now and had a brief look at it all. The task of getting something out of it is a bit daunting  But I have ordered iMovie, the book, from Amazon. Let’s hope that it comes, not like, Aftermath, which never came. They refunded my money. I decided to order directly from Amazon even though it was more expensive. Secondary outlets seem to be the problem.

Weather behaved more or less as it had been predicted in the forecast. Some rain but generally OK. Windy…

Garden open to the public on Saturday and Sunday so that is keeping us very busy too. With changeable weather we have to keep running in and out….

15 June 2016

Reading up about editing videos. Am a bit confused but will get there. Updated (or updating at the minute) my iMovie. Unfortunately I need to update my whole system to get most recent version. Will do this after I backup.

16 June 2016

I found this video this morning which might be fun to try with my caravan. in the moonlight.

The weather is lovely at the moment so it will be no hardship to be out and about in the night. just need to check the moon – full or otherwise.

Have ordered 10 x 15 cms paper for small prints

Am checking my videos of the caravan to see which pieces I want to use. I will try to make about 2mins. I wonder if I could have the soundtrack of Summertime running in the background since it was the bassoon player’s music partner’s great song…. Have to think about how to do this. I will use my physical log to note down which few seconds of which videos I want to use and try to work out an order. This will save time and avoid too much confusion when my IMovie book arrives.

19 June 2016

Yesterday dawned bright and sunny. I even had my breakfast in the garden at 7.30 but by mid-day the rain was hammering down. When it rains no one travels to an island no matter how interesting the day might have been……. And it was an interesting day. “Sherkin Creates” saw all the artists studios open to the public and a general exhibition of the island crafts in our Community Hall.

The Open islands continues today but the weather looks very un-promising. So I intend to spend the day reviewing my videos and images for my Assignment 5 as I wait for garden visitors… I have created thumbnails of the images so far and I have 15 video clips some of which I will just bin. Then I will go through each and try to pick out the bits I want to use. i will note the point on the video and note this in my physical diary. Then I will work out in order where I want to use these clips to make a story. I will review the still images and try to see where these will fit into the story.

Then hopefully my iMovie book will arrive tomorrow which will guide me through the process of creating a meaningful video. I will keep it short and sweet in order to try to keep the quality high.

The project seems daunting at the moment but exciting too….

Have now printed my thumbnails and reviewed the first 9 videos. I have selected the seconds I might use.

When I finish I will try to make sense of the sequence and slot in some of the images…

Wonder how I will add sound to this work???

21 June 2016

My book did not arrive but I finished reviewing the video snippets. Asked permission of the singer to use her song as soundtrack – no reply as yet.

Could not go out at the summer solstice last night as my husband was sick – some sort of a bug and he is totally flattened this morning – poor man. Maybe try tonight if he is feeling better,

There is so much deciding to do that I am happy that the book has not arrived. I can gather my thoughts and try to arrange things on paper.

22 June 2016

Got the singer’s permission to use her music. Book arrived and I am deep into it.

25 June 2016

Learning how to transition from one clip to the next. Hope I can make it professional as at the moment it is anything but. it is so frustrating as I have the whole thing in my head but actually achieving it is not so easy. i would love to have a video expert sit beside me for a half a day. The whole experience is a deja vu for me. My father was an amateur film buff. He spent hours splicing 8mm film together. I can remember the smell of the gum he used – I found it intoxicating. He was a very impatient man except when he was working on his film.

Now to work and try to cross fade my clips. I have managed to add an image and done a Ken Burns effect on it. I am quite pleased with that.

I also want to convert the figure looking at the bike into a phantom

26 June 2016

Well the bike figure is a dead loss – so I will leave it out. I got my cross dissolve transitions in and realised they were too short so learned how to increase the transition time. Am on the chapter “effects” but need to resist the temptation to introduce any of these – I thought about sepia for the ‘photo’ on the bed but think it might be kitsch.

Re-reading my ‘story’ about the caravan I think I might have to leave out some of my favourite clips and stills as they are a bit irrelevant. I will look again at what I have made so far and see how it ties to the ‘story”

28 June2016

Got the video to a place where I am satisfied (sort of…) with it. Then wanted to add the audio. First attempt was a dead loss. Got up at 6a.m. so that there would be less surround noise while I ‘voice’ recorded the song over my video. Had a few attempts and got something which was ok.

Then the fun started. I tried to upload to Vimeo. Three attempts but would not upload. realised my screen was going off and this seemed to cause the uploading to stop. Changed screen to stay awake. The video uploaded. But then I could not get it to playback. I have checked online to try to establish why this is happening. No joy as yet. i have a neighbour who is a video expert but he is on holidays so I did not want to ask him. However I will try once more and then I might capitulate….

Found a solution online. Convert the file to Mp4 and then got a freebee software to compress it. It took 2.5 hours to upload but plays great.

Sent it off to a few family members and friends to see what they think… My son’s reaction was typical “could do better”……. But I really appreciate his honesty and he is a techie…. July 2016

29 July 2016

Have been thinking, for some time now, of how to re-do my video. First step was ot get a friend to record “Summertime” from his CD player. I now have a clean copy on my machine. I am about to set off and take stills to use for my new video. Unfortunately it is not foggy this morning. It was beautiful yesterday but had to go to work…..

4 August 2016

After much time and reading I reworked the video and now C&N is finally almost finished. I still have to change some images in one assignment but I know what I want ot do so C&N will be put to bed…



The BA Visual Arts Degree Show: Sherkin Island

This BA degree in Visual Arts is an outreach course funded by Cork County Council and the Government and directed by the Dubin Institute of Technology. It is a full four year university degree and takes place on Sherkin Island off the south west coast of Ireland. It is the only outreach degree of this kind in the country and has been running for many years.

The idea of the course is to give students, especially islanders, who missed out on a university education when they were younger, the chance to return to college to pursue a degree qualification in the arts. Because of their diverse backgrounds the students bring a wealth of talent and experience to this course. Space is limited; a maximum of twenty students can be enrolled every two years. The competition for places grows year on year. The resultant standard is extremely high which was again reflected in the quality of the work presented by the 2016 years student’s degree exhibition.

Seventeen 2016 students have submitted their final projects and their work is on exhibition over two days on Sherkin Island. The students present their work in various locations around the island from the 14 century abbey, the Islander’s Rest Hotel, the Community Hall, private homes, the headland and a renovated barn reputed to be the oldest, intact, building on the island. This exhibition, which is open to the public, is the students’ first experience of their ‘art’ professional lives. About a thousand people travel, by ferry, to the island to visit this exhibition. The 2016 exhibition is entitled Uncover.

Because of the nature of the degree course and the unique location the work presented is very diverse.

I was unable to visit every student’s work so apologise to those whose work I was unable to see. Only one graduating student among those I visited had concentrated exclusively on Photography. After a career in IT, Jean Dunne, prompted by a love of Sherkin Island, decided to enrole in the BA Visual arts degree course. Having had her camera gear stolen in her twenties she abandoned photography and only returned to the camera as she progressed with her BA degree. Her work is original and very professionally presented.


Jean Dunne

Much of the work is concerned with conceptual art. I have rarely been so moved by work as I was by that of Lesley Cox. She investigates the connection we all have to the uterus.


Lesley Cox


Lesley Cox

Brigid Madden’s work was also deeply thoughtful


Bridget Madden


Bridget Madden

Other work, which I found outstanding, was Imagination-Emigration by Philomena Smith. The work represents this idea by linking Philomena’s life in the textile industry to her sense of misplacement or not belonging. Since the work was presented under red, blue or yellow light, photographing it was very difficult.


Philomena Smith

Detlef Schlich’s work, also struck me as very professional. It is a film installation in three parts. The work is concerned with developing an alter ego. He told me the work is to be found on YouTube:

Lucy Cox’s work is concerned with environmental, political and spiritual elements.

Lucy Cox

Lucy Cox

The amount of effort that the students had put into their projects was impressive. I was interested to hear where the students were thinking of taking their work after graduation. Almost without exception the graduating students wanted to continue their studies. I found this quite extraordinary and wondered if it was connected to a fear of “letting go” and accepting the fact that they were now qualified. One student, Deidre Buckley-Cairns, bucked this trend. She had already secured a number of commissions for her stained glass work. She was also planning several exhibitions. Her final project was concerned with the connections between colour and memory. I photographed this in a Howling gale the night before the exhibition opened officially to the public.


Deidre Cairn

She was one of the nine students selected for the RDS Visual Arts Awards long list. The RDS Taylor Art Award is a cash prize of €10,000 and is awarded to the person the judges believe to be the most promising emerging visual artist in that year – See more here.

Some of these students will make it to the short list which will enable them to take their work to Dublin for a very prestigeous exhibition in August.

Research Point: Cindy Sherman

MOMA acquired all sixty nine images in the Untitled Film stills 1977 – 1980 by Cindy Sherman. Fourteen of these images can be seen here. (1) which gives a good idea of what is contained in the entire series. Sherman was only 23 years old when she started to make this series. It is about the female stereotypes of this period in the US. Because of the power of publicity and the influence of the US, especially at that time, these stereotypes were typical throughout the developed world. I was a young woman in 1977 so I can totally empathise with these images. They are almost painful for me to look at even though I know Sherman was acting the parts. The images are, for me, totally convincing and painfully realistic.

Following the Untitled Film Still series, Sherman was  Invited by Artforum to design a portfolio to be reproduced in the magazine, Sherman set out to exploit the centerfold format. (2). With the help of costume and lighting Sherman creates this series of porn magazine stars, using herself again as model. The format is large and her ‘constructed’ image fills the frame resulting in images which make us uneasy to look at. It is as if we are taking a sneaky look at the porn magazines on the top shelf in the Newsagents.

Sherman’s more recent series Society Portraits,  dating from 2008 when the photographer was 55 years old, are about how the rich age or more correctly how they try not to show age. (3) Sherman again uses herself as model and with the aid of theatre makeup she creates these grotesque aging women. This is a theme which interests me greatly. I understand what Sherman is saying with these images but I am still  revolted by them. I love the lines which time paints on aging faces. I find them a lot more attractive than the clownish makeup which some aging women paint on their faces. But I guess this is the whole point of Sherman’s work.

What is significant about this body of work is that Sherman has been able to metamorphose into these various characters and to make them totally believable. Although we know that these are not real people and the situations are fabricated, we are still strongly influenced by what we are looking at. This is the power of good constructed work.

  1. MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1997 | Cindy Sherman | Untitled Film Still #14. 2016. MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1997 | Cindy Sherman | Untitled Film Still #14. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1997/sherman/untitled14.html. [Accessed 22 May 2016].

    2. exhibit-E.com. 2016. Cindy Sherman – Skarstedt Gallery. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.skarstedt.com/exhibitions/2003-05-01_cindy-sherman/. [Accessed 22 May 2016].The Guardian. 2016.

    3. Cindy Sherman: Older and wizened | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2009/apr/22/cindy-sherman-photography-art-exhibition. [Accessed 22 May 2016].

P5: Research Point: Gregory Crewdson

Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14]
• Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
• Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
• What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

There is certainly a lot more to this work than aesthetic beauty. Crewdson is a very complex character and he brings much of this complexity to his images. He has an idea in his head which seems to be a composite of very intense feelings which he then choreographs, with the aid of a huge team and very elaborate lighting. Nothing is left to chance. The result is indeed aesthetically beautiful but completely manufactured. In my opinion this detracts from the resultant images. There is no spontaneity and I ask myself “What is the point of this work”? As Chrissie Iiles, Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art,  says of Crewsdon’s work (1) it is cinematique. One then has to wonder why Crewdson does not make films continuing and expanding his images into a movie. It would be really interesting to get to the core of what is behind these images. In a recent interview (2) Crewsdon admits:

We’re in discussions right now in terms of the possibility of making a movie — a Hollywood film. It might happen. It might not happen.

Crewsdon is the son of a psychotherapist so he was reared in an atmosphere of therapeutic analysis. He wanted to follow his father footsteps and become a psychotherapist but his dyslexia prevented him. One wonders is he trying to carry out an ongoing psychoanalysis of certain staged situations. A kind of “What if…?” situation. He says in an interview (3) he tried to make a projection of the stories he might have heard when he pressed his ear to the floorboards above where his father was interviewing clients. He seems to have been deeply influenced by his fathers work and to have carried this into his images. One wonders if his own inner soul is as tortured as his images infer or if, for him, it is the final aesthetics which matter.

Crewsdon’s work, for me, is not psychological  it is too staged and too cinematique. I would find a scene where natural or limited lighting was used, more disturbing.

My main goal in making images is to try to create something which will stand out in whatever genre in which I am working. I rarely succeed but the point is to keep trying. So if I was working in Psycho dramatic type images I would be working towards much less staged scenes. I would be even more pleased to come across an actual scene which appeared to be, or was, sinister and to photograph this. I think the end result, if the quality was good, would be more convincing but probably a lot less aesthetic.

I would have no problem with making beauty my main goal but then what is beauty? It is defined as:

  • concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.
  • a set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement
  • the philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place:

In the end beauty is in the eye of the beholder….

  1. YouTube. 2016. Gregory Crewdson’s Photography Capturing a Movie Frame | Art in Progress | Reserve Channel – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be. [Accessed 20 May 2016].
  2. Ken Weingart Photography and Art Blog. 2016. Ken Weingart Photography and Art Blog. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.kenweingart.com/blog/interview-gregory-crewdson/. [Accessed 20 May 2016].
  3. Vimeo. 2016. Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place on Vimeo. [ONLINE] Available at: https://vimeo.com/49665029. [Accessed 09 May 2016].