Category Archives: Black and White

Uncanny

I really enjoy photographing strangeness. An exploration which has carried on from my architectural dissertation on “Uncanny Spaces”, where I explored the mental spaces of my childhood. Spaces which were not of delight but of terror.  I mapped these rooms as part of my spatial history (included in this post), trying to capture the emotion I felt while occupying each room.

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Studio work space where I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.

 

Growing up in the Philippines, there were certain areas in the house that really got to me. I felt as if these spaces were alive. The Philippines is predominantly a Christian majority with a strong belief in spiritual beings, the good and evil kinds.

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10 Commandments mixed with the all seeing eye.

 

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Extended threshold of fear. The main circulation core where doors face a stairway which leads to the ground level. Limited light created dark spots and areas. A large mirror was located on the stair landing which evoked phantoms.

 

 

Stories of creatures and spirits are a big part of the culture and the feeling that I shared my home with phantoms were visceral experiences. I should perhaps elaborate on what I define as a home at that time. I lived inside a catholic school compound where I spent most of my childhood playing and going to school. During day time it was a blast, student’s and teachers were about, filled with activity and life. But as school finished up and the large compound with lots of empty rooms became silent, the atmosphere changed. It was not uncommon to invite the local priest to come and bless the school.

 


 ‘Dark is the hour!’ ‘Aye, and cold.’
‘Lone is my house.’ ‘Ah, but mine? ‘
‘Sight, touch, lips, eyes gleamed in vain.’
‘Long dead these to thine.’

Ghost by Walter de la Mare


 

 

 

I linked this back to Sigmund Freud’s essay “The Uncanny”. One that stems from the definition of  the German word “Heimlich” which translates to homely in English. He goes through its etymology by using two 19th Century dictionary’s and also looks at it’s use in literature. In particular the Grimm’s fairytales and highlights the literary definition of Heimlich ultimately changes to that of “Unheimlich” / unhomely.

 

In essence the home that is secure, safe and familiar can be viewed as something that is private and unknown.

 

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Kitchen Window looked out into a dark corridor. All I could hear were people talking, footsteps etc.

This unknown morphs into the mystic and unseen becoming unheimlich or Unhomely. This blur, liminal point is that which is Uncanny.

Heimlich (a) Familiar                 Unheimlich (a) Unfamiliar

Heimlich (b) Secret                   Unheimlich (b) Revealed

The strangely familiar. Freud’s essay goes onto giving examples of fantastical tales which evoke the feeling of Uncanny, from Automaton’s to doppelgangers just to name a few.

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Portal – The large mirror placed on the stair landing always brought fear that one day I see a reflection of the unknown inhabitants.

Anthony Vidler also explores the Unhomely in his paper “The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely”, specifically focusing on the Architectural unhomely aspects of the uncanny. Vidler uses Edgar Edgar Allan Poe’s “The fall of Usher” as one of the Haunted houses as an example and describes the uncanny arises from the “normality of the setting” and the absence of overt terror” resulting in a “disturbing unfamiliarity of the evidently familiar”. Poe’s description of the blank deteriorating walls and its lifeless eyes for windows makes us identify with our own mortality and the ultimate effect of time to all things.

Textured and green corridor
Textured and green corridor

 

I find photographically I am drawn to these sort of spaces. From gritty alleys, to desolate abandoned places were Urbanex photography arises. Two years ago I came across the term “Thanatourism” which according to good old wiki is “Dark tourism (also black tourism or grief tourism) has been defined as tourism involving travel to sites historically associated with death and tragedy.” Urbanex I think is the photographer’s version of this fascination, as we break into abandoned mental asylums or take photos of models in run down place filled with grafitti.

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My last year’s trip to the Philippines again reminded me of the type of rawness I grew up in and which I identify with whenever I see a dark gritty alley. The textures, colour, decay, and use is like a patina over the buildings.

 

 

Light Leakage
Light Leakage

 

I do find these sort of images in Australia albeit much more difficult. I shoot and post a range of images but these sort are  the most personal to me.  The next images are all shot here in Australia. Thanks for reading. Hope I have not scared you guys off.

 

 

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Incarcerated

 

 

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Bodies

 

 

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The Beautiful People

 

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

 

 

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Photography Book: Andre Kertesz Paris Autumn 1963

I have began my collection of photography books and thought it would be nice to write about the things which I have observed and learned.

I will start with Andre Kertesz, Paris 1963.  I purchased the book after a recommendation from Bristreet to have a look at for Kertesz high POV and superb shadow work.

The book gives a bio on his journey as a photographer. He was born in Hungary, but moved to Paris to pursue his dream as a photographer and became quite successful. A move to New York would prove a challenge as he did not like the constraints of commission work thus quitting after sometime.

When he finally returned to Paris in October of 1963, he went photo crazy. In 2.5 months he shot 1500 negatives and about 300 colour slides!! That is like digital gunfire albeit expensive.

I can understand his eagerness, imagine how liberated he would have been, like a bird free of his cage, able to finally produce things he wanted.

The photographs are a selection of his black and white work taken during the 2.5 months. I immediately notice his keen eye on geometry and lines. Interestingly we get to see his process as a photographer. The images presented have a thread as we get to see his journey, finding different angles, subjects and pov to shoot whilst on the same place. Landmarks repeat which indicates his exploration of the area he is photographing in. He particularly uses trees as a foreground element to frame his subjects as can be seen on the front cover of the book.

I find life can be felt in his images. Those everyday moments but crafted with his curious eye. Something we all do as photographers, it is almost reassuring. I find them quite nostalgic and have very much enjoyed the book.  I think I might devote an entire roll of film with the aim of trying to shoot in the manner of Kertesz. If anyone is interested you are more than welcome to join me 🙂

 

 

 

Curiosity

I got into film photography out of curiosity. To see the grain, its limits, and to slow down the pace of my digital machine gun fire.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

I regret not doing photography as a subject in high school as it taught the basics of film as well as developing. But I probably wouldn’t have learn much as it may not have been in my interest. I drew alot, did art in high school and afterwards chose architecture as a profession under the guidance of my art teacher. Intuitively I put the two things together, I liked to draw, architecture is about drawings and making so it must be a perfect fit. Fast forward to where I am now, and it could not be further from the truth. The creation is there, but the creativity not so much unless you work for a “starchitect”.

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In essence it is an office job.  Dress shirts, pants and shoes minus the suit jacket. One stares at a computer screen for 8 hours drawing lines, emailing and so forth. Sometimes there are site visits and check ups but not often.

Thankfully I found photography as a form of creative release. Jumped into analog after 1 year of digital and have a love hate relationship with it.

I had to relearn patience. I dislike the cost aspect of it but why save money on things I do not want to do. I am frustrated on the average quality of the images when compared to the masters but that only keeps me going.

For the craft and understanding that we must put in time, as did the pioneers of the medium.

 

One Fine Day

I red somewhere that going for a walk in nature mentally relieves us from the stress of work. Pairing that with the desire to shoot more film during my lunch hours, I started to take the Canonet with me to Kings Park as it walking distance from my work place.  The park which is apparently the biggest park in a metropolitan area at 1,003-acre, compared  to Central Park in New York City at 778 acres. However its peripheral location from the City disconnects it and a freeway further isolates it from the City unlike Central Park which is very much part of the New York City experience.

Although most of it is just bush on my side of the park (the monuments, views and restaurants are on the either side) I was drawn to some large trees that have been damaged by bush fire. There are probably more interesting finds if I go off track, but is currently not allowed to let the vegetation’s recover.

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Grass recovery was in progress at some point which I found amusing.

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On another note, I have began the culling my work on the flickr account. So far I have culled 150+ photos but there is so much more to go. The goal is to have 12 max photos per my previous years of shooting, ie. a photo a month constraint and 4 photos per month, or a photo per week post. Perhaps even limiting the posts to purely street work.

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How disciplined I am on the posting regime is a whole different story. I have already posted two entries this week on the blog when I wanted to post one a month. It is in hope to get a much more critical objective view of the work, to sit with it for sometime. Rebecca Norris Webb speaks about letting the work speak to her, trusting that her work is much smarter than her own logic. Letting intuition be the guide. I found this very much intriguing. Perhaps most photogs dream, but wouldn’t be nice to be a fine art photographer. Hopefully one fine day.

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Under The Bridge

Under The Bridge

I have developed and scanned quite a number of rolls over the last month and have realised a number of things while shooting and reviewing the work.

1. The 40mm focal length of the canonet gets alot of the foreground. Much more care needs to be considered when shooting as the foreground can dominate much of the frame.

2. 35mm focal length will be much harder to use.

3. I would like a separate light meter as my camera lies to me and tells me it cannot expose the scene when it can when I shoot manual by accident. It would be nice to know exposure intuitively.

4. I crop too much during post. I dont like that. Which goes back to number 1.

5. Maybe I am better suited to shoot with a 50mm.

6. I like colour.

7. I think too much when I shoot. The camera is not yet an extension of my eye. Moments appear then disappear. By the time I realise there was something there, its too late.

8. I wish I could direct people.

9. I hope to get use to rejection when I do ask for permission.

10. I dont know my creative process.

11. Frustration is part of it all.

12. I want to shoot more and more.

13. I suck at self editing.

14. I want a Rollei 35 SE

15. I want a leica

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