Tag Archives: RedBubble

Photography books

I’ve very excited…. shortly after my accident, I ordered some books from Neil McIlwraith at Beyond Words, and he is bringing two of the three books by tomorrow, perhaps even the third one, if it arrives before he leaves!  (He normally posts, but since I live nearby, it’s easier for us both for him to drop them off.)  One of these is the new Michael Kenna book.

And, through a recommendation on Twitter from Alex Boyd, I began to follow Deborah Parkin.  Her images are stunning: I think her photographs of children are really interesting and I want to see more of them and in more detail than a computer screen will allow (though the images on RedBubble are good to look at).  So I’m also ordering her book this evening.

On my inspirations page, I say that ‘I learn far more from other photographers’ photographs than from seeing lists of their equipment’ and so I’m hoping to do lots of learning from these books, as well as enjoy the photographs!  And at least I’ll not get too bored as my arm gradually heals…

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Thinking about colour and monochrome images

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There are some images that I just know need to be monochrome, even before I squeeze the shutter – I think that is perhaps the case for many photographers.  And if I have my film camera with me and it has black and white film in it, then I try to compose and visualise accordingly.  But sometimes I create a colour image and then come to the editing stage and find I have an image which could be either, and it’s not clear to me which one is ‘better’.  This is especially the case when I have a series of images, and I wonder if a monochrome development of one or two individual images might be good.

For example, this image of Ngoni is a case in point.  I have a number of these images of her on the bridge in the snow (in her bikini, in a dress, and in a coat), and this one seemed quite strong when converted to monochrome, emphasising her dark naked skin against the white snow and white bikini, with the bridge playing a less significant role than it appears to in the colour version (of course, that’s also an editing question).  I did eventually put the monochrome image on RedBubble for sale – and you can see a larger version of the image there – but I’m not wholly convinced this is the right one to have used.  The tones (values) of light and darkness are what make or break a monochrome image… and I find I’m not completely sure if this is quite right when examined under these criteria (and you may think this is because it’s not a particularly strong image, despite what I think!).  Of course, in the ‘old days’ a camera would have had either colour or black and white film in it, and composition and visualisation would have been guided accordingly, but in these digital days (even with scans of colour images from film), conversion to monochrome is always an easy possibility – and perhaps this makes life a little bit harder.  Thoughts on all this in the comments section below are most welcome!

And, of course, these questions apply not only to portraits… they also arise when thinking about landscapes.

I’ve struggled with this before…!

Discount on photo purchases

I’ve just sold some snowy photographs from last winter.  As previously notified on my Twitter feed, up until 14. November I am offering a 15% discount on any of the products on my RedBubble site: when you come to the ‘checkout’ stage, enter the following code in the coupon box, and click the appropriate button to reduce the total price:

MichaelMarten_is_on_sale_3058

Perhaps you want to use snowy cards for Christmas?  When purchasing multiple cards of the same size (not necessarily the same design) the prices go down by up to 30% – so by using the offer here, you can get up to 45% off the cost of your cards… but this 15% offer expires on 14.11.10, so act now!

Dalkeith Country Park, December 2009

Dalkeith Country Park, December 2009

Note that clicking on this photograph will take you to this image on RedBubble and from there you can explore the other images; or click on the first link at the top of this post.

Some reflections on representation

In my day job I have rather reluctantly found myself teaching on a course entitled ‘Global Cinema and Visual Culture – Looking and Subjectivity’ – not my specialist field at all, though I find some of the issues extremely interesting.

The first session I took was based on an essay by Homi Bhabha, which appeared at first to be saying interesting things about stereotypes and imagery, but on more thorough reading, was mostly vacuous waffle (an extremely generous statement!  I have found certain older texts by Bhabha interesting and useful, but this essay is certainly not in that category).

Thankfully, the second and third sessions are proving to be much more stimulating, and involve more substantive theoretical texts.  The themes are broadly centred on gender, sexuality and race, and are welcome new approaches to this subject material for me (Jackie Stacey and Jane Gaines being the main authors involved).  In this context, I’m also ‘teaching’ three films: All About Eve, Desperately Seeking Susan and Mahogany (a first for me, since I’ve never taught film, and actually agree entirely with Stephanie, my 2009 muse (see below!) and brilliant film-scholar friend who derides many academics’ desire to ‘teach’ film just because they enjoy watching films – my excuse is that I had no choice in the matter!).

What this long-winded introduction is leading to is a comment about how interesting I have found it to compare and think about issues relating to films/movies and the way in which these are represented, and the connection to photography and the way in which it is represented – it reminds me of a recent discussion I have been part of.  I sell my art through RedBubble, which is also an artistic ‘community’ – artists can comment on each other’s work, and there are diverse interest groups.  I recently joined a new group, called ‘Religious Architecture’.  A common pattern for many groups is to have little symbols (called avatars on RB) to mark when an image has been ‘featured’ each week.  This new group created a challenge to decide on a new avatar for this purpose.  Now I am no good at creating this kind of icon/avatar, and know it. But all of the entries in the competition bar one were of Christian churches – at the time I wasn’t sure what this last image was.  So I raised this as a concern, and questions of representation and interpretation ensued in a way I had not expected.  You can read the full forum discussion here.

What amazed me was the unreflective nature of so many of the comments.  Understandings that for me are part of the norm – that everything is political, that all images have an ideological context etc. – and that are with me almost every time I squeeze a shutter, appeared to be completely absent for most of the other correspondents, as exemplified in comments such as:

  • ‘This is a simple group of artists.’
  • ‘I am here to show my art, not to get into a religious argument because I might offend someone because I am a white protestant.’ and later: ‘You should realise that Redbubble is an ART site, and not a platform for dismissing other peoples cultures, religions, and beliefs.’ (not, of course, that I was doing the latter – quite the contrary!  It is worth looking at some of the symbolism on this person’s RedBubble home page for more clues about his attitude to such issues…)
  • ‘I don’t think most of us are thinking that deeply on the subject…’
  • and so on.

In the context of this short exchange, I was amazed that several very naive views on the place of art in society emerged: the idea that art can exist in an ahistorical and apolitical context is surely not that widespread, or am I just very out of touch with the vast majority of people?!  Even if not everyone would articulate it in this way: don’t people realise that all images are always linked to questions of gender, politics, identity, race etc., and are contingent upon historical circumstances?  For example, the image I had just submitted to this group was of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and there are clear political and religious elements to such a photograph, not least since the mosque itself and the vantage point I used to photograph it are in illegally occupied Palestinian territories held by Israel since 1967 in contravention of international law; Israel restricts Muslim access to worship, and forbids many Palestinian Muslims from exercising their right to pray there.  How can my image be properly appreciated for what it is without reflecting on the political and religious circumstances that surround it?

Stephanie in the garden

Stephanie in the garden

Or take this image of Stephanie from last summer, on which I have recently been carrying out some post-production work.  This photograph is undoubtedly about voyeurism, the male gaze and even quite overtly, sex… Stephanie’s closed eyes, her pursed lips, her naked shoulders, the tight necklace (actually a bracelet!), the playing with her hair, and her stretching are all elements in an explicitly sexualised pose, emphasised in various ways by the way in which the photograph has been taken and then processed.  These elements reflect a certain dynamic between the model and the photographer: there is undoubtedly a sexual tension here, and although this was obviously ‘just’ a photograph, there is an awareness of all the complications that result from such an approach.  You, the viewer, act as voyeur with me, her photographer, as Stephanie exposes more of herself than she might normally do – questions of responsibility, ownership, permission etc. arise (see also this posting).  I have been hesitant about making this image public for precisely these reasons, and have only done so after showing it to her.  Yes, she likes it, and yes, she is happy for it to be made public, but it is still a revealing image, one that communicates gender and sexual identity issues in a very overt way, as well as telling us something about the trust and openness in the relationship between photographer and model.  Awareness of and reflection upon such issues is something I take for granted, but clearly, if the sample of photographers commenting on this RedBubble page is anything to go by, I am in a minority.

And yet, the place of conscious reflection on imagery, whether in a film such as All About Eve or in still photographs such as the two I have mentioned here, is so vital to appreciating and comprehending what we think we see.  There is much that can be read into and derived from an understanding of the signifiers in an image, and to ignore this is not only to perpetuate ignorance, but also to deprive oneself of the further delights that an image is offering the viewer.  Sometimes this will jump out at you (as with the image of Stephanie – partial nudity, sex!), and sometimes it will require context and interpretation (as with the Mosque – occupied beauty).  Not only is such an understanding conducive to assisting in the appreciation of the image and the values it represents in the first place, but it also gives us insights into the photographer, her or his subject, the approach, the relationship between photographer and model, and so on.  And this, in turn, is about being aware of our own place in the world as conscious human beings.

I find it sad – and even rather frightening – that awareness of such issues does not seem to be important to some who engage with photography and artistic creation in a serious way.

 

New images – not quite online

I came back from Jerusalem a few days ago, having been working there for three weeks.

Returning to Jerusalem was a great experience, but it was also an incredibly busy time.  So although I have a longer posting in mind about my own mental processes regarding photography/art in situations of conflict, I have not had time to craft anything properly.  I haven’t even managed to post many images online.

Some new photographs are on my website – at the moment just one gallery documenting one demonstration – though I plan to add more soon, when I have time.  There are a couple of images on RedBubble, however.

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli-Occupied East Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli-Occupied East Jerusalem

The next few weeks will be very busy for me at work, but I’ll return to this rather neglected blog sometime soon…

Displacement activity

Having ruminated on time in my last post, I’ve been ‘spending’ time on fixing up my website. I felt it had all become a bit disorganised, and since the primary purpose is to show off photos, these had not received the prominence they deserved. So this evening, instead of doing the tedious job I was meant to be doing, I worked on the tedious task of making my website prettier! For the kinds of things I do, my art needs to be accessible to anyone who might want to ‘consume’ the art. So I put all the galleries into one place, and also took the opportunity to add a RedBubble widget to the main page. The rest of the site is better now too.  As am I.

Reflecting on my images

Jane, reflective

Jane, reflective

The main resource for viewing my images is presently my own website, but over recent weeks I have been adding more and more images to my RedBubble page (incidentally, this is also one of the reasons why I have not been writing here, though there are things to write about).  RedBubble is used for exhibiting and selling all kinds of visual art (and to a certain extent also literary works) – a kind of upmarket version of other photography sites.  In adding my images to this site, I’ve found myself editing some of them again, cleaning up and sorting minor problems, whether they are landscapes or portraits.  I’ve also rethought some pictures that I haven’t shown before, such as this beautiful colour version of a portrait of Jane I’d previously only shown in black and white – I now prefer this version.  It’s an interesting process: engaging with photographs that were taken a while ago, and thinking again about how they can be improved/best shown.  With both landscapes and portraits I find myself re-engaging with the emotions at the time they were taken – the mood of the time, the intimacy of the relationship with the model and so on (by the way, I’m now drafting a longer reflective piece on this theme which I intend to finish sometime next month).

For a while now I’ve been meaning to re-organise my website, and thinking about this reflective process is one of the factors that spurs that desire on: I think I want to show fewer images, and I want to update the ones that I have recently re-edited.  I just need to find the time to do this… a long journey somewhere with no distractions would be ideal, but I expect it’ll be mid-January before I get that (I’m going to the Middle East for three weeks in January/February).

In the meantime, please take a look at some of the art I’ve added to RedBubble – until the images on my website are updated, you’ll find the definite version of these particular photographs at RedBubble and not on my site.  Oh, and if you want to buy anything from my RedBubble page, feel free!!