I have started to experiment with the idea of throwing the focus of my images, which is something that I started initially for my Informing Contexts WIPP (Fig: 1). What I have found in the black and white landscapes that I am applying this to, is there is a kind of flatness to the image. Uta Barth refers to her work being about the image themselves (Barth, 2012), in that her shallow depth of field forces the viewer to consider the surface of the photographer as much as trying to work out the content that Barth has photographed (Fig: 2). In the book ‘Art and Objects,’ Graham Harmon noted this in the chapter ‘The Canvas is the Message’ (2020, pp. 83-110), which is also in reference to Marshall Mcluhan’s ‘Medium is the Message’ (1967) suggesting that it is important to analyse the medium that the content and ‘message’ is being presented and its impact on the concept. As Harmon discusses on Clement Greenberg: “For the most part, Greenberg was fixated on insisting that content in avant-garde painting must signal awareness of the chief feature of its medium; flatness” (2020, p. 85). And this is an observation that seems to be shared by David Campany when he discusses the work of Robert Rauschenberg (Fig: 3), stating: “here, the flatness of the canvas was emphasised, as opposed to the deep space of realist pictorial illusion” (2020, p. 106).
There is an acknowledgement here that the material has its role to play in first the construction and then the reading of it. By reducing the depth of field and visual information the outcome is as much about the medium as the objects depicted, which in turn can place the photographer into the scene. The awareness that this is a photograph by the image moving further along the spectrum of indexical, which highlights the influence that the medium has over the outcome.
Where I find it useful to experiment with is how I find my connection to this place continually tenuous. It is also a useful method in exploring where the countryside starts to become urban, which is something impossible to photograph as a clearly defined thing. The blur creates its own boundary that I can hang these ideas on.
Throwing Focus Experiment outcome 19/10
I am quite happy with the way that these have turned out. There is a quality created by the blur that makes me want to investigate the contents of the image much more (ignoring that I know already). Although I enjoy these images and like the short series that it presents, I am still unsure on how they might fit into the wider narrative. This is potentially a personal challenge as I still find it hard to remove the iconic element of the image – I just want to focus it. That said, this was shot in a location that I have created work before, and that work might be considered tried, tested, even derivative of imagery seen before, so this is a useful way of breaking that kind of image making.
Additionally, I have just started reading ‘Edgelands’ (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011), which was recommended to me by both Colin and Andy during a couple of my webinars. The book is becoming revelatory to the way that I have been approaching my project and consider what I have been looking for in my landscape work. As a result, I am considering working more with the type of image that I created for the last module wipp, and really refine my approach to look at and explore some of the concepts presented in ‘Edgelands.’
Not to discount the throwing focus experiment however, just that presently there does not seem to me a way of constructing my narrative using these disparate elements, which I am keen to avoid owing to some previous WIPP feedback for Informing Contexts.
Barth, U., 2012. Light, Looking: Uta Barth [Interview] (22 March 2012).
Campany, D., 2020. On Photographs. 1 ed. London: Thames and Hudson.
Farley, P. & Symmonds Roberts, M., 2011. Edgelands – Journeys into England’s true Wilderness. London: Vintage.
Harmon, G., 2020. Art and Objects. 1st Paperback ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.
McLuhan, M., 1967. The Medium is the Massage. Paperback ed. London: Penguin.