Part 3 - Research

Noémie Goudal - The Geometrical Determination of the Sunrise

I know it's not a very good study practice, but I've visited quite a lot of exhibitions during the time that I was working on People and Places and never got round to write blogposts around them. I would put the information leaflets in a plastic bag with the intention of writing posts later on, which never happened!

Now that I'm concluding the course, I went through my little plastic bag and found the folder of Noémie Goudal, The Geometrical Determination of the Sunrise. I don't remember where I've visitied this exhibition, nor what the images looked like, so I Googled it and remembered them again. Goudal's images are compilations of real and constructed landscapes and buildings. She will take a photo of something, print it out and construct it in an other place to create a different landscape with it. Through this you get a distorted idea of reality and the boundaries of nature and man made structures intertwine. 

Goudal uses a wide range of techniques to construct her landscapes, from digitally composed stereoscopes to photographs made with film. All her images have a very deserted look about them, houses and structures that seem to have lost their purpose and have sort of submerged in their environment.

"In the construction of my photos, I'm interested in creating a new perspective within the context of the image, by blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, the real and the invented. I've asked myself how it might be possible to enter the perspective of an image by offering a half-real, half-artificial landcape" (from folder from the exhibition somewhere, sometime in 2013)

I find myself really drawn to these kind of 'constructed realities'. Minkinnen does the same, but alters the landscape by means of his own body and Escher is able to construct reality in such a way that it becomes impossible to understand but still tangible as a reality. I would like to explore these concepts more and start experimenting with it as well!

Referencing: 
Marcelis, B. (2014) Noémie Goudal - the geometrical determination of the sunrise at filles du Calvaire, Paris. Available at: http://www.edelassanti.com/news/60/ (Accessed: 14 December 2015)

Guy Tillim

My tutor suggested I looked into the work of Guy Tillim, a South African photographer who mainly works in Africa. Starting out as a photojournalist, his work has shifted from news photography to a documentary style. I listened to an interview in which he explains his view on photojournalism, whether photographs are ways to be a witness of a situation, how photographs are always taken out of context and put in a completely different context and that it is therefor impossible to know what kind of an effect an image will have on its viewer.

I found it very interesting to hear Guy's opinions, especially having photographed in an African country myself and having struggled with the meaning of my photographs, the messages I want to bring across, or don't want to bring across. Looking at his work, I see a lot of similarities in the things that interest him and it's fascinating to hear what triggers him in his work. Here are a few quotes that stand out most to me:

"I tried to make a portrait of the city (Johannesburg), but after 6 weeks of photographing in the streets I realised how absurd that notion was. The impulses of a city can’t be captured by anything."

"One needs to narrow its focus to, hopefully eloquently speak about something and then maybe, enter some truth. And I think that’s the only way to go. There’s no reason why in photography, we shouldn’t narrow our options."

"One shouldn’t ask oneself to many questions about what one’s mission is. I mean it should be personal, you should be some kind of curiosity, because that’s the only justification for being there in the first place.there’s no way you can say, well, I’m here as your witness to the subject these times, it’s too arrogant to say that"

"You want to somehow honestly see things. Not just look, but see… What you achieve with your pictures is not really up to you, actually. I mean you make the images and then they’re sort of out of your hands."

"You can’t perceive everybody as victims, because then you’ll come up with some sort of prescriptive idea."

I like Guy's open mindedness and realisation that as a photographer, you can't come with preconceived ideas, just curiosity and photograph what you see. Looking at his images I can sense his open mindedness and recognise the idea of showing the renewed function of old colonial buildings.

Exhibition: Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s Ponte City

On my trip in Paris last year I visited the exhibition 'Ponte City' at Le Bal. This exhibition displays images, documents and architectural drawings of the Ponte City, an apartment tower in Johannesburg. This tower was built in 1975 for the wealthy white South Africans and was destined to be a top notch example of modern and affluent living. After about 5 years people began to leave the city center starting a process of decay that went on for 30 years. In this article you can read a bit about the tower's history and changes it has been through.

The exhibition was set up in a very fascinating way. On the first floor were collages of all the front doors of the building, in the basement photos of documents, portraits and printed letters that were found in the rubble on the basement floor. These documents and images all told different stories of the people who had lived in this building. Refugees and workers from other African countries, letters from the social security, law officers and schools. Next to some portraits, small interviews were displayed in which the subjects talked about their lives and how they came to live in the building. On an other wall were all the official documents displayed about the original design and usage of the building, the decay and new plans and the ongoing discussions of what to do with the building. 

I was very impressed with how this exhibition was able to tell the macro and micro stories of this building in such a way that it showed the connection between ideas and perceptions of a place and the actual lives that are being lived here. Even though the building has been there for such a long time, the function and image has been very transient and is still changing, just as the people who have lived there and will live there. 

An other thing that struck me about this exhibition was the tension that was shown between ideas of architects and developers and what actually happens when people live in a place or when history and changes in society take over. I have seen the same tension in my visit and photography of the Palace of Justice, that was built as an architectural highlight and show off of power and glamour, but because of unforeseen circumstances has its function changed and ends up in decay, while the stories and people it should serve are left on their own device. 

The choices that are made in the images that were shown and the way the exhibition was set up show that the photographers really want to show these different layers of a place. They did a really good job and I'm very curious to see what will be the next phase in the existence of Ponte City!