Week-5-Coursework-Gazing at Photograph.

My Gaze is attracted to the abstract, and the no-objective. There are some representational photographs that I do like, however, in my own work and to inform my own work, I like to look at images that are ‘one of a kind’ unusual, unique and or novel.

This is a result of the ubiquitous nature of the image to-day. How many times more can I see an image of Yosemite?  Ansel Adams was the best at that particular subject matter in my opinion, because of the format he used (8×10) the development of the Zone system, which maintained good shadow detail in the shadow regions of the image as well as the highlights, the image has good focus from foreground to background. Ansel printed his own images and had a tight control how they looked and were consumed. His subject dealt with the ‘Beauty of the American West’ and made me realize that we are in dangers of losing it to pollution, acid rain and environmental destruction due to the consuming of natural  resources.

However, I can see many images that are made by similar photographers, who are clones of Ansel, and I am not interested in that type of photography in my own practice.

I have always found that painters are ahead of the curve, so I like to reference their works The best at abstraction in my opinion is Kasimir Malevich (Black Square) He removed everything visual that is objective (representational) out of his images, which I find very attractive. I also like the work of Paul Klee, who attracted the representational down to basic forms, so there may be a few hints of the objective (representational) in is images which I also enjoy.

In my practice, I have been working towards this end, and so-far this module, I have managed to abstract my subject matter of fences down to images that a fence is barely perceptible. The subject has changed from images and function of ‘Fences’ to metaphors of what fences connote: namely, separation, division, fear,challenge and the like.

The pleasure of the gaze is a biological function. We see to survive and procreate. In order to survive we are attracted to things of beauty. I presume this is why the female sex is made beautiful to look at. Males get attracted, good things happen, and the species survives. If women were not attractive, men would not get attracted, and the species would have died out eons ago. I can presume this extends on to the arts so some degree as well.


The Body and Land:

As far as Adam’s ‘never’ having people in his images, I disagree with that. He did not have images of people in his landscapes, but did have people in his lesser known works, like his photography he did at the Japanese interment camp at Manzanar during the second world war.

” Although a majority of the more than 200 photographs are portraits, the images also include views of daily life, agricultural scenes, and sports and leisure activities.”

As human beings we have a direct connection with the land: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

There are many great artists, who create by looking at nature and the land for inspiration. For me the land and the contents of the land are one and the same. If I look at the works for Edward Weston.  Famous for his Nudes, Pepper series, and landscapes. Weston was preoccupied with the female form, so whether it was a rock, a toilet, a pepper, or a seashell, he always managed to get more out of the image than the subject matter alone. I think this is clear in one of his quotes: “This then: to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock.  Significant representations – not interpretation.”

Just Giving: (these ads really annoy me)

All ads have a positive and a negative side. The Mencap ads are no different. I think the fake intentions are good, however, a lot of these companies finance their own needs out of the pockets of donators. Of your two pounds that you donate, maybe a half a crown or less might go in the direction of children’s education, and the rest will go to finance the cars, houses, girlfriends, and drugs of the CEO’s.

Are these children other?  I would have to say yes, and I think the problem with the world today is that all boundaries, are attempting to be erased, and with dire consequences.  The caption on the bottom of the second ad. “More of an education will give Kevin, more of a future.”  More? what exactly does that mean? It’s such an abstract, it’s not even funny. No matter what education Keven gets, he will never be able to hold a job of any significance. I think it’s time to stop bluffing, and put the money where it should rightly go, and that’s towards a home of some nature where these children can be taken care of for the rest of their lives, and a place that they can be encouraged to learn and play but not make the rest of the world that with a little more education, Kevin can be a rocket scientist. It will never happen. These children need civil-rights equality more than educational equality.  Basically it all boils down to I.Q.  individuals with an I.Q. of 80 cannot fold a piece of paper to fit in an envelope. No amount of education or training will enable them to do it with confidence, much more than an education or training will enable my cat (or even myself for that matter) to play the violin. It will never happen. I do feel pity for these individuals, greatly, but I would not donate because I am being manipulated. Dorfman says: “They are other.”  The photographic image allows as to stare, study, gawk, and it satisfies our innate nature to look at the other in a way we could not in actual life. We try out or respect for the ‘other’ to avert out gaze as not to hurt their feelings, but I think they are aware that we are consciously averting the look, and as a result, feel excluded. The question is how do we look and not look at the other so as not to exclude but include. Not out of pity, but from a civil right that every individual, ‘other,’ or not, deserves.

I had a friend, many years ago, if he met anyone with a disability, he would immediately walk up to them an ask what happened to their leg or their arm?  They would tell him and it would be over. Neither he, nor the other, found it difficult to be in each others company. I asked him why he did that? He replied to get it out of the way right from the start, and after knowing, would not have to stare, or steal stares any longer.  I always thought that a very positive way to surmount difficult “other” situations.

“Most people go through their lives fearing they will have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma, they’ve already passed their test in life.”  – Diane Arbus.


Ansel Adams.  Manzanar: https://www.loc.gov/collections/ansel-adams-manzanar/about-this-collection/

Dust to dust: http://bible.oremus.org/?version=av&passage=Genesis+3%3A19&fnote=no&show_ref=no&show_adj=no&omithidden=yes

Edward Weston: https://www.photoquotes.com/showquotes.aspx?id=51&name=Weston,Edward

Week-2-Contextual Research.

Photographs not taken:  The book arrived. I was interested to read how some photographers handle the missed shot.  For my project “Fences”  I missed a shot of a kid sitting on this fence. I thought how apt.  As I was on the fence between representation and abstract photography. I did not get the shot, I had no film left. I did not take my I-phone with me, and I did not have my digital camera either. I felt bummed about it, but thought about recreating it, also from then on, I always have my digital camera with me, even if I am shooting film. I keep the last two shots in the camera, I don’t shoot the roll empty, unless I have a spare, so I did learn something from the mishap. Also, I learned this module, that restating the image is okay also, that image construction is not a bad thing.  I also believe that the shot will turn up again, it has happened for me before. I don’t know when, but I will be ready the second time around.

I read: Young Timothy Archibald’s story about leaving his film at home on a film shoot. His dad dropped him off, he had no money, the stores was closed. He decided to fake the shoot. He was afraid of people, but on this occasion it did not matter somehow, as he pretended to photograph.  People were nice, friendly and welcoming. He learned from his missed shots: there is nothing to be afraid of.

I think it’s important to keep this in mind in every aspect of making images. Fear creeps in, in various ways. Also, an opportunity lost is an opportunity gained.


Thoughts on Ansel:  For the longest time, I have put the works of Ansel Adams to bed. He was a landscape photographer, very good at what he did, but for me I needed something a little more “Creative”  Lately however, I am so glad I learned the “Zone” system, and how to develop and print an image. I can expose very well and develop a fine looking negative. How valuable this information is to me. I am technically very competent both in film and digital, and I can use these forms help me express my ideas and concepts. I do not worry about the technical side anymore, and this has given me a tremendous feeling of freedom.

If I see any image in film or digital, I do  to concern myself how the image was made from a technical aspect, I just look at how it was conceived creatively, so half the battle is won, I only need to do half the work.  This is  all thanks to Ansel. He gave me a lot in that regard. Once in a while, I will pull out ‘The Negative” or “The Print” (I have one signed by him which I treasure very much) which I got from him when I need him up in Carmel, back in 1984.  I still do some technical referencing, but not very often. His knowledge has remained at my finger tips, and is used in one way or another, daily.

What attracts in the image? It has always made me wonder, why I love a certain photograph, or painting over another, what pierces my heart for that minute  I spend the extra time gazing at an image.

While studying my B.F.A. at Cal Arts, I finally had the opportunity to meet Ansel Adams. I was working at Panavision part-time while a student, and a fellow camera technician mentioned that Adams was having a retrospective up in Carmel and if I would like to go?

We drove up to Carmel by the sea, to the Weston Gallery, where the retrospective was being held. This was back in 1984. It was here that I had my first opportunity to see an Ansel “MURAL” print, the biggest print he made.

‘Clearing Winter Storm’ By: Ansel Adams. www.lomography.com

The title is: ‘Clearing Winter Storm. ‘ Back then I was all into technique, who had the best to offer, and still does. No-one has ever surpassed the Zone system. And, if used correctly, can compress or expand a wide dynamic range  into VIII Zones of detail, with Zone 0 and Zone X being pure black and pure White. [A small caveat, there is no ‘0’ in Roman numerals, and wonder if Ansel knew that, I guess, nothings perfect.”]   I was enamored by the detail, sharpness, contrast, tonal-range, shapes, edge burn, a dust/spec free image, the list goes on. I remember standing 4 inches away from the print trying to find the smallest speck of dust or air bubble. I searched for any type of flaw.  However, I could not a single imperfection. I had excellent vision back then, I could read newspaper fine print standing up, so, if there was the tiniest imperfection, I would have found it. There was none!  The Mural was technical love at it’s finest, I have never seen a better hand made print since. Then, I finally had the opportunity to meet Ansel, sit in his ZONE V Cadillac Sedan De-ville and have a book signed. It was a great experience, a moment I will always treasure. As a young film/photography student back then, there was no finer moment. I had met the Maestro. One always leaves with something when these events occur, even if it’s being able to re-count the experience decades later, with fond memories. When I look at prints to-day, I still use the same technique. I go up close and scrutinize the print quality in fine detail (technique+form) then I step back to take in the image as a whole (content)

This stepping back and looking at the whole ‘field,’ is what Roland Barthes calls the Stadium, one of two attributes, that calls one’s attention to the photograph. The other being the punctum.

I like the way he named these two attributes of an image, which ranges in looking from the general to the specific, the field to the spot, the square to the point.  That lightning bolt, or cupids arrow, that shoots out at you from the image that paralyses you for that moment, as if venomed from a snake bite. I like the way he talks about the punctum striking outwards.

In Adam’s ‘Clearing Winter Storm’ I was sucked in, pulled inwards, drawn into the bright white light of the clouds in the valley, suspended between Half Dome and Bride Veil Falls. I have been up to that vantage point and never seen it look like it does in that Adam’s print. He did some alchemy in the darkroom up there in the Carmel Highlands.

So, I tried an experiment. I looked at the print as if it were a 3-D image, and started to concentrate, and allow my eyes to draw slowly for the foreground to the background, rolling the focus slowly backwards.  The foreground started to blur and the background began to thrust forward as if the clouds started bellowing towards me. The whole area between Half-Dome and Bride Veil stands out in the most amazing way. The angles of the rock faces get exaggerated, the snow covered peaks become more visible, the cloud climbs upward into the sky like a whisp of smoke, and finally as the eyes begin to focus and the image becomes clear, I am drawn forward to the blackness of the two pine trees in the foreground.

I will still have to do some more study of the punctum, I am just at the beginning of physically understanding it, however intuitively and emotionally, it is very clear. For me Barthes has given me a way to understand how to feel an image as opposed to just seeing an image.


Barthes, R. (1980). Camera Lucida. Hill and Wang. New York.

Stacey, W. (2018). Photographs Not Taken. Daylight Community Arts Foundation, Arron, China.