Category Archives: Book Reviews

Grant Wei: An Accurate Painting

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Photo: Grant Wei, Copyright 2018

 

Photography and Text by Grant Wei, Copyright 2018

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Book Review

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John Szarkowski: Looking at Photographs

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AN ACCURATE PAINTING

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Photos as emulations of paintings, creating some sort of misplaced hierarchy between paintings and photographs. Photographs, allegedly, were recreational, while paintings were considered to be fine art. At least, in the first couple of centuries of photography. But in another interpretation, mostly by fascists in Germany, the quality of the art was defined by how realistically it portrayed reality. And in that sense, there can be no greater portrayal of reality than through a photograph.

But some moments cannot be captured by a camera. The feelings associated with a sunset — those are moments that cannot be captured no matter how skilled the photographer. Or any artist, for that matter. There are aspects to a sunset that are seem to be intangible, leaving an artist with a sense of helplessness in capturing the sheer ineffability of the sun. Such a sentiment gave rise to the impressionist movement, which was coincidentally coined Tournachon’s studio. And so, the question is, how do photographers capture things that cannot be captured?

Alvin Langdon Coburn is considered to be one of the first photographers who attempted to capture abstract ideas with his photos. Some notable pictures by him include photos of clouds, which he considered to be oddly poetic in the sense that they only exist in the shape and position they are in at one period in time throughout the entirety of time. In this regard, each photo of a cloud is considered to be a rare photo in the sense that it cannot be replicated in quite the same fashion. In a way, Coburn gave birth to conceptual photography.

While Coburn extrapolated the meaning of clouds to be a series of different worlds, the uniqueness of his cloud photos lies in his interpretation. The photos have meaning behind them; in other words, they have concept in addition to aesthetic. What people can see is a picture of a cloud, but the picture of a cloud is not the photo. Although I do not particularly agree with his analysis of clouds as different worlds, I do appreciate his effort to add a poetic element to his pictures. The clouds are indeed quite beautiful, but to me, the value of a piece of art lies in its concept — not its aesthetic.

I, too, try to create art that is not only aesthetic but also conceptual. Titled: Black Mirror, I wanted to create a sense of existential dystopianism influenced from the Netflix TV series, Black Mirror. Taken in a bathroom of a random pop-up shop in Philadelphia, I wanted to create a sense of dread and confusion. By adding noise and distortions to the photo, I hoped to create a sense of discomfort while maintaining a degree of aesthetics. Because, like the reality of the TV series black mirror, our conception of reality is also warped by a warm filter that prevents us from seeing the nothingness that lies behind.

I saw a black space in a frame, and I saw an accurate reflection of the emptiness of our reality. But simply taking picture of a black picture frame was not adequate to capture my sentiments. I could not communicate my feelings of overwhelming despair with a simple photo, which is why I used Adobe Photoshop to modify the noise and add filters. Not unlike Coburn, I saw a different world in an object we see every day, and I wanted to share my sentiments through something more than an aesthetically pleasing photo.

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About The Author: Grant Wei is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Grant Wei, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/grant-wei-cigarettes-sex/

 

Also posted in Art, History, Painting, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students

Lilibeth Montero: Looking at Photographs

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Photo: Lilibeth Montero

 

Photography and Text by Lilibeth Montero, Copyright 2018

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Book Review

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John Szarkowski: Looking at Photographs

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The first picture John Szarkowski introduces is a portrait. The portrait created by William Shew, using the daguerreotype process, fascinated me. Szarkowski mentions in the book that daguerreotype was mainly used to capture the faces of people. I find this early usage of photography similar to the current most popular use of photography, to take “selfies”. Although, it’s incredibly narcissistic to take pictures of one self, oddly we are capturing our history just like the people taking pictures using the daguerreotype technique were. I also find it important to note that I feel photography has become heavily flooded my narcissism, and I feel that’s the direction new photographers emerging will perhaps take.

Another image I found quite fascinating was “Chicken and tree” by Edouard Boubat. The way Boubat plays with the viewer’s perspective is incredible. At first sight, I was sure this image was of a tree and chicken, and the sky behind it. To my surprise there is a wall behind the tree. I find this image fascinating because one can understand the technical process that went into producing an image like this, but it’s still incredible. I really agree with what Szarkowski says, that our interpretation of an image may change but the image itself doesn’t. After reading, I realized there was a wall, however I still saw a sky behind the tree. On the other hand, Baron Adolph De Meyer’s image “Helen Lee Worthing” is fascinating to me because of the “frank and luxurious artificial light” within the image. I feel this light makes the image look much more luxurious, and conveys a sense of wealth. I find it interesting how Baron Adolphe De Meyer influenced fashion, and how technological improvements allowed him and other photographers have a larger platform.

In my image, I attempted to mimic the way Boubat deceives the viewer in his image. I decided to take a picture of a lamp, but added a teddy bear to the bottom of it. I wanted the bear to be out of focus, and the purpose of the teddy bear is to change the interpretation of the image, yet have the image be the same. Although it’s not the same way Boubat fools his audience, I am very pleased with the result. When you don’t notice the teddy bear one focuses on the lamp asking questions like: why this lamp post? Where is this lamp post located? After noticing the teddy bear one’s interpretation changes and the viewer asks questions like: why this lamp post and this teddy bear? How do they relate? Similar to Baron Adolphe De Meyer’s image, my picture portrays a sense of luxury through the light released by the lamp. The lamp post itself aesthetically conveys a sense of wealth because of the careful details embedded in the stone, the marble at the bottom it and the chandelier looking light bulbs.

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About The Author: Lilibeth Montero is a freshman enrolled in the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Lilibeth Montero, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/lilibeth-montero-abril/

 

Also posted in Architecture, Art, Documentary, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students, Women

Hilary Lam: The Organic Form as Sculpture

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Photo: Hilary Lam, Copyright 2018

 

 

Photography and Text by Hilary Lam, Copyright 2018

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Book Review: Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski

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The Organic Form as Sculpture

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Szarkowski’s collection of 100 photographs from the Museum of Modern Art is a compilation of historic works from the 20th to early 21st century. The book is seemingly a timeline displaying various methods of photographic representation that have been utilized by different artists; Mediums range from the daguerreotype of William Shew to the collotype prints of Edward Maybridge, and even a postcard from an unknown artist. The composition and style of each photograph is distinct and truly embodies a life of its own.

Of all the photographs, I was particularly intrigued by Edward Weston’s Torso of Neil from 1925. I was immediately taken by the sculptural quality of the form and especially the framing of the image itself. The black background of the man’s torso creates an intense contrast, highlighting a silhouette that drags the viewer’s attention. The soft shadows running from the armpit of the body onto the ribcage, and gently towards the lower body projects the intimacy and gentleness of the natural and organic human form. The reality of the subject, Weston’s son, and the compression and focus of the imagery with the small 91/8” x 5 1/2” frame gives a tangibility and added beauty to the organic figure as a cherished form.

My accompanying photograph is one that I took at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which I immediately thought of upon viewing Weston’s image. In a similar manner, I created a composition which focused on the human torso, however with my subject in the form of a stone sculpture. I am always in awe of the human form, in all it’s organicity and variety of ways in which humans embody themselves. Especially when the human figure is rendered sculpturally in such a static medium as stone, I am amazed by the suppleness and verity the sculptor is able to capture.

“Photography is a matter of the eyes, intuition, and intellect.” -JS

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About The Author: Hilary Lam is a Graduate student enrolled in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional article by Hilary Lam, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/hilary-lam-its-personal/

 

Also posted in Art, Documentary, Environment, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students, Women

Esther Fleischer: Composition in Sports

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A Job Well Done. Photo: Esther Fleischer, Copyright 2018

 

Photography and Text by Esther Fleischer, Copyright 2018

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Book Review

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Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski, Copyright 2018

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Throughout Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski, one of the creative elements that stood out most to me was the idea of composition. Rather than simply place the subject in the center of the frame, each artist made a choice as to how to put together the image. Multiple of the photographs, specifically Wes Fesler Kicking a Football by Dr. Harold E. Edgerton and Untitled by Roy DeCarava, contain only part of the figure bring featured. In Edgerton’s work, the focus is on a man’s foot kicking a football rather on the entire person on a background kicking the ball. DeCarava’s photograph shows the lower half of a man holding his briefcase, also keeping the subject’s head outside of the border. This extra consideration to the compositional elements influenced my Still Life project, and those two images gave me the idea for the image I chose to represent this work. For showing such a small portion of the action, Edgerton is able to convey the entire action and give an idea of the surrounding area as well as the associated. In A Job Well Done, I captured a rider patting and thanking her horse after successfully competing, even winning her class. Through this congratulatory pat, the excitement and gratefulness towards her horse can be seen without showing her face or the larger scene. Like in DeCarava’s work, I centered the main subject of the image to emphasize the proper part of the figure. While her leg on the saddle or the rein lying across the martingale would make for interesting images, I made the focus on her pat to emphasize the larger action taking place. Similarly, DeCarava’s work focuses on the man clutching onto his briefcase, raising the question of both its contents and its importance.

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About The Author: Esther Fleischer is a Freshman enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Esther Fleischer, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/esther-fleischer-emotions-zoe-griffiths/

 

Also posted in Blog, Documentary, Photography, Popular Culture, Sports, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students, Women

Rongrong Liu: Looking at Photographs

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Photo: Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018

 

Photography and Text by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2018

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Book Review

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Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski

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After consuming the 100 photographs, the first question raised in my mind is what the photographers of our generation should try to pursue? Technology nowadays allows us to reduce much effort on things that the past photographers have struggled with. Photoshop can adjust most of the flaws of photos – exposure, perspective, contrast, color saturation, etc. Digital photography must be a thing for contemporary photography, but composition, light, style will still not be replaced by technology.

In this book, I see things that made these 100 photographs historic don’t fall beyond four categories:strong personal style, momentary and documentary, special use of light, and unique composition. For example, Irving Penn’s Women in Black Dress defined a classic symbol of elegance. Not certain about the relevance, but I even make a bold speculation that Breakfast At Tiffany’s drew inspiration from this. Mr. and Mrs. Kotani: Two Who Have Suffered From The Bomb, from Ken Domon hit me with its contrast between the tragedy that the subjects in the photo have suffered, and the smile on their face. Camera is like permanent eye, recording this rare and precious moment, and sharing the photographer’s view to the world.

The one technique I learned about is to utilize the negative space. The Broken Window by Brett Weston created a negative relationship between object and background. It really made the “nothing” in the middle gain the dominant presence in the picture. Inspired by this, I took a picture of my opposite apartment in an Airbnb through the window shades. Snow scene is normal in winter days, but the four corners that the shades covered created a cross shape, and in return it let us focus on the subjects in the middle.

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About The Author: Rongrong Liu is a Junior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Rongrong Liu, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/rongrong-liu-emotional-fluidity/

 

Also posted in Art, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Popular Culture, UPenn, UPenn Photography, Women