Assignment 4 · Uncategorized

Assignment 4: Language of Light. Updated following tutor’s comments

Following my tutor’s feedback and comment, I amended the order in which the photographs should appear.  He suggested the order shown below.  I took these photographs in black and white to emulate the style of Imogen Cunningham.

My tutor also suggested I explore the work of other contemporary photographers, particularly those who photograph the ordinary and make them extraordinary, as Imogen Cunningham did with her black and white plant photography.

The result of this research has been added to the research section of my blog.  Here is a link: Photographing the Ordinary



Assignment 4 · Uncategorized

Assignment 4: The Language of Light

I chose to revisit exercise 4.2 for this assignment because I learnt so much from carrying out the task. I was aware that the sun alters shadows, however, I hadn’t appreciated how much the movement of the sun also affects the colours. It is not just dawn or the golden hour where colours are affected.  The bright blue of the sky was only apparent at mid-day.

As I photographed the plant on the roof of my boat I was reminded of the work of Imogen Cunningham, so she became the inspiration for this assignment.

Link to exercise 4.2

Imogen Cunningham was an American photographer who explored and created images in various genres including portraiture, nudes and industrial landscape.  She subsequently went on to work on street photography, but in the early 1920s she became particularly interested in botanical photography and the patterns which were formed by the light and shadows.  She focussed on black and white images using natural light, starting in her own back garden!

cunningham plant
Imogen Cunningham, circa 1920

As a woman in the early 1900s, she struggled to gain recognition as a photographer.  According to Mary Street Alinder, Ansel Adams described her work as:

Her prints could have been produced only by a woman, which does not imply they lack vigour.  All her photographs brim with a restrained strength typical of keen decisive feminine energy.

[Mary Street Alinder, 2014, Group f64, page 39]

However, as her work became increasingly respected by her peer group, her friend Edward Weston, according to Mary Street Alinder, wrote a review in a journal:

[Cunningham] uses her medium, photography, with honesty – no tricks, no evasion: a clean cut presentation of the thing itself, the life of whatever is seen through her lens – life without obvious external form. ……

Imogen Cunningham is a photographer! A rarely fine one.

[Mary Street Alinder, 2014, Group f64,  page 50]

Thankfully this view as shown by Ansel Adams has receded and artists tend to be assessed on their merit regardless of gender.  I empathise with Cunningham’s plight, however, as I have worked in the IT industry for many years, where, even now, prejudice still exists in some areas.

Cunningham was one of the founder members of the California based Group f64  along with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and others.  At this time there was a move away from pictorialism towards modernism, and the Group f64 were advocates of the modernist movement.  Photographs were becoming more spontaneous, sharp and focussed, unlike the pictorial movement which encompassed soft focus and arranged scenes. This fitted with her interest in botanical photographs which were sharp and clearly defined.

I chose a very sunny day when the sun was shining into the boat. I drew the curtains so that just a shaft of light came through onto the table where I positioned the plant.

The camera was set on ISO 200, f8 and 1/80th of second and I used a 50mm prime lens.  It can be seen from the contact sheets below that some photographs were taken with the plant pot in the silver bucket, and some with just the plant pot.  I felt the silver bucket gave an additional dimension, so only used those in my assignment submission. The 8 photographs submitted are shown below.

I was pleased with the results, but when I compared them with Cunningham’s work, I felt they lacked clarity and precision. As can be seen above she went for shapes and patterns created by the shadows as well as the plants themselves.

Contact Sheets