South london photographer: Looking forward to learning a new skill

I am so excited.  I have just booked myself on to a two day course where I will learn how to make ambrotype images.  This is the process that was used to make some of the earliest portraits when photography was still in its infancy and I have long been fascinated with the process.  Now-a-days we are so lucky to be able to take and make images at the click of a button and we can pretty much do what we want to them in a matter of seconds, creating all sorts of weird and wonderful effects if we want to.  And of course I do enjoy that very much – it’s a highly therapeutic hobby of mine, colouring in little images on my phone and seeing what I can create.  Sometimes though, I am far more interested in taking a pure photograph and doing very little digital editing at all, and seeing how much truth I can find in the image – simple, honest and unadulterated.  There is a constant argument going on inside me between those two positions.

Nevertheless, one of the apps I have used a lot in the past is the Hipstamatic Tinytpe app.  Each time I do play with it though I am consumed by the knowledge that it’s not real, it’s fake and it troubles me greatly.  However, next summer I am going to be learning how to make these images properly using chemicals and a very old camera and plates!  And I can’t wait.  I’m absolutely thrilled to be doing it and really looking forward to heading off for my two day introduction to the process.  (Since initially posting this blog several people have asked about the course so here is a link to the details and other dates – wish I could make it to the one in the Yucatan!)

Alternative photographic processes are used by a number of artists and in particular I recently went to see Richard Learoyd at the V&A.  His process is absolutely fascinating and the work he produces simply extraordinary.  Do go and see his show if you have a chance.  Learoyd makes his images using a camera obscura, which means he uses a whole room as his camera.  If you’ve ever been to Greenwich Observatory you may have been in the camera obscura they have there and seen the reflection of the park below transposed onto the circular walls of the building.  It’s the most magical and wonderful experience.  Learoyd does this with his images.  He makes the print directly from the projected image and fills the room that his model or subject are in with lots and lots of flash to create these incredibly beautiful ethereal but present images.  I just loved them when I went to see them the other day.

So although, my two day introduction is a bit of a step away from Learoyd’s work, I am really, really looking forward to learning about how to make and create images using some of the oldest processes around.  It will be fascinating and I’m sure will inform my ongoing development as a photographer in some way.  I was umm-ing and aah-ing about booking it but heh, if you can’t buy yourself an early christmas present, then what can you do – or something like that… Sure it makes sense somehow.  Here are a small selection of the iPhone images I have taken and edited using the Hipstamatic app I mentioned earlier.

I hope to do one or two more blogs before the holidays take over so in the meantime have fun!

SJ

All images (c)Sarah-Jane Field

daisies
I took this on an iPhone6s at dusk which is one of the nicest times for natural light. I have used the colour in the Hipstamtic Tintype app here which contributed to its glassy look and dark shadows. I like the depth that the app added. Sometimes it doesn’t work, it just obscures the images but it worked nicely here.  I think this is one of my favourite such images I’ve taken.

 

drycleaning
A photograph of one of my favourite dresses beneath some plastic. I liked the way the app transformed a simple image into something more than. The tension between truth and creativity can be interesting although I know this type of thing is frowned upon rather a lot by some serious artists.

 

leaveshipstamatic
Some leaves against the evening sky. Here I used the black and white function on the app and removed any grain and depth and field to make the image as clear as possible with just a hint of the recognisable, distinctive Tintype frame

 

selfportrait
A selfie done in a most old fashioned style – no smiling! Here I increased the grain to give the photo that old fashioned feel.

 

IMG_4766
A wintery tree edited in Hipstamatic Tintype app but here I have used the gold filter to emulate an old fashioned glow reminiscent of original Tintype images.
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15 thoughts on “South london photographer: Looking forward to learning a new skill

  1. I’m not sure there is such a thing as truth in imagery, whether visual or otherwise. It might be a liberal notion, but don’t the binaries of true and false deny perspective? I would contend that integrity and self knowledge about the fictive nature of narrative is vital Geoff Dyer talks about it in the Observer here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/06/based-on-a-true-story–geoff-dyer-fine-line-between-fact-and-fiction-nonfiction , typical of Dyer it wanders around a bit, but his notion is one I can recognise.

    1. It’s a constant issue for me. My background training as an actor means I have this yearning, perhaps due to that history, to aim for something called ‘truthfulness’ when creating. How that manifests itself is the question and I’m drawn to expressionism in its many forms so I guess that’s my never ending internal dialogue and resulting tension – I shall read the article and report back!

  2. Sounds so interesting. Is it Photofusion? Regarding truth – for me with photography it’s about being try to the way I feel at that particular moment which, of course, may well change in the next minute or beyond.

    1. No, it’s an American couple who work in NY who will be here for a week, or one of them will. I can send you details. I should have included them in the blog! The truth thing is tricky. Took me ages to grasp it as an actor, I mean really grasp it – not just in my head but truly. In acting one can be as way out and far from reality as possible but if there is no truth in the performance it’s dead and has little value. A mask may hide your face but that often allows the actor to reveal a great deal more since he/she feels protected. A mask may be a material facial thing or the character constructed over a rehearsal period but the aim is to find a ‘truthful performance’. Photography has this other thing going on. It seems enamoured by falsehoods. It seems to be steeped in this lack of trust in reality so plays with notions of it. I don’t really understand constructed images at the moment which may seem odd given my background… But I can’t see the point (heresay?) that’s not to say I don’t appreciate some of the work I see but I am troubled by it. I am far far more interested in the word authenticity as a foundation for photographic work, ‘art’ or ‘documentary’ . Perhaps as I develop that will change

      1. Thanks for sending the link. I can understand your point of view. I haven’t got your experience but, in the pst, have participated in role plays of various kinds and I was always surprised how easily I seemed to slip into ‘being’ that character. Regarding photography – that’s Postmodernism I guess, cynical and untrusting about the world. Sensible/pragmatic on the one hand but where’s the wonder in everything if one always suspects motives and truth. I’m writing this as a cynic yet do try to stay open to the wonder that children have in the world. Would be good to discuss authenticity at some point somewhere – seems an ideal topic for TV group or similar.

      2. Pleasure.
        Yes, post modernism is extremely cynical. Some elements within photography seem extremely wrapped up in it. I see it all the time – in avatars where photographers might have some weird ‘fuck off’ pose or have written something nasty about themselves beneath their name – that is a very photography-centric thing I’ve noticed.

        There is much to be cynical about of course but humanity is full of wonder too. It’s important not to forget that in this horrible age of war and extreme violence, disposability and unutterable tackiness. I don’t really warm to work or ideas that attempt to deny either positions or any of the multitude of positions in-between and all around. Life is rich and complex and the work I like generally reflects that.

        I thought, after yours and John’s messages, about language and the ‘slippage’ of meaning around words. I think of the word ‘truth’ in terms of authentic acting and from a psychotherapy point of view, in terms of living, and I suppose when I use the word ‘truth’ relating to photography, some of that meaning is lost. So, if I discuss ‘truth’ others may question my understanding about how realities are moveable feasts depending on whose reality we’re considering. But the theatre, when it works (it so often doesn’t), offers an audience a communal experience, bringing different realities to a common place where ideas can be explored, questioned, and maybe even adjusted or learned etc.
        I am not sure yet about how photography relates to that.

        Authenticity is probably a better word to use. And for me that’s the thing to be aiming for in my own work. Finding a way to that is the crucial thing for me. I would love to get together for a talk about authenticity – it’s a really interesting subject. 🙂

      3. In my (amateur) experience in the theatre, both as a player and director, I looked for a moment of transcendence when either I or those I was working with would become the character – that is what I’ve always understood as ‘truth’; where the actor doesn’t limit the voice of the part but expresses it ‘as the character’. As regard to photography, for me it is when I notice a lack of artifice in the narrative – even though the process of image creation is an artifice. It is difficult to define, as my visual language is still in a state of development, but I have a sense when the image being presented is being made purely for effect – Hollywood blockbuster analogy – and when what is being presented is comes from a purpose to communicate something vital.
        I quite like modernist image makers, mainly from an aesthetic sense, but I feel most of them were less honest by my definition; not that they set out to be dishonest – well maybe not the f64 group 😉

      1. “As regard to photography, for me it is when I notice a lack of artifice in the narrative – even though the process of image creation is an artifice.” I like this sentence. It sums it up well. Brecht was good on that. Oh, the f64 group! – all those bloody vegetables….:-/

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