The above embedded video is a documentation / compilation of the art piece which included individual photographic images, full installation view, actual visualisation of the distorted image and the original soundscape being recorded in-computer. For those who are interested, except for Prof. Meridel, a full detailed report of the project can be requested through firstname.lastname@example.org
So here I am, retreating to the Central Catchment Nature Reserves over the weekend and rethinking therapeutic landscapes amidst the horrifying series of final projects heading towards our way.
The act of pushing and pulling film is almost like a myth to me; I have heard about it from the old masters, professors, photography peers but I have never seen any physical image or prints produced from this technique nor have I encounter/ experience it personally. For the purpose of my study on the effects of pushing and pulling, I have exposed both rolls of film with identical setup (aside from light reading) with +/- 1/3 Ev to have a better understanding to both approaches for my future field applications.
It is evident that pushing film increases negative contrast and pulling film decreases negative contrast – this is definitely one of the most important piece of information to be aware of in order for me to adapt to the different lighting condition and subject matter if ever one day, monochrome or colour film becomes my selected choice of medium; for what I have been exposed to are only dodging and burning in the traditional darkroom.
Come to think of it as I am writing this post, I should have also expose one more roll in its native ISO rating for a better comparison… Oh well, at the very least, now I can be proud to declare that I have come face to face with the myth and I have finally tried this technique out personally for once!
Addressing issues of current affairs through the medium and dialogue of art have always been a driving force to my practice. For this project, I look into the Singapore’s urban landscape and it’s ever-changing fabric. Land reclamation, deforestation, demolition & erection of buildings, they are often motivated by political and economic reasons – but who exactly have the last say to such decisions and how do different groups of people view such movements? Do they see/ feel anger, love, sadness, happiness or simply being indifferent when issues are out of their area of interest/ concerns?
I have also taken this opportunity to further explore on various artistic methodology. Which I might say – a constant exploration, deconstruction and reconstruction in the study of fine art aesthetics, is my style. Perspective, then, has become a key element to this research pertaining to my interest (ways of seeing) and style (seeing through lens).
Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) is considered by many art historians, a revolutionary painter in the Post-Impressionism period. Quoting Rod Bantjes, ‘“Perspectives bâtardes”: Stereoscopy, Cézanne, and the Metapictoral Logic of Spatial Construction’, History of Photography.
Cézanne’s desire to capture the truth of perception led him to explore binocular vision graphically, rendering slightly different, yet simultaneous visual perceptions of the same phenomena to provide the viewer with an aesthetic experience of depth different from those of earlier ideals of perspective, in particular single-point perspective. His interest in new ways of modelling space and volume derived from the stereoscopy obsession of his era and from reading Hippolyte Taine’s Berkelean theory of spatial perception.
In short, Cézanne employed the idea of multiple perspectives into his body of work in the later part of his life, painting different objects in different perspectives onto a canvas which led the viewers to see different angles in a single frame. The other painting that has also influenced me is Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victorie.
Upon understanding his methodology through my course of research, I have attempted to carry out this idea of multiple perspectives into “the canvases of photography” with a few numbers of trial-and-error, and here is the result at this preliminary stage of exploration after consulting with our dear Prof. Elke.
However, that does not constitute as my favourite image still, because I think I can further develop this idea of approach and offer much more to this particular location. The following image is one that I am more satisfied with, in terms of the overall end result with a touch of the good old composition rules, painterly quality and the perspective application in the classical work of art. How does this image and methodology relate back to my interest I have mentioned earlier? This, I will share with you in class.
The intent of this assignment is to change the appearance and the character of one subject in a series of images. I have decided to challenge myself with a fisheye lens in this situation with my subject matter being the ADM (where I have seen so many images of the building around the internet and I have not even attempted to photograph it despite knowing the campus for almost 4 years!). With regards to that, I have a belief about perspective distortion in the architecture aspect, that either I keep everything free from distortion, or I exaggerate it in an artistic manner.
The first image is where I tried to keep everything in order and distortion-free, and I went crazy with the other two images.
Just last weekend I attended a talk on the common reading materials in Singapore after war, I was amazed and stoked to see how relevant it could be to the Assignment #1. Therefore, I have decided to extend the assignment out of curiosity and at the same time having a little bit of fun while I can afford the time to! The structure for this post will be a brief sharing of the talk, an initial analysis on a pictorial cover and ending off with a re-created version of it.
“Common Chinese reading materials in Singapore after war: Stories begins from a photograph” by Assoc. Professor Yung Sai-Shing
Assoc. Professor Yung began his talk from a single photograph of a newsstand in the 1960s Singapore and that came as no surprise to me because it reflected well to the agenda of this session. Only when the speaker examined further into the unknown source of photograph, I was taken aback as what shown in his next presentation slide was a series of reading materials matching to those in that very photograph through his course of research. The talk was delivered in Mandarin with four fundamental factors: Stories of a pictorial, Stories of three cities: Singapore-Hong Kong-Shanghai, Stories of cultural undertakings and Stories of the political climate, through the three primary branches of Pictorial (畫報), Novel Magazine (小說雜誌) and Movie Magazine (電影雜誌).
Stories of a pictorial
幸福, 亞洲 and 南洋 were the three mainstream pictorials available to Singapore. Yung highlighted that even though幸福was operated in Hong Kong, its contents were related to South East Asia that featured stories and anecdotes of Singapore and Malaysia.
Stories of three cities: Singapore-Hong Kong-Shanghai
Yung flowed his talk to the point of the connection between the three cities, mentioning several notable writers and particularly the Shaw brothers.
Trivial: Run Run Shaw, founder of Shaw Brothers Studio, came to Singapore from Shanghai in 1927, left for Hong Kong in 1957. Aged 106, he passed away in Shanghai but had instructed his remains to be buried in Singapore.
Stories of cultural undertakings
Shaw Organisation has a long history in Singapore since its founding in 1924 by the Shaw brothers whom came from Shanghai. From the mid 30s to the 80s, the Shaws also operated two popular fairgrounds in Singapore – Great World Amusement Park (大世界) and the New World Amusement Park (新世界) which played a critical role towards the culture and entertainment scene in Singapore history.
The Shaws also spawned Shaw Brothers Studio in Hong Kong where many of the classical Hong Kong films were produced and distributed to the South East Asia.
Trivial: In 1934, Dato Roland St. John Braddell, who was born in Singapore and served as Municipal Commissioner (1914-1929) wrote that Charlie Chaplin was so fascinated by the Malay opera and the Chinese theatrical performances at the New World Amusement Park when he was there.
Stories of the political climate
Yung briefly ran through this point due to time constraint of how the political climate and ideology of a nation influenced the types of browsing/ reading materials being produced.
Analysis on the Pictorial Cover (畫報封面)
Throughout the talk, a pictorial cover was flashed but that image burnt into my mind instantly. I thought it would make a very interesting visual and contextual analysis in addition to Assignment #1. (I will try to get hold of a better photo and re-upload it)
We could clearly see that there stood a cheerful, vibrant lady standing in front of her possibly British-made Morris Mini waving to the photographer filled with joy and optimism in the setting of the elegant and sophisticated Old Supreme Court Building (current National Art Gallery of Singapore) featuring the Corinthian columns and classical design.
And so I asked, why this particular photograph for the cover? What was so special about it? The one crucial hint I have got was the year it was being published – August 1961. The period when Singapore gained full internal self-governance granted by the British authorities (1959) and in the midst of campaigning for merger with Malaya (1962 Merger Referendum) when people were uncertain towards the merger especially the local Chinese.
The photographer had portrayed the ideology of the nation through this simple yet impactful work if we were to look deep into the image – the subject matter and the background.
Subject matter – By placing a female with the car, it signified that the car belonged to the her and was competent in driving – the economical status and opportunity in the country was fair. Gender inequality was an undiscussed issue existed in Singapore way before 1960s and this possibly conveyed a massage to the public on the Singapore’s values of progress and equality regardless of gender as represented by two of the five stars in the national flag.
Background – The classical designed Old Supreme Court Building showcased the ideological, sociological and technological advancement of the nation as art historians studied that nations were building classical architecture modelling after the Greek/ Romans in the Age of Enlightenment (18th century) when various revolutions, notably the French revolution, took place to instil and showcase a sense of rebirth, identity and power of the “new” country.
The next hint I have got for drawing such a reading of the photograph was number of issue on the pictorial. History has shown us that the society tends to put importance into the numbers incremental of 50 and 100, 5, 10 and 25 to a lesser extent. This photograph I am discussing was published in the 50th issue, did it have an important message to say or was it a pure coincidence?
What we are looking at here is not just another mainstreamed pictorial cover with beautiful ladies in a great looking scene. This photograph brought confidence and prospect to the people, driving them to believe in the idea of merger with Malaya.
This photograph has represented the progression and hope of Singapore in 1961.
Each photograph has got stories behind them, some are obvious and grand while some are not so. To truly understand and experience the work of photographs we see, one must dig into the context of the work. To further support my writing, I have recreated the image with limited resources on a prototype basis. Getting approval from the respective authorities would take ages to have a car parked there in such an obstructing manner; simply visualise the car being there (or not) for the purpose of this little extended assignment of mine. Other than that, I have managed to get assistance from a beautiful and cheerful lady to strike a pose for me similar to the pictorial.
And now, how do you see these two images despite them having some similarities? I will be more than glad to find out what you think or feel and have a discussion together.
Special thanks to the cheerful lady for agreeing without a second thought to help me out with this extended assignment. She is none other than our dear peer Crystal Sim!
So here comes the first assignment, that is to reshoot a photograph at least 10 years old! As recreating photographs of my family and myself is not particularly my style of working, I have chose to recreate photographs closer to my heart and interest: Old postcards of Singapore. In my process, I have selected three locations for me to work with in order to make good use of the 36 exposures.
Location #1 – South bank of the Singapore River near Coleman Bridge
Observation: Based on the lighting condition and the intensity of the blues in the sky, I am guessing the timing of this photograph was taken in the range of 9am-11am or 4pm-6pm with decent weather. By observing the leaves and branches captured here and having an understanding of the river’s width in my mind, I am thinking that this was not taken with a super wide focal length but in the range of 28mm and above. The shutter speed used here is less than 1 second, as ripples of the river can be clearly seen still and the two human figures are sharp despite that their body language suggested movements.
Re-shoot: I have found the radius where the old photograph was taken after some walking and made an attempt even though the weather was really not on my side. Major urban redevelopment have taken place but the two buildings on the right hand side (Housing Development Board flats) are still standing.
Re-compose: As I did not have the lighting I wished for, I decided to do my ‘re-shoot an additional image in the contemporary setting’ portion much later in the day. I used a wide angle lens in order to get the entire existing building in my frame. The former was taken right beside the Coleman Bridge which was not shown and I have attempted to include it in my composition for it’s historical significance. It was one of the beautiful light I have witnessed, almost as if the sky was compensating me for the foul day earlier. Very unfortunately, I did not expect and did not foresee the lamp post causing such light diffraction to the lens and negatives because I wanted the lamp post to be in the shot for a finishing touch.
This location is worthy to revisit for further explorations, but the spot where I took the photograph will be a very challenging one if you are setting up a tripod because of the narrow pavement with heavy human traffic.
Location #2 – The Miramar Hotel at Havelock Road
Observation: “This is a work from a classic architectural photographer!” was the first thing that came into my mind. He/ she has got the beautiful blue sky, colourful floras as the foreground and a perspective-distortation-free building bathing in the sun. A wide angle tilt-shift lens could be used here, image could be created in the range of 8am-10am or 4pm-6pm on a clear sunny day. Shutter speed used was probably below 1/125 second as movement of the leaves on the top right hand side can be seen.
Re-shoot: Location of where the photographer took the shot was determinated after some checking on the map and on site, but the location of the sun was wrong in the morning. I did not take the shot with my SLR but on my mobile phone instead for documentation purposes.
Another attempt on a separate occasion but the weather and sun location was still not right either. Nonetheless, I tried to re-create the photograph to capture how much of the floras were gone despite labelling Singapore as the Garden City!
Re-compose: I have unknowingly gave myself a breather from this location.
Location #3 – Night-time view of the Chinatown Bazaar
Observation: Looking at how the sky was blue while the lights on streets were already turned on in this image, I am very sure that this photograph was taken between 7pm-8pm. A wide focal length was used and at the shutter speed no more than 5 seconds as human traffic was captured with only moderately fast moving subjects are blurred. Definitely a mid-level shot.
Re-compose: This is the work I am most satisfied with among the three locations. Firstly because, I gave myself ample time on this site searching, marking and planning for the ‘re-create spot’ and ‘re-composition spot’. Secondly, I was blessed with good weather. Thirdly, this was quite a nerve-wracking experience for me as the angle I wanted to capture had left my camera in a very vulnerable situation. Lastly perhaps, I have placed special regards and priority to my ‘re-compose shot’ instead because I understood that the ‘special window of blue sky’ will be gone in just a few minutes and I might not have enough time switching between locations to improvise the photograph should I re-create the original first.
Re-shoot: And so I scurried to my ‘re-create spot’ once I made sure that I had my improvised image through the recordings in my handbook. Now, the heritage site got beautified so much for the tourists and what not. The taste and smell of the Chinatown has long gone together with the 90s especially ever since the Rent Control Act was lifted which caused many shop owners to move due to skyrocketing rent.
After all, this has been a refreshing assignment for me to take my mind off from my past projects and a good kickstart to my engine!