(my slides are in pink)
For my final project, I chose to work with Michael Wolf, particularly his Street View body of works. I really enjoy Wolf’s work for the black humour and also the documentation qualities of his images.
These are some early notes and ideas I had from recounting what I felt when I first encounter Wolf’s work at Arles and after reading up a little on them.
Following that, I had some fun visiting places on Google maps. Other than the live street view, the Gmaps also had archives of older photos of the places for certain locations.
This is a photo of my first home after we leased it out to a childcare franchise, this was in 2009, the oldest archive they have but not early enough (2001).This is my current house earlier this year, after they repainted it.
This a photo from 2012, when it looked much better beforehand.This is Rochor Centre where I used to go over to study for my A Levels.
So with these, I went for consult!!!
And after consolidating some of the feedback, this is how I decided to proceed forward:
- As Gmaps is limited in terms of their archive, I will be looking into other archives like National Archives of Singapore, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Ministry of Education, Housing Development Board and news sites. I have decided to stick to images that can be accessed through the web and without special permission. This is a clearer definition of a public virtual reality.
- I have decided to start with my schools first as I feel that they will be a good starting point for my research for archive images. There are also more public archives who have images of them.
- I will be juxtaposing the official captions of the images with my own captions that are personal and based upon my memories.
Let’s see where this goes! 🙂
I went to the library wanting to find photobooks that were by a photographer whom I have not heard of. This led me to Chun Wai’s Cubicle Life. The photobook chronicles his journey over the past two years, threading door to door in the cubicles of Yee Wa Building.
Cubicle Life serves as a poignant documentary piece, centered on Hong Kong’s housing issues. It draws its from the small living quarters partitioned by wooden boards so characteristic of Hong Kong life.
I found the book a heavy read as images were spliced with anecdotes from residents of these cubicles and writings about the conditions of these living spaces. What is great however is how Chun Wai retained the privacy and dignity of his subject matters with his carefully framed close-up shots. He also employs midshots which articulates claustrophobic spaces like the corridors or make-shift wooden alcove that make up the cubicle architecture.
The book is enclosed within a grey, cloth hard cover, alluding to its heavy theme. After experiencing the entire work, I liked it that the book was in a square shape also. It stimulated how our impressions of cubicle spaces being one that is too small for movement (a square being four dead ends in close proximity). Yet, upon opening the book and getting to know the different cubicle lives, the book opens up to a much wider rectangle plane.
Chun Wai keeps most of his shots in 1:1; even with a longer image, those shots are often flanked by the clutter of furniture or objects. Other times, he might push a portrait shot very close to the edge of the page, for me that evoked a certain sense of aspiration but also a resignation towards the status quo; the line of vision of the sitter often extends beyond the frame of which its form sits in. Beyond his photos, the different layouts of the images also further accentuated Chun Wai’s message.
Hong Kong has many stories despite many of its inhabitant’s small and trapped homes.
During the summer break, I visited the photography exhibition at the Peranakan Museum with a friend. The exhibition was called Amek Gambar, which means taking photos in Malay.
The exhibition was rather interesting. It had a rich collection of early photographs of the Peranakan diaspora in the region and also equipment and information on those who depended on photography for their livelihood in the region. I was quite drawn by how close to home the subject matters were in the different galleries.
Unlike the usual experience of seeing old photos in older relatives’ or friends’ homes, this exhibition highlighted to me that many of these photographs we see as mementos or heirlooms are actually a part of (art, cultural) history. Also, with that new lenses, I begun to seek out more some recurring patterns in the photographs that gave hints of the technical challenges photographers and sitters had to deal with then.
Many of the photos did not feature young children. Even when they did, often in huge family photos, the children (or their heads) are commonly seen as a blur of motion. Many family photos have small figures with completely blurred heads in the front row. I found it quite amusing, as it showed how the children were playful and hyper. But also, it exposed how uninitiated the technology was (children did not know the situation) to the masses. It also gave away the long shuttle speed cameras then operated on.
2. Sitting, literally
As mentioned, the exposure speed were often rather long for photos taken back then. As such, most of the portraiture then had the same look. The sitter was often quite literally, seated on a chair, then with their arms perched on the arm chair handle or a nearby table. The sitters usually had a very neural (almost bordering annoyed-looking) expression, which is easier to hold than a smile. This resulted in most sitters having the same posture and often stature– be it the patriarchy, matriarchy or children.
From the whole show, this particular image captivated me. I was very drawn in by how deep the lady’s eyes looked. I guess this is the charm of the analog techniques (daguerreotype).
After the first lecture, I was quite interested to find out more about the history of photography in other countries or cultural contexts. I feel that it’s important to remember that the study of history is always a survey of various historIES.
The paper can be found above.
What struck me the most was how the development of photography was greatly compromised by the on standing biases the local community had towards the new technology. It is a great pity as the study of optics was already rather developed in China and the nascent forms of photography in China used chemicals and materials that were local. However, the resistance towards the technology meant that the papers various forerunners wrote were only published much later, decades after the photographic technology was brought in from the West. This greatly limited the scholarship and research surrounding photography at that time.
What surprised me, however, was that the artist’s self-portraits were usually the first image rather than landscapes of objects.
I guess that just reinforces how the experimentations surrounding photography was rather private and socially exclusive. Interestingly, the poses echo how the poses in the West are like– possibly it was driven by the pragmatics of staying still for the long exposures.
I really feel that this text is worth a read! And I am very happy to find out that the discovery/invention of photography sprouted in more than just the Western cultural context.
For this assignment, I approached it by first looking for some inspirations on Vimeo. Here are some of the videos that caught my eyes:
I enjoyed how the different scenes in the sequence came together in the last scene– where the rooster was actually a combination of the different animals shown.
I liked how the creator played with the visual affinities of the different objects and her name.
Drawing from these videos, I came up this rough draft and some visual references:
This was one of my earlier drafts:
- lack of overlapping animations
- can afford to have more things in the background
This is my final Work: