Assignment 4 – Research – Essays on remarkable photographs

The book Singular Images: Essays on remarkable photographs is now out of print and sells for anything from £50 – £150. With my library unable to source a copy, and not wanting to spend that much money, I was able to find some of the essays online and through fellow students. The Arbus essay was available on the OCA website and my thoughts on this can be found in this previous post. I have since read another 3 of the essays in a bid to further my understanding of critical analysis.

Jeff Wall – A view from an apartment 2004-5, by Sheena Wagstaff.

Wall, J. (2004-5). A view from an apartment

Wall, J. (2004-5). A view from an apartment (photograph).

  • Wagstaff had a deep insight in to this work, having met with Wall during its making.
  • This gives a greater insight in to Walls intention/meaning. This makes me ask if she’s reading the photograph herself, or is she ‘telling it how it is’ according to Wall?
  • There is some discussion of of the technical and logistical aspects to creating such a staged photograph, which in themselves provide some context.
  • Wagstaff compares Walls work to paintings by Velasquez and Goya, and references them as influences on him.
  • There is quite a lot of ‘conceptual’ talk about the window actually being a mirror and the view actually being a reflection of ourselves. There is no argument for this which makes me think its a personal opinion or a personal reading.
  • The essay reads quite well (structure) and feels like an interview with Wall about this photograph, rather than just the authors take on it.

Bill Brandt – A snicket, Halifax 1937, by Nigel Warburton.

Brandt, B (1937). A snicket, Halifax (photograph)

Brandt, B (1937). A snicket, Halifax (photograph)

  • Warburton discusses the different appropriations & contexts that have been applied to the image over the years.
  • Discusses the formal elements before alluding to the ‘Artistic Ouvre’
  • Like previous examples, the essay delves into the artists background, his work with Man-Ray, his surrealist influences and his Formalist approach.
  • There is quite a bit of info about Brandt’s processing – The image is largely a result of of the darkroom processing, bringing out the atmosphere and excluding much of the detail.
  • Again, we see references to and comparison with other art forms, this time film.
  • Warburton uses the history of the place and the politics to deconstruct the image and provide context.

Martin Parr – Jubilee street party, Elland, Yorkshire 1977 by Val Williams.

Parr, M. (1977). Jubilee street party, Elland, Yorkshire (photograph)

Parr, M. (1977). Jubilee street party, Elland, Yorkshire (photograph).

  • This essay differs slightly in construct in that it starts with the history of the artist/context of the photograph rather than the formal aspects.
  • It is an interesting photo with an awful lot to convey. I was surprised that the essay was a short as it was – Brevity will be key to my own essay.
  • As for other essays, the author discusses how the photograph has been used in differing contexts.
  • There is some deconstruction of the lighting and what it means in terms of atmosphere. The same goes for the composition and inclusion of certain elements.
  • There is input from a third party (publisher Jonathan Cape) which gives a slightly different take on the photograph.
  • In many ways, this feels more like an essay about Parr than this particular image.

These essays have given me some food for thought in terms of content for my own essay. Refreshingly, I found very little use of terminology such as Sign, Signifier, Signified, Denotation etc. etc. Instead, what the authors gleaned from each photograph seemed to come more from research into the artists, their backgrounds, or the places they’d photographed, rather than just from reading the photograph.

Bibliography

Sheena, W. (2005) ‘Jeff Wall: A view from an apartment, 2004-5’, in Howarth, S. (ed.) Singular images: Essays on remarkable photographs. London: Tate Publishing.
Warburton, N. (2005) ‘Bill Brandt, A Snicket, Halifax 1937’, in Howarth, S. (ed.) Singular images: Essays on remarkable photographs. London: Tate Publishing.
Williams, V. (2005) ‘Martin Parr, Jubilee Street Party, Eiland, Yorkshire 1977’, in Howarth, S. (ed.) Singular images: Essays on remarkable photographs. London: Tate Publishing.
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4 thoughts on “Assignment 4 – Research – Essays on remarkable photographs

  1. I know what you mean about the price of some of these books. I was luck to pick up a copy of the book for £10 – used in very good condition. Abebooks.co.uk has become a first port of call for me – often pick up good used copies at a fair price, sometimes even a bargain.

    Liked by 1 person

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