On Photography

I recently read “On Photography” by Susan Sontag, and I found it quite an enjoyable read. You can also read it here.

There is much to say about photography after reading the first chapter  “In Plato’s Cave”. Sontag reveals that writings, paintings and drawings about someone or an event is an interpretation, a visual statement. She claims that photography isn’t a statement about the world, it’s just pieces of it that anyone can acquire. It’s a beautiful art that surfaced around the late 1830’s, and since then most of the earlier photographs taken have been mislaid or torn, because they need to be preserved to last long.  Hence why photos were printed in books, but Sontag believes that because of this, the photo loses it’s quality.

Since photos are found almost anywhere now, in films, galleries and books, there is confusion of how to view the images correctly. I believe there is no wrong way to view an image, but in Chris Marker’s film “Si j’avais quatre dromadaires “(1966), he tells exactly how much time to spend on each photo, and the order he wants you to view them in. He want’s the viewer to gain in visual legibility and emotional impact, and I think this is a beautiful thing.

How is it that if someone tells us something, most of the time we don’t believe them unless they have photographic evidence? Well this is another point Sontag makes, that photographs show a form of truth, evidence. When we want to travel to another country, we need a passport, and that passport needs photographic evidence, signed by the civil force of a state, to prove that it’s actually you. Same goes for trying to get into a club that’s over 18’s. To prove you’re of age, you need an image of yourself  stating your date of birth. June 1871, the Paris Police used this method to catch murderers. Photography incriminates, but also justifies.

At the start of photography, much like the start of computers, it only had the Inventors and experts to use them, and they were expensive enough that only the rich could have them. No amateur could work it. Nowadays every amateur has a camera as part of their smartphone, and has the power to capture everything and anything they want. Although sometimes, this is not a good thing.

Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something. Giving an appearance of participation. Most people can’t go anywhere nowadays, without getting the urge to show everyone what they’re experiencing. Like those people who have over 100 seconds on their Snapchat story of: A concert, a night out, or plain old “banter”. You know who you are.

Tourists using this method of taking pictures of everything while on holiday, has been found to be a method of working, while not working. In this day and age it is unnatural to go away without having a camera. It calms them to take pictures of the beautiful scenes rather than take it all in themselves. They put the camera between themselves and the remarkable scenery.

Sontag states that photography holds a form of Immortality. After the event ends, the picture still exists. This is how history can resonate with  us, we feel empathy towards horrific images of events that have unfolded in another country, or era. For example, the images of the Bergen Belsen and Dachau concentration camps. The writer describes of how seeing these images at the age of 12, changed their perspective on everything.

I love taking photographs as way of documenting my life, like everyone else really. We often take this luxury for granted. After reading On Photography, I know I’m going to be more aware in the future by noticing these aspects of photography, and maybe be a little wary of what I post.

WARNING: Disturbing Images. Here are the images of  the Bergen Belsen and Dachau concentration camps.


“I’m going back to the start”

My father passed on his love of music to me, which I am ever so grateful for, because at a very young age I was exposed to some of the most amazing music ever made. He always had classical music playing for me while I slept in my crib, and I truly believe that this simple act has benefitted me greatly in my emotional and creative development. Not to mention he helped me develop my love for some of the greatest artists I believe to be out there; U2, Coldplay, Stereophonics. I know some people may have never heard of Stereophonics, and they are no longer as big, as Coldplay and U2 still are. But every time I hear one of their songs that is recognizable to me, I just feel happy inside, and the nostalgia of those good old days as a young child going on road trips with my dad, comes flooding through my memory. How I know all of this has benefitted me greatly, is because throughout my childhood I have played many musical instruments; Tin-whistle(Like every other primary school child in Ireland, more than likely), Cello, Violin, Piano, and Singing. I loved all of these instruments, but the two that I have stuck to with a great passion is signing and the piano. I do also give credit to my mom for my passion for the piano, as she did, and still does pay for my lessons!

My mother passed on her love of art to me. From as long as I can remember, My mom had always provided me with the tools and supplies that I needed to create anything I wanted to. I had this life-size kids easel that had a chalkboard on one side, and on the other side you could clip on your A3 pages and paint or colour anything you wanted. We would take turns with each side, making our own masterpieces, either with chalk or paint. My mom would be creating a chalky beach, while I would be painting a sun with a smiley face. I would mostly paint and draw pictures with colours, and my creations were hung around the house because my mother was so proud of everything I did. I got so motivated that I would enter competitions whenever I saw the chance. One year I won an art set from Supervalu because I had the best coloured in Halloween picture out of everyone! This passion was then pursued when I went to secondary school, as I had chosen it for my full six years there. My art teacher helped me to hold onto this passion that I had, and I swore when I left that I would keep it alive. I have a lot of diverse hobbies and interests for a nineteen-year old girl, and picking one for my blog was a tough call, but I stuck to that promise I made to myself and chose art.

Evolution of Painting tools

Cave painting dates back 40,000 years. Paint was made by mixing dirt or charcoal with spit or animal fat. Techniques that were used to apply it was smearing, dabbing, brushing or spraying, which you would blow through a hollow bone to give it an airbrushed effect. Hand stencils were made using the spraying technique, by placing the hand on the wall and spraying the pigments around the outline of the hand. Shoulders and other bones of large animals have been found stained with colour, and were presumed to be used as pigment grinders. Pigments were added to a paste that was made up with various ingredients including water, urine, animal fat, bone marrow, vegetable juices, blood and albumen(also known as egg white). 

Artists before the Industrial Revolution had to use pigs bladders to hold their paint in, and paint brushes were made with animal hair. The Industrial Revolution then introduced the idea of having paint in tubes, synthetic bristles on the paintbrush, and new colours were created. One of my favourite artists, Monet, loved the idea of “En Plein Air”, where an artist would paint outside, rather than inside their studio. He created this painting “En Plein Air” with his new technology of colours and tools. painting-284546_150Poppies, Near Argenteuil, Claude Monet, 1873

Now we can do everything these people did, with less time and effort. Technology has completely changed art. I can promise that 95% of people reading this(If you’re around the same age as me), have spent a good few hours on the Windows paint application as child, creating all sorts of crazy and thinking you were unreal. From the ability to change the brush size, the colour and shade, the texture of the paint on the white page you would always start with, to drawing a perfectly straight line with the tool that allows you to do that, and using the tin of pain icon to completely fill one half of that line with some crazy colour that you could almost design by dragging the mouse around the circle spectrum of colour that was made available to you.

My blabbering on through that whole paragraph was done for a reason, to emphasise the amazing change that technology has made to painting.

Art in the Digital Age

One of my hobbies and passions is Art. I did it as a subject all through secondary school, and had to endure the painful process of writing essay upon essay, all in Irish, about why people in the Stone age/Bronze age/Iron age drew on rocks.  What materials they used, How they did it, etc… 

Recently I presented my project, “Art in the Digital Age”, for my Digital Humanities class. I was a bit nervous, but because I get on so well with all of my classmates, the nerves faded. 

My presentation briefly highlighted how art is being perceived on the internet, how there are numerous websites available for artists/art lovers, and the different tools artists in the digital age are using to create their masterpieces. 

Our presentation had to run for 3-4 minutes, and I felt like I had a lot of Info that I couldn’t fit into that time limit. So, I will link a few websites that I found while researching my topic, that I find very interesting and I hope you will too. 

 http://weburbanist.com/2009/09/28/digital-painters-old-world-art-meets-modern-tech/  – This is the first article I came across, and I knew after reading this, that it would be my topic for my presentation. 

http://www.hitrecord.org – Hit record is a website that my Digital Humanities tutorial lecturer brought my attention to. And you can imagine my surprise when I saw Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s face pop up when I clicked on it. If that doesn’t make you want to click on the link, I don’t know what will. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeVwHEUtv4w – This is a very entertaining review on the Genius Pen Tablet. I mentioned in my presentation a UK Art student ,named Sarah-Rose Oliver, who used this tablet to create her photo-realistic portraits of various celebrities. 

http://www.deviantart.com – I found this website after I read the article from my first link, and after this all of my presentation seemed to come together. 

https://prezi.com/3xyi_jdwz-qi/art-in-the-digital-age – Last but not least, the link to my presentation. Unfortunately you need a prezi account to be able to view it.

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.

Oscar Wilde