Monday, 30 November 2009

Radio diptych

I have started to pair my images together with text and illustrations from Protect and Survive. By experimenting with different combinations of text and imagery I hope to be able to find the most appropriate way to present my work.

Naglaa Walker

In her series On Physics Naglaa Walker combines photographic diptychs, which juxtapose constructed blackboard images of chalked equations with carefully staged photographic images of people - for example, human emotional behaviour such as kissing or arguing is paired with a graphic physical law.

In a similar way, I will try juxtaposing my images with illustrations and text from the Protect and Survive handbook.

Enlarged Diagrams:

Enlargements scanned from the 1962 issue of Knowledge Encyclopaedic Magazine for children:

Knowledge: Nuclear wepons for children

I recently found this 1960s encyclopaedic magazine publication at a car boot sale. This issue simplifies the physics behind nuclear reactions for children to understand.

I find the simple diagrams quite interesting and hope to perhaps be able to include them with my images for this project.

Protect and Survive pages and quotes:

As my project has been heavily inspired by the information contained within the Protect and Survive handbook, I have been considering combining my images with some of the illustrations and quotes taken from the booklet.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Thursday, 5 November 2009

2nd Fallout Shelter Enlargement

This is an enlargement of the couple I mentioned in my previous post, posing with my original model inside the fallout shelter at Hack Green.

There is a definite felling of unease with this image. I particularly like the way in which the woman is hanging her head and clasping her hands as well as the expression on the man's face. Leann's fidgeting with the Geiger counter also seems to portray some sort of hope or her motivation for survival.

Scanned Fuji Pro 400 H F4: 13 Seconds

4th Contact Sheet:

During this visit to Hack Green we were joined by a couple who were Australian tourists from Tasmania who were visiting Cheshire on a cycling holiday. They very kindly agreed to pose in a couple of photographs along side my original model, Leann.

All models were given direction, trying to create a tense and sombre mood.

I thought that the age difference between the tourists and Leann might create an interesting new dynamic in the pictures.

Shots inside the fallout shelter were taken using a Hasselblad 500 cm at F4 with a shutter speed of 13 seconds on 400 speed film.

Living without sunlight

It is safe to say that the long term effects of excessive exposure to solar radiation (UVB) can be harmful to a person, causing the possibility of many health complications including melanoma and other skin cancers. Though this solar radiation is the primary source of vitamin D for most Americans and Europeans.

The health benefits of sunlight have been explored for many years, resulting in the conclusion that moderate exposure to sunlight is an intrinsic component for healthy life.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is just one of the health implications brought about by reduced exposure to sunlight. Throughout the winter months
many suffers encounter these symptoms:

Most sufferers show signs of a weakened immune system during the winter,
and are more vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.

SAD symptoms disappear in spring, either suddenly with a short period (e.g. four weeks) of hypomania or hyperactivity, or gradually, depending on the intensity
of sunlight in the spring and early summer.

In sub-syndromal SAD, symptoms such as tiredness, lethargy, sleep and eating problems occur, but depression and anxiety are absent or mild.

SAD may begin at any age but the main age of onset is between 18 and 30 years.
SAD occurs throughout the northern and southern hemispheres but is extremely rare in those living within 30 degrees of the Equator, where daylight hours are long, constant and extremely bright.

This evidence raises the question 'How would living underground for a prolonged period effect our mental and physical health?'

I hope to be able to incorporate this research into my photographs using a model.

Enlargement: Attack Warning

Scanned Fuji Pro 400 H, F16: 1/60th second

This image has been inspired by the Protect and Survive handbook, issued by the Home Office and Civil Defence in 1980. I tried to capture the sense of urgency a person would feel upon hearing an attack siren.

After scanning the negative, I used multiple layers in Photoshop to highlight the running figure. Creating a copy of the background layer, I then altered the levels of original layer to bring out the highlights of the white dust suit the model is wearing. I then used a soft eraser to carefully delete that area of the new layer, clearly exposing the altered levels of the running figure.

Here is a copy of the Protect and Survive page that inspired this image:

Contact sheets - 3rd visit to Hack Green

I have tried to create a narrative by photographing a model outside of the facility. I am not as happy as I could be with these shots and wonder if the reason is due to removing the model from the bunker and placing her in the outside world.

These images lack the attributes that I have previously mentioned, they don't communicate any of the moods or feelings that I had hoped to capture. Though, having said that, I am interested to see some of these images enlarged. The frames on the far right of this contact sheet look to be more interesting that others, they have captured a sense of urgency. I can imagine looking at these images and hearing an attack warning signal.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Red Telephone

This is an enlargement from my second visit to the facility at Hack Green, this room housed a warning system, alerting the Regional Commissioner of an imminent strike. The alarm would then be raised to warn the military and civil authorities across the country.

The red telephones on the Warning Officer's desk brought to mind a verse from a song by 60s American psychedelic/folk rock band Love, entitled The Red Telephone from their 1967 album Forever Changes:

Sitting on a hillside
Watching all the people die
I'll feel much better on the other side
I'll thumb a ride

Scanned Fuji Pro 400 H, F22: 28 seconds

Fallout Shelter Enlargements

Here are a couple of examples of the images taken from inside the fallout shelter at Hack Green nuclear bunker. Using a model I have attempted to create original work concerning post-apocalyptic survival. I feel that these images are the most successful from this particular shoot.

I directed the model, asking her to handle the Geiger counters. I wanted the images to have all the elements that I have previously expressed interest in, such as cinematic qualities and an emphasis on confinement and claustrophobia. I was conscious that over exaggerated emotion and expressions could undermine the content of these images. For these reasons I have made compositional choices such obscuring facial expression, the use of body language and close angles from over the model's shoulder to avoid creating a 'pantomime' interpretation of fear and distress.

Scanned Fuji Pro 400 H, F4: 13 Seconds

Downfall (2004)

Director of Downfall (Der Untergang) Oliver Hirschbiegel used a low angle to accentuate the feeling of being enclosed for scenes inside Hitler's bunker. This approach also brings feelings of claustrophobia to the viewer, he also used camera angles that are obscured by walls and doorways to create this atmosphere. The pallet of colour is largely desaturated, with subtle and muted tones, suggesting the ambiance of living in a place starved of natural light, deep underground. The wide angle used within the enclosed space also exaggerates the feeling of confinement or being imprisoned underground.

Perhaps similar compositions could be applied and used within my own practice to create such a mood.

The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock

Hans Burkhardt, After the Bomb, 1948

The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock
19 September - 13 December 2009
Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

I recently visited this exhibition in connection with our current Research Development module. This touring exhibition, put together by curator Stephen Coppel of the British Museum, features 147 works by 74 artists, the exhibition includes the work of John Sloan, Edward Hopper, Josef Albers, Louise Bourgeois, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning Jackson Pollock. The first half of the 20th century was a period of great change in America, and this exhibition examines American society and culture through the prints produced by some of the most important artists of the time.

I found a number of works in this exhibition inspiring, echoing the apocalyptic themes that are also present in my current project. Particularly the abstract impressionist piece After the Bomb by Hans Burkhardt, the large woodblock prints Hydrogen Man (1954) and Man of Peace (1952) by Leonard Baskin and Tranquillity (1936), an etching by Joseph Leboit.

Hydrogen Man (1954) by Leonard Baskin

On March 1, 1954, the U.S. exploded the first hydrogen bomb. In the same year, Leonard Baskin created this life-size woodblock print, Hydrogen Man. His apocalyptic vision of a mutilated, living skeleton warns of the imminent destruction of civilization. Baskin, who described himself as a "moral realist," believed the artist’s role was to be an observer, commentator and prophet.

Tranquillity (1936), etching by Joseph Leboit.

Leboit questions the role of the artist in war, his above etching is a criticism of his peers: artists who, even in the face of a devastating war, still remain locked up in their studios, creating abstract art.

The refusal to acknowledge the outside world conflicts, LeBoit implies, can only lead to a false sense of tranquility and security. Not only does the artist’s self inflicted solitude rob his society of his ideas and influences, it will also result in his death once the planes outside the window reach him.

Face to Face with the Bomb: Nuclear Reality After the Cold War

Paul Shambroom's series Face to Face with the Bomb: Nuclear Reality After the Cold War is both interesting and impressive. It is unlikely that any other photographer will be granted access to such sites in the foreseeable future on the grounds of 'Post 9/11' security issues. His work on this project is insightful, offering a glimpse into an unseen world of power. This project was undertaken between 1992 - 2001, visiting sites accross America and the South Pacific.

In his statement regarding his work on this project, Shambroom quotes Psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton in his 1986 essay "Examining the Real: Beyond the Nuclear 'End'"

My goal is neither to directly criticize nor glorify. My objective is to reveal the tangible reality of the huge nuclear arsenal, something that exists for most of us only as a powerful concept in our collective consciousness.

Shambroom's project is successful in this respect, blurring the line between reportage and art. He is able to record and demistify the secrecy surrounding America's nuclear deterrent programme whilst maintaining his impartiality.

Paul Shambroom's website

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Contact sheets - 2nd vist to Hack Green

From these contact sheets you can see that this particular outing to the bunker was not very productive.

I have been having problems with my Mamiya 645 for months, I'd been avoiding using it. I'm uncertain what the problem is. I've taken it to be repaired on a few occasions but no one has ever been able to find the fault, it involves the electrically-assisted stutter and the film winder. This problem has been ongoing for almost a year and using the 645 fills me with anxiety, as I cannot be sure that the film will exposed correctly.

I had tested the camera prior to my visit to the bunker and it had worked perfectly, though this re-occurring problem is intermittent and cannot be predicted.

I decided that I need equipment that would not repeatedly let me down and so I have replaced the Mamiya 645 to ensure I do not suffer the same problems in the future.

I decided to take a model with me for this shoot, as previous work I have seen concerning such environments is often void of people. Introducing a human element to the environment and focusing on achieving a cinematic aesthetic similar to that of film stills is an aspect I would like to explore further throughout this project, though I had been reluctant to do so earlier.

Inside the Fallout Shelter room, I directed the model using props such as Geiger counters and dosimeters that were part of the installation. The Fallout Shelter houses a simulation of a nuclear attack, it is dark with the constant flickering of red lights accompanied by audio. This made these images very difficult to shoot. Exposure times were roughly 13 seconds at F4.

I am happy with the results from the Fallout Shelter, despite the complications brought about by defective equipment, I hope to explore this concept further using the same model.

Bunker - Robert Kusmirowski

Currently exhibiting at the Barbican Curve Gallery until 15 January 2010:

Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski draws inspiration from his own imagination and personal memories to create a highly atmospheric installation, he has transformed the Curve Gallery into a World War Two-era bunker.

In conjunction with this installation Robert Kusmirowski has produced a limited number of photographic prints an example of which is shown on the left. I find the anonymity of the model shown very interesting, which has influenced some of my own ideas in connection with my own bunker project.

I hope to be able to make a trip to London to visit this exhibition as I believe it is closely related to my current assignment. I find the relationship between people and their surrounding environments very interesting and love the idea the artist creating a fictitious shelter from his imagination to be experienced by gallery visitors.

Hack Green Nuclear Bunker - Test Shots/Action Research

Initial test shots/action research from Hack Green Nuclear Bunker, Cheshire

I have tried through these images to familiarise myself with the interior of the Bunker. I have used them as a reference throughout my research to try to imagine what it might be like to live in an underground facility.

The desk lamp lighting creates a sense of claustrophobia and drama which accentuates the feeling of being underground.

I find the interiors almost cinematic in their aesthetic, though this may be subject to their content, having only previously encountered such environments through the medium of cinema. This quality brings to mind B Movies from the 1960s, perhaps through the age and period of the interiors.

Crossroads (1976)

Crossroads is a 1979 short film directed by Bruce Conner. It features fearsome yet beautifully
haunting visual poetry consisting of extreme slow-motion replays of the July 25 1946 Operation Crossroads Baker underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

The event was captured for research purposes by five hundred cameras stationed on unmanned planes, high-altitude aircraft, boats near the blast, and from more distant points on land around the Atoll. The location was selected in part because the network of islands formed an almost complete ellipse around the detonation site, allowing for a comprehensive documentation of the event from numerous angles.

The music is by minimalist Western classical composer Terry Riley with additional soundtrack effects by Patrick Gleeson. The first section of the film is coupled with an apparently synchronous on-location soundtrack. It is not initially obvious that these sounds are not authentically tied to the images they accompany. Conner first allows doubt of his simulation when he breaks the sound delay displacement to set the sound of the blast "in sync" with the visual event. In the first shots of the film, the blast is heard moments after it is seen. This accounts for the difference in speed of which light and sound travel. Having the visual and sonic events occur simultaneously, which is to say out of what would be actual sync, makes the depiction an aesthetic simulation of the event rather than a document of an actual one.

More information about Crossroads: