Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 112
Format : Non Fiction, Photography
Reason for Reading : Course Reading Material

At the moment I am studying colour as part of The Art of Photography and my tutor recommended this collection to me to look through. From some other reading I've been doing, Eggleston was a pioneer as in the 1960s colour photography was mostly used only by advertising and publicity companies. Eggleston began to use it in his work and this collection was shown at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. To quote "Photography A Critical Introduction" edited by Liz Wells "His subjects were mundane, everyday, often trivial, so that the real subject was often seen to be the colour itself." I've included the two pictures that stood out to me the most below.

Huntsville, Alabama - I love the pose of the gentleman, casually stroking the bright orange plane. I wonder if he piloted one when he was younger, was he part of the US Air Force or does he just have an appreciation of planes? It's composed with lost of empty space to his left maybe to emphasise his long past as he is now past his youth. It has a sense of nostalgia.

Memphis - A real Memphis belle. Going back to earlier modules this picture is full of shapes (Eggleston did study Cartier-Bresson I believe). There are lines, diagonals, curves and brian;es plenty. Your eye is drawn also to the contrast between the yellow of the wall and her hair with the dark blue of her dress.

Overall I wasn't a big fan of many of the pictures. I'm not sure if it's because they didn't mean much to me being taken before my time of places I haven't visited although that doesn't seem to cover it. The colours were a little dull for my tastes. If you are going to do colour, then do colour! I understand this was a seminal collection so perhaps going through again in a week or two will unlock some more understanding in me. What I did love was the essay by John Szarkowski. I made a note of a few quotes which I hope to use in my assignments moving forwards and it is worth the price of the book for this alone.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 167
Format : Non Fiction, Photography
Reason for Reading : Course Reading Material

Another collection of photography work by Henri Cartier-Bresson. This time all of the photographs were taken around Paris. Some were in the Europeans collection, but most were new to me. The introduction by Vera Feyder read more like a poem than an introductory text which fitted the pictures nicely. It gives a little bit of background about Cartier-Bresson and mentions his "decisive moment" which I keep hearing about.

What I especially liked is that these are not simple tourist snaps. They are well thought out and beautifully composed. In the introduction it quotes Cartier-Bresson as saying "You see, photography is nothing, it's life that interests me. Life, do you see?" which is definitely what you notice immediately form opening the collection. Not as many pictures jumped out as the Europeans collection, but it was still a beyond excellent collection and I have learnt a lot form looking through these over the last few days. Below are two of my favourite pictures from this collection that weren't in the Europeans edition.

Porte d'Aubervilliers (1932) - The young boy looks straight out of Oliver Twist despite being in Paris. Another of his shots that is full of shapes. Lines on the sheds, diagonals of the roof, triangle of his arms and feet as well as the pavement. The light picks up the top of his hat nicely.

Champes-Elysees (May 1968) - The sun is beautiful shining through the flag which is held out so straight by the girl balancing on then back of the bicycle. The bicycle is placed parallel to the broken lines marking the lane. I really like the white of her legs against the dark bike and male.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rating : 5.0/5
Number of Pages : 232
Format : Non Fiction, Photography
Reason for Reading : Course Reading Material

This book was recommended to me by my tutor before getting started on the second part of my course (Elements of Design) and as soon as I started going through the images I could see why. My studying has been focusing on lines, shapes and patterns and all of these photos are filled with these ideas. Beginning with an introduction by Jean Clair, he sums up the collection as "a closely woven portrait of Europe after the war: accumulated ruins and the marks of hunger and woe on people's faces still appearing very clearly." This is certainly the case for many of the photographs, but there is also a sense of abandon and joy to be found as well. The best to describe this is simply to show you some of the photos from the collection.

This was taken in Rome, Italy and shows instantly HCB's grasp of design and the play between light and shadow (a theme that crops up in many of the photos in this collection). He times his shot perfectly with the girl running through the patch of light on the ground, illuminating her and drawing your eye in despite her only being a small object in the frame.

Another of my favourite shots taken of a Guard of Honour at a ceremony commemorating Leningrad's liberation in the USSR. The line of the guards and in particular their feet really stands out and I love the shapes. Your eye is really quickly drawn to the young girl in the bottom left, peeking out and holding flowers. The flowers are dropping and form a curve against the straight line of the guards giving the picture a sadness.
Possibly my favourite of all in the collection is Aquila, The Abruzzi taken in Italy again. The mixture of curves and lines is really striking here both between the man made stairs and fences and the women and children. There is also a line of men in the background parallel to the far metal fence. This really does capture a moment for me when everything seems to come together all at once. His patience must have been astounding!

Highly recommended to anyone interested in either photography (particularly street photography) or design. I have printed out some of my favourites which I have put in my notebook to use as inspiration both now and in the future. Interestingly when I was in Italy last October in Bologna, I stumbled across an exhibition of his which I spent a few hours looking around. I didn't know who he was at the time and hadn't started formally studying photography yet, but I did recognise some of the pictures from the book from the exhibition. Funny how life is symmetrical at times.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 247
Series : Oxford History of Art
Format : Non Fiction, Photography
Reason for Reading : Course Reading Material

This is my first text book since starting my photography course with the OCA. I know it seems daft, but I haven't really paid much attention to the discipline of photography besides actually taking pictures. This seems such a massive oversight on my part and I am doing my best to start making up for lost time. In this regard this is an excellent place to start. There are over 120 photos by a wide variety of photographers with many more referenced. Lots of further reading is needed and inspired.

It covers all the bases with chapters on how photography got started, landscape, the city, portraits, the body, documentary and fine art photography. There is also a chapter on how to read a photograph which I found incredibly useful and it's something I am working on and trying to start putting in to cohesive words why I do or do not like a particular photograph.

The one section that was really difficult was the section on documentary photography. I need to think about my personal ethics here. I am not sure I could distance myself to whatever was going on around me to take photos and not want to get involved and help out. In particular photos like "People to be Shot" by Robert Haeberle where he asked the firing squad to pause so he could photograph four adults (three women) and two children before they were killed in Vietnam. Everyone has their own levels of what they can accept and these pictures are very powerful, I'm just not sure I could be the one taking them. It is important to challenge peoples ideals though and the pictures in this section have stayed with me the longest after finishing reading the book.

This is definitely a book I will come back to and refer to as my learning and studies continue. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to make a serious start in photography.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 294
Series : #4 Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon
Format : Urban Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : To continue with the series, 12 in 12 Challenge

I went straight into the fourth book after reading Darkling and this time the story is narrated by Camille. She's a witch dedicated to The Moon, but as she's half human her spells have a tendency to backfire. Her story is a little complicated as she is a little free with the men. Her main partner is Trillian who is absent on a dangerous mission for the majority of the book. Along with Trillian she has a triad with Morio, a fox demon. Her third lover is Smokey who shifts into a dragon with whom she has a pact. In this instalment he finally claims his first night with her and she gets to "ride a dragon"!

The main plot centres around Camille receiving a visit from a unicorn and the legendary black unicorn horn to help in the fight against Shadowing (the main over arcing villain) and a powerful Earthside demon named Karvanak who is after a newly surfaced spirit seal. Also in the background you have Morgaine trying to resurrect the Faerie Courts and become Queen herself. If it sounds complicated, it is. This was one thing I disliked about the novel, there was too much plot and not really enough time to sort through it all.

Camille is my least favourite of the three sisters. I don't really get where she is coming from which I think is part of the problem. She is half strong and powerful, owning her sexuality. On the other hand she seems quite happy to let her men control her and tie her down. Every now and then she will throw a hissy fit and one will be there there little Witch, don't get your knickers in a twist. On the plus side the book had a unicorn in it (he could have been in it more though, again too much plot and not enough time to spend with the characters besides Camille) so I'm sold!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 290
Series : #3 Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon
Format : Urban Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : To continue with the series, 12 in 12 Challenge

The third novel about three sisters who are half-fae and half-human. Camille is a witch with malfunctioning magic, Delilah shifts into a tabby kitty (and now sometimes a black panther) and Menolly was turned into a vampire. The series is written (so far at least) with a different sister narrating the story. This time it's Menolly so there is a vampire focus throughout and her vicious sire Dredge looks to be back ready to inflict more torture, pain and death to those she loves.

See this isn't your Twilight kind of tale. When Menolly was turned she was caught spying on Dredge and his cronies for the powers that be in Otherworld. Instead of just killing her, he subjected her to life scarring mutilation all over her body excluding just her face, hands and feet. He then raped her repeatedly and as she was on the brink of death he made her drink his blood. Returning to her unlife full of violence and blood lust, Dredge then sent her home to feast on her family. Luckily she had enough wits about her to hide and begin the slow process of regaining her shattered mind.

Of the three sisters, so far I have warmed to Menolly the most. She's quite cold and shuns physical relationships (partly due to her new vampire nature and partly because of her horrific past), but I still wanted to get to know her. She didn't get much air time in the previous two books either. As part of her challenge in destroying Dredge she has to relive her turning so she can understand and heal what was done long ago which was pretty harrowing.

One thing I wasn't sure about is that she has two sexual experiences in the short space of this novel after giving up sex for many years. It seemed a bit much but then I suppose she is supposed to be healing from all old injuries caused that night, but still it didn't sit quite right. The first one made complete sense in the context of the story, but not really the second one which seemed more just to titillate readers and it didn't feel right for the character to me. Overall though an enjoyable read and I can't wait to get back to Menolly's story again in the series.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Personal Note

Morning blogging world. I thought I would share a personal note with you all today. After a lot of deliberation I signed up for a distance learning degree course and my course materials all arrived today. I'm really excited and keen to get stuck in. It will mean less reading as it will take up 8-10 hours each week for the foreseeable future, but I aim to still complete the challenges I am signed up for. You may notice a change in the type of books I read and review outside of challenges but I hope that's ok.