Oftentimes, behind in interesting image lies an equally interesting intention. That’s why, when you walk into a gallery, you’ll usually find text on the wall, or an exhibition pamphlet. What is the work trying to say?

Here are a few of my picks for works that have a beautiful execution and fascinating ideas to back them up.

BE10_Dryland_Farming_2_300-1Ed Burtynsky, Dryland Farming #2, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain, 2010, digital chromogenic print on Kodak Endura paper

The famous Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky takes aerial photographs of mines, farms, and other places where humans have used and transformed the land. The images are striking, but what’s even more striking is what he’s showing us – and telling us – about our impacts on the earth. At first, his photographs are beautiful; but the longer we study them, the more frightening they become.

177Evann Siebens, Double Track Layer: Flood, 2015, archival inkjet print

Evann Siebens’s Flood series also discusses our impacts on the environment – though you might not see it at first. Her photographs examine musical records that were ruined when her Calgary home was flooded. Through the artist’s destroyed childhood artefacts, we are prompted to think about a changing climate where droughts, floods, and storms threaten our sense of stability.

This sense of subjectivity echoes in American photographer Todd Hido’s A Road Divided series. Actually, A Road Divided didn’t start with a concept. The artist admits he was just responding to the beauty he saw in the world. But that’s okay, too. Sometimes you have to make an image before you can figure out what exactly compelled you to make it.

ToddHidoTodd Hido, A Road Divided: #10275-5, C-print

In the case of Hido’s work, all the photographs are shot from the dashboard of his car. So the images aren’t conventional landscapes. They’ve become nostalgic, almost like a visualised memory. I’m sure we’ve all seen sights like these before, and Hido taps into this collective memory to create images that are emotionally poignant, but strangely vague. As I look at the works, I can’t help but wonder: “Have I been here before?”

Rather than examining the landscape from a deeply human perspective, Vancouver artist Scott Massey examines the landscape from a very technological one. Last week, we talked about how cameras allow us to see things from new perspectives, and Massey’s Spectrum Studies takes this to another level.

DayNight_flat1Scott Massey, Spectrum Study (day to night), 2013, digital maquette

Using a Hasselblad camera, Massey explores the complexity of photographic images. He strategically laser-cut his film so that different sections would be exposed at different times, enabling him to capture this striking 24-hour time-lapse image entirely in-camera – that is to say, without manipulating the image afterward. Other works in the Spectrum Studies experiment with greyscale, the visible spectrum, and infrared and ultraviolet light.

Powerful images can speak for themselves, of course. But it never hurts to articulate your ideas with an artist statement. In contemporary art, the concept is no less important than the technique or composition.

Now, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, estblished artists will just unveil “new work”, and leave it up to their audience and critics to read into it. Other times, the artist statement is all jargon and gobbledygook – using a bunch of vague terms and trendy buzzwords to cover up the fact that the artist doesn’t really have a point.

Don’t be one of these artists. Be clear, specific, and honest. Tell us why you wanted to make this work; why you thought it was important. Use your own voice – not some made-up one that you think the “art world” wants to hear.

As we come up to the final week of Chester Fields, many of you are probably putting the final touches on your projects. Here’s a guide to help you get your work ready for submission.

1. Printing and framing your work

Many of you have printing facilities at your school. If you don’t, we here at Presentation House Gallery recommend Costco. They produce high-quality prints for a really good price.

Some of you might be wondering how large you should print your works. We don’t have a size limit for Chester Fields submissions, but don’t forget about framing your work. There are lots of frames and matting supplies at the Gallery, and we’re happy to frame your works for you. However, please bear in mind we have the following frame sizes: 8”x10”, 11”x14”, 16”x20” and 20”x24”. If your work is larger than this, you will want to look at getting you work framed somewhere else. I’m happy to offer ideas or recommendations.

Don’t worry if your work doesn’t conform exactly to the frame sizes listed above: we can mat the works so that there’s some white space between the image and the frame.

2. Submitting your work

Digital Submissions:

If you’re submitting a digital file, save your project as a .jpg or .tiff file. If your file is too big to send via email, you can use Dropbox or WeTransfer; both are free. Please email your project, short statement, and the image you started with to j.ramsey@presentationhousegallery.org. In the subject line of your email, include your name, school, and the words “DIGITAL SUBMISSION” so that I know to check for an artwork file.

If your work is chosen for the exhibition, we will need to get it printed. The Gallery is happy to help with this, but please keep in mind that we will probably print it to fit whichever frame size we have available. If there’s a particular size that you’d like your work printed at, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate.

Printed Submissions:

If you’re submitting a physical artwork, please include a printed copy of your short statement and original inspiration image, AND ALSO send them to me via email. In the subject line of your email, please include your name, school, and the words “PRINTED SUBMISSION” so that I know there’s no artwork file attached.

You can drop off your work at Presentation House Gallery; our office is open Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm. We’re located at 333 Chesterfield Avenue, a few blocks up from Lonsdale Quay. Otherwise, hand your projects into your teachers, and I can arrange to get your submissions from them!

As always, please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns. We’re so looking forward to seeing your submissions! Have a great long weekend.

Framing photographs: no, I’m not talking about the physical act of putting your photograph in a picture frame. This week, we’re looking at the ways our photographs are visually composed, and what this composition tells us – or doesn’t tell us.

As photographers, let’s think about how we view the world through the camera. What unique vantage points or perspectives can we achieve with photography? How is looking through the lens different from looking through the eye?

The Russian artist Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was noted for placing his camera at odd angles to his subjects, challenging the way we view everyday scenes. Look at this photograph. From this slanted perspective, the stairs look weirdly flat, like black stripes on the floor. The title, Levels, is somewhat ironic.

levels1929 Alexander Rodchenko, Levels, 1929

Sometimes, photographs remind us how complicated the act of looking can be. In his series America by Car, Lee Friedlander shoots scenes of the American landscape from inside his vehicle. We’re all used to seeing the world from the inside of a car; that’s how many of us go from place to place. But Friedlander’s photographs reveal the many ways our cars frame what we see. The windows, the windshield, even the side and rear-view mirrors: each one frames a different image at any given time.

ambycar19952009 Lee Friedlander, America by Car, 1995-2009, gelatin silver print

And it’s easy to overlook this, until a good photographer shows it to us.

Looking at your starting images, ask yourselves: where was the camera when this image was shot? And how would a different distance or angle have changed the photograph?

It goes without saying that whatever you’ve included in your shot has a major impact on your artwork. But what about the things left outside the frame? If you’re staging a photograph, like Larry Sultan did with his Pictures from Home series, keeping something just off-camera can build intrigue or drama.

PFH12_SULTAN_Mom_In_Doorway_1992-792x1000Larry Sultan, Mom in doorway, 1992, archival pigment print

Since Sultan was photographing his parents, we know that his dad is probably very close by – but not in the frame. What emotional effect does it achieve to have only his mother, looking off-camera? Interpretations can range, but I’d argue it’s a more interesting shot than the two of them standing there talking to each other.

The opposite approach is to have your subject hiding in plain sight. Look at this fashion photograph by acclaimed photographer Frank Horvat. If the model had been alone, against an empty background, the shot would look very contemporary – and very forced. Instead, Horvat places her in a crowded bar, allowing her to naturally rise above the everyday hubbub. Her elegance becomes casual and effortless, and therefore, all the more attractive.

FH-521x800 Frank Horvat, Au Chien Qui Fume, Jardin des Modes, Paris, 1957, inkjet print

Again, consider the people or objects in your frame, and in some cases, those that lie just outside of it. What relationships can your image build? What stories can it tell? What questions can it raise? These are some things to keep in mind as you place your camera.

So far, we’ve seen some cool ways that artists have used other images in their works of art. But this week, let’s look at the dark side of image use.

More specifically, let’s look at social media.

At the start of Chester Fields, I mentioned how fuzzy ownership can be once we post photos online. Once you upload something on Facebook, for example, you give Facebook permission to use it without your permission.

The same goes for Instagram: you give Instagram a fully-paid, royalty-free, transferable and worldwide license to use anything that you post. In basic terms, Instagram has rights to use any of your images, however they want, without getting your permission or owing you a dime. And they can give these rights to third parties.

Now, if someone else uses your Instagram photo on his or her Instagram account, you can file a copyright complaint with the company. But what happens when somebody uses your Instagram photo outside of Instagram? Some people found out the hard way that there’s very little you can do.

And they found this out thanks to the crazy world of contemporary art.

Every year, there are art fairs all over the world, where commercial art galleries set up a booth to sell art. One of the biggest of these fairs is Frieze Art Fair in New York. And in 2015, Larry Gagosian, one of the most respected art dealers working today, devoted his entire booth to the artist Richard Prince and his series of works called New Portraits.

So what are these New Portraits?

Marco Scozzaro-Frieze(©Marco Scozzaro/Frieze)

Basically, Prince took screenshots from the Instagram feeds of total strangers, blew them up as 6-foot-tall inkjet prints, and presented them as artworks. He didn’t give the original photographers any warning, nor did he seek their permissions. And when nearly all the prints sold for $90,000 USD each, none of the original creators got any compensation.

It’s also worth noting that so far, all lawsuits filed against Prince and his New Portraits have been unsuccessful. Our technology evolves so fast that laws can’t keep up with it.

Doedeere

Sometimes, there are artist projects that are meant to be viewed on the internet. Jon Rafman’s 9 Eyes project is a really neat example of this: he’s created an online gallery of intriguing, baffling, sometimes jaw-dropping images found on Google Street View. You can check out his project here: http://9-eyes.com/

But generally, please use caution when uploading photos online. Ask yourself: if this image got stolen from me and used without my permission, would I be okay with that?

And if the answer is a definitive “no”, don’t post it.

There are many ways in which artists use multiple images to create new works of art. If you’re thinking of manipulating your original photograph, or somehow incorporating it into your new work of art, here are some examples of artworks that might help you generate ideas.

Photo collage, or photomontage, is one of the oldest techniques of photo manipulation using more than one picture. This is where you take bits of different photographs and combine them into a new image.

Say, for example, your original photograph had some deep meaning, or sentimental feeling, which the average person wouldn’t necessarily see by looking at your photograph. Are there other images that you could combine with your photograph in order to make these unseen messages visible? Artists like Grete Stern loved using photo collage to explore the human subconscious, and to delve into the world of dreams.

GerteSternGrete Stern, Dream No. 5, 1950, photographic collage

Or, what if your original image has a lot of strange, disparate elements that couldn’t be easily recaptured in a new photograph? Maybe photomontage can help you re-envision your starting image as a brand new work of art. In many of his works, David Hockney uses several overlaid photographs to create clear landscape images.

pearblossomDavid Hockney, Pearblossom Highway, 1986, photographic collage

And don’t forget: you don’t necessarily need scissors and glue to make photo collages anymore. You can work with software like Adobe Photoshop.

The photo sequence is similar to the photomontage: but instead of overlapping many pictures in a single frame, this strategy uses a series of related images to tell a story or convey a message. The photo sequence could be an interesting way of starting with a single image and expanding it into a larger project. And don’t be shy about incorporating text into your artwork! Look at this example by Duane Michals.

DUANE-MICHALS.-Dr-Heisenbergs-Magic-Mirror-of-Uncertainty-1998-7Duane Michels, Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty, 1998

For the ambitious craftsman or craftswoman, there’s also photo sculpture. Photo sculpture is like a photo collage, except the photographs are joined together to create three-dimensional objects. Local artist Michael de Courcy was a pioneer in photo sculpture, and was featured in a major show, Photography Into Sculpture, which opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art back in 1970.

DecourcyMichael de Courcy, Untitled, 1970

Why not expand your original image by bringing it to the third dimension? This might be something to consider – provided you have the patience, the know-how, and the suitable source material to work with.

A lot of artists have created rich and complicated images by taking pictures of pictures. Some photographers, like Vivian Maier, have photographed reflective surfaces such as windows and mirrors, so that the reflection becomes another image inside the photograph. What’s interesting about Maier’s work is that we, as viewers, can see the camera that captured the image we’re currently looking at. Maier’s work was only discovered after her death, but it’s so intriguing that many people are trying to learn more about her life and practice.

maierVivian Maier, untitled photograph, c. 1950s

Other artists, such as Anne Collier, have actually photographed photographs. If you look closely, you’ll see that her image of an eye, shown below, is in fact a page in a book she’s photographed. The work is mystifying. It somehow seems very close-up and intimate, even though the book creates an extra degree of separation between the subject (the eye) and the viewer (you and me).

Anne CollierAnne Collier, Eye (Enlargement of Color Negative), 2007, C-print

Can you think of any reason why you’d want to somehow include your original image in your new artwork? Or make a new image that incorporates the phone on which your original image was captured?

Remember, it’s important to always have a powerful intention behind your artwork. Saying, “I wanted to do this because I thought it would look cool” isn’t enough. Always challenge yourself to make strong choices.

What distinguishes a work of art from any old Instagram photo? The line can be fuzzy, but there’s one important difference. Instagram photos have hashtags. Artworks have cutlines. And the cutline goes like this:

[name of the artist], [title of the work], [year it was made], |medium and materials used in the work|, [dimensions of the work]

Let’s look at a real-life cutline. You might remember this still life painting from the presentation I gave. The cutline for it would be something like:

stilllifeSo answer a few easy questions: what is my name? What is my artwork called? When did I make it? What’s it made out of? How big is it?

And if your photograph is an inkjet print, there’s no need to try and dress it up. Don’t say “Ink on paper.” It’s okay to just say “inkjet print”.

Sometimes, if you’ve made a wonky sculpture, or a video work that can play on a screen of any size, you don’t have to give the dimensions. You can get away with saying “dimensions variable.”

All your artworks should have cutlines. And any time you put an image of your artwork online, make sure to include its cutline. It’s like a signature or stamp: your way of saying, “This is my creative work. My creativity.” Even if you decide to upload an image of an artwork to social media, you should always include its cutline. Put it before all the hashtags!

By including a cutline, you give people a way to credit you if they want to use your image. It gives information about you as an artist: what you do, and how you work. These are facts that you might want to share with other artists or curators who you’re interested in working with.

Best of all: figuring out the cutline is a good way to assure yourself that your artwork is complete. Use the cutline as a kind of checklist. Does your work have a title? (And if it doesn’t, is that because you want it to remain untitled, or have you just been too lazy to think of one?) Do you know the size of your work?

Even if you haven’t printed your photograph yet, figuring out your cutline will encourage you to think through every last detail.

So now that you’re experts on the cutline, make sure you include one with your submission!

Making a brand new artwork in response to an older image isn’t a new idea. In fact, many photographic artists have done exactly that. There’s even a whole genre of art called “appropriation art”, in which artists make new work out of pre-existing images.

Using iconic images as reference points, artists can raise awareness about contemporary issues, vividly depict how society has changed, or explore new modes of creative expression provided by photography and photo editing.

Here are a few examples of how artists have used pre-existing images to make new works of photographic art.

OpheliaAdad Hannah is a contemporary artist based in Vancouver. For some of his projects, he recreates iconic paintings using models and elaborate sets, and then captures the image either as still photographs or subtly moving video works. If you’ve ever seen John Everett Millais’s painting of Ophelia, the tragic character from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, then you’ll recognise Hannah’s Blackwater Ophelia instantly.

Moroccan ManFor Omar Victor Diop, re-creating classic paintings is an issue of representation and identity. Diop is a fine art and fashion photographer from Senegal. For his series Project Diaspora, Diop looks at how black men have been represented by white painters. He then re-creates these paintings in a series of photographs, positioning and styling himself as the subject in each one. By doing so, Diop reclaims his heritage: an African man, depicting African men. Turning these portraits into self-portraits has a strong, even political message.

HokusaiJeff Wall is a celebrated Canadian photographer, known worldwide. Many of his works contain allusions to paintings. This particular one, A Sudden Gust of Wind, is a modern-day interpretation of Yejiri Station (c. 1832) by renowned Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. In this photograph, Wall takes the same subject matter as Hokusai – important papers being swept off in the wind – and re-imagines it in the twentieth-century. Looking at the two artworks side-by-side, we can see that even though our society today might look quite different, its values – and challenges – remain the same.

How would Wall have made an image like this? A Sudden Gust of Wind is quite intricate. Wall used sets, actors, and special effects, almost like a movie, taking over 100 photos and combining them in order to give the impression of a single moment in time.

Don’t forget: before we had cameras, people depicted the world through painting. Don’t be afraid to look to other art forms besides photography when thinking about your projects. Because honestly, how is that Instagram post of your Sunday brunch really so different from a Flemish still life?

If you’re interested in art history, or are looking for ways to further develop your ideas, start by looking at your original social media image. Ask yourself: what genre does this image belong to? Is it a still life? A landscape? A portrait? A self-portrait? Do an Internet search, and see what you can find out about your genre.

Why do artists make still lifes, or self-portraits? Where do these traditions come from? Can you think of a reason why you’d like to work in a particular genre? We want you to tell us. Remember: when making an artwork, a pretty picture isn’t quite enough. There has to be intention behind the work, too!

This year, we want to “snap” out of the digital world for a moment, and into reality.

Our challenge to you is to start with an image you’ve posted and shared online. Pick an image that you connect with – an image that you thought was powerful, or beautiful, or interesting. And then, make a new photographic work that responds to your chosen image. Our goal is to pull that image out of the world of social media – where millions of images are shared, liked, and forgotten every day – and give it new life as an original work of photographic art.

What do we mean by “responding” to your chosen image? This can mean many things. You could try to re-create the image, this time thinking about how big you want it printed, and how you’d like it to be framed; in other words, taking a little jpg and making it an artwork that could be hung in an art gallery.

Or, looking at your chosen image, think of the subjects you were photographing at the time, or the themes you were interested in, and use these as a guiding framework to making a brand new image. Maybe you’ll want to make an image that directly contrasts with the original photo, or manipulate the original photo somehow.

It’s important that you don’t just submit the original Instagram photo. To use a springtime analogy, think of your starting image as a seed, whereas your final work is the flower. We want to see that progression.

You can be as creative as you want. All we ask is that when you submit your work, include a 50-100-word statement about your piece, and a small image of your source of inspiration.

Good luck, artists!

Thanks to all who made it out to our opening night! The works selected for the seventh Chester Fields exhibition, Our Image, Your Image, came together beautifully, and we had an impressive number of guests of different ages!

Congratulations to our three cash prize winners! These are: Adriana Kowalczyk (3rd prize winner), Celina Wang (2nd prize winner) and Natalie Godwin (grand prize winner). Congratulations also to Lindsay Crampton and Tomoki Takeguchi, recipients of this year’s Director’s Award!

We were lucky to have these very talented students at our gallery!

PGH_CF2014_group

Photo credit: Rachel Topham Photography. Left to right: Craig Keating (City of North Vancouver Councillor), Natalie Godwin (1st prize winner), Adriana Kowalczyk (3rd prize winner), Lindsay Crampton (Director’s Award recipient), Reid Shier (Presentation House Gallery Director/Curator), Celina Wang (2nd prize winner), Naomi Yamamoto (MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale), Tomoki Takeguchi (Director’s Award recipient).
 

Thanks to all of you who took part in the contest: those who presented work in the Presentation House Gallery, those whose works feature in the catalogue publication, and all of you who submitted work to the contest.

Here are some more snaps of a beautiful night!

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Photo credit: Rachel Topham Photography

Join us today, Sunday June 1, 2014 for a day of FREE art-making and family-friendly tours of our Chester Fields Youth Photography Exhibition. Check out our Facebook page here.

For kids under-10 and their parents. Noon – 5pm. the Presentation House Gallery, 333 Chesterfield Ave., North Van.

 

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