Brief: Take a photograph in response to an image by any photographer of your choice. Be explicit about what you are responding to. Add both images to your leaning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Submit the exercise as part of assignment 5.
Following My visit to Graves Gallery in Sheffield and my viewing of some of Walker Evans’ images, I have enjoyed looking at this artist’s work. In Walker Evans ‘Photofile’ (2007) the second image in the collection caught my attention:
Walker Evans, Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1929
Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1929 is a view of the bridge, taken from below. The bridge may not at first be easily recognised as such since the shapes created by the viewpoint are unconventional and different to how people normally see it . The dark shape of the bridge may even be initially seen as a vertical structure, like a huge statue. The height and size of the bridge in this image is exaggerated since it appears to tower over the city, which takes up a much smaller part of the image. The viewer sees the bridge from a new and unusual perspective.
This image is part of Evans’ Bridge project, which included a number of images of Brooklyn Bridge. Another of his images: From the Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1929 is taken from a high position on the bridge, looking down towards the river and shows an abstract view of the railway carriages below and a ship passing by. Other images of the bridge highlight the construction, presenting a different view of a familiar subject. By presenting the bridge in a non-traditional way, using photography not as documentary but as art, Evans drew attention to the bridge as modern and novel.
My empathy with Evans’ work follows my work on Assignment 4 where I re-looked at ordinary things in my home village. and found that they were made almost beautiful by the ambient artificial light. This gave me a new appreciation of the ordinary and the beauty that can be found in everyday things. My homage to Evans is a response to my awareness of the mundane in my surroundings and my acknowledgement of how he made the common-place more visible again.
I have driven under this railway bridge many times. If someone had asked me, I should not even have known what it looked like. My homage photography has resulted in a new appreciation of this bridge. I was able, during my shoot, to walk over it, and to look down to the road below. I noticed things I had previously passed by, and I noticed just how many people used the bridge as a vital link across a very busy road. The bridge itself is highly ‘graffitied’ and a real pleasure to photograph.
My bridge is clearly much lower and shorter than Brooklyn Bridge, the angles and shapes are gentler, and my bridge is therefore immediately recognisable as a bridge. I believe that the internal context in my image is sufficient to enable a viewer to understand that this is an image of a bridge taken from an unusual angle to highlight the construction of it. A title ‘Railway Bridge, Stairfoot’ would add interest for local viewers, keen to recognise it, and it may be sufficient to encourage viewers to notice the bridge in a new way the next time they drive underneath it.
I hope that my image has shown my affinity with that of Evans in that it presents an ordinary (or in the case of Brooklyn Bridge, extra-ordinary but under-appreciated) but essential part of the community’s infrastructure, in such a light that it is appreciated anew.
In terms of context, Evans’ image is such an unusual viewpoint (particularly at the time that it was taken) that even with the additional information provided by a recognisable skyline, a viewer may find the title helpful in understanding the image. Internal context is provided by what is contained within the frame, and also by its title, date and name of the artist. No further information would be needed for a viewer to appreciate the subject within this image. The viewer understands that this is an image that is drawing attention to the bridge as a construction and which emphasises it as a significant part of the landscape.
I have a copy of this image in a photo-book of Evans’ work (Evans 2007). It is presented on a double-page spread with the image on the right and its title and date in small print on the left. The external context provided by the presentation of this image in a collection like this, with other significant works by the same artist, encourages me to view it not only as a single image but as part of a body of work. The fact that is has been selected, edited and chosen as representative of the work of an important photographer, further encourages me to value the image as more than just an image but also in terms of what I know about the artist.
An understanding of why Evans wanted to take his Bridge photographs adds an additional understanding. Without the original context, I appreciate his image as an artistic presentation of something ordinarily presented from a more traditional viewpoint. With it, I understand that it was intended to display it in a new light to emphasise it as the extraordinary construction that it is rather than simply the link across the river.
The course notes ask that I consider the possibility of my camera having shooting modes that ensure perfect images in the categories of ‘beauty’, ‘creativity’, or ‘memento’ and asks which mode was used in this exercise. This is an interesting thought. I think that the unusual point of view and short focal length highlights this neglected and unnoticed bridge. Also, I think that although the straight line of the shadow on the wall emphasises the angles of the iron structure, the bridge as a whole is softened by the sunlight. I hope it also shows, through the cars and the steps leading to nearby houses, that the bridge is an important part of a local community. I think that my image therefore shows creativity rather than beauty or a perfect memento.
List of illustrations
1 Evans, Walker (1929) Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1929 (photograph). At: https://www.bing.com/images/search?&q=Evans+brooklyn+bridge%2c+new+york%2c+1929&qft=&FORM=R5IR39 (Accessed 27 March 2017)
Evans, W. and Mora, G. (2007). Walker Evans. London: Thames & Hudson.