Pick ‘n’ mix

There are more techniques than ever to choose from when developing your style. Yolanda Zappaterra hears how current MA students up and down the country make the most of the technologies available to them.

This week, London’s biggest adult education centre, the City Lit, opens a new photography space that will address what it has identified as a growing desire for photography courses in London. The studio space will offer an array of digital equipment and software, but no darkroom – another nail perhaps in the coffin of analogue photography skills.

But is this shift reflected in full-time photography and art courses across the country, or is the ubiquity of digital creating a desire in students to explore traditional techniques that will set them apart from the amateurs capturing Big Ben on their phone?

Olivier Richon, head of photography at the Royal College of Art, says, ’On our MA in photography, where photography is a fine art practice, students use all sorts of techniques. It is hybrid. No purity. No technological optimism, and no desire to cling to the past either.’

Readers can judge for themselves next month at an exhibition of student and graduate work at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, but if you can’t wait that long, here we look at the widely varying work of six students who are using traditional techniques, new technology, or sometimes both to innovative effect.

Victoria Hawkins
Loughbororough University

I choose to combine digital and analogue in my work as it draws on both past and present. By combining both processes I gain an expansion of skills and techniques needed to make a photograph rather than take a photograph. Even though analogue procedures can be laborious, they produce an image, and for me it is important to explore this to be able to respond to current techniques.

For example, I scan in my negatives and manipulate them using Photoshop to turn them into large negatives, which I then print on to acetate. From the printed acetate negatives I can then print my photographs using an old contact printing process called an argotype. Although it’s perfectly plausible to recreate the look of an argotype in Photoshop, the aesthetics that my image gains from performing the actual procedure gives me something I couldn’t get if I just manipulated a fake argotype image on the computer.

Jonny Briggs
Royal College of Art

When I was a child my parents used photography to document our family life in idyllically staged collections. The requirements were to smile, stand in a particular way and be captured doing something they termed enjoyable, a performance. Despite the use of analogue, traditionally perceived as truthful, and perceptions that the camera never lies, these selections bent truth.

Through digital photography and post-production I’m now able to bend truth in new ways. I can play with perceptions of authenticity and construct my own realities, recreating my past through pictures puzzling together hundreds of individual photographs in seamless montages. Thus I further control perspective, focus and distance, and so produce hyper-real cartoon-like images that further blur the boundary between real and imagined. Digital photography and its inherent mutability prompt people to rethink concepts of realism and representation, and these are exciting preconceptions to work with.

In a new series of work I’m juxtaposing characters from my montages within my family photographs. The two vocabularies contrast, and I love how this can destabilise and disconcert. It makes the montaged world more real through seeping into the ’authentic representation’ world.

Dong Yoon Kim
London College of Communication

My practice is about what we’ve forgotten and lost, living in an over-competitive society. I explore these issues by creating work that stimulates the memory of the viewer.

This work uses multilayering to do that; by compressing the moment, I hope to draw out ideas from the viewer. By stacking layers, I offer a new spectacle. The blurry layers of the central object create an illusion that makes the viewer uncertain about whether the memory is from direct or indirect experience.

I used both DSLR and film camera for this project; the first to source and locate the shot, the second for the actual shoot. I shoot with either 5×4 or medium-format colour films. After processing them, I scan and pile them on the computer. So digital manipulation plays an important role in my works.

Daniel Simcox
Coventry University

Over the past year I’ve collected close to a thousand 35mm transparencies, fuelled by an interest in their physicality and presence as aged objects of captured moments, which have gathered dust and marks over their lifetime. I analyse the images, together with the marks that have become embedded on the physical image, and re-photograph them, exploring details within the frame such as cropping, zooming and enlarging.

One of the contributing factors for Act of Forgetting, in which I’ve been re-photographing selections from a box of 35mm slides from the 1960s and 1970s, was Kodak’s decision to stop production of Kodachrome film last year. Kodachrome was such an important photographic form because it straddled the gap from professional photographers to amateur snapshots, and it is a format I always had a particular fascination with. This project marks my first work with positive (reversal as opposed to negative) film, and it was a steep learning curve; being new to the format I would have liked to perform lots of tests, but couldn’t as I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to obtain more film.

Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 2010: The Best of Graduate Photography is at the Photographers’ Gallery from 14 May to 6 June

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