What do the words ‘Covert’ and ‘Obscured’ mean?Discuss for 3 minutes – make a list of as many synonyms as possible
I spent 20 minutes thinking of all the words linked to these key areas and the theme word: COVERT & OBSCURED – my list is:COVERT: Hidden – secret – concealed – disguised – incognito – stealthy – private – furtive – camouflaged. OBSCURED ambiguous – vague –uncertain – concealed – enigmatic – signifying – unclear – hidden – covered – secret – partial -ACTIVITY: in pairs complete the chart – be creative and imaginative – write down anything you think ofGenres & photographic elements First response: my thoughts and ideas for direction of my projectpeople Disguises – natural/artificial: hats / make-up / Lady Gaga Experimenting with camera angles and lighting Work in the studio/ lighting silhouettes the superhero inside masks – Eugene meatyard / festival / religion personality family – blood and constructed – sally mann beauty inside & out – jenny saville?viewpoint Hidden cameras Through: doors / windows / keyholes / windows / rain / distance… Depicting the truth Sharing feelings Telling a secret: Post secret / journalism Combine text and image? poetryNatural forces Recording different Times of day or changing lighting and how it obscures/exposes things Hiding from the elements – hats/umbrellas/sunglasses / gloves…technique Lighting – creative lighting to obscure and highlight Film noir Pinhole camera Fragmentation Refraction reflections Timelapse photos to obscure locations Inversion and negatives Framing and / or excluding a subject – highlighting what is gone Abstracting sections of the wholeObjects Macro details Obscuring patterns and shadows Viewpoints In a drawer / under the sheets / through lace Use a pinhole caera with natural distortionReaction & message Politics – the truth?? Symbolism & signifier – creating images that stand for other – Dali /Man Ray / Kahlo / Tina Modotti / Chris steel- perkins / chris Killip Storytelling – Diana Arbus Leaving something obvious out The power of community action Building and creating a question / Changing and affecting audiences Time
first action1. Consider the ways that the theme ‘Covert & Obscured’ can be interpreted by slowly going re-through this powerpoint.2. Make notes of any photographers whose work you find inspiring3. complete the initial ideas sheet being as creative as possible4. Produce a mind map of possible ideas / routes and Journeys you could investigate
What do the words ‘Covert’ and ‘Obscured’ mean?Discuss for 3 minutes – make a list of as many synonyms as possibleSynonyms for the word COVERT: Synonyms for the word OBSCURED Hidden Ambiguous Secret Vague Concealed Uncertain Disguised Concealed Incognito Enigmatic Stealthy Unclear Private Hidden Furtive Covered Camouflaged Secret
Let’s start by looking at some photographer’s workwhich might fit the theme ‘Covert & Obscured’
Walker Evans photographed members ofthe public on the New York subway using aconcealed camera c. 1941
Spy CamerasEver since the early days of photographycameras have been made which could be usedcovertly – ideal for spies and private detectives. Watch Camera c. 1890 to 1920 Minox ‘spy’ camera. First produced Amercian ‘Petal’ 1936. This model c. 1960 detective camera c.1940’s
Wildlife photographer & film-makerSimon King often uses a HIDE orcamouflaged equipment whenphotographing wild animals so that hecan get close to them without beingseen.
Much of artist Sophie Calle’s work has been based around the theme of surveillance. In her artwork The Detective she paid a private detective to secretly follow and photograph her, recording where she went and what she did for a day. Although she knew that she would be photographed, she never knew exactly when or where it would take place.Sophie Calle, The Detective, 1981
Paparazzi photographers often use very long focal length lenses to ‘spy’ on celebrities without being seen, as in these recently published images of Kate Middleton and prince William.Some people see this as anintrusion of their privacy, whileother celebrities see it as a way ofmaintaining their celebrity statusand may sometimes even helpthe paparazzi secretly inobtaining such photos!
These first examples all involved covert photographer -the photographer hiding or concealing the fact thatthey were taking photographs.A different approach is when the photographer openlytries to make a portrait which reveals somethingnormally hidden about the subject, perhaps exploringtheir inner emotions or trying to get behind themetaphorical ‘mask’ that people often hide behind.
By getting members of the publicto write whatever they wantedabout themselves, photographerGillian Wearing was able to revealaspects of the subject that mightnormally have remained concealedor hidden.
Photographer Yousuf Karshexplained that whenphotographing WinstonChurchill, he grabbed thecigar away from Winston andthen immediately took thepicture, producing a portraitwhich better representedthe steely determination ofthe man in his expression. Winston Churchill was often pictured smiling with a cigar in his hand or mouth.
Lewis Morley, self portrait Mainly known for his work from the 1950’s and 60’s, photographer Lewis Morley often used dramatic lighting to help reveal something about the person being photographed
Photographer Arnold Newman would oftenemploy backgrounds in his portraits which helpedtell the story about the subject.Newman said that he didn’t like the “cold studioportrait” but instead wanted to show his subjectsin their surroundings.Quoted from the Palm Beach Post, 2006
Sally Mann is probably best known for herintimate family portraits.More recently she has experimented withold-fashioned photographic techniques toproduce portraits which seem to hide asmuch about the subject as they reveal.
In some of his work Ralf Eugene Meatyard gets his subjects to wear masks to hide their faces. In this way, he emphasises the hidden nature of the subject’s identity.The metaphorical mask whicheveryone is said to wear becomesan actual physical mask.
Sometimes it is the meaning of an image or series of images that is obscure,hidden or ambiguous, as in these narrative sequences by photographer DuaneMichals. Works like these can leave us with more questions than answers!What do YOU think is the narrative (story) and meaning for each of these artworks?
Similarly, the work of photographer and film Director Sam Taylor Wood is often enigmatic – we are left to puzzle over the possible meaning which seems obscured or hidden.Sam Taylor Wood, Ivan, 2004 Sam Taylor Wood, After Dark, 2008 Sam Taylor Wood, Red Snow
Another technique employed by many artists is touse symbolism in their work. A symbol is just something that represents or stands for something else. For example, what do you think the snake might symbolise in this painting by Franz Von Stuck? (Hint: think about Adam & Eve!) Some symbols have a meaning that is almost universal, such as water for purity & birth, or circles which often represent eternity (that’s why the wedding ring is round – the love will go on forever … ahhh). However, most symbols have meanings which vary across different cultures and times. For example, the colour red can be symbolic of love or danger in the West but could mean something entirely different in Franz Von Stuck, The Sin, 1893 another place or time.
Dutch 17th Century Still-Life paintingsAs well as being beautiful, the food andflowers were actually symbolic; theyreminded the viewer that everythingeventually decays and dies, so the viewershould be good in this life if they want to goto heaven and live forever!When we see a flower today it does notusually represent a reminder that death willcome – so the meaning of this symbol haschanged over time.
Think about what these images mightsymbolise to YOU …Discuss for 3 minutes
Think about what these images might symboliseto YOU …Discuss for 3 minutesImage 1.Power, protest, violence … + anything else?Image 2Idea, Imagination … + anything else?So while these are pictures of a hand & a bulb, infact that is NOT what the pictures are really about– that’s the power of symbols and symbolism!NOTE:Not all images are necessarily symbolic,sometimes we can just appreciate the simplebeauty of an image. However, symbolism canmake images interesting, adding a deeper,‘hidden’ layer of complexity for us to uncover.
British artist Sarah Lucas usesblatant sexual symbolism inmuch of her work.
The photography of American WilliamEggleston is thought by some to beboring and banal.To others however, many of his imagesuse symbols to tell us somethingdeeper about what it is to be humanand to live in our world. Even thegarishness of his colour photographscan be interpreted as symbolisingabout our modern world
The previous examples all hid or obscured the meaning of the imagein some way.Another way of interpreting the Theme ‘Covert & Obscured’ is toconsider how many works of art (particularly films) have been inspiredby the search for some hidden precious object or objects.
Have you ever lost your phone, keys orpurse?How did you feel?How could you you tell the story of yourquest to find it/them photographically?
Another approach might be to think about the word Obscuredas meaning covered or unclear …Some artists and photographers have taken ‘obscured’ as astarting point, rejecting objective representational art toproduce images which are more abstract …
Yet another way to interpret the themeCovert & Obscured is to think of other waysto obscure or hide part of the image, leavingthe viewer’s imagination to complete thestory or meaning.Here are just a few possible ways …