For this assignment, I have produced a series of five images. The first four were made using traditional ‘cut and paste’ photomontage techniques, whereas the last one was made using digital montage techniques in Photoshop. Each of the photographs, shows a street artist in action. However, the original urban backgrounds have been replaced by photographs of beautiful natural landscapes.
I had two major influences for this project, John Stezaker and Stephen Gill. In the case of John Stezaker, I was particularly drawn to his use of juxtaposition. His techniques are very simple but far from subtle, and whilst his results are extremely compelling, I wanted to use juxtaposition to create something more harmonious.
With regards to Stephen Gill, and more specifically his series Best Before End (in which he used energy drinks to part-process his negatives), I was intrigued by his idea of “consciously having less control” over the final photographic product (Foam, 2013). This is something that I was eager to experiment with. Furthermore, Gill is well known for photographing/documenting his local area (e.g., his various Hackney series), which is what initially influenced my choice of subject for this assignment.
One of the many things for which Bristol (my hometown) is famous, is its street art. Every year it hosts a massive street art festival, Upfest, in which hundreds of artists participate. So, in the spirit of Stephen Gill, I set out to photograph the local festival and the artists/their art. What I wanted to do however, was to switch out the vibrant, energetic urban art in the background of my street portraits and replace it with calm, serene landscapes.
All of the photographs used for this assignment are my own original work. The portraits of the street artists were all taken at this year’s festival, whist the landscapes were selected from my own personal archive.
For the traditional ‘cut and paste’ photomontages, I printed out my chosen landscapes onto 80 gsm inkjet paper and then subjected them to a transaquatype technique (as per Antonini et al., 2013) in order to create a more painterly effect. In doing this, I find that I have to agree with Gill, that the lack of control over the final product is very satisfying. This post-printing technique was completely new to me so it took some trial and error to get it right. I had to experiment with different (water-based) solutions, in different quantities, using different methods of application and with different blotting paper/drying methods until I got something that I was happy with. In the end though, I found that Mr Muscle window cleaner created the best, most ethereal, effect.
When the transaquatypes were dry I stuck the cut-out street artists onto them in order to give the impression that those were the scenes that were being painted. Obviously, the viewer knows that these scenes are not real, and that the dreamlike landscapes are the opposite of what they would expect to see, but to me, that is their beauty.
For my final (digital) photomontage, I kept to the same theme, but adapted it slightly. Here, I set the landscape and street artist on a white background, so as to create the effect of the spray painting being done onto the wall of an art gallery – street art as mainstream art.
In the end, I hope that I have created a series of beautiful but surreal images, that use juxtaposition, local documentation, and experimental techniques to creative effect.
With regards to the assessment criteria, I believe that I have met as follows:
Demonstration of technical and visual skills: portraits are well composed, exposed and timed, showing good observational and compositional skills, composite images are well constructed using appropriate materials and techniques.
Quality of outcome: series has a coherent theme and is well presented.
Demonstration of creativity: use of new (to the student), experimental techniques (specifically, the transaquatype process).
Context: research evident from reference to relevant artists (Gill and Stezaker) and use of technical texts (Antonini et al., 2013).
Foam (2013) Stephen Gill – Best Before End. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5foLoTcDXdE (Accessed on 25/07/2016).