Assignment Five: Digital Identities 2 – Photographer Research

After researching photographers and artists that use either their own self portrait of portraits of others in their work for Assignment Four, I wanted to continue my research for Assignment Five by researching artists and photographers that use ‘found’ images, such as photographs, paintings etc, for their work, and studying what manipulation techniques they use in order to distort their final portraits.

 

John Stezaker

Marriage

John Stezaker is an English conceptual artist, who was born in 1949. In 1973, Stezaker graduated with a Higher Diploma in Fine Art, from The Slade School of Art, in London.
He creates surreal collages, made from found images such as old photographs, vintage postcards, old film stills and old publicity photographs. He gives old images new meanings. In the series Marriage, he focuses on the concept of portraiture, by gathering found images of famous film stars, taken from their old publicity shots. Using traditional cut and paste techniques, to an uncomfortable effect, he then cuts the portraits in half, in order to overlap the two portraits, where he then pastes them together, forcing connections between the previously unconnected images. He couples both the male and female portraits together, creating surreal, unique and interesting final portraits.

Stezaker suggests that the identities created in these publicity shots are both constructed and infinitely interchangeable. This can also be seen in his Untitled series of portraits.
I really like Stezaker’s portraits. What I admire the most, is that Stezaker doesn’t just cut and paste any old portrait together, hoping that they will ‘fit’ and ‘match’ together. You can see from his work, that he actually sits and looks at the individual portraits, before he cuts them. He takes time to compare certain facial shapes and features, so that when he cuts a portrait a certain way, they will match in certain areas, such as the nose or eyes, when he overlaps them and pastes them together. He has a very skilled eye and can see how his final image will look if he cuts the photograph a certain way.

For Assignment One, I studied Stezaker and his work and I re-created my own handmade cut and paste portraits with found images. I really enjoyed experimenting with cutting up old photographs and sticking them together. It takes a good eye to spot similarities between faces and to be able to match certain facial features in order for the faces to work well together. For Assignment Five, I may continue with the theme of cutting and pasting images in the style of Stezaker.

 

Greg Sand

Remnants

Greg Sand is an artist who explores the issues of time and death. He produces work that addresses the nature of photography and its role in defining reality.

Remnants is a series that was inspired by cloth and the metaphor of memory. Sand took  inspiration from Peter Stallybrass in Worn Worlds, “The magic of cloth is that it receives us: receives our smells, our sweat, our shape even.” (Stallybrass). Remnants has been made with the theme of recollection and remembrance, showing the marvels of memory and  how we perceive each moment in our lives. These moments we remember are eventually woven together to form our memory.

Sand uses found photographs to make his remnants. He uses three found photographs, each from a different point in the subject’s life. He then cuts the photographs into strips and begins weaving them together to form a new portrait of a person who has passed away. ‘Each piece in this series creates a likeness of an individual that – rather than depicting an accurate visual representation of that person at any given time – presents a recollected coalescence of that person’s appearances throughout his or her life.’

This series of work is really awe-inspiring. I admired Stezaker for having the ability to ‘match’ different faces together to form one new portrait, however, Sand has taken it one step further by cutting three photographs into thing strips before he tries making a whole new image. He clearly has an eye for detail and the patience to be able to match and weave three photographs together to end up with a final portrait that not only looks exactly how the deceased person used to look, but is visibly a portrait. There is only slight distortion, but from afar, it is much clearer. The little square shapes give it a  layering feeling similar to the photocollages made by Hockney and Brno Del Zou, but on a much smaller scale.

 

Julie Cockburn

Julie Cockburn was born in 1966. She studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She now lives and works in London, and has exhibited her work extensively in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Similarly to Stezaker, Cockburn gives meaning to old photographs, by using found images such as old vintage portrait photographs. Breathing life into something old, she contradicts the generic and mass-produced by creating unique, hand made collages and  embroidered patterns.

“Working with old photographs is similar to engaging in a dialogue. I am not working on a blank canvas. Rather, I am entering into a pre-existing conversation that took place between the photographer and sitter, and where I experiment with a personal visual language.” (Cockburn)

What I like about Cockburn’s work is that she makes old photographs, modern. She uses mixed media, and I love her use of bold colours, because it really makes the portraits stand out. There are similarities to previous practitioners I studied for Assignment Four, especially Matthieu Bourel’s series Duplicity and his most recent geometric works, and there are also similarities to Giacomo Favilla’s series Double Trouble, only instead of illustrations being drawn over the photograph, Cockburn hand embroiders her designs. Cockburn again, like previous practitioners, manages to create mystery and anonymity by slightly hiding parts of the subjects face.

 

Maurizio Anzeri 

Maurizio Anzeri is an Italian photographer, born in Loiano, Italy in 1969. He currently lives and works in London, England. Similarly to Julie Cockburn, Anzeri sews, embroiders and draws on found photographs.

“I take inspiration from my own personal experience and observation of how, in other cultures, bodies themselves are treated as living graphic symbols. I then use sewing and embroidery in a further attempt to re-signify, and mark the space with a man-made sign, a trace. The intimate human action of embroidery is a ritual of making and reshaping stories and history of these people. I am interested in the relation between intimacy and the outer world…I put tracing paper over the photo and draw on the face until it develops. ……When I begin the stitching something else happens, drawing will never do what thread will.” (Anzeri)

Unlike Cockburn’s portraits which are colourful and playful, I find Anzeri’s portraits quite psychological, dark and mysterious. Like previous practitioners, he covers most of the facial area, only keeping several parts visible. His embroidery makes it appear that his subjects are wearing vintage costumes or face masks. Comparing Cockburn and Anzeri, It shows that depending on the artist, their imagination and how they embroider their photograph, embroidery can be used to create different feelings and themes depending on the person.

 

Stacey Page 

Stacey Page is a mixed media artist from Georgia, USA. She’s previously worked with paint, clay and wood, however, in her most recent pieces, similarly to artist Julie Cockburn and Maurizio Anzeri, she has settled on using found photographs with the addition of different coloured thread.

“The photographs start as a lost, discarded or mortal identity…. (They) are extinctions or discarded, and I don’t begin by having any relation to them….They choose me as I find them attractive in some way or another. It is the beginning of a relationship, so naturally I want someone usually quite healthy and engaging….The photographs mostly come from obscure auctions in the backwoods of Georgia which in themselves can be more bizarre than the art itself.” (Page)

Deciding what designs to hand stitch can be a long process, and Page often spends a lot of time staring at the portrait photograph in order to develop a bond between them. She uses paper to sketch out different designs, playing around with different colours and types of stitches. Her final designs tend to focus around obscure fantasy and mythical creatures.

I really love Stacey Page’s series of portraits. Unlike Cockburn and Anzeri, Page’s portraits are much more detailed. She keeps their faces visible as much as possible, enabling us as viewers to ‘connect’ to the portraits more. She creates beautiful costumes, masks and headdresses for her subjects, in a way, giving them a personality and a story behind who they might be. Her designs remind me of the Snapchat filters used when taking selfies. It is as though these people have taken a selfie with a Snapchat filter on them and have produced an interesting and unique final selfie. I am really inspired by her work, and I want to incorporate it into my Assignment Five final images.

 

Zeren Badar 

Zeren Badar is a Turkish, self-taught conceptual artist, currently living in NYC. His works have been exhibited internationally including in Aperture Foundation, New York; The Centre for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO; Aljira Centre of Contemporary Art NJ.

Hybrid Series

In his series Hybrid, he uses a quote by Albert Einstein to open his portfolio; “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” (Einstein, A)

Hybrid is a series of 3D futuristic portrait collages, containing mixed media. Badar uses found photographs taken from magazines, and uses several manipulation techniques such as cutting and layering, scrunching and crumpling layers to create deep sculptural shadows and placing gadgets within the collage such as iPhones, Digital Cameras, Remotes, Wires and Hardware. Unlike normal collages, these works are temporary because Badar doesn’t ‘stick’ his items down, instead, he photographs the final collage, making a digital photograph for his final piece.

“This project explores the relationships between how we live and how we look in the future. I want to challenge the viewers by evoking feelings of surprise, discomfort & hallucination. These portraits are my obsessions with appearance and technology but also concerned with notions of future. These might be my fantasies or might be my speculations. You will be the judge of this….” (Badar)

Hybrid Series is not only similar to the photocollages made by David Hockney and Brno Del Zou, but is also similar to Annegret Soltau’s series Personal Identity where Soltau hand stitches in her used SIM cards and personal documents. It is also similar to how Stezaker hand picks and chooses found photographs to cut and paste together. Being able to ‘build’ and manipulate a portrait in 3D means that you have control over what tactile items you want to include, I really like this series and I like the idea of creating 3D portraits made from tactile items.

Accident Series 

In his series Accident, Badar explores the peculiar combination of photography, paintings and collages. Again, he creates 3D collages with found objects such as food, buttons and plastic lettering and places them on top of cheaply printed old paintings. Using the same techniques as Hybrid, he creates strong shadows to give the 3D effect, by layering items, folding them and crumpling them.

“I turn pre-existing works of art into Duchampian ready mades and take photographs of them….I reduce the details and forms of painting by covering objects, food.
Copies of old masters paintings initially evoke viewers’ memory.
By using unexpected juxtapositions of objects, I try to create ambiguity and pull viewers’ attention deeper to my photographs. In many ways, I examine new type of still life.” (Badar)

We are so used to seeing these types of famous portraits in art galleries or museums. They all have the same type of facial expression and pose, the same type of composition and colour tones, and in a way, can become quite ‘boring’ to look at. Badar has produced a series of portraits which are quirky and stand out, thus creating a talking point. I really like this series, especially because he has been able to make old ‘boring’ artwork, modern.

The use of different, quirky tactile items, makes these portraits a talking point and the colours used make them stand out. Again, he has hidden either parts or all of the subjects faces, making them mysterious and anonymous. I am a big Tudor history fan and have been since I was a young child. I expressed my love of this period in history during Part one of Digital Image and Culture when I researched photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. This series also reminds me of another photographer called Olivia Muus and her Museum of Selfies series.

Seeing old Tudor and period portraits re-imagined has really inspired me for Assignment Five and I have several ideas for final pieces that I want to try and explore. 

 

Olivia Muus

Museum of Selfies 

Olivia Muus is a half Danish – half Finland Swedish artist/photographer born in 1985.
She is currently working as a freelance art director based in Copenhagen. The series Museum of Selfies, originally started when Muus and a friend visited the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen. Muus creates new, modern, funny portraits by photographing someone holding a mobile phone in front of an old painting. She keeps the persons real arm and hand holding the mobile phone in the shot, giving the photograph the effect that the subject in the painting has stuck their arm out to take a selfie of themselves and we are looking at their selfie.

“I took a picture for fun and liked how this simple thing could change their character and give their facial expression a whole new meaning.” (Muus)

Olivia Muus has made this an open project/series of work, by allowing others to participate in re-creating similar selfie portrait. Everyone can join the museum by submitting their own selfie at museumofselfies@gmail.com or Instagram #museumofselfies. All they need is a painting or sculpture, and a friend with a smartphone and a camera.

I find these photographs amusing. I like the juxtaposition, showing the difference between the old and the new with the incorporation of old paintings and a new mobile phone. Highlighting how we have transitioned from old paintings to photographs, from hard copies that we hold on to a keep to digital files that are stored on our devices and online.

 

 

Bibliography

Stezaker, John.

Marriage

https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/john_stezaker_1.htm (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/john_stezaker.htm (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Sand, Greg.

Remnants

https://gregsand.net/project-11 (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Cockburn, Julie. 

http://www.juliecockburn.com/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://printsales.thehttps://www.flowersgallery.com/artists/93-julie-cockburn/photographersgallery.org.uk/artists/30-julie-cockburn/overview (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/03/found-photographs-embroidered-with-colorful-thread-by-julie-cockburn/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/julie-cockburn-yossi-milo-gallery-new-york (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Anzeri, Maurizio. 

http://maurizioanzeri.com/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/maurizio_anzeri.htm (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://www.escapeintolife.com/artist-watch/maurizio-anzeri/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Page, Stacey.

https://staceypage.com/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://redefinemag.net/2012/stacey-page-interview-embroidered-photographs/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://www.mrxstitch.com/stacey-page/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Badar, Zeren.

Hybrid Series 

https://www.zerenbadar.com/hybrid-series (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Accident Series 

https://www.zerenbadar.com/accident-series (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://accidentseries.tumblr.com/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

Muus, Olivia. 

Museum of Selfies

https://oliviamuus.com/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://oliviamuus.com/#/865004006353/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

https://museumofselfies.tumblr.com/ (Accessed 01/04/2020)

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