Monday, 31 October 2011

In Progress

A little update on my recent knits for my project. The photos are slightly terrible as I'm mainly knitting at night and taking them once I've finished an item! It is time consuming, but after my test shoot I'm hoping they'll look good in the location:

New lacey face fox, here I wanted to try 'making one' whilst knitting the face. I'm pretty happy with the results, the colour is also a lot more rustic (which you cannot tell from this photo) but I have only managed to give him front legs so far. 

I have also made a second pheasant, I am happier with this design than the first, probably because the wing is all stockinette stitch rather than the pattern I tried on the first! 

I have also finished the first antler and brought a plack for it (found in Boscombe for 50p!) I just need to get started on the second one and then figure out how to attach them to the mount. 

With my giant needles I started on a bear skin rug, It is slightly messy as I'm still getting used to knitting with such large needles. I used 6 strands of wool, I should have used 12 to make it neater and heavier but I couldn't really afford all the wool! I think if I was to do it again it would have more of a shape to it. I will knit the head using smaller (10mm) needles to give it more shape. 

I have also knitted some rabbits and a mink, I'm not too sure if I'll be using them as they have been slightly rushed. They are there as a back up though! 

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Photorealism is most referred to as an art movement which happened in the United States during the 60s/70s. Gathering information on a subject using a camera or photograph the paintings created will appear almost photographic, making them seem 'real'. It can also be known as hyper-realism. 

Wikipedia defines a photorealist in these terms:

1. The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
2. The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semimechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
3. The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists.
5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work.

What I am interested in is this is the reproduction of the photograph, people generally say "I'm a photographer because I can't paint", the preciseness of a painter to achieve a photorealistic painting is incredible and something I can reflect on when I am photoshopping. My thought is, if a painter has to blow up a photograph to paint over to then make it look like a photograph, when we photoshop are we not taking a photograph and editing it to make it look like what we believe the photograph should look like. With a lot of editing in a photograph could it be the same basic concept? We knew it was a photograph, but why use these processes to then make it look 'more' like a photograph?

Ralph Goings - 'Ralph's Diner'

Ralph goings is an example of one of closest associated painters with the movement, he wanted to do the opposite of producing abstract work which allowed him to think of copying a photograph perfectly. This upset people, but then what art hasn't upset people?

Ralph Goings created incredible paintings, its hard to believe they are not photographs, especially with these two pieces. As his work is mainly about condiments and diners I though an interesting photograph to compare them with would be 'The Ice Cream Parlor' by Erwin Olaf, who I have written about before. What interests me is how Olaf is described as having a hyper realistic technique and look about his photos. Does this mean they look like paintings that look like photographs? That the amount of photoshop that he uses makes them seem less like photographs? Is it the lighting and the construction? There is a definite style which I do aspire to. With this work I want to make it seem painting like, use the hyperrealistic style Olaf does which the audience questions, as it does with Goings work. 

Erwin Olaf - The Ice Cream Parlor 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Shooting Pheasants

I recently started making some more props for my shoot, I already have a couple of foxes and half an antler so I wanted to make something slightly different. I decided that pheasants were the next things to make. Here is a rather terrible photo of the pheasant, i have only made one wing for it as it should be featured side on so for the image. If I have time I'll make a second! 

The location I have secured is an old English farm house, from a friend of mine. Faith and I went down for a little test shoot with the lighting kit. I used Faith as a model with one of the dresses I will be using to get a feel for the location and how I could shoot it. 

With the shoot we can pretty much use any space in the house, it has three beautiful fire places and incredible red walls. I shot three test images as time was limited and I was adjusting to the place. My test image are featured below, I am not disappointed by them but they do not show my photography at its best. We did not have any hair, make up or styling so for a first attempt I think they show the potential of the final series. 

I showed these to a visiting tutor at uni, an art director from 125 magazine, and he did not like them and said I should go with still life focusing on the knitting. I was sent into dismay and didn't know what to do for the next few days. I later talked to another tutor and he said to shoot the fashion series as I have planned pretty much all of it. From here it is just finishing the knitting props and finalising all the dates, times and people helping on the shoot. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Burnt Colours

'After the Hunt' by William Michael Harnett
Recently I found this painting by William Michael Harnett entitled 'After the Hunt' which I admired because of its autumnal colours and use of hunting equipment and game caught. In my sketch book I wrote how I should check the trends because if the autum/winter 2011 use some of these aspects my project will become more contemporary and relevant to this time in fashion. Looking at I found this image and an article on how burnt colours are in season. This is great as I can consider this with my styling and should add to the colours in the location I am using. 

Burberry Porsum's fall collection uses this beautiful red/orange colour which is not dissimilar to the walls in the house I am shooting in. For my work this is a really good thing as it shows I am on trend. We have been told not to look at too many other fashion photographers as not to copy them, so this is a good chance to have a look about what fashion is doing and to consider how to play it up to it in the images I am making. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Crafty Books

For my dissertation I am working on the arts and craft movement and stumbled upon this book in the library, 'Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design' by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl. One of the first things in the book is this beautiful time line that shares the recent 'New Wave of Craft'. This is something I am more interested in for my essay as it shows the more recent rise in craft, as well as looking at the original art and craft movement. It also helps with my practical project as I need a critical context behind my prop making. This book has answered many of my questions and I wanted to share, and recommend it, to anyone that has not read it. 

What makes the book special is how it has all these different accounts of crafters which you can relate to and understand. I think the 'craft' world is very different to the photography one, it is a lot more supportive. As a photographer you don't really want to share your techniques in fear that somebody will copy you, however as a knitter you are embraced into this world that wants to share with you. Maybe that is a little naive to think as I am looking at two different levels in the industries, top knitwear designers probably don't want to share their patterns with the world? And there are countless photography books showing you 'how to' shoot and edit in a certain way. Is it just a feeling that I have? Am I a little more comfortable in the crafting world? I do think people 'like' Louise the knitter more than Louise the photographer, or maybe learning to knit has taken me out of my shell? 

Schwandtner, S (2008, p26), founder of Knitknit states, "I think handcraft is popular right now as a reaction against a whole new slew of things, including our hyper-fast culture, increasing reliance on digital technology, the proliferation of consumer culture, and even war" and I think that is incredibly true. When I learnt to knit I was becoming slightly uninterested with my photography work, I think the personal issues that surrounded me last year at uni did change my attitude on taking photos. I did however knit away, the first jumper I made I just didn't want to stop, it didn't matter that the crafting wasn't great on it, holes, dropped stitches and deciding to make tiny sleeves so I could finish it faster, I was just proud to make something. My facebook friends enjoyed the photos I'd post as I was making it and I had a slightly odd chunky knit jumper to proudly wear around uni. "People want to see a project through from beginning to end, something they don't get to do in their daily lives" explains Schwandtner, S (2008, p26), which I can definitely see as a real truth. 

Looking through the book made me realise why I want to use knitting in my project, it is what I love. I love taking photos, but as a student you are under constant judgement of your tutors, class mates and most of the people in the industry won't give you a second look because you are a student. My knitting isn't under judgement from any of these people, if I was on a textile degree it would, but its something special to me. The same way I look at people in my class in awe for their still life prop making, use of natural light or documentary style (hello Mikko!). People are always more interested in what you are doing if they can't do it themselves. And crafters love seeing other crafty work, because you know when somebody makes something it is personal to them, even if it is a silly little knitted owl. 

Wagner, A (2008, p1) writes, "Some people want to embrace craft for its essence of craftsmanship - that is, the quality of a piece of work, the time and effort that went into its production. Others are excited by craft because of inherent otherness - that is, its unique ability to set its practitioners outside of mainstream industrial society" which is something you know is true once you have read it. You knew it already but just had to see it to know you were right. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of reasons why people do something and I think I've just started learning why knitting for this project is so important to me. There is so much pressure to make a commercially viable set of photos, the course is so focused to get us ready to enter the industry but maybe thats the part of uni that's putting me off being a photographer. I think using knitting with this project will bring me back into the creative world, image making or textile, whatever happens I know I'll produce something I can be proud of. 

Levine, Faythe and Herimel, Cortney. (2008). Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Vanity vs Animal Welfare

As one of fashions biggest debates is on fur and faux fur I have decided to look into it further for my research, there are so many different opinions on the subject and so many people unaware of the pros and cons. I am not saying I am an activist for either, I don't like animal being killed to wear but at the same time I eat meat. 

A great website for the facts on anti fur is I don't want to re-write all their facts and statistics but what I have found out from this site is pretty horrible. I think one of the biggest problems with fur is that people do not want not know, or can't imagine, what really happens. 

"Every year 50 million animals are reared and slaughtered in the most hellish conditions imaginable. Animals are confined to restrictive cages where they often experience psychological and physical problems. Animals are skinned alive, anally electrocuted, gassed, suffocated, poisoned, beaten or bludgeon to death. "

So why do we let it happen? The elite may be featured in faux fur campaigns, then we see them wearing fur on the runway or red carpet. What kind of example is this? Simple answer is its not, its fashion. 

PETA is the largest organisation for animal rights and their campaigns often feature shock tactics to raise awareness of the issue. The examples I have found feature four different celebrities using the famous tag lines such as "Here's the rest of your fur coat" and "I'd rather go naked than wear fur". They make a strong point and the celebrity endorsement will always be a good thing as long as they really believe in what they are saying. The 'Dear J.Lo' is a little different as it is targeting a celebrity negatively, it again works though as you are interested in what it says even if you don't particularly care about celebrity status and culture. 

Sophie Ellis Bextor
Dominique Swan
Dear J. Lo

I think as a photography student and looking at campaigns and making pictures you know how untrue an image can be by the end of it, whether it is the visual element or the construction behind it. Although these images are very straight forward I guess you can never trust the celebrity being pictured on it. Maybe thats just me being cynical?

Anyway, I started looking into faux fur and the independent writes 

"Furriers are claiming that the manufacture of polyester and nylon copies of the "real thing" involves chemicals that pollute the environment and that damage the health of factory workers who have to handle them."

Saying that real fur is natural and biodegradable and that faux fur is harmful to the environment this counter argument does have its points, yet why do faux fur coats exist in the first place? They mimic real fur and, in my opinion, promote it. There are interesting facts and points either side and it gets so confusing when you begin to consider things like vintage fur and its ethics. 

In all honesty I wear faux fur, why did I buy it? Because it was fashionable. Do I feel bad when I wear it? No, because I look good in it. I'm not considering that it looks like real fur and that in some way I am promoting the fur industry. I'm not proud that its faux and don't boast that its cruelty free. I just wear it because I like it. There is this huge question of our vanity vs these animals being killed. I believe the fur industry is wrong, I also know fur is the only source of warm clothing for some people in this world. I really feel I cannot take a huge anti animal cruelty stand when I do wear leather or eat meat, I think that would be wrong of me and the pictures I would be making would be a lie. 

For this project when I consider the term vanity vs animal welfare I don't think I can take a really strong moral standing on it. The concept I am working with, knitting faux animal, needs to be more light hearted, not so that I am making a joke. I need to find the right way to deal with this issue without making it a huge issue in the work. 

Friday, 21 October 2011


After a trip to the 'Power or Making' at the V&A I discovered Shauna Richardson's work, being new to knitting I had never seen anything like it and couldn't believe she had crocheted the life size bear I saw at the exhibition. This is from the about section of her website:
Shauna Richardson’s background is in conceptual art.
The unique body of work she terms ‘Crochetdermy’ evolved out of the exploration of the theory that  ‘Anything can be art’. She uses crochet to sculpt realistic life-size animals – uncanny taxidermy-like forms. Crochetdermy combines themes such as objects, collecting, craft and realism and experiments with accessibility and audience. Richardson has received much critical acclaim. Her work is receiving worldwide media coverage and selling into collections across the globe. In 2009 Shauna won ‘Artists taking the lead’ part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad with the ‘Lionheart Project’. For two years she has been creating the largest single-handed crochet sculpture in the world. The finished piece will be housed in a mobile glass taxidermy style case and tour throughout 2012.
Although I really like her work I think that defining it by saying it came from 'anything can be art' is a bit strange. When you compare it to other conceptual artists such as Damien Hirst it does fit in with taxidermy and the idea of death and also textiles in art is not an uncommon thing. I do think that when you look at the pieces you do see them as real animals, although you know they are hand crafted. Even the materials used are very realistic, it does not look like traditional yarn. Although I was making the foxes when I had seen this it did put into perspective how big taxidermy in craft and fine art is. Should I make my pieces more realistic or stick to the quite animated and cutesy look? Which will look best in an editorial and which one is more me. Although the prop making is a huge part of what I am doing I do really have to consider the photographic style of the work. I know how I would like to produce the images and a rough idea of how the finals will look, so it is just knitting the props to match this. 

After seeing Richardson's website I wanted to look a little further into arts that also use the taxidermy theme in their work. I came across Nathan Vincent who produces crochet sculpture in more of a 'traditional' knitted way. I think because the style is a lot more cuddly it is not as serious as Richardson's work. Not to say it isn't beautifully done, the pieces have a charm to them and the lion is incredible. I think it does go to show that the same idea can be interpreted in different ways and just because something similar has been done before I should not be put off doing it for my project. 

I have also been in contact with Amelia Fever, an AUCB graduate and she sent me a link to her work that is currently being exhibited at Atelier Contemporary Craft Gallery. It looks so incredible just in the photos and I would love to go and see it in person! Hopefully we'll be able to collaborate with this project!

Past Knitting

I started knitting last January (almost a year now!), we were at my Nan and Granddad's and my sister was knitting. I was jealous and asked her to teach me. With the help of my sister, mother, nan and friend Faith I learnt to knit. I think it really took off when I saw the fox stoles made, they inspired a lot of my creations. I rarely use patterns because I think designing or just knitting and seeing how it works out is half the fun! Here are some of my past knits that have brought me up to this point. 

I really like fox imagery and that is why I am drawn to doing a hunting project. I think if I can produce something broader than just foxes I will be able to create a series with variety in however sticking to the one theme. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Matthew Brodie - Paper Dresses

The paper dress editorial by Matthew Brodie for Madame Magazine is nothing short of incredible. Once again I am looking at large scale props being used in a fashion context. Here the image are celebrating these hand made props whilst selling accessories such as bags and jewellery. The brilliant thing about fashion photography is how it sells a life style and here you want to become this woman dressed in paper. I think the images do hold some kind of childhood nostalgia, with the pencil sharpening dress or the flowing crate paper. The props bring you back to a scissors and glue craft project, yet the studio reminds you that it is a fashion image. Brodie's blog post shows the making of the props and you can see the work that has gone into them.

I think the lighting is really interesting, in the studio they could have been shot against bright white, however this adds to the quirkiness highlighting certain areas. I think the model fits with the style of the images, some what unconventional. I don't know if I'm a fan of the hair styles though out the whole series but I do really like these three images. I think they show that doing something your self can pay off and inspire me to really pull out all the stops in my project.