Reading & Research: Graphic Design & Travelling

10th March 2018, Arts University Bournemouth

I started looking at some books on Graphic Design. This is partly about learning a broader visual vocabulary, thinking about how images I take might be used or how they might be presented and seen. I want to experiment a bit, not just produce prints but maybe a book.  I’ve been looking at folded book forms in a separate class so I also wanted to see how they might be used. Really I think I was looking for accordion books. I was surprised I hadn’t seen more of them because to me they seem quite a powerful idea;  information can be revealed sequentially or all in one go. There’s no control over how your audience looks at the book, but I quite like that because each person can have a more individual experience of the material. There’s also the idea of being able to present two stories together – one on each side of the book.

One idea I picked up from the graphic design I saw was using an old photograph or degraded image as a contrast to clean, sharp geometric forms. When I’d looked at Thomas Ruff’s JPEGS I’d started playing with degrading an image myself. Not in the same way as Ruff, but by displaying the image on a computer monitor and photographing it over and over again. I think the idea about the contrast between the sharp and degraded is interesting. I also liked an idea of a circular design referring to creative function for a multidisciplinary artist.

I looked at Daido Moriyama by Simon Baker (I would really love this book). I already know that I feel a connection to Moriyama’s work, especially since seeing a quote from him about how he can’t photograph anything without a city. Then I read that Alvin Langdon Coburn’s London was a predecessor for the city book so that has cemented my positive feelings about Moriyama, although I have barely scratched the surface of his work.

Martin Parr, Small World. After I took images in Paris for assignment 2 I’ve had some tidying up to do in terms of research and so this was really interesting for me although I admit I find Martin Parr quite challenging. Maybe I just don’t understand his work, but I find him judgemental and mocking. The accompanying text says that “in Parr’s work, ‘place’ and visitor work to their mutual diminution”. It goes on to say that he endorses the idea that tourism is the march of the stupid – being stupid is the norm. The claim is that ‘Parr is not scathing or moralistic about this perceived failing’, but that just doesn’t feel true to me.  Whenever I look at his work I fail to see the sense of warmth towards his subjects that people have claimed exists. I don’t mind that, I just wish people would be upfront about it. He’s clearly making a point and he’s entitled to make it; I don’t necessarily always disagree. The images certainly made me think, mainly about the middle class representation of working class people, but also the way the British middle class in particular ridicule Americans. My thinking then moves on to how British culture might appear in the same context – do we stand out as much, is our culture as intrusive and are we as unwilling to let go of it as Parr’s American subjects seem?  Being immersed in my own culture I’m not sure I’d see those things, maybe they’re in the book too and that’s the point?

Linda McCartney, Roadworks. If I’m honest I picked this up as I’ve always identified strongly with Linda McCartney, primarily because we share a birthday but also because I recall seeing video of her as a child and there was something about her I just really, really liked. During my childhood, every diary I had I would look to see whose birthday various family members shared, and for me – 24th September – it was always Linda. She was my inspiration and final push for becoming a vegetarian, and it was her books that taught me to cook – that really filled in for the missing input of my own mother. When I first started Expressing Your Vision I was taking images from my car or when travelling, so it was interesting that the first work of Linda McCartney’s I picked up resonated so strongly with me; again she offered me a connection in the similar modus operandi. The quote that stands out most for me from her work is ‘Destruction, poisoned wastelands – only an ill bird destroys it’s own nest.’ For a long time I studied Planetary Science and the destruction that humanity inflicts on itself via it’s own environment has long been a source of distress to me. But of course, the reason is right there in her book, as is the evidence that this is not a new phenomena. Several images stood out. I like the way that glimpses of the her are seen in mirrored surfaces. As the photographer she is included and it’s important that it’s her, it gives the gazes of the subjects looking back into her car a more obvious meaning; you can imagine what they are seeing looking at her and her husband, the recognition in their eyes, as well as understanding what she is seeing looking out. For me it adds to an idea about the sense of separation she may have been feeling, but that might be because I was feeling a sense of separation when I was taking images from my car. I like the images of London taken in the 60s and 70s. There is a familiarity to them. I also liked the final image; a reflection of Paul McCartney can be seen in the rear view mirror of the car they are in. There’s something simultaneously mundane and startling about it.

I have a note; “Klein and Otto Steinert – Trees in Front of my Window. (Provoking and jolting existing reality)”. Several weeks after writing it I’m not sure where I got that from!

Published by Sarah Cassin Scott


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