When my mom came to visit last month, she brought with her a memory stick with 3000 photographs of my grandma Jean’s photographs. I have been really overwhelmed by the beauty, composition, but mostly the colours slide film delivers.
I wanted to include this posting by looking back to Part 4 photography of this course.
Feedback on assignment 4 — Written by Carla Rees (my notes in red)
For this assignment, you have explored the work of Louise Lawler, a New York based artist and photographer who has incorporated portraits of other artists’ work into her own output. Her work is a good choice for this assignment, since it often emphasises the course theme of place by including the locations the artworks are situated in.
You write in a clear, well-communicated way, but sometimes your writing is be more editorial in style than academic. It would be helpful to back up your opinions with more evidence or detail, including the opinions of other academic writers who support your arguments. You should use in-text citations to show where your information has come from, and it would be helpful to use a wider range of academic sources for your information, rather than relying on websites. Now that OCA students have access to UCA’s library, there are numerous online journals and scholarly articles that you can use for your research. Remember to give references for the artwork you include in your essay within the captions; any copyright material needs to be credited, both in terms of the copyright holder and the source, using the Harvard format.
I totally understand I need to understand better the Harvard format, and could do with an example of what I am doing wrong, I thought I was siting my sources correctly, but realize I need to use in-text citations (does this mean with numbers next to the phrase?) This is the first time I have written academic papers, and perhaps I could use some help. I tried to access the UCA’s library, but had some difficulty, which the tech team told me was due to being in Vietnam, with different servers? I will try again and hope the error has been resolved. Being in Vietnam with no access to physical libraries, or book stores, I am sadly reliant on the internet for resources, this is why I tried to find a popular artist, which I could rely on MoMA for information, and did find a couple of papers on Acadamia.Edu, which were really helpful.
I feel there are several areas of your essay that you could explore in more depth. For example, you raise the question of whether or not photography can be considered as fine art; you are arguing that Lawler’s work is indeed art, but suggest that other photographers might not be included within the term. It would be helpful here to expand your argument further; what it is about the work of other photographers that makes it not considered as fine art? Do you have evidence to support your opinions? You say of Lawler ‘her photographs are considered art because she is an artist’ – isn’t this true of all other photographers too? If not, why not?
This is a very important point, and realize now I didn’t clarify why the art world doesn’t regard photography as fine art, and will find some scholarly papers to support my argument and maybe re-visit the idea of if an artist make work, is it considered art?
How does she ‘question the influence of the original art work’? Is it just through her titles, or would you also have the same response if you didn’t know what the titles were? What is the importance of place in her message to the viewer? What is she trying to show when she gives the viewer a new perspective on another artist’s work and how does she achieve this?
Another really great point, I think I touched upon how her words influence her work, how they talk back to the viewer, but there is an example of the same photograph in the exhibition repeated opposite the room with a different title — Lawler challenges the viewer by questioning titles as well as content. She is constantly giving the viewer different perspectives on other artists work through both words and documentary style photography.
You draw parallels with Duchamp, and this is something that could also be subject to further exploration, especially in terms of how the context and reception of their work differs as a result to a changing cultural environment.
How has art changed since Duchamp’s ready-mades, which could have influenced the Picture Generation in the early 80’s? Conceptual and Visually — both artist question the art world, challenging the ideas of what art is at the time.
Regarding the medium of photography itself, it is clearly intrinsically linked to Lawler’s work, but what precisely is the effect of this medium in this context – for example, is she reproducing images/situations exactly as found (ie documentation) or manipulating them in a way that is best suited to the photographic medium? How different might her work be if she was painting rather than photographing, for example? What about the way the images are seen by the viewer, and reproduced? Are they designed to be seen in a particular place or context, or do they have the same meaning when reproduced and seen in other forms? What about the course theme of Time? How does this fit in to Lawler’s work? It strikes me that she is using photography to direct the viewer into a particular ‘way of seeing’ (John Berger’s work springs to mind here – you mention him in your notes on the blog but this is something else that you could bring in more detail to your essay, demonstrating context and an awareness of the work of other commentators) to enable her audience to experience her point of view.
I really wanted to include the work of Jon Berger, its so relevant to the the theme of place, and where you physically view art, I will look into this further. I did think I worked the coursework theme of Time when looking at the photograph “War on Terror” which visits the idea of matriarch lineage on powerful women through time, and their role in photography, literature and painting — art, through anti-war works. As far as looking at the medium of photography itself, reproducing images exactly as they are seen, like documentation, or manipulation, Lawler’s work used the photograph as the starting point, but through time, she has distorted or changes the medium, for example the tracings — not neccesarily a painting, like in the example, but she demonstrated many different forms, in scale/colour/words/distortion.
Part 4, photography, gave me a chance to explore my love for this medium, and better understand why a photography isn’t considered Art, a topic I’m sure I won’t let go of, but will revisit. There were many challenges I found when researching, then writing about photographers work, as I felt like the bodies of work, such as a photo book, hold more truth, than one photograph, and without having that book in front of me, the pictures on the screen felt temporary. It’s tricky discussing what you think of a photograph without knowing the larger context. There were many photographers mentioned, some blurred into each other, many whose work I didn’t resonate with, such as the land artist, self burial, and the first woman on the moon.
The portion of Part 4 which I loved, was looking at the photography of Robert Frank, Alec Soth, and Paul Graham, on documenting journeys. I realize this is only an introduction to photography, but I thought it a shame photojournalism wasn’t touched upon, and would have been a far more interesting subject, than say, landscape photography. I did find new photographers such as Mitch Epstein, whose work powerfully portrayed a sense of place, capturing remarkable details in India and Vietnam.
I felt inspired to research photo labs in HCM, and found a tiny little shop, full of young budding Vietnamese photographers who sell and develop film. We have two amazing film cameras, an automatic Yashica T4, with a Tesser lense, and a Contax. I have taken a few landscape photographs for project 3, and took inspiration from Bernd & Hilla Bercher’s water towers, although mine are not of industrial buildings, I do love the precision of framing/distance/lighting in reproducing like images in a grid. Will have to wait for the photographs to be developed.
I have tried to tie photography with other creative projects, such as my clothing I make and paint, and even got a model to help. Being inspired by the light and colour of Vanitas paintings, here a few pictures from the photo shoot.
Photography is an essential tool to any creative practice, as it documents and shares work to a larger audience, whether online, in a magazine, or a book. Without it, geographically speaking, it would be almost impossible to view the work otherwise.
It’s important not to view a camera as simply a tool, because the same elements of art apply when framing, lighting, lines, compositon/balance, texture, line, perspective, and form, are paramount.
Photography is a form of self expression, the way each of us see the world around us, what stands out, the smallest detail, the larger picture, do we see linearly, or directly. Do we have a personal relationship with a place that no one else can see, or does a photograph of someone you love, in that second, remind you of what you thought in that moment?
I really enjoyed researching an writing about Louise Lawler’s work, a modest feminist who has taught me to stand to the side of arts influence, never letting the ego of an artist work depicts it’s importance, but instead ask the questions no one is asking.
I will continue to take photographs and update my learning log until the end of this course, and always photography as a tool of self expression, to show the ways I see.
Louise Lawler Photography and its relationship with the art world.
By Alyssa J. Maddalozzo
Photography’s role in the art world has been questioned since the invention of the camera. Are pictures just an imprint of light, or are the a tool used by an artist, to create art? In this assignment we were asked to explore an artist who uses photography as an element of their practice, which isn’t often that apparent. I have decided instead to research a photographer whose art would not exist if her photograph were not conceived. I want to demonstrate the necessity of the camera, the relationship it has between her creative aspects, and the message it conveys.
Louise Lawler is a photographer from the “Picture Generation” whose work has transcended images, words, sound, scale and perception. Lawler interrogates where art is located, it’s place — how it is seen, by looking at art, as the subject.
In 1981, Louise Lawler took a photograph of a match book printed with the words “why pictures now.” Nearly 36 years later, the photograph is the title of her new exhibition at MoMA which reviews her work in the present moment, retrospectively, by re-appropriating her own photographs. There is little doubt that Lawler thought the question she had asked in 1981 needed to be asked again.
Louise Lawler’s art would not exist without her camera. Her early work consisted of photographing iconic works such as Pollock and Warhol in unconventional ways, focusing on the location of the piece, standing to the side and changing the view, by shifting the power and questioning the influence of the original art work. Lawler’s titles talk back to the viewer, challenging their relationship with art, as individuals. Lawler’s presence in the art world, although often in the background, has never been questioned, but has been championed as an unsung feminist and activist.
The question is, what differentiates Lawler from other photographers, whose work wouldn’t be considered art?
Lawler’s inclusion in the “Picture Generation” has had a great deal to do with the context and the titles of her photographs, with hints of Deconstructionists ideas (literary criticism that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth). Because Lawler’s titles make you consider a larger context, they critique the art world, and challenge the subject of Art. Her photographs are considered art because she is an artist, and proves this through many collaborations with artist of the time, in many exhibitions such as Winer and Janelle Reiring commercial gallery Metro Pictures in Soho.
By photographing her ready-mades, such as printed matchbooks and napkins, she echoed Duchamp, at the same time revealing the vulnerability of famous male artists, such as Jasper Jones, photographing his monogramed bed-spread, otherwise known as a liberal neo-dada, she questions his class and taste.
Lawler’s photography is about art, but if it wasn’t, would her photography be considered art? Did she find a loop-hole in the art world? Her art would not exist without her camera, but the photograph would not be considered art, if not correlated with the art world.
Lawler’s relationship between the creative aspects of her art is one of reciprocation, how one interprets the other. Lawler invites the viewer to question how they see corresponding realities, by enlarging a photograph to a monumental scale, them reducing the same image the peep-hole size in form of a paper weight. She reforms her image in different formats including mechanical reproduction of tracings, for example:
Pollock and Tureen (Traced) – Louise Lawler, 1984/2013
Lawler conveys many messages through her photographs and art. Her distorted photograph called “Pollyanna (adjusted to fit, distorted for the times)” has changed 4 times since 2007 – 2017. The newest version is a comment on fake news, and how politics today are distorting the truth.
She invites us the stand to the side of a painting, to release us from its circuit of influence, seeing how ego, power, and money influence commercial art. She frees the viewer from the icon, shifting our focus to a larger context such as women’s role in a male dominated (art) world, the value of art, and the location in which we see it by looking past the usual borders.
“in which she gives special attention to all the connecting tissue that holds and frames it: walls, floors, hallways, storage units, workers’ hands.” The New Yorker
Lawler invites you into her work unpretentious by acknowledging “but does anyone, know anything by comparison.”
So why Pictures now? Lawler’s new exhibition is based on the present, but echos the past. She has caught up with the digital age by demonstrating how her pictures have changed into images, reforming them to be seen again, differently, in beautifully aesthetic ways.
Lawler’s work portrays time and place within a history of reception, for example, Lawler’s photograph “War is Terror” a response to Bush’s “War on terror,” bringing it to the now. The photograph is of a framed portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron hanging above a bed, she is one of the earliest woman photographers to receive critical acclaim, born 1869. Her niece Julia Jackson, is mother to Vanessa Bell, the painter, and the anti-war author, Virginia Wolf. Lawler uses contemporary photography by placing an emphasis on the matriarchal lineage of a family of powerful women.
Daniel Crimp sums up Lawler’s art by saying:
Lawler’s work since 1981, however, has demonstrated that photographs can be used more effectively than, say, a matchbook to make us see art—and art as an institution—differently. What Lawler’s photographs have shown is that institutional critique not only may be leveled at the impulse toward making pictures—“Why pictures now?”— but can take the form of a picture.
Perhaps Lawler was considered an artist because her subject, to begin with, was art, photography was merely the tool she used to communicate. She has proven that although she was a photographer first and still is, she went on to explore many different forms of media including sound and vision, and messages such as feminism, anti-war and politics, always staying present by reciprocating the past. Lawler never gave the art world a reason to question her role as an artist, because she always stayed a step ahead. Lawler’s work answers the question, not if photography is art, but why photography is art, with pictures, and being a consistently great artist who has reinvented her art since 1981 until now.
Indirect Answers Douglas Crimp On Louise Lawler why Pictures now, 1981. available at
When I first was looking for an artist to write about for assignment 4, I wanted to find someone who was a photographer first, to question again what makes an artist, their medium (tool) or them, themself? I was put off that we were not asked to write about a photographer, but instead write about an artist who uses art as a tool for creativity.
After some research I came upon the “Picture Generation” and in particular a women artists, whose work explores the way we see art, questioning art itself, as well as the institution, and those involved, which at the time of the 80’s was male heavy.
Louise Lawler came into the lime light with her ambiguous photographs of famous art works, paying more credit to their surrounding, than to their content. The context of how we see them, frames differently with walls, or floors or homes as the borders, instead of a perfect rectangle/square postcard which we normally see them.
Her titles hold equal importance, which she seems to be talking back to the viewer, asking us to question everything.
She made it as a women photographer, but I wonder if, if she didn’t have the access to these homes, because of her artists friends, would her photographs be still considered art, if they didn’t hold important art works as their subject?
She is well known for collaborating with many artist, and has not held a solo exhibition in New York until now. Is she extremely modest, or has she relied of the work of others to bring her photography up to the high brow status to be accepted as one a women artist, and two, a women artist who has used photography as her main tool of creativity.
I do not believe she intentional thought this, again, I believe it’s the institution of art who only allowed Louise to flourish because of her subject matter, which at the beginning, was cleverly taking the piss out of the art world, and the men (who were her friends) involved.
Of course not all her work includes feminism and art, she goes on to explore more modern-day questions such as war and politics no drones, war is terror, grieving mothers.
The reconstituting of images is really where he strengths are. She has inspired so many artists to re-think the typical gallery images and challenge ways of presenting work.
While researching Lawler, I was inspired by her photograph of Warhol’s round Marilyn.
This photograph was taken by Lawler at Sotheby’s auction house, with the auction card/price tag next to the piece. I’m not sure if it’s message about buying/selling art, the cost of art, or simply the title, Does Marilyn Monroe make you cry?
At Lawler’s new exhibition at MoMA, WHY ART NOW, she replicate the same photograph (which is in turn the same size at the original round Marilyn) on the opposite side of the room, with the title “Does Andy Warhol make you cry?”
In the fashion and inspiration of Lawler, here is my take on her photograph, by taking picture of her Warhol being sold by Sotheby’s, again Lawler’s photograph (which is under copyright) being auctioned again – lots sold at twice the expected amount!
Here is another photograph of my computer screen of an auction of shoes, which the title “New Shoes, blue shoes, red and pink shoes, tell me what would you choose if you were to buy” #5 of a limited edition
Here is another photograph of my computer screen, looking at an image on the New Yorker’s website about Lawler’s photograph of Warhol’s priceless screen prints, sitting on the floor. I really loved the colours of key board and pop art.
Exercise 3 asks you to think about views, taken from ground level, from above — birds eye view.
The two images, one of a rural area and the other of a city, have the same tilt of the lens, angled downward. They each survey the land, demonstrating divisions either of hedges, or roads, cross sections. One is in colour, the one of the country side, showing plowed dirt fields in contrast to one green field in the corner. The view is from a Castle, a tower perhaps.
The cityscape is in black and white, it feel cold and impersonal, with no detail standing out amongst the sprawl of buildings and streets.
Looking at John Davies photograph of Agecroft Power station, the images would change significantly if it were taken from ground level, as I don’t believe he’d capture as much information in one frame without compromising the composition. The angle at which the 4 towers are inline creates scale and depth. The cylinders would look different from below and may not show the smoke billowing in the same way. If the photograph were to be taken any closer you’d lose the framing of the trees for scale, and if it were taken further away, any details in the background would diminish.
Here are some photograph I have taken of landscapes, although narrow landscapes, cityscapes, from above, from different angles, and view points.
It was quite funny taking photographs in a very popular place… an art gallery with levels of containers, creating different view points.
Notes on Louise Lawler — Assignment 4
New exhibition is called “Why Pictures Now” – was an early title for a photograph she took in 1981 of a matchbox in an ashtray with the title writen on it
NOW -present moment
PICTURES Louise came from the “Pictures Generation” – Artist Space (still and moving images and appropriation to reveal function of represention)
Why – always questioning
Digital vs film – Image and pictures are now different – what happens to pictures in a digital age?
challenges retrospective impulse
reformating her own images (original photographs)
questioning the viewers relationship with the image
re-appropriating her images
looking at ART as the subject – pictures about pictures
interrogating where art is place/location/ where it is seen – as a subject
how one medium interpretes each other
ex. Jasper Jones – monogram bed sheets denotes class + taste (his art resists the notions of taste as an artist) –
how museums auction houses place the work in context of presentation, history of how it is received
considers a larger content – history of reception
how individuals relate to the perticular of the work – eye of the beholder
using identical images with different titles – asking the viewer how they feel – ex. Warhols round Marilyn. “Does Marilyn/Warhol make you cry”?
criticises the art world – in a humorous way / witty/ sly feminist work of ‘Bird calls’ – twitters names — male patrionic artist of the time.
modest – Lawler resisted a solo exhibition until now
feminist/political/anti war values – no drones, war is terror, greiving mothers
uses microscopic to monumental scaled to fit – willfully distorting – deconstruction s
twisted photogragh ” Pollyanna adjusted to fit – distorted for times – alternative facts discourse – post truth era, to fit the reality in which we live.
concise images – beautifully constructed
how lighting can distort the work / how casual art work on the floor, oppose to hanging on the wall makes us feel different
aesthetics of presentation and image – highly visually exciting
generosity towards other artists – always incorperating others into her work
has a direct dialogue with her photographs – reinventing them with tracings mechanical reproduction
the importance of the arrangement of pictures
multi voiceness – resonated, one or others speak together at the same time
Lawler talks back at you
feminist viewpoints – how we value what we see ex bird calls
corresponding reality – confirm, realised and released
“emotion of freedom” R.H.Q
slight shift of focus
change of vision – EGO POWER of a famous painting (regarding male artists of the time “Standing to the side of its circuit of influence” R.H Quaytman
“But does anyone know anything by comparison” L.L.
“Art world is a hallucination” R.H Quaytman
Commercial art / institutional context
“Human life – it’s all about the different – un-particular” L.L
Next we explore to what extent photography is neccesary in Lawlers work, the message Lawler is trying to convey, the relationship between the creative aspects of her work, relating in back to the themes time and place.
Research point — the New Topographics
Humans vs Nature
Documenting Landscapes through photography TIME/PLACE…
William Jenkins, curator of a group show of American landscape, would have foreseen these images as just the beginning, knowing they would hold much value in the details they’d present in the future. A man altered landscape which now, unfathomable, was once nature, desert, forests.
I am reminded by this where I live in HCM, a little branch of the city, which was once mangrove forests, swap land, palms and rivers. There was a similar area, just down the road, which is now sub-divided into plots for high rises. The streets are unfamiliar, only after 4 months, the dirt lanes are not pot hole ridden memories of the old route into town.
I now wish I had taken more photographs to document the quick changes and expansion of concrete and infrastructure. I have a friend who has lived here for 13 years, and tells me when the area was full of villages, similar to the Mekong delta, where you could row through the waterways, sharing them with water buffalo.
I really enjoyed Mitch Epstein’s series on Vietnam, and although it was shot in the 90’s, it looks as though it was the 60’s, demonstrating, how still today, they seem to be decades behind (which is painful listening to 90’s hits such as Celine Dion, and Brian Adams).
I also really enjoyed Epstein’s series on tree in New York, which is a real comment on human’s relationship with trees, they almost take on a life of their own, the grandeur overshadowing any tiny, insignificant person.
Fay Godwin’s “Our Forbidden Land” is a beautifully shot series, acknowloging the fact that there is so much nature which is cut off from humans, fences keeping you away from views, landowners with shot guns, and gates with “KEEP OFF’ signs. Are we only allowed in parks? Why are we restircted, what harms does walking do, enjoying the world around us. Sure there are publc bridal ways, but why there are so much we cannot see.
Any photo work which documents the past, gains value year after year. These ideas which look at humans relationship with the environment, will only become more relevent with global warming, big companies, polution, urban sprawl, and continued consumption, and discarding.
Pick out any images that seem to give you more than just a record of place – images that take you right back there. What are the special qualities of these images? Of course, it’s impossible to isolate the technical elements of the photography from how you felt at the time, what you were doing, who you were with, but try and decide whether the images you’ve selected have anything in common.
These images are from my trip to Sapa April ’16.
When ever I take pictures, even holiday snaps, I consider the lighting, colour, composition and balance. These photos are more of a documentation of the tribal textile the Dao and H’mong practice, from the growning and spinning of hemp, to the weaving, dying and embroidery.
All of the images belong to a series, a story, so they have much in common, as to the women of the Hill Tribes in Northern Vietnam, who are living the save traditions as their ancestors.
hemp dyed in indigo bath
My, showing us how she uses raw hemp branches to make yarn
Hemp yarn ready to be woven
hemp being loomed
Ta Me teachong us Dao embroidery
Ta Me on hand-sewing machine
different colours of dyed hemp
the mountains of Sa Pa
Ca’s little girls teaching us about the fauna of the land
traversing rice fields
washing the rice
I have asked my friend Sarah, who wasn’t there to review then to record her response;
The pictures are so colourful! The sequence really tells a story and the pics aren’t too staged which makes them feel more ‘authentic’ than normal holiday snaps. I get an idea of the whole day including the lunch you had! They really make me want to go and see the place for myself.
Landscape photography in a dense city such as Ho Chi Minh is a right task, unless you are in an apartment building high up, or on a bridge, or on the banks of the river where it bends. It’s also very flat.
~Make two images of the same subject, one from afar with the telephoto setting on your camera/lens, the other from close to the subject with the widest setting on the camera/lens.
textures and colour up close
gets diluted from a landscape point of view
river view, not an interesting image
even less interesting up close
I like the colour composition
gets lost further away
balance and movement
I think both images are strong
a lonely chair
still just as lonely from afar
Island of rubbish
the landscape gives the image a better context
wanted to demonstrate the new and old construction
more lines and sense of perspective
up close view on the contruction
the fallen tree in the foreground adds another dimension
Landscape photography can feel very impersonal, without saying much about the subject matter. I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest form, unless there’s so much to photograph, you couldn’t possibly imagine capturing it all.