Tag Archives: photography

Fuzzy France, Crisp Yorkshire, and Murky Italy: A Photography Update

I’ve been trying to take photographs again, and not just the snappy-snap iPhone photos that are uploaded to Instagram, that I treasure for their quick and easy conversational imagery.

Dan and I brought a 1930s £5 medium format camera with us to France over the summer and had a lot of fun finding film, setting up shots, and generally taking the time to play with the analog format. It was great, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I may take a roll of test shots first, as these were the atmospheric, but not completely desirable results:

So I’ve been trying to haul the Nikon D200 around with me, both on walks in Yorkshire:

And more recently in Padova/Padua:

and Venice:

For a 7-year-old (!!) camera, the D200 is still solid, though suffering from several dead pixels at this point. You can check for dead pixels in your own camera by taking a photo with the lens cap still on, or by noticing horrible bright spots when you take an otherwise lovely photo. They are non-fatal but annoying, and I should have had the D200 serviced years ago.

Reports that the DSLR is dead are vastly overstated, though I could concede that the iPhone is the new DSLR while the DSLR is the new video camera. I was able to order equipment with my new (awesome) postdoc and I’ll be producing short films with this nifty piece of kit, pretty soon.

When Urban Archaeology Turns Into Street Photography

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I am going through the Origins of Doha photo archives before we start the new season here in Qatar and I’m finding unexpected treasures. Buildings recording and photography is difficult in Doha, and it is difficult to get clear, direct photos of architecture. I’m not sure if Kirk or Katie took those photo, but it is one of my favorites.

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This another one of my favorites–no scale, but I could look at the texture and multiple repairs on the wall for ages.

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Finally, I fully intend to use this in a class someday–can you figure out the building sequence?

Call for Photo Essays: Journal of Contemporary Archaeology

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The new Journal of Contemporary Archaeology will feature one photoessay per issue. Photoessays may include up to 20 colour images and should include 2-3,000 words of text. The journal will be published online and in print twice yearly, with the first issue appearing in Spring 2014. Photoessays should engage with issues relating to the journal’s aims and scope. Further information is available here: http://www.equinoxpub.com/JCA

Please contact Rodney Harrison if you have any queries or would like to discuss a submission.

Arabs in London (and on Instagram)

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Peter Marlowe, Arabs in London, 1976

I was reluctant at first to create (yet another) project Facebook page. I think a lot of people are experiencing “like” fatigue and running social media for organizations cashes out your social media circle pretty fast. Really Colleen? Asking me to like yet another one of your projects? C’mon. Still, Facebook remains one of the best ways to inform people about archaeology online, especially people who are not already interested in archaeology. So, I created the Origins of Doha page on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/OriginsOfDoha

As this season of archaeology is finished, there aren’t a lot of updates from the field to create interest and traffic. Happily I have a large archive of old photographs of Doha to look through and post. There just aren’t a lot of resources for this sort of thing online, and most old photos of the Gulf are in private/personal collections. I love being able to share these photos, especially as many residents are completely unaware that there were older buildings before the shiny towers and large developments came to Doha. I think a lot of these photos resonate with people as they depict familiar places (like the Corniche) before a lot of the prominent development.

Race on the Corniche in Doha, 1974.

Race on the Corniche in Doha, 1974.

Anyway, I wrote a bit about photography in the Middle Eastern context for my thesis, and it is one of the parts that I’m developing into future research on depictions of heritage and authenticity. So I was very happy when I was contacted  through the Origins of Doha Facebook page by the lovely person behind this Tumblr/Instagram of crowd-sourced family photos from the Middle East:

http://zamaaanawal.tumblr.com/

When I asked her why she worked on this she answered that it was because so many collections aren’t publicly available online. So she’s making her own. Absolutely brilliant. Her archive also revealed a lovely bit of synchronicity. Peter Marlowe has a series of photographs titled “Arabs in London”, as featured above. The women is in the middle of the shot, in front of Harrods and between two cars, perhaps attempting to show a dissonance between her appearance and her surrounds. One of the contributors to Zamaan’s archive recognized her:

It’s @Mozishaq’s aunt. Taken from iconic “Arab” to auntie on Instagram.

Though we already feel oversaturated by social media, it still has the ability to surprise, delight, and de-center.

Inside “Faces of Archaeology” at WAC-7

Füsun Ertuğ formerly of Yeditepe University. She conducts paleobotanical research in Turkey.

During the 2013 World Archaeological Congress meetings in Jordan, Jesse Stephen and I organized a small project titled The Faces of Archaeology. The project was developed as a part of a larger social media push at WAC-7 that for the most part went unimplemented due to technical issues. Happily, this project did not depend on internet accessibility and Jesse and I were able to capture over 100 portraits of attendees of WAC-7.

While scholarship and science can mask their practitioners, the individuals involved in archaeological research are nevertheless a diverse group.  Such diversity, however, is not always easy to see in the discipline.  However, the latest generation of archaeologists has interrogated the question of who conducts archaeological research and the significance of this answer perhaps more explicitly than in any previous era. As a global organization, the World Archaeological Congress endeavors to represent, integrate, and further a diverse body of archaeological participants. This project will reinforce these principles, making them visible through a body of photographic work.

Faces of Archaeology is a photographic project that will be completed during the 2013 Congress in Jordan.  During the weeklong event, a lens will be turned on a wide variety of people connected to the archaeological record and the Congress. Through a collection of portraiture and short interviews, a sample of people, purposes, and motivations currently involved in archaeology will aim to illuminate the diversity of archaeology.  Framed by this gathering of people in Jordan, and also by a selection of its notable archaeological sites, we will persue a glimpse of the discipline at large.

The results have been stunning so far–Jesse Stephen is such an amazing photographer! We have been posting the portraits here:

http://archaeologyfaces.tumblr.com/

We’ll update every week with 10 more portraits, so keep checking back!

Broken Houses by Ofra Lapid

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If I created a venn diagram of my interests, these photographs from Ofra Lapid would be a beautiful fit for the intersection of site depositional processes (ruined houses), dioramas, and photography. While these are more akin to papercraft than true dioramas, I love that they reference digitality–when I create a 3D reconstruction of a structure, I take photos such as these to create skins or textures for the buildings. This is obviously one step further, the creation of a 3D structure that is then printed out and reassembled as a small model.

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I’d love to make papercraft models of some of the buildings that I have recreated, but most of the software is PC-only. I could work around it, but it is definitely in the “TO DO…LATER” category.

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Special Delivery – Endless Canvas’ Huge Warehouse Graffiti Show

SWAMPY – from Fecalface.com.

I’ve been more peripatetic than usual lately; we subletted our apartment in anticipation of a visa that was a month late in coming so I’ve been housesitting all over the East Bay. I’ve stayed in four different places, all inhabited by archaeologists–I’ve started making jokes about how I’m studying their settlement patterns. I thought about drawing plans of the layouts of the houses, but then felt like it would be an invasion of privacy–so what kind of implications does that have for archaeological practice?

Special Delivery – by Fecalface.com

Anyway, last Saturday night I took the bus down from my latest domicile in Richmond to check out Endless Canvas’ unbelievable “Sistine Chapel” of graffiti art in a warehouse in West Berkeley. It was held in the former Flint Ink building, a warehouse that has been vacant since 1999. When I walked up to the warehouse I was stunned to see a huge line full of families along with the requisite cool kids. The three floors of the warehouse were lit with industrial spot lights and there were multiple DJ setups, infusing the concrete with thudding hip hop and techno. The building was absolutely covered and I walked through the warehouse several times, up stairs, looking down elevator shafts and out onto the nearby train tracks.

There were several gargantuan pieces by my favorite Bay Area artists–GATS, SWAMPY, Deadeyes along with a few I didn’t recognize. I didn’t have my DSLR, so I took a few shots with my iphone, but I felt that it was mostly unnecessary–so many people were shooting that you could probably reconstruct the entire installation from images on the web. Besides, I’m not sure I could really add to the gorgeous documentation:

Devote, by Endless Canvas

Along with the photographs are a series of videos that show the intense connection to place that graffiti artists have and how they express this through their art. The videos also features a “buffer,” a guy that goes around and paints over the graffiti art and so is deeply familiar with all of the different artists.

When I walk through Oakland the graffiti resonates so strongly with my experience of the city. New pieces, old pieces, new artists, artists referencing each other–it’s an intense dialog with place that can be both intimate, you won’t see certain pieces or stickers unless you walk the street and grandiose, such as the huge pieces that welcome you back to Oakland after you go under the Bay in the BART. Graffiti in Oakland is a passionate expression of defiance and home and I feel deeply lucky that I managed to be around for its effloresce.

Permanent Error – A Distraction by Pieter Hugo

Photo by Pieter Hugo

I slowly cranked the handle on the end of the bookcase, sliding the high-density shelving over, clicky-clicky-clicky-click. The books I wanted were way in the back and I had about eight bookcases to move, large wedges of books moving slowly across the floor in the basement of the main library here at Berkeley. It’s finals week, so I took extra care that no students were hiding or sleeping between the stacks. When I got to the book I was looking for, I immediately took all the books to either side, and a few miscellaneous titles that caught my eye. I can’t really tell if it is a good or bad habit–you understand the range of literature on the subject that you are interested in, but you pick up a lot of random and possibly distracting books as well.

I managed to find an empty end of a long desk, and put my huge stack of books next to me. It is a pleasure to be back in a library where I can work this way again, weeding through large stacks of books, gleaning references, cross checking on worldcat, finding all the journal articles that cite the books, and so forth. I assembled the books on digital photography to review, noting a few new additions–working on digital media is always a losing battle, as it’s a field that is in flux and constantly growing. One of the additions was a medium-sized orange-red volume, pleasingly bound, and heavy with photography–Contemporary Photography from the Middle East and Africa. A distraction, surely, but…why not?

I paged through large, lush panels of photographs, discovering a few new names, modes, inspiration, but then I came across one of those arresting photographs that I will never be able to forget:

Jatto with Mainasara, from Pieter Hugo’s ‘Gadawan Kura – The Hyena Men Series II’

Sadly the version on the screen can’t do this photo justice, but the active pose of Jatto, the hyena, the photographer’s framing–spectacular. So I went looking for more Pietro Hugo:

Of course! He directed “Control” by Spoek Mathambo, the amazing darkwave South African track that was going around last year.

Finally, I went to Pieter Hugo’s webpage to see what else he has worked on. I immediately found more of his Hyena series, then clicked on Permanent Error, his latest work.

Photo by Pieter Hugo

Hugo has been documenting an obsolete technology dump in Ghana. From the artist’s website:

Notions of time and progress are collapsed in these photographs. There are elements in the images that fast-forward us to an apocalyptic end of the world as we know it, yet the alchemy on this site and the strolling cows recall a pastoral existence that rewinds our minds to a medieval setting. The cycles of history and the lifespan of our technology are both clearly apparent in this cemetery of artifacts from the industrialised world. We are also reminded of the fragility of the information and stories that were stored in the computers which are now just black smoke and melted plastic.

Photo by Pieter Hugo.

Changing Archaeological Conferences 2/2

Photo by Connor Rowe.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I took part in Heather Law’s Opening Dialogs in Archaeological Photography session on Saturday. Sadly it overlapped with my graffiti session, so I missed the bulk of the presentations. The gallery space was great though, and the session was archaeologists/photographers presenting their work while the small crowd followed around the room.

Ruth Tringham, presenting her photos at TAG2011. Photo by Allison Barden.

The format was very informal, with many of the presenters speaking extemporaneously. It was much more of a conversation than a critique, which was probably for the best. Most of the photos were not obviously archaeological, with scales or excavators working, but were more phenomenological. After typing a lot of words on this topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that archaeological photos need to do something archaeological. A pretty good rule of thumb: I have to be able to use something in the photograph to reconstruct (either verbally or virtually) the archaeological site.

Me, photo by Allison Barden.

I did something a little different with my photographs. As I’ve previously discussed, I put them into an album and set them up with a small, salvaged table and a lamp. I wanted to bring the viewer in, to have them engage with the physicality of the photographs in the album, in part to highlight the analog/digital disruption that was the primary theme of my work. I spoke about my creative process and got a few good questions from the gathered crowd. Adrian Praetzellis was particularly touched that I left one of the photos of the young family in the album, captioned appropriately. I’ll post a more in-depth discussion of the actual piece in a subsequent post.

Everyone that I heard from in the photo show really enjoyed it. Heather seems eager to do it again, and it would be nice to bring it outside of TAG to a larger audience.

The lessons from this session were more subtle – on the surface it could be compared to presenting a poster in a more structured setting. What distinguishes a photo session is the curatorial process of selecting, captioning, printing, and arranging photographs and the accompanying friction between artistic voice and archaeological vision. I also appreciated the directed discussion and greater interaction between presenter and audience.

USA TAG is in SUNY Buffalo next year and I hope to see more experimentation in the classic “conference” format.

The Other Photography – Getting Ready

I’ve been working on my photography exhibit for Heather Law’s session at TAG 2011, Opening Dialogs in Archaeological Photography off and on for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say, it’s a lot more rewarding than writing a conference paper. But, like a conference paper, it hasn’t gone exactly as expected when I wrote the abstract back in December. At that time I thought I’d be digging in Qatar, whereas I mostly conducted a large, lonely survey.

The photographs are a mix of shots taken with the Hipstamatic application for iPhone and cell phone photos that were edited entirely within the phone, usually with Plastic Bullet or Best Camera. I have the Hipstamatic photos already–they’re speedy, cheap and they look fantastic. I ordered the other photos from a local photo lab that has printed photos for me in the past.

Keeping with the theme of my presentation – Nostalgic, Personal, Neglected –  I was going to use vintage cardboard photo studio portrait frames. Sadly, the photos didn’t fit all that well inside of them and I think they would have been awkward to display anyway. So I decided to use a vintage photo album. I particularly liked the look and aesthetic that came with the 70s sticky-film albums and I found an appropriately destroyed example in a local reuse center, Urban Ore.

There were some photos in the album already–a young couple and their baby in 1975 & 76. It felt a little strange to remove them from the pages to replace them with my arty archaeology photos. A little strange, and a little cynical. In the very back pocket of the album I found a little sheet with gold foil letters so I was able to title the photo album, which pleased me.

Overall, I think presenting the photos in this way is more meaningful than hanging the photos on the wall. Personal photos in archaeology are often sidelined, stashed away, not part of the archive–lost and only occasionally recovered and treasured. How many people will bother to pick up the book and peruse? I’m not sure.

I’m pretty happy with the result and will have more photos of the final product after the show.