Why I love printed images!

Its really not that long ago that it was the norm to have professionally printed, just about every image we took. Indeed since the advent of the photographic process, a print of some kind has always been made. Prints were valued as art, as memories, as legacy and as records. Without prints we would not be able to enjoy the earliest portraiture of Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneer who loved to ‘hang out’ with the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movements and who was equally revered as an artist in a new and exciting medium. Books and publications abound illustrating the lives of people, their clothing choices, hairstyles and fashions, some of which are valuable historical documents and others provide sources of amusement and nostalgia. The importance of the printed image has affected every facet of our lives in living memory.

Then came the advent of universally accessible digital imaging and our world has changed, virtually overnight. So, are the warnings of the ‘father of the internet’, Vint Cerf being heeded? He warned of a “digital Dark Age” — a future in which there will be little record of the 21st century. “Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed”

To me the message is clear as day. If I can’t hold it, stand back from it and admire it on a wall or in a book, I have nothing of any particular value. A ‘real’ artist of any kind, whatever they may say, wishes to leave a legacy. Legacies that are universally accessible and not confined to a PC, Mac, iPad, phone or other digital device. Don’t get me wrong, online services that aid sales in a universal market are an essential component of a modern photographic business but even their aim is to make a print!

"Under the Cross" an artwork illustrating a poem from 'Shadows of Magdalene' © Katypoetess 2016. Printed on Permajet's Mercury Canvas

“Under the Cross” an artwork illustrating a poem from ‘Shadows of Magdalene’ © Katypoetess 2016. Printed on Permajet’s Mercury Canvas

Call me old fashioned, out of date or an industry dinosaur. I don’t care! Having just achieved a pivotal Historical Research Fellowship with the BIPP I had to make my own prints. Not just prints but canvases. I could have gone to my favourite lab, One Vision Imaging (they did print my ‘evidence’ books!) but this control freak sourced superb inkjet products from Permajet (huge thanks to Robin Whetton, Alex Cullen and the team at the Imaging Warehouse) and output everything myself on a pair of printers. Finally, the shop window on the world. My all new Zenfolio website (Adam Edwards, thanks for making this happen) where I gave the design team the task of creating an art gallery site to actually sell prints! Vanity? Legacy? Practicality? Whatever your motive, it’s what we should all be doing – Make a Print!

© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016

When is an image truly Fine Art?

It’s still alarming that the term ‘Fine Art photography’ continues to be a repository of anything not understood or perceived to be outside the comfort zone of existing, established genres or categories in the photography world. I beg the question “When is an image truly Fine Art?” Surely it cannot simply be a consumable studio portrait with the application of texture on a bland background where we are asked to accept it as ‘art’ solely based on its technique in image manipulation software? When does a landscape cease to be a landscape and become a Constable or a Turner but captured with a camera? It truly has become a minefield often of misinformation.

Quo Vadis Domini - Wither goest thou Lord?

Quo Vadis Domini – Whither goest thou Lord?

Is it not a simple truth that the Renaissance artists only used natural light in the most exquisitely controlled ways. Doesn’t it make you wonder just how much knowledge has been lost in our modern day lives and perhaps why photographers have struggled to be accepted and acknowledged as artists? Have you ever wondered where the mystical and mythical forty five degree lighting angle theory and practice took its rise? Certainly not YouTube and the Internet!

I relish discussions of this nature with family, friends and fellow artists. In one such recent discussion with my partner and co-creative poetess, she put forward the proposition that from her perceptions and experiences a piece of art should contain ‘pharmaceutical elements’ that constitute a perfect combination, resulting in a definitive outcome whose effects are clearly understood. Perhaps in essence, it could be explained as the complexity of the union of elements that are brought together in a work of art. For surely the most powerful art forms illicit emotional and intellectual responses. Food for thought don’t you think?

Martin Grahame-Dunn FBIPP ©2016

To qualify or not to qualify? That is the question!

This is a question I have had to answer on numerous occasions over my many years in the photographic industry and my answer has more or less been the same. Do it for you. Do it for your own professional development. Do it to make yourself a better photographer. I know I cannot put my hand on my heart and say it will make a blind bit of difference to one’s clients as its a hard fact that there is simply not the advertising budget in any single organisations or even collectively to penetrate the market in significant and traditional ways.

Recently, many of my friends and colleagues found out that I was intending to apply for yet another Fellowship. But this one was to be significantly different. The jewel in my crown of personal achievement by being true to myself as an artist. Achieving the first Fellowship of the BIPP in Historical Research for over 20 years has been a true ‘labour of love’ as the single subject has been my partner who is an extremely talented poetess. Before I even considered it as a Fellowship submission, its main aim was to illustrate her second poetry collection entitled “Shadows of Magdalene”.

The Heptagrammaton of Illumination - Inspired by the set of seven paintings by 17th Century Renaissance painter, Jean Nicot

The Heptagrammaton of Illumination – Inspired by the set of seven paintings by 17th Century Renaissance painter, Jean Nicot

Did I need to do this? Yes, absolutely. Because for an image maker who travels the world lecturing, teaching other professional photographers how to create better images I could hardly ethically sit back on my past achievements. I’ve done it for me! No regrets. Where it goes from here is part of my own personal development plan. So, in conclusion, set yourselves personal projects to develop your skills and have them measured by qualification. But, do understand that nothing comes cheap. The training and mentoring you may receive along the way has a cost. As does the production of your submission. It is an investment in ‘YOU’. In future posts I will discuss some of the images and poetry behind my Fine Art collection.

For information on qualifications visit The BIPP and The MPA

Painting with Light at The Tate Britain – Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age

This exhibition that goes back to the dawn of Photography and its relationship with artists, most particularly those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, is well worth a visit. What struck me most was the inception of the age-old debate, “Is photography art?” that still rages today. Certainly in the professional world, the category of Fine Art Photography has often found itself to be a dumping ground for all those images produced that simply do not seem to fit in the other more traditional categories.

Curator Hope Kingsley, makes a most pertinent statement that I wholly concur with. “Photographs share a simple consonance with other works of visual art in the formal components of a picture – composition and framing, attention to areas of light and shadow, and image resolution in distinctness or diffusion.”

In my own work I have striven to produce images that to me are more art with a camera, where it is just another choice between a brush and a palette knife where my pigments, tones and textures are moved around my canvasses with the same dexterity had I chosen more traditional or accepted means of producing fine art. My gallery of finished pieces and studies to accompany my partner Kate’s second poetry collection and constitute a submission to the BIPP is all but complete. I have had a working title for some time but driven by a hunger for more research and thought into the justification of photography as just another manifestation of art has led me to finding another in a volume portraying “The tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel – Lizzie Siddall”*…

Ars Longa Vita Brevis – art endures, life is brief

*Lucinda Hawkesley – André Deutsch, Carlton Publishing Group 2004

“Nubian Man” by Yasser Alaa Mobarak – Egypt

“My name is Yasser. I’m 23-year-old, award-winning amateur photographer based in Alexandria, Egypt. I’m Sony World Photography Awards commended photographer. I won photography prizes from The International Federation of Photographic Art, National Geographic Egypt, Photographic Society of America and Prix De La Photographie Paris.

I’m a holder of AFIAP distinctions from the International Federation of Photographic Art and holder of Associateship from Image Colleague Society International. I were judge in the photoessay category at Adobe Youth Voices Awards 2014 and in the visual composition category at Adobe Youth Voices Awards 2015. Also I were judge twice in Romania National Creativity Contest.

I saw your constructive powerful artistic critique on the photographs of my Egyptian colleagues. I will be pleased if you can give me the honor by critiquing one of my photographs.
Thank you. Greetings from Egypt.”

Yasser Alaa Mobarak,
International Youth Representative,
International Education and Resource Network
This delightful request appeared in my email just a few days ago. It’s particularly pleasing to know that constructive image critiques are appreciated so much, so I have much pleasure in complying with this young man’s request…..
"Nubian Man" by Yasser Alaa Mobarek - Egypt

“Nubian Man” by Yasser Alaa Mobarek – Egypt

Entitled “Nubian Man” this observational portrait is generally well composed but a little too tight in the frame. To add space around one’s images is to give them ‘room to breathe’ and add further context. Just perhaps, a moment captured with direct eye contact may have been more powerful. If one looks to the subjects eyes, there is a clear catchlight. The benefit of such a catchlight is to draw the viewers eyes to a definitive point of engagement. In this case it lies in the white of the eyes and results in a disengagement. Yasser, please try to tone down the processing which can often be a problem to the eyes of a photographic judge. Perhaps experiment with Nik Software by Google but learn to use it in a delicate way. The subtle tones do the image justice and are to be applauded. Well done young man and continue to follow your passion.

Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016

Belal Yousry – “Life of Music”

A wonderful statement by 16 year old Egyptian photographer, Belal Yousry. This young man has far to go!

A wonderful statement by 16 year old Egyptian photographer, Belal Yousry. This young man has far to go!

At only 16 years of age, this creative thinking Egyptian photographer has been producing surreal images with his new-found skills of digital manipulation and a love of photography that is clearly a medium with which he can express himself. I am sure that as his experience and knowledge of technique grows, we will see greater things emerge.

"Life of Music" by Belal Yousry

“Life of Music” by Belal Yousry

The constituent elements are well composited and conceived, but Belal would do well to look at specific lighting directions and the resulting shadows to make this image more plausible. Perhaps if the music in the background was in more of a wave form it could add motion to an otherwise static image. Even though the subjects are statues, implied movement, more depth and density, would increase the drama and narrative. Even to consider ‘flipping’ the statues to constrain the interest may change the nature of this image. In conclusion, research surrealism in art. Study experts in the field of digital manipulation and continue to set your mind free!

Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016

The Images of Lubna Abdel Aziz – Egypt

Before I met Lubna, I was drawn to her beautiful and expressive imagery at the recent Dubai Photo Exhibition. I will be discussing a number of her works that make this young lady stand out as a real ‘one to watch’ in her progress as a Photographic Artist. To simply call her a ‘photographer’ would be an understatement. The immediate impression is that she has learned to express herself in this medium, not with the most sophisticated and expensive camera equipment, but with her mind and vision.

The Artist Photographer Lubna Abdel Aziz

The Artist Photographer Lubna Abdel Aziz

The artwork entitled “She” is to me, reminiscent of a blend of painterly approaches from the surreal of René Magritte to the delightful works of 19th century French portrait painter Gustave Jean Jaquet. The absolute simplicity of its pose, choice of costume and a mood emphasised by a subdued, almost desaturated pallete with a splash of colour with nothing more than a blank wall as the background to the canvas adds drama and narrative to the content.

"She" by Lubna Abdel Aziz

“She” by Lubna Abdel Aziz

I wanted to know more about this young artist and was pleasantly surprised when she introduced herself to me when I was making observations on her collection to my learned colleagues. It is all so easy for photographic critics to find negative factors within an image but far more difficult to hold one’s tongue, subdue ‘learned’ negativity due to observance of so called rules that are mostly unsubstantiated in fact and poorly applied, and simply accept a piece of honest, beautiful art for what it is. My only useful input is to aid referencing outside of photography into the glorious world of art.

Martin Grahame-Dunn

 

The photographic art of Manar Gad – Egypt

Manar Gad 1

Inspiring words indeed from this young lady with the potential to become a leading light in Egyptian photography. I have selected the following image from her impressive portfolio to comment upon.

It is indeed ‘painterly’ in its approach with the delight of a limited palette and a patina reminiscent of a 19th century piece of Art. Had it not been for the young boy seated on the mule at camera right and a few other modern day hints, the image could have been portraying a scene anytime in the last 3,000 years. Compositionally strong and with a great narrative, it tells a story of a daily journey; in its location nothing unusual, yet its beauty, tranquility and simplicity touches us all.

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“TIME” by Mohamed Mahdy – Egypt

"TIME" by Mohamed Mahdy - a 19 year old photographic artist

“TIME” by Mohamed Mahdy – a 19 year old photographic artist

This is the second of my image reviews of a group of young Arab photographers. I asked each one to send me biography information or even a personal statement. These words by 19 year old Mohamed Mahdy really sum up the purpose…

“We are group of Egyptian documentary photographers. We document what is not seen through photographs taken on mobile phones or cameras, as Egypt is full of good opposites and bad ones. Our aim is to capture the decisive moment with story telling in order to show and search for Egypt’s spirit, and to show our vision.”
Mohamed Mahdy 2016

So, on to my image review…..In the world of Professional Photographic judging many jurors are drawn to the highlights within an image that may be described as ‘distracting’. That is, those areas that draw the eye away from the centre of interest or critical viewpoint. To illustrate my point I have reduced those highlights significantly to draw our attention to the most important aspect of any image…the story. Finally, be mindful that less is more when it comes to post processing.

Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016

Edited version of "TIME" with the highlights subdued drawing our eyes to the storytelling content more decisively

Edited version of “TIME” with the highlights subdued drawing our eyes to the storytelling content more decisively

Critique: Mohamed Mahdy – Egypt – Through the Childhood

Through the Childhood - an image by Mohamed Mahdy of Egypt

Through the Childhood – an image by Mohamed Mahdy of Egypt

This is the first of a new series of Image Critiques for young and aspiring image makers, most of whom are from the Gulf and Arab States. At the HIPA 5th season awards in Dubai in mid March 2016 I was privileged to meet Mohamed Mahdy during the Photo Forum at the new D3 design district, the venue for the Photographic Exhibition that featured the work of so many Photographic Artists. For me the works of the young Egyptians, curated by my friend and colleague Ayman Lofty, were outstanding. Mohamed is just 19 years old and already making a significant contribution, so here goes…

For me the strength of this image is its content. Stories within stories. The viewer is invited to travel into the image led by the vanishing points and dynamic lines that take the eye directly to a centre of interest. I do wonder if a more decisive crop outside the 3:2 ratio offered by the DSLR may be more appropriate.

Cropped image - illustrating the lines of dynmaic, vanishing points and decisive crop

Cropped image – illustrating the lines of dynmaic, vanishing points and decisive crop

The additional subject matter above the level of the plank could be viewed as more distracting than complimentary. In short, I encourage you to ‘think outside the box’ and utilise powerful and decisive cropping that will make your images stand out from the rest.

MGD April 2016