Landscapes by Edward Chambre-Hardman

Open Eye Gallery - Liverpool

Open Eye Gallery – Liverpool

After coffee, we went back to the Open Eye gallery to see another exhibition upstairs in the Archive Gallery. this time, another OCA tutor, Keith W Roberts, introduced the work to us since he is presently working on a Ph D about Hardman, focusing not on his landscape work visible in the gallery but the thousands upon thousands of portraits that Hardman made.

Keith gave us a brief introduction to Hardman, a photographer who worked in Liverpool during the middle of the twentieth century, and whose house in Rodney Street is preserved as a working studio by the National Trust; the Trust’s information says … “Explore the contrasting sides of this house: the neat, professional, spacious business rooms and the cluttered, cramped living quarters of the renowned portrait photographer Edward Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret. They lived and worked here for 40 years, keeping everything and changing nothing. The business focused on professional studio portraits but their real love was for vivid landscape images. Some of their huge collection of photographs is on display in the house, along with the equipment they used to take and develop the iconic images.”

Hardman seems to have been quite an astute individual and was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society; Keith hands us a copy of a talk delivered by Hardman about obtaining “Exhibition Quality” prints which seems a bit ironic since I am not the only one to find the prints on show as somewhat lacklustre; there are no bright highlights for instance rather a certain dullness pervades. Hardman recognised Alvin Langford Coburn as an influence and there is a similarity in style but at the time Hardman was working the technology of photography had increased in quality allowing Ansel Adams to make prints of much better quality. In his article, Hardman quotes a photographer called Ward Muir who encouraged photographers to “make your photographs sing!” and although the compositions of these images are pleasant, the photographs do not personally inspire me.

photographic prints by E.C.Hardman

photographic prints by E.C.Hardman

In his article, Hardman writes about pictorialism and points out that “Some critics – those belong to the world of journalism – would have you believe that it is almost a crime to produce a pictorial photograph. The highest praise goes to semi-documentary photographs showing life and action – often a very slummy kind of life. One could sum it up as a glorification of the instantaneous moment. Composition, balance, lighting, tone rendering, definition and all the other things which we pictorialists strive after, do not seem to matter in the least. In fact, the photographer’s personality must not intrude. It is subject-interest only which counts.” (from The Photographic Journal, Volume XCV, 1955)

Peter Haveland talks to us about this exhibition. He considers the subject matter as unrepresentative of the age in which the photographs were made. Hardman photographs not what was there rather certain views that he wants to make a picture of. For instance, a hay rick is included as what would appear to be the subject of the photograph yet apparently Hardman made the image because of the cloud formation in the sky behind; there is a similar image of a copse on a hill where clouds engulf the small wood and spiral up into the sky. To emphasise his point, Peter remarks that these images were not made of the 1950’s but of another time, they are not honest representations.

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Peter addresses OCA students in the archive gallery – Keith, bottom left

At this point, a woman storms through our group towards the exit exclaiming, “You don’t know what you are talking about! I knew Hardman, he was a friend, and I can assure you all his images were made by him in his time!” I call after her, suggesting she might like to join the debate but she replies that she has an appointment. She has misunderstood Peter by taking his remarks literally which is surely a mistake – if I took Peter that seriously, I would no longer be studying at the OCA but would have “exploded” and gone off on my own way. Peter has a reputation for challenging people!

For instance, Peter makes a reference to the Ansel Adams School of Anal Retentiveness which is amusing but not an easy pill to swallow. Personally, I feel I learnt a lot from the basics of the Zone System since it gives a grounding in the understanding of the photograph which many critics of the medium seem to lack. I can’t help that Hardman’s work would be a lot more appealing if he had understood Ansel Adams a bit more. However, we live in an age where the screen is taking over from the print and although the latter is not redundant, most photographs are viewed on screens.

The fact is though that we all photograph things to which we are attracted since photography is a selective process. Hence, the view expressed through our images is bound to be slanted and can never be total.

There is a good review of Hardman’s work to be found on the internet that was published in The Independent while a blog called That’s How the Light Gets In has accounts not just of this exhibition but also other work of Harman such as his book, Life through a lens.

Black and White in camera

It is possible to take black and white photographs with one’s camera. However, if one is shooting RAW, as is the case here, the black and white will only be visible as a preview. This of course, will vary from camera to camera and here I am discussing a CAnon model, the EOS 5D Mark 11.

For one’s camera to “see” black and white, one’s needs to enter the Menu on the back of the camera; the menu is revealed in the LED screen where the second red menu has a listing called Picture Style. By scrolling down to the menu item using the dial on the back and then using the centre button of the dial to enter the menu, one comes across a Monochrome setting that can be selected via the dial before being selected with the info button.

This monochrome setting can be further customised by changing the settings on one of four different controls (sharpness, contrast,that are visible as scales.

Once the monochrome settings have been selected and implemented, then the Live View will appear in black and white; once the shutter has been pressed then a preview of the image made will appear on the back screen in black and white. When the images are downloaded into a programme such as Lightroom they will appear initially as black and white images though once in the system, they are shown as colour.

If made with a RAW file, the file will always revert to colour; black and white previews will be there for reference, to enable one to see the scene in the more formalist light of black and white.

wanging

“wanging”is a term used to describe the practice of many Photoshoppers, one that involves moving toggles back and forth to achieve a desired effect. Most of the different controls in Photoshop allow one to make finer adjustments by using such toggles yet, according to Guy Cowan, this is not a sensible way to approach Photoshop!

One of the functions of Photoshop not found in its’ baby brother Elements, is the ability to create Actions which are programmed scripts that can do a variety of things depending on what you want. These are scientific in their approach and can help achieve artistic results at one’s discretion rather than the often hit and miss approach of wanging.

Black and White conversion in Photoshop

Thanks to Guy Gowan, I recently learnt THE way to convert digital RAW images from colour to black and white in Photoshop. This method has actually been around since Photoshop 3 in the mid-1990’s and yet I had not heard of it in spite of having been to numerous Photoshop seminars over the years and studied more than one manual.

The definitive conversion technique is simply to add a Solid Color adjustment layer which needs to sit above any colour layer in the Layers palette and be set to black where R=0, G=0, B=0. The blend of the layer is set to Color.

This method is said to accurately represent the pixel conversion rather than apply some kind of interpretation as with the Black and White colour adjustment layer and the others like the Greyscale and Desaturate methods.

Assignment 2

It is suggested that we explore Black and White photography initially by googling “Black and White photography” on the internet then by making photographs. Good if one can set one’s view on the camera to black and white so one is pre-visualising the images as black and white rather than colour. However, it would also be good to explore the way in which the black and white images correspond with the same photos in colour.

Google turns up various sites but the most interesting find is of images.
One shows an image in different kinds of black and white relating to modes of conversion and different channels!

his approach is expanded at …
http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/digital_black_and_white.html

The photographer is Keith Cooper who comments …
“Colour sometimes obscures the texture and form of subjects, it draws our attention the way flowers attract insects and birds, and ripe fruit catches your eye on a tree … Sometimes that’s what I want, but to me black and white can emphasise the structure of a scene.”

selecting in Photoshop

Here is a link to a site with details about selection in Photoshop …

http://designshack.net/articles/software/8-ways-to-get-the-selection-you-want-in-photoshop/

First there is the Marquee tool (M) which comes in 4 different varieties.
Add “shift” to make the shape drawn proportionate, “Alt” to create it from the centre …

In the Options Bar at the top of the window, one can control the selection in various ways such as Feather, Style and Size. There is also a “Refine Edge” tab.

The “M” tool though is rather basic.
The “L” or Lasso tool is slightly more complex; there are 3 forms.

The basic form allows one to draw the selection while the “polygonal” form works by creating points – they can work as one tool with Alt

The Magnetic Lasso tool is more automatic and can be refined via the Options bar.

The “L” tool is not that accurate unless the edge is well defined.

The “W” or magic wand tool is a bit cumbersome; however, with Refine Edge it can do a decent job. Controls with W are …
Tolerance – relates to the sensitivity of the colour selection
Contiguous – ticked it will only select pixels in one group; un-ticked it will select all areas of similar colour
Sample All Layers – clicked, the selection relates to all possible areas on all layers rather than just the one selected.

W is rough but ready; other tools can make finer selections.

The Quick Selection tool, also W, is however much better at quick selections that can be drawn with a brush. Combine with Refine Edge for accuracy!

“Color Range” is like a non-contiguous Magic Wand; it’s accuracy can be altered via the Fuzziness slider. There is a black and white preview of the selection. Not a very effective tool.

“P” is the Pen tool and requires a certain amount of skill; good for accurate selections where there is a clearly defined edge. Can be saved as a selection.

For fine tuning a selection, a mask is a valuable method. These can be altered with the brush tool (a mid-grey selection will help to make the brush an easier tool to work with). The brush can be either hard for well defined selections or soft for less well defined edges.

Working with channels can also help to make selections more accurate; using other controls such as Levels adjustments, dodging and burning etc One looks for a channel with higher contrast around the object one wants to select and works to increase that contrast for selection purposes; one is likely to have to increase that contrast which means copying the channel. Inverting selections is often necessary.

Photoshop

This is a large application although there is a slimmer version, Photoshop Elements.

There is a saying, “if you don’t know Levels, you don’t know Photoshop!”
(Levels is an adjustment that allows one to alter brightness and contrast while it can also be used for colour correction particularly if one works in the individual channels)

I would like to add another saying, “If you don’t know Actions, you don’t need Photoshop!” since Elements will handle most controls other than automation.

Photoshop is about as important as the camera in professional photography these days.

It is a place where one can be truly creative not necessarily by creating clever montages and filter effects rather by allowing one to choose the exact colouration required.