S H Bean ~ Photographer

"…within the same space the real and the abstract"

Posts tagged ‘University College Cork’

On Absurd External Realities in The Invisible Landscape – update

The Invisible Landscape is part of a body of work that has been developed as a result of my exploration of ‘Absurd External Realities’

Photography was once used to examine, explore and capture invisible events within in motion and action, I continue that tradition of exploration by using photography to question that which is still invisible, the density of cast shadows.

The human visual system offers us a very limited window to the world and its with this limited visual system we must create a reality of that world. The same applies to the technical limitations of Photography. My approach in this series is that there not just one window, but many, and therefor an infinite number of visual interpretation possible. In The Invisible Landscape series I am concentrating on external reality of cast shadows in the landscape and I have gone back to the basic questions that Artists have asked for centuries: how dark is the shadow?

This body of work is a reflection of the progress I have made over the last 7 years in exploring cast shadows. And as a result of this work it is my belief that cast shadows can only ever be, in the words of Maurice Merleau-Ponty : ‘objects of imminent visibility’ and like the latent image in a photographic negative they are never quite visible but rather ‘are always in a state of appearing’.

In conclusion the question ’how dark is the shadow’ can never be answered with any certainty and I must accept that there are an infinite number of possible conclusions to the question. All that is left for me to do therefore is to refuse to accept the limitations imposed by technology and the visual system that forces me to see them. All I can do is to continue to learn, to explore, to perceive such ‘objects of imminent visibility’. I find myself in a space confronted by the absurd external reality of ‘the discovery of appearances’ (Konrad Fiedler).

It is a space where I go to seek what I may never see.


Join my Apple Bokeh Aji protest

I am posting this in protest at the recent appalling attempt by Apple Inc to produce software based ‘vanity bokeh’.
Some points to note:
While its true that sensor size and lens construction are important contributing factors in the creation of Bokeh Ajji, It is the number of blades in the aperture and the distance from subject that are most critical. Thats why for instance you never see Bokeh in wide angle shots, just close ups (physically mid-shots and close-ups). Three things you do not want to see in Bokeh are: polygonal Bokeh, Doughnut Gradients inside the Bokeh, and round shaped Bokeh to the edge of the frame, (its always oval at the edge due to lens vignetting).

More notes on The Invisible Landscape

I try never to trust my vision,  so with the Invisible Landscape project I have gone back to basics and now concentrate solely  on the ‘cast shadow’. Shadows are somewhat difficult to perceive as the shadow darkness, its density, is predicated on the background stimulus outside the shadow area. Ruskin noted that ‘the perception of solid form is entirely a matter of experience’ So from a purely vision based perspective its density is controlled by the overall scene brightness. It is light or dark because of the overall background stimulus outside the shadow area.

To me shadows are essentially invisible objects and where once Photography was used to explore  invisible motion, I continue in that tradition to explore the shadow. In order to do this, one method I have is not to use my vision but my perception to discover its ‘imminent visibility’. (Maurice Merleau-Ponty)  The Images in the Invisible Landscape project were all taken during daylight. No artificial light was used.

The Latent Shadow-part 2

I have now added a further column to the classification table of Cast Shadows, that of ‘Distance to Background‘. To explain this new class I am using the terms Proximate and Approximate.

Proximate identifies the position of the object as on the background.

Approximate identifies the position of the object as near but not touching.

Below is the updated table for Cast shadows (always assuming the object is opaque) and the total number of possible combinations (280)


Light type Length Edge Shading Colour Distance to background
Daylight Short Hard Light Neutral Proximate
Artificial Medium Diffused Grey Colour Approximate
Mixed Long Black
Moonlight Abstract

About the project’s title: The Restricted Light Project

With ‘The Restricted Project’ I set out to “discover appearances” and interestingly a colleague quoted Malevich “liberating non-objectivity ” who goes on to say: ‘…..drew me forth into a “desert”, where nothing is real except feeling..”. Of course much of the work conceptualized in ‘The Restricted Light Project’ requires a deep understanding of Light, (and of course Color and Shadows), but in essence I follow Leonardo’s guidance in his Codex (Vol 1 book 5) on restricted light. He divides light up into three types: Light in the Open Country, Light of Luminous Bodies and Restricted Light. ( Paris Codex. J 111-116)

The latent Shadow

Rendered popular by the darkroom Photographic process the retinal image of the shadow re-emphasizes the curiosity of the latent image. Each retinal image is a photographic snapshot of the object in space and time which especially in the case of the shadow, which for me and for my work, may be regarded as the latent persistence of an un-fixed Image on the retina. If as Ruskin noted: “the perception of solid form is entirely a matter of experience” (Sept 2014 blog) then the retinal image of the shadow is not fixed, but latent, and as such a succession of shapes and densities that reveal their true non-retinal form and density when we don’t look at them.


Cast Shadows in the landscape

In this new body of work I am investigating the relationship of cast shadows and the landscape. Cast shadows allow me to construct visual planes or depth cues in the image, which in turn helps to highlight those raised regions that would otherwise not be perceived. At this point in time I am concerned with cast shadows and not form shadows and I have created a table listing key elements of a cast shadow and the number of possible combinations. This work reflects my visual interpretation of the profane (or the commonplace subject) and my attempts at revealing the invisible within it. In some ways I am just continuing the tradition in Art of seeking or understanding imminent visibility, that is everything especially the profane object holds.

Perfect results are infrequent and more often a complete failure.

Cast shadows (assuming the object is opaque) and their possible combinations (240) including light type:

Light type Length Edge Shading Color
Daylight Short Hard Light Neutral
Artificial Medium Diffused Grey Color
Mixed Long Black
Moonlight Abstract

‘The Invisible Landscape’ and Planar forms

By separating the represented object into series of planes contrasted by — naturally occurring backgrounds and pitch black shadows, there is an inevitable and more or less consistent progression towards creating three-dimensional objects within a two-dimensional space, a progression in which shadow and object compete with one another to become “delineated planar forms”. This has the effect of creating the ultimate three dimensional illusion within the classical constraints of a photograph.

( quote from: A Rare Synthesis of Realism and Abstraction by Gail Stavitsky)

The epistemic excesses of Photography.

Ever since it was developed Modern Photography’s power came from the fact that it could reproduce what the Artist saw with more exactness than anything before it. We still hold this notion, like children holding on to a birthday present. The initial actions of surprise and covertness of the child for its present may be said to hold true for the epistemic exactness of Photography. From 1822 till now this has been the one certainty and until photography understands that in the obviously visible there is a world of invisibility it will always remain in puberty.

However as a Photographer when I perceive an object there is no guarantee of visual consistency or permanence but rather an infinite number of possibilities. If we question ( and as Photographers we should) that there is visual uncertainty of what we see in front of us and also question the biological processes that allow us to see, then Photography, more than any other art form  will allow us to reach deeper into the invisible, and move from the continuing epistemic excesses and become more aligned to the Avant Guard, more specifically Suprematism, Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism.

“…a blissful sense of liberating non-objectivity drew me forth into a “desert”, where nothing is real except feeling..”.

Kazimir Malevich. Part II of The Non-Objective World  (from the BAUHAUS book No 11. 1927)

On Shadows part 2

In these images the shadow represents the object that creates it, but its also has its own unique qualities such as emptiness. There are no clues that tell us about the hidden surfaces within it, nonetheless it is a force of attraction. It is the one great variable in a seemingly fixed and epistemically stable Landscape. It is a creative act of a profane object, the visibility of which I concern myself.

‘The visible has a layer of invisibility about which the artist concerns himself’

Maurice Merleau-Ponty,The Primacy of Perception.