uploads of a few recent shots taken during late february through to march. changes in colour, scenery, environment and mood when moving from area to area.
All work by Miranda Spendiff /
Recently at UCA we have been working on a number of different weekly projects, looking at Beauty, whether it be in its purest form or an abstract sense, Spaces and Places, and Narrative. I have looked at artists such as Lewis Baltz and Brian McDonald aswell as researching headlines in order to respond to them with collages and simple sketches. For instance, whilst researching the housing crisis, i began to look at Brutalist Architecture in and around London. This inspired a recent trip to two recognised brutalist area’s, the Barbican and Southbank. I would like to share some images from the shoot, documenting the space and brutalist area. The weather worked really well with the sky shredding this marvellous marmalade tint and of course, a few drops of rain (it is Britain after all).
Overall the shoot was really successful, moving forwards i’m looking to create graphical images, blocking out the space and transforming them into collage pieces using the colours and sketches i also documented whilst visiting.
All Writing and Images Rights Reserved to Miranda Spendiff
Sex, sexuality and gender have been a constant influence in works of art for hundreds of years, exploring and questioning the boundaries of the particular times in which people live. Many famous works of art through the ages have explored and worked within these themes, many containing new imagery, whether it be more obvious than the next, heavily influencing our own opinions on the effects gender and so forth have on our modern society today. Controversial opinions often arise from the context that is sex/sexuality as well as the gender roles and how these are perceived at the time. The discipline that is photography has helped explore and realise the possibilities in which we view these somewhat controversial images, bringing realist views to the public eye as well as overwhelming possibilities through time. From paintings and original pieces of art that first explored sexual behaviour in the 20th Century such as Modigliani up to the most recent innovative artists such as Grayson Perry. Three pieces of photographic work that stood out for me when looking at the themes and ideas surrounding sex, gender and sexuality are David LaChappelle’s portrait of his transgender model, Amanda Lepore and the blatant reference to the gender behind the photo as well as the contrasting imagery of Terry Richardson’s simple sexualised modernistic approach to raw sexuality with his commercial images for American Apparel. Lastly, the classic and less overtly sexual images by Helmut Newton, including his androgynous portrait from 1975 (1) which was centred around Yves Saint Laurent’s creation of smoking tuxedos for woman. From these images, I will be looking between the layers of sexuality, and the lengths that photographers go to portray the area that is possibly the most influential in most recent years.
Art and Design, and all its disciplines, over the centuries of work has explored the theme of sexuality fluidly, exposing different cultural beliefs as well as era-related key moments of importance. Each medium has explored the context with deep abandon, delving into the raw meaning and question’s surrounding our own sexual needs and behaviours. From Modigliani’s work to erotic self-portraits, encouraging and preaching feminism by Joan Semmel. Essentially, what is drawn upon most in all art forms within the context that is sexuality and gender, is the woman’s figure, a typical representation that over the years has become a statement towards breaking past conventions and limits within society (2). Art and design has allowed sexual boundaries to be further pushed, as well as informing society about different aspects surrounding the context in society e.g. gender ideals and stereotypical norms (2). Salvador Dali’s work expanded to many different mediums and concepts however he also explored the female and male forms in a variety of different ways, focusing sometimes on the sexual organs and translating his own frustrations into a raw depiction of sexuality. Exploitation can be seen in most consumerist work, such as adverts, magazines and so forth, although, in modern times, art and design boundaries and themes surrounding sexuality and gender are less impactful in their nature, showcasing a change in our perceptions of modern day sexuality. Art can be provocative when it creates pleasing, shocking or unusual aesthetics; works that can leave a lasting effect on the individual viewers, from exploration of gender and sex. Through art forms, we have been able to challenge what is pleasing about the aesthetic behind images of a sexual nature and question whether it is truly sexual in nature or whether we have been manipulated to believe this. What art also brings is a true important reminder of individualism and respect, regardless of the story behind the photo. Images that explore the ‘controversial’ view of sex and sexuality are portraying a realist view of the society we are in now, as well as significantly pushing the art world forward. From musicians like David Bowie, to graphic designers and visual artists, the theme that is sexuality and sexual nature has been fluent in being a core topic for art, having been featured in some of the most prolific pieces of our time. The world of art has allowed these themes to be challenged and recognised, pushing equality and reminders of respect for all sexes and practices around the world.
I would argue that no other art form has explored these ideas more than photography. Photography has enabled artists to show a graphic point of view on Sex, Sexuality and Gender. When first considering the topic, I immediately began to think about one particular photographer who really pushed the transitions of gender into the public eye. David LaChapelle is a photographer from recent times who often references art history as well as conveying social messages through his work (3). He Is widely known as a commercial and celebrity portrait artist, who celebrates fun and pop imagery through widely elaborate set designs, however he has caused provocative discussions to be brought forward and questioned, through his often use of sexual promiscuity. Some of LaChapelle’s most recognised works surround his ‘muse’ Amanda Lepore, a transgender model and artist as well as friend of LaChapelle’s. His photographs of Amanda, which include shoots with Courtney Love, Madonna and other iconic images such as ‘Milk Maidens’ explore the often taboo subject of sexuality and gender. The photo I have chosen features Amanda and truly explores all three themes within the context, looking at the theme of sexual nature within art and photos as well as the questioning of gender, however focusing on the theme of gender and how it is portrayed within photography (6). His often use of transgender women carry a commercial sexual essence that is more accessible to the public in terms of recognising the contrasts between gender styles. The work shown also explores the gender narrative, showing a male organ in front of the trans-model against the huge assumption that ‘sex sells’ regardless of gender and creates an obvious, clear what we really desire, whilst still suggesting small messages referencing a remote and a housewife stance. LaChapelle recently talked of his iconic documental work in an article stating “Just because she is different, what are you offended about? Are you offended about the breasts or the male genitalia?” (4). His images, videos and posters are there to create a reminder of equality within the world and how art can be an easy platform to showcase the brilliance and uniqueness of all genders and sexuality.
The next piece of work I have chosen is from another modern photographer called Terry Richardson whose work also focuses on commercial practices mostly, having worked for Tom Ford, American Apparel and many more. He is known as a seedy character, not only because his photographic work has portrayed the clear, overtly sexual exploitation of sexual acts, but as he himself has been accused of coercing models into acts behind the photos, often being accused of encouraging inappropriate behaviour in order to create shots that reflect this consumerist exploitation (5). The piece of work I have chosen from his American Apparel campaign is the image of a girl with her legs open, an obvious representation of sexual lust. (7). This image immediately reflects to me an acknowledgment of ‘sex sells’ as well as heterosexual behaviour, clearly showing the context of sex and the explicit and sometimes bordering pornographic and inappropriate nature of exploitation surrounding consumerism and art using women as a way of marketing. What is also interesting is the nature of images from the advertisement, all following presumed heterosexual women who are being used to promote a product. Some regard his work as purely vulgar and not artistic in nature, however some may say it is informative of the times. The image, at first sight, is a clear depiction of everything that goes against feminism, striking up a storm of modern day discussions surrounding feminism and how the sexual nature of women is often exploited. Is the message of the photo taking the stance that women often strive to look like sexual beings or can it be interpreted as questioning our modern views on sex and sexuality in a documental and informative way, additionally is it acceptable to still publish images that carry such a message?
The last image I have chosen is a classic depiction from the 1950’s and onwards of a key change in regards to sexuality and gender roles (1). Helmut Newton was ‘one of the most sought after fashion photographers of his time, often capturing images that at the time were revolutionary and challenging’ (8). His provocative images contained numerous components of sexuality, reflecting social changes and views of the time. Newton brought in his love of sexuality and androgynous looks through his shoot for Vogue Paris in 1975, using Yves Saint Laurent’s women’s smoking jacket to create an iconic image that reflects classical themes of sexuality. This image is one that has been used in many different ways within the art world, reflecting the context in such a mysterious way yet reinforcing the overall questioning of gender roles, from the stance of the woman to the hair and style that usually is associated with the male. The clear depiction of a woman in what is usually a ‘man’s tuxedo’ is one that reflects the questioning of women’s roles and even though is perhaps less overt than that of LaChapelle’s work or Terry Richardson’s, can be seen as an even more openly sexual image, truly portraying a social message and context of sexuality in those times. The image is referred to as ‘portraying and suggesting an idea that of the suit being a typical more masculine ideology compared to that of the femininity of the female nude, endorsing the idea that every woman has a feminine and masculine side’ (8). His exploration of gender through androgyny has enabled many artists to fuel their own work with contrasting views from the same nature. Newton also spoke of LaChapelles work and remarked “A lot of the nudity is just gratuitous. But someone who makes me laugh is David LaChapelle. I think he’s very bright, very funny, and good” (9). Newton referred to himself and his own work as being “Very attracted by bad taste–it is a lot more exciting than that supposed good taste which is nothing more than a standardized way of looking at things” (10)
Showcasing gender, sexuality and sex can be seen in all three images. They each portray aspects of each theme in their own stylistic ways, such as transgender and sexuality, androgyny and pure heterosexual sexual nature, however the one image that truly portrays all three of these themes within the context is that of David LaChapelle’s work. His portrait of Amanda Lepore responds to the issues and questions surrounding gender through the use of a transgender model (6), as well as the blatant sexual nature through the props used and the obvious glamorisation of plastic surgery and sex. What is interesting is the reference in his work back to that of Helmut Newton’s portrayals of classic sexuality and questionable gender roles. The images all have different stylistic approaches, Helmut Newton’s style from a classy and simplistic approach, whilst Terry Richardson’s images confront the question of sexuality head on. LaChapelle’s photo is an obvious yet styled image that focuses on the clear question of sexuality, plunging the theme into a clear representation of the art world and consumerism that follows the theme of sexuality.
Being able to recognise these forms of sexuality and gender, and put aside the prejudice against ‘sex’ allows us to truly appreciate the advances of opinions on feminism and equality. What is interesting is all three images I chose have largely consumerist aspects around them, reinforcing the idea that sex sells. From a historic and often philosophical point of view, the themes of sexuality and comparing it with an artistic discipline such as photography has shown how we have taken these views and expanded on these expectations over hundreds of years, developing a style that is less frowned upon and now celebrated in appreciating the differences in gender and sexuality. With recent films and books published the discussion of sex has become a more openly discussed topic in which can still be a very visibly provocative ideal or looked at as a way of connecting human beings and the future generation in order to feel less ashamed to speak about gender issues and opinions. “Sex hasn’t changed, the way we view it has and we must accept that” (11).
AnOther – Tish Wrigley – 30th March 2012
8th January 2016
Eleanor Margolis – 20th June 2014
Camera Historica – 23rd January 2015
Artnet Worldwide Corporation – 2017
Columbia Journal – 20th June 2012
Sue Scheff – 26th May 2016
All Photo and Writing Rights Reserved (except references used in the essay and highlighted) to Miranda Spendiff – 25th Jan 2017
Work in progress / by Miranda Spendiff
A graphic line piece based on ‘Casa Estudio’ in Mexico City, house of Luis Barragán built in 1948 // By Miranda Spendiff / 15.11.17
Work by Miranda Spendiff
The final show has come (16th June), and was filled with friends, family and others!. It was so amazing seeing my final work up on the walls and viewing the other work that other students had completed. The achievement of creating an exhibition space in itself was an amazing feeling, aswell as seeing how my work and skills have developed over the course of the year. Today i also received my final grade – Distinction!, which has just completely made everything i have done for this project worthwhile. Being lucky enough to study and develop in a creative environment has been such a exciting oppurtunity for me, helping me realise what i would like to move on to aswell as being able to recognise what excites me and keeps me going. Thanks to everyone who helped me realise the end project!! I hope for more exciting things to come..
15th – 26th May // Week 9&10
At the beginning of the 9th week, i had my completed shoots and found successful imagery, reflecting my interests and progression so far.
I began to plan what i needed to do in order to complete my final exhibition in time. I started the week with the clear idea of keeping my space simple and minimalistic, reflecting upon the area’s only and the spaces within the images. I had a group crit and a talk with a tutor about creating my book and selecting the final imagery. I concluded that i would include previous images from shoots earlier on in the project and combine them all to showcase the different locations all in one. I chose imagery from a number of locations, combining simple elements from each photograph to pair them together. I designed my book online on blurb, using the Bookwright tool, and kept the layout simple to reflect the imagery in a modern approach. I also included nouns on same pages, of simple descriptions of words commonly attached to the area’s of interest. I also decided on a final title for my project, naming the book ‘Turf – a collection of spaces’. What i really liked about this title was the images it instantly reflects, Greenery, shown through my search for beauty and nature within the shots, aswell as the representation of someone else’s space. When visiting the locations, i was always on someone else’s ‘turf’.
I began to also finalise my proposal, not rewriting it to much but adding bits of information, aswell as my statement and evaluation. This i documented through my journal, planning on what i need to include in the pieces of writing. As soon as the book arrived (thanks blurb), i put my selected 4 images in for printing and prepared the space by painting and cleaning the floors so it would be clean and ready for presentation. I chose 4 images that reflected the spaces i had visited in a compositional way, aswell as using my planning to choose 4 that worked together well. This allowed me to evaluate my area and see where each image would look best, aswell as constructing a shelf for my book with help from my tutor. Having two people help put the space up meant that i could see whether they were placed right and receive feedback. I really enjoyed this as it has helped me prepare for future exhibitions by analysing and being selective with what i wanted to show. I carried on evaluating and finished of sketchbooks, still drawing and exploring ideas. I played around with the idea of showing drawings of the images i had taken also, however decided that they work better with my sketchbook and development work.
After the last shoot i had completed, i realised that i work best when i am more spontaneous, therefore allowing myself to be free when working. I think this shows through my research styles and how my project has developed over the course of the FMP. On Monday and Tuesday (22nd and 23rd) i collected my imagery and placed them on the wall, with help from my tutor in preparation for the deadline. My aim was to completed my exhibition space by Wednesday, in order to focus on completing my written work, blog and review of my project. By Thursday i had completed the final parts of my exhibition space and also written up all final documents ready for Friday. Whilst writing the evaluation, i realised how far my idea had come and felt an enormous sense of achievement in how far i have come over the last year of the course, especially the FMP. It has been a really encouraging year for me, seeing all different works of art, taking in new knowledge and research and also developing my own ideas into a real project and exhibition. Everything i have learnt this year has really pushed and inspired me to work with my ideas and explore as much as possible, something i was not so confident in before. I am really happy with the final outcomes and definitely believe i can build upon the project in the future, hopefully showcasing new imagery and building upon my development further.
24th April – 5th May // Week 7&8
The two week buildup to the final show and exhibition is here, and after a successful easter break following book work, painting and clarification of ideas, i have moved towards choosing my final location for my final show. During week 7, i reviewed my shoots over the previous weeks and the direction my idea has moved towards. After looking at the beginning of my journal and online posts and comparing, i realised that the main theme of my idea has been apparent throughout all my work. This being a focus on social housing and development, the beautifying of these areas through my edits and what is there or left behind, aswell as the documental side, exploring and looking further into the local areas that have surrounded me for years. I then began to move forward with the idea, realising that it is very different to what i have previously explored, usually focusing on more architectural and minimalist aspects. However, i have enjoyed the change and challenge of communicating ideas in a new way, pushing myself to create an exciting project that is personal to me, whilst overcoming and working with issues that have arisen.
During a recent group crit i explained that quite a few of my friends have lived on estates for as long as i have known them, and strangely i have always been fascinated in the development and community side to these places. I also explained my decision so far to leave people and friends out of my imagery, as i wanted to purely document the style of housing and building types. Social estates have been a huge influence on modern architecture and utopian type community areas, pushing idealistic boundaries of living. Choosing to start exploring the idea fit in perfectly with the timing of UCA, as i have always wanted to document the areas that have been strangely fascinating to me. Possibly creating a book or sequential pieces in large format and presenting as a final idea is something that i have always wanted to do, and concluding this project with this is an exciting ending to a year that has been important in me finding my style and place within lens based work.
I began week 8 looking and preparing for my final shoot by revising previous images and drawing imagery from these, aswell as using feedback to conclude my final layout for the exhibition. I would have liked to have had these shoots done by end of week 7, however, the weather did not work in my favour aswell as my planning for what i am looking for. I am cutting it very fine as the real challenge is creating this imagery within a week and a half of the final shots being needed for exhibition, however i believe that this only pushes me further to go and explore my idea. I also have enjoyed being a lot more open and easy with my work in the last couple of weeks, allowing me to explore without the ‘boundaries’ of having to create and plan. Essentially I aim to have the shots ready by the start of week 9, ready for editing and printing for the book and walls, whilst still developing book work and playing around with my final concept.
10th-23rd April / Easter Break
After Week 6 and the concluding evaluation we participated in, the easter break begun. 2 Weeks working outside the studio was a daunting problem as i like to be constantly producing sheets or small paintings and so forth, therefore i would have to make do with resources outside of UCA. This was something that i realised came under the research we did on problem solving, therefore i explored as many avenues with my book work in order to catch up and produce visual pages exploring my idea. I enjoyed not knowing specifically my task everyday as it allowed me to take risks and explore my idea further.
I began by sorting my images out into chosen folders in order to make progress within the book examples easier. It also allowed me to look at previous shoots and recognise where i need to improve. I also researched the area’s i had explored, for instance Margate and Canterbury, and the history behind the social estates and area’s. Each couple of days, i documented what i was doing, whether it be new ideas or influences in order to keep up with the demand of work i need. I realised that during the first week i did leave work and not finish it, therefore making me work harder in the second week to produce outcomes and evaluate. I used many different materials during the break such as image transfer, paint, charcoal, wood offcuts and so forth (documented in my Sketchbook).
I evaluated the areas i had visited, explaining my choices of local areas instead of further away (e.g London) aswell as concluding ideas and where my project has ended up. I decided to explore one more new area – Aylesham – in order to create a final piece that coherently fits in with the work i have been doing, aswell as injects new imagery into the project. Aylesham was built in the 1920’s to accommodate workers at nearby coal mines, and is an interesting and strangely utopian/eery area. Not short of countryside beauty or services, however it does seem to fit in with my idea of social housing and this utopian community idea so well. The area also has been identified by the Dover Local Plan as a location for expansion, continuing my interest in documenting area’s of development and change in architecture/landscape.
Week ending 9th April // Week 6
Week 6, preparing for the final week ahead of the easter break (2 weeks off). I was unable to attend on the Monday due to a university interview at LCC in London, however caught up with the chat that i had missed on the monday. I looked at previous sketchbooks from students in order to study their progress and compare with my own. My idea has changed however still follows my original styles of photography and work style. After my own critical evaluation of my work the previous week, aswell as the group crits, i planned two shoots for the week ahead, one in Margate, Cliftonville and the other on Sturry Road in Canterbury. These shoots are essentially preparation in working out my final location ideas for the finished pieces and shoots. Both still follow social housing and the beautifying/history of them.
In margate i explored the different areas, which range vastly in terms of community. Margate has the highest rate of social deprivation in the local area, something that i found really interesting when exploring and searching for the hidden yet obvious beauty surrounding the areas. I learnt a lot about the area, including coming across original art deco buildings scattered just a stones throw from the seafront. I also visited the high street and local attractions such as the shell grotto etc. Through exploring margate i recognised that all the images taken on that day have a strong context and narrative about the area whilst still incorporating my own thoughts and ideas. After the shoot i began looking into other places to explore during the easter holidays.
During the week i also did some more artist research, looking at Ansel Adams book ‘the negative’. His images are some of this centuries most memorable photographs aswell as his visualisation of the analogue processes and developments. What i found really interesting was that even though i do not primarily use analogue and film photography in my work at the moment, i do enjoy the process and using some of his methods as inspiration.
Towards the end of the week, we were all preparing imagery and work to show for the group crit on Friday, in order to receive feedback. I had some really positive comments aswell as ideas to include text or my own paintings and drawings into the final book/images. Viewing other peoples progress and their influences was also really helpful as it helped me understand different contexts and styles that other people work with. For the easter break, i plan to take shoots and find a final place/location to take a series of images for my book and show. I also want to reflect on the imagery i have explored and delve into the narrative i have been working with so far.
Week ending 2nd April // Week 5 // Practical Skills
Week 5 is underway and having previously been a tad ‘stuck’, the weekend helped clarify my ideas so far. The Monday morning lecture was on practical skills and what the criteria looks for in terms of understanding aesthetic awareness and using imaginative and flexible processes. Essentially the ‘aesthetics’ of photography are the most important part of the work that we create, understanding the way art looks and how it is put together, something that runs through into the book workshop. We looked at Valerie Belin who photographs mannequins modelled on supermodels. She combines her photographs with vector graphics from the internet, using skills and aesthetic awareness to create final outcomes. Her work is visually exciting and complex, using layering, shape and composition to create imagery that reflects her interests and style.
Imaginative and flexible processes? Dictionary definitions
We also looked at Hannah Hoch who worked on a women’s magazine during 1916. She produced images for magazines and the studios would cut and paste different images together. She used experimental processes such as juxtaposition, collage and placing in order to create pieces, using skill and knowledge learned. We mainly looked at artists who have overcome issues by using skill and experimentation in order to further their work. Another artist was photographer Francesca Woodman. We discussed the camera she may be using, the style she is aiming for, her subjects, and what she experimented with. This covered shutter speed, aperture, pose’s, gaze’s and so forth. Essentially, we looked at how extensive enquiry can develop creative solutions allowing our attempts to focus on different ways of addressing current ideas and being open to changes in direction.
By using my journal work and sheet development, i allow myself to experiment with my ideas visually, however, now being in week 5 i do believe it has come to the point where i want to really try different things, therefore creating a book with my work as an example seems to be the boost my work may need. After the lecture, i evaluated my ideas so far within my journal, exploring the ideas behind my interest in social housing having been influenced by friends who live on estates and these somewhat utopian inspired area’s created on community basis. Although some may view these areas as dingy neglected areas of society, i find some enjoyment out of this idea that they all connect in one place. The hidden beauty they also have through the flowers, statues and odd pops of colours are also fascinating, truly looking past the parts that may not be aesthetically pleasing to all and focusing on these random pops of unusual beauty.
By the end of this week, i had created a book using the method ‘Perfect Binding’ aswell as clarified my concept and ideas using the shoot i had completed that week. During the week i also experimented alot on photoshop with my images, creating and using different techniques to create graphical images that were transcriptions of my work. What was really interesting was planning and choosing the images i wanted to see within the book without being to picky. I also learnt how to design a book in different ways using indesign aswell as viewing how the book was glued together. The images looked more raw and real in the book form, an interesting viewpoint in to how i will showcase my work at the end of the FMP. However, as a sample, the book taught me that i need to evaluate my sequencing and cover work, therefore choosing what goes together and what should and should not be included.