Olive Cotton Award: $20k Photographic Portrait prize awarded to an image that isn't a photograph

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by DanOstergren, Jul 25, 2017.

  1. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    With the Conditions of Entry stating entries must be 'photographic, archivally sound, still and two dimensional', that seems to leave it somewhat open to interpretation I think. I agree though that photos and artwork need to be able to stand alone; a description may be in the catalog or accompany the artwork, but it isn't necessarily part of the display - and if it needs to be explained then I don't think the artwork expresses what was intended.

    This must have been exposed to light at some point, being dark. I don't know the specific steps of the process but I think the grandmother would have made the marks on the piece of film while the film was out in the light. Even if it was indoors with enough UV/sunlight coming in the windows it would be getting exposed.

    When I've done lumen prints using old photo paper I use a small table set up in a window and if it's a really sunny day I have to be careful to get the paper out of the black packaging at some distance or it will start to darken before I even get set up. (You gotta work quick or you get a big white thumb mark on the paper!). On more cloudy days I still am getting the UV light but the paper doesn't expose as quickly, and with the ISO of photo paper being in single digits obviously there's a longer exposure time than film.

    Unless maybe this was a piece of film that had already been exposed to light, run thru some developer, let dry, then the grandmother drew on the already exposed, darkened film. I don't know if/how that would work, or if it would be considered to be a photographic process.

    If the film had not been exposed, but then run thru some developer etc. in a darkroom, it would still be almost clear plastic with a light gray tone (probably from the developer) because it hadn't been exposed to light (if it went directly from the film holder or roll film cartridge to a developing tank). The reason I know this is from times I've changed film midroll, and I'm working fast and later realize uh-oh, is this a roll I already had in the camera or one I haven't shot yet?? So I get it developed because I don't want to lose any photos... so it ends up as some negative images on one end of a long strip of light grayish film. So if someone took that and marked on it with pens it would almost look like ink marks on clear/gray tinted plastic.

    I did find an art exhibit of portraits from last year that were described as 'abstract, symbolic, and conceptual', that included at least one photogram, a photogravure, and a photograph. I was thinking looking at them, do they tell me something about the artist? do they represent the subject? I think so. Are they strictly photographs? I don't think so, but they were made with a photography process.
    This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today

    This one reminds me of when I first tried doing a lumen print after someone told me about them. I just stuck some objects on a piece of old photo paper and sat it in the sun to see how well it worked. That was a practice run as far as I was concerned. So I think in this case the process could have been taken further to represent the subject in a way that told something about the grandmother.


     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
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  2. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    If nothing else I now know who Olive Cotton was. And her 'Teacup ballet' 1935 looked familiar and I realized I've seen that before, apparently it's one of her more well known photos.

    It says here that she talked about the angled handles of the teacups made her think of people with arms akimbo. Seems interesting, a photograph of objects representing people of sorts.
    COTTON , Olive | Teacup ballet
     
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  3. Peeb

    Peeb Semi-automatic Mediocrity Generator Supporting Member

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    Requirements for the entries, in full (highlights are mine, however):

    · A new portrait completed since 1 April 2015, owned and created by the artist; not previously exhibited (including online but excluding the entrant’s personal webpage or social media platform), shown in competitions or awarded a prize;

    · Photographic, archivally sound, still and two-dimensional;

    · Within the size limits and able to be hung on or pinned to Gallery walls.
    The Judge will be looking for excellence in photographic technique, creativity and originality to the standards prescribed by the Director, Tweed Regional Gallery.

    I look at the phrase "owned and created by the artist". Not being versed in Australian law, I cannot say whether the grand-daughter is the owner, the co-owner, or just the processor of the image, but isn't grandma the creator? If I send a jpeg to a processor to be printed onto canvas, could they submit MY image to a contest as a 'portrait of a customer'? I can see it now: "We wanted to really capture not just the face of a typical customer, but really reveal existentially what that individual 'sees' in the world as a more full realization of the customer's spirit in communion with the planet as a whole." I just don't understand the logic, but more on that in a moment.

    As to whether or not it is a 'photograph', it looks from the rules like they left things loosey-goosey enough that I guess technically anything goes, since it doesn't have to be a 'photograph', just 'photographic' (whatever they want that to mean...). Doesn't SEEM like what I would consider a 'photographic' work, but what do I know?

    I'm not trained in 'art'. I am not a portrait artist or a portrait photographer. I'm not versed in the 'standards prescribed by the Director, Tweed Regional Gallery'. That phrase is a huge wildcard that could open a lot of doors. If the Director has 'prescribed' that twigs bound together with twine are 'photographic' then the rules say that this is what was agreed to. I dunno.

    Having said all that, I (personally) would never want to be entered into a contest where the merit of the winning entry had to be carefully explained to me in order for me to begin to guess why it was deemed superior to works more pleasing to me and everyone I know. Which I think is precisely the effect that was desired by awarding this type of 'art'. Results of this type probably do a good job of keeping our the riff-raff. ;)
     
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  4. Pedro_lopez

    Pedro_lopez TPF Noob!

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    That's it guys, I learned the photographic triangle for nothing when all I needed was to doodle and spit on a piece of film. No light capturing skills needed.




    Sent from my iPhone using ThePhotoForum.com mobile app
     
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  5. DanOstergren

    DanOstergren Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Nope, none needed whatsoever, at least if you want to win the grand prize. You might as well enter a shoe and call it a portrait photograph. Just don't forget to include a philosophical essay explaining the significance of said shoe, that way your essay can win the photo contest.
     
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  6. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It is photographic, I think... at least it seems like it must have been exposed to light. If I had access to a darkroom (which I don't anymore) I'd try it out and see. I don't see why the film wouldn't still be light if it hadn't darkened by being exposed to light. Unless something else was done to it that I didn't see mentioned. Some of the alt. processes that are based on early photography methods could be considered to be 'photographic' works but not strictly photographs.

    It said that an entry could be done by one artist, a duo, or a group. So apparently a collaborative work could be submitted, but how copyright comes into it in Australia, I have no idea.

    This being a juried art exhibition it's different than a photo contest; their procedure seems similar to juried exhibits I've done submissions for.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Trying to explain away the level of bullspit underlying the "winning entry" and its validity is quite an errand...

    Don Quixote would be in fine company in this thread...windmill-tilting and all, dontcha' know...

    The "winning" entry is an effed-up mess. Sorry, that's just how I feel about the way this portrait contest was judged. Dan's comments above make sense.
     
  8. weepete

    weepete TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Lets look at your example then, and say you draw on a car. Does that now mean the car is a drawing and not a car anymore?

    What about hand coloured photographs, are they paintings?

    We don't live in a world of absolutes and things can get a bit squshy at the edges.
     
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  9. petrochemist

    petrochemist No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    But the film used for the image is not a photograph either.
    Look at the following definition of Photography (pulled off the net via Google) 'Photography is the science, art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.'
    Other definitions would be broadly similar, but may be more restrictive.

    The film here does not show a recorded image of light it's fully darkened, leaving no image from the exposure.
    The definition quoted does not mention a camera, and so can easily be stretched to cover images like photograms or sun prints, which are IMO photographs. In this case the image was not recorded electromagnetic radiation, just material subsequently applied to the film.
    While things often have grey areas there are also core parts that are required. Drawing on a car does stop it being a car, but here there was no image before the drawing so it wasn't a photograph before or after the drawing.
     
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  10. pixmedic

    pixmedic The Mustached Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    that contest was a setup. im calling shinanigans. a publicity stunt perhaps. shock value. there is no way that contest was above board.
    I do a contest that is purely subjective and decided by only 2 people, and im still calling bull$^*% on that one.
    its a hard enough stretch to even say that it might resemble something a little like a "photograph" (very very technially subjectively speaking)... but a portrait?
    come on now...
    that contest wasnt pushing borders or definitions, it was $***ing on legitimate photographers everywhere.
    I hope this rediculous plan backfires and everyone boycots the hell out of the judges work/contests/whatever from now on.
     
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  11. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    That's a good point about a photograph being a recorded image of light. I suppose it depends on what someone considers to be a photograph, a photographic work, or a photographic process. This definition seems to describe it somewhat differently; it refers to "action of light on a light sensitive material."
    Photography – Art Term | Tate

    This one is described as an award with 1st prize being acquisitive and funded by the family of Olive Cotton; a Director's Choice Acquisition funded by the Friends of the Tweed Gallery; and Judge's High Commendations. It's an exhibition held by The National Gallery of Australia; it's not a sponsored contest by a company or business.

    It says in the Conditions of Entry pdf under Entry Eligibility that entries need to be 'photographic'; it doesn't say they have to record an image or even fit any particular definition of photography, which seems to leave it open to possibilities.
     

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  12. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm sorry, but with all due respect, if I have to do the mental gymnastics equivalent of discovering the theory of relativity just to kinda sorta fit this piece of work into the definition of "photograph" or "portrait," then chances are it doesn't belong in either.
     
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