Category Archives: Research


G. Hughes . Game Face :Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture

Variable Piece # 101 by Douglas Huebler consists of 10 portraits of Bernd Becher , a German photographer , accompanied by a written statement.

Becher was required to portray the following persona in this order :

– A priest
– A criminal.
– A lover
– An old man
– A policeman
– An artist
– Bernard Becher
– A philosophiser
– A spy
– A nice guy

Huebler returned the images to Becher two months later but the photographs were sent out of sequence to the originals. Becher was then asked to remember and “make the ‘correct’ associations with the given verbal terms” (Hughes ,pp. 53) .

Becher’s statement is as follows

– Bernard Becher
– Nice guy
– Spy
– Old man
– Artist
– Policeman
– Priest
– Philosopher
– Criminal
– Lover


‘Words and image combine, one playing off the other ‘ (pp. 53) highlighting the difficulty of determining the truth of the relationship between the two.

Two widely circulated catalogues of the work were published :

1992-93 —a retrospective exhibition held in Limoges , France.
In the catalogue Becher’s selection appear to correlate with the numbers on the photographs and appear to be accurate and well reasoned representations of the various characters. ‘Word and image seem to dovetail neatly as photography captures its types’ (Hughes, pp.53) . However whilst both the original and Becher’s statements were included Huebler does not indicate which of the two lists corresponds to the images shown in the catalogue.

1995-96 Reconsidering the Object of Art , Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art
Whilst the images were numbered in the Limoges catalogue they were left unnumbered and ‘worse still , the first and third photograph in each of the series is different , appearing in one catalogue but not the other’ (pp. 54) . However whilst the statement was unchanged it was impossible to link words with image hence ‘two forms of information–text and photograph– confuse and conceal rather than affirm and disclose’ (pp.54).

Hughes describes Huebler’s Variable Piece # 101 as a ‘critique of two very different forms of photography’ ( pp. 55) — Becher’s typological studies of industrial buildings and structures to that of photographers such as Richard Avedon , Diane Arbus and Bruce Davidson. The 10 portraits of Becher are presented in a grid seen ‘as the representative figure and form of a rational , systematic approach to photography’ (pp. 55) whilst the contorted facial expressions ‘signal a form of photography that is the polar opposite of the Becher’s ‘ (pp. 55) . Both forms of photography ‘are voided in Huebler’s photographic portraits’ (pp.55). Huebler’s portraits mimic Becher’s objective style of photography , ‘these multiple images of Becher make evident the precise aspects of photographic portraiture negated by the Becher’s : the reliance on text as a means to determine identity’ (pp.63) .

Mixing the chronological order of viewing is something Huebler makes use of ” I have always scrambled my photographic representations so that ‘time’ would not be read through a series of sequential events ” (Hughes ,pp. 56) ‘Across the surface of Becher’s face we see the signs of his assumed character-types cleaved from their referents. Unable to match word to image, we see in Becher’s caricature the constitutive illiteracy of the physiognomic face’ ( pp.61) Hughes suggests a ‘photographic portrait functions in a manner exactly opposite to photography’s innate material function of fixing and preserving’ (pp. 61) .

‘Reflecting the Becher’s photographic technique back onto Becher himself , Huebler not only foregrounds the Bechers’ critique of physiognomic photography , he also makes explicit the Bechers’ polemic engagement with—-the “new objectivity” –of August Sander’s photographic portraiture’ (pp. 63) . Between 1910 and 1934 Sander travelled across Germany with the aim of chronicling modern German society through posed portraits of a broad spectrum of its citizens. ‘In its attempt to structure the social face of Weimar , Sander’s project neccesitated an archival will to truth , objectivity , and comprehensiveness through a suppression of individual style’ (pp. 66) .

Sander’s seven categories were intended to catalogue archetypical shared human characteristics

– The Farmer
– The Skilled Tradesman
– The Woman
– Classes and Professions
– The Artists
– The City
– The Last People.

Each of the seven categories included subjects with representative similarities. Within each category both the bricklayer and industrialists share the status of Skilled Tradesmen. The final group , The Last People included within its category the elderly, those with disabilities (physical and mental ) , the homeless , beggars etc , the most vulnerable section of society. Sander’s intention was for the portraits to objectively depict archetypical shared human characteristics.

Hughes notes ‘Becher sardonically performs for Huebler’s camera—Sander’s physiognomically based photographic portraiture’ (pp. 66)

Variable piece # 101 voids Sander’s typological categories as Becher makes faces for the camera –faces that can never be properly aligned with their descriptive type’ (pp. 66) . It additionally breaks down the tacit connection ‘between text and photograph opening an abyss between Becher’s identity and representation’ (pp. 68) . Furthermore Huebler never reveals the correct correlation between text and image hence without this information ‘like Becher we can only guess who is who , never knowing when we are right and when we are wrong’ (pp.69).

Bibliography / References

Hughes, G.. (2007). Game Face: Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture. Art Journal, Volume 66 , No 4 Winter , 2007, pp. 52–69.

Accessed 26/4/16

Working towards Assignment 5

Some rejected images that for various reasons I am not happy with and some other ideas I have been trying out . I have printed them out as what looks fine on screen does not always seem to work as well in print.

This for example I quite like as a diptych but when printed I actually preferred the double exposure and newspaper clipping to be viewed as two separate pieces.

Somewhere in France jpeg

+ another rejected version here

Somewhere in France jpeg print

I cloned out the ring from the right hand version , again I not using either of these.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.44.40

These were printed as triptych’s but I was not happy with them so have re-printed yet another version that will be included in the final assignment.

Triptych 1

Tryptich 2

I took a series of photographs of dad’s cufflinks and cigarette case , each has been processed slightly differently and I have one selected for the assignment.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 18.45.10

Again I did not particularly like the look of this printed as a diptych

Dad & shirt diptych

These double exposures were too faded and when printed looked even worse.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 17.35.59

I was going to use this as a full page image but have now created a triptych including written information about the Chindits

Assignment 5 jpegs-4

I do have my final selection but am just finishing printing and labelling them so will put my post up when this is complete and ready to post to my tutor. I have decided to work in colour and also have printed the historical photographs on A4 paper but scaled smaller than those taken for the assignment. The assignment has taken me far longer than I anticipated and I need to write my coursework notes up too but want to get this completed first.

I use Perma Jet Fibre Base Royal 325 paper for printing and am mortified to find it has now been discontinued. I have enough for this assignment but am considering printing all my work at A3 size for assessment so will have to try some alternatives . It is still available from a few sites but this might be a good opportunity to experiment with different papers.

Working towards assignment 5

I still need to keep taking more photographs but have been experimenting again with double exposures and also processing in colour again . Initially I wanted to work in colour , changed my mind feeling that b&w were the better choice , but now find myself preferring the colour, they are perhaps more contemporary. I have printed a couple and am pleased that the tones are not too bright or highly saturated , aesthetically this would not work .


I re-processed the triple exposure below


I have emailed Keith about the use of historical images for the assignment as stand-alone photographs . He suggests these be used in addition the 15 needed . Not too sure which I will use or how many yet , I shall be scanning some more but below are the scans of a couple of my original photos , a newspaper clipping and a letter sent by my dad whilst in India . I intend to use some individually and a couple will be used to create diptych’s. I will write more about the context of the images when I do my final write up.

Dad & tiger 002


Newspaper clipping001

Dad's letter002

Dad's letter001

I will be printing the photographs , as always , but want to do another book. This needs to be presented differently to the prints . This is something I needed to amend for the PDF element of assignment 3 by placing all the historic images and scans used in a diptych on their own page . I am also wondering whether to print any of the historical stand-alone photographs I include along with the larger prints I will do, perhaps smaller 4×6. The originals will go back to the green case where they have ‘lived’ for quite some time.

A diptych of dad’s Chindits badge with one of the scanned  photographs above– taken presumably in a studio ! Dad is the young man sat down in front of the tiger on the bottom right.

Dad :Tiger : Chindits badge



I re-photographed the letter in the diptych below but will probably use the scanned version if this makes my final edit.

Letter : India x 1

Another diptych / a  double exposure and scanned newspaper.

Dad evacuation diptych


A single exposure using another photograph with the clipping and postcard.


Some of the double exposures work some don’t but I want to include a few in this assignment . I like their ambiguity , how they allude to hazy half-forgotten memories as the opaque layers of history are slightly revealed. A few more of my experiments below–some more successful than others.











I like the one below , the connotation , which suggests how he has been silenced , by time and death.


A diptych and a single exposure below

Dad : tribute






Tacita Dean

Tacita Dean , British b1965

Floh (German for flea)

Dean studied at Falmouth University and after her Artists Residency in Berlin finished in 2001 she continued to live there.

‘Her long-time preoccupation with serendipity , coincidence and unforeseen outcomes as a leitmotif for her artistic method , governed her wanderings through the street markets of Berlin and elsewhere , which produced a harvest of visual materials. These served as the basis of several works consisting of found images’ ( Rainbird ,p.9 )

Floh consists of informal snapshots found in flea markets by Dean that she then organised and curated into a book. It contains a mix of 48 colour and 109 b&w unrelated images .

Additionally limited edition digital prints from the book were available at an exhibition held in 2001at the Frith Street Gallery in London. The prints , like the photographs in the book , are ambiguous and open to interpretation. No text accompanies the unidentified photographs hence the original context remains unknown leaving the viewer free to conceptualise their own narrative.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 19.23.34

Photographs are not only physical objects they also prompt speech but Dean states she wanted “to keep the silence of the flea market ; the silence they had when I found them;the silence of the lost object” . It is rather sad to contemplate who were the original owners of the abandoned photographs and why have they been discarded ? Imagine the stories they could they tell , which is precisely what the viewer is left free to do.

This is interesting essay —Mark Godfrey Photography Found and Lost :On Tacita Dean’s Floh HERE

References / Bibliography

Rainbird, S. (2005) Tacita dean: Berlin works: [published to accompany the exhibition Tacita dean: Berlin works, 8 October 2005 – 15 January 2006, Tate, st. Ives]. United Kingdom: Tate Gallery Publish.

K.K DePaul

I came across her work as I was looking for ideas on Pinterest and think it is really fascinating. She describes herself as a teller of tales , “my themes are memory and secrets . I have always been fascinated by multiple interpretations …double exposures and ambiguity

The images she creates are intriguing and capable of evoking a multitude of emotions. She describes “the layering of paper and photographic imagery as being similar to the way our mind organises memory…at different depths…one over another…constantly shifting.” Like Christian Boltanski , Joachim Schmid and Erik Kessels she searches flea markets looking for old books , maps and photographs to use in her collages . Similar to memories some parts are well defined whilst others more insubstantial , there is a surreal quality to the pieces .

Between the Lines
Collage work exploring family secrets which DePaul talks about HERE
Her grandfather was hanged for murder in 1929 , never spoken about by the family . DePaul inherited a box containing his private possessions following her grandmothers death. She came to the conclusion her grandfather had been guilty , something she feels her grandmother knew and wanted her to understand but had been unable to share in her lifetime. The work explores how women use deception , not in an malicious capacity , but as a safeguard for themselves and their relationship with others.

Only Child
Mixed media exploring the ambivalent nature of the daughter / father relationship.
DePaul’s project started following the death of her father , the son of her grandfather hanged for murder. Her father’s dysfunctional upbringing led him to attempt suicide twice , her relationship shifted as he became the one who needed to be cared for , a reversal of roles.

Accessed 3/4/16
Accessed 3/4/16
Accessed 3/4/16
Accessed 3/4/16
Accessed 3/4/16–some interesting work in the Blurb book  including DePaul’s
Accessed 3/4/16
Accessed 3/4/16

Working towards Assignment 5

I seem to have been spending most of my time reading and researching but what I really need to do be doing is actually taking some photographs ! I plan to take some more over the next  week but have also reprocessed a few of the ones taken earlier when I began preparing for the assignment. I initially thought I might present this assignment in colour but  I rather like the b&w versions . I feel the mood is more sombre and melancholic, reflecting on the past makes me feel like that and something I want to convey.













My old suitcase –yet again !


I also merged the two images below to recreate a memory I mentioned in an earlier post (Worse things happen at sea)




Diptych of the two b&w images


I have been playing with double exposures yet again, to me they represent the hazy and somewhat unpredictable nature of memory .


A triple exposure


Single exposure


Joan Fontcuberta : Stranger Than Fiction

Joan Fontcuberta b1955

Stranger Than Fiction , a retrospective of three decades and six bodies of Fontcuberta’s documentary work , opened at the London Science Museum in 2014.

Images are just constructions ” Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta Fontcuberta’s art questions the trustworthiness of imagery and he warns of the need to be sceptical of the perceived function of photography as a conveyer of truth, always question , never presume. Propaganda , censorship and suspicion were commonplace in Catalonia where he was brought up during General Franco’s regime. Fontcuberta says he “ like all my generation suffered from the lack of transparency and the doctoring of documents to re-construct history” (Guardian 2014) .

He disputes the validity , influence and accuracy of photography hence everything you see is not quite what it seems , yet because the various works are so realistic it is easy to believe them to be truthful despite the somewhat fantastical subject matter. Fontcuberta aims “to challenge disciplines that claim authority to represent the real-botany , topology , any scientific discourse , the media , even religion . I chose photography because it was a metaphor of power” (Guardian , 2014) . His methodology may be humorous but is also certainly thought provoking

Herbarium , 1984
Black and white images of outlandish rare plants which are all the more convincing with their Latin sounding names and photographed in a traditional documentary style. In actuality the exotic plants were created by Fontcuberta using waste animal and plant material.

Fauna 1987
Supposedly made in collaboration with a fictional writer / photographer Pere Formiguera the installation included field notes , X-rays , recordings and stuffed specimens. The work was based on the alleged discovery of archives belonging to a certain German zoologist , Dr Ameisenhaufen , who we are told vanished in 1955. Viewing the work within a museum environment adds to it’s authenticity making it appear totally truthful and believable.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 21.34.01

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 16.23.14

When I presented Fauna at the Museum of Natural Science in Barcelona , I saw a family looking at the pictures of these fantasy animals . The father said , ‘ It’s so great we came here. I had no idea these animals existed. They’re amazing.’ The son looked at him and said , ‘But they’re not real , dad. They’re fake!.’ The father got angry , slapped him on the back of the head and told him that because they are in a museum they must be true. It was interesting to me that the child wasn’t educated in the truth of the museum:he wasn’t perverted by culture. This is a very important political concern” Joan Fontcuberta

Constellations , 1993
Far from seeing distant stars in outer space these are in fact photograms of the detritus on Fontcuberta’s car windscreen .

Sirens , 2000
Fake mermaid fossils were placed in rocks by Fontcuberta at the Réserve de Haute-Provence , South of France. Linked to a subsequent documentary about their discovery by French priest Father Jean Fontana , who incidentally bore a striking resemblance to Fontcuberta , the hoax has all the qualities of an authentic scientific investigation.

Orogenesis , 2002
Landscapes created using military cartographical software that turns maps into 3D images of the territory. However Fontcuberta fed misleading information into the programme . Rendered more like traditional paintings or photographs , he both misinterprets and determines the resulting image.

Karelia , Miracles & Co , 2012
I particularly like these see HERE , a sublime narrative about Fontcuberta’s journey to a Finnish monastery.

Accessed 31/3/16
Accessed 31/3/16
Accessed 31/3/16
Accessed 31/3/16
Accessed 31/3/16
Accessed 31/3/16
Accessed 1/4/16
Accessed 1/4/16