The Drawn Portrait in Contemporary Printmaking:
A journey between analogue and digital
This research explores the value of using contemporary smart phone digital photography as a basis for portrait drawing, printmaking and how this process alters the meaning of the image.
It is my intention to interrogate the question through the digital and analogue techniques of image making and by exploring the complex relationship between the observer and the observed entity.
I very much welcome this opportunity to question the ethical basis of my research as it is core to the starting point of the study.
Having answered Yes to a number of questions in Ethical Review Stage one I submit the following stage two answers .
- Will research project involve humans as subjects of the research (with or without their knowledge or consent at the time) i.e. Including all interviews, observational activities, focus groups, questionaires, access to or generation of records relating to humans.
I discretely take smart phone pictures of people that may become source material for a work of art.
- Is the conduct of, or the results of the research project likely to expose any person (yourself, participants or others) to physical or psychological harm?
NO – further explanation :
If a human being is to be used as source material for a portrait I create it is to celebrate the subject, not to denigrate nor besmirch their person or reputation in any way.
My intention is always, where possible, to inform the subject that the art work has been created and indeed is offered a print of the work for theirown keeping.
I have never had any subject complain to me that they have been misused, interpreted or damaged by the works that have been created. In fact everyone who I have been able to share a work that they have been the subject of is pleasantly surprised and very happy to have been an unknowing subject. People close to them have on occasion said that the portraits capture something of the person that is core to their personality and therefore of value to both subject and those close to them. Responses have included ‘thank you for doing me the honour of making a portrait of me”; Greg Lowson “I love this”Lara Ratnaraja; “You have captured him exactly as I know him” (Ann Towe of her husband Stewart Towe OBE’s portrait); “You have really caught me so well”. HJJ Mrs Mary Stacey; Pauline Bailey “I had no idea thanks“ Pauline then made her portrait her Facebook Profile Picture.
A number of subjects have bought their portrait to be exhibited in their surroundings.
Informed consent. And right to withdraw.
It is after the event of photography and subsequent drawn and printed portrait, that consent is saught. This enables the candid image to be the basis of a portrait that captures and reflects the subject in a manner that cannot be achieved by pre consent agreement. Pre consent agreement would make the subject aware that they are being selected for a portrait and therefore present themselves in a way they feel appropriate, which may deflect from their ‘usual’ persona.
I have extensive experience of attaining consent for participation and contributing to mainstream media production where it is imperative that consent is attained as a contribution cannot be broadcast unless consent is given. At the onset of my television career I was called to the High Court to answer/present the case that I as the producer director of a television current affairs programme had gained consent by a contributor to ’stand up’ a serious allegation made against a member of the press. Following a 24 hour period of grace and a 200 mile overnight round trip to the contributor’s home to provide a signed affidavit of confirmation of statement and consent for the court the Judge found in my and the broadcaster’s favour. Since that event I have always ensured that consent by contributors is given to productions I have had responsibility for. This has meant providing the signed ‘Release Forms’ that are lodged in the Commissioned Programme documentation required by a broadcaster before transmission can be ‘legalled’ and go ahead.
I have also produced and directed a number of Television Dramas using collaborative methods whereby contributors to a fiction about their lives are fashioned through processes of devising and scripting. These are complex processes that drama producers in the main avoid as they are time consuming and may take away from the writer’s and director’s auteur vision. I would argue that collaboration with filmmakers, writers and their subjects brings a ‘reality’ to drama films that provides a ‘more’ honest representation that is signed off by contributors.
It is with this experience and knowledge that I have begun my practice based research as an Artist, rather than TV producer. For some time I have felt that although ‘release forms’ are signed and consent is given, the contributor may not be fully represented through the editing process. It is nigh on inevitable that elements of a contributor’s contribution, that they have agreed to be used following the interview recording, will be lost during the post production process.
So as an Artist I want to find the most honest methodology to create the fullest portrait of a human being I can. I am tussling on a daily basis with the most ethical means to adopt to create these portraits. This is core to my research in which I always consider very carefully if I should take a photograph in the first instance, and then whether I should proceed to the next stage of drawing my interpretation of that person. I also consider if there may be societal and cultural norms that may pertain to a particular subject that would make me question whether I had the right to embark on a portrait. These considerations will then be shared with the subject whenever possible when a portrait has been made and I am content it reflects the subject I have met.
Current Case Studies : Most recently I made portraits of 3 people I have met involved in the Arts – Professor Elaine Shemilt; Courtauld Student Katie Bannister and her cousin Bea and photographer Paul Kenny. I was clear about two images I wanted to draw and print but I was having difficulty in selecting the ‘one’ smart phone discreet photograph to make a drawn and printed portrait of the photographer Paul Kenny. In the end I made three very different portraits and shared with the subject.
The responses when I shared the portraits with the subjects were:
Professor Shemilt : Wow Jonnie, That’s amazing!Thank you very much,
Katie Bannister: ”Thank you very much. It Means a lot, really it does.”
And Paul : I’m flattered, both by the kind words and the images. I feel it’s only fair to be honest, two of them I really love and feel they are “me”, the middle one I’m not so sure about …I think I look a bit like an insane Michelin man…..you’ve caught all the things about myself I hate…but I suppose that’s what portraits are about.
I feel I may decide not to exhibit the portrait Paul is not happy with, but first I will take the prints to him so he can see the reality of the large scale drawing on quality paper. Whatever the outcome I will have followed through an honest and transparent ethical procedure to ensure no one is harmed by my practice based research. In fact I hope they are emboldened as people in themselves by the fact they have been selected to have a large scale drawn portrait of themselves that captures and reflects something akin to their being.
I am researching as part of my PHD examples and considerationof photographers that have used hidden camera to create their art, including Thomas Struth (Museum Pictures), Beat Streuli (New Street), Luke Delahaye – (portraits) ; Walker Evans and Dorthea Lang and Eudora Welty for the American Works Progress Administration and later Evans ‘Subway passenger portraits’, Bruce Davidson’s 1970s Subwayand “in their face’ street portraiture of Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden.
- Will you have access to personal information that allows you to identify individuals, or to corporate or company confidential information (that is not covered by confidentially terms within n agreement or by separate confidentially agreement)?
Yes and No. By virtue of making a portrait of a human being one is identifying the subject. NO I will not be gathering or disseminating any confidential information.
- Will your research include a requirement to present or retain personally identifiable information about individuals (images or written records)
Yes and No . As images of human being are the starting point for portraits in this research I will be presenting personally identifying information. No I will not be making written records of the subjects beyond the publically available information and title.
Questions 5 -10 answer NO
As part of my research I will track the issues above to monitor the ethics of the project as it progresses to ensure that if the research changes direction ethical considerations will similarly be taken account of and be reported upon. This will encourage notification of any unanticipated consequences. All participants, collaborators and contributors will be informed and be acknowledged in public dissemination of the research and its outputs.
Additional project information from my proposal:
The smart phone is a ‘natural’ item of 21st century human apparel. It has been said we are now ‘Phono Sapiens’°: The Economist. Across the planet smart phones have quickly become ubiquitous and the adoption of this transformational personal technology invites us to ask questions of the society that uses and adapts to them. Historically portraiture subjects are complicit with the artist and pose for the event, however with the smart phone camera the subject is unaware of the artist begining a process of portraiture. While the subject goes about their daily life the artist observes and discreetly ‘captures’ the most relevant and appropriate moments to form the beginnings of a portrait. At this early stage the Printmaker is a discerning digital photographer imagining the future analogue printed interpretation.
This journey to the printed portrait raises questions of voyeurism, documentary photography and artistic interpretation in an increasingly ‘transmedia’ environment. Susan Sontag* drew our attention to these issues when she argued that the proliferation of photographic images had begun to establish within people a “chronic voyeuristic relation” to the world around them. Among the consequences of photography is that the meaning of all events is leveled and made equal. My research will take these questions forward by asking What are the early 21st Century digital and analogue techniques and tools that can positively add to new approaches to portraiture?
The printmaker embarks on the journey to create a photographic led portrait by selecting a single image, applying subjective criteria such as: angle, action, gesture, character, atmosphere, light and shade. This process is akin to selecting one image from a contact sheet to ‘develop’ further. Once selected the printmaker continues in the digital imaging world to refine the imagined portrait through cropping, alignment, light and shade alterations until content with a starting point for the analogue drawing. “Creating an artwork – a painting, drawing or a print – means isolating visual problems that need solving.” * Deborah Wye
Elements of the digital image are disregarded in favour of the essential elements of the subject as decided by the artist. The elements of a photograph that ‘fix’ the subject in place and time are disregarded, freeing the subject from signifiers that are core to the ‘realism’ of the photographic image. Progress towards the analogue portrait brings choice of print technique (intaglio, silk screen, lithography, monotype, digital); choice of marker (pencil, crayon, graphite, ink, brush, stylus, scalpel) and texture of drawing surface, (film, paper, digital screen, plate) are among the first artistic of many inter-dependent decisions.
Through analysis and practical print construction I will investigate and evaluate how issues of portraiture originating in the digital world can change the status and meanings of the image as it is interpreted in the analogue world.
The current progress of the research is captured on the project website : http://printsanew.jonnieturpie.com
The Project proposal in full is here : http://printsanew.jonnieturpie.com/phd-abstract
If passwords are required for sections please contact me and I will supply.