Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Assignment 3.1 Pinakothek der Moderne

This is a very new gallery in Munich housed in an imposing modern building that is as much a work of art as the collections it houses.  It was inaugurated in 2002 after a 7 year build.  The exterior is dominated by white and grey concrete interspersed by large areas of glass and almost spindly looking columns.  At the center of the building is a rotunda and large open space in which the entrance to the museum and visitor facilities are housed.  The exhibits divide into 4 distinct collections, Art, Architecture, Design, and Works on Paper.  I have previously Blogged this museum during my Art of Photography course, so more detail about the collection and my response to it can be found at


This time I was visiting the museum to study its function and form, not the exhibits within.  I headed there on a Sunday, a particularly good choice as entry to this (and most Munich museums) is only one Euro on Sundays.  This makes it possible to visit the museum and just explore a section for an hour or so and not feel compelled to get ones moneys worth, ideal for a photographic study.

Approaching the museum the overwhelming impression is the stark facades and columns, dwarfing the visitors, but also offering an interesting and perhaps inspiring place to hang out and think a little:

The building also exhibits interesting symmetries and within the glass can be reflected the more traditional buildings that surround it

The juxtaposition of old and new can be seen in this photograph, which shows the Alte Pinakothek seen through the columnar entrance to the Neue Pinakothek.  The Alte contains paintings ranging from medieval to the 18th century, very different from the Neue.

However, the stark exterior is broken up by the odd tree and an outdoor cafe

Just around the corner from the Neue Pinakothek is the Brandhorst museum with its kaleidoscopic exterior covered in ceramic plates of many colours.

Entering the musuem you immediately arrive in the central rotunda which sells tickets and provides access to the cloakroom, toilets, and museum shop.  It is also in its own right an amazing space and one that my 24mm widest focal length could not do justice to

Once inside the museum even the steps down to the Loo's are a work of art

This building offers many possibilities to illustrate the interaction of people and architecture, the exterior and entrance function as access and shelter, but also simply as art in and of itself.  However, the real function of an art gallery is to facilitate the interaction of visitors with art.  On entering the design section the visitor is immediately faced with an illuminated wall of work by Luigi Colani.  This is visible from a stair case, descending which changes the perspective and impact of the work.  Seen from halfway up the staircase, this is a breathtaking ensemble of modern design

At the bottom and just visible in this image are chairs for people to relax and contemplate the work together with a console that explains each piece.  When I took this photograph I was immediately taken by the two people standing in front of the wall and thrown into silhouette by the illumination.  I shifted from 24mm to 70mm, sat down on the steps and waited.  The following two photographs happened:

In the second case I have carefully cropped the image so that the frame of the exhibit defines the frame of the photograph.  The two kids inspecting the bike illustrate perfectly the interactive nature of the exhibit.  The only colour in the image is part of the exhibit all else is caste in black shadow.

Another exhibit in the design section also caught my attention, a collection of kitchen ware, by the classic Italian design company Alessi.  This is a very different and very colourful exhibit, but again shows how people interact with the objects.  This exhibit also offered multiple viewpoints, plus a very interesting lighting concept:

The large vertical structures were a kind of revolving lift with objects on shelves moving up and down.  The exhibit was advertised by a few giant reproductions of classic Alessi products

The steps are the vantage point from which I photographed the Colani exhibit.  One last image from this trip was a very effective exhibit of chair design, the multiple layers and curves make for interesting photographic possibilities

This was a very productive and interesting space within which to study a building function and form, the lighting made for challenging photographs, but ultimately contributed to the mood and structure of the images

Monday, August 30, 2010

Assignment 3: Location Shots

This weekend I was out and about scouting some locations for assignment 3, as well as doing one in depth study at the Munich Modern Art Museum (will blog this later).  I have mixed these photographs with older shots to create a quick gallery with sample images for each of my current proposed "buildings".  No commentary, simply a representative photo that describes either the building or the sue of the building:




Subway Station

Gas Station

My Home

Beer Keller

Oktoberfest tent

Road System



Olympic Restaurant

Olympic Park

Local bar or cafe

Bus Stop

The surfing bridge

Fredens Engel

A shot up wall

Building Sites

Assignment 3: First Thoughts

In Assignment 1 I had the opportunity to carefully plan and execute 7 images of a single subject, my wife Heidi.  Assignment 2 was completely opposite, an exercise in opportunistic photography, 4 hours to try and describe the energy and colour of a gay rights parade.  This clearly needed quick thinking and camera handling skills, but much more time was spent in editing both from an inclusion perspective as well as framing and exposure adjustments.

Assignment 3 brings me back to a more measured approach, but with some of the elements of assignment 2. My plan is to visit and photograph a wide a range of buildings/structures during the month of September, hopefully far more than required by the brief, then select the 6 that best represent my vision, but also show a range of style and technique.  I will describe and summarize each in my blog during September.  My first thoughts around this exercise was to develop a thematic approach and present all 6 in a similar manner inspired by a school of photography or a single photographer.  The idea here was to go with the deadpan style of artists such as Stephen Shore, William Eggleston or Martin Parr.  However, I now realize after an incident 3 days ago that this might be too difficult and lead to conflict as there is such a high degree of sensitivity to photography these days:


On reflection, I also realize that it might be too early in my photographic journey to tie to one particular style for this exercise.  But, I want to avoid presenting 24 images offering no relationship.  This will need some thought, I do not have an answer yet, other than the thought to try and emulate a few different photographers in this process.

As a starter and just for laughs, I placed my "view camera" setup (manual focus tilt-shift lens + full frame DLSR) on a low lying tripod and made the following image, no prizes for what I was thinking:

Canon EOS 5D2, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, 1/15s, f/22, ISO100

Both the same image, the first has been desaturated to partially emulate the look of the original.  I, on the other hand am drawn to highly saturated colour.  This was part of an idea to use my own home and neighboring houses as a building, perhaps getting some of the local kids to become part of the use case.

So far I have the following buildings/concepts as possible for exploration

  1. Church - Munich is not short of them
  2. Supermarket - carefully this time and with a telephoto
  3. Museum - Munich's modern art museum is a haven for photographic experimentation
  4. Subway Station - see an earlier post
  5. Gas Station - very much thinking along a Stephen Shore thing here
  6. My Home - Eggleston this time
  7. Beer Keller - The chaos and drunkenness are good subjects
  8. Oktoberfest tent - a tent containing 5,000 drunk people
  9. Road System - something I did in AoP, cars traveling through tunnels or overpasses
  10. Underpass - the dark depths of an underpass can be quite unnerving
  11. Olympic Restaurant - 290m high and revolving
  12. Olympic Park - From the 1974 games, intriguing architecture
  13. Local bar or cafe - a simple place, but with great potential
  14. Bus Stop - not the largest building, but a place of coming and going
  15. The surfing bridge - a bridge in Munich creates a large wave on which you can surf, unusual use case
  16. Fredens Engel - a monument much used by wedding and fashion photographers
  17. A shot up wall - monument to the bombing of Munich in the war
  18. Building Sites - the function is the building
Not all of these are traditional buildings, however, I interpret the word building to imply a man made structure with purpose.

18. How space changes with light

In an urban environment, such an exercise can be quite difficult to complete as there are few buildings tall enough to actually capture the way that light changes during the day.  Most accessible space is in shade from other buildings during much of the day.  This is compounded by the fact that frequently rooms are only illuminated from a single direction, corner rooms are rare and much prized.

For this activity I needed a building that was accessible at a variety of times of day and easily accessible.  I decided to go with two different locations, the Theatine Church and my home office/work area.  Neither presents an ideal choice, my room has a single East facing window, whilst the church is 30 minutes away by foot/subway.  First of all my office, here I had arbitrary access and could create the following sequence of images during the day.  I used my Canon G11 located in a fixed position on a bookcase facing my workstations. This sequence also reveals the fact that I am a technophile, the left hand monitor is attached to my office computer, whilst the right two constitute my digital darkroom and where I am sitting writing this document.

At the earliest time of day, 6:15am the light is soft and the room dimly but more evenly lit.  As the day goes on the room gets far brighter with quite a harsh white light.  I use blinds most of the time.  What is curious is that the intensity and strength does not drop very much as the sun crosses from East to West, the reason being that opposite my room, about 8m away is an apartment building painted bright white which reflects and maintains the intensity of the sun.  It is only after around 6pm that the light starts to soften and the camera struggles with the exposure.  By 9pm the light is almost gone outside and all that can be seen is the faint glow of various electronic devices.

The Theatine Church offered better potential, my first image shows the church situated on the West side of Odeons Platz and taken some months ago in Winter:

The church is illuminated by a gallery of windows high up towards the roof of the main chapel and  is orientated in an East-West line.  I was hoping that as the Sun moved around the sky the light inside the church would reflect this.  Each photograph is taken from the same vantage point and with as near as I can make it the same framing.  In each of the following images taken inside the church I have matrix metered and not enhanced the images in any way in post processing:

At 7am in the morning the Sun is directly behind me and the church is filled with light as the Sun is able to penetrate into the far distance.

By 9:40 the sun had climbed higher and the quality of light has changed with deeper shadows and all of the light being at the top of the church - the camera exposure is dominated by the bright light in the center

After lunchtime at 1:40pm the light is now towards the South and to the left of this image.  The height of the Sun is again limiting the amount of light entering the building

By early evening at 5:33pm the sun is falling and is now shining very distinctly from the West and thus the far end from me.  Once again the church is brighter and more evenly lit.  This is happening because all interior surfaces are painted white and when the Sun is low enough the Windows let in more light which is then diffusely reflected by the interior surfaces.  When the sun is higher less light penetrates and we get a small number of very bright spots.

The light changes are very subtle, because the light enters the building very high and so at ground level most light has been repeatedly reflected, however, it is clear that the best photographs will be taken early or late in the day, unless deep shadow is the goal.  I did return later, however, the church was locked after 6pm.

During my day taking photographs I also looked at how the light in the church affected other parts of the building.  First of all the windows in the dome at 7am show how the sun is coming through the windows and reflecting off the inner surfaces:

At around the same time the play of light on the walls of the church show how the light is entering through high windows

Later in the day and from a different angle the light is much more diffuse (5:30pm)

At the same time the opposite wall was enjoying good modeling light

Away from the center of the church the arched walkways at the sides needed artificial lighting all day long (1:30pm)

However, this might have been part of the design to ensure that the small chapels and monuments to the side could be candle lit

or be really dark enough for the votive candles to make an impression.  These photos taken at 1:30pm would have been washed out if this was not a dark area of the church

My final observation from this days shooting is completely at odds with the grandeur and solemnity of the church.  In 1914 the following photograph was made:

Adolf Hitler celebrates the beginning of World War 1, one of the first ever photographs of Hitler in Munich.  For comparison today

Not quite the same angle, but a very different scene, peaceful, quiet and without the horror.  My final photograph is something Adolf would never have approved of, a small fruit and vedge stand on Odeons Platz, taken from just in front of the church (it is the red colour in the above image):

Munich is a city of many contrasts with a history that plumbed the depths of evil and scaled the heights of humanity - today it is a beautiful cosmopolitan city, a great playground for a student photographer.