Roger Newton: The DIY Lens Guy

One artist that really interested me is Roger Newton. He is a photographer who creates large abstract images and whose determination to create nonrepresentational work has lead him to create his own camera, lenses and film. He originally became interested in photography when he was attending art school in New York during the 1980s. It was during this time he discovered the pinhole camera and was at once drawn to the blurry and unpredictability of the images created. He would eventually go on to make numerous pinhole cameras eventually branching out to create lenses made of mineral oil, corn syrup, water, glycerin, or other refracting liquids. At one point taking a break from his photographic practice in order to research and develop the kind of black and white film he desired (Margarett, 2001). In his artist statement Newton goes to say that, “by designing and fabricating my own lenses I can control the quality of the light collected, the size and shape of the image field, and the colors in the scene. This allows me to work more directly with fundamental problems in the processes of seeing and perception, and ultimately the ontological problems of the thing and or scene depicted” (Foundation for Contemporary Arts, n.d.). He fabricates his photographs by layering up various liquid substances to create a lens. The lens purposely made to “exists out of the normal range of our visual faculties”. To reject standard photographic imaging systems and photography as a medium of representationalism. Instead focusing on the optical experience of looking.

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It is Newtons rejection of photo-representalism and focus on the methods of imaging making that interests me when looking at my own idea for the final project. The reason I say this is because for this project I will be continuing my role as art researcher, and focusing on unearthing photographic practices; removing all subjective interpretations and limiting definitions. Instead focusing on the facts, presently that means understanding photography as the use and manipulation of light to maintain an image. An image which as author and curator Lyle Rexler points out isn’t always based on realism (Rexer, 2013) . With this definition in mind I intend to conduct several experiments ones which like Newton’s will circulate around methods of light manipulation to produce what can be describe for all intensive purposed as undisclosed images. Always keeping in mind my definition of photography and excluding anything from this experiment which would distract or hinder it. A second reason I am interested in Newtons work is that his use of liquids to create lenses has given me another possibility to consider in my own experimentation and manipulation of light for this project. Other methods/ elements I’m looking at include (but not limited to); types of light sources, the chemical composition of types of light and things that give off light, Photographic paper manipulation, reflection/ refraction, filtered light, aperture, shutter speed/ exposure, light wave lengths, energy, Inference of light.

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References

Foundation for Contemporary Arts. (n.d.). Roger Newton. Retrieved from Foundation for   the Contemporary arts web site:       http://www.foundationforcontemporaryarts.org/recipients/roger-newton

Margarett, L. (2001, June 8). Photography Review; Reinventing the lens for large   abstraction. The New York Times.

Rexer, L. (2013). The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography. New York:   Apature.

Additional Sources

https://collectordaily.com/the-edge-of-vision-abstraction-in-contemporary-photography-aperture/

http://www.lpwalliance.com/publication/43/

http://www.photoeye.com/BookteaseLight/bookteaselight.cfm?catalog=TR222&image=1

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Final Project: Research

Rineke Dijkstra's Beach Portaits

Rineke Dijkstra’s Beach Portraits

For my final project, I’ve been looking into conceptual portraiture as it is the direction I’m intending on moving towards and as it is the type of photography which interests me the most. Creating a powerful concept that viewers can relate to through portraits of others and possibly additional elements interacting with the subjects to support the concept is my main goal. To me, photographs with subjects that convey a strong message are the most powerful photographs. Therefore, I’ve been researching different technical ways of shooting portraits including natural settings as well as constructed sets with studio lighting, while also being inspired by all the various concepts that have been experimented with and exhibited and by all the stories that are told through conceptual portraits.

Through looking for inspiration, I have come across a couple links that inspired my final idea. The links explore photographers who used various subjects to create a series of portraits that gave off a particular conceptual message to their audience.

Phillip Toledano’s Hope & Fear was one of the projects that was most inspiring to me as he used Surrealism to create highly unusual and interesting photographs which expressed his message loudly and clearly. The way Toledano expressed the meaning of his project was by stating that the project was a “is the external manifestation of internal desires and paranoia that are adrift in contemporary American society. What are we afraid of? What do we love? How does our society function, and what does it worship?”

Further explanation of Toledano’s conceptual, technical and formal methodologies including an interview with Toledano himself.

Another inspiring project by Phillip Toledano.

An online book that I thought was an interesting read involving all things portraiture: Portraiture by Shearer West. (Might require UoGuelph library log-in)

What Makes A Great Portrait?

More conceptual portraits:
‘Humanae’ Portraits Match People of Different Ethnicities With Their Pantone Color

Fascinating Portraits of Young People Out Clubbing In Rural Spain

Photos of Rural Children Around the World Dressed Up As Their Dream Professions

Disconcerting Portraits of People Wearing Origami Animal Masks

Portraits of Kids From A Deprived Area in the UK

Besides conceptual factors, Chris Levine’s use of light and colour in his photographs as well as in his exhibition were technical factors that were equally as inspiring to me.

If you are interested in portraiture as well and have access to the University of Guelph Library there are also several compelling photography books that I have found to really inspire my thought process. These include “Face: The New Photographic Portrait” by William A. Weing, “At Work” by Anne Leibovitz, “Close Up” by Katharina Sieverding, “Portaits in Series” by Kerber, “Contemporaries: A Photographic Series” by Judith Joy Ross and “Studio Photography: Essential Skills” by John Child for technical matters – all of which could be found in the TR section on the 5th floor of the library.

For those of you printing digital files…

I talked to Paul today about printing digital files, and I just wanted to let people that the charge is 5$ a square foot for each print. For sizes of paper, he has pre-cut paper at 8.5″x11″, 13″x19″ , and 17″x22″. He can print larger of course, but according to the print submission form anything larger must be arranged on a 42″ wide canvas (maximum width). Oh and you’ll have to cut it yourself.

If my math is correct, 16″x20″ prints cost just over $11 each

Hope this helps!