Imogen Watt Exposure REMLA Post 2 Research

October 8, 2017by imogenwattExposureRoyal Engineers Museum and Archive (17/18)

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Imogen Watt Exposure Post 2 REMLA Research In order to gain a better understanding of my topic, and find inspiration for my work, I started to research subjects and artists relating to my project. I began to research into the themes that connected to my project, and that I needed to gain a better understanding of, subject such as the history of the Royal Engineers, the history of photography, and in particular, war photography, and artists that create work similar to that in which I hope to produce, Jeff Wall and Luc Delahaye. Due to wanting to create a timeline demonstrating the changes throughout the years, I thought it would be important to research into their history and find out how they and their roles have changed and developed. The engineers can be traced back as far as 1066 and William the Conquerer, but it wasn’t until 1787 when King George III granted them a Royal Warrant, that they became the Royal Engineers. In 1812 Wellington recognised the importance of professional engineers and he directed the formation go the Royal Engineers Establishment in Chatham. From this time to the first and second World Wars, the engineers played a key role in nearly every aspect in the military, from scientific and technological developments to transportation, searchlights and submarines, the engineers covered it all. They were at the forefront of every technical development and change. The Corps have been involved in engineering matters since the earliest of years, and despite not having ‘Flag Bourne Colours’ they are justifiably proud of their motto ‘Ubique Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt’ or ‘Everywhere that right and glory lead’ granted by King George III in 1832. The modern day engineers are involved in nearly every aspect of the military, from conflict, to building schools and hospitals in African countries and providing water to areas of the world suffering severe drought. They are firstly trained as soldiers and then as combat engineers and lastly as artisan tradesmen. All this gives them a unique qualification to be involved in war and peace and everything in-between. As a secondary part to my research, I wanted to look into the history of photography, in particular war photography, and see how the technological developments and changed in the art, have shaped the ways in which war is documented. From the early 1800’s and the times of the camera obscurer and daguerreotypes, to the development of Gelatin Dry Plates, to the film era and even the digital ear we live in today, there has been many turns and changed in the world of photography. Before the developments of photography, battles and war were only depicted in paintings, re-imagined by artists who weren’t there, often years after the battles took place. Due to this the images they depicted were often historically inaccurate, they showed victory and glory and were often factually incorrect. When the early photographic techniques were invented, photographers such as Robert Fenton, Felice Beato, James Robertson and in 1860, people such at Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardener and John Burke, were the first glance of real life war civilians got who were living away from the conflict. The American Civil War was one of the first to be photographed, but technology wasn’t advanced, there were no action shots, no bullets in motion or soldiers in action, but they did allow a more accurate insight to the gore and bloody horror of war. It was during the first and second World Wars that the concept of censorship came in, and images would be used for propaganda on both side. It wasn’t until the Vietnam war that we had a truly accurate photographic insight to the horrors of war, the Vietnam war revolutionized war photography, it was documented more than ever, and this time there was little too no censorship. Now, in modern day conflict, war is documented by the many. It is no longer purely the job of photographers and the media, in this era of digital cameras and smartphones, everyone can take photographs. It is due to this that the most real and true horrors of conflict and war come to the surface. The media can only censor and hide so much, as civilians and the innocent can document and share the ways that war affects them, and in turn we have the realest, most gruesome images available shared; and with the help of social media, they are available for the whole world to view. In order to further my research and gain more inspiration for my work, I also looked at photographers who covered the same themes, context or style as me. The first artist I came across was Jeff Wall and his images ‘Dead Troops Talk’ and ‘A Sudden Gust of Wind’. Both of these image were created using photo montage and he uses tis technique to create a narrative or story within his work. Although the subject of war in ‘Dead Troops Talk’ ties into my work, it was more the process in which the image was created that interests me. In both images, I like that Wall has combined multiple images to create a narrative and this is something that I want to achieve within my own work. The second artist that I found was Luc Delahaye, this French photography studies the themes of war and conflict, world events and social issues. Again, although his themes tie in with mine, it is more his style of working that captures my interest. Delahaye creates large scale images in a panoramic style. The images often reflect that of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’. Due to the long, large, panoramic style, the eye of the viewer is forced to look at aspects of the image individually, and follow the narrative from left t right. This is the aspect of his work that inspires my won work the most, as well as his themes of war and conflict. In order to create my own work, I want to use all of the information that I have found and combine it to inspire my piece. I will use the history of the Royal Engineers and Photography to inform the way in which I put my piece together, and I will take inspiration from the artists work that I have looked at through the style and themes of my work.
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