Beyond My Perception "SFMOMA: Sense of Place" by Carmen Liu

We began Animation class on a Monday morning with the Do Now prompt "Do you like photography? Why do you enjoy taking pictures? What do you enjoy the most about photography?" The last question really stumped me because I really did not know exactly why I enjoy taking pictures. As the class progressed, I realized that I had a penchant for capturing the perfect moments that evoke a variety of emotions, such as emptiness or loneliness. Being introduced to two different photography projects, I continued to keep capturing these quintessential moments in order to present the message "Hey, this is what I seen today" to my peers or whoever is viewing the pictures that I have taken.

SFMOMA: Elements of Art and Design Photography Project

This assignment was an introduction to basic photography and also a warm-up exercise to another photography project --- also created by SFMOMA --- called Sense of Place. SFMOMA's Elements of Art and Design assignment required students to take 50 photos and categorized them into: line, shape, space, value, texture, balance, emphasis (focal point) and repetition/ rhythm. From the Elements of Art and Design assignment, I found it fascinating to walk around SF Downtown and around the block with my friends while taking photos with a phone camera. Here are some examples down below that I have from that project. Enjoy!

Empty space. On the Embarcadero.

"The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

"When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear." - Alfred Stieglitz

Deep space. At the Observatory in the Exploratorium (highlight of fall 2015)

"The camera is no more an instrument of preservation, the image is." - Berenice Abbott

Low contrast

"The cool, grey city of love." - George Sterling

“One doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and turn on. It’s on all the time.” — Annie Leibovitz

High contrast

"San Francisco is the only city I can think of that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful." - Frank Lloyd Wright

Crowded space

"Sense of place is the sixth sense, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together."- Rebecca Solnit

In front of Monica Learning Center (corner of Murray and Mission).

"I am here; and here is nowhere in particular." - William Golding, The Spire

“When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.” — Anonymous

"We keep on moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney

SFMOMA: Sense of Place Photography Project

Assignment: Sense of Place --- "Having viewed and discussed many photographs or projects that focus on various places, environments, and viewpoints both natural or urban and considered the story, narrative, and design or composition choices, it is now your task to pick a similar approach and presentation style. In the next week, take a minimum of thirty photos to work with and from. Post the photos to Instagram, [Dropbox], or to your Google Drive, to have accessible for viewing, discussion, and selection."

For this very assignment, I chose to mimic Robert Flick's style of photography and arrangement because normally you would see photographs one by one. But Robert Flick takes on a different level of photography because he creates something with visual rhythms and movement through repetition. Flick uses this type of repetition to emphasize each image's significance with the arrangement. I wanted to create a "sense of place" using Flick's techniques and arrangement by capturing glimpses around my neighborhood.

Robert Flick: Along Ocean Park, Looking West , Summer (1980). from the series "Sequential Views." vintage silver print, 20 x 24 inches.

My Collection of Pictures for "Sense of Place" Assignment

Brainstorm #1: Trying to mimic Robert Flick's Along Ocean Park, Looking West, Summer (1980) Keeping his "storyboard" arrangement and display.
Brainstorm #2: Second batch of pictures. Continuation of the storyboard from Brainstorm #1. Using rule of thirds for pictures.
Brainstorm #3: I should have ended this one with the beginning of Brainstorm #1 because I wanted to keep the idea of "imagination versus reality."

If you noticed that there were bigger pictures, I wanted to emphasize the beauty of the pictures that I have took that day. I had to take the pics after the rain. When I took the pictures from Brainstorm #1, it was raining and windy so I waited until it the rain stopped. There is a shift in the color scheme throughout the photos too because it was sort of late in the afternoon and had to quickly take them.

"The camera makes you forget you're there. It's not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much." - Annie Leibovitz

"You're from somewhere, aren't you?" - Elizabeth Hadaway, Fire Baton

The Perfect Five

From the "Sense of Place" project, I decided to pick five pictures from all the pictures I took because I enjoyed taking these certain five pictures. Here's a mini display of my favorite pictures from my collection.

"Without a sense of place the work is often reduced to a cry of voices in empty rooms, a literature of the self, at its best poetic music; at its worst a thin gruel of the ego." - William Kennedy
"I exist in two places, here and where you are." - Margaret Atwood
San Francisco has only one drawback. 'Tis hard to leave." - Rudyard Kipling

Final Display for "Sense of Place"

The Artist Statement

Sunday Afternoon by Carmen Liu

Sunday Afternoon explores Flick's approach while focusing on the perspective of the world's small wonders outside of my house. In Flick's Along Ocean Park, Looking West , Summer, it conveys a tranquil aura in a bustling city throughout the pictures. Trying to make the same attempt, I alluded serenity as I took my pictures that evening. Keeping the same storyboard format, I was able to create a small journey through pictures. As you start from the top left corner and end on the bottom right corner, you start to notice a progression of a stroll around the Excelsior. From that experiences, SFMOMA's "Sense of Place" assignment challenged me to push my limits away and take on the beauty of photography in a different point of view. After taking these pictures, I felt satisfied because I was able to use my background knowledge from the Elements of Art/ Design assignment and apply it to this particular display. Sunday Afternoon reflects on my experiences living in the Excelsior and how it shaped my life. As years go on, Excelsior will slowly change and transform into a different world but I will always remember the little, mystic wonders in this small haven.

Sunday Afternoon by Carmen Liu

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: Why is it called Sunday Afternoon? A: I actually took all of the pictures on a Sunday afternoon. I was humming to "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5 while arranging the final display and decided to revamp the song title to "Sunday [Afternoon]."

Q: Does your work address a particular social issue or an artistic issue? A: My work address both social issues and artistic issues because nowadays, people are constantly uploading pictures on the Internet for the fun of it (i.e. Instagram) but not they do not realize that photography can be a work of art.

Q: What are the dimensions of the piece? A: 80" x 80"

Q: What compositional strategies (Elements of Art/ Design) have you emphasized in your piece? A: I used line, form, contrast, and space effectively in my piece.

Q: What type of equipment did you use? A: Surprisingly enough, I use a typical phone camera to take all of the pictures you have seen in this presentation.


To see more of my Spark (formerly Slate) projects, click the following links below.

Created By
Carmen Liu
All pictures are taken by Carmen Liu

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