FMP Weeks 18-23: Test strips on paper and fabric

From early January I began to contact several companies about the paper and fabric products they offer and obtained test strips of my prints on a selected few. The selection task is complicated by the price differences for final printing with some offering student discount and others none.

The sample packs were helpful in being able to see the products close up rather than on screen, feel the surfaces and consider their compatibility with the subject matter of my images and the surfaces for hanging them.

Sarah Newton 2019, sample papers from The Print Space
Sarah Newton 2019, sample papers from Instantprint

 

Sarah Newton 2019, sample fabrics from Contrado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images for the first exhibition at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd were relatively easy to resolve as I decided to match the corporate images already in the venue rather than introducing a style that was not compatible with the industrial surroundings or durable given the high footfall of visitors. Thus they were printed on paper and mounted on pvc board by the printer they use at an advantageous corporate rate.

However the choices for the second exhibition at The Clay Factory invited many more options being a location for artists, small businesses and community activities. While presenting images in the best way possible with quality being a priority, practical constraints can place limitations on the type of printing (inkjet versus light), surfaces (gigclee versus C-type), mounting (foamex/board/wood/aluminium) and framed or unframed. Fixings also come into play with velcro being the best option for the first exhibition on plastered walls and magnets and nails for the second being part on metal wall and partly on a slatted wood wall.

Sarah Newton 2019, Hahnemuhle Photorag, Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl & a satin paper test print

Paper: Having scrutinised the sample packs and websites and visited the print shop at Falmouth University to look at samples and discuss prices, my choices for test strips were made. These came from four sources (PhotoLab at Falmouth, Blackfriars in Plymouth, Digital Colour Services in Somerset, The Print Space in London). C-type Matt still had a sheen and felt flimsy. Hahnemuhle Pearl was much more effective (in my mind), better still was Hahnemuhle Photorag with its textured surface and for the beach debris in particular, the Gigclee Hahnemuhle German Etching was the winner. But, and there had to be a downside, the surface is easily damaged and the cost for each of these options was beyond my current budget for the sizes I wanted some of the images printed at. The information will still be used should the images be required for future exhibitions including the MA Photography graduate exhibition 20th June to 2nd July at The Print Space.

Sarah Newton 2019, Gigclee Hahnemuhle Pearl, C-Type Matt, Gigclee Hahnemuhle German Etching
Sarah Newton 2019, Gigclee Hahnemuhle German Etching x 2, Hahnemuhle Photorag

I went on to order small images in poster and mounted poster formats to check the quality of the printing and colours with Photobox. While this organisation may not be considered a competitor in the upper echelons of printing fine art, my feet have stayed firmly on the ground in considering the industrial setting, practical issues with weight and hanging, the time scale for production and costs given that this is a second capital outlay for the project and completion of the MA. Pleased with the results for the posters which are light and should stay put with magnets, I am less happy with a couple of mounted posters and have removed them from the selection for the slatted wooden wall. This firm has also supplied several sets of 7.5×7.5 cms magnetised images which I intend to display initially in grid arrangements but will be inviting visitors to rearrange them to their liking.

Sarah Newton 2019, Gaia Eco Woven, Polar Fleece & Cotton Satin

Fabrics: I shortlisted natural fabrics from the extensive range of products by Contrado. Of the three samples, each on different fabrics, one was too flimsy and silky (Cotton Satin 172gsm), one had a fleecy felt feel and the image looked awful (Polar Fleece 285gsm) and the third was super (Gaia Eco Woven 100% recycled 280gsm). The textural qualities of the image matched the texture produced in the weave of the fabric. Having immediately rejected the first two, the downside of the third came with thinking about hanging by magnets and the possibility of the weight of the fabric causing some gravitational sagging in between the magnets thus spoiling the image.

Posters and flyers: Most recently I have obtained samples for printing flyers and posters. Having tried Instantprint before and being pleased with the A3 posters and the price I have ordered from them again for my second exhibition. While I had some troubled thoughts about use of paper and ink resources (the choice for posters was limited) for the posters I partly resolved my dilemma by having the flyers double sided and on recycled paper. Thus my bio and project explanation are on the back and they can therefore double up as handouts at the exhibition as well as being used for pre-exhibition publicity. The costs will still be less than using my paper, inks and time printing them at home.

What have I learned? Well if I were to advise another person about having their photographic images printed by someone else I would suggest the following:

  1. Get sample packs early, they are usually free although you may need to pay postage. Holding, feeling and seeing the surfaces close up is a world away from looking at a screen and trying to make potentially costly decisions.
  2. Consider the context in which you are displaying the images including the compatibility with other art works as well as the walls and surfaces of the premises.
  3. Take account of the surfaces available for presenting your images in relation to the planned size and weight of the printed product including any mounts and frames, in order to determine the fixings you will need. Adjustments to printing and mounting plans may be needed should there be limitations on the fixings you can use as specified by the venue.
  4. Do invest in test strips. It is a relatively small outlay compared with having made a costly printing decision and found the printed surface does not wok for the image or location for various reasons. There is plenty of advice offered by printing companies online and by telephone on how to prepares your images for test strips.
  5. Print your images and obtain fixings in plenty of time for the exhibition!

 

FMP Week 24: Presenting Out-Sight-In on 10th March at Falmouth Flexible Symposium 2019: The Living Image

Accepting the invitation to present your work is easy. Then the reality hits. Thankfully I was given parameters in which to work; 10minutes Pecha Kucha style. Further clarification confirmed that slides should not be auto timed. Having researched Pecha Kucha for the presentation last October (a film of 20 slides for 20 seconds each with a recorded commentary for assignment purposes: https://sarahnewtonphotoblog.com/2018/10/03/fmp-week-1-pecha-kucha/) I was aware this time was different. Speaking live without reading meant rehearsal with memory retention prompted by the images I had created on the slides accompanied by 4 small cards with quotations I was to use to ensure what I said was accurate.

Deciding on the story I wanted to convey was interesting. The intention of this section of the symposium was for students in the process of completing or who had completed their Final Major Project to talk about their work. The audience in the room were prospective and current students and tutors and unknown others attending the symposium or in some way linked with the university. A remote audience were also able to view the proceedings via the university’s in house system and one presenter Alexandra presented in this way; an experience in its own right presenting without being able to see the audience. In addition, the presentations were live streamed on Instagram. For me this meant family and friends were also able to watch as well as a potentially huge unknown audience.

I could have presented my final project images speaking about the found locations and their identification and subsequent digital processing. I could have spoken about the issues of beach debris and waste management including the horrific statistics relating to marine wildlife and the limitations of our disparate recycling systems. I could have focussed on one area, the beach debris or the recycling and gone into depth about the ways of conveying messages and what we know from public health and other campaigns as to what works and what does not, anaesthetising rather than changing behaviours (Williams, 2009). I could have presented my reflections on the place of my images as visual and contemporary ‘art’ with reference to my choices in selection of equipment, lighting, perspectives for shots, manipulations in the digital darkroom of colour, orientation etc. So many options for fulfilling this remit, each of which has merit and would have been possible and permissible.

Megan Ringrose 2019, Sarah Newton presenting Out-Sight-In at Falmouth Flexible International Symposium 2019: The Living Image

What emerged touched upon many of my initial thoughts. It became a summary of the development of the project since starting the course with personal reflections about my qualities and characteristics and how these are evident in the ways I have approached and completed the work. I was conscious of the need to engage the mixed audiences and so it became a mutli-faceted presentation that not only served a function for me in summarising my work at a significant stage before assignments are handed in but also had appeal for people embarking on the same journey as well as having content that evidenced my research and learning for the tutors who have nurtured my development.

Andrew Barrow 2019, Sarah Newton, Yasmin Crawford, Matus Duda, Daniel Simon, Ant Prothero & Wendy McMurdo, plenary discussion at Falmouth Flexible International Symposium 2019: The Living Image

I have received some great feedback and one student who has just started the course and intends to pursue an ecological/environmental project but is still at the thinking/planning stage, was particularly interested in what I had done. What I do not know is what was thought of the content and quality of my presentation; how I might have chosen a different direction as mentioned earlier or how I might have focussed more on the work and left out contextualising references. My tutor did give one piece of advice when I asked for feedback in the subsequent tutorial; let slides of my images stay on the screen longer. This I have duly noted for future presentations. Family also fed back (perhaps easier to be a little more critical than colleagues?) that I waved my hands around while talking and that I said “higgledy-piggledy” (reduplicative rhyming words) much to their amusement and concern that it might not be familiar to those whose first language was not english. Miriam Webster definition seems to fit with my project about rubbish:

“higgledy-piggledy adverb

hig·​gle·​dy-pig·​gle·​dy | \ ˌhi-gəl-dē-ˈpi-gəl-dē  \

Definition of higgledy-piggledy

in a confused, disordered, or random manner

tiny hovels piled higgledy-piggledy against each other

— Edward Behr”

Thank you to colleagues who screen shot images of me presenting (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100027122110829). I have edited a film of the slides and my speaking (as I repeatedly said ‘ummm’ and to shorten the recording as I ran over the 10 minutes) and present it here. By the way this is my first attempt at learning and using Adobe’s Premier Pro. Constructive feedback on the project and the presentation itself is welcome and will be noted for future developments and presentations!

MERRIAM-WEBSTER. Dictionary. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/higgledy-piggledy [accessed 20-03-2019].

WILIAMS, Matt. April 24 2009. Close-up: Does shock advertising still work? Campaign. Available at: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/close-up-does-shock-advertising-work/900778. [accessed 17-03-2018].

 

 

FMP Weeks 19-21: From cardboard models to the first exhibition Part 2: Selecting images

Part 2: Selecting images

With the advent of the new year I realised I had become rather enthusiastic (some may say verging on obsessed) with containers for recycling, different times of day and lighting conditions and various pieces of equipment to photograph them with. A ‘hunter-gatherer’ approach hoping that significant edible results would jump out at me once uploaded. Despite experimentation with a 14mm lens which did curve the outcomes, a speed light and assistant to dispose of rubbish while I photographed, I preferred the results with the 24-120 lens for its versatility and the use of strong natural light. Capturing the disposal proved somewhat ad hoc requiring manual focussing as auto missed many of the ‘moments’.

Sarah Newton 2019, Almost capturing a moment

In contrast I felt I had not done enough scanning of beach finds, neglecting those from late 2018 and early 2019 when several beach walks were achieved with relatively mild weather. With the arrival of the Epson flatbed came the opportunity to adjust the size of the area scanned and importantly to specify the desired  resolution in dpi dots per inch (as distinct from the ppi pixels per inch) as well as other settings. Playtime beckoned. I feel I have only just begun to explore what can be achieved and am still keen to gain experienced advice (see earlier post on Paul Kenny who runs workshops with Doug Chinnery).

Sarah Newton 2019, Scanning beach finds; note essential coffee, torch and hoover to suck up escaping sand and other matter

Accompanied by the advice from the marking of a previous course submission ringing in my ears I set out to ‘ditch my darlings’! Initially taken aback and feeling as if my favourite sweets were being taken away I now see and accept that I have favourites and these are not necessarily those appreciated by others or ones that can sit alongside others with ease and add value to a whole project in a collection to be exhibited or published.

Determined not to miss any images out of the initial selection I reviewed all those taken since the start of the course. It could have been a lengthy process but the initial trawl was made easy because I was looking for images that had potential to be part of my overall theme of other worldliness (with working titles of Event Horizons for DSLR images and Dark Matter for scanned images). All chosen to shortlist from were taken/made in the previous 6 months. Then came a quality filter which narrowed the field significantly and yes, a few darlings were thrown out. Floors and a large noticeboard were platforms for thumbnails and printed copies to be reduced still further. Living with and rearranging complimentary groupings multiple times can be tortuous but as I found out can also stimulate thoughts and ideas about other aspects of the project.

Sarah Newton 2019, Initial trawl of images for FMP activities
Sarah Newton 2019, Sifting and filtering the ‘best of’ similar images

Seeing the arrangements raised many questions not least of which was what was I selecting for; the course submission, exhibitions, a publication…as all could require different choices? As soon as I had confirmation of two exhibitions I was envisioning how the image groupings might look in situ. Visiting and revisiting and measuring the locations and thinking about the potential audiences began to solidify what could work and narrowed the selection further. A tutorial and discussions with peers about numbers of images and whether the same ones had to be exhibited as in the final FMP portfolio submission helped. Additionally the selection process also inspired further thinking about the overall title for the project, a journey that has had its favourites with my ideas and great suggestions from peers Libby and Andrew over the past few months.

Sarah Newton 2019, ‘Anchoring’ image and 4 complimentary groups for Exhibition 1
Sarah Newton 2019, Out-Sight-In at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd. 18th February to 30th April

Out-Sight-In

Now I have a pool of 25-30 from which I am happy to draw for different purposes. With advice from my tutor and Victoria Forrest last week to stop taking and making (she reviewed the layout for the first exhibition of 16 images and discussed potential publication) now is the time to bring the project to its closing stages for the FMP of the MA. However I feel as if I am only just starting and have much more to discover about what I can achieve with rubbish.

References

CHINNERY, Doug. 2019. Available at: http://www.dougchinnery.com/ [accessed 21/02/19].

FORREST, Victoria. 2019. Available at: https://designbyvictoria.com/ [accessed 21/02/19].

HUXLEY-PARLOUR ARTISTS. Available at: https://huxleyparlour.com/artists/paul-kenny/ [accessed 23-08-2018].

KENNY, Paul. Available at: http://www.paul-kenny.co.uk/ [accessed 23-08-2018].

SEYMOUR, Tom. 2016. Paul Kenny’s Land and Sea. British Journal of Photography. 21 June 2016. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/06/paul-kennys-land-and-sea/ [accessed 23-08-2018].

TRIPLEKITE PUBLISHING. Available at: http://www.triplekite.co.uk [accessed 23-08-2018].

WATERSHED. Victoria Forrest. Pervasive Media Studio. Available at: https://www.watershed.co.uk/studio/residents/victoria-forrest [accessed 21/02/19].

FMP Weeks 19-21: From cardboard models to the first exhibition

The past three weeks since completing the Falmouth University run week long course on using InDesign on 23rd January has been an emotional roller coaster with highs and lows and thankfully highs again. A review of all that has happened is needed to become grounded again.

Part 1: Tutorials 30th January and 12th February: 

  1. I presented the title I have chosen for the project Out-Sight-In with a vertically flipped back-to-front version underneath it tuO-thgiS-nI (the typing corrector flips it back to the right way up!). Approval was gained with a comment about playfulness which to some extent reflects my feelings when working on making and processing my images for the project.
  2. We discussed my continuing to scan and photograph and my limited progress with the selection of images to be included in the FMP and the exhibitions. There is always a solvable problem with too few (shoot more) but my issue was having too many potential candidates.
  3. Obtaining test strips on different papers was encouraged as was including some with a satin finish as I naturally prefer matt for the rubbish and recycling. I was not wanting to give the matter a higher status than it should have and was not sure how the images would be viewed if glossy with the available lighting conditions. Test strips and fabric samples will be discussed in a separate blog.
  4. I was also encouraged to make a 2 minute film talking about the work to be filmed at the exhibition then made available on a monitor at the location. Filming and creating something that could be played back on a loop was a big technical and time challenge and apart from not knowing what sort of monitor to use and the expense I was doubtful that this would be acceptable, at least in the location of the first exhibition. Should I complete other aspects of the exhibitions and FMP then this could be a late addition, although a better idea might be to use a tried and tested formula. I have recorded a Pecha Kucha at the start of this module and could make one available to be shown using the permanent projector used for powerpoint talks at the first exhibition.
  5. I shared my scaled cardboard model of the first exhibition layout with the lit areas or arcs created on the walls by inset ceiling lights. I felt this lighting was important to take into account when displaying the images to best effect and greatest visibility for viewers. I had presented this to my host for the exhibition, discussing my rationale for the layout and sharing some of the images I would be considering using.

    Sarah Newton 2019, Scaled cardboard model for Exhibition 1
  6. We were both critical of my first rough layout for the images set out as paper thumbnails on the model. Helpfully my tutor suggested I access the powerpoint gallery display page and mount images to scale for a better impression. This was easy to do and I could quickly see what images worked together achieving approval for a final layout proposal at the second session.
    Sarah Newton 2019, Model for Exhibition 1

    Sarah Newton 2019, Powerpoint mock-up for Exhibition 1
  7. We had an interesting discussion about the two related but different parts of my exhibition. The single images of recycling containers that could stand alone in contrast with the random beach rubbish and its representation of excessive consumerism. The first lending itself to be displayed as more orderly, the second in a chaotic and unpredictable way. Having played with random sizes and overlapping chaos surprisingly I settled on an ordered display for both parts of the project as visually the shapes and colours slipped into an appealing vision. This initial impact contrasts strongly with the rubbish that is found on closer inspection of the subject matter.
  8. Handouts and zine were also discussed. The former have been made while the latter is reliant on my awakening of knowledge and skills  acquired in the course on InDesign (I hope my notes are still understandable!).
  9. Following up discussed references to Penelope Umbrico’s Suns from Sunsets on Flickr and Alan Sekula’s Fish Story in a playful moment I made a composite image in the style of the former.
    Penelope Umbrico 2006, Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (partial)

    Sarah Newton 2019, Recycling Circles
  10. Reassurance was offered and accepted when I informed the tutor that my second exhibition had been cancelled due to a more lucrative long term customer for the container. I understood the business decision but was disappointed as I felt this was to be an exhibition where I could be more creative in the surfaces my images were printed on and how they were to be displayed. I had already sourced theatrical uplighting to use and tried this out in the location. I emailed the host to express disappointment and understanding and offered to shift my dates if this would be helpful. Two days later was told I had been prioritised but the dates were now from 27th March to 3rd April,  a week later than originally planned. I immediately accepted and agreed to the fee for the week’s hire.

Reflection: Having two tutorials close together was needed and timely at this stage for me. It has been an intense period knowing that all work needs to be ready for submission by the end of April this year. Clearing thoughts and activities that did not directly relate to finishing the taking, making and selection of images has been a priority that has paid off in terms of narrowing and clarifying what I will show at exhibitions, what looks promising for a zine and what should be in the final FMP portfolio. It feels as though I have been in a tunnel and can now see glimmers of light as I emerge.

Sarah Newton 2019, Out-Sight-In at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd. 18th February to 30th April

References

ROBERTS, Bill. Autumn 2012. Tate Papers no.18 Production in View: Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and the Thawing of Postmodernism. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/18/production-in-view-allan-sekulas-fish-story-and-the-thawing-of-postmodernism [accessed 01/02/19].

UMBRICO, Penelope. Suns from Sunsets from Flickr. Available at: http://penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/ [accessed 30/01/19].

 

 

FMP Week 19: Royal Photographic Society South West Visual Art Group Members Day 13-01-2019

Following developments in my project work during Surfaces and Strategies module last summer I reviewed my membership of the Royal Photographic Society’s groups and joined both the Analogue and Visual Art groups. My intention is to broaden my knowledge of these areas and gain information to further my development. I have attended a couple of events run by the South West branch of the Visual Art group as a non-member before with guest speakers. Not having attended a ‘members’ day I decided to go along and find out more hoping to not only see the work of others but also possibly make contacts with photographers whose experience may have benefits for me.

In preparation I contacted Linda Wevill FRPS who organises the group to enquire about the day and what was expected of members who might want to present and to explain that I could only stay for the first part of the day. Encouraged by her response but somewhat daunted by the ‘usual’ presentation style of 50×40 mount size to be able to show images on the display structure available, I ventured along with a selection non compliant sized images from my final major project work. I was not necessarily intending to present but had a small portfolio along just in case. 

Offered the first presentation slot on arrival flattery turned immediately to realisation and a burst of anxiety as I had no experience of the expectations of organisers and audience for presentations. Politely declining and then accepting third proved to be the right way to go. Being able to witness two speakers and their distinctly different approaches to visual art not only gave me information about practicalities such as timing and how an assistant supported them by displaying the images once the presenters had shown and described them (each image was individually presented on a baize surface brightly lit from above and below), but also gave me some confidence about presenting images of beach rubbish and recycling facilities.

With no written or rehearsed script (not my usual style) I ascended the stage with a hastily conceived plan in mind. While introducing myself and the project I presented a mounted image of a disbanded rowing boat on a beach to set the scene. Cameraless images of individual pieces of debris found on the beach came next with the DSLR images of recycling facilities following. The images were laid one by one on a long table in contrast to the stand used to display the mounted offering of others.

Describing the images and how I made and processed them came easily and with a level of humour as I encouraged audience participation by welcoming suggestions as to what they depicted. Once identified questions flowed which I was pleased to find I could answer about the methods used including reassuring concerned questioners about my health and safety measures when shooting. It ended very quickly and just within the allotted 10 minutes. I had felt a little anxiety to start with being in front of an audience of about 50 photographers and guests of whom I had only met two before. Their reception was welcoming and put me at ease while presenting. During the break the audience were able to look at the work of all the people who had just presented. While I looked at others work I noted significant interest in mine and received a number of enquiries and positive comments over coffee.

I have two regrets both of which can be rectified before a ‘next time’. Firstly my portfolio was too hastily selected and prepared, falling short of the professional standards of others. Secondly, in the heat of the moment I did not think to ask if anyone could record my presentation on my phone to provide material from which I could learn and improve my presentation skills and also present in my course work. On realising this my colleague kindly took a couple of photographs during the break when I was discussing some of the images.

Sarah Newton 2019, talking about my work at the RPS South West Visual Art Members Day 13-01-2019

I was pleased I had plucked up courage with a ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ attitude. It certainly paid off with this experience giving me confidence that not only do the images provoke intrigue and encourage investigation and discourse but also reinforce the awareness of the impact of debris and in particular plastics, on land and in marine environments. However, while spontaneous presentations come naturally to some speakers I will be mindful of preparing thoroughly for future events where I am sure I will be presenting.

RPS South West Visual Art Group. Available at: http://rps.org/special-interest-groups/visual-art/about/south-west-visual-art-group [accessed 02/02/19].

FMP Week 18: Printing dilemmas

My decisions about printing are being driven by a number of factors. These include cost which also links to whether I intend to sell images displayed at the exhibitions. Contexts in which I am exhibiting is also important. Both sites are of an industrial nature, the first is an active incinerator, the second was previously used to process china clay from Dartmoor. Expectations of hosts (one has yet to be clarified) may be for a different approach in contrast to the fine art papers and framed prints one could find in a London gallery. This would also be my preference. Fitting in with and complementing the immediate surrounds and normal functions and use of the exhibition space is another challenge. A contrast could work in some circumstances but may also clash in a way that results in a negative impact for my exhibition or the surrounding activities. A level of compatibility and thematic symbiosis could be good but may also backfire if the impact of my work or that of others is reduced.

Moral and ethical considerations also come into play. For example, my ideal, in line with my project intentions, would be to print on ‘sustainable’ surfaces that, in comparison with some others, would have less of a negative impact on the environment. Then there is the concept of ‘containment’. My debris collections have been free floating in the sea and on beaches but the recycling bins static and enveloping of waste. I chose to display on 5mm board without frames for my August exhibition as framing did not feel right for the subject matter which principally focussed on the debris I had collected. In addition to having a more contemporary feel, the boards offered a durability such that they can be displayed outside or indoors and I was at the time thinking of the possibility of exhibiting on a beach (and may still do).

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons on glass
Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizon 1 on foam board

So far, while developing this project, I have had images printed on glass, fabrics, paper, plant based paper, poster paper, canvas and 5mm board. Comparing samples from Contrado, PrintSpace, Falmouth University printing department at the Institute of Photography, Instantprint, Digital Colour Services, Sixprint, Photobox, Tesco and myself, I am even more aware of the cost x quality x sustainability x contextual setting x potential audience dilemma. My research is continuing despite a short time scale until the first printed images are required for displaying. For example, I have recently come across the Green Printer in the US and the St Austell Printing Company, both of whom claim to use the most sustainable production methods and recyclable materials currently available. I hope to be able to make decisions informed by this research and following information gathering visits to both exhibition locations in the near future.

Sarah Newton 2019, Event Horizons on plant based paper
Sarah Newton 2019, Event Horizons on bright white photographic paper
Sarah Newton 2019, Event Horizons on tracing paper

References

Green Printer. Available at: https://www.greenerprinter.com/reducing-waste [accessed 15/01/19].

St Austell Printing Company. Available at: https://www.sapc.co.uk/csr/sustainability/ [accessed 15/01/19].

FMP Week 17: Aspirational ideas versus realities

Thoughts of the two potential exhibitions have generated countless ideas about what could be displayed and how the images could be presented. The images I select could be the same for both locations and displayed in the same way. However, as mentioned in a previous post there are differences in size and type of display areas, types of fixings that would be permissible and importantly a significant difference in the audiences for both. For one the audience would be those attending a community creek clean and those interested in looking around a waste management (incinerator) site. The second would be members of the general public, resident artists and other creatives using the premises and personal invitees. In the former the audience would be there for another purpose whereas in the second location although some may be engaged in other activities while based or attending another event there, some would attend to intentionally to view the exhibition. Across both locations I think I will have reached some of the principal audiences I have envisaged my images being of interest to: those interested in conserving our environments and those who are interested in visual art (these groups may of course include people interested in both areas).

I have enquired by telephone today about wall fixings used in the visitors centre of the incinerator. They use self adhesive velcro pads for information posters. While this method could be used, depending on the surfaces I print on and the weight of the images, I have placed a limited order for an alternative system. I will be experimenting at home in the use of self adhesive magnets and how damaging these may be to plastered wall surfaces. I do not recall a helpful dado rail or other wall fixings that would be helpful to hanging the images in this location. Clearly they should be ideal for putting up images in the container of the second location.

Tomorrow I will visit the incinerator to discuss arrangements in detail, measure the space available and agree on the publicity I and MVV will produce. Mine will include an information sheet and a feedback sheet about the exhibition. At this point I am not sure whether the creek clean publicity to local community groups is to mention the exhibition being available for volunteers to view over lunch. I somehow do not think I will be advertising directly to the general public myself as the site is not open access.

Realising there are only 3.5 weeks to finalise details before putting up the exhibition in week 21 ready for a launch in week 22 (week beginning 18th February) time is of the essence. I do not have the facilities to print my images for the exhibitions and will be dependent on a printer to be able to respond in a relatively short space of time. Something I have not thought about but must remember to ask about is fire safety. In both locations I may be using printed fabrics. I am not cognisant with the regulations relating to these in comparison with images printed on other surfaces.

Week 16: Dreams can come true!

Well these will not be the same as everyone’s dreams over the holidays. Mine were to complete my search for an exhibition space and to begin to plan the production of selected images. Lo and behold a saviours in the form of J from MVV Environment (in response to my email to her before the holiday) and a new acquaintance D, met through my popping by to look at newly discovered premises and make tentative enquiries, resulted in two offers, both being made last Friday 4th January!

I have decided to pursue both and hope that both come to fruition. The first offers space (at no charge) in the visitors centre and the opportunity to join and record a creek clean at the side of the incinerator I have visited previously. This will be from mid February. The second is in a location a friend told me about when I expressed a wish to exhibit in a container in December. Not having had the chance to visit and investigate before last week I made time to complete the expedition to scope the location before making any formal enquiry. As luck would have it I was in the right place at the right time and able to speak to the right person who generously gave of their time with a tour and offered support with my venture. Oh and by the way, this second option offered both a gallery and a container with lighting and wifi!

Sarah Newton 2019, Exterior of container at The Clay Factory

When I enquired about hire price in the second location I was asked what budget I had. I had not prepared for such a question not having expected to get so far into this enquiry. On returning home I emailed back with a maximum of £500 based on one or both of the two spaces and to include the cost of assistant time in preparations for and setting up and taking down as well as the provision of refreshments for an opening and the costs of publicity production and distribution. Clearly I have underestimated as the reply correctly pointed out a need to review my estimate and suggested within that budget I should allow for the container and not the small white walled gallery. I agree.

Although this location will involve an exchange of finance I do not think it will be unreasonable given the support I already sense will come with their hosting me.

I now feel catapulted into making decisions about images to be included in both locations and to complete their taking and making which I had not to do just yet as I do not feel ready to say “Thats a wrap”. A couple of days before this news a course colleague helpfully suggested one way to know if your image series is complete is to imagine having to have it finished within the coming week. Then you can decide what else needs to be done to make this happen. Little did I know that something of this sort was about to come my way!

I have requested additional visits in the near future to both locations to discuss details and measure up the spaces in order to help with the selection of images, their sizing and the ways in which they might be placed in the spaces.

Already I am envisioning differences not only in the images I show but also their production methods and in situ presentation. For example, the visitors centre has flat walls in a large brightly lit room used for teaching sessions and meetings. While visitors will be interested in my beach finds I am guessing (until I have discussed it further with J) that images of the recycling containers will also hold interest. The size and surfaces used in printing will depend on the fixings I can use and the extent of the wall space being made available to me. As I recall from previous visits there is a physical display of the various recycling containers used by councils who feed their remaining waste (that previously went to landfill)  to the incinerator. Thus, there is already a compatibility link with my images.

On the other hand the container is a blank canvas inside with one central lightbulb and several circular metal hooks along the top of the walls. Outside is a different matter. The container is indoors in a very large room at the end of a row of containers which have been converted to offices/studios. Also in the room are a dozen or so garden sheds equally spaced and all fitted out as offices with desks, chairs, light and wifi. Multiple party style creations hang from the ceiling. At the end of the room is a kitchen and cafe. I think my images, with their sea debris theme, could be presented in a style that is compatible with the outside area (which almost suggests celebrations, beach huts and holidays). Mounting with magnets will not be a problem which leads me to think about relatively lightweight unframed images. I could also exhibit inside and outside the container.

Sarah Newton 2019, Interior of container at The Clay Factory
Sarah Newton 2019, Container offices and studios at The Clay Factory

 

 

Sarah Newton 2019, Offices at The Clay Factory

Both locations offer an opportunity for an ‘opening’, the first being with creek clean volunteers and the second an open invitation noted on the publicity I distribute. Both have some limitations on opening hours being weekdays and during office times unless, in the case of the second one, additional arrangements are made (presumably at a cost). Both venues are easily reached being on ground floors and there is ample parking for visitors. The first is city based and the second rural, close to a town and on the edge of Dartmoor.

Sarah Newton 2017, MVV Environment Incinerator Devonport
Sarah Newton 2019, The Clay Factory
Sarah Newton 2019, View from The Clay Factory

Having reflected for a few days and allowed the realities to encroach on my excitement I am well aware that there is a significant way to go to ensure these offers actualise as successful exhibitions. I wonder whether I should have a fall back option just in case…

The Clay Factory. Available at: http://theclayfactory.co.uk/  [accessed 17/12/18].

MVV Environment. https://www.mvv.de/en/mvv_energie_gruppe/mvv_umwelt/beteiligungen/mvv_environment_1/index.jsp [accessed 04/01/19].

FMP Week 14-16: Rut of Repetitive Sameness? Crop and focus point of an image

Thinking about the images that will make up the final project I am at this stage plumping for a square format to contain circles but I do have some of the beach debris in particular that suit rectangles much better, particularly if the subject matter has length greater than width.

Sarah Newton 2018, Dark Matter 3

I presented several images on the subject of circles to my local photography group on 17th December (week 13). Interestingly while I have been trying to avoid placing of the object or focus in a diagonal line in my images (as I thought I was getting too repetitive) one person suggested I moved the subject from a vertical thirds to a diagonal position and now like the image much better (as do I)!

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series
Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With regard to the long debris objects I will have to treat each one individually I think. Reflecting back on Paul Kenny’s work a collaged panoramic option, combining a rectangle and squares may also be effective in some exhibition locations and publications. 

Paul Kenny 2017, Catch a Wave – Luskentyre Beach

I am realising that thinking about the shape of the resultant image before I have taken the photograph or scanned the debris is reaching my compositional subconscious and is becoming an automatic first attempt at processing in Apple Photos, Lightroom and Photoshop. Is this a good thing or not I ask myself? It is good to recognise this is happening in order to use that awareness to constantly challenge and continue to develop thereby avoiding getting stuck in a rut of repetitive sameness. On the other hand some might say that consistency is a good thing!

Researching this subject a little more I found some very helpful references (eg.   Gibson 2017; Suler 2013) These reminded me of how early photographic equipment used square plates, then with the advancement of photographic equipment and the various sizes of digital sensors rectangles became the favoured option. With ‘toy cameras’ such as Holga and Diana, and later social media developments such as Instagram and the promotion by Squarespace, the website building and hosting software, square has come back into vogue.

Interestingly, circles are well placed in squares and even if not the subject of the image, can be used to highlight parts of a non-circluar subject with vignetting and the way in which radial filters can be used to ‘spotlight’ features in Lightroom and Photoshop. The combination of square format and circular subject can have the effect of directing a viewer’s gaze in directions that differ from looking at a rectangular image.

“Reigning in the eye

Because the square minimizes feelings of up-and-down and back-and-forth by eliminating longer vertical or horizontal lines, the viewer’s eye tends to move around the image in a circle, often towards the center of the photo. Vignetting and circular compositions, especially those with the subject near the center of the square, can magnify these sensations of circling, spiraling, and zooming in. Diagonal lines serve as an effective means to break up these movements, encouraging the eye to experience some back-and-forth and up-and-down energy.” Suler 2013.

Advantages of a square format include drawing a viewer’s attention right into the focus of the image, the part that matters, without being distracted by surrounding space. Adding to compositional knowledge is an experiential feature too (although some might say ditching what you know and are familiar with is a disadvantage). For example, as my images above illustrate,  The Rule of Thirds does not necessarily apply. Placing the subject matter close to one edge or in prime central position can be fine in a square format. If contextual setting does not matter very much it seems square is potentially the better way to go.

With the processing options now available it is easy to play with different crops to achieve best effects. Perhaps because I am somewhat risk averse and would not want to miss opportunities for a better quality image, cropping during processing rather than shooting in a square frame gives me more choice for the final image. With more experience of composing through later cropping for rectangles and squares I hope to start to automatically complete the initial capture in the optimum format for the subject matter I am interested in.

“Showing off shapes

Due to its talent at focusing the eye and gathering up objects, the square format is a good way to show off geometric shapes of all kinds. Those shapes seem to grow even stronger inside the formal boundaries of the square. I especially like a circle, or portions of a circle, embedded inside a square frame. The pure natures of the curving circle and the linear square balance each other in an archetypic dance of the two most basic, ideal forms. Symmetrical subjects also fit comfortably inside the square frame.” Suler 2013.

Agreeing with this viewpoint I am clear that many of my circular subjects are well placed in a square format. I remain flexible about others, particularly debris, and having done some, albeit limited research, I am now more aware of the effectiveness combining square and rectangular  images in dyptics, tryptics and other multiple displays.

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons coasters

References

GIBSON, Andrew. 2017. Square: The digital photographer’s guide to the square format. Available at: https://www.creative-photographer.com/square-format-composition/ [accessed 08/01/19].

HUXLEY-PARLOUR ARTISTS. Available at: https://huxleyparlour.com/artists/paul-kenny/ [accessed 23/08/2018].

KENNY, Paul. Available at: http://www.paul-kenny.co.uk/ [accessed 23/08/2018].

SEYMOUR, Tom. 2016. Paul Kenny’s Land and Sea. British Journal of Photography. 21 June 2016. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/06/paul-kennys-land-and-sea/ [accessed 23/08/2018].

SULER, John. 2013. Square Format Photographs.  Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche. Available at: http://truecenterpublishing.com/photopsy/square_format.htm [accessed 08/01/2018].

 

FMP Week 13: Seeking Containment

For several weeks I have been thinking about exhibiting. Although I have visited various galleries hoping to envisage how my images might be shown I have not been fully comfortable with framing and encapsulating my photographs on white walls. Locally the galleries tend to host collections of arts and craft works which on the whole are not immediately obvious as complimentary exhibition material.

A little seedling of a thought has now taken hold. I am exhibiting rubbish and recycling locations so exhibiting in related settings would perhaps be interesting. There are advantages and disadvantages of course. Advantages include having contacts already who may be able to help having visited recycling centres and the incinerator in Plymouth in the early stages of this project. A major consideration is limiting the audience for the project. Not all the locations I have visited have open access to the public so I would have to make special arrangements for an opening and any subsequent viewings. Those who might visit the locations may not include people who would have an affinity with both rubbish and abstract art.

I acknowledge there may be costs involved and a recent visit to explore possibilities indicated £125 for a month’s rent on a shipping container measuring 8 feet by 20 feet. This would be without electricity or heating and costs would be higher for one that is more modern with attention paid to condensation minimisation. Business units at the same location would require a minimum contract of three months and be more costly. Although the manager was very helpful he did point out there were only three car parking spaces so virtually no parking for visitors to the exhibition and no nearby street parking. And as the site is industrial without fully maintained tarmac walkways get very waterlogged and muddy in poor weather. He generously referred me to two other locations, his competitors, who may be able to offer more conducive settings.

Sarah Newton 2018, visit to Blagdons 1
Sarah Newton 2018, visit to Blagdons 2
Sarah Newton 2018, visit to Blagdons 3

I have also written to my contact at the incinerator as they have a visitors centre with displays of rubbish collection systems (https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/MVVFacilityLeaflet.pdf). This would be a warm, dry venue although lit with strip lighting and only open when visiting parties are booked in. Hopefully my contact may be able to come up with suggestions and contacts for me to pursue.

In terms of costs, hiring a shipping container seems a small price to pay out compared to paying a gallery in rent or commission, although if I have to bring in lighting and heating these costs will mount up.

An alternative might be to partner up with a supermarket where the recycling containers are often found. In doing so they would get publicity for supporting recycling and I would possibly be hosted in a warm and dry location that is easily accessible and open to the public. I recently came a cross an exhibition next to the cafe area of a local garden centre. Mounted on one wall the images had clear notices politely asking people not to touch the exhibits. The advantages here would again be a warm, dry and accessible facility. Presumably I would also not be required to be present for the duration of the exhibition and location opening hours. Disadvantages include a limited area with little scope for creative mounting and display of the images and poor lighting and the companies might charge rental or commission if any photographs are sold.

WRAP 2018, some of the organisations who are signed up to the UK Plastics Pact

Many businesses have now signed up to the UK Plastics Pact (wrap.org.uk) and are committed to fundamental changes in the production and disposal of plastics (http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/plastics-pact-members?page=1). Perhaps I should target WRAP to  pitch my ideas, thereby gaining a wider reach across these organisations in a travelling pop-up exhibition. Mmm… food for thought.

These initial enquiries are demonstrating how challenging finding a way to show your work to others can be. My work with a strong message about beach debris and the need to act suits like minded campaigners (e.g. Surfers Against Sewage, Marine Conservation Society) while the more recent abstracts maybe considered more akin to contemporary or fine art audiences and could, without a clear accompanying narrative in the ‘right’ context, lose the awareness raising intention. Mindful assimilation, reflection and story creation are high priorities for now. Continuing to be undecided and pinned down rubs against my natural tendency to need a planned and organised future, especially now there is not much time left to complete the project for this course. Unless of course I am assuming there is an end point when in fact this may be the start of a journey!