Weeks 5-6: Visit to the Martin Parr Foundation

Finding Martin Parr Foundation was a little like finding Nemo. Once I had spotted a small sign attached to a lamppost saying Paintworks I knew it must be close. Turning into the vast complex of buildings adorned by huge coloured Paintworks signs I felt this was a special location to have set up an exhibition space, library and archive.

This was a day out for Falmouth Flexible MA Photography students arranged and lead by the head of the course and a tutor. About 10 of us attended from all cohorts including those who had just begun to one recent graduate. Louis our host was generous with his time and was extremely knowledgeable about the photographers whose work is now in the archive and library as well as the development of the Foundation and the work of Martin Parr himself.

Paul Trevor 2018, In Your Face

The current exhibition ‘In Your Face’ by Paul Trevor 26-09-18 to 22-12-18 stems from work he completed 1977 to 1992 in the City of London and Brick Lane. Notable for the close proximity of the camera and photographer to the subjects, the work was considered radical at the time it was made and is now highly regarded within the genre of British documentary photography. I understood how the proximity brought the viewer up close and made a very a personal connection with the subject. I appreciated the quality of the images and how they had been printed. However this style is not one I would wish to engage in as it felt a little intrusive (and there will no doubt have been people who refused this ‘up close’ approach) and was largely devoid of context which would facilitate an understanding of time and place. Mind you the clothes and hairstyles that could be seen were pretty indicative of their periods. We heard how the images were intended to be attempted with a fixed distance from subject to camera of 12 inches (if I recall the measurement correctly).

Being permitted into the storage archive felt like an honour and privilege. Entering a cool room (literally a cold storage facility) full of wooden crates, metal chests, archival boxes and framed and packaged items which looked as though they were off on tour or had recently returned, was an eye opener. Not only that but a small room at the end which was even cooler housed box upon box of original film negatives. We quickly learned that Martin Parr is a prolific photographer of all sorts of subject matter taking up opportunities to use his cameras as experiences unfold before him (as evidenced by the variety in the publications he has for sale in the shop). Louis showed us work donated to the archive and stored in these chilly conditions to preserve them. Chris Killip and Graham Smith being two examples.

Robin Maddock, Dummy and published God Forgotten Face and III
Robin Maddock, Dummy and published God Forgotten Face and III

While a large section of Martin Parr’s archival material is in the Tate in London, there was still much to see in the library. This houses a wall on photography in Britain and two others. All contain work of photographers that has either been bought by the foundation or donated by the authors, with glass doors on one section denoting irreplaceable or very expensive items. It was within this sacred place I found a little dummy book no bigger than my hand about Plymouth, made by Robin Maddock. Louis immediately produced the final book ‘God Forgotten Face’ (published in 2011) for me to compare the dummy with and ‘III’ his 3rd book shot in three US cities and published in 2014.. This showed me that no matter how small and ‘roughly’ the DIY dummies may be done they can be very important in visualising the layout for the published product. In addition, thinking about my project I found some appeal in his images of individual items such as a pair of shoes and a sheet of paper.

Masafumi Sanai 1998, Wakaranai
Hiroshi Yoda 1994, Obsession
Hiroshi Yoda 1986, Tea For Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also made two further discoveries, names I had not come across before. Masafumi Sanai and his publication in 1998 ‘Wakaranai’ (I don’t know) and Hiroshi Yoda’s 1994 book ‘Obsession’ and 1986 book ‘Tea for Two’. Both attracted me with their use of colour either of the subject or as a complimentary background. Hiroshi Yoda also presented images of deterioration which resonates with my beach debris project and showed me that colour can enhance as effectively, if not more so in some instances, as a background setting for the focus of the image thereby broadening my thoughts for experimentation beyond black or white.

Oh and how did I forget to mention being permitted to visit the studio and of course browsing the wares in the the shop!

Now I know how to find the Martin Parr Foundation I will certainly visit again and be much more focussed in accessing the archive and using the library for my project work. Thank you for setting up this marvellous facility Martin.

MADDOCK, Robin. Available at: https://www.robinmaddock.com/gff [accessed 01/11/18].

MADDOCK, Robin. 2011. God Forgotten Face [online]. Available on: https://vimeo.com/91401789 [accessed 01/11/18].

MARTIN PARR FOUNDATION. Available at: https://www.martinparrfoundation.org/ [accessed 01/11/18].

SANAI, Masafumi. 1998. Wakaranai. Available at: https://www.photobookstore.co.uk/photobook-wakaranai.html [accessed 01/11/18].

YODA, Hiroshi. Available at: https://www.hiroshiyoda.com/ [accessed 01/11/18].

Week 2: National Marine Aquarium & Atlantic Project Plymouth

Booked into a two film Atlantic Project free event at the National Marine Aquarium on 5th October 2018 I was mistakenly directed to a behind the scenes tour. This was itself very interesting and all the more so as most participants in the tour party happened to belong to a Mensa group visiting from elsewhere in the country. Their additional knowledge of marine life added depth and breadth to that given by the tour guides who were very knowledgeable marine biologists who worked at the venue.

Although there was only a small display about beach debris and, prompted by myself, discussion of the harm caused by and potential solutions for this man-made problem, there are monthly lectures, beach clean activities and an extensive in-house and outreach educational programme (http://www.national-aquarium.co.uk/education/) which unavoidably and inevitably refer to the issues.

Sarah Newton 2018, Plastic Fantastic at the National Marine Aquarium

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Newton 2018, Plastic Fantastic at the National Marine Aquarium

One of my reasons for visiting was to check out the location as a possible venue for my exhibition. Having the opportunity to see how Bryony Gillard and Ursula Biemann presented in this context would have been useful. I have since looked at their work online. Bryony explores jelly fish thinking through video, human performance and sounds in ‘A cap like water, fluid yet with definite body’ which is also linked with ‘Tentacular Thinking’. Body prints on latex hang from the ceiling of the exhibition space and people improvise movements in response to the screening of a film of jelly fish. I can visualise some of my images in projection on screens and on fabrics (eg towelling or a lighter silk that could move more easily) hanging and trailing in the exhibition space whether inside or outside. Ursula’s work ‘Acoustic Ocean’ was commissioned by the “Atlantic Project After the Future – in the wake of utopian imaginaries in Plymouth (UK) curated by Tom Trevor.” (The Atlantic Project 2018). The Atlantic Project was a pilot for a new international festival of contemporary art in Plymouth. Ursula’s film explores the sonic ecology of marine life in the cold North Atlantic (Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway). Her writings and videos tackling and portraying human and environmental concerns have received accolades world-wide. Such a shame I missed them.

I did, however, use the opportunity to take some images of relevance to my project. These images of jellyfish gave me the opportunity to experiment with processing and the differential impacts of various colours.

References

BIEMANN, Ursula. 2018. ‘Geobodies-Acoustic Ocean’. Available at: https://www.geobodies.org/art-and-videos/acoustic-ocean [accessed 01/11/18].

GILLARD, Bryony. 2018. ’A cap like water, fluid yet with definite body’. Available at: http://bryonygillard.co.uk/ [accessed 01/11/18].

NATIONAL Marine Aquarium Plymouth. http://www.national-aquarium.co.uk/ [accessed 01/11/2018].

THE ATLANTIC PROJECT. 2018. ‘After the Future’, 28th September-21st October 2018. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.org/pages/about [accessed 01/11/18].

FMP Weeks 3-4: Naming and Storytelling

It is not enough to have an image which captures more than a nanosecond of your attention. It needs to have the potential for interrogation and accompanying explanation which deepens and broadens the initial impact. This is what I am learning.

I began to think more seriously about this when preparing my Final Major Project Proposal. Previously I have created collective names for mini-projects up to this point (i.e. re-present, dis-integration, re-integration, re-view, re-present etc.) and explained and justified my choices in relation to Beauty and the Beach… in past posts. What is needed now is a more substantial way of not only providing the front door but an opening into the room or rooms within.

A breakthrough came as I was about to submit the proposal (but too late for inclusion). I happened to be visiting the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. With a longstanding interest in astrophysics and reflecting on feedback on my scanned and recycling mages to date, the naming and explanatory discourse emerged.

The images I am making include a plan A as in the project proposal and a plan B which is not necessarily appropriate and acceptable as a replacement for A should that not work out. But it is one I am pursuing in parallel and dare I say, having fun with. So already two rooms to view behind my conceptual door. But how to describe each in a way that links them?

The Guardian 2018, What happens in black holes? Hawking’s final paper released Stephen Hawking 2016, Black Holes: The Reith Lectures

 

 

I have been reading Stephen Hawking ‘Black Holes’ and Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen’s ‘Human Universe: Forces of Nature’. Two days before my visit to Greenwich The Guardian headlined with an exclusive account by Ian Sample (2018) of “What happens in black holes? Hawking’s final paper released”. It seems all coincidental signs were pointing me in a direction I could not resist.

 

Sarah Newton 2018, Dark Matter 1
Sarah Newton 2018, example from the series Event Horizons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I have provisionally named plan A images as a numbered run under the title ‘Black Matter’ and plan B ‘Event Horizons’. Black Matter images are scanned beach debris and Event Horizons images relate to recycling and holes. At the moment they reside in separate but linked rooms (as one depicts where debris should have been placed) and I am working on an overall title. Something that resonates with me are thoughts about Gaia and everything that is on and around earth is currently set to stay that way including all the junk we now have in space. Some of my images are starting to look as if the objects are floating surrounded by stars (aka sand).

Others look like alien landscapes and beings and here’s another coincidental timing, Dr Who has just started a new series starring a female lead with toxic waste dumping screened in episode 4 (of 10) on 28-10-2018 and yet to come The Remnants a high density polyfibre monster alluding to our waste management problem!

BBC One 2018, Dr Who Series 11

References

BBC ONE. 2018. Dr Who Series 11. [TV Broadcast]. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006q2x0 [accessed 29/10/18].

COX, Brian and Cohen, Andrew. 2014. Human Universe: Forces of Nature. London: William Collins.

HAWKING, Stephen. 2016. Black Holes: The BBC Reith Lectures. Introduction and notes by BBC News Science Editor David Shukman. London: Bantam Books.

ROYAL MUSEUMS GREENWICH. Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition 2018. Available at: https://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/astronomy-photographer-year/exhibition [accessed 29/10/18].

ROYAL OBSERVATORY GREENWICH. Available at: https://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory [accessed 29/10/18].

SAMPLE, Ian. 2018. ‘What happens in black holes? Hawking’s final paper released’. The Guardian, 11 October.

FMP Week 2: Hestercombe and Helen Sear

A day out with Falmouth and Plymouth MA students and tutors hosted by Tim Martin, Art Director and Curator at Hestercombe House and Gardens near Taunton was delightful. The occasion was an exhibition by Helen Sear ‘Prospect Refuge Hazard 2’, and an afternoon seminar ‘Disrupted Views’ with presentations by Helen Sear, Laurent Chatel, Professor of British Art, Culture and Visual Studies at Lille University who specialises in 18th century English landscape gardens and Gareth Evans, writer, editor, film and event producer . Additional bonuses included catching up with course colleagues the day before the event and having an optional portfolio review in the morning chaired by Jesse Alexander.

 

Sarah Newton 2018, Symmetry in Places 1
Sarah Newton 2018, Symmetry in Places 2
Sarah Newton 2018, Symmetry in Places 3

Who could not fail to be impressed by Helen Sear’s work. Such a variety of subject matter, focussed on the natural world and in particular her work with the forestry commission presented on film, with moving projection, as murals and in framed images. Learning how she made the mural adorning the beautiful staircase walls leading up to the first floor gallery made their viewing all the more interesting.

Helen Sear 2018, Staircase at Hestercombe House
Helen Sear 2018, Moving floor projection at Hestercombe House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Hestercombe House and Gardens. Available at: https://www.hestercombe.com/gallery/. [accessed 05-10-18].

CHATEL, Laurent. Available at: https://pro.univ-lille.fr/laurent-chatel/. [accessed 05-10-18].

EVANS, Gareth. Available at: https://spotlight.picturehouses.com/author/gareth-evans/. [accessed 05-10-18].

Hestercombe House and Gardens. Available at: https://www.hestercombe.com/gallery/. [accessed 05-10-18].

SEAR, Helen. Available at: http://www.helensear.com/works. [accessed 05-10-18].

FMP Week 1: Pecha Kucha

In preparation for submitting a proposal for my Final Major Project we were encouraged to make and submit for discussion in a tutorial a Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides each shown for 20 seconds accompanied by an informal narration about plans for the FMP).
I set out to complete this in powerpoint and was expecting to run it alongside a live narration. I then realised a recorded voice over was probably expected and part way through loading images found I did not have a recording facility on the version I accessed via Falmouth. I later read that such a facility is not available on Apple systems as an integral part of powerpoint (perhaps others know better than I how to achieve this). So here it is, ultimately recorded on Camtasia, informal in style of presentation and hopefully short enough to avoid death-by-powerpoint.

 

I found the process very helpful despite the initial technical issues. Coupled with the previous module’s feedback and having to get straight to the point in 6minutes 40seconds I feel more prepared for writing the proposal. The final element of insightful wisdom to add before completing this task was the tutorial on 2nd October. I thought I had focussed my thinking and plans considerably and have now been encouraged to narrow my intentions even further so as not to be over ambitious in attempting to achieve more than maybe possible given timescales and the course requirements, thereby risking non-achievement of some intentions, or even (my interpretation), poor quality through being thinly spread over various activities. My understanding, having reflected on the tutor’s advice, is that by drilling down on my methodology and the items I am working with and aiming for one specific format for a public display (at least at this stage) quality will reign over the quantity and diversity of options I was thinking about in the Pecha Kucha.

FMP Week 1: Salient Points of Feedback from the Surfaces and Strategies module

  • ‘Killing my darlings’, a phrase used in relation to the Surfaces and Strategies WIP Portfolio and relative strengths of the images. I can only guess which were preferred by assessors and therefore seen as stronger. I assume they include scans where the subject matter needs interrogation to understand the narrative, thereby excluding my seascape and documentation of immediately recognisable debris images. Interestingly, the latter may be more saleable to a wider market at affordable prices, as activity during and post my exhibition has shown, while the former may have greater appeal to arts aficionados and communities who are prepared to pay more for more ‘obscure’ pieces.
  • ‘Imprinted artefacts’, again used in relation to my WIP portfolio, which I have been referring to as products that can be bought suggests another way of thinking about how my images can be presented. For example, rather than planning to work on items of use around the home such as mugs, bags and coasters, use surfaces and materials that do not necessarily have functional daily purposes. These could perhaps be seen as more closely akin to sculptures which can be looked at on a pedestal, floor, hung from a rope etc, but not ‘used’. At Unseen in Amsterdam in 2017 I saw wooden ‘rocks’ covered in prints rendering them 3D. I have been researching different surfaces as well as scanners including 3D options excited by the thought that I could print in 3D and what would the items turn out like. However, such technology is well beyond my means in the context of completing my assignments…unless there is an organisation with the facilities and willing to take the risk to let a student experiment…
  • ‘Physical outcomes as installation views’. Having created what I called an installation with items made using my images and incorporating some of the debris I had collected as well as a few props I had at home I would like to do this again. I enjoyed the process of coming up with ideas, mapping out a plan, running a rehearsal at home and then installing the piece in situ in the gallery. Already I have ideas bubbling and emerging, but am anxious about costs. I can envisage several that could go on tour. For example, surfboards, windbreaks and towels on beaches each beside a bin for a specific type of debris depicted in my images (eg. one for tin, one for glass, one for paper, one for material, a large one for plastics, a large one for fishing lines and nets etc.). I would be happy for my images to be displayed in this way and to be invited by a sponsor to coordinate a series of travelling events if someone or a corporation would like to step forward… 
  • ‘Images are ‘skins’’. What I did not show in my WIP portfolio were the images and other physical outcomes being made. That is, the manufacture of the photo products. The processes were easy for me as I engaged various companies to ‘make’ them for me. I see  that I will have to focus on ‘making’ things myself and possibly going to see how these companies apply my images to various surfaces. If I am to go down the road of creating ‘artefacts’ I will need to be doing and photographing the ‘making’ as there may not be a company in such a specific line of business (ie working with the surfaces I have chosen) to call upon. 
  • ‘Be more ruthless’. Differentiate the work I do from that of others. Put aside modesty and publicly proclaim the added value my work has. Features of my personality and natural tendencies to put others first and see others as more competent in some areas seems to be being challenged. These directions link in with a particularly interesting suggestion to write a short piece incorporating how my past profession has influenced my current approaches to taking and making with my photography to help with my focussing for the FMP. A kind of looking back to the past to reflect on the present and project into the future. Mmmmm food for thought…

In summary; have a narrower focus on what I take, continue to explore what I create with the images, examine how my images differ from those of others in more detail and depth highlighting the ways in which mine excel and have confidence in what it is about me and my past that is influencing the direction and impact of the imagery I am producing.

Sarah Newton 26th September 2018, Three ways of seeing Stoke Beach

FMP Week 1: It’s started

Well here I am at the end of week 1 of the Final Major Project. Double the size in terms of duration of time in comparison to the previous 4 modules, it feels more than double the challenge already. Despite not having weekly tasks that lead up to assignment completion there is plenty to do. I am venturing forth with a mixture of anticipatory anxiety as to whether I can achieve the dizzy heights required for assignments and excitement that I can focus on creation, publication and reflection about my own work.

During the break from my total immersion in Surfaces and Strategies I think I had what some might call a ‘photographers block’. I reached a point where I wondered if I had done as much as I could on my project Beauty and the Beach… and found it hard to visualise ascending to producing images that could meet the exacting expectations of the FMP criteria. In addition to not being confident about my images, I started to doubt if my plan to continue to use scanning and produce a photo-book together with another exhibition were the right way to go forward.

I am pleased to say that I feel I am now getting back on track. Feedback from the Surfaces and Strategies module assignments has helped along with having to produce a Pecha Kucha presentation (20 slides each shown for 20 seconds accompanied by an informal narration about plans for the FMP).

Destructiveness and Reconciliation

What is it about making contemporary art and photography that compels some to produce and destroy their works to improve their reception by others? I guess there is something of a trend as with clothing and furniture that can be bought new but with a deliberate distressed effects.

Is it pushing the boundaries to see how far one can go with being accepted in society or is it to do with casting the views of others aside with an attitude of not caring less what others make of it?

Visiting Unseen in Amsterdam in 2017, the Shape of Light at the Tate Modern 2018 and PhotoLondon in 2018 has begun to challenge some of my previous thoughts about abstract work. Not understanding what some have tried to say with their work I have been hasty to dismiss it as possibly infantile and therefore futile. Through studying I am more prepared to try to understand what a piece is about and why it may be heralded as something wonderful by others.

So does that mean such works can only be fully appreciated through acquiring knowledge? If that is the case the phrase ‘art lovers’ becomes circular and applicable to an exclusive section of society and excludes others who may have limited opportunities for access and exposure.

There is however a certain aesthetic appeal combined with intrigue as to the making and meaning that draws one into an image. Among those I am studying are Daisuke Yokota, Maya Rochat, Paul Kenny, Laura Nissinen and Matt Collishaw. It is not that I am planning a lot of destruction. I may try sea water with some of the items I find and some of the images I make. My materials are already in part or whole destroyed through damage and/or deterioration. I just need to explore what people have done before in order to stimulate my thinking and inspiration for my future work. As Welby Ings recommended in his 2014 lecture paraphrasing Keats, dwell in the space of unknowing…as a way of finding fertile ground. In this way I aim to allow myself to explore and experiment with methodologies for creation and ways of presenting images, continuing to build the confidence I have been developing during the Surfaces and Strategies module.

References
INGS, Welby. 2014. ‘The Art of Research’. Available at: http://artofresearch2014.aalto.fi/keynotes.html [accessed 18/08/18].
JONES, Jonathan. 2013. ‘Mat Collishaw: still sensational’. The Guardian, Interview, 26 Apr 2013. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/apr/26/mat-collishaw- still-sensational [accessed 24/03/18].
KENNY, Paul. Available at: http://www.paul-kenny.co.uk/ [accessed 23/08/18].
NISSINEN, Laura. 2014. Photography exhibition Aleatory Variable. Galleria Huuto Jätkäsaari 1. 27 March – 13 April 2014. Available at: http://www.galleriahuuto.net/?p=10487&lang=en [accessed 24/07/18].
ROCHAT, Maya. 2017. A Rock is A River. Photobookstore. Available at: https;//www.photobookstore.co.uk/photobook-a-rock-is-a-river.html [accessed 20/08/18].
YOKOTA, Daisuke. 2015. Photographs. Another Something online publication. Available at: http://www.anothersomething.org/2015/11/03/color-photographs/ [accessed 22/08/18].