By an amazing coincidence just as my exhibition Out-Sight-In at The Clay Factory was closing Mandy Barker’s Altered Ocean exhibition at the new RPS HQ was opening. Not able to go to the opening event I visited on 5th April and attended ‘When Art and Science Meets Plastics’ presentations and discussion with Mandy Barker ARPS and Professor Richard Thompson OBE Director of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the Marine Institute, Plymouth University.
I have written about Mandy Barker’s excellent work on marine plastics previously ( https://sarahnewtonphotoblog.com/2018/03/21/week-8-activity-…ice-mandy-barker/ ). I have seen Mandy’s work in online posts and have her book Beyond Drifting. Imperfectly Known Animals published in 2017. She has also published a miniature pocket sized edition of this book and published Altered Ocean on 16 April 2019. The new book promises to look back at her work over the past 10 years as shown in the exhibition.
The exhibition was impressive. With small framed images of individual items showing the lack of deterioration of plastics leading to large prints of her collections of specific found items the images were stunning in their beauty and at the same time horrific in their truth. Complimented with a video and glass display cases of found items and sketchbooks as well as information about marine plastics and their found locations across the world the experience was immersive, interactive and for those not already aware of the scale of this global issue, left no doubts about the importance of awareness raising and finding solutions.
Professor Thompson OBE gave an excellent presentation explaining the size of the problem and the how science is contributing to ways of addressing the challenges faced in managing something which takes thousands of years to deteriorate. Passing round examples of tubes with minute powdery pieces of deteriorated plastics it was easy to see how they must have already entered the food chain and will be affecting human health as well as that of marine and land based creatures. Developing circularity in our approaches to energy use and production through designing for end of useful life offers one way of stemming the increasing flow of plastic into our lives.
Mandy Barker, internationally acclaimed photographic artist, spoke of the work she has been doing for 10 years. She received an Environmental Bursary from the Royal Photographic Society in 2012. Illustrated with photographs of her explorations abroad and the beach finds sent to her from across the world (e.g. thousand of footballs) she described how she made the images. Due to embark on photographing another scientific exploration in the near future her work in this area is guaranteed to continue for some years to come.
Bringing science and art together made for an informative and truly inspirational event, sadly a one off on this occasion. Mandy Barker spoke about her work on 18th April (‘Meet the Artist’) and on 26th April Jo Ruxton will screen and talk about ‘A Plastic Ocean’, her multi-award winning documentary.
Since attending this event I have received a review of my work from Mandy Barker and visited Professor Thompson (he first coined the term microplastics) at the Marine Institute at Plymouth University to learn more about the research activities he and his colleagues are engaged in (www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/marine-litter). Although coming to the close of the MA Photography course my journey with Out-Sight-In is starting to open up with endless possibilities for the future.
One slight mar to the day was receiving my RPS Journal in the post as I was about to leave. The cover featured Soup by Mandy Barker, however the outer wrapping was plastic! Having drawn this to attention at the meeting I was assured this was a publication error for which the RPS potentially be developing another environmental bursary; a fitting solution.
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have one of my beach debris images selected for the members exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society’s Visual Art group. A colleague kindly visited and took photographs for me when the exhibition opened as I could not get there. However when the time at the Clocktower was extended I took the opportunity (in week 25 of the FMP) to visit and see for myself how it was displayed amongst those of other members. Being a new member of this group it felt like an honour to have been included.
On the day I experienced the feeling that I was visiting a relative, something (rather than someone) so close to me because of its significance as part of my experimentation with scanning for my Final Major Project of the MA Photography. “Art is one of the major achievements of the human spirit” says Ross in the introduction to Art and Its Significance. While not spiritual in a religious sense a range of perceptible emotions accompanied me through the short time of the visit. Excited anticipation was mixed with concern. How did my digital submission look now it had been printed, mounted and framed? How did it seem to respond when captured within the constraints of a framed surround when I had let it roam free without borders mimicking its life in the ocean before reaching the shoreline? How did it sit among other images; were they complimentary or clashing in any way?
Arriving I was pleased with the quality of the printing. Not unhappy with the position of the image to one side of a display rather than possibly being lost surrounded by others, I was curious and would have liked some behind the scenes information about the curation and placement of images and whether there were themes in the groupings. Clearly there was a limited space in which to hang many photographs. I could pick out some reasoning behind the groupings but really these were only guesses.
The variety of work under the Visual Art umbrella seems to be infinite in its possibilities. In the ‘About us’ page for the group on the RPS website this is explained.
“The Visual Art Group’s activities encourage both traditional and contemporary interpretation of a wide variety of subject matter, from still-life, landscape and architecture, to portraiture and macro-photography.”
Pleased with my image I moved onto view the work of others and was particularly drawn to Decay 1 by Stephen Collinson LRPS, Light and Shade by Janie Chapman LRPS and Interceptors by Jack Rose FRPS. Not only interested in their immediate visual impact I wanted to know more about what they were and how the images were created.
Before departing I ventured into the museum with walls adorned with portraits of people who lived and worked in Croydon and a large display in connected rooms and spaces of memorabilia from the 20th Century including the two world wars and early silent films including one about the suffrage movement. A final room housed a special display about the bones and artefacts of people who lived in the area. Appealing to me with my interest in archeology and history I was prompted tho think about my beach finds in archeological terms as finds that will be discovered for thousands of years to come and those not found having already entered the food chain following their deterioration into infinitesimal pieces.
About to leave I took the opportunity to have one final look at my image. Coincidentally it was being viewed by a gentleman from a local camera club who took my photo with the image and spent time discussing how I had made it. A pleasant way to end the visit and leave the image.
ROSS, Stephen David. 1994. Art and Its Significance. An Anthology of Aesthetic Theory. 3rd edition 27 January1994. Albany: State University of New York Press.
I was not sure how many visitors would come specifically for the exhibition. Despite various methods of distributing the publicity and inviting people to contact me directly or to register for the open evening and the Artist’s talk on Eventbrite, I did not have a clear number of confirmed attendees. The location of The Clay Factory is slightly outside the nearest small town of Ivybridge, well set back from the main road and transport would be required to get there. I understand that some events have been very well supported but there have been occasions with fewer numbers attending than expected.
Starting slowly with only half a dozen on the first day the numbers built through the week. The last three days saw returns of people who had been previously bringing with them partners, children or friends. What was special to witness were these returners explaining my project and what the images were to their companions and inviting me into the conversations to explain further and answer questions. It did feel as if a momentum had been created and that it could have run for longer especially as more people arrived as I was starting to take the exhibition down.
I had suggested to a colleague (A) some time before that I could do a virtual tour with my phone or laptop as he was not able to attend in person. This would also present an opportunity for a recording, something that could be added to our course assignments. We trialled Zoom with a third colleague (L) before the exhibition. Belatedly we found out that you can only record if using a computer but not a phone when using the free version. On the day of A’s tour we ran it with my phone, his computer and he kindly recorded it using Camtasia. A then rendered the film and forwarded it to me for my use. Following this experience I gave a guided tour of the exhibition to six others (three were relatives) using my phone with WhatsApp and my laptop for appear.in. Unfortunately I missed a further request as it came too late when the exhibition had been taken down.
This experience was something I had not foreseen but was a welcome discovery. With each tour I was able to develop and improve my verbal accompaniment as well as feeling more confident in answering questions. Although none of these were recorded, there is the potential to do so at future events. I felt this was good use of technology to open up events to people who could not attend them. I plan to visit A’s exhibition this way.
Another welcome development were visits by groups of school children some of whom were studying GCSE Photography and Undergraduate Photography and Film students. I found that I could talk spontaneously about the problem of plastics, the five gyres in the oceans and the challenges faced in finding solutions as well as explain the project and exhibition tailoring my language and content to the needs of the different age groups attending. It was good to hear that some had been involved in running a fashion show where garments were made from recycled materials. I was thanked by a teacher on a repeated visit with another group of pupils as those who had been before were apparently inspired by my images and my methods. They had returned to school and tried out scanning. Had the exhibition run for longer I would have taken up their invitation to see what they had made and advise on methodology.
Among the adult visitors there were several photographers and resident artists as well as people who used The Clay Factory for classes, events and a lunch venue. Learning about their responses to what they saw in my images was instructive. For example several people noticed a theme or motif appearing in the form of open fish mouths across several beach debris images. Perhaps the shape was something I engineered subconsciously when scanning. Having the small wooden crate of finds was praised as being helpful in understanding the message behind the images. I also had suggestions for the future of the project. I had some time ago thought about exhibiting on a beach, perhaps during a beach clean and this was suggested. In addition, continuing with the theme of a container, one person suggested a travelling exhibition in a long wheel based vehicle that could visit beach car parks in the holiday season and open up to visitors.
I have since been invited to take images on a Plymouth beach clean by the organiser. Depending on the location I will have to go prepared for all sorts of surfaces to display the images on as well as fixings to secure and protect them with inclement weather. As a backstop the nearest car park and my car boot may have to suffice as I do not possess a lorry.
Across the two collections, beach debris and recycling facilities repeated comments were made about the images seeming to be depictions of strange objects floating in space and of other worlds. Interestingly this was my original feeling about them and despite a little persuasion to move away from an connection with looking beyond planet earth, I feel that my project is justified in continuing in this vein. In this way the two strands of the work have a strengthened shared narrative when exhibited together.
Information processing and retention can be enhanced by using more than one sense with which to experience a stimuli. Psychologists and advertisers of products know this (e.g. Gallo 2018) and often employ workers to promote products through speaking with potential customers, giving them written information and inviting them to touch and try the items. My intention with the images included in the former Beauty and the Beach and current Out-Sight-In exhibitions has been to make opportunities available for visitors to experience the images through different senses. The consequence or result would hopefully be that they not only have a memory of the images but also an understanding of the narrative behind them and with reflection can make decisions about their personal contributions to addressing the issues raised by the project. My aim was not necessarily to ‘sell’ my products but rather to raise awareness of the story behind them.
Speaking about deconstructing the ‘ad’ Katherine Toland Frith pointed out that:
“Analyzing the cultural context of an advertisement involves both verbal and visual aspects of the advertising text to determine not only the primary sales message but also the secondary social or cultural messages.” (Toland Frith 2015: 4)
Applying this to my images viewers see the subject matter and form a ‘surface’ meaning. With accompanying written information my ‘intended message or meaning’ is transmitted and using the actual subject matter for discussion delves deeper into the viewers ability to make sense of what they are seeing and understand the ‘cultural or ideological message’. Using multiple ways to reach the senses and convey my intended aims does facilitate going beyond the surface meaning some have ascribed to the images as being beautiful and at the same time being at risk of not necessarily conveying the significant and overwhelming global problem of waste matter we now face.
Although taste and smell were not included in the presentations, vision, hearing and touch were. In doing this I was also making the exhibitions more inclusive and accessible for those people with sensory impairments or of a young age where responses to accompanying auditory and tactile information are stronger than passive viewing of visual stimuli alone.
Visual stimuli included the images themselves and the different surfaces they were printed on including paper, board, magnets, glass and fabric, the former three in Out-Sight-In and latter two being used in Beauty and the Beach. Additional visual stimuli included a slide show and powerpoint presentation, thumbnail images on feedback sheets and seeing some of the actual beach debris finds.
Auditory stimuli included Artist’s talks at exhibition 1 on 26th February and will do on 12th April and at exhibition 2 on 30th March. In both locations informal explanation and discussion about the project, the issues and the images also took place. This was particularly the case with The Clay Factory where I was present all the hours the exhibition was open to host the exhibition. I was able to meet and greet and talk with all the visitors as much or as little as they wished. With visits from local schools and City College I also gave brief unplanned talks about the issues and the work on display (to primary and secondary age children, young people and undergraduates).
Touch featured with the introduction of a small wooden case lined with shredded paper containing beach finds, some of which had been used to create images that were on display. This proved to be a positive move and relating the small items to the large poster images stimulated discussion about the deterioration of materials, particularly plastics into ever decreasing sizes until the objects they had been were not recognisable. It also enabled me to speak about the scanning equipment and methodology I used to create the images in more detail. First used at The Clay Factory this will now be introduced on 12th April at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd where I will be talking to visitors (volunteers taking part in The Great British Spring Clean) about my project and the exhibition.
Running solo exhibitions means thinking of everything but the kitchen sink. Luckily one was already there and accessible with a kettle and fridge. Refreshments, furniture (a small table), carpets, step ladder, magnets, nails and picture hooks, hammer, spirit level, ruler, tape measures, small screen for slide show, three theatrical floor up lights and filters, adapters and extension leads, phone and charger, laptop, posters and flyers to add to and inform the display, flyers to give away, feedback sheets with thumbnails of individual images as well as a visitors book for comments on the whole exhibition and of course the images on posters and board. My assistant came in a separate vehicle in case there was a need to dash out for anything else!
Hanging the images took the most part of a day, the next day a couple of hours was spent with ensuring additional pieces were in place and working. These included a repeating slide show of the images and a small tray lined with shredded paper of some of the beach finds starring in the images. I had considered running a looped film of me talking about the project and the work involved in making the images. Despite being in a large factory space I realised on preparatory visits that noises echoed and people were trying to work in the studios and offices in the same room and would not be happy with a repeating voice over. However, I was able to talk to visitors and also delivered several impromtu talks for school children and an Artist’s talk with a powerpoint slide show on the Saturday, borrowing a projector from The Clay Factory and using the inner door of the container as a screen.
Thanks to my generous host at The Clay Factory I was given free reign on using the space around the shipping container. I arranged the sofas and carpet (already present) to provide a seating area from which to view the images and use to spend time if visiting the building for another purpose. With my refreshments to hand I could also offer tea, coffee and biscuits. On the open evening I provided a range of wines and soft drinks and nibbles. At the Artists talk guests were served with coffee and cakes.
In contrast to Exhibition 1 at the Incinerator visitors centre exhibiting in a metal box and on a wooden wall presented challenges in terms of printing and hanging images. Inside the shipping container it was clear that magnets would be best and with no sticky surfaces applied to the surfaces. Nails were favoured for the slatted wooden wall. Both surfaces were uneven; the metal walls corrugated so sizing images to be hung on prominent corrugations was important, the wooden wall comprised overlapping slats in a downward flow and meant that the surface undulated repeatedly from top to bottom thus making ‘flat’ hanging a challenge.
Outside and inside surfaces of the shipping container
I experimented with some of the images I had used in the first exhibition, discarding some and introducing different ones from the pool I had created to draw from for the FMP. Initially done by moving images around on a large noticeboard I then moved to a folded cardboard made from a box before discovering a wooden wine box had almost the same dimensions as the container, thus a 3D model was formed. I also took photographs of the empty container and the blank wooden wall and superimposed scaled images onto both to get a feel for looked right on the actual walls. I decided to have images of recycling on parts of the outside mimicking looking into recycling banks and because these images had been used in the initial publicity and would therefore be identifiable and recognisable by visitors drawing them in a flow from back to front of the container (this being the approach they would take on entering a large factory space with two levels of containers with windows all being used as offices and studios). The container I was using had no windows but it did have power points, two tungsten lightbulbs and wifi.
The beach debris images were destined for the inside walls of the container. Some time before I had decided this was the right place as debris should be deposited in appropriate places but this plan also symbolically alludes to the containers spilled by ships at sea and with damage and deterioration their significant contribution to the materials floating in the gyres, onto our beaches and resting on the sea bed (Morris 2017). In retrospect, I could perhaps have laid all these images on the floor or the ceiling of the container to make this point stronger.
I ordered and experimented with silver and black magnets of different strengths and sizes (10mm, 15mm and 20mm). I settled for some of each size, each to relate to the different sizes the images were printed at. I also chose black. Although they came with an adhesive backing I chose not to use that because it would have made keeping the printed images difficult to roll and store for future use and I could not leave sticky marks possibly with magnets still attached on the surface of the metal walls. In addition since my images were on a black background I thought the black magnets would blend and not be noticed on the beach debris images, and when visible on the recycling images would not detract from the impact they conveyed. Three sets of 9 7.5 x 7.5cms magnetised images of both the beach debris and recycling images proved helpful in preparing hanging plans and having available on the container doors at the exhibition for visitors to rearrange to their liking. Having experimented with the magnets and test images on the side of my fridge freezer and central heating radiators I visited the container and tried this method of hanging out with test prints of different sizes. This also allowed me to assess whether the strength of magnets I proposed were correct for the weight of the images and they were.
My choice of surface for printing the beach debris and recycling images that were to be used with the container was 250gsm Fujifilm. Having looked at several options as reported previously (https://sarahnewtonphotoblog.com/2019/03/20/fmp-weeks-18-23-test-strips-on-paper-and-fabric/) good quality unframed posters were appropriate for lightness and the context. Mounted and framed images would have looked out of place, albeit an interesting contrast with the industrial setting, and would have been difficult to hang given that drilling and attaching sticky items to the walls were not options. The only concern I had when ordering was the limited sizes available through this online service. I would have liked the option to request specific sizes that suited both the image and the space available for hanging. This was particularly important given that I wanted the images flat against the metal walls and not being bent around the corrugations. So careful measuring of the corrugations and matching to the available sizes for posters was essential. Even then I managed to miss some variation in the spacing of the corrugations by assuming all the walls were the same! This lead to an adjustment to my hanging plan at the last moment. In addition, I had assumed the container was level on the factory floor which itself undulated in parts! I had to accept that in setting up my images with a spirit level the lines of the corrugations would not exactly match the straight edges of the images. Thankfully it all worked out!
Slatted wooden wall
Hanging on the wooden wall went smoothly. I ordered nails with a prominent head for hanging pictures as well as standard picture hooks to have a backup system in case the first one failed. The latter made the images stick out at an angle from the slatted board. However the nails could be embedded at different depths to accommodate any adverse effects of the overlapping slats in order for the images to hang flat and not at an angle. There were no adjustments to the hanging plan needed thanks to my learning from preparations for Exhibition 1 and more recent experimentation with magnetised images on the fridge and radiators at home.
Having printed on posters and magnetised squares the third surface for the recycling images was UV printed directly on 5mm PVC panels for hanging on the wooden slatted wall. I had used this method before for the Beauty and the Beach exhibition in August 2018. My thinking was to be able to reuse the printed images in other locations, such as the beach and in school settings. Thus their claim to be water-resistant and scratch-resistant was appealing. They also come ready to hang with fixings attached to the back.
Outside the container and on the wooden wall lighting was provided with industrial strip lights and limited natural sunlight through windows and a large factory door when it was open. Inside the container two overhead light bulbs produced a bright light which would have done if I had wanted a clinical stark and empty feeling when viewing images inside it. My instinct was to create something of an atmosphere. I took advice from a theatrical producer who loaned equipment for me to experiment with at home and when ‘rehearsing’ in the container. He offered up to 5 floor up lighters used in stage shows and a range of coloured rolls of plastic from which I could make filters. Downlighter spots as one might see in some galleries were not an option with limitations on being able to attach fixings to the ceiling and the positioning of electrical sockets such that wires would be trailing and hanging above visitors heads.
The additional equipment offered was a dimming board which would give me control of individual lights. I also looked into mood lamps available online and at large DIY stores as these can be set to particular colours or to scroll through a set of colours, some with projected patterns. I worked out that I would need more than one and the costs would have mounted. So following experimentation I selected three lights and remained until setting up day undecided between blue and red filters or a combination of both.
The blue created a cold mystical feel and the light seemed more prominent than the content of the images. The red created a glow with some warmth inviting visitors in and most importantly seemed to illuminate the images to best advantage. I decided not to use the dimmer board as the extra trailing wires presented an additional hazard and I would have had to stay close to the equipment to safeguard it. I could also adjust the lighting by switching one or two lights off to create an effect and also to allow them to cool. I placed warnings about the lamps possibly being warm and not to get close to them at the entrance to the container. An additional health and safety element was to lay carpet (which happened to be sand coloured) on the central aisle in the middle of the floor and away from the lights. This was particularly important as potential visitors included children. The carpet also served the purpose of dampening sound when walking in the container.
The Clay Factory (http://theclayfactory.co.uk/) rents out space for businesses and artists studios. Run by a social enterprise, Redpod Enterprises, in conjunction with the Eddystone Trust. Subsidiaries include RedPod Arts and RedPod Food. Out-Sight-In exhibition was located near the pop up lunches cafe RedPod Food and close to the studios of two artists, Anita Reynolds and Sarah Gilbert. My images and their work as shown on the outside of their studios at the time of the exhibition worked well in so far as their focus on land and seascapes and mine on debris blighting both meant that we were complementary and not conflicting. In addition, the large room we were all accommodated in had a series of huts decorated as beach huts (each was a fully equipped office inside) and was being developed and decorated with an overarching beach theme. Again it felt as if the images I was presenting fitted in well.
The Clay Factory requested that all the stage lighting I would be using should be PAT tested. Having checked all the lights, adapters and extensions I arranged for an electrician to ensure this was done (some items were due to run out shortly after the time of the exhibition so they were included too).
Public & Products Liability and Professional Indemnity (PPL and PI) insurance
The Clay Factory requested that I have public liability insurance. There are a number of organisations available to cover artists and photographers. I researched options and costs and took out a policy which will cover me for events over the coming year.
I am delighted with the flyers and posters. I designed both front and back pages and have been pleasantly surprised at the positive comments the presentation has received when uploaded to social media and my email contacts. The hard copies arrived after 48 hours and Instantprint have done an excellent job in getting the colours right and delivering according to plan. They also put in a few above the numbers ordered, an unexpected bonus. While the posters were on a standard (cheapest) paper they were strong enough to be pinned and stuck to various shop wall surfaces and outdoor noticeboards. The A5 flyers made from matt recycled paper are robust and feel great to hold. They have been welcomed by shops and post offices with smaller event notice boards as well as being handed out to people who might be interested in attending.
My choice of images was not difficult. Advance publicity had been distributed in my local village monthly newsletter and on social media (Facebook and Instagram) as well as by personal email in February, just over a month before the exhibition. The images used included an individual piece of plastic and a collage of recycling facilities. I could have chosen to use the same ones to achieve consistency in the message /invitation to attend. However, I wanted a link to the previous publicity and also wanted a dyptic or tryptic which sat well together and suggested the two angles to the project; the beach debris and recycling. It also felt important to include images that were planned to appear in the exhibition. Thus one blue plastic image was carried over into this design along with a complimentary pink plastic image. Seated between the two I chose to use the bottle bank image with the word warning appearing in the opening. I felt this served the purpose of raising a question for the reader who may then wish to visit the exhibition to find out more about the connection between the clearly different subject matter and presentations.
The poster and front side of the flyer have a black background. Having tried a number of colours black was best in both blending with the two images of plastics, both on black backgrounds and the rusty surface of the bottle bank. White lettering looked best against the black for readability and impact. I chose to break this text up by having my name match the rusty colour of the bottle bank image.
Choosing landscape rather than portrait was determined by the tryptic width. What I discovered on asking if businesses could display the posters was that most others are usually portrait, thus fitting a landscape A4 into a neat array of portraits was an issue, particularly on one occasion where a flyer was used instead.
I chose to print my bio and details of the project on the back of the flyer so that they could be used during the exhibition as well as for publicity. A white background provided a separation from the publicity side and opened up options for print colour. While black was probably the optimum choice for readability, I preferred green, thus creating a green credentials link with the project subject matter; debris and recycling. I included a small portrait of myself to introduce a sense of familiarity to the reader, a way of relating to both me and the project, with the potential for engendering a ‘personal’ approach which could encourage visitors to the exhibitions (all three are listed).
What might I have done differently now that the posters are up and the flyers distributed and also available for people to have when visiting the exhibition?
Distribute earlier eg 6-8 weeks before event rather than 2
Distribute over a wider area eg villages in a 20 mile radius rather than a 12 mile radius
Write an accompanying press release to send to printed media (newspapers and magazines)
Distribute to all schools in the area personally with posters and not just by email.
In promoting a project with sustainability in mind it was also important not to overdo the use of resources that may contribute adversely to environmental issues eg paper, inks, electricity, chemicals etc.. Thus the decision to order only 25 posters and 200 flyers was consciously made as a back up to the social media coverage rather than the primary way of marketing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Print your images and obtain fixings in plenty of time for the exhibition!
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.
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.
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:
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!
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’.
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).
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.
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.
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.