Weeks 11-12 FMP: I think I am getting GAS (gear acquisition syndrome)

Continuing with Event Horizons, the recycling centres part of my Final Major Project, I have now acquired a transmitter and receiver and a new lens. Experimentation is still the main word of the day while I try to finalise my methodology and achieve greater consistency in terms of quality. I must now keep in mind an overview of how each composition may fit into the jig-saw that is to be the ‘set’ of project images. However, the overview is only just starting to emerge and I realise that there will be many adjustments/tweaks to the conceptual arrangement before finalising a publication and an exhibition.

Using the speed light flash unit with a receiver has advantages and disadvantages. It does what it says on the tin and can successfully light up a dark place. It is enabling me to see places that have hitherto been only partially lit by the camera’s internal flash and torch light. With little processing colours emerge that have not featured strongly in my previous images. One or two appear to be gaining attention (likes and comments) on instagram.

What I have not yet mastered are the correct settings with three modes and several levels of intensity. I am tending to favour the lower (i.e. less powerful) end of the illumination. Directing the flash beam is another area to pin down in relation to the desired end result.  Pointing the speed light  through the same aperture as the camera is restrictive. Unfortunately using the flash is getting rid of the interesting effects of natural and street and car lights coming in through the apertures and bouncing onto the inner walls of the containers. 

Some technical details are eluding me with this equipment. It does take a time to be ready with the receiver attached and does not always want to flash into the areas I am interested in. Having checked and double checked the connections on the speed light and the camera and that the batteries are all working, I am a little mystified and will have to research further and then rehearse using the equipment at home before venturing out on a wasted journey.

Health and safety wise I am very aware of the need to be vigilant and not use my camera or flash when the containers are being used by members of the public. I can envisage shocking and traumatising someone who is depositing waste. They will not be expecting a sudden flash and light damage (temporary and possibly more permanent) to their eyes.

I will be engaging the support of an assistant to point the beam of the flashlight from an aperture on an alternative side to that of the camera, ensuring it is not pointed directly at me and that no one else is using the facility at that time. That way I may be able to reconstruct some of the effects I achieved with natural light before. With the duller days of winter now here, strong beams of sunlight are few and far between. 

Despite not being very pleased at losing the effect of natural light entering the container I am liking the tunnel effects through light exiting and the colours I am able to achieve with minimal post-processing.

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series with flash
Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series with flash

 

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].

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).