Due to run on 5th August there were no attendees for a no camera workshop planned to include experience of pinhole camera work, making cyanotypes and scanning to make images. I advertised in the Parish magazine which was delayed at the printers so was only distributed a couple of days prior to the workshop which was also due to take place a day after the local garden and produce show (which many people were very involved with) and many others are on holiday.
However, I have had enquiries for the second one I advertised and hope that can go ahead in the next couple of weeks. Landscapes to Nurdles, ways of photographing while on a walk on the beach, relates directly to my project. I have obtained approval from the owners to take a small group out for this purpose.
Although a little disappointed at first I have used the time allocated to do my workshop myself! This has been invaluable in making sure with the leader hat on everything is organised and with the participant hat on I enjoy the experience. I did not talk out loud to myself but did think through conversations as both workshop leader and participant trying to anticipate what might arise.
Preparations included the advert, a what to expect sheet to give people beforehand and an illustrated technique booklet for people to use during the workshop and to take home. In addition I ordered chemicals and paper for the cyanotypes and a small wooden pinhole camera. I also made a pinhole camera from a wine box and one from a matchbox. The kitchen table was the work bench and the bathroom was darkened with a torch and red gel to make a dark room. Plastic trays were set out with the developer and fixer and water wash ready for the pinhole and cyanotype results.
I have benefited from this exercise in having ideas about smooth running of the workshop as well as having produced images for my own use as well as demonstration purposes when the workshop runs. I will consider running it during the recess after this module although if any interest is shown in the next few days I may run it before then.
Part 2 gives an account of my experiences.
Week 7 was about making ‘dummy’books
Starting with Shelfies and Pilibraries we took images of our own shelves and piles. I have both. The shelves tend to be associated with my profession and piles with the growing pile of photography publications including mine made Ed Ruscha style. I also showed how a book can be a shelf as one acts like a docking station ’tilt’ for my laptop! I think about this book and its contents everyday, good news for my learning as it is authored by the course director!
Selecting images relating to our projects was the next more substantial challenge. Going back through mine since the start of the course I initially looked at those I had submitted for Work in Progress assignments. I then went back through to pick up all those not included in the assignments but for which I had a memory and this would be their opportunity to be ‘shown’ too. With nearly 200 I was starting to get lost in the forest!
Moving them around on screen and draft prints outs on cheap paper they began to work into themes over time then groups or collections that crossed the time boundaries. I started to see a progression in my development with diversifications into sub-projects along the way.
Working under a time pressure as this was a task for the week I moved on to the third stage of putting them into a sequence, explaining how they were to be displayed in a publication and presenting a mock up on film. This part of the task was as frustrating if not more so than the overview and selection of images. I wanted more time to be able to get hold of low environmental impact and recycled materials with which to make a physical copy to film. I have come across photorag paper made from cotton, seaweed paper, rice paper, plant based papers and even paper made from stone. I have also seen notebook covers made from recycled plastic bottles and tyres.
For the purposes of the task I filmed me turning A4 pages on which draft quality images were printed (to save ink). Uploading did not work so I resorted to still images with a flick over effect using Camtasia.
This felt like a very busy week and I was not satisfied with my outcome. However, the review of images was enlightening and my interest in materials to use in a publication has grown and also been inspired by the creative productions of others on the course. Suggestions received from my course varied from including the range of images since the project began to focussing on recent images which are abstractions of beach debris and one that suggested several books! In addition, webinar discussions led to the offer of editorship by my tutor as I was too close to the subject matter and images to see the ‘intrigue’ and ‘Beauty’ (as in the project title Beauty and the Beach…) others were seeing and feeling about them. A week later her editorship made me realise the value of such a task as it is not always possible to predict how viewers will see and respond to your own images. I will take this lesson and her suggestions forward into my thinking and planning for an actual publication.
Twentysix Gasoline Stations. 1963. Ed Ruscha. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twentysix_Gasoline_Stations. accessed [04-06-2018]
Understanding what we are talking about is a small first step to addressing the concerns these tiny, potentially toxic pieces of plastic raise (they can be coated with chemicals). Nurdles are used in the production of plastic items and bio-beads (also known as Biological Aerated Flooded Filter Media BAFF) can be used in sewage treatment plants. Many find their way into our rivers and seas through spillages and in the past, discarding excesses that way. They are small enough to be thought of as food items by birds and marine animals and we now know they are in our food chain and to greater or lesser extents in ourselves, through eating these creatures. They will not disappear.
The Nurdle Free Oceans organisation is promoting awareness and campaigning to support the Clean up Our Seas campaign with particular emphasis on encouraging industrial organisations to prevent spills in to our water ways in the first place.
With growing awareness people are now becoming nurdle ‘hunters’ across the world identifying places where they have been found, in what concentrations and with what types of nurdle.
Why have I become a nurdle hunter? At a local beach clean a marine biologist working together with Surfers Against Sewage representatives explained what nurdles were, similar in size to bio-beads, and spoke about spills in South Devon rivers and sea. We were shown how to find them (and it took seconds to do so) by simply sweeping your fingers through a small patch of dry sand. I was staggered that so many, hardly bigger than a grain of sand and of different colours, some more worn than others, were found by a group of about a dozen people within minutes! It made me wonder how many people have used the beach like myself for many years and not realised the intruders were there. I understand that sources of bio-beads can be traced by virtue of their colour, as different manufacturers use different colourings, whereas nurdles are harder to trace back. I now visit the beach with a kitchen sieve and glass jar to, in a very small way, catch nurdles and bio-beads and later dispose of them carefully. I have no idea how deep down into the sand they go. I have also spoken to visiting family and friends and engaged them in hunting with me.
Clearly the pressure has to be on industries across the world and Operation Clean Sweep is the result of action being taken by the plastics industry themselves, supported by The British Plastics Federation and Plastics Europe.
I probably need to photograph them with a tape measure so that their size is apparent. Here are some I collected recently, the green top in the second image being a Smartie top I found on the beach. Hopefully knowing that gives an impression of size. I appear to have collected a mix of nurdles and bio-beads as well as a little bit of twig. I wonder if a catchy song could be composed to inform people of different ages and kick start their individual hunting activity and encourage their support for industries who are actively taking positive action to stem the flows into our waterways and oceans. After all if we want to keep buying and using items with any plastic components and we want our sewage treated we need to get behind them
BBC. 2017. Plastic ‘nurdles’ found littering UK beaches. BBC News. 17 February 2017. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39001011. accessed 23-06-2018
British Plastics Federation. Operation Clean Sweep. Available at: http://www.bpf.co.uk/Sustainability/Operation_Clean_Sweep.aspx. accessed 01-08-2018
Nurdle Free Oceans; reducing plastic pollution in our seas. Available at: https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/whats-the-problem.html accessed 01-08-2018
South West Water. Nurdles and bio-beads. Available at: https://www.southwestwater.co.uk/environment/rivers-and-bathing-waters/nurdles-and-bio-beads/ accessed 01-08-2018
Timing could not have been more perfect. Having diversified and seemingly reached another level or dimension (as my black images suggest to people) I have been thinking about images for the impending Work in Progress Portfolio. Encouraged by my tutor and colleagues I am veering towards a WIP comprising many images originating from scans. I took my concern as to whether this would be acceptable to my module leader in case this was a path I should not tread being without a camera in sight. This is after all a photography course which implies camera use.
Justification through explanation seems to be the key. Photography is the art of capturing light, a camera is a mechanical means to do this. The effects of light can also be caught using other means including using light sensitive paper as with cyanotypes and pinhole devices and importantly, in relation to my query, a scanner. Once imported into the digital darkroom processing can take place regardless of how the image was captured.
Laura Nissinen is completing a PhD thesis ‘Abstraction in Finnish Art Photography’ and staged an exhibition ‘Aleatory Variable at Galleria Huuto from 27 March -13 April 2014 and curated ‘1917-2017 Abstract! 100 years of Abstract Photography’ at the Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki 1st November 2017 to 14th January 2018. This latter exhibition influenced Shape of Light 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at the Tate Modern, London, which I visited on 18th May 2018. She is inspired by the works of Jean-Luc Nancy, Laila Pullinen and Lucio Fontana.
Scanning is a feature of Laura’s methodology and has been used to produce results from water damaged negative, burned black and white film and film developed in artist’s urine (paying homage to Andy Warhol and friends urinating on paintings using copper paint). In addition to speaking about her work, Laura spoke about stages in the development of Abstract work referencing key artists, their styles and methods of production.
Informative, insightful, inspirational and affirming of the direction I have been moving in, my question has been answered. Thank you Laura Nissinen.
Fontana, Lucio. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/lucio-fontana-1102. accessed 30-07-2018
Fontana, Lucio. Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/lucio-fontana. accessed 30-07-2018
Nancy, Jean-Luc. Available at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/nancy/#H7. accessed 30-07-2018
Laura Nissinen. Photography exhibition Aleatory Variable. Galleria Huuto Jätkäsaari 1. 27 March – 13 April 2014. Available at: http://www.galleriahuuto.net/?p=10487&lang=en. accessed 24-07-2018
Nissinen, L, Aleatory Variable, 2014, Exhibition.
Pullinen, Laila. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laila_Pullinen. accessed 30-07-2018
Pullinen, Laila. Available at: https://nissbacka.com/laila-pullinen/. accessed 30-07-2018
Warhol, Andy. 1978. Oxidation Painting (in 12 parts). The Warhol. Available at: https://www.warhol.org/lessons/oxidations-and-abstraction/. accessed 30-07-2018
Warhol, Andy. 1978. Oxidation Painting. Saatchi Gallery. Available at: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/andy_warhol_20.htm. accessed 30-07-2018
Guest Blog: Wildlife for Alexandra Prescott
From wildlife to debris that is running wild across the planet one would think the work of Alexandra Prescott and myself were poles apart. However that would be an erroneous assumption. We both seek, look and examine in detail. It is a form of ‘hunting’ but in neither case harm is intended. In fact quite the opposite. We are both intending to raise awareness of man’s impact on the world in which we live.
Our methodologies are somewhat different. Although we both venture out with ideas of ‘capturing’ images of particular animals or debris, Alexandra has a more clearly defined schedule and plan for her work. Her detailed knowledge of the best times and locations to ‘shoot’ specific creatures in Scotland are an example. In contrast I never know what to expect although with experience I have an inkling of what is likely to be found.
Whereas Alexandra may set up a base and wait for her subject matter with tripod and cameras with telephoto lenses, I walk and try to spot inanimate materials, carrying a camera, usually with one lens and a camera phone.
More recently there has been a convergence with our work. For some time I have been able to show some of my finds in context, for example with the beach and sea in the background rather than having the subject matter fill the majority of the image. In this way a connection has already been made between the the location and the issue of marine debris for the viewer. Alexandra has been photographing both wild and domesticated animals with human activity in particular locations.
This spring I had an opportunity to photograph Tawny owls growing up in my garden. I have always had an interest in and a desire to improve my wildlife photography. I admire the work of Gordon Buchanan, wildlife photographer and presenter (e.g. Brunt, 2011). Knowing something of Alexandra’s work in focussing on a limited number of species at specific times of year, I wondered if I might be able to study the owls over time and how I could do this without disturbing them.
My first encounter was by chance, so no preparation for what I found in terms of careful setting up of a ‘hide’ which in my case would be a discreet observation point as I do not have a portable setup. I was taking a landscape view from my garden across fields to the sea. Something made me turn left towards a tree where the is an owl box and I was being watched by what I later found out was the parent of three owlets. I am sure Alexandra will have had moments as I did freezing to the spot not daring to move and hardly daring to breathe. My attention focussed on changing camera settings with no jerky movements, standing as still as I could and focussing on taking close ups of the owl. This meant that I was not in the best position as the owl box and branches detracted from the shots. The owl was not going anywhere, it was enjoying being based in warmth as the sun came up on a beautiful still day. It was I who walked away.
The second encounter was similar, also unplanned, when I was near to the location for the first ready to take photographs of the landscape. Again a feeling (that something was different or perhaps of being watched) made me turn and really look at a fallen tree. Blending in with the colours of the branches and shaded by the foliage were three small owlets looking at me! Another heart stopping moment and my attention was once again diverted.
Subsequently I visited these and other locations in my garden and fields and had many such encounters. I knew that dawn and dusk would be the times to see the owls from past experience with barn owls. It was easy to monitor their behaviours and know when they were active as their calls gave them away. Interestingly the three owlets remained together following and calling each other while waiting to be fed then hunting for themselves and finally, one by one, flying off the establish their own territories.
What have I found out about myself and my photography? Patience is key. I seem to have used my walking and chance encounter approach to my debris with the owls by walking to the vicinity where I could hear their calls. However being able to move may mean that I catch some images that would no be possible if in a hide with a tripod set up. Not to be intrusive and disturb them is essential. I did feel protective on one occasion but unable to interfere (I could not get to the location and should ‘let nature take it’s course’) as a large crow attacked an owlet. It survived as the parent saw the attacker off. Being more prepared, perhaps taking a chair and tripod to the area they were in and spending more time with them would have given me more and clearer images. Having a camera that can take photographs in low light without necessitating very high ISOs and having a longer lens would be helpful. My images were taken with 24-120 and 55-300 zoom lenses.
There is so much more to learn and I feel I am only just beginning an exciting and never ending journey.
Prescott, Alexandra. 2018. Alexandra 421 – A Journey – Critical Research Journal. Available at: https://alexandra421.wordpress.com/. accessed 20-07-2018
Brunt, Lara. 07 January 2011. Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan: Part 1. Wanderlust Travel Magazine. Available at:https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/wildlife-cameraman- gordon-buchanan/. accessed 20-07-2018
Alexandra and I have swopped experiences. Taking images with each other in mind and writing about the experience on each others site as guest bloggers.
This has been invaluable as a compare and contrast activity both in relation to our practices and our projects. Feedback from Alexandra on my images has certainly had an impact not only on taking images of wildlife but ensuring my processing and presentation of images is equally attended to.
I have chosen to hold my exhibition at Speculation Gallery, a local space in a village near the coast. I will be holding an early evening launch on 17th August and it will be open to the public from 17th -24th August. The gallery has a number of advantages over others in the area and the arrangements have been much less complicated than other ways of displaying my work might have been (e.g. permissions relating to an installation on a beach, in a town centre or school).
Speculation Gallery was opened this year and is a working artist’s studio as well as a community shop, post office and cafe. This setting will be visited by local people as well as holiday makers and contacts that I invite to attend. There is parking nearby. Other work by the resident artists and other artists will be on display and for sale. As well as a long straight wall there are four 3 sided ‘booths’ along an opposite wall. The largest of these is to be cleared of the work of others for my work. I will also be able to have a small table to display items, either those found on beaches, those made using images of found items, a visitors comments book, a leaflet about myself, and an order form. I hope to make postcards and cards available with the exhibition as well as a zine booklet. Each image with have a luggage tag with title and price.
I have 3 white surfaces with a hanging rail and multiple options for nylon strings and hooks to attach my work to. The main panel measures 2.4 meters high and 2 metres wide and each side panel is 2.4 metres high x 1.2 metres wide.
This week I have completed sunrise trips to three beaches to collect images and materials. My sub-heading to the title Beauty and the Beach… will be 3s or Threes. This reflects the three panels, beaches and ways of looking at and seeing my images. It also reflects three ways of making the images: straight shots, some digital enhancement of straight shots and a more radical scanning of materials and digital processing to create a new collection ‘Re-Vue’ which is a recycling of rubbish but not in the way one might expect.
The displays on each panel could be as simple as three images one underneath the other or set in a diagonal formation, or as sets of nine in three tryptics. I have wondered about showing finds from each beach on separate panels and about showing a landscape image, object as found and object as scanned on each panel and look forward to the views of others as well as playing with scaled mock-ups to see what works best.
I will be able to host the launch and intend to have ‘specimens’ in bell jars on the display table and perhaps on each of the cafe tables.
Since writing this for week 6 of the course I have been encouraged by comments received in webinars to think about losing the subtitling and also setting out my images in a very specific and more traditional format. My plans now include unmounted and unframed images and hopefully they are to be displayed in multiple ways on products as well as on the walls.
Links to Speculation Gallery