Surfaces and Strategies week 6: Some considerations when planning my exhibition

We were given a set of questions to consider when planning our exhibitions. Although I thought of some answers when reading them initially I have had them in mind when visiting the location and am now able to give more well defined and specific responses.

What impact does your chosen space have upon your photography, and vice-versa?
Having chosen a multifunctional space which offers various activities including coffee shop, general stores and artists studio and teaching space as well as gallery space for local artists, I am aware that are a few considerations to bear in mind. I will have a three sided area one of four ‘stalls’ displaying works of art (drawings and paintings) from various artists with a facing wall showing the paintings of the resident artist and owner. Having spent a little time there, people passing through the location come in for refreshments as well as locals coming in for supplies. They may have seen the other exhibits before and not look to see if there is any new work. There is very limited parking which means people who come specifically will need to walk a short distance to reach the gallery.

What is around the work that can direct or distract attention to and away from it? Could anything in that environment be used to heighten awareness of your work or emphasise the reading of it?
Although mine is planned to stand out with some installation work as well as images, the work of the other artists may be more of a draw for viewers. In addition, having spent a little time there, people passing through the location come for refreshments as well as locals coming in for supplies. They may have seen the other exhibits before and not look to see if there is any new work.

My recent work, images abstracted from beach debris, may not convey my aim to increase awareness of and responsibility for our waste management. Thus I have begun to plan an installation to reinforce the connection with the beach. I will be using the floor space to display large sealed kilner jars of some of the debris I have collected set out on a large beach towel that has been printed with my image of a pile of waste I have collected from beaches. A couple of hessian bags made with my images along with several square black backed blocks with my images of personal possessions found on the beach will also be on the towel. At the side I will have a small table with additional items with my images including mugs, coasters and placemats as if to suggest a picnic on the beach. I have considered making bunting from some of the fabrics I have found and stringing this with fishing lines along with displaying some of my images cut into bunting triangles. The ceiling lights for displaying work on the walls may prohibit this unless I am able to hang it at a lower level or drape it around the table and edge of the towel.

Who will your viewers be and what does your work expect of them? Does it expect them to be literate about photography or internet literate? Does your work expect too much / too little of your audience?
As indicated the visitors to the venue are a mix of locals, tourists, art students, school children (who come for lessons although schools will be on holiday) and guests I invite. As the potential viewers are so diverse I am not able to predict their responses. I expect some will like some images, some will find the concept amusing- my displaying images of rubbish, some will understand that it is about found rubbish on beaches, some may reflect on their own behaviours and that of their family and friends in relation to waste management. I plan to have a visitors sheet or book for comments and suggestions and have contemplated a competition to encourage completion. For example, “please comment and make suggestion about what you have seen. If you can leave your name and phone and email one person will be randomly selected to receive the item they would like to have from this display at the end of the exhibition on 24th August”.

How long will you allow people to view your work? Is there a particular sequence in which you want the work to be experienced, or will you ’empower’ the viewer by allowing them to wonder freely around the space?
The location is open everyday 09:00am to 17:30pm and people can spend as long as they like there. They can choose where to focus their gaze. The space is viewed from the open side of a three sided ‘stall’ which cannot be fully walked into given the floor installation although people will be able to easily see the display and lean forward slightly to see more detail. It is 2metres wide (back panel) by 1.2metres deep (side panels).

How much can your viewer engage with the work directly? Can they contribute to it, or interact with it?
I may have to have a small notice asking people not to touch the installation pieces as these could break and be harmful (e.g. glass kilner jars and some glass coasters).

Do you value the thoughts and opinions of the viewer? If so, how would you go about collecting those?
I will be very interested to see their views on the comments and suggestions sheet which will be on the display table.

This has been a very useful exercise in making me think through some of the issues and influences in preparing for the exhibition. Clearly the Landings 2018 exhibition which will be an online collection of my images but not include the installation element will be a different experience. Although I cannot predict who will look at my gallery on the Squarespace site I would guess that they would include people who are interested in photography or those who know me personally and are following my journey into photography.

Week 6 Introduction: Thinking about Spaces

This week we were asked to consider potential locations for our exhibitions including some more alternative venues and to post one such example. I posted two that I have come across in past modules.

Nick Brandt photographed animals and placed them in locations they used to be found in where man and industrialisation has taken over (‘Inherit the Dust’). Thus in effect a first ‘showing’ was in these locations with subsequent ‘exhibitions’ travelling to locations worldwide and ‘shown’ in galleries such as the Houk Gallery in NewYork March 10-April 30 2016.

Nick Brandt Inherit the Dust, 2014  (Links to an external site.)

Various photographers exhibited on billboards at the side of Scheveningen beach, The Netherlands, a place I visited after our Unseen trip to Amsterdam last September. They were all focussing on debris in the oceans and marine conservation.

Sarah Newton Billboard showing debris that can harm both creatures and the environment, Scheveningen The Netherlands, September 2017


Both of these examples are impactful and convey strong messages about what we are doing to our planet and wildlife.

Brandt, Nick. Inherit the Dust. Available at: [accessed 17-03-2018].

Brandt, Nick. 2016. Dust to dust: Animals lost in an African apocalypse – in pictures. The Guardian (5th April 2016). Available at: [accessed 17-03-2018].

Letter to my Tutor 2nd July and review of my progress on 26th July 2018

Preparation for Tutorial 02-07-2018

It was with a sense of urgency and slight panic that I prepared this long letter to my tutor summarising my approach to the three activities we were being encouraged to participate in with only a few weeks of the module left and with marked assignments to complete as well. In fact the listing of component parts and possible solutions for each activity has been helpful not only in getting me started but gave me a framework and way of taking small steps to achieving completion that has made the activities seem more manageable. With this late (and lengthy) posting well after what was a helpful tutorial I have now been able to add my progress to 26th July.

Questions for my tutor:

Do the images we present in this exhibition and in a publication have to have been taken during this module or can we include those from previous modules since the start of the course? Yes they can be from previous modules, but these must not appear in the marked assignments for this module.
Do the images displayed in Landings need to be the same as those in my local exhibition/ on the products and in the printed zine/book? Not necessarily but there needs to be a significant number of images in common.
I am taking images with several cameras, an iphone, DSLRs and an SLR but if I continue experimentation with scanning and copying my exhibition an portfolio assignment maybe camera free! Is that a good idea? I need to reflect on what a photograph is, a picture made with light. Then using a variety of methods to do that will be acceptable. Laura Nissinen’s guest lecture was very helpful in this respect on 24th July.

Exhibitions (online in Landings and locally in real time)

I will order some prints for a portable portfolio to show galleries who might be willing to exhibit my work. Done but not needed to show galleries as location for exhibition agreed without this activity.
I will order some products made with my images to display and sell alongside prints. Done for the most part, more ideas to come to fruition.
I will contact several coastal galleries this week. Many display arts and crafts as well as photography. Gallery space booked in artist’s studio/coffee shop/general stores the first week in July.
I will also research holding pop up exhibitions in a local building (The Reading Rooms next to the pub and Church or the Pub or the shop) and on a local beach or at the School House restaurant in the beach carpark (I need to gain permission from the beach owners and the restaurant by the beach). For another time now a location is booked.
I will plan a statement of who I am and a list with prices of images and products for sale as well as individual description cards for each image or product. I may engage a member of the U3A photography group I belong to who produced professional looking materials for a group exhibition we held a couple of years ago for advice and possibly help re setting out and printing. Still to be done. 

Selecting images for Landings 2018 and my actual live exhibition has begun. Initially I envisaged mounting and framing the images but have ordered some backed on board that are frameless. In addition I have started to acquire some items to be used in a mini installation on the floor in front of hung images.


I will experiment with zine/book production. Until I am clear whether the images have to be from the timescale of this module only I cannot complete selection of the images. They can be from any module as long as they relate to the project work.
However I can think about and experiment with the different perspectives or view of the beach debris I have seen and collected. This suggestion came up in a course webinar last week. As I take images from above where and when found on beach walks, then reposition some to include the seascape as a backdrop and location identifier, then take home and experiment with digital processing each item has a timeline and a transformational process. How interesting this is to other people has yet to be tested. Alternatively I could just present the raw finds or the transformed materials.
I need to research and decide whether or not to include text that might be appropriate to accompany some images as well as write the introduction.
Given timescales to be ready for the exhibition and the time taken to receive printed materials if I choose a publisher such as Photobox or Blurb I need to do this task in parallel with the tasks for the exhibition. I now realise a Dummy book may just be home made and a single copy after sharing views on line and in webinars. I did complete an exercise to show pages of what could be included.
As an alternative I could get my selected images printed in a small format and arranged in sets presented in a recyclable covering or box or simply tied together with fishing wire or net. I spent three days going through my images thinking about the book/zine and also what might be included in the exhibition. On the tutor’s suggestion I made some contact sheets and shared them. The feedback my tutor gave, having taking on an editing role, has enabled me to see where my practice is going more clearly. With this feedback,  a discussion with the module leader and listening to Laura Nissinen I am beginning to feel more confident and less overwhelmed at not feeling I have a clear direction for the next steps in my development.


This is the task I feel less confident about. Although I am experienced in preparing and running such events in my previous career I have not completed such an activity in relation to photography. I have presented a talk about the course and my work to a group before (documented in a previous module) but a 40 minute talk is quite different to running an activity over a period of time (upto 6 hours we have been advised). My initial ‘stuck’ feeling is subsiding as I start to generate ideas.
To ask a local library/coffee/natter group if they would like an activity either at their meeting place or at another location.
To contact the local pre-school and primary school to see if there is scope, DBS checks permitting.
To join with someone running a beach clean, either an individual or organisation such as surfers against sewage, marine conservation society or National Trust, to add an activity to their already arranged one.
Above all else think about what I am competent and confident enough to talk about in relation to photography. Some initial thoughts although very tentative are:
I have only recently learned about cyanotypes and could order a couple of kits and take along objects to use with them.
I recently attended a brief workshop on using your camera phone which has given me some ideas that might be of some interest to others (although I am still mastering mine!).
I could offer a local group or friends an outdoor walk on the beach or round a garden giving advice on composition etc.

I have now planned two workshops, the first on 5th August to be on camera less activities and the second to be a walk on the beach learning focussing on improving image making in that location. Holding the first in my home, advertising locally, where many people know me and having ordered enough materials for cyanotypes and pinhole work my initial trepidation is turning to planning the activity and briefings in detail.

The development of my work
I have enjoyed the activities of making a zine and not using my camera. I have not yet had confidence to make a trailer although I have still and moving footage that could be used. Although I can envisage what I would want to achieve, the technical side of production is a challenge for me especially to have completed in a short time-scale. I have created a story, ‘The Mermaid and the Dinosaur’, that could become a trailer while collecting debris on the beach. I took some still images and some film using my phone and if there is time before the end of the module will try to create it.

Feedback on my scanned images this week has given me confidence to consider this method in more detail in relation to my project. I have been bowled over by the suggestion that an image could be in a Bond Street Gallery and to have the three images described as beautiful by colleagues.

In a way this new found direction follows on from the last module when I began to play with digital processing, particularly using that available in the Photos app on a Mac Book Pro. It offers accessibility and speed so that images can be quickly viewed and transformed in comparison with Lightroom and Photoshop, although I acknowledge greater refinement of details is possible with the latter two. This seems to be the direction I am now pursuing and my tutor’s encouragement as well as that of colleagues is showing me that there is some merit in showing beach debris in ways that intrigue and invite personal reflection on the message it is conveying. Seeing beyond what I know is rubbish to take the perspective that others have been in the past few weeks has been a challenge. I am now wondering about my abilities to continue to make images that are interesting, invite closer inspection and are considered by some to be beautiful. Is this a bubble that will burst or slowly deflate or will it reproduce as more and more complex and technically refined pieces of work?

I have also been taking sand prints, animals and humans with it in mind to think about leaving no trace except footprints on beaches. As yet I have not had time to process and share these images with my tutor and colleagues but hope to do so in the coming weeks as I like the concept.

As a diversion from the project I have been following a family of tawny owls in my garden and haver managed to take two while looking at a sea view! This activity has now been used in my guest blog on my colleague Alexandra’s webpage.

I look forward to your feedback on my work.



Surfaces and Strategies Week 5

This weeks activities prepared the way for what are, to my mind, major tasks to exhibit, publish and run a workshop before the end of the module while completing CRJ, Portfolio and a 10 minute film about my development as a photographer and the progress made with my project ‘Beauty and the Beach…’. There was also an option to step forward as one of three exhibition designers for an online gallery of work from all participants on the module. The initial overwhelming panicky feeling has subsided but not disappeared as it seems that there are several peaks to climb in parallel, not just one each week.

So I have volunteered to be one of the designers but with the caveat that I would withdraw if others with more experience and a greater likelihood of getting the work done in the most efficient, expedient and efficacious way stepped forward.

I have also prepared my response to the suggested information that will help the three chosen designers put the themes and actions needed in place:
Five Key Words
Beach, debris, human, marine, ecology

One sentence describing aims of the work I might display
Images of debris on or collected from beaches and presented in forms that invite assessment, reflection and personal response.

One sentence describing where and what your display could look like
To be confirmed but could be in one or all of these: 1. in a coastal gallery, shop, pub and on local beaches during beach cleans (perhaps using a washing line and pegs structure and with permission) and 2. Images can be made available on recycled materials, as mounted and framed for wall use, in zine or book format and on products such as jute bags, coasters, mugs etc.

Two images that best illustrate my practice

Sarah Newton 2018 Found beach debris


Sarah Newton 2018 Degrading Tennis Balls











Surfaces and Strategies Week 4 Activity Make images without a camera

Surfaces and Strategies Week 4 Activity: Make 5 photographic images without using your camera and with relevance to your project

I took this literally given this weeks information was about alternative ways to create and present images. I sent away for a home cyanotype kit and also checked my printer and scanner were working with plenty of paper and ink. I have a DIY pinhole camera that uses film but it is still in kit form and at a late stage when about to construct it I realised that the film would not be processed in time for webinar discussions this week as I do not have the processing and fixing chemicals or a dark room and would have to use a local developer. I did try to create one using a margarine tub and some of the cyanotype paper but that was a misplaced idea as there was not enough light through the pinhole to get the chemical reaction started on the paper. In addition the day before the one specified for the activity I tried to make and image by placing shells on leaves which then turned brown except where the shells had been but I did not repeat this on the assigned day. So I am presenting the cyanotypes, scanned, copied and printed images I made.

Using both natural and unnatural finds. Not being used to the kit paper and the sunlight strength I over exposed to start with. Images were washed and dried and scanned then emailed to my computer for processing and presentation.

Scanned images
Using beach debris and white and black card to assist with the exposure as the scanner lid could not lie flat with the items I had placed on the glass. Images were uploaded and processed on my computer.

Photocopied images
While scanning I inadvertently put pressure on the copy button and ended up with a copy as well as a scan of one or two images. I then used one of these to place as background for a fishing lure scan, attempting to make it look as though the lure was an alien organic creature swimming in the sea.

The images were uploaded to a Mac and I used the in house pictures programme to crop and adjust resolution and colour.

The experience has been fun but I have learned that more preparation would have been good, for example, in having the right equipment to process pinhole film. I also realised that using a scanner precludes large items as does making cyanotypes on small sheets of paper. Thus my larger items of beach debris could not be used. Perhaps I had better get on with making the pinhole camera and experimenting with the larger items and some seascapes!


No Camera Images Surfaces and Strategies Week 4 Activity