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.
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.
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!
Ed Ruscha is famous for depicting things he saw while travelling, notably gas stations (e.g. Walker 1962). We we asked to look at his work and then pursue an activity of our own in a similar vein during the recess between modules.
Initially I decided to concentrate on becoming more competent with a macro lens (105mm), one I had only occasionally used before. I also wanted easy access to locations and therefore chose home. I have long been fascinated by the beauty of the natural construction of small insects. They are so complex with details we do not normally see and I recall being amazed at those depicted by Levon Biss although at this stage in my development I can only dream of the technical competence required to achieve such results.
So with the title of the TV series in mind I set about capturing and creating ‘The darling ‘bugs’ of May’ It crossed my mind to take buds instead as a late spring meant they were just emerging and they do not crawl or fly away! Despite the high rejection rate, I stuck to the ‘bugs’ and have had fun ‘abstracting’ them, one attempt being in the centre of the poster of 13 creatures I made using Photobox.
Once started I decided to do a second project, one that could be done with relative ease when bugs were not to be found or blew or flew away. This time keeping to a 55-300 lens on the same camera body. This project reminded me of the intense focus and knowledge people with Aspergers syndrome can have on subjects others might only briefly notice or comment on. Again around my home I became curious as to how many telegraph poles I could see just walking down my drive and around my garden. I had previously thought they were all very similar if not the same. I quickly realised this was not the case and also took photographs of their parts. It amused me to see the Danger of Death notice on a pole discarded by authorities some time ago which was now being chopped up to make a summer house frame!
I lost count and still cannot accurately say how many I can see from home as some are just over on the horizon and are only visible according to weather conditions. As an estimate it is probably about 30’ish on a clear day! So my project depicts ‘umpteen’ telegraph poles and their parts as seen from home.
I have used Photobox before to make books as well as other items and been pleased with the results. I had heard about BLURB books but not used them so decided that would be a challenge to do so. It was a challenge! For example, having decided I wanted the pages in a different order I could not switch them round but had to delete and re-upload to achieve the turnabout. In the end although I had wanted to go from big to little pole and whole to parts in the page order I randomised the sequence. The only continuity was duplicating each colour image in black and white, this decision being driven by my continuing dithering as to the merits of both. I hope I and the readers of my book will be able to compare and contrast the merits of the two forms of each image. I also had difficulty aligning text so that it was not going to disappear over the edge of the cover pages. Thankfully before uploading to print BLURB prompts re-alignment. It took several attempts to upload for printing due to size and poor bandwidth where I live but it has now been ordered and will arrive soon.
Reflecting on my performance in this task I still have much to learn and already can see how I could perhaps achieve better results. For both projects I thought about identifying and labelling each image and about mapping where I took them but decided not to partly due to time constraints but also because I did not wish to detract from the images themselves which may be at risk of becoming backdrops for the words (Tate 2013). With the telegraph poles I could prepare a map of locations that would be on a postcard slipped into the book if I ever market it! I note that BLURB also facilitate selling and wonder whether my book would be of interest to anyone but myself.
All told this has been an interesting exercise and resulted in two very different studies. I have gained further experience with two different lenses and ways of presenting my images. I have also increased my knowledge of bugs and telegraph poles as an added bonus!
Microsculpture. Microsculpture: The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss. From the collections of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Available at: http://microsculpture.net/. accessed [04-06-2018]
Walker, I. 1962. ’A Kind of Huh? The siting of twentysix gasoline stations (1962)’ in Di Bello, P., Wilson, C. and Zamir, S. (2012) The Photobook: from Talbot and Ruscha and Beyond, London, New York: I.B. Tauris pp. 111–128.