FMP Weeks 18-23: Test strips on paper and fabric

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.

Sarah Newton 2019, sample papers from The Print Space
Sarah Newton 2019, sample papers from Instantprint


Sarah Newton 2019, sample fabrics from Contrado








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.

Sarah Newton 2019, Hahnemuhle Photorag, Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl & a satin paper test print

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.

Sarah Newton 2019, Gigclee Hahnemuhle Pearl, C-Type Matt, Gigclee Hahnemuhle German Etching
Sarah Newton 2019, Gigclee Hahnemuhle German Etching x 2, Hahnemuhle Photorag

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.

Sarah Newton 2019, Gaia Eco Woven, Polar Fleece & Cotton Satin

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print your images and obtain fixings in plenty of time for the exhibition!


FMP Weeks 19-21: From cardboard models to the first exhibition Part 2: Selecting images

Part 2: Selecting images

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’.

Sarah Newton 2019, Almost capturing a moment

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).

Sarah Newton 2019, Scanning beach finds; note essential coffee, torch and hoover to suck up escaping sand and other matter

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.

Sarah Newton 2019, Initial trawl of images for FMP activities
Sarah Newton 2019, Sifting and filtering the ‘best of’ similar images

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.

Sarah Newton 2019, ‘Anchoring’ image and 4 complimentary groups for Exhibition 1
Sarah Newton 2019, Out-Sight-In at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd. 18th February to 30th April


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.


CHINNERY, Doug. 2019. Available at: [accessed 21/02/19].

FORREST, Victoria. 2019. Available at: [accessed 21/02/19].

HUXLEY-PARLOUR ARTISTS. Available at: [accessed 23-08-2018].

KENNY, Paul. Available at: [accessed 23-08-2018].

SEYMOUR, Tom. 2016. Paul Kenny’s Land and Sea. British Journal of Photography. 21 June 2016. Available at: [accessed 23-08-2018].

TRIPLEKITE PUBLISHING. Available at: [accessed 23-08-2018].

WATERSHED. Victoria Forrest. Pervasive Media Studio. Available at: [accessed 21/02/19].

FMP Weeks 19-21: From cardboard models to the first exhibition

The past three weeks since completing the Falmouth University run week long course on using InDesign on 23rd January has been an emotional roller coaster with highs and lows and thankfully highs again. A review of all that has happened is needed to become grounded again.

Part 1: Tutorials 30th January and 12th February: 

  1. I presented the title I have chosen for the project Out-Sight-In with a vertically flipped back-to-front version underneath it tuO-thgiS-nI (the typing corrector flips it back to the right way up!). Approval was gained with a comment about playfulness which to some extent reflects my feelings when working on making and processing my images for the project.
  2. We discussed my continuing to scan and photograph and my limited progress with the selection of images to be included in the FMP and the exhibitions. There is always a solvable problem with too few (shoot more) but my issue was having too many potential candidates.
  3. Obtaining test strips on different papers was encouraged as was including some with a satin finish as I naturally prefer matt for the rubbish and recycling. I was not wanting to give the matter a higher status than it should have and was not sure how the images would be viewed if glossy with the available lighting conditions. Test strips and fabric samples will be discussed in a separate blog.
  4. I was also encouraged to make a 2 minute film talking about the work to be filmed at the exhibition then made available on a monitor at the location. Filming and creating something that could be played back on a loop was a big technical and time challenge and apart from not knowing what sort of monitor to use and the expense I was doubtful that this would be acceptable, at least in the location of the first exhibition. Should I complete other aspects of the exhibitions and FMP then this could be a late addition, although a better idea might be to use a tried and tested formula. I have recorded a Pecha Kucha at the start of this module and could make one available to be shown using the permanent projector used for powerpoint talks at the first exhibition.
  5. I shared my scaled cardboard model of the first exhibition layout with the lit areas or arcs created on the walls by inset ceiling lights. I felt this lighting was important to take into account when displaying the images to best effect and greatest visibility for viewers. I had presented this to my host for the exhibition, discussing my rationale for the layout and sharing some of the images I would be considering using.

    Sarah Newton 2019, Scaled cardboard model for Exhibition 1
  6. We were both critical of my first rough layout for the images set out as paper thumbnails on the model. Helpfully my tutor suggested I access the powerpoint gallery display page and mount images to scale for a better impression. This was easy to do and I could quickly see what images worked together achieving approval for a final layout proposal at the second session.
    Sarah Newton 2019, Model for Exhibition 1

    Sarah Newton 2019, Powerpoint mock-up for Exhibition 1
  7. We had an interesting discussion about the two related but different parts of my exhibition. The single images of recycling containers that could stand alone in contrast with the random beach rubbish and its representation of excessive consumerism. The first lending itself to be displayed as more orderly, the second in a chaotic and unpredictable way. Having played with random sizes and overlapping chaos surprisingly I settled on an ordered display for both parts of the project as visually the shapes and colours slipped into an appealing vision. This initial impact contrasts strongly with the rubbish that is found on closer inspection of the subject matter.
  8. Handouts and zine were also discussed. The former have been made while the latter is reliant on my awakening of knowledge and skills  acquired in the course on InDesign (I hope my notes are still understandable!).
  9. Following up discussed references to Penelope Umbrico’s Suns from Sunsets on Flickr and Alan Sekula’s Fish Story in a playful moment I made a composite image in the style of the former.
    Penelope Umbrico 2006, Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (partial)

    Sarah Newton 2019, Recycling Circles
  10. Reassurance was offered and accepted when I informed the tutor that my second exhibition had been cancelled due to a more lucrative long term customer for the container. I understood the business decision but was disappointed as I felt this was to be an exhibition where I could be more creative in the surfaces my images were printed on and how they were to be displayed. I had already sourced theatrical uplighting to use and tried this out in the location. I emailed the host to express disappointment and understanding and offered to shift my dates if this would be helpful. Two days later was told I had been prioritised but the dates were now from 27th March to 3rd April,  a week later than originally planned. I immediately accepted and agreed to the fee for the week’s hire.

Reflection: Having two tutorials close together was needed and timely at this stage for me. It has been an intense period knowing that all work needs to be ready for submission by the end of April this year. Clearing thoughts and activities that did not directly relate to finishing the taking, making and selection of images has been a priority that has paid off in terms of narrowing and clarifying what I will show at exhibitions, what looks promising for a zine and what should be in the final FMP portfolio. It feels as though I have been in a tunnel and can now see glimmers of light as I emerge.

Sarah Newton 2019, Out-Sight-In at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd. 18th February to 30th April


ROBERTS, Bill. Autumn 2012. Tate Papers no.18 Production in View: Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and the Thawing of Postmodernism. Available at: [accessed 01/02/19].

UMBRICO, Penelope. Suns from Sunsets from Flickr. Available at: [accessed 30/01/19].