FMP Week 28: Visitors to Out-Sight-In at The Clay Factory

I was not sure how many visitors would come specifically for the exhibition. Despite various methods of distributing the publicity and inviting people to contact me directly or to register for the open evening and the Artist’s talk on Eventbrite, I did not have a clear number of confirmed attendees. The location of The Clay Factory is slightly outside the nearest small town of Ivybridge, well set back from the main road and transport would be required to get there. I understand that some events have been very well supported but there have been occasions with fewer numbers attending than expected.

Sarah Newton 2019, Discussing images with visitors to Out-Sight-In
Sarah Newton 2019, Discussing images with visitors to Out-Sight-In

Starting slowly with only half a dozen on the first day the numbers built through the week. The last three days saw returns of people who had been previously bringing with them partners, children or friends. What was special to witness were these returners explaining my project and what the images were to their companions and inviting me into the conversations to explain further and answer questions. It did feel as if a momentum had been created and that it could have run for longer especially as more people arrived as I was starting to take the exhibition down.

I had suggested to a colleague (A) some time before that I could do a virtual tour with my phone or laptop as he was not able to attend in person. This would also present an opportunity for a recording, something that could be added to our course assignments. We trialled Zoom with a third colleague (L) before the exhibition. Belatedly we found out that you can only record if using a computer but not a phone when using the free version. On the day of A’s tour we ran it with my phone, his computer and he kindly recorded it using Camtasia. A then rendered the film and forwarded it to me for my use. Following this experience I gave a guided tour of the exhibition to six others (three were relatives) using my phone with WhatsApp and my laptop for appear.in. Unfortunately I missed a further request as it came too late when the exhibition had been taken down.

This experience was something I had not foreseen but was a welcome discovery. With each tour I was able to develop and improve my verbal accompaniment as well as feeling more confident in answering questions. Although none of these were recorded, there is the potential to do so at future events. I felt this was good use of technology to open up events to people who could not attend them. I plan to visit A’s exhibition this way.

Another welcome development were visits by groups of school children some of whom were studying GCSE Photography and Undergraduate Photography and Film students. I found that I could talk spontaneously about the problem of plastics, the five gyres in the oceans and the challenges faced in finding solutions as well as explain the project and exhibition tailoring my language and content to the needs of the different age groups attending. It was good to hear that some had been involved in running a fashion show where garments were made from recycled materials. I was thanked by a teacher on a repeated visit with another group of pupils as those who had been before were apparently inspired by my images and my methods. They had returned to school and tried out scanning. Had the exhibition run for longer I would have taken up their invitation to see what they had made and advise on methodology.

Sarah Newton 2019, Visitors to Out-Sight-In at The Clay Factory

Among the adult visitors there were several photographers and resident artists as well as people who used The Clay Factory for classes, events and a lunch venue. Learning about their responses to what they saw in my images was instructive. For example several people noticed a theme or motif appearing in the form of open fish mouths across several beach debris images. Perhaps the shape was something I engineered subconsciously when scanning. Having the small wooden crate of finds was praised as being helpful in understanding the message behind the images. I also had suggestions for the future of the project. I had some time ago thought about exhibiting on a beach, perhaps during a beach clean and this was suggested. In addition, continuing with the theme of a container, one person suggested a travelling exhibition in a long wheel based vehicle that could visit beach car parks in the holiday season and open up to visitors.

I have since been invited to take images on a Plymouth beach clean by the organiser. Depending on the location I will have to go prepared for all sorts of surfaces to display the images on as well as fixings to secure and protect them with inclement weather. As a backstop the nearest car park and my car boot may have to suffice as I do not possess a lorry.

Sarah Newton 2019, Image from the ‘Dark Matter’ series included in  Out-Sight-In at The Clay Factory

 

Sarah Newton 2019, Image from ‘Event Horizon’ series included in Out-Sight-In at The Clay Factory

Across the two collections, beach debris and recycling facilities repeated comments were made about the images seeming to be depictions of strange objects floating in space and of other worlds. Interestingly this was my original feeling about them and despite a little persuasion to move away from an connection with looking beyond planet earth, I feel that my project is justified in continuing  in this vein. In this way the two strands of the work have a strengthened shared narrative when exhibited together.

FMP Week 27: Setting up Exhibition 2

Running solo exhibitions means thinking of everything but the kitchen sink. Luckily one was already there and accessible with a kettle and fridge. Refreshments, furniture (a small table), carpets, step ladder, magnets, nails and picture hooks, hammer, spirit level, ruler, tape measures, small screen for slide show, three theatrical floor up lights and filters, adapters and extension leads, phone and charger, laptop, posters and flyers to add to and inform the display, flyers to give away, feedback sheets with thumbnails of individual images as well as a visitors book for comments on the whole exhibition and of course the images on posters and board. My assistant came in a separate vehicle in case there was a need to dash out for anything else!

Sarah Newton 2019, Visitors book and individual images comments sheets
Sarah Newton 2019, Slide show of images in Out-Sight-In exhibitions 1 & 2

Hanging the images took the most part of a day, the next day a couple of hours was spent with ensuring additional pieces were in place and working. These included a repeating slide show of the images and a small tray lined with shredded paper of some of the beach finds starring in the images. I had considered running a looped film of me talking about the project and the work involved in making the images. Despite being in a large factory space I realised on preparatory visits that noises echoed and people were trying to work in the studios and offices in the same room and would not be happy with a repeating voice over. However, I was able to talk to visitors and also delivered several impromtu talks for school children and an Artist’s talk with a powerpoint slide show on the Saturday, borrowing a projector from The Clay Factory and using the inner door of the container as a screen.

Sarah Newton 2019, Tray of beach debris finds used to create images in Out-Sight-In Exhibitions 1 & 2

Sarah Newton 2019, Projection of powerpoint slides onto door of Shipping container during Artist’s talk 30th March 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to my generous host at The Clay Factory I was given free reign on using the space around the shipping container. I arranged the sofas and carpet (already present) to provide a seating area from which to view the images and use to spend time if visiting the building for another purpose. With my refreshments to hand I could also offer tea, coffee and biscuits. On the open evening I provided a range of wines and soft drinks and nibbles. At the Artists talk guests were served with coffee and cakes.

Sarah Newton 2019, Preparations for the opening of Out-Sight-In Exhibition 2 at The Clay Factory on 28th March 2019

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

Out-Sight-In

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.

References

CHINNERY, Doug. 2019. Available at: http://www.dougchinnery.com/ [accessed 21/02/19].

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

HUXLEY-PARLOUR ARTISTS. Available at: https://huxleyparlour.com/artists/paul-kenny/ [accessed 23-08-2018].

KENNY, Paul. Available at: http://www.paul-kenny.co.uk/ [accessed 23-08-2018].

SEYMOUR, Tom. 2016. Paul Kenny’s Land and Sea. British Journal of Photography. 21 June 2016. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/06/paul-kennys-land-and-sea/ [accessed 23-08-2018].

TRIPLEKITE PUBLISHING. Available at: http://www.triplekite.co.uk [accessed 23-08-2018].

WATERSHED. Victoria Forrest. Pervasive Media Studio. Available at: https://www.watershed.co.uk/studio/residents/victoria-forrest [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

References

ROBERTS, Bill. Autumn 2012. Tate Papers no.18 Production in View: Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and the Thawing of Postmodernism. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/18/production-in-view-allan-sekulas-fish-story-and-the-thawing-of-postmodernism [accessed 01/02/19].

UMBRICO, Penelope. Suns from Sunsets from Flickr. Available at: http://penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/ [accessed 30/01/19].