Funding my project – Arts Council

I have finally confirmed that a public exhibition of the Natural Perspectives project will take place at some point in 2019. I am waiting to hear exactly what dates the show will be open to the public. The venue confirmed is the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, which is very close to the Leigh Woods location that the project is being shot in and I am hopeful will add a local context to the audience viewing it.

In the meantime I have been working on an application the The Arts Council to help me cover the cost of the exhibition. If any of the images are sold during the exhibition this will offset the initial cost of setting up the show but I am not relying on this.


This is still very much work in progress but the costing I am working on currently includes:

20 of 16″x16″ frames, to include 12″x12″ mount @ £300

20 of 12″x12″ Giclee prints on High White Cotton 315 gsm paper @ £288

20 of A6 caption cards mounted on 8mm foam core @ £15

12 days of my own time @ £300 per day.

15% contingency.

Total £4833.50

 

 

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Easter 2018 – Berlin and Amsterdam

Over the Easter break I had the rare opportunity to take some time off from work. I flew to Amsterdam for three days and then flew on to Berlin for a further three days before returning home. Travelling around Europe is something I have always enjoyed, specifically the diversity that the different European cultures offer. Visiting vibrant cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin allowed me to view some fascinating work, some of which are relevant to the work I am currently creating.

FOAM Amsterdam

Lucas Foglia: Human Nature

Foglia’s Human Nature images were iniated as a response to hurricane Sandy in 2012. When scientific world established a link between the enhanced strength of the hurricane and the effect of the human world on the natural world, Fogia started documenting it. The images displayed range from humans submerging themselves in the natural world and studying it, through to mankind damaging and profiting from it. The series of images are detailed colour documentary images with a deep rooted message behind them regarding the relationship we all have with the natural world.

The link I can make here to my own work is that this series of images have an important and less obvious hidden meaning. Foglia is encouraging us to consider the way we interact with the natural world around us, and to adopt a friendlier approach to it. These are powerful images that have a poignant meaning to all of us.

C/O Berlin

Irving Penn Centennial 

The C/O Gallery in Berlin were hosting a major retrospective exhibition of the work of Irving Penn. While the editorial portraits and abstracts were interesting to see in person, the images that really appealed to me were the studio still life images of flowers and Cigarettes.

In the case of Cigarettes however, Penn literally found his subjects on the street. By bringing them into his studio and carefully creating these minimalist compositions, he transformed one of the most widely consumed and discarded products of consumer society from that of pure detritus into a symbolic representation of contemporary culture. This transformative act resulted in one of the most elegant yet direct expressions of post-modern artistic practice.

The images were a substantial part of the show displayed in their own space. Printed using the Platinum Palladium process, they have a unique warm aesthetic quality to them. Selecting discarded cigarette ends from the streets, he has isolated them from their original setting. The Cigarette images especially resonated with me and the still life studies I have been shooting. This in practice makes the viewer reconsider what is being presented. Penn has created a symbolic representation of twentieth century contemporary culture with these images  This has helped me make some sense of my own practice, and has allowed me to move forward with my own still life image making.


References

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. 2018. Lucas Foglia – Human Nature | Now at Foam – Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.foam.org/museum/programme/lucas-foglia. [Accessed 03 April 2018].

C/O Berlin. 2018. Irving Penn | C/O Berlin. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.co-berlin.org/en/irving-penn. [Accessed 03 April 2018].

Hamiltons. 2018. Irving Penn – Cigarettes | Hamiltons. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.hamiltonsgallery.com/artists/irving-penn/series/cigarettes/. [Accessed 03 April 2018].

Leigh Woods – 35mm film – 13/3/18

My original intention with this project was always to shoot on medium format black & white film. I started by doing a test shoot digitally and then began overlaying the images in Photoshop. The aesthetic I am achieving appeals to me and so the film idea became slightly forgotten about.

Although I am making digital images that I am happy with, I decided it would be interesting to satisfy my curiosity and shoot some film. I shot a roll of 35mm Ilford HP5 in the woods before scanning them to recreate the same layered effect I was achieving with the digital images.

I think the resulting images are interesting and have a organic aspect to them. With the concept of this project being centred around initial misconceptions we might come to, the film images have a slightly more wholesome and unaltered feeling to them. This is an interesting outcome for me, as being the artist, I know am aware of their analogue origins. Unfortunately I am not convinced that the viewer would realise this without a prompt and hinting to the secrets of the images does not make sense with the concept.

Additionally, I feel the dynamic range of the film images is too shallower and this tends not to lend itself to the layered digital process that I have been using. For these reasons, I will continue with the digitally captured images as the project moves forward. 

Idris Khan

I have decided to research the work of Idris Khan as I am using similar techniques of overlaying multiple images to create singular digital composites in my own work for the Natural Perceptions project.

Khan works across several mediums including sculpture, painting and photography but it is his photographic work I am primarily looking at. Khan reinterprets images to develop meaning beyond what is originally presented. By overlaying images and creating composites, his work arrives conclusions that develop the work featured further that originally intended. This is a continuous process of creating, adapting and erasing, yet the original essence of the sampled images is retained. Idris Khan’s work investigates the notion of memory and draws on the history or art and music, together with philosophical and theological ideas to develop inspiration.

Homage to Bernd Becher is a digital composite of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Becher’s were a married couple who collaborated to catalogue former industrial architecture that was rapidly disappearing across Europe and North America in 1960’s and 1970’s. They are well known as proponents of the New Topographics movement which focused on recording and finding beauty in the banal. The Becher’s grouped images of similar redundant structures on grids to present them as records before they were demolished.

In Homage to Bernd Becher, Khan has overlaid the contents of one of the Becher’s most famous grids to develop the work into one single image. The original Gas tower images are still visible with a lower opacity over each other, and this is a process I am using myself within my own work. The Becher’s original intention was to create a piece of work that recorded the structures as they were, but Khan has blend these images together to reinterpret their work. By placing the images on top of each other, Khan has introduced themes of variation and change into the work and goes on to highlight the concept of creating a historical archive that the Becher’s originally intended. The passage of time and a nod to the historical context to Becher’s efforts are present in Khans reinvention as he reflects upon memories of what was once present and develops these records into something new.

Khan has also worked with the photography of text and created composite images of entire books. He has photographed the Qoran in this way, as well as Susan Sontag’s On Photography. The resulting images created present blurred lines of text with occasional clarity enough to make out single words. These images differ from Homage to Bernd Becher in that the original text becomes largely unreadable and it is left to the viewer to decode the message being represented. There is a visual metaphor present in these images, as the viewer is permitted to absorb the entirety of the text in an instant. Again, these works reflect on notions of time and memory, and adjust the viewers perceptions of those notions. A book should be consumed across a period of time, yet here Khan is encouraging the viewer to break that convention by consuming it in an instant.

I find Idris Khans work very interesting and challenging. Renegotiating the relationships we hold with time and memory are challenging concepts for the viewer to understand. His work is about breaking away from the codes and conventions we develop as children to process memories, and encourages us to reinterpret behaviours we all rely on as adults. I can draw several parallels to my own work with the Natural Perceptions project, where I am inviting viewers to reconsider the response they develop to my work. The digital process Khan uses within some his photography is also similar although his outcome is more abstract than my own.

Looking at Idris Khan’s work has given me new avenues to explore within my project that reach far beyond photography. I am now keen to develop the project in the direction of viewer response. I am able to understand that I have a potentially playful edge to my work as I invite the viewer to challenge their viewer perceptions and conclusions. The Natural Perceptions project was always about imagining and challenging the viewer to see further into the photographs, and now I can see it is key to the work that viewer experience should reinforce my initial intentions.


References

The Guardian. 2018. Between the lines | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2006/sep/02/art. [Accessed 20 March 2018].

Victoria Miro. 2018. Victoria Miro. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.victoria-miro.com/. [Accessed 20 March 2018].

Wallpaper* Magazine. 2018. Human traces: Idris Khan explores the horrors of war in haunting new show | Wallpaper*. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.wallpaper.com/art/human-traces-idris-khan-explores-the-horrors-of-war-in-haunting-new-show. [Accessed 20 March 2018].


 

Andreas Gursky – Hayward Gallery – 8/2/18

On February 8th, 2018 I took my own students to the Andreas Gursky retrospective at the Hayward Gallery as part of their Visual Communication Unit. This presented a perfect (all expenses paid) opportunity for me to carry out some primary research for my own studies too.

The Hayward Gallery closed for two years for renovation and the Gursky retrospective was installed as the key exhibit to relaunch it. The space itself was opened in 1968 as a purpose built arts venue with five gallery spaces. It is a well preserved example of brutalist architecture and is mainly constructed of exposed concrete. The internal spaces feels slightly suppressive and I feel this does in some ways detract from the work being displayed. That said, the Hayward is a large venue with areas of extended ceiling height, so it lends itself to the display of Gursky’s work for the purpose of scale.

Gursky is known for his large format abstract landscape images and social scenes. His images challenge the viewer to look closely at what is presented to them, and this is exactly what I am hoping to achieve in my own project. Gursky blends multiple images together to create hybrid scenes that spell out his message. This is also an area I can draw a parallel on with my own work.

“Gursky makes photographs that are not just depictions of places or situations, but reflections on the nature of image-making and the limits of human perception.”

With my own explorations into the theory of human perception, I had looked at Gursky’s work before. One thing that became immediately obvious to me is that this is a body of work that needs to be seen on the walls of a gallery to really comprehend it. The scale of Gursky’s work is a significant factor and this cannot be fully understood by looking at the images in a book.

They are also very tricksy in their representation of the world. In fact, these are not so much observed as made worlds” 

This work is all about detail, that is both initially noticed at first glance, and then again much closer. The images are shot on large format film and with a huge depth of field, so the closer the viewer examines the work, the more detail and information becomes accessible. 

I felt my trip to visit the Gursky retrospective was a very worthwhile exercise. It has given me further ideas to explore in terms of challenging viewers of my own work and assumed perception as I develop my own project.


References

Andreas Gursky | Southbank Centre. 2018. Andreas Gursky | Southbank Centre. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/hayward-gallery-art/andreas-gursky. [Accessed 07 March 2018].

The Independent. 2018. Andreas Gursky, Hayward Gallery, London, review: Great and fascinating detail | The Independent. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/andreas-gursky-hayward-gallery-review-a8175891.html. [Accessed 07 March 2018].

Sally Man – Southern Landscapes

The work of Sally Mann has a particular aesthetic that initially attracted my attention. This aesthetic is born out of process. Sally Mann uses a large format 10×8 camera and the Ambrotype wet-plate process. This process in turn delivers unpredictable imperfections to the warm toned images that I find appealing. There is a one-off uniqueness to these images which I suspect is probably best observed on the original images rather than a book or website.

Her work is centred around the cycle of life, it ranges from portraits of her family through and civil war battlefield site, through to dead bodies and landscapes around the farm she lives on in southern America. I have selected to focus on the Southern Landscapes series which culminated in a book in 2013, however the theme of the cycle of life can be found in all of her work.

 

I feel this image has a womb like quality to it and that the tree canopy provide us with a security from something that is unknown. There is a distinct suggestion that there is an element to this image that we cannot see and this I believe is a reference to what may have happened here. This image has a historical context that could be related to either slavery or the American civil war, both of which are areas Sally Mann has negotiated through her photography.

The darker areas around the image seem to draw the viewer forward to the areas of light yet there remains a suggestion that there is something we cannot see about this scene. Perhaps Sally Mann is intending the viewer to analyse this scene and make our own judgements. The technical imperfections add to the eeriness of the image, although compared to some of the work of Sally Mann this image is relatively imperfection free.


This particular really intrigues me. The aesthetic is once more dictated by the technical imperfections of the wet-plate process as we are presented with scrapes to the wet emulsion and a very narrow depth of field. There is a ghost like nature to the image, where the lighter colour foliage to the back of the frame is rendered with almost no details in it. We assume the foliage was green, yet the image has an almost infrared feel to it. We can also make the assumption that the image was shot with a slow shutter speed as there appears to be some movement within the trees.

It is an abstract scene shot from a pond edge, looking across the water. Perhaps there is something important about the depths of the water or possibly what it now hides. The most significant consideration I am taking away from image is to question the motives of Sally Mann in including it in her selection process. I don’t feel it is perhaps her strongest work, yet it remains in the book. Therefore I have to conclude that this image is about context far more than aesthetic. This must be the scene of something significant about the location of this image. Again, the viewer is left questioning what this image is about trying make sense of the past and the cycle of life are apparent, yet it for the viewer to decode.


The final image I have selected to analyse strikes me to have a sense of mortality to it. The long narrow path obviously leads the viewer somewhere and it is suggesting to me that it is somewhere of significance.

The tall skinny trees provide a limited amount of shelter to anyone travelling the path, but it the way the trees wrap themselves over the road that most interests me. It is almost like they have been manicured to grow that way, to provide shelter or shade, or to be a status symbol. Perhaps the path leads to a cotton plantation once operated by a workforce of slaves.

Alternatively this image could be considered to be about death, and especially a long and unforgiving path to death. Either way my conclusion remains the same; this image leaves the viewer that there is a sense of importance, while it remains to be the viewers choice to decide entirely what that importance could be.


References

Sally Mann. 2018. Sally Mann. [ONLINE] Available at: http://sallymann.com/. [Accessed 04 March 2018].

The Art of Photography. 2014. Sally Mann – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_eXLr11aOQ. [Accessed 04 March 2018].

 

Test Prints / Snow / Cabin Fever

Its been a very snowy few days in Bristol. The college I work at closed due to the weather on Thursday and Friday, and most of the weekend did not see better weather. Driving out to shoot more images was impossible which is really sad as I would have loved the chance to escape to the woods with the snow. I feel I have missed out on some special images particularly as I am intending to shoot the next session on black & white film.

To combat the cabin fever, I dug out some old frames from my previous studio. The frames are not the greatest quality, but they had 8″x8″ white mounts ready cut. They look OK but I am treating this as a simple test.

Strangely the local pro lab down the road had managed to remain open during the snow so I went down to make some test prints. I had already made some C-type test prints but I felt the refined nature of the paper was too perfect. I wanted something more organic feeling. I also decided that I wanted to experiment with Giclee printing, which is something I have not really done before. I considered the paper options available to me and decided to go for a heavy weight art paper and opted for a High White Cotton 315 GSM. The paper feels tactile and has a warm tone to it. I also removed the slight Selinium tone I had added to the images and opted to let the paper provide the warmth I was looking for. The black and white images look great on this paper so I can conclude I have made some progress during the terrible weather.

My Career Trajectory

We need to know where we have been, before we can decide where we are going next.

I believe it is important to be aware of our backgrounds before we can decide where we are going next. In this blog post I will reflect on my career history to enable me to focus on which areas I want to focus on next. I will attempt to explain where my income has come from at key phases of my career and use this pattern of information to project where it might come from next.

2002

I left full time eduction with an HND in Photography and Digital Imaging from the University of Plymouth. The course I had completed was located at a partner college in Cornwall, Truro College. I had made the decision to complete a further top-up year at the University of Plymouth in Exeter but this was to be cut short. In the summer the HND course concluded, I applied to the Princes’ Trust for funding to set up a freelance practice in Cornwall. I was very surpassed when my application was successful but the caveat was that I could not hold a degree level qualification. The decision I made was to take the funding and give my businesses idea a try as I could always return to education should it fail.

I shot lots of weddings, portraits, hotel brochures and magazine still life images while in Cornwall. A few months after establishing my business I also started working part time for Northcliffe Media in Cornwall scanning and retouching images for their magazine portfolio. This in turn lead to more freelance photography work from them.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Northcliffe Media

50%

Freelance Photography

50%

2004

My business mentor from the Princes’ Trust encouraged me to get my portfolio in front of as many potential customers as possible. One such customer was David & Charles Publishing in Newton Abbot. I went to present my portfolio and complete an onsite test shoot. Ultimately they offered me a full time position as a junior photographer. I shot hundreds of images for books, as well as direct mail and catalogues for their books. I continued to work in a freelance capacity alongside my salaried job and had free use of the studio and equipment in my own time. I also provided the whole Prepress service to D&C and became very skilled at image manipulation and colour management. After four years of shooting lots of knitting, cross stitch and card making images, I decided I needed to move on.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

David & Charles Publishing

80%

Freelance Photography

20%

2008

A lot of the craft images I had shot for D&C ended up being featured in magazines. One such magazine publisher was Future Publishing in Bath. When Future advertised for a new Retoucher I applied and got offered the job. I moved to Bath on New Year’s Eve 2007 and started work the next day. I continued to work as a freelance photographer but without a studio I focussed on weddings and portraits. Not my favourite area to work in but it was then quite easy to make an extra £14000 in my spare time.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Future Publishing

65%

Freelance Photography

35%

2012

The publishing market was suffering considerably with the advent of digital technology. Advertising revenue was down year on year as companies chose to spend advertising budgets online. I avoided redundancy twice and made the wise plan to take on as much freelance work as possible as the likelyood of loosing my job was never far away. While working five rotating shifts a week I leased a small studio space in Bristol and began to reconnect with previous colleagues looking for studio editorial work.

A chance meeting with an old photographer friend set me down a whole new avenue of income. He had met the course leader for BA Photography and had been doing some part time lecturing for them. They were looking for an expert in all things digital and he put my name forward. I had never really considered teaching as a career option, but I accepted an initial two day contract to teach CMYK conversions and digital workflow on the BA Photography course. That contract rolled into another one, and within six months I was working a day a week at the University. I cut my hours at Future Publishing to fit it in, which in turn helped me avoid redundancy once again.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Future Publishing

50%

Freelance Photography

35%

Teaching at Bath Spa

15%

2013

I had a regular income coming in from shooting weddings and some studio work in Bristol and roughly a day a week teaching at Bath Spa. Redundancy reappeared once more and I volunteered to go. My application to be made redundant was turned down as it appeared they wanted to keep me. I was able to force my redundancy by refusing a new contract which removed the 24 shift rotation I was on. This meant I was paid a reasonable amount of redundancy cash and was once again relying on my own freelance work and a little teaching.

At this time I also accepted some teaching hours at Exeter College. Quite a commute, but my plan was to combine this with a return a weekly return to Devon where I could pick up additional freelance work from former colleagues at D&C.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Freelance Photography

85%

Teaching at Bath Spa

10%

Teaching at Exeter College

5%

2014

Working in solitude in my own studio really did not suit me. The studio had a tiny window and I would often miss daylight hours all together. I applied for a part time Instructor role at Coleg Gwent in Newport and worked there for three days a week. Alongside a day a week at Bath Spa and some freelance work, I was earning a decent income again.

Enjoying the teaching more than working as a Photographer, I started a part time teacher training course. This allowed me to earn a far higher hourly rate than the Instructor role paid.

Around this time I started considering the idea of returning to photographic eduction myself.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Freelance Photography

40%

Teaching at Bath Spa

10%

Teaching at Coleg Gwent

50%

2017

With teaching becoming my bigger (and far easier) income stream, I reluctantly wound down my studio operation. I had become totally disenchanted with any type of social photography in 2015 and simply did not need the income from it due to the teaching I was doing, and so I have not taken any work since.

Having completed my teacher training course, I applied for a course leader role at The City of Bristol College. A far shorter commute than Newport and a considerable pay rise. I got the position which is a 0.8 permanent contract. The new job and the fact that I had now wound down all of my freelance work meant that I had enough time to start the MA Photography course at The University of Gloucestershire.

My work at Bath Spa is currently on hold. I have a permanent zero hours contract but am currently doing almost no work at all but I am confident that this can be resurrected when I have completed the MA.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Freelance Photography

0%

Teaching at Bath Spa

1%

Teaching at City of Bristol College

99%

Projection for 2020

One completion of the MA course, my goal is to focus on photographic education. I want to resurrect my work at Bath Spa and potentially extend my higher eduction teaching to other institutions.

Additionally, I am hopeful that I could generate a modest income from the exhibition and sales of creative photography. I would like to think that my own creative output could at least be self financing.  Further to the sales of images as artwork, I am keen to explore options of grants and sponsorship as another means of income. With a background in arts eduction I am considering the possibility of a generated income from public engagement alongside exhibiting artwork. I am hopeful the outcome of the MA course will place me in a position do this.

Income Stream

Percentage of Income

Teaching at the City of Bristol College

75%

Teaching at Bath Spa

5%

Sales of artwork

5%

Sponsorship and Grants

15%

Conclusion

Reflecting on my past career trajectory it is clear that my income has always come from a variety of different sources. Some of those sources are reliable, salaried positions whilst others are unpredictable freelance incomes.

One conclusion I can come to, is that I am much happier with at least some source of reliable fixed income. With this income supporting my essential living costs, supplementary incomes such as zero hours teaching contracts and potential incomes from the sales of artwork are far easier to accept and pursue.

My goal for the MA course is to return to my initial facination in photography, and develop this into a new means of income. The sales of images as artwork is something that I have never done before, and applying for grants and sponsorship is also new to me there than my Princes Trust application that started my career all of those years ago.

Moving forward I can be clear that a goal for me to aim for would be to learn about the grant and sponsorship application process, and use my time on the MA course to develop skills in these areas. Whilst I have very limited experience of the exhibiting and publicity of my own creative output to a new audience, this too is an area for me to develop as part of my own career planning.