Thinking and Planning Ahead

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

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Reflection and Anticipation

As this module, with its absorbed learning and practice draws to a conclusion, I am considering these six things as look to new horizons.

Methodology and Strategy

I was able to share my work in progress with a photographer and he made these comments;

“Moving forwards l feel something else needs to be brought into the project. I know you “Don’t do people!” but l feel a human presence may need to be introduced. I felt that in the last module where you introduced the Priest and the guide to The Freemasons Hall, it really worked… people who had a real connection to the building. 

Also, a little context may help in that you could introduce an image of the outside of the buildings to each subject matter.. as you have done with the “Icknield Port Loop” series… but with something from a little distance? Something that may help in this regard is Donovan Wylie’s work on “British Watchtowers” in Northern Ireland…. not sure whether you are familiar with his work but well worth seeking out”.

This was useful and progressive advice.  My strategy of applying the opportunities that are emerging as part of my residency in an architect’s practice will reveal people in the studio as well as on site, thus ‘personifying’ a number of the images.  The ‘Pause’ methodology prevails. Figure 2 shows work that includes a Mason, from my previous shoot.

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Figure 2

I have started to look at references to Wylie’s work, see figure 1 taken from the Guardian (accessed 17/8/17).  He shows strong consistency in terms of viewpoints, colour and exposure and expresses the context for the watchtowers globally.

Figures 3 + 4

I also met with the photographer Stephen Morgan who has exhibited at the Wapping Project and he explained in detail his strength for shooting and presenting his work and his very thorough method of editing (figures 3, 4).  Of my portfolio he said “Really loved the work, it had a real print quality to it, and I think you are right not to do wider shots of the outside. You get the feeling you are viewing something that has not been seen in a long time and is about to disappear, very intimate” So I am deciding how to arbitrate ‘outside views’ without diluting the intimacy of my work.  Morgan’s website

Making a Return

I am considering approaching the developers of Icknield Port Loop and seeking a commission.  I am pondering how to do this with the intention that I make imagery that is worthwhile for them to use in their development work.

Printing and colour

I am researching an uplift in self-printing technique to create archival prints of my work under my own control which is likely to necessitate investment in screen and printer.

Workshops and public engagement

I have written a blog here about the Developed in Birmingham Collective and there is a plan to deliver another photo walk around Birmingham city centre, expanding on the successful delivery of the workshop as part of this programme.

Figures  5, 6, 7, 8

Exhibition : Phase Two

I have surveyed the walls and hanging system at Bar Opus (figures 5, 6, 7, 8) and we have a PR meeting imminently to plan the launch event on 19th September 2017.  I anticipate delivering 18 new prints, framed, plus a large A1+ printed sheet of one image to act as a divider between the existing set and new sets of frames.

Photobook

Taking a long view of future book making,  I am reading through these 4 photobooks (figure 9) for lessons on binding, narrative, editing, margins, fonts, length and paper quality.

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Figure 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

I choose these for their diversity of scale, quality and subject matter.

On The Night Bus (figure 12) is published by Hoxton Mini Press 2016 features  the work of Nick Turpin.  It is a singular theme – views from outside buses through the, often steamed up, moisture running, windows to people in various states of melancholic and dreamy states.  It feels like a quality object to handle.  There are margins to each image and there is a mix of an image per page with many double spreads, working across the binding. A foreword by Will Self helps seal the profile of the book. It is created in a ‘portrait’ format.

Topologies (figure 11) is published by Aperture 2008. It covers a breadth of work by Edgar Martins.  The paper used has quite a slippery sheen and images (there are 111) are placed consistency on each page with an identical margin throughout.  It is a ‘landscape’ format.  There is an interview with Martins by David Campany at the rear of the book.

Ming Jue. Photographs of Longbridge and Nanjing by Stuart Whipps (figure 10) is published by New Art Gallery, Walsall 2008.  It accompanied the exhibition of the work 4th April to 1st June 2008.  It documents the fall of MGRover (2005) and the subsequent transfer of production to Nanjing Automotive, China.  The photobook is square format throughout and each image is also square, making for consistent margins. Two essays conclude the book.  The paper has a matt feel which is very pleasant to touch and turn. The cover too has a grain about it.

Zones of Exclusion Pripyat and Chernobyl (figure 13) is published by Steidl 2003. It contains the work of Robert Polidori and records access to the aftermath of the nuclear fallout.  Its ‘landscape’ format is strident in scale, creating space on successive pages of consistently scaled images of schools, homes and other buildings all vacated for a long period (since the disaster struck in April 1986). There is an exception to the editing rule where 14 pages are devoted to a series of detached homes amongst the chaotic landscape. There are over 100 pages containing images.  The paper is glossy.  The lack of narrative leaves a space for one to translate what is seen, with the exception of a list of captions (a notable point of debate; captions per page or not?).

 

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Photobook One – A ‘Surface’

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

 

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Figure 1

Strategy: I made a decision to be expedient about how to create my photobook based on time, learning to date about zines, books and self publishing.  What I have called Photobook One is actually a self-assembly book.  Six have been made so far; one as the prototype and record of content and the other 5 are boxed and ready for sale at Opus Restaurant, Birmingham, along with my prints, see figure 1.

Each box contains 15 postcards, printed borderless, showing 6 projects within my overall Pause Project. The project introduction sheet was printed onto sheets of tracing paper and guillotined to exactly match the size of the postcard print sheets – this medium was chosen to create a translucent page distinct from the cover and postcards.  The font was Trebuchet MS. I have sliced up several A3 prints to create the ‘covers’ which were folded and glued in a book-making jig. Then a carefully and exactly folded (to A6) A4 guidance sheet is presented as a suggested editing series for the book (allowing people of course to use the postcards discrete too if they choose (figure 3)).  Finally a 19mm bulldog clip to hold it together after assembly, figure 2.

Figure 2

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Figure 3

Learning

I will be intrigued to see if any of these sell (priced at £10 per box) – if not it will be a signal of the wrong approach.

I have not found a way of printing my details and copyright on the rear of the postcard paper which is a disadvantage considering the loose leaf nature of the boxed prints.

I would wish to develop skills in Adobe Indesign for future script layouts.

Why Square? Work in Progress Portfolio

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

Figure 1

Format

This module has encouraged us to talk to people who publish photobooks, take a closer look at photobooks we own and read about the business of editing, crafting and publishing into this popular medium (or surface) to exemplify practice.

My practice is not about Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ it is instead a negotiated reveal of spaces that are otherwise unseen, the work is a carefully considered insight into the intimacy of surfaces and spaces and thus I presently feel that in the long term the collected works would suit a photobook form as a form of documentary memory of change in a city.  This decision led me to consider the image making and editing process in the current work in progress portfolio.  In some instances I have not shot using a square frame in situ, rather I have created a square frame within the shot frame, in other words I frame on site and frame again in the post production phase.  I was satisfied with the outcome of this proposal as the ‘desktop’ review facilitated a greater degree of focus and determined editing.  As I anticipate a square sheet page layout in an ultimate book I believe it advantageous to the visual framing to adopt a substantial ‘white’ border around each image; this is reflected in the work in progress submission, figure 1.

The Four Projects

As I reminder, my Pause practice is about defining : the moment of discontinuity : the state of in-between.  My work in situ is about acting : to dwell in the moment and capture the interstitial state.

The images capture a reflective, meditative, intimate view of Birmingham’s buildings that are in a pause state, life has left them, they await death by demolition or new breath through new use.  Often the marks and scars of use are recorded on walls and surfaces, but human life has departed.  One set of images are of a project in Birmingham’s rural hinterland being revived and redimensioned by a Birmingham based architect; the Bake House is silent and disused.

The body of work is growing as each building at risk is accessed through careful negotiation and recorded as a memory to be shared.  I see this as an important gathering of memories as Birmingham (which I regard as my city) embarks on the  pains of massive regeneration. 

A Commentary : there are 4 buildings represented in the portfolio;

The Bake House is in Bromyard on the fringes of Herefordshire.  It has lain unused as a bakery, retail shop and home for a long time.  Its domestic scale, quirks, such as a cupboard within a wall, faded colours and fittings convey a maker space and a home; handles, cistern chains, shelves and paper bags are suspended, the left-overs from the last days yeasty smells and conversations.  The opening image holds a key in place adjacent to a smudged out window, views without and within hinted at but not revealed, like a sleepy eye.

This building was chosen for its domestic character (relative to my other projects) and it is the first project to manifest from a new ‘artist in residence’ agreement I have reached with K4 Architects which is based in Birmingham.  It is expected that this residency will provide me with a rich seam of subjects toward my MA major project.

The Steelhouse Police Cells are on the fringe of the central business district in Birmingham.  I had heard the West Midlands Police were planing to vacate as part of its property efficiency programme.  It is just entering the pause state.  The Victorian building is substantial and a side door leads from the street down into the basement cells, used to detain people arrested before the first trial stages or release. Despite an appearance of apparent cleanliness, such as repeated layering of paint on cell walls, attempts to cover history have not succeeded.  It was a hurried shoot with little access time and it was upon download and reflection that I saw the marks on walls emerging through paints and dirty corners – the places where detainees would stare for hours at a time.  The edit was radical in this series as I had captured the familiar Victorian architectural flourishes extensively, but this seemed to me to be less relevant to the story of the actual cells.  The three images are intended to capture the bland, claustrophobic nature of existence.

Icknield Port Loop is an emerging body of work. It is also a departure for my practice as I am dealing with looking in from beyond fences and walls towards a large scale regeneration project that has been years in waiting.  The work is a little less intimate and demands a more overt voyueristic approach.  The three chosen images are all about conveying closure, protection and security.  The ambition is to create an open and inclusive community; these images say there is a long way to go.  I anticipate this project expanding over time.  I have been visiting early on sunday mornings to gather these images.

The Municipal Bank is, like the Police cells, protected by listing.  If it were not it would have been removed already as it finds itself enveloped by new neighbours 4 or 5 times its volume.  It is a classical form and has been in its pause state for many years. It is a hollow building with the exception of the rather richly coloured and detailed vault containing hundreds of deposit boxes that each contained a drawer for small, precious items belonging to the bank’s customers.  Again I was in a basement; I chose to work with the found light as the quality of reflection from each open door was striking. I was advised that Chanel had booked the space recently for an ad’ shoot.  The most poignant image is looking through the doorway into an office with the deposit box perched on the desk, suggesting an interaction that was the last.

Hanging and Responses

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

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Figure 1

Surface : Exhibition Time

As my part in Landings2017, the peer group international work in progress exhibition first day dawned on 11th August I arrived with my hanging kit (drill, plugs, screws, brass hooks and dust-sheets) at Opus Restaurant in Birmingham.

The planned 4 areas of wall had been cleared in readiness for my 4 framed prints; 2 at A2 and 2 at A3.  Al matching the original measured and photographic survey I had undertaken.

I created a guidance sheet for the restaurant staff to give to interested parties and customers.  This provided a context, title (The Pause Project) and details of the printing and the decision I made following discussions with one of my tutors David Ellison about getting the pitch right.  I also provided a labelling guidance sheet as the restaurant wanted to use their house style to label each (although on a revisit I had to reposition these correctly!).  Each print is limited to 3 with one artist’s proof.  The only other available format would be postcard size published as my self assembly photobook (see separate post).  I took advice on costs and value for sale and pitched sale prices accordingly.

I asked a restaurant team member to use my camera to capture the proprietor and I in front of the two principal prints.

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Figure 2

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Figure 1 shows the simplest print hung on the visually most striking backdrop of Spanish wallpaper.  Figure 2 is against a grey wall above the waiting counter and Figure 3 on a mustard coloured wall which worked well with the two principal prints.

Before leaving I posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The responses were positive; I was pleased with the coverage. LinkedIn showed 2,170 views (as of 14th August 2017).  Facebook had a reach of 804 with 23 likes, 2 comments and 4 shares.  Samples are shown, figure 4

The restaurant tweeted the picture from its own account on 14th August.

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Figure 4

Learning: planning, negotiation and communication paid off.  Paying attention to lighting (noting this is not a gallery venue and hence lighting is at times problematic with reflections being evident) and colour were strong defining factors when deciding what work to display and where.

Figure 5 shows the text of the guidance note printed for the front desk of the restaurant.

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A Collective Invitation

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

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Figure 1

Here I am with an opportunity to expand my ‘surface’ of delivering workshops and my engagement evening with Mat Collishaws’s show Thresholds during this module.

I have been invited to talk about my current exhibition at Opus Restaurant, Birmingham on 22nd August as part of the Developed In Birmingham summer festival of photography https://www.developedinbirmingham.com/programme/philip-singleton-artist-talk/ Figure 1

The second piece of good news is that I gave been invited into the Developed in Birmingham collective as the fourth member (currently Pete James, photographic historian, Jenny Duffin, producer and promoter, Jo Gane, artist) that devised and delivered the programme with an emerging plan creating new future activities, our ‘statement’ reads;

DEVELOPED IN BIRMINGHAM   :    A Statement

Developed in Birmingham is a collective collaboration between Pete James (Curator and Photo-Historian), Jenny Duffin (Creative Producer), Jo Gane (Artist and Educator) and Philip Singleton (Photographer, Architect, and Urban Planner)

Following the successful delivery of a programme of events and activities in the summer of 2017, the team will combine their knowledge, experience and complementary skills to create, develop and deliver a series of dynamic projects including exhibitions, talks, and public engagement events.  These activities will focus on devising creative contemporary responses to the history and future of photography in Birmingham, through photography, in collaboration with diverse partners.  We seek to engage, provoke and reward by enlisting interactive audiences.

Postscript

In response to the social media profiling of my talk on 22 August, Argentea, Birmingham’s photography gallery owner has announced today (17th August) that she will be in attendance, via the gallery Twitter account – which is great news, figure 2

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Figure 2

 

 

Surfaces : LED screens

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

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One of those moments when you step into a coffee bar that you irregularly use early in the morning and they are just ‘switching on’ the photographs that are on temporary display.  With only my iPhone to hand I captured the setting and checked out the source. The screens are very shallow and effectively back lit with LED strips which are vivid when lit.

The Williams F1 racing team has collaborated with Blueshift GP using computational fluid dynamic designs as the source of imagery.  The work details how the airflow around a car can be simulated.

The intrigue for me was around the surface used to display.

Source: Art of Aero Collection.  For sale £1,200 to 3,500