“Incontestable Meanings”

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Research & Reading

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Michelle Henning in her paper given at the Urban Encounters/Cartographies Conference at Tate Britain (figure 1) on 11th November, which I attended (and subsequently obtained the paper), tabled the notion that we, in the current age, draw too large a distinction between digital and pre-digital depiction (what we now call analogue) in her paper entitled “Optical Transformations: Between the Analogue and the Digital We are Here, but Where are You?”

She launches by stating that “I want to challenge some of the assumptions about the pre-digital image that new theories of the digital re-circulate. I am going to argue that in order to draw a sharp distinction between a digital networked visual culture and earlier forms of visual culture, theorists of the digital have been too selective about the characteristics of pre-digital photography that they emphasize”.

She notes that theorists “argue that the digital image is not principally visual, that it is also a surface manifestation of data, determined by specific algorithms, invisible to the observer of the image. As a consequence, it is argued, we have moved beyond representation and this constitutes a significant break between analogue-chemical photography and digital photography”.

She challenges this “I suggest that the notion that we have moved beyond representation is based on a specific understanding of representation and of its role in photography — which involves, first of all, the idea that an analogue-chemical photograph was organised around resemblance and perspective, and that it was dependent for its meaning on its status as an analogue trace. While this is true of certain kinds of photographic practices, it is not invariably or essentially the case.  More worryingly, digital image theorists sometimes repeat ideas about photographs that photography theorists might have thought had already been quashed. For example, William Mitchell writes “Images in the post-photographic era can no longer be guaranteed as visual truth — or even as signifiers with stable meaning and value” – the problematic part of the sentence is that “no longer” – as if photographs had ever been guaranteed truths, or had stable, incontestable meanings

“In my view, theories of the digital have a tendency to exaggerate the break between digital and analogue and to assume that all photography prior to the digital image can be lumped together as one medium, one technology and one set of practices. I want to give some perspective, to temper a little this notion of a dramatic historical rupture, and to complicate the notion of photographic representation”.

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Figure 2

Figure 2; John Gutmann’s, We Are Here But Where Are You? taken in San Francisco, in either 1936 or 1937.

Henning continues “This is a photograph that almost completely erases itself as photograph and presents itself as just a text or surface to be read”.

“Guttmann is attentive toward the grain of the wood, but the boards are not just scrawled on but stabbed, burned or shot, peppered with tiny marks. …..the whole surface is the result of human activity. And yet, there is no-one and almost no-thing in this image: “We are here” it says, but no-one is visible. The question “where are you”? is clearly written for the absent addressees, Sophie and Mae, but it also implicates “you”, the reader-viewer, raising the question of where you (or Gutmann ) are standing. We are given a date that Sophie and Mae were present but, at the point when the photograph is taken and at the point when it is being viewed, they are gone. The photograph is not simply a trace of the past, but a trace of a trace of the past: and while we can safely assume the message is no longer still “live” eighty years later, it is unclear whether it was already a dead letter, a defunct piece of communication at the point when Gutmann took the photograph”.

“We find ourselves now in a period where “the vast mound of documentation seemed to have buried reality rather than to have clarified it” as TV Reed (puts it in the review of 1930’s practice). Digital culture theorists point to what else this process of incessant documentation is producing — they suggest what is at stake here is not what is depicted but what happens in the process of taking and circulating the image, what kind of data is being accrued and exchanged. This is important, but to take our eye off representation, to abandon the visual as mere surface manifestation, is to develop another blind-spot, this time towards the making and reading of nuanced and complex representations of our own reality. In opening one secret passage, we might take care not to close another”

In summary, Henning pleads for an appreciation of the representation in the context of the plethora of image making; not to loose one of the main causes of photography in the world of data making.

References

Figure 2, sourced from http://www.artnet.com/artists/john-gutmann/we-are-here-but-where-are-you-san-francisco-HfcaIkrSE6Xgu6A5iSrbAw2 accessed 19.11.2017

Programme of the symposium at Tate Britian http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/conference/urban-encounters-2017-cartographies accessed 19.11.2017

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Practice Development : Sound & Vision

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 8

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This account centres on work in progress towards my final project.  This involves applying the talent of Leon Trimble, an innovative sound and vision artist who has built a reputation on producing and delivering amazing sets.  From the Birmingham Open Media web site, where Leon is a fellow, he is described thus “Leon is currently developing ideas inspired by astrophysics, gravitational waves and data visualisation/sonification with researchers from the University of Birmingham, to see how Interferometers (used for measuring gravitational waves) could be connected to audio visual synthesisers of his own making”.  An example of his work can be found here.

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Leon (seen here in his studio, figure 2) and I have been talking for 5 months about the spatial mapping and virtual representing spaces as a collaborative proposition in my Pause Project.  He invited be back to BoM (see figure 1) this week to see his latest hardware, software and thoughts.

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Firstly, a newly imported second hand headset, the Occipital Bridge, which uses an iPhone 6 (in this case) as the processor, camera and screen, but a Structure Sensor and controller allows a space to be mapped by swivelling through 360 degrees and recording a space and all its features, then, on mounting the headset, you can move around the space as it uses depth sensors and, by movement of your head and triggering the handheld controller you experience a mixed reality blend of the real and the virtual, in other words the space is explored both visually via the model created as well as ‘really’ as you can see your hands and other people in the space.  You can trigger onto the scene a toy-like robot that then moves around to your command.  A mixture of excitement and nausea pervaded me and we then chatted about how this could be used to experience a space; a challenge for the Pause Project as that is a documentation of inaccessible pause spaces, however it could be an adjunct to the space I hope to find to host my final exhibition installation.

Figures 4, 5

On a slightly more applied, but equally enticing experiment, we created an imaginary photographic exhibition and began to programme using Madmapper software (figure 4) a multiple series of images onto a matrix concrete wall.  The file from that set up would, once perfected, be transferred via a micro-SD card placed inside the Raspberry Pi based Madmapper projector controller (figure 5), which in turn can be resident in an exhibition alongside and connected to an HD projector.  This would allow me the facility to create a two sided wall as a final project with a series of unique hand-made concrete images to one side, conventionally lit and a rolling series of images from the wider body of work on the other with the possible inclusion of sound and moving images.  I have already begun to delve into archives of the architect John Madin to find film footage that could be used as part of the memoriam I plan using imagery and concrete.

References

BoM website http://www.bom.org.uk/bom-fellows/leon-trimble/ accessed 18.11.2017

Occipital https://bridge.occipital.com accessed 18.11.2017

Software link http://madmapper.com accessed 18.11.2017

All images Philip Singleton

 

 

 

In Conversation : MAYN

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 8

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MAYN, which is Cornish for mediator, is a newly launched photographic agency representing students and graduates from the Institute of Photography at Falmouth University. It serves to negotiate commissions within the University and the local area primarily, work is not syndicated. It develops relationships with students as they move through their photographic courses.  Figure 1 shows the agency’s Facebook page.

I was fortunate to have a good telephone consideration with Lynn Chambers, who runs the operation alongside Hannah Wright, on 10th November 2017.  We discussed the approach I have established for my practice and the future market for it.  She considered that both my theory and practice is strong, which was affirming to hear.

Chambers described the Pause Project body of work as ‘cinematic’ and positioned it in the ‘development’ (i.e. property) sector which has global application.  “Artistic documentary work appeals to galleries and buyers alike”.

We discussed creating a zine from what is now quite a wide body of work, then sending that to my expanding database – especially to help me source new material for shooting but also to begin to develop commissions.

I noted that I have developed a friendly relationship with the local contemporary photography commercial gallery; Chambers suggested seeking out similar galleries around the UK and look out for fringe happenings at photography expo’s.  She encouraged me to enter competitions and note who is on the judging panels.  She continued “Keep researching all of these areas and be wide but useful, look out for mid-level photographers and follow them, also avoid being too ‘pigeon-holed’.  Seek out grants to help develop work.”

Investment banks and building owners will commit to showing and buying work, although there is less cash rolling at present. 

When creating a new web site, consider a blog page in future.

Build your audience and keep in touch.

Personal Practice Action Points

A  The advice came two days before I met an agent that I am in the process of working with, which helped build my confidence in asking questions about the role and relationship.

B  I have started to build a new practice website using the Squarespace platform and have bought the domain name philip singleton.art

C  I need now to build a database specifically for my future markets but from existing networks but also widening this out in response to the advice.

D  I met with a graphic designer this week to discuss paper and printing choices for my planned zine.  This will be quite a serious undertaking and will occupy my time between university modules 4 and 5.

https://www.facebook.com/MAYNcreativeagency/ accessed 18.11.2017

https://www.creativereview.co.uk/mayn-creative-falmouth-universitys-house-photography-video-agency/ accessed 18.11.2017

Squarespace landing page https://www.squarespace.com/

 

A Tangential Shoot

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 8

 

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I have made reference previously to books I am studying, one of which is ‘Concrete Culture’ by Adrian Forty.  This continues my thinking, feeling and touching concrete.  Thus I made a visit to a building that I am very fond of but also is cited as a contemporary delight by Forty, The New Art Gallery, Walsall in his final chapter.

The Wikipedia page on the gallery describes it thus; “The architecture has been both praised and criticised, described as “almost flawless”by the RIBA in The Guardian article and “extraordinarily good” by Hugh Pearman but also castigated by John Stewart-Young as an “architectural indulgence”, an impressive building that lacks consideration of how the wider public will use it.  The essayist Theodore Dalrymple described the interior as resembling both “a fascist foreign ministry” and “a sauna of gigantic proportions”, and the exterior as “a hybrid of grain silo and secret police headquarters”.

It was opened in 2000 and designed by Caruso St John. Its exterior is predominantly of terracotta panelling but its interior is an intense expression of in-situ cast concrete to walls, soffits and (polished) floors.  As a warm and tactile counterpoint the walls are, in places, clad with precisely cut 75mm Douglas Pine panels which, in certain spaces are in turned countered by a trace where the concrete walls were created using timber shuttering.

As with my Spaghetti Junction shoot, this represents a tangential exploration to the core Pause Project, to create a bank of images as I ‘see’ concrete in an intimate way.  The circular casting indentations have given me a solution to my concrete mound specification for my own work.

Here is a selection of the images made on 15th November 2017.

 

References

Forty A. 2016 Concrete and Culture. Reaktion Books, London

Gallery web site http://thenewartgallerywalsall.org.uk/  accessed 17.11.2017

Wikipedia entry for the gallery https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Art_Gallery_Walsall accessed 17.11.2017

Guardian article on the Stirling Prize https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/oct/17/maevkennedy1 accessed 17.11.2017

Hugh Pearman article https://web.archive.org/web/20020622155140/http://www.hughpearman.com/articles/walsall2.html accessed 17.11.2017

Images all 15th November 2017, Philip Singleton

 

 

 

 

How Much?

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 8

 

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This is a summary of contracting, citing the teaching of Pfab.  Having won a client here is how to seal the small print to the ‘deal’.

Usage Licence.

This is a contract that defines the extent an image can be used for and for how long.  This will be clear parameters in specifying an image’s value.  Post expiry use can be renewed via a variation to the original contract. It can also itemise the billing cirri against which an invoice can be issued.

Markets

The market is split into 3 categories; commercial (to promote a product or service), editorial (to promote an interesting point) and consumer (to invest in an appreciation of work).

Commercial

The commercial market needs to be considered in terms of the type of business, the medium that will harness imagery, the global territories to which it will be applied, the timespan of the image and the scale of the audience. Clients will have a view as to where licensing will be applied, in two ways, ‘above or below the line’.  To quote a definition from the advertising club, “above the line (ATL) advertising is where mass media is used to promote brands and reach out to the target consumers. These include conventional media as we know it, television and radio advertising, print as well as internet.  This is communication that is targeted to a wider spread of audience, and is not specific to individual consumers. ATL advertising tries to reach out to the mass as consumer audience” and conversely “Below the line (BTL)  advertising is more one to one, and involves the distribution of pamphlets, handbills, stickers, promotions, brochures placed at point of sale, on the roads through banners and placards. It could also involve product demos and samplings at busy places like malls and market places or residential complexes. For certain markets, like rural markets where the reach of mass media like print or television is limited, BTL marketing with direct consumer outreach programmes do make the most sense”.

There tends to be a tier to the value placed on photography with the higher value being consumer and the lowest education and charity.

Editorial

This tends to be a ‘set rate’ market.  This is reflected in the fees paid to two photographers who I know obtain commissions from The Guardian. In a similar way to the commercial considerations, (i.e. the medium that will harness imagery, the global territories to which it will be applied, the timespan of the image and the scale of the audience) but in addition the size and position of the photograph within the publication will be considered.

Consumer

Pricing will depend upon demand, desire, production costs and artist’s value of their own time.  In terms of my own, direct experience, I have sold prints in the last 5 weeks between £295 (see figures 1 (hero image for my current exhibition and 2, the information card) and £650 for limited edition (of three), the latter at A1 scale with museum glass, framed.

Fees

Whether a fee proposal is divided into its elemental parts or rolled into a single figure it will need to address (where appropriate) shooting fees, travel expenses, recce fee, casting fee, pre-light fee and post-production fee.  A clear and simple pricing structure will help one consider each proposal on merit and create clarity for clients.

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Figure 2

 

References

http://www.theadvertisingclub.net/index.php/features/editorial/3256-difference-between-above-the-line-and-below-the-line-advertising accessed 17.11.2017

 

Who Buys?

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 8

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This is a summary of the study focused on the market.  This overview will see useful to reflect on my understanding of the market and, in terms of my practice, will be a point of recall when I achieve future commissions.

I have worked in previous roles with ‘integrated’ agencies, those who design web sites, deliver events and create marketing strategies, all requiring imagery, often lens based.  These have been smaller agencies that are often led by multi-functioning people who do not have the title ‘creative director’ or ‘art buyer’ it is thus important that I learn to look out for those people in future and network with them to engage with the possibility of purchase or commissioning of my work.  Presently my practice requires simple operations at a location after considerable investment, of time and planning in gaining access to buildings that are empty, the idea of a ‘production’ requiring assistants, client teams and lighting rigs would best be addressed by my negotiating an observing or assisting role to feel my way into that level of working.

By way of example, the Oliver group provides in-house agency functions which, according to its recent report commissioned with The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and Future Thinking, 33% of brands have in-house agencies and this agencies create 12% of their visual content in-house.

In terms of gauging the imagery market in the advertising world, Pfab, in the learning material, quotes Pritchard who suggests reading trade and press blogs, paying attention to winning entires to commercial photographic completions, communication agency web sites, photographers own websites and the Association of Photographers (AoP).

Editorial commissioning from magazines and newspapers will commission photographers for specific articles.  In my experience from talking to people in the press and media, this is rare and usually focuses on planned articles; conversely almost any imagery that is used in news articles are from the reporter’s smart phones and cameras or just as often video and image footage taken from social media sources.

Figures 2, 3

Of the 8,000 magazine published in the UK there are three categories; consumer, trade and special interest.  Almost invariably these titles duplicate print with on-line presence Figure 2, 3 shows the two versions to the Architect’s Journal, a weekly trade magazine on-line and paper version respectively.

Pfab emphases the need to create a practice portfolio showing a mix of editorial, commercial and personal work.

Numerous business will commission or buy photography directly, thus bypassing an agency. These include architects and property developers and this begging to feel specific to my practice positioning.  I will be planning a zine in the new year (2018) and if that is successful that will be my means to promote the practice and business into the year.  Pfab notes that magazines will commission, sources from photo libraries and occasionally accept submissions.

Pritchard, in quoting Trow from Vogue, expects photographers to “interpret a brief beautifully” that “fits our style” evoking a particular and ambitious expectation.

Other sources of work include on-line catalogues which are an absolutely essential part of what Andy Street the ex-managing director of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) called “bricks and clicks”, the latter referring to the 33% of sales achieved on-line.  Without enticing and accurate imagery on-line, in the style of JLP this number would dwindle.

The list is completed with PR companies, music publishers, book publishers and the public at large.  The latter has, to date, been my source for sales – see figure 1, private client who received a print on 16th November 2017, photo; Philip Singleton.

 

REFERENCES

Pritchard, L, 2001, Setting Up A Successful Photography Business, Bloomsbury, p. 18

https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/ accessed 17.11.2017

http://internetretailing.net/2016/03/john-lewis-sees-fast-growth-online-and-via-mobile-but-waitrose-ecommerce-sales-are-down/accessed 17.11.2017

Wall…Paper

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 7

 

 

This is a ink to a Facebook page for Flavor Papers based in Brooklyn New York.  It is an extraordinary demonstration of how images, including photographs, can be repeated onto a long roll of paper through this process of wallpaper making.

It is simply part of my ‘surface’ exploration and awareness.   I was put in touch with the idea via the agent I am liaising with (see previous CRJ entry).

References

https://www.flavorpaper.com/ accessed 13.11.2017