Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


figure 1, 2

After a considerable degree of concern over my strategy of creating a solution to my image transfer, I was pleased when this week I altered one of the variables using waterslide decal transfer.  I used a photographic developing bath full of cold water and held the transfer in place for a long period, keeping the small image flat with my fingers and slightly agitating the water, fig 1.  I bought some smooth, white board to act as a temporary testing surface, with a generous smear of water on top, and, to my somewhat incredulous delight, the image became free of the backing paper through a firm but cautious siding out from underneath, fig 2.  The image settled onto the surface and I squeezed the water out from underneath and on top.  It began to dry flat and largely unblemished.

The patience and tenacity were paying off, so I immediately placed the smallest concrete tablet, smeared water across its surface, ready to repeat the process as I was on a roll, fig 3.


Figure 3
Figures 4, 5

A twin image printed 24 hours before and fixed twice 3 hours before submersion was then soaked, fig 4, and placed onto the centre of the tablet, fig 5.

Figures 6, 7

With some agitation the backing began to slide, fig 6, then work its way out, fig 7, until it was out altogether and the pair of images were held by the film of water between the film and the smooth concrete surface.

Figures 8, 9

I carefully squeezed water away from the surface, fig 8 and mopped it with tissue. to see the pair of images very firmly in place if with a few ripples, fig 9.

I held it up to be photographed by a friend, with fairly manifest delight, fig 10.


Figure 10

The timing of this successful run was critical as I planned on seeing the gallerist on 22nd March.



New Arrival

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


Figure 1

It was a delight to finally collect and then unwrap the carefully specified concrete tablets from a local craft-based art maker, Space Play in Birmingham.  Figure 1 shows just how finely the moulding and casting process has been executed.

Figures 2, 3, 4

What is equally delightful is that the ‘back of the tablets have a random pattern of small air bubbles (fig 4) that have found their way to the surface during the curing period.  This rougher surface acts as a tactile counterpoint to the smoothness of the front surfaces.

IMG_2069 2

Figure 5

As can be seen in figure 5, the sizes vary from A3 to A4 and 297 x 297mm square and 210x210mm.  The smallest size is deliberately designed to be portable as a demonstrable example of the work.  I was pleased that Space Play had themselves learned from the process as they had not cast at A3 previously.


Space Play website

Image Transfer – Trial 3

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

The plan to make concrete art is not yet fulfilled.  My three trials using acetate transfer concluded with a strong need to uncover a more suitable method of fusing an image onto concrete.

A peer, Maryann Morris, described to me her experiments using waterslide decals.  The principles of this sounded plausible as a fine film could transfer onto a substrate, once floated free of the printing backing paper.

I ordered a pack of A4waterslide decal printing paper, suitable for inkjet plus a can of clear sealer for protecting the ink and the final finish, figs 1, 2.

Figures 1, 2

I chose 2 images to print onto the new sheets of waterslide film, setting the inkjet printer onto premium glossy mode.  The surface was assisted in drying with a hairdryer.  I then coated the images with the clear sealer, again dried this layer and repeated.  Each image was cut from the sheet to create a border, figs 3, 4.

Figures 3, 4

The first image was introduced into a bath of tepid water, fig 5, in which it immediately curled.  I ently unculed th esubmreged image and found that the thin film had started to detach from the backing paper after circa 20 seconds after submersion, fig 6. Somewhat to my horror the film detached and lost all semblance of a sheet and became a tangled roll, fig 7.  I also noted that some of the ink from the print had begun to dissipate into the water, thus weakening the depth of colour in the image.

Figures 5, 6, 7

I extracted the entangled film and attempted to open it up using my fingertips, firstly on the backing paper, fig 8 then onto a trial piece of MDF, fig 10.  In parallel, I had sliced a small portion of the second image and submerged that, to see if a smaller piece was easier to handle, as can be seen from fig 9; it was not.

Figures 8, 9, 10


I have consulted with various people since this first foray into decal image transfer as this was clearly not the solution to my plan to create fine images onto concrete tablets.

Several people talked about the trial and error of all methods such as this. My water was perhaps too deep and too warm.  Perhaps my paper was too fine for this purpose.  Perhaps it was left in the water for too long. Perhaps it will take two pairs of hands to slide off the backing paper.  Perhaps I need to use a different printer setting.

The next test will be again about managing and fixing the variables.

The ease with which an A3 sheet is transferred in this YouTube video (accessed 18.3.2018) remains an optimistic target;


Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

IMG_2080 2

Figure 1

Running a number of actions in parallel, as I move towards the multimedia installation, I was keen to meet with a writer and arts blogger, Ruth Millington, fig 1.  We had first met in February at the launch of Stephen Morgan’s exhibition at Argentea Gallery, having previously been retweeting each other’s social media posts for some time.

Ruth and I had a discussion on 16th March 2018 about the opportunity to either review the exhibition or work in advance of that, on writing an independent piece, as a commentary on the ambition of the practice, its methodology and intent as the instalation was being crafted.  We decided that the latter would be most appropriate.  I was keen to note that Ruth should not be beholden to me even though I am to propose that the gallery pays her modest fee and, if that is not the case, that the gallery and I share her fee.

We talked through the work, the gallery plans, and the portfolio for about two hours.  We will meet again when the work is developed more, especially as the concrete tablets develop.

It is the intention to use Ruth’s words in the gallery as part of the show’s introductory narrative and within the gallery hand-out and also the planned zine.

One immediately useful outcome of the meeting was that Ruth, of her own volition, chose to post on Twitter and Instagram about the meeting and selected images from my website and as I result of that I have added followers on both channels, fig 2



Figure 2


Ruth Millington’s website


Zine – Concepts – BIRMINGHAM DUST

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

In developing an approach and advancing my previous notes on zine production.  I have started an online conversation with a friend and peer who has a strong graphic skill, Rebecca Foster, to exchange things we both find inspiration using Pinterest as a sample board, fig 1, derived from the wider options, fig 2.  It is becoming a form of a visual or conceptual editing process.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

From this stimulating visual distillation I have today written this as a series of objectives for the zine, thus;

The first in a run of more
Have a materiality that aligns with building making and destructing
There could be a recycling of material theme
The media should definitely be mixed
Tactile delight should be at the fore
Can have a hand-crafted element – though not essential
Needs to be intellectually grounded
Have a richness in a minimal format
Run narrative with visual

‘Birmingham Dust’

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I may create a hierarchy of ‘brand’ using the Fermata musical symbol, underlined by the headline Pause Project, then entitle the installation ‘Birmingham Dust’.  The latter derived from the Christopher Beanland quote regarding BirminghamBuildings bear witness to the tiny dramas that make us human. If we turn concrete to dust, where do those memories go?” and the nature of the paused spaces I capture – they gather dust and become dust.


Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

IMG_2004 2

Figure 1

This has been a week of extraordinary fluctuations with the untimely death of my mentor, friend and collaborator, to my third largely unsuccessful attempt to create image transfer, but to a degree, countered by the final delivery of my finely specified concrete tablets.

Learning by Failing

So, to my trials with image transfer.  At the turn of the year, I had been driven by the wish to seek out a more appropriate, long-lasting and authentic method by fusing an image onto concrete, thus advancing my early trials using paper prints.

The technique is applying an inkjet print onto acetate made by InkAID – known as a transfer film.  Then a very precise mix of InkAID fluid and 91% alcohol is be applied to the chosen substrate.  The film is then laid onto the substrate and left for 3 minutes before peeling back, in theory, leaving the image embedded onto the dried fluid and thus onto the substrate.

I undertook 3 trial sessions in my kitchen at home.  I have, during these trials, identified what are perhaps too many variables, that require managing and recording in order to create the optimum conditions for success.  These variables are;

The age of the fluid once mixed

Air mixing with the above fluid

The air temperature at the time of application

The absorption rate of the substrate (thus the use of a PVA sealer); all tests were done on MDF sheets (as a precursor to the concrete tablets).

The dryness of the fluid at the time of applying the film to the surface

The amount of pressure applied to the film surface before release

The process of film release.

Despite managing the variables as best one can, by making notes and controlling the process, the results were recorded thus;

IMG_1984 2

Figure 2 Images printed and board prepared


Figure 3 The boards had been previously coated with a fine layer of PVA to seal the surface and thus manage absorption.


Figure 4 this Inkaid/alcohol mix is applied to the surface (in this instance it was an older mix and had created a rippling effect).
Figures 5, 6 The first acetate is peeled back carefully with a very low level of adhesion of image to the substrate.


Figure 7 The second acetate is here rolled out onto the tacky but almost dry fluid.



Figure 8 As the acetate is peeled back around half of the image has adhered to the substrate but leaving large areas with no bonding at all.  See also, figure 1.


This is the third recorded image transfer trial using Inkaid products.  It is unsatisfactory and whilst slight improvements are achieved at times, it is not succeeding to the extent of UK experts I have consulted, and the information online, suggests ought to be possible.

It is nevertheless a useful exercise in understanding materials, managing relatively complex processes and holding onto the belief that one’s imagined outcomes can be achieved.

I am thus putting the equipment to one side and taking advice on alternative methods.  There will be more to follow.

Collins & Baltz

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

I decided to research two artists, triggered by brief summaries in Cotton’s book, from her chapters, Once Upon a Time and Deadpan.  She cites Hannah Collins and Lewis Baltz respectively.

The status and approaches of both artists are relevant to my own practice, as I seek out opportunities to visually document the intimate commentary of spaces that are paused, but in transition. There remains a subliminal query in my own mind over my practice motives, the manner of shooting and image-making; is it neutral, observational, does it make a point and if so what?  Perhaps it is the constant seeking for definition or redefinition, for bandwidth, for the position. A caution about categorisation is given, with the paradox of deliberate fluidity that my concept allows; to move laterally in the future. Perhaps it is a case of calibration over categorisation?

Hannah Collins

Collins as an artist working in photography, film and word; described as “Profoundly democratic, Collins’s work quietly insists on revealing the complexities of life, and the ways we relate to the world around us collectively and as individuals, through vision and memory, to achieve works of subtle power.” has her work in collections including the Pompidou Centre, Tate Modern, Walker Art Center, Dallas Art Museum, Sprengel Museum and Reina Sofia Museum. 

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Figure 1

The body of work created by Collins, known as ‘In the Course of Time’ (1994-6) is a capture of Polish industrial spaces.  Her poetic diary texts that first appeared in the catalogue accompanying her exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery in 1995;

“Off the dark brown corridor is the brown wooden bathroom. Old string hangs from a white tank, barely visible lit by a bulb hanging loosely against the dark brown stained walls. Torn newspapers are piled on the floor and flowered linoleum is creased, cracked and re-nailed. Water drips very slowly into a small basin caught below in a pale plastic bucket….

Forgotten and abandoned workshops overheat, burning away the seething furnaces they house…

Round staircases swirl up and up into vaulted towers and luminous liquid breath bursts from hidden attic spaces…

Rough thick long hair brushes cobwebs and dust. Bright eyes gleam frightened at the invading light”. 

In his commentary, Günzel, 2015 catagorsies the work “Collins is ultimately not entirely passive, even if responses call for a listening, but bring forth what they show – for which they accept responsibility. It is a profoundly ethical form of research and documentation that renders account of what has happened or is still happening and that was not yet visible or manifested”.  He goes on specifically about using images to hold a moment “‘In the Course of Time’ … expounds a far-reaching paradox of photography, which as a technical medium also has the ‘ghost-forming’ ability to extract a moment from the flow of time – as well as, and necessarily, a chunk of space”. And, on the medium as a whole Photography …has a paradoxical relationship with history since the moment or continuum that they capture that no longer exists although they preserve the past that would otherwise be lost forever. There exists a dual unreality of the medium that seemingly guarantees the link with reality…. in the sense of facilitating a mediated perception of the otherwise imperceptible, which is the past in the present and the present in the past per se”.

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Figure 2

The scale of her gallery prints, figs 1, 2, are in excess of 5m in width; she uses a panoramic technique to create an almost 1:1 scale impact for the viewer, providing the viewer with both a spatial and intimate opportunity to experience the moment of capture of time.  

Collins has provided me with an opportunity to think about, not only positioning, but also the means of display, whether print or projection – a ‘whole wall’ experience conveys here a strong precedent.


William Jenkins, 1975, coined the collective term for a cluster of American photographers; ‘New Topographics’  included Stephen Shore,  Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, whose pictures had a similar banal aesthetic, a kind of anti-style style. Within the exhibition catalogue Jenkins wrote “The pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.”

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Figure 3

Baltz wrote regularly about images and architecture within the French publication L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, on that website and archive reference Minimalist and accurate, the American photographer Lewis BALTZ’s perspective on urban and industrial landscapes has maintained its full power over the decades.  His series of photos and individual shots emphasize and question an ordinary and often disembodied world”.

The European Graduate School recalls his work “Lewis Baltz is best known …..showing the images of a world far removed from an heroic vision of America. This move was also illustrated by the subject matter of urban and suburban realities under change, as well as the photographers’ commitment to a critical and ironic eye of contemporary American society. …. Lewis Baltz’ contribution to the show consisted of photographs ….. offer a critical position toward the claustrophobia of urban life. Often displayed in a grid format, it is important to Lewis Baltz that these pictures are seen collectively as a group or series, as for him one image should not be taken as more true or significant than another. Through his original approach, Lewis Baltz most clearly embodies the essence of the movement’s critical depiction of the American landscape. This, according to some authors, makes him more closely aligned with conceptual art than with traditional photography.

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Figure 4

Figs 3 and 4 show the unfinished or part destructed spaces that Baltz captured.  No life is manifestly visible, but the tools and detritus of humanity patently are.  These are not about beauty but the facts of the found.  Thus my Pause Project echoes this approach.  It is also notable that Baltz was wedded to the concept of a narrative described by a gridded stream of images rather than the singular approach of Collins.  A challenge for my future editing process.

References (all websites accessed 12.3.2018)

Cotton C.  2015. The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London. Thames and Hudson

On Collins:


On Baltz


Fig 1

Fig 2

Figs 3 & 4