Common Sense on Buying Art

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Four

 

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This latest blog from Ruth Millington  sets out concisely and sensibly the considerations to make when creating a collection. Reference is made to contemporary photography and the work of Sophie Hedderwick (whom I interviewed and wrote about).

This is assisted by this article in The Guardian  regarding the warming of the photography market.  Patrick Collinson writes “Photographers have responded by limiting their reproductions to just a few signed images. At the Photographers’ Gallery in London, the first public gallery devoted solely to photography and which has championed up-and-coming photographers since opening in 1971, Anthony Hartley says: “The assumption among the general public is that the supply is endless, but that is not the case any longer. Editions tend to be limited, and dramatically so. Just five or 10 prints are standard and the negatives kept by the photographer. All the prints in the edition are produced at the same time, so buyers know that there will never be, say, another 25 produced.

 

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The Concrete Journey : Step Two : The Experimental Practice

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Four : Practice Development

Having established my research I prepared myself for some practical experimentation in making concrete and fusing images to the curing surface.  I was ready for it to be messy and for failure to be almost inevitable but I was clear that I would document these, via this journal and use the learning for step two.

All the images were taken with my iPhone, sometimes with rather wet and dirty fingers. I documented this very much as step one in the journey to creating new work.

Here is the visual recording of my journey;

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figure 1

I purchased these things;

3 450x450x37mm moulds that would provide the discipline of an exact square format and, when used to mould a concrete panel would not be too heavy to manoeuvre.

4 bags of quick drying concrete

A paddle mixer to use in a drill.

A bucket for mixing.

A pair of sturdy gloves.

A steel trowel

Some cardboard.

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figure 2

I added water to the mix in a bucket.  Learning point one – mixing a circa 15kg batch was too much for full distribution of the water (as I poured the mixture into the mould I had powdery pockets remaining which were remixed).  Notably this is a chemical reaction of hydration and thus needs to be carefully controlled.

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figure 3

Having watched several YouTube videos on making concrete I noted that it was important to create an ‘easy peel’ method to remove the mould once the concrete had hardened to the point that removal was viable.  I used olive oil for that purpose.

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The texture of the gloopy concrete mixture was a rather attractive surface to capture. I was beginning to see a parallel with the analogue photographic tradition of capturing the fluid with the moment of the shutter  and then the darkroom development process where the fluid chemical reaction creates the image that is then fixed and thus solid.

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I poured the gloopy mix into the mould.

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Then smoothed the surface to a pleasingly level finish with the trowel.

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Here was the point of my personally unique experiment; I printed an image and some text on sheets of ‘standard’ thickness photocopy paper, deliberately chosen as it is absorbent and also the thinness would allow an interaction with the wet concrete.  Then text and an image on thin sheets of tracing paper.  All four were printed through an Epson R2000 inkjet printer.

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The tracing paper immediately curled up into a tight roll on contact with the wet concrete.  I had to scrabble around for off-cuts of timber to hold down the edges whilst being careful that these off-cuts did not set into the concrete.

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The pure, flat blue of the sky on this image immediately took on a veinous effect on contact with the dampness.  An excess of water bled across the edge of the print which was another learning point – even slight dips in the surface will encourage overflow.

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Air bubbles underneath the tracing paper were probably inevitable.

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Here you see the bleed in the inkjet as the moisture seeps through and causes this ink spread.  The mark was caused by careless moving of materials.

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A side view of the four papers in place awaiting the drying/curing process.

A day later, these were the results;

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The water that crept across the edge of the sheet had become a solid.

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figure 14

A close-up of the prints and the new patterns and colours that are drawn out though the process.

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The tracing paper has wrinkled markedly but has again created a range of new textures at the surface which perhaps makes the veneer more fascinating than the image itself.

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Another learning point here; water was splashed onto the surface during the cleaning up process, then leaving the cast outdoors overnight (even though loosely covered) allowed fine dust and leaves to fall onto the still damp surface and mark it/leave deposits.

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Having extracted the cast from the mould onto a soft surface I was pleased to find there was a good strength to the body of the cast.  The spalling was from the sides of the mould.  This oblique view shows the varying degree of wrinkling that occurred.

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Despite the cast being sturdy overall, this corner simply crumbled – a clear indicator of a lack of water in the whole of the mix.  Another learning point.

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figure 19

The last view, from above.

Conclusions

The experimentation should continue to step two, with the following points covered;

1 Mixing concrete and water very thoroughly and in stages and remove any powder pockets.  Greater control is needed in the making and drying process to avoid marking and contamination.

2 Attempt a thinner fill to the mound, whilst noting that trowelling would be more difficult – this would test whether thinning would be viable without too much loss of strength.  I may consider a fine reinforcing mesh.

4 Manage the process with great care and with more precision around placing prints onto the surface, with a focus on material type and weight.  For example if I could print onto linen then place that onto concrete the effect could be fascinating.

5 Research resins for use to coat the finished product to preserve and protect the fused images.

6 Ensure that the whole experimental stage provides a full and proper root back to the principles of my practice and its related research.

Onwards!

The Concrete Journey : Step One : Archeologia dell’Effime : The Research

 

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Three : Practice Development

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figure 1

I was seeking out inspiration and opportunities to develop my practice at Unseen Amsterdam 2017.  The appearance of concrete made my heart sing.  The Materia Gallery in Rome had concrete panels by Stefano Canto on the walls, figure 1.  That led to a discussion and the purchase of the book Concrete Archive (2016).  I have now read this through and apply parts of the learning here. There were notable links which have lead me to working on a lateral, material expression of practice.

Canto had a fascination with the scale and materiality of the monument to Mussolini at the Foro Italico sports complex in Rome, the 300-tonne monument to the power of fascism when it was erected in 1932.  Canto subverted this with his own concrete monument to Theo van Doesburg (1883 to 1931), the founder of De Stijl movement in the Netherlands in 1917.

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Canto, as architect turned artist, has his work analysed by Emanuela Nobile Mino (pp 82-88) in Concrete Archive. Notably the German rationalist movement (Bauhaus), when adopted in Italy, in the early part of the twentieth century, carried with it the burden and representation of Fascism. Mino writes “Italian Rationalism was more committed to political celebration, therefore to the construction and modernisation of public building, of representation. The monument…erected in 1932..was no exception (figure 2)  As with the complete urban plan of the city in general, the monument – a monolith in Carraran marble standing 17 meters in height – slavishly follows the formal and symbolic iconography of Imperial Rome; …a phallic metaphor; a monument of the indomitable undisputed universal power of the emperor.” pp 84.

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Canto identifies the Dutch/German influence in van Doesburg completion entry for a monument in Leeuwarden in 1916 (figure 3) and, in making the comparison between the fascist and the rationalist, Canto hypothesises a deconstruction into parts on the ground, thus the potency of the political power is diminished and laid to the earth. Mino concludes her essay about Canto’s laying down piece “[he] elaborates an even more drastic slippage, constituting an even greater distancing from its original title (Mussolini) and bestowing a new one (‘to Theo van Doesburg’), proposing an alternative reading of the canons of formal and aesthetic work: aligned with the central issues of contemporary European art, rather than with the linguistic servility of political propaganda” pp 88.  It is this response, using a concrete form, to subvert power, that is a appealing; the liberation and expression of art against the abuse and force of regimes.  Canto, in 2013 made this image of his monument to grounded repose figure 4.

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Carmen Stolfi, the curator and writer, in her essay ‘Archiving the Ephemeral’ in Concrete Archives discusses the FOMO generation (the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’), citing Facebook’s constant plea ‘what’s on your mind?’ as if it matters on a minute by minute, ‘rolling news’ of consciousness. The pleasure is derived in the moment and anticipated by the next. The ephemera of common existence, shared but rapidly discarded in the digital wake; an afterlife of fractured pixels and alphabet soupness; a memory of vagueness in the overload that has no power to hold coherence, but to refract, deform, diminish and decay.  Stolfi states a counterpoint to this generation’s tendency in that “Canto resists to the ephemeral character of the present and reinforces the idea of stability and durability of our past.  The image of the archive made out of cement [concrete] if, on one hand, proposes a reflection on the notion of archiving, documenting and recording of humans’ actions, on the other hand, it suggest the artist’s interest in architecture. The cement [concrete] offers here not just a collateral interpretation of the time that transforms, subdues, and reinforces but also a literal one.  In fact, Canto’s training as an architect his underlines his interest in the concept of mutation and the relationship between artifice and nature, by especially focusing on the way man has altered the landscape over time”.

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In his exhibition pieces, at Archeologia dell’Effimero (2016) Canto ‘fixes’ time, space and shape by casting concrete into loose moulds and inserting ice into the fluid body of material which melts during the curing process which creates a void; the natural material melts but leaves its trace figure 5.  Canto derives his thinking about the mode of life from Zygmunt Bauman’s essay Liquid Modernity (2000), I extract here from the 2012 version “To ‘be modern’ means to modernize – compulsively, obsessively; not so much just ‘to be’, let alone to keep its identity intact, but forever ‘becoming’, avoiding completion, staying under-defined. Each new structure which replaces the previous one as soon as it is declared old-fashioned and past its use-by date is only another momentary settlement – acknowledged as temporary and ‘until further notice’” viii Foreword.

Stolfi notes that the Canto response is to create work that conceptually addresses the state in that “everything happens in a continuous, swift and elusive transformation, in which past and future disappear, thus becoming an eternal present.  The work becomes the starting point for a reflection on the roles of archaeologist and artist.

I was able to see Canto’s ‘Epoca No 731’ at Unseen, Amsterdam in September – figure 1.  Here he fuses photography and printing with a slab of concrete.  There is an absorption of information and colour from one body to another in that the wet, curing concrete sucks in not only the information on the layer of print offered up during the process, but bonds the paper into the surface.  It becomes a concrete print; the photographic print is made, then the print is transformed by a chemical hydration interaction of cement, water and fine aggregate.  In this incidence it is newspaper print from Epoca magazine.  Stolfi notes that this is “a nostalgic attempt to eternalise a present that veers towards the blurred digitisation, while proposing a different interpretation of our time that fights against the virtual elusiveness, by using semantic shifts of meaning of the word ‘concrete’ standing both for cement and for an archive that is tangible, real, material”.

Conclusion

In summary the is a highly appropriate confluence of ideas for my practice development here;

Firstly, I have photographed a number of concrete framed buildings as part of my Pause Project.  I await a response to requests I have made for pieces of the demolished concrete structures to be given to me as part of my ultimate goal of a spatial exhibition which would go beyond simply the photographic print, as a concrete ‘momento mori’.

Secondly, Canto’s reference of Bauman’s continuous and unsettling mode of change is relevant to my thinking and methodology for the Pause Project as buildings become discarded and I capture them in just that period of waiting for the next, apparently better place.  My methodology;

“The practice resolves to question and explore the concept of pause.  Pause is the interruption of the natural or imposed flow of time and life.  An adjournment. A metaphor of the slowing of the heart beat, a hesitation, a drawing of breath. A discontinuance.

The interregnum preceded by the specifics of history and holding time before the future existence or execution”.

Thirdly, I am seeking opportunities to retrieve archive source material in the form of models, drawings, photographs and media articles about the design and construction of key buildings in the twentieth century of Birmingham.  These may become part of the memory and infusion into something else….

Fourthly, I have been pondering projecting or pasting onto concrete surfaces for sometime and the potential to do this has led to my next experiment, doing just that; see my next entry.

Thus this reading provides me with a researched basis for a new exploration.

 

References

1 Figure 1 photo: Philip Singleton, taken at Unseen

2 Canto, S. (2016) Concrete Archive Rome; Drago

3 Figure 2 sourced from https://romeonrome.com/2016/01/mussolinis-architectural-legacy-in-rome/ (visited 15.10.17)

4 Figure 3 sourced http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Theo_van_Doesburg_088.jpeg (visited 15.10.17)

5 A news article about the Mussolini monument http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37230455

6 Link to Theo van Doesburg http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/theo-van-doesburg-1017

7 Article on van Doesburg https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/jan/23/theo-van-doesburg-avant-garde-tate

8 Figure 4 sourced fromhttps://www.artsy.net/artwork/stefano-canto-monolito  (visited 15.10.17)

9 Figure 5 photo: Philip Singleton, taken at Unseen

10 Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

11 Bauman, Z. (2013). Liquid Modernity. (Later edition with foreword)Oxford: Wiley.

12 Footnote: Interestingly, from the perspective of preservation, as a monument to living, Reitveld’s (a key member of the De Stijl movement) house for Shröder (which in part is concrete (balconies)) is now listed thus;

The World Heritage Committee inscribed the Rietveld Schröder House on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites on 2 December 2000, during the 24th session in CairnsAustralia. The committee decided to apply criterion i and ii, and said about the house;

The Rietveld Schröderhuis in Utrecht is an icon of the Modern Movement in architecture and an outstanding expression of human creative genius in its purity of ideas and concepts as developed by the De Stijl movement. (…) With its radical approach to design and the use of space, the Rietveld Schröderhuis occupies a seminal position in the development of architecture in the modern age. World Heritage Centre. UNESCO. Retrieved 2008-05-06.

 

Instant Thinking

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Three

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The Context

Ritchen (2010) analysed the prevalence and meaning of digitation of things and image making.  He wrote about sequencing and the new reality “Like a novel, and our earthly lives, a vinyl record was created with the intention that it be experienced within the logic of a beginning proceeding to an end; a music CD or iPod is made to be resequenced, shuffled, and rethought. In digital media, nonlinear and interactive, no two people will necessarily read the same words in a book, listen to the same music, or experience a film or photo essay in the same sequence”. pp 17 He describes the digital as “the reconfiguration of the image into a mosaic of millions of changeable pixels, not a continuous tone imprint of visible reality” pp 18 Ritchen notes that image making “achieved the paradoxical credibility of a subjective, interpretive medium that has simultaneously been deemed reliable and ultimately useful as a societal and personal arbiter” it is if he foresaw in 2010 the blend of trends in society and the interface with personal insights as it was the year that Instagram was born. In October 2017 it will now have towards 800,000,000 users with over 200 million daily users.

From https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/26/instagram-700-million-users/ (visited 9.10.2017) I gleaned this historic growth over almost 7 years:

Here’s a breakdown of how long it took Instagram to add each 100 million users:

October 6, 2010 – Launch

February 26, 2013 – 100 million;  28 months

March 25, 2014 – 200 million; 13 months

December 10, 2014 – 300 million; 9 months

September 22, 2015 – 400 million; 9 months

June 21, 2016 – 500 million; 9 months

December 15, 2016 – 600 million; 6 months

April 26, 2017 – 700 million; 4 months

I recall observing the debate about titling images in the classic art word of the photographic exhibition.  What now intrigues is the fact that an image on Instagram with a narrative or hashtag or indeed a link to raise attention from some person, organisation or brand will be quickly lost in the ceaseless wash of image deluge.  The eloquence and deliberation over the words I suspect may exceed the time taken in capturing some images.

Ritchen perhaps laments the loss of the gaze at the world at large, but rather the fixation on the small screen that is the camera back or the phone “It is not because it makes it more immediately “real” that we prefer the image, but because it makes it more unreal, an unreality in which we hope to find a transcendent immortality, a higher, less finite, reality” pp21

Instagram World: Holding Oneself to Account

Yet we now find ourselves bound up as emerging or amateurs photographers or ad ‘men’ having to navigate around the use of Instagram if we are to avoid the worse by committing a silly mistake and instead maximise its opportunity to share our practice.  From some web research and from my own account https://www.instagram.com/philip.d.singleton/

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I would make these observations;

The square format will often create an annoying vertical and horizontal restriction to tall or wide images.  Unless shooting for Instagram (with the camera on the ‘square’ setting) then this will cause issues and cropping.

I need to begin tracking traffic on my account as I have yet to implement that

http://collectivedge.com/blog/bloggers-you-can-now-track-instagram-clicks-in-google-analytics/ although this is restricted in its use.  I have tasked myself with further investigations on this topic as part of my merging marketing plan.

I have noticed, for example during my current exhbition, that ‘cross promotions’ using the bar’s and visitor’s Instagram tags result in tagging in return and double exposure.

Having a landing page in the ‘bio’ section will drive traffic to a web site.  Mine currently lands on my vernal web page about my consultancy work and this needs to be revised.

I have deliberately used a greater number of hashtags in the last week on my posts and this helped raise my fowler numbers (admittedly along with my university peers starting to all floor each other) from 312 to 328 in a week.  A total of 16; modest but a good proportion.  Again I need to up my game and be more thoughtful and strategic about my use of hashtags.

I have found that sharing from Instagram to the Facebook platform (on which I have a photography business page) is effective but sharing onto Twitter provides a textual link and not the image; I assume this is to do with the joint ownership of Facebook and Instagram, leaving Twitter a little out in the cold.

I tend to follow established, internally know photographers, galleries globally and locally, friends and people who work in similar way to myself or capture buildings that fascinate me regardless of the image making style.

 

References

Ritchin, F. (2010). After photography. New York: W. W. Norton.

Planning – A Photography Business; Starting Out

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Two

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Figure 1

There are many sources of advice about setting up a creative business.  Here are a few highlights from my reading on the subject (four web sites) with key words or themes highlighted in BOLD;

ONE

From https://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/2015/may/29/business-plan-tips-arts-creative-industries

Vikam Modhwadia, programme coordinator, School for Creative Startups

On definitions;

Before you think business plan, think business model
A business plan is a smart and sassy document you write for investors, lenders or potential partners to give them an understanding of your business, so they can make a decision to support it. A business model, on the other hand, is the practical understanding of how it will work.

On the market;

The proposition: What do you do that people want? How do you know that your product is answering a need or fulfilling a desire?

The customer and market: Who are your customers and where do you find them? What are their attributes and what are your market segments?

On competitors;

The competition: Who are you up against and what can you learn from them?

The industry: What do you have in common with your competition? Which trends are impacting your industry? How can you predict future trends?

The channel: What are the different routes to finding customers?

Pip Jamieson, founder and CEO, The Dots

Look to Collaborate; getting your team excited about the business plan is key to its success. Before getting into the detail, a great first step is to spend an afternoon with the team and key stakeholders to work on the a visual model for planning.

The key is getting the structure right from the get go, with a slide for each key component of your plan including business overview, target market, unique selling point (USP), market conditions, marketing plan, competitor analysis and so on. Keep text to a minimum and use graphs and visuals to explain some of the trickier bits. A good rule of thumb is that if someone can flick through your business plan in 10 minutes and get it, you’ve done a cracking job.

Andrew Harding, managing director, CIMA

On Structure;
A challenge for anyone who is passionate about their business is to explain it in terms others can understand. A structured way of doing this is to articulate your business model in terms that lead to financial outcomes.

Sarah Wood, co-founder and COO, Unruly

On People power;
Remember that the point of the plan is to help you and your team focus. It should be an operational plan of action, not a bunch of theoretical concepts, notional market sizes and fanciful financial projections.

The people who you put in the plan are more important than the numbers you submit: who will you hire, when will you hire them and how will their success be measured? What alliances and partnerships beyond employees do you need to succeed? Although it’s good to be ambitious, the most useful business plans don’t look five or three years ahead. Things change too quickly for that to be much use. You want to have an agile, flexible mindset and a business plan to match so you can change direction if necessary.

Stuart Rock, editor-in-chief, Business is GREAT

Sift, aggregate and test;
Don’t just read one guide to writing a business plan; sift and aggregate the advice from several.

Bernadine Bröcker, CEO, Vastari

A business model isn’t just a box-ticking exercise
It needs to ooze passion, drive, inspiration, as well as ticking the boxes. Make sure you think of all commercial and strategic angles, but also make sure that any potential investor or partner can also read how inspired you are in making this business a reality.

TWO

https://www.creativereview.co.uk/advice-on-starting-a-business/

Plumen’s Nicolas Roope has some advice for anyone thinking of starting up on their own and crowdfunding;

Lay down the DNA of your proposition…Creative people are great at creating concepts and spawning identities, but most businesses need a degree of operational prowess and financial acumen to stand any chance of success.

By organising small investors into a significant funding muscle, platforms like Crowdcube are creating a completely new kind of community that will back the kind of business others wouldn’t touch.

The most accurate way to test markets is to operate, so as soon as you’re out there in the field, this is the moment when the feedback is most accurate and most valuable.

THREE

https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/the-graduates-2017-preparing-to-fail-150617

Eddie Peake: artist

If you are an artist at all, you will have to deal with failure, rejection and disapproval as a constant part of your work. It is very easy for us to convince ourselves that other people who seem to be getting all the opportunities and having lots of success are doing so without trial or tribulation.

FOUR

I extracted these 9 Principles from this business modelling video – the principles are simple but in my view very useful provoking headlines to engender a discussion and noting of key responses – i.e. headlines for a plan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoAOzMTLP5s

1 Customer segments – who and what are you sources of paying customers

2 Value propositions – do you have bundles of products for differing customer segments

3 Channels to customers – what are your touch points with customers – e.g. contact/exhibition/web site

4 Customer relationships – define your type of relationship – e.g. via an agent/direct commissioning

5 Revenue streams – how many do you have and through which pricing mechanisms do you work?

6 Key resources within the business – assets that are indispensable – e.g. skills/people/equipment

7 Key activities – things you need to perform well at – the core of the business

8 Key partnerships – who can help fill gaps in activities to ensure you succeed?

9 Cost structures – defining your costs of sales, investments (and return on investment), profit expectations

The web site suggest  that this is a useful visual collaboration tool that helps teams understand at a much deeper level the business’ relationship with customers, distribution channels, partners, revenue streams, costs and its core value proposition. This will help you consolidate your thinking before diving into the detail of the plan.

References

Figure 1 – Image : Philip Singleton, Amsterdam Metro, September 2017

All web sites visited 7th October 2017

Practice Progress – A Shoot: Gilder’s Yard

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week Two

My own image making made another step towards gathering the buildings of Birmingham and the environs in my documentary body of work known as Pause under the Fermata Methodology.

This project, Gilder’s Yard, is on the fringes of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. I was able to do a decent level of work before making carrying out the shoot.  I read about the history as a toy maker, which in 1911 developed the site and created a buiding that is now Grade 2* listed.  Toys were ‘gentlemens’ clothing accessories’ such as buttons and cufflinks.   Joseph Ashford started manufacturing on the site in 1842.  Gilding refers to the plating that was undertaken to finish the products.  The building has been empty and void of manufacturing for some time and along with adjacent buildings has been assembled in readiness for a private rental project by a property developer.

The following are extracts from the shoot.

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