Practitioners

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 7

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In my search for improvement. learning and experimentation I search out practitioners as a constant.  In this series published in Format Magazine on 28th June 2017, entitled Dalmatinka, The Ghosts of Croatia’s Abandoned Thread Factory by the photographic artist Nada Maleš.  These are empty spaces of an abandoned factory in former Yugoslavia founded in 1951, once a leading thread maker. Maleš explains. “After an economic and political crisis, Yugoslavia broke up, bringing along privatisation and bankruptcy and hence losing a large part of the market.” This lead to the bankruptcy of the factory, and it eventual closure in 2009″.

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The article Jill Blackmore Evans commentates on the images and cites the human trace and thus Sontag “In these remarkably quiet images, Maleš is searching for what the factory workers left behind. The small human traces she uncovers give personality to the huge, empty space of the former factory: a cluster of wooden chairs, a red thermos left behind on a desk, a cross hanging on a shadowy wall, a clock stopped just short of 10:30”.

Personal Reflection

I was pleased to see this work published; it has a political connotation – the failure of local industry and also a very strong parallel with my own approach to practice – that of trace, loss and pause.  The wide view alongside the intimate is an approach I use.  There is a role for the visual communication of recent past in a none romantic method.

Links

Figures 1 and 2 extracted from this article https://www.format.com/magazine/galleries/photography/abandoned-photography-dalmatinka-factory-croatia?utm_source=Format+Magazine&utm_campaign=0cb6d17bc7-formatmag_newsletter_2017_07_7&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aebd9a4403-0cb6d17bc7-101832633  accessed 16th July 2017

Practice http://www.nadamales.com/

 

 

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‘Hands Off’ an Exercise in Not Making Images.

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 4

This proved to be an provocative stage of learning.  We were tasked with not making images uses the established methods in one’s practice. I was thus faced with the choices which began to open up from what felt like a restrictive ploy but actually opened a metaphoric window onto two new trains of thought.

The task was to make work in a 24 hour period on the longest day of the year, 21st June 2017, exploring the new then posting the outputs on the VLE portal and via programmed webinars.

My initial reaction was go ‘back to basics’ and test out techniques I had not ever explored, either using photograms or cyanotype papers.  A trawl of web based retailers did not guarantee delivery before the day of activity.  I had decided that it would be a group project using wither of these media.  This group idea led me to creating a short piece on the past and future of a central regeneration project in Birmingham , UK, known as Paradise Circus.  I created a 4 page paper to share with 5 colleagues, set out here.

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I invited answers to two questions, one about the past, the other the future.  I deliberately asked about feelings about both states.  All 5 were completed on the day of 21st June.

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The second, parallel project was very different and came about through a discussion with a peer, Simon Fremont.  We held a late night debate about practice, technique and challenged each-other’s thinking.  I was particularly feeling ‘old fashioned’ in using 21st century versions of 19th century inventions, capturing light, space and making prints (to distil an enormously complex process and all the thinking that goes with it).  I then downloaded an app called Splash onto my iPhone and started using it in my work meetings (one of which interestingly was in a huge 19th century space), my garden bedroom and, least successfully, on my own head.  As a free app it is crude in its execution and as it is stitching in real time the complete image model tends to make errors, as can be seen below.  However it was the first time I had created a ‘spherical’ image.

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Practice

These two exercised have helped advance and consolidate my work.

The consolidation comes from the appreciation that photographic work is about collaborative ventures and engaging others in image making and now in textual narrative is likely to find its way into my cross media work in future.

The largest and most advancing leap is the creation of images that are spherical panoramas of spaces.  As I work in buildings and structures which are going through transition there is a new opportunity to widen the visual capture by ‘mapping’ whole spaces and finding ways (VR and more) to recreate those spaces that are disappearing from reality and making them recur in a new reality.

Links

Splash IoS app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/splash/id1057262494?ls=1&mt=8 (if link does not work try from your phone)

For the textual engagement project:

http://www.paradisebirmingham.co.uk/the-vision/

http://www.john-madin.info/

Artist Interview: Attilio Fiumarella: Works of Mercy

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It is very timely, interviewing Attilio Fiumarella about his work on show at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, hosted by the University of Birmingham, it reflects on European flow of people in Birmingham as the great welcoming city, the division that appears in society between the disenfranchised which is sharply in focus as we approach a general election and then the increasing volume of local photographic activity.

Attilio is an accomplished and award winning photographer who chose Birmingham as his new home in 2013.  Born in Naples and trained in architecture and photography in Porto, Portugal he has the natural instinct for the visual, rooted in the authenticity of communities and the means of using photography as a political and social ‘voice’.

Caravaggio’s singular painting of 1607 is hung over an altar in a Naples church, steeped in the Christian tradition of the gospels, cites the seven acts of mercy, feeding the hungry and the sick, burying the dead, visiting the imprisoned, dressing the naked, the offer of shelter, receiving the thirsty.  These all play out in one painting, the tumble of figures powerfully highlighted against a very muted street backdrop.  Attilio speaks calmly and fluently about the memory of his childhood and the abiding nature of the act of art placing the fragility of humanity onto the conscience of church-goers and applies it to his days walking through Porto, a city that was struggling years after the banking crisis that created a community of need, with the homeless, prostitutes young and old sitting in a square and lines of people, including students, queuing at food-banks.  Attilio observed those queues daily, having sold books and possessions to fund his own version of Works of Mercy; he needed to demonstrate the empathy with people.  The project was appropriately born in Naples where he shot a dark, underexposed series of 7 images which would serve as a backdrop to seven models.  The models were homeless men he talked to and explained that he wished to make images of men who could be offered an opportunity to participate in a studio, posing to reflect the acts of need and mercy.  One by one the images were made, reflecting the immaculate planning typical of Attilio’s architectural training as he was able to book the school of photography studio for only one hour at a time, placing his models at ease, setting the lighting and explaining with sketches how the props should be harnessed, always keeping in mind the individual backdrops that he was to merge with these studios shots in a post-production blend to achieve the final image.

Working from the platform of success Fiumarella then approached the prostitutes and after the first cautious candidate agreed to take part she was happy to convince others of the merits of the venture.  In all 14 images were created; a female and male series.  The prize for emerging photographers was bagged and for three years the work toured throughout Portugal.

The series is moving and enthralling and provokes a reminder that in the twenty first century we are allowing a degraded, helpless group of people in all our cities, but Attilio’s wish was to provide an authentic dignity to his collaborating models which he does with aplomb.  Printed and framed at almost life-size scale we are provided with a series of images which one views as a painterly execution, it somehow seems possible to swing between the natural tendency to look at these rather than ‘through’ them as many of us do with photographs. Reassuringly it was good to hear that as many models as possible were found and provided with a print of themselves; this was noted by Attilio as a moving and tearful moment, seeing the quality and beauty in the model and photographer’s joint venture.

A moment of serendipity occurred when Attilio arrived to settle in Birmingham and he attended a local portfolio review, a common process in the photographic world, where he was seen by one of the most influential people on the Birmingham photographic network, Pete James, who immediately saw the deep meaning and quality of the series.  Pete in turn made contact with the Barber and the journey to making a rather excellent foray for that institute to dip its toe into showing photography, rather momentus, as the first in its history.  It is not possible to view this series without seeing its relevance to now and the election just weeks away and matters of conscience.

2017 is clearly going to be a great year for engaging with photography in Birmingham.  Pete James has been collaborating for a long time with Mat Collishaw, he of Young British Artist fame, and a truly amazing experiential installation called ‘Thresholds’ is due at Waterhall, BMAG from June to September based on the innovation and birth of photography in 1839 which was on show at King Edward’s School just months after the very birth of the art.  You will be able to immerse yourself with the latest artificial reality goggles, headphones and a backpack and walk though the Victorian room touching the vitrines showing the equipment and prints from the 1839 exhibition with moths around the lights and mice running around your feet.  This is part of Developed in Birmingham and is a cutting edge techno experience which matches the shocking new world of photo that was on display for all to see at the birth of the new reproducible world.  BOM, Birmingham Open Media, is hosting a parallel show called ‘A White House on Paradise Street’ by artist Jo Gane in collaboration with Pete James and Leon Trimble. This exhibition is inspired by what may be the first Daguerreotype image made in Birmingham, and potentially the first image made in England using the Daguerreotype process (a process invented in 1839 by Louis Daguerre, using silver plated copper). Now missing, the image is said to have depicted a White House on Paradise Street and was made by Birmingham based scientist, artist, lecturer and patent agent George Shaw in the summer of 1839.  So keep an eye out for more information.

Fig 1 To Shelter the Homeless

Fig 2 To Admonish the Sinners

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Fig 3 Barber Institute Exhibition

Links

http://www.attiliofiumarella.com

http://barber.org.uk/

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mat-collishaw-thresholds-tickets-34243314676