Preview Text

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 11.04.44Figure 1

As another part of the exhibition preparation falls into place, it is naturally pleasing to receive the text from the art blogger, Ruth Millington, fig 1.  Following two briefing meetings, the following has come from her pen and will be used in the exhibition.


Gilders Yard Doors

‘If we turn concrete to dust, where do those memories go?’ – Christopher Beanland

‘Birmingham Dust’ captures a city changing, physically and culturally, amidst rapid regeneration. As part of Philip Singleton’s larger ‘Pause Project’, this exhibition presents the artist’s photographic interventions across twelve sites in Birmingham, ahead of their demolition or redevelopment. Through printed photographs, a projected film and an installation of concrete tablets, Philip Singleton preserves those places where dust has settled, before they disappear. 

An architect-turned artist, Philip Singleton began the ‘Pause Project’ by taking photographic images of Edgbaston House, left empty, in 2016. He was struck by the discarded objects – food, tables, pictures, signs, even a suitcase –  recognising them as signifiers of a peoples’ lives and memories. His series of photographic prints explore uninhabited urban sites, including the Roundhouse, Municipal Bank and Birmingham’s Conservatoire. Uncanny images, such as ‘Gilders’ Yard – Looking Through’, suggest mystery in the mundane, with multiple doors left curiously ajar, above. Other photographs display dust, the signifier of time passing, as it settles and shrouds spaces. 

Alongside the photographs is an installation of 21 unique concrete tablets, onto which the artist has transferred decal prints. He is amongst several contemporary artists, including Anselm Kiefer, Rachel Whiteread and Stefano Canto, to exploit the association between architecture, concrete, construction and memorials. The tablets appear as archaeological exhibits, and each solid slab is textured with indentations and imperfections, its patina perceptible through and in the space surrounding the photograph. These permanent concrete casts, which will grow harder over time, preserve the fragile prints of places soon to be lost, becoming mausoleums of memory.

The exhibition’s third component is a projection which casts a series of paired photographs of vacant buildings onto the gallery wall. As each set of images are paused, silently, the eye is drawn to shafts of natural light, which illuminate aspects of the architecture. The film requests a meditative, reflective response. Within the space, a solitary coat hanger or empty duo of chairs mark moments of humanity, the objects acting as vessels of memory. The transience is transfixing, celebrating the nuances of life.

‘Birmingham Dust’ shares a city’s collective history, locating memories in empty architectural space and abandoned objects. The exhibition highlights the role of photography in archiving actual, past realities. At the same time, Philip Singleton brings his own experiences – as a resident and architect of the city – to his ongoing ‘Pause Project’. Having spent hours alone in each of the twelve buildings, his imagery betrays his personal interpretations, encounters and memories of Birmingham’s urban spaces, before they disappear into dust.

Ruth Millington 



Solo? This isn’t a One Person Endeavour

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


Image making is very often sourced from the solo mind; the imagination, plans and ideas emerge from the sweep of the horizon of creativity or, conversely, the channelling of a deep, specific seam of excitement.  The masters course has led me through both of these approaches.  The final installation is complex in its conception and delivery.  I am conscious that the process of refining and defining will lead to what may appear to be a ‘clean and simple’ method if display as I have, through considered means and listening to advice, created a plan which will nevertheless, hopefully, be a journey through information, stimulation and the diversity of media.

To achieve this pre-show milestone I am caused to review, to write up who and what has supported this endeavour so that I can declare that and convey my appreciation. This is the ‘work in progress’ thank you sheet.  The masters is, of appropriate necessity, a solo undertaking, yet to deliver a show that entails, space, money, technical equipment, collateral, printers, concrete makers and above all people who have allowed me access to their buildings is a network of really quite amazing people.  Here is that review;


Birmingham Dust


There are a wide range of people who have supported my image making endeavours over the last two years.

A number deserve special mention here

Jennie Anderson of course for hosting the installation and talking to me over the last year and a half about other artists she has shown and the positioning of Argentea.  Bringing contemporary photography to Birmingham is a seal of belief in the city.

John Heath of Pimlico Capital for the financial support brought to the project by investing in my limited edition prints in the Hong Kong office as well as forward purchase of some work related to this exhibition.  It is really hard for art to happen and be seen without this kind of support.

The many agents, architects, planning consultants, developers and building owners who put up with my cajoling for access to such a diverse range of spaces.  There is more to come.

Stephen Morgan for his editing advice and software tuition.

Leon Trimble for taking me from zero to somewhere in terms of learning about image projection.

Jaanika Okk for representing a selection of my imagery.

Rebecca Foster for her fine and patient design work on the zine that captures the exhibition and the wider Pause Project.

Mike Cooper for the decal transfer work which simply couldn’t be done with only one pair of hands.

Adam Carthy of Space Play for his patient collaboration on specification and then making not only the moulds but the concrete tablets.

Steve Palm of Palm Labs in Digbeth for his printing and Harris Moore for framing.

Stacey Barnfield for his PR work.

Bob Ghosh of K4 Architects for the residency opportunity

The numerous tutors at Falmouth University and its Institute of Photography who have pressed and prodded the learning that has taken both my mind and my eye to new and unexpected levels.

Millie Wilby and Mike Mounfield for being super friends and keeping me well fed.  You are my ‘moral’ supporters.

Finally, Pete James, the man who, in his absolutely able way, quietly supported and wrote about my work and infused a whole raft of advice on our many strolls through Warley Woods.  Those walks are no longer the same.  The man is missed.

Practicing the Words

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

Figures 1, 2

I have been deliberately rehearsing the messages of the Pause Project and the exhibition title Birmingham Dust.  Talking over and over again, at any opportunity has assisted in refining not only the vocabulary of practice, but attunes the mental process too (the reinforcement of repetition).  To be compelling and convincing as a personality seems perhaps as important as the set of edited images themselves to engage people.

As I am a month away from installation, I have had meetings this week with the art blogger (Ruth Millington, fig 1) and also the PR (one-person) firm (Stacey Barnfield, fig 2) I have asked to spend a month promoting the exhibition.  Alongside the zine production, too, the published words become critical to be acute, succinct, punchy and meaningful.

Firstly, the list of buildings;

The Conservatoire

The Roundhouse

Municipal Bank

Edgbaston House

The Clarendon Suite

Madin Studio 123 Hagley Road

Herbert House

Gilder’s Yard

1-4 Great Hampton Street

Christopher Wray Building

Steelhouse Lane Police Station

Junction Works

Here is why they were chosen for my shoots, within the body of work;

All of these buildings were ripe for change and thus became the primary target for negotiation with owners and agents, to enable me to carry out the shoots.  I will often spend 5 to 8 hours in a building to understand its history and purpose and then closely observe its use, often uncovering surprises.

The project formed when I shot Edgbaston House on the Calthorpe Estate, in late 2016 and again in 2017, as I was expecting a series of banal and repetitive spaces over its 20 storeys, but in fact the things left behind were curiously engaging and a real find –  both corporate and personal, from food, to tables, to pictures, signs, computers and a suitcase.  I took delight in the intimacy, the detail, the unexpected – as if stories were emerging or being implied, peoples’ lives, their memories, the simple signs of abandonment.  I use dust as a theme because it evokes the passing of time and neglect – it also shrouds but invites marks and traces of human movement, like fingerprints.  Photography is a kind of imprint; light is shed onto an object then captured onto the camera’s sensor and that moment is caught.  The moment precedes the wrecking ball or the polishing of the new.  So, these memories are made solid when I create concrete tablets that are in the installation at Argentea gallery.  It is as if I make concrete from the dust or crunched up walls.

All twelve of the buildings are within the wider city centre of Birmingham.  I have been living here for 28 years now and I am certain that the sheer pace and volume of change in the city exceeds anything I have seen before.  The routes we take are being altered, familiar forms, structures and buildings are being reconfigured, rearranged.  All this change means we lose the past, so memories can only live in our mental catalogue and of course through images.  We live so much now ‘in the moment’ but we calibrate where we are now with where we were – call it progress, call it growth, call it regeneration, but it is only those descriptors if we know where we have been and what things were like.  Photography serves as a visual stimulus and founds these thoughts.  This is why I make a statement of memoriam via the solidity and tangibility of concrete and, by contrast and counterpoint, the projection of the ephemeral, playing with light, remaking images onto new surfaces.

A little more about my back-story, where the themes interact with the text above;

Being an architect has given me an undeniable view of the world – the materiality, the shapes, the forms and meaning of things.  This has seeped into my image-based work.

Add to that the fascination with Birmingham – the city that has absorbed two-thirds of my life.  Its motto, Forward, provides fertile ground for architects; the liquidating of buildings just one generation old means the shiny new becomes the next wave of excitement.  I intervene with my camera into the paused time before the demolition ball or clean-up moves in.

I have become more reflective; my images indulge that sentiment.  Each building earmarked for change or death, however seemingly ordinary, I have discovered, is imbued with a patina of life, even when the people are long gone.  There are marks, abandoned things, echoes of life.

So, the work is about memory – both the physical and the social – of Birmingham.  Its prominent buildings like the Conservatoire to the ordinary, like shops in the Jewellery Quarter.

The work is not some vast vista documenting facades and huge volumes, it is more about the intimate, the detail, the lost moments, the leftover objects.

The exhibition is an exploration of the dust of time; dust as the sign of passing.  The work divides into three very different media – I have been experimenting with concrete and this has become solid, tangible tablets, like a permanent memorial to the objects that will be gone, forever.  Concrete is that hard material, almost like a remaking from dust.  As a counterpoint, the other media is projection, where I will be creating an opportunity for the gallery visitor to see images in constantly rolling pairs – these are more transient, about light and moments of observation.  So one thing you can touch, the other is fleeting.  The third means for showing is the traditional, high quality, limited edition print, framed and behind glass, to demonstrate that the work is rooted and can be regarded in a conventional sense.


Stacey Barnfield image from, company website, accessed 13.5.2018

Ruth Millington image from Twitter (@ruthmillington) accessed 13.5.2018


Zine : Content

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 13.14.27

Figure 1

I have made periodic references to Edgar Martins‘ practice throughout my MA studies. Meeting him at ParisPhoto in 2016 and then hearing him talk in 2017, I remain awed by his tenacious and detailed research into each body of work that he creates.

In his series ‘Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes’, 2016-2017, he introduces it thus “this project proposes to scrutinize, expose and hold in tension many of the contradictions and problems inherent in the conceptualisation, definition and depiction of death. These intentions will likely collide, overlap and blur, revealing the fragility of our perceptual and cognitive systems.” and continues by stating that it “encompasses the production of new photographic work, following both a speculative and documentary approach,  the appropriation of previously unseen archive material such as historical photographs, confidential case and medical files, crime and suicide-scene evidence, photo-installation and projection,” 

Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Martins thus captured a series of objects and photographed them in isolation from the context of the research, as if allowing the images to exude their own presence and then, by insertion back into the body of work, a rope suddenly has a sad implication, a rock too, as tools of death. His strategies for narrative are via photo-books and large-scale installations, applying the images to a build a portrayal of his study; figs 2 – 7

Whilst more modest in approach, I have, since mid-2017, been ‘liberating’ objects that summarise the Pause Project, things left behind, the abandoned items that symbolise the use that has passed, actually a form of death.  I have spent the last three days considering these items, the meaning and implications, as well as creating images of them as a way of incorporating them into the multi-media exhibition.  Today, 22nd April, I have edited the objects and cropped them all into a sqaure format (a techniue I applied for my September 2017 exhbition), fig 1.  The gaze is thus invited at parts of objects, to engage the viewer to consider their use and purpose.  They vary from a rusty fixing, to masonic regalia, signs and sex toys.

In the context of Canto‘s work as archeology, I have made images (in parallel with the visual strategy above) of a sample group of concrete shards from the demolished Conservatoire, close up, to present them as if as fossils, as the trace of reinforcing bars, paint and surface stresses are all made clear via this edit, fig 8.


Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 13.18.58

Figure 8

A Strategy

I have previously written about the potential for a zine concept and typology .  I remain of the view that the zine will be produced, but it needs to be viewed as a contingency for the exhibition and its launch; the priority is the media to be displayed in the gallery spaces.

However, the zine concept allows the collection of a series of writings and images and remains an important tool in the armoury of sustaining the exhibition after it closes, as a tool of capture and promotion.  It too may add to the material chosen to be shown as a strategy to illustrate the liberated objects, as there is yet to be a natural place for these in the exhibition space.  If it is created for the exhibition then it has a greater visual width and sampling than simply a repetition of the exhibition.

Fig 9 states my thinking in terms of title, Birmingham Dust, flow and content, as a draft for discussion with peers.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 14.01.22

Figure 9


Figures 1, 8, 9 – Philip Singleton

Figures 2 – 7 and 10 sourced from Edgar Martins’ website, accessed 22.4.2018

Fig 10, below, is an illustration from ‘Destinerrance: The Place of the Dead is the Place of Photography at Centro de Arte José de Guimarães, Guimarães (Portugal)‘ showing the interplay between hung images and objects in a field as an exhibiting exemplar.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 14.09.38

Figure 10

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

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 09.34.37

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’

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 12.51.29
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.

A Tutorial – Project Progress

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

As I multi-track all aspects of my planned installation I had a scheduled tutorial with Wendy McMurdo on my Final Major Project planning.  These are the summary notes, recorded for reference and action as I move forward to opening my exhibition on 14th June 2018.

FPP was a clear presentation and provides a good journey plan.

I have several strands to my overall theme as I move to shape my installation.

It is about ‘Birmingham Dust’ as the principal theme – this may become the title.

Take care to avoid cramming too much into the gallery space – see figs 1, 2.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

There are many iterations to the project for now and the future.

The public outcome is the principal, but not only asset, to conclude the MA FMP. The exhibition is a process of learning – in its production and review – so, ensure it is documented.

Referenced Gideon Mendel for his Dzhangal project – responded to context, restrictions and method of public outcome – discussed photographing objects on a black background.  Look to document the objects I have liberated from spaces rather than necessarily display at the installation.

I can look at small scale and large scale projection onto buildings and model spaces – this will precede and follow the show.  Look up Dan Holdsworth.

The scaffold framed ‘table’ (for holding the concrete tablets) was discussed as a construct, but I need to ensure it is not overly complex and distracting.

I must ensure that I bring my thinking to the fore – the distinction in edit between the solid and the transient – the palimpsest (a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.) and narrative. Use the Beanland text on walls.

Repeatedly recall intent of practice and the physicality of the show.

Consider the ‘binary’ opposition of visual messaging and medium – e.g. Edmund Clark’s Ikon show, ‘In Place of Hate’ – the flowers vs the prison demeanour.

The use of dust as a physical and metaphoric descriptor – the skin that sheds, the Duchamp/Man Ray image and the Paris exhibition of David Campany (NB A Handful ofDust Mack book now ordered).

Discussed the integration of conventional prints on the gallery walls as a counterpoint to the concrete objects.

The idea of big scale prints on walls to provide axial depth appears to be a good one.

I need to mock up all the walls to allow debate on curatorial decisions.

I plan on using archival rephotography (from the John Madin archive) on concrete blocks for smashing up (to reflect the destructive forces at large) on video, then showing the results.

At the right point, I need to write a summary of the process as a new abstract.  Coherence is a key word.

Consider an entry to Photomonitor at time of the show.

Daniel Hinchcliffe at BCU was mentioned.