Evolving a Zine

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


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Figure 1

There had been a conglomeration of ideas, thoughts and content for the zine concept.  Choices eventually warrant decisions, on timing, shelf-life, paper, printing process, crafting vs printing, binding, discernment of content and more.  It was time for a peer review.

Armed with Campany and Keppel books, Griffin and Hawkesworth zines, concrete tablets and Madmapper loaded on my laptop along with my blog posts, I talked through all the options and ideas with Rebecca Foster a graphic designer whom I have known for some time.  I needed to review, refine and talk paper, sheets, printing and processes, fig 2.  Having worked with graphic designers previously I always value their ability to liaise with printers on fine detail.


Figure 2

The first decision was to resolve the debate about hand-printing and stitching a small run zine, as opposed to a professional company printing, trimming and binding a larger number.  A sub-text to that discussion was the linked decision around longevity of a piece of work that would take considerable time and financial investment which would be optimised if not restricted to being an exhibition ‘catalogue’ but rather a launchpad beyond the exhibition and into a visualisation of the practice for future use, for say 6-12 months.  This was perhaps the most fundamental decision, as paper choices and printing processes would follow.  Both pragmatism, driven by pre-exhibition timing and the desire to invest in a longer view drew the decision to direct the thinking towards a commercial process.

Figures 3, 4

The tactile and visual stimulus of paper samples, fig 3 and the quality of uncoated and coated papers was then indulged, fig 4.  Looking at quotations it was deemed affordable to mix the papers within the zine.

The number of sheets, thus pages, thus sides was a discussion point, and reviewing exemplars, fig 1 and 5, 6 and 7, I knew would create a strong working boundary in which to think about content.  It would be indisciplined to run to too many pages.  Having looked at the spacing, flow, text/image mix I decided on 4 sheets of uncoated and a gate-fold centre-fold of effectively 4 sheets.  This provides an opportunity to mix the image and text type to the paper finish choices, noting the projection/concrete/print mixed media at the exhibition.

Figures 5, 6, 7

The sheets would be scored by the printer for the binding as well as the gate-fold.  Staples would be the conventional method of binding but the choice of loop-stitch staples which, for slightly novel reasons, appealed to me, figs 8, 9.  This would create an opportunity to ‘wire’ together with a supplementary sheet at exhibition time if desired.

This decision was informed by the fact that the critical review would not be written within the production timetable period and could be added, via wired joint, at the start of exhibition period.

Figures 8, 9

We made a scaled-down model to talk through the flow of imagery and text and the cover, fig 10.  I thought the ‘A proportion’ would work, most likely at A5, as much of my work is based on the A ratio.


Figure 10

This enabled a discussion of ideas that translated into a rough set of content notes, fig 11 for me to go away with and attune. This included the notion of one image acting as the ‘wrap-around cover’ to include the Birmingham Dust text at a position on the front cover.


Figure 11

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Figure 12

I had created a map using Google Earth earlier in the week and located the twelve Birmingham projects.  We decided this could be printed on a sheet but be divided in half by the intervening pages this occurring as an image in two places, split.  I am concerned about the copyright issues with Google and the clarity at such a scale, so will likely have a simple overview drawn instead.  I do believe people will engage with the map.

In summary, the session was useful to clarify and assist with what is otherwise solo thinking.  It gave me the impetus to progress onto the task of a super edit and the next round of zine development.



Portfolio Review : Practice Development

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Week 11.  


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It was with eager anticipation that I attended the Grain Portfolio Development day at Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry on 2nd December 2017, facilitated by Grain Photo Hub.

This was to be my third portfolio review session (beyond my university critiques); this time around I was more prepared and anticipated it, with a good presentation and attentive ears.

The day was launched with talks from all four of the portfolio reviewers; Camilla Brown, curator, writer and lecturer on contemporary art and previously curator at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Anthony Luvera, artist, photographer, writer and educator, Craig Ashley, Curator and Director of New Art West Midlands and Liz Hingley, photographer and anthropologist.

In summary, we were advised to prepare well, show up to 20 images and up to three projects/bodies of work.  It is a time limited session and is a negotiated transaction; expect to be concise but clear about the premise for one’s work and then allow time and space for the reviewed to pick up the work, shuffle it round and corral a response.  We should regard our portfolios as fluid objects that reflect our artistic voice that will develop and evolve with time and after reflection.  To connect with reviewers we were advised to research your reviewers and make a choice about who you see were there are options in order to extract as much useful critique as possible.  Inevitably exposure requires composure and when the work is strong and compelling it may, after time, be networked into other realms of the photography world via the reviewers. 

As I have found before, preparation for conflicting, curious, incisive, searching and sometimes upsetting advice; this isn’t an ego smoothing exercise, it is meant to cajole, provoke and make one fervent for betterment.

Every speaker advised that we should leave a post card or a sheet to be taken away, to linger with the reviewers; proving the point, Luvera left as all with copies of his community art work newspaper, ‘Not Going Shopping’.

Brown posited reviews will increasingly be on-line in the future; somewhat appropriate when the Flexible MA at Falmouth University is considered and its working methods.  Both Luvera and Hingley found that their practice took notable leaps forward after portfolio reviews by people who were either directly influential or were connected with people who were looking to commission, hang or publish work.  Source Magazine was mentioned numerous times in this context.

Curators were referenced on three occasions and Luvera noted that they can help connect with the artist but also provide a new editing eye that may link with a new narration of one’s work.  He also stated that the audience for your work should be borne in mind when presenting, i.e. the anticipated viewers and the context.

Craig Ashley, as a curator, facilitator and writer is an experienced witness of audiences across the UK Midlands has interfaced with many artists including photographic artists over many years, including the Peter Kennard exhibition at MAC Birmingham in 2016 which I had especially admired for its layering of imagery and its powerful messaging.  He quoted Maria Balshaw (whom I was fortunate to briefly worked with in Birmingham)  made succinct points about curating see figure 2.


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Ashley cited Jon Tonks book Empire that sat alongside a body of visual work and maps and, with Ashley, an holistic show was created from this breadth of collateral. 

Hingley spoke about her body of work, Under Gods, 2007-09 (also a published photobook) and the influences of Martin Parr and asking Richard Billingham to review here work. She reminded us to maintain momentum around applying for awards and completions to keep up the chances of being seen and awarded.  As a result of this she was asked to create the Shanghai version of the ‘Portraits de Villes’.

The Reviews

I was rather pleased that, whilst one could choose two of the four available reviewers, I was offered an additional slot with a third.  In summary all three were distinct and highly useful for my moment of evolution with my work.

Craig Ashley

Following an introduction to the premise for the Pause Project and the selected 10 images in my portfolio box we spoke about;

Referencing James Webb at Coventry Cathedral who is using audio from the Dean’s broadcast when the cathedral was bombed in 1940 as a memoriam related to my anticipated multi media final MA show.

On discussing the venue for my final show Ashley cited Jan Svoboda (1934-1990) who, upon subsequent research (see footnote below),  I note created unique pieces, in response to my thinking about unique, concrete based imagery.

We discussed materiality, texture, environment, scale, light and print finish that would help inform the characteristics of my final installation.

Footnotes on Jan Svoboda:

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Jan Svoboda was interviewed with Liba Taylor for British Journal of Photography 1982 – an archive I will endeavour to uncover.

From these links I note Svoboda was constantly endeavouring to create unique images using substrates; my concrete work has the same objective.



From https://www.photoeditionberlin.com/programm/czech-fundamental/jan-svoboda/  accessed 3.12.2017, I embolden the pertinent points here;

“In an effort to achieve maximum degree of autonomy of the photographic image, Svoboda, thanks to fundamental and original formal innovation, reached the very limits of the possible. Due to their sophisticated techniques, his works entirely shook off the principle of being reproduceable and thus became (paradoxically for photography) unique works of art. Their solitary nature was emphasised, Svoboda being unaccustomed in those days to large formats, by a total absence of framing, the use of a solid foundation with a supporting framework, of detaching the works from the surface of the wall. Photographs are thus elevated to the rank of objects that communicate independently with both the exibition space and the atmosphere of the lighting”.

From www.artmap.cz/jan-svoboda-1934-1990 accessed 3.12.2017 – here he notably exhibited with a sculptor and an artist – demonstrating his mix of company; “Jan Svoboda was more inclined to the company of artists, as it was called his time, than photographers. Although the marginal, yet distinctive detail remains that he likes to sign directly into the picture. However, Jaromír Zemina provided the exhibition with the May group (1964) when he introduced his works together with the statues of Jiří Seifert and the drawings of Václav Boštík in the exhibition O světlu (1994)”.

Liz Hingley

After viewing the images and talking about the body of work and its direction towards an installation and potentially a photobook,  Liz spoke about links to people in Birmingham that she is presently working with (for example Claire Mullett – https://culturalintermediation.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/arts-science-festival-1960s-art-architecture-tour/ accessed 3.12.2017)  and talked about scanning items that I have quietly liberated from some of my shoots and also the possibility of creating wallpaper from my images.

We talked about ‘feeling the atmosphere’ in the space where my final show would be hosted – to emulate the conveyance in my prints and images.  This echoed the discussion with Ashley.

Camilla Brown

Camilla Brown appeared enthralled by one image in particular and this delighted me because I too had highlighted it as the key piece in my work in progress portfolio, a painterly piece from the Round House and its window. 

I used the word ‘documenting’ as one descriptor for my work  but Brown queried this and felt that the work was more “evoking curiosity” and takes you to a “different place” than perhaps a pure catalogued documenting process may lead to.  We discussed Edgar Martins and his ‘Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes’ and the degree of translation and selection that even then demurred from the original order of the source, thus not wholly documented and indeed manipulated digitally.  My response was to say I was perhaps then a “visually led art image maker” – though I think this still requires distillation.

Brown directed me to John Divola and Lucio Fontana.  See figure 4 for Divola’s work in abandoned spaces.

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Brown predicted that my Pause Project would develop sub-series and new threads as it moved forward.

I mentioned that I had planned to create a zine for distribution to developers and landowners to gather more shooting opportunities in the New Year – she extremely usefully suggested that I sought out cities that would be hosting future photographic festivals such as Brighton, Liverpool and Derby for the strategic exhibiting approach this may provide.

Finally Brown suggested a textual response to my work that is “fluid and creative” – I explained that I enjoyed writing about photography.  Haiku was mentioned as a potential pattern as was Rinko Kawauchi for her work.





Camilla Brown www.camillaebrown.co.uk

Anthony Luvera http://www.luvera.com/

Liz Hingley http://lizhingley.com/

Craig Ashley http://newartwestmidlands.co.uk/who-we-are/


Cited by Craig Ashley

Jon Tonks, https://www.jontonks.com/books/


Cited by Liz Hingley

Portraits de Ville,  http://www.portraitsdevilles.fr/en/vues-choisies-/70-shanghai-liz-hingley.html


Cited by Camilla Brown






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 (BoM) 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 (for the general public), 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.


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 (shot with an iPhone)




A Concrete Acquisition

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Practice Development 

“V&A acquires three-storey chunk of Robin Hood Gardens”

This headline caught my eye as today (9th November 2017) The Architect’s Journal (AJ) released the news that the Victoria and Albert Museum are to acquire a portion of the sadly, soon to be demolished, Robin Hood Gardens – a huge concrete residential estate in Poplar, East London designed in the late 1960’s by architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972.

On a rather more modest scale I am seeking to obtain concrete from the demolition of the concrete Conservatoire building in Birmingham and also recreate a concrete imagery installation as a memoriam to Birmingham’s concrete heritage, hence to see this move by a national institution is a delight. Notably Christopher Turner, keeper of the design, architecture and digital department at the V&A, is quoted in the article below: “This three-storey section of Robin Hood Gardens, complete with “street in the sky”, is an important piece of Brutalism, worth preserving for future generations.  It is also an object that will stimulate debate around architecture and urbanism today – it raises important questions about the history and future of housing in Britain, and what we want from our cities.”

Here is an extract of the article from the AJ;

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The V&A is to take possession of a three-storey section of Robin Hood Gardens, saying it as an ‘important piece of Brutalism, worth preserving for future generations’

The section from Alison and Peter Smithson’s lauded 1972 Brutalist landmark is 8.8m high, 5.5m wide and 8m deep. It includes the exterior façades and interiors of a maisonette as well as part of the ‘streets in the sky’ walkway.

The east London estate is set to be demolished to make way for the Blackwall Reach regeneration project.

The acquisition came about as a result of a collaborative effort between Liza Fior of muf architecture/art; the London Borough of Tower Hamlets; London mayor Sadiq Khan; project backer Swan Housing Association; Hill Partnerships; and Northeast Demolition.


Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar in 1986


Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar in 1986, photographed by Mike Seabourne

In September, the AJ reported that builders were beginning to take down the western side of the estate, but that there were still residents living in the eastern block of the two main Smithson-designed buildings. A spokesperson for Swan Housing Association told the AJ that these residents would not be moved out until 2020.

Catherine Croft, director at the Twentieth Century Society, which strongly opposes the demolition, said: ‘Keeping a small section is by no means an adequate way of preserving all that is important about a great building, but nevertheless we are delighted that some sense of the physical materiality of Robin Hood Gardens will endure.

‘It is very prescient of V&A to recognise the significance of the estate, both as an example of high Modernist design, and as a highly controversial conservation disaster.’

Previously, in 2008, then architecture minister Margaret Hodge also refused to list the estate following a campaign mounted by Building Design magazine, concurring with English Heritage that it was unfit for people to live in.

https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/10025139.article?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=AJ_EditorialNewsletters.Reg:%20Send%20-%20Daily%20bulletin&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTnpZeE9EbGhNVFUxWmpnNSIsInQiOiJKRjFnVlwvVlYxaGNaRjFoakF5WUtsQnhcLzJQR2dvSXI0aUx2YjhTcmFOaWVoNUlpcjQyRWsrQXJyRDFicGZEUHlXSWVJUHJ4N3lNNGJ6QUFaT2s0aWlqNFlkSGhtVHpXejJVdmlhYzIyd1NcL0pSWWV1NmNhWDhsMFlhRkFiSHhFSyJ9         accessed 9.11.2017 (NB links to this journal are often denied unless you are a subscriber)


A Very Personal Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Practice Development 

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When I declare myself as relatively introverted person and then see my Pause Project, they tell me the two things are hard-wired together – I am told I need to “move out of my comfort zone” and work with people.  Well, if I was forced to capture a wedding or a party I would rather poke out my eyes and do other bodily destructive things.  But a rather sad set of circumstances instead arose for me a week ago.  A friend who I have known for 15 years said she wanted to venture into town and meet me.  She has been a prominent business leader, campaigner and exemplar coach for her whole adult life and has an honour which reflects her tenacious character.  She has very quietly been dealing with a very serious and invasive form of cancer and was embarking on her first foray into town for a very long time.  She asked me to bring my camera.

The meeting wasn’t solemn at all.  There was a comprehensive download about family, the law, the determinism in some quarters of the medial profession and some political campaigning.  This was put into a very particular set of contexts when I was then told that she had been predicted to survive until November 2017.  My hope is that remains inaccurate.

We met in my current favourite bar (readers of this journal will know the one) and we had a very warm conversation.  A good way in, I took my camera out of my bag and we simply talked and I used one hand to shoot a whole series as we talked, there was no posing, no direction and in fact the direct beams of sunlight created a very awkward contrast, but my unobtrusive mirrorless camera simply came up with results.

Here you see the two unedited images that best sum her up. For me they both capture her; her mannerisms; her action and her thoughtfulness.

I have not named her here for the want to be discreet.  I have sent these two images to her.  I have not heard back, so I wonder what that means.


I have felt the relative remoteness of Barthes’ punctum when applied to much of my work on buildings and their spaces, light and materiality.  But the day I made these images that term came to flying into my mind.  The punctum; the direct, personal, almost wounding visual dialogue and the capture of the very moments of the sheer brilliance I knew was there and witnessed; a connection; a privilege.

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The Pause Project : A Shoot in Birmingham : The Roundhouse

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Practice Development 

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Following my afternoon in the Birmingham archive researching concrete design and construction I decided to treat myself to a coffee and cake at Ikon Gallery and the serendipity of networks came to be.  I met an old colleague who is now working with the Canal and Rivers Trust along with the National Trust; we chatted and I described my Pause Project and the response was, “shoot The Roundhouse on Monday morning as that afternoon we commence our inventory and clear-out ready for the redevelopment into a fully fledged visitor facility”.  So I did, today, 6th November 2017.

The Roundhouse was constructed in 1874 to provide a canal-side facility for stabling the horses that served the web of canals that run through Birmingham.  It is now Grade 2* listed.  The background and prospects are summarised here https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/roundhouse-birmingham

The shoot was ripe for the Pause Project as the building had surfaces and materiality typical of its age and interim uses (such as small offices, studios and shops) that have created an array of interventions and interruptions to the simplicity of the original architecture.  The timing was fortuitous as the pause was about to end; this dormant structure was about to lift from its decade of slumbers and draw a deep breath to revive.

I shot 331 images plus a cluster on the new iPhone 8+ to trial its capacity.  This is the first edit which needs to reduce to circa 10 images as I take the ruthless editor’s knife to it during a second round.



Shooting Spaghetti

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects.  Practice Development

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As a clearly defined adjunct to my thinking about concrete infused imagery as part of my Pause Project, I am developing my awareness of concrete its use out in the field of the constructed environment around my resident city, Birmingham UK.

This practice development is founded on two practitioners I have viewed on line;

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‘A Fine Beginning’ is a Welsh photography collective that offers a platform to discover and showcase photography being made in and about Wales.  They cite Nick St. Oegger’s work here http://www.afinebeginning.com/bypassed/  (accessed 29.10.2017).  Lessons were learnt, as the original stretch of what is now the M4 motorway connected and helped the economic revitalisation South Wales to England, yet, “Behind the fanfare laid the fact that over 200 houses, three churches and several schools had been destroyed to make way for the motorway. Despite the advances, the bypass has left a lasting effect on the physical and psychological landscape of Port Talbot”.  The photographer (also an MA student) managed to capture the strident, overhead enormity of a concrete engineering project that remains impactful, since 1966, upon the lives and outlook of people, their homes, streets and lives – figure 2.

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The photographer Colin Templeton captured Port Talbot communities again on the length of the M4 and his grainy black and White images evoke a soulless, largely deserted series of spaces left over from the ‘War of the Worlds’ type of concrete legs that stride through the landscape, figure 3.  http://colintempleton.com/red-road/  accessed 29.10.2017

From these readings and knowing, (having worked in 2006 on the area) that, around Spaghetti Junction, junction 6 of the M6/A38M interchange, north of Birmingham city centre, that three Birmingham communities were divided by this roadway, I decided to embark on a shoot.  This I did on 28th October.  For this shoot I had time to get close up to the structures and particularly the concrete supports that pierce the ground, canal and river that form the landscape.  The material surfaces and incredible spans were enthralling.  This area is quite different from the Port Talbot communities as the concrete routes here were created across less developed land, nevertheless pathways and roads were closed to create this opportunity.  This had a practical impact on the shoot, as I took a burly assistant with me as I was visibly carrying quite a bit of photographic kit with me, given the wilderness nature of the area.

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figures 4,5,6,7,8

Figures 1, and 4 to 8 demonstrate the enormity of the overhead structures.

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figures 9,10,11

Figures 9 to 11 are close-up studies of the concrete surface demonstrating the qualities of the surface undulations and casting marks.