Portfolio Review in Bristol (WIP portfolio)

Saturday 17th August 2019

Neuropolis #1 print

I took the complete set of prints (each print 24x16cm on A4 paper) of my WIP portfolio for review with Jesse and others in Bristol (at the RPS). I wanted to get feedback on the quality of the prints and the extent to which the way I had placed the ‘codes’ between the images had worked. Having made prints, I could experiment with the manner in which they are arranged spatially (keeping the code close to the related image).

Whilst the pdf submitted has to take a linear form, it is interesting to think about the effect of displaying the prints in different ways in a gallery or other exhibition space. The grid layout, for instance, has very different connotations than the linear (vertical or horizontal), suggesting layers rather than a sequence (which might lead me to think differently about the ordering of the prints),

The feedback was very positive and reinforced my intention to work further on the printing of composites, with careful attention to tonality and texture. Jesse suggested experimenting with liquid light and printing on glass, and also exploring the physical layering of images. The codes seemed to make sense to people, and were of visual interest in their own right. One suggestion was to explore 3D ‘cut outs’ of the images used, in the way that Emeric Lhuisset has done with maps of areas destroyed in conflict in When the Clouds Speak (on show at Cloitre Saint-Triomphe, Les Rencontres d’Arles, until 22 September 2019).

Located in the Mardin province along the Turkish-Syrian border, Nusaybin was partially destroyed during fighting between the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Turkish Army in 2015 and 2016, Emeric Lhuisset.

Post-digital practice

One major consequence of thinking critically about both methodology and modes of presentation (and the relationship between these) has been to consider the relationship between analogue and digital forms in my practice. In making my composite images (see, for instance, the Neuropolis series) I have worked entirely with digital images. Alongside this I have been making large and medium format film images and experimenting with the use of these in producing large composite images, using the following process (which can also be integrated with collaborative workshop activities).

  • Initial research and exploration of the area using archival, resident and made digital images.
  • Identification of scenes to be rephotographed in large format film.
  • Scanning of negatives and the production of composites digitally.
  • Production of prints and use in projection and on screen in local pop-up exhibitions alongside other images and artefacts.

As well as the technical benefits of this process, in enabling very large prints to be produced, this approach has the potential to be collaborative (for instance, in the initial production of images and making decisions about rephotographing and combining images). It also mirrors the process of decision making in urban regeneration, which is increasingly data driven. The lived experience and characteristics of residents are quantified and decision are made on the basis of the analysis of this data (see, for instance, how demographic data, and projections, are used in applications for compulsory purchase orders, which lay the basis for large scale redevelopment of housing estates). The consequences of these decisions are subsequently felt directly and viscerally by residents, translating this back again into ‘analogue’ form. The photographic process I am exploring here mirrors this process of ‘datafication’: analogue forms are quantified (scanned) and manipulated digitally, and then translated back into analogue (as physical artefact) form, and placed back into everyday activity and experience.

I am identifying this shuffling between analogue and digital as ‘post-digital’ practice in the sense that the term is used by Alessandro Ludovico (2012) in relation to print. Ludovico argues that, despite declarations of the immanent death of print in the face of digital forms of production and distribution, print has come to thrive in particular domains (there is, for instance, an interesting case to be made for paper based archives, especially amongst mobile migrant and displaced communities, in the light of the instability of digital systems and dominance by corporations and the state). In a post-digital practice, analogue and digital forms exist alongside each other in synergy and critical dialogue. This goes beyond a nostalgic yearning for lost or increasingly marginal forms of practice, to looking at the ways in which the dynamics of digital production and distribution create (deliberatively, incidentally or serendipitously) spaces for analogue practice (and vice versa). As Cubitt et al (2015) argue, the technologies and political, economic and socio-cultural practices that fed into and influenced the development of and transition to digital photography, from analogue forms, have shaped digital practice in such a way that qualities that are available in analogue photography are not available to those working digitally. In developing a form of post-digital photographic practice, I am working with the affordances of different forms of production and distribution in a way that acknowledges the wider political, economic, social and cultural contexts and connotations of these forms, and the transformations that take place, beyond the solely technical, as we move between the analogue and the digital. This requires a broader and more nuanced conception of both analogue and digital domains. For instance, as Robinson (2006) has observed that analogue:

‘has come to mean smoothly varying, of a piece with the apparent seamless and inviolable veracity of space and time; like space and time admitting infinite subdivision, and by association with them connoting something authentic and natural, against the artificial, arbitrarily truncated precision of the digital’ (p.21).

In relating post-digital photographic practice to (data-driven) urban regeneration, I wish to highlight the losses and gains in moving between the qualitative/analogue and the quantitative/digital (and the connotations of these moves), and the heuristic potential of image making and engagement in illuminating, understanding and influencing the transformations that take place. This brief post is just intended to indicate a direction for further investigation, theoretically, methodologically and practically, in my FMP.

There is also some technical experimentation to be done, particularly in the production of composites from film negatives, and in chemical printing from digital negatives, to increase the number of points at which moves between analogue and digital can be made.

References

Cubitt, S., Palmer, D. and Walkling, L. (2015) ‘Enumerating photography from spot meter to CCD’, Theory, Culture & Society, 32(7–8): 245–265.

Ludovico, A. 2012. Post-Digital Print: The Mutation of Publishing since 1894. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.

Robinson, D. 2006. Analog. In Fuller, M. (ed.), Software Studies: A Lexicon. Cambridge, Mass: Leonardo Books. 21-30.

Oral Presentation

Final version of my presentation.

I have considered the development of my project over the course of the module and critically discussed production methodologies and presentation strategies in relation to this. Whilst it makes sense to separate methodology and presentation pedagogically, in practice they are closely related and this makes structuring the presentation tricky. I have also considered a selection of relevant work by other photographers, and how, in terms of methodology and presentation strategies, this relates to my own. Keeping within the time limit, as always, means heavy editing is necessary. Rather than attempt to be comprehensive in discussion of my project, and other work, I have selected examples from the work. Hopefully, there is enough background material in my CRJ to make it comprehensible.

New View Arts Workshop

7th, 8th, 14th & 15th August 2019

As planned, I ran a series of workshops for 7-11 year olds with Susie and Fiona from New View Arts at the Sue Bramley Children’s Centre on the Thamesview Estate. We ran four half day sessions for a group of six children (with permission from guardians for photographic and video work), designed to use photography to explore the way in which the area is changing and how the children are responding to these changes. On the first day we listened to accounts by residents who had been moved to the estate in 1954 after the Creekmouth Estate, on the banks of the Thames and the Roding rivers, flooded and was subsequently demolished. We made notes, drew pictures and looked at period photographs, and thought about how we might build an archive that would help to tell the story of the displaced residents, and started to prepare materials and make plans for a visit to Creekmouth at the second workshop.

At Creekmouth, 8th August 2019

In the second workshop we took photographs at Creekmouth, which we printed off for the third workshop. For this workshop we worked on making archive boxes and talked about living in the area and how we might build our own personal archives. For the fourth session the children brought in objects that they wanted to put into their archives, and we made photographs of these, and for the Creekmouth archive. At the end of the session we looked through all the prints and other materials and the children decided what would go into the archive boxes (personal and for Creekmouth) and discussed why. We provided digital cameras for the children at all the sessions, and ran a portable printer so that prints could be made. We also made videos and conducted interviews to feed into a film about Creekmouth to be shown in October at the Centre. I set up a large format and medium format film camera to explore, and provided card frames to experiment with framing before taking photographs. The process of selecting photographs for the archives gave further opportunities to talk about the process of making photographs, and the ways in which we might use photography, and photographs as artefacts, alongside other drawing, painting and making activities.

Curation activity, 15th August 2019

The children really enjoyed the workshops, which provided an opportunity to try out activities (the future workshops will be with older school students and adults). The images produced will feed into the Creekmouth film and the exhibition for the opening of the Men’s Shed being built on site in October, which will explore the changes taking place around the Thames Ward estates and the lives of residents (to which the children and their families will be invited).

Framing, Shed Life, 8th August 2019

Having the equipment on site also meant that activities spilled over into the Shed Life sessions, generating more interest in making photography a core activity in the shed, and as a tool in the development of the Shed and documentation of the construction process. Interestingly, there was a good deal of interest in film photography among the group, and a some expertise and prior experience with film.

Camerawork, Shed Life, 15th August 2019

More to follow in the next update on project plans. The experience has demonstrated that the plan for a number of micro-projects with pop-up exhibitions, and a subsequent collective output, is feasible. Having the help of the young volunteers was invaluable in keeping the activities moving, and it would be good to think about involving them more actively in documenting the workshops in the future.

Final Surfaces and Strategies WIP Portfolio

Here is the final version of the portfolio. Following discussion with Cemre and fellow course participants, I have decided to submit in pdf form. The alternatives would have been to submit as a website (I decided against this as I have reworked other material for presentation on the web as part of Landings 2019) or as a book (see Issuu version of the portfolio – I decided against this as I don’t feel that there is a sufficiently strong narrative thread for the collection to work well in linear book form). That left me with a decision to make about the positioning of the ‘codes’ (in book form, each code was on the facing page to its respective image). Placing the code alongside the image seemed distracting and following each image with its code set up too regular a rhythm, and gave excessive emphasis to the code. My decision was to put two codes on a page (see below), with the upper code referring to the previous image and the lower code referring to the following image.

Surfaces and Strategies WIP Portfolio, p.3

This produces a more balanced document, and the images can be viewed vertically or horizontally. The codes connote a form of QR code, from which meaning is not immediately easy to discern visually, and this works well in this format. I have produced a print version (on 310 gsm smooth pearl finish paper) for presentation at the portfolio review in Bristol. This produces an interestingly layered and textured image, but there is still work to be done on how best to present the work in print form.

NeuropolisWIPfinal-1

Landings 2019

For the Landings 2019 exhibition, I decided to reacquaint myself with Portfoliobox, and draw on work done towards the end of the previous module to produce an online gallery comprising of composite images and animations. The resulting gallery is here. The design challenge was to present the three related series of work (each comprising of four images plus an animation) in a way that demonstrated that the they related in form, but distinct in content. I have also restructured the site and uploaded other series of work done over the course of the MA. My intention is to use this site as the principal showcase for my MA related work, and then either re-design the site or move to another platform at the end of the programme.

Deep Mapping

Bloom, B and Sacramento, N. 2017. Deep Mapping. Auburn, IN: Breakdown Break Down Press.

I came across this short book by chance at a bookbinding workshop. Bloom and Sacramento describe Deep Mapping as ‘a process of reading and reshaping the landscape that embraces political, social, economic, infrastructural and environmental concerns, challenging accepted knowledge and imposed belief systems’ (p.8). It involves focusing on a specific small area or place, and conducting archival research, seeking local accounts, and, most importantly, engaging directly with the landscape through travelling in and across the area, and paying attention to what lies below and above, and what is hidden or silenced. Deep Maps, they claim, ‘propose a perspective from below, which puts puts the ‘needs and desires’ of, for example, the earth, poor people, devastated landscapes, in a relationship where they are given equal or greater consideration than the narratives of a dominant culture’ (p.6). Inspiration for the approach is taken from William Least Heat-Moon’s (1991) PrairyErth, a detailed narrative exploration of a small area of Kansas which attempts to make visible that which is not readily seen, and to present narratives and insights that run counter to dominant (western/colonial) accounts and ways of knowing. Bloom and Sacramento liken this to production of a form of ‘thick description’ proposed by the anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1973) as a conduit for engaging with cultures and ways of living with which we are unaccustomed. In the development of their own approach to Deep Mapping, as an experiential artistic practice, Bloom and Sacramento also invoke the practice of Deep Listening advocated by the composer Pauline Oliveros (2005). Sacramento presents a method for Deep Mapping, comprising of nine components, from selection of a place through to compilation of outcomes (pp. 13-16). Bloom describes a number of ‘direct social and spatial encounters’ in which Deep Mapping has been applied as a methodology.

There are strong resonances between this approach and my own project (and my wider interests, for instance in minimalist music and sound art). My work engages with specific places and engages with entanglement of human activity and identity with the built and natural environment, and seeks to explore the impact of change in these settings from a range of perspectives (across generations, for instance), using a variety of media (text, narrative, maps, photographs, archives, artefacts etc) and at different levels (from the micro to the macro; see earlier activity using portable microscope and Google Earth images). Challenging the dominance of colonial ways of thinking about our relationship to the land and place problematises western notions of spacetime, and Bloom and Sacramento make an interesting reference to Shahjahan’s (2015) work on the decolonisation of time, the body and pedagogy, forming links with other aspects of my work (on access to higher education and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities). Taking a post-humanist, and new materialist, position, acts to further de-centre the human subject. The approach I am taking, and my range of interests, would seem to be consistent with Bloom’s description of Deep Mapping.

‘A Deep Map of a place includes many things: direct perceptions of that place; its inhabitants’ memories; embodied understandings as place enters you in numerous ways that are emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, and transcendental; geological formations; more-than-human actors like animals, plants, microbes, and landscapes; historical developments from different eras; weather patterns; agricultural uses; modern infrastructure; bioregional processes; contradictory ideological ratiocinations; and more. A Deep Mapping of a place potentially has no limits to complexity as long as it is meaningful and you have-or a group has-the ability to hold an awareness of the varying ways of understanding. The layers can be added as long as this helps elucidate and makes present a complex way of relating’ (p.59).

There are other dimensions to my work (in working, for instance, with different forms of image making, creation of archives and the oscillation between analogue and digital media), but the idea of Deep Mapping is helpful in achieving coherence at a methodological level. Deep Mapping has been applied mainly in rural settings (Bloom notes the distinctly urban difficulties that have been encountered by group members in getting to workshops and engaging with the process in London, for instance); in working in urban communities with a concern for the manner in which the environment, community and sense of place is being transformed by regeneration, it is useful to think through how the Deep Mapping process can be adapted and applied, and how visual exploration can be given a prominent place in the process. On a practical level, also, Sacramento’s nine-step ‘Lumsden Method’, and example of a two-hour workshop starting from the analysis of maps of an area, are a useful resource for the design of my own workshops (and a timely reminder of Ward and Fyson’s,1973, writing on education beyond the classroom), as well as indicating some of the ways in which maps and mapping can be incorporated into my work.

Thames Ward Community Project, Community Mapping 2019

References

Bloom, B. 2017. ‘Deep Maps’. In Bloom, B and Sacramento, N. 2017. Deep Mapping. Auburn, IN: Breakdown Break Down Press. 56-76.

Bloom, B and Sacramento, N. 2017. Deep Mapping. Auburn, IN: Breakdown Break Down Press. Online at https://www.breakdownbreakdown.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/2017-Deep-Mapping-bookweb.pdf [accessed 05.08.19]

Geertz, C. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.

Heat-Moon, W.L. 1991. PrairyErth (A Deep Map). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Oliveros, P. 2005. Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.

Shahjahan, R. 2015. ‘Being “lazy” and slowing down: Toward decolonizing time, our body, and pedagogy’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47: 488–501.

Sacramento, N. 2017. ‘Deep maps and geographies from below’. In Bloom, B and Sacramento, N. 2017. Deep Mapping. Auburn, IN: Breakdown Break Down Press. 14-49.

Ward, C. and Fyson, A. 1973. Streetwork: The exploding school. London: RKP.

Work in Progress draft

These are the eight composite images around which I want to build my Surfaces and Strategies WIP portfolio. Click on the image to get full screen.

Each image is made from three constituent images (human activity, the changing built environment, the natural environment) from the same location (in this case Ilford and Barking town centres, each of which is undergoing substantial planned redevelopment) through a process of channel mixing. Each image in the portfolio is accompanied by an ‘image code’ which gives a clue to its construction (example below: see here for explanation).

Image code for ‘neuropolis #1’

To contextualise the work, I have included two quotes from Fitzgerald et al (2018), which indicate the themes being explored.

‘The Neuropolis is the city understood as a matrix of transactions between urban life and the always-developing, malleable brains of urban citizens. Its object is a real conurbation, and not an ideological fiction: it describes an organization of physical spaces and social lives, of interpersonal exchanges and chance encounters, of economic relations and commercial transactions – and all of these simultaneously lived and transacted through the embodied lives of Neuropolitan citizens’ (p.223).

‘The Neuropolis is old, and winding. It’s easy to get lost there. To think about good life in such a space means not only grappling with history, but also coming to terms with a complex simultaneity of past and present – of the ideas, people and inclinations, that persist, in the shadows, across them’ (p.235).

A major theme in my work (and in the work quoted above) is relationship with the environment. I think this is clear in the images, but not in the quotes. Whilst I could have included more, I think this would have over-complicated the portfolio format and content. I will discuss this in my presentation (and also relate this work to the participatory ‘micro-projects’ and the photography for advocacy work that I am doing as part of the wider project).

The draft WIP portfolio (to be discussed with Cemre on Tuesday) previewed below.

NeuropolisWIPfinal

References

Fitzgerald, D., Rose, N. and Singh, I. 2018. ‘Living Well in the Neuropolis’, The Sociological Review, 64: 221–237.

Getting on (Week 9 Reflection)

I’ve spent the past week making plans for workshops and photographic work relating to my FMP, as well as spending 5 days (Thursday to Monday) in Arles for Rencontres 2019 and the Falmouth face to face (see individual posts on this, including the portfolio review). Getting the WIP portfolio together has been pressing, so I have decided to work on the photobook activity alongside making images for the portfolio. Whilst the portfolio will ultimately not be in book form, working on the activity has been productive. The process has been iterative, in that the portfolio review in Arles provided me with the motivation to return to the channel mixing work, and reviewing, and working from, the images that I have made over the past month in Ilford and Barking has clarified the need for additional images to work with, and helped me to identify the kinds of image I need for the work (in particular, images that show everyday activity in the areas I am focusing on). The portfolio review, and engaging with the exhibitions in Arles, has also helped me to think through how I will display the channel mixing work, and what kind of contextualising narrative I will give. Whilst it will not contribute to the submission of work for this module, I will work further on the printing of my work, and explore the use of LCD panels and projection. Moving between analogue and digital in both the production and display of the work is leading me to see this work as being ‘post-digital’ (as defined by Alessandro Ludovico, 2012; see also Cubitt, et al, 2015, on the affordances of analogue and digital photography and the relationship of the transition of one to the other to wider social, economic and cultural change).

I produced a booklet for the publications activity, based on the images I am working on for my WIP portfolio. Feedback from previous work indicated that some viewers want to see the original images used in the composites, whilst others felt that this would detract from the work by making it look too much like a technical/didactic activity (the same could be said of the animations created from different iterations of the composites from the same three images, which I have not included in the most recent work: I have also not made any of the more graphic iterations). To address this, I have created a grid of the original images for the sequence of eight images that I am currently working on (see below), and for each composite image, I have created an ‘image code’ by removing the three constituent images for each composite.

Constituent image grid for ‘Neuropolis’ series

The first version of the book included that large grid, but feedback indicated that this took away some of the challenge of the work, so I removed it. To contextualise the work, I have drawn on the notion of the Neuropolis, explored by Fitzgerald et al (2018). This relates mental well-being to the relationship between human activity and the urban built and natural environment, an important strand in my work. Given that the work has to represent a particular point in time in the development of my practice, I have simplified the focus, and the quotes provided, I hope, say enough about the key themes in the work to make them accessible.

Initial draft of ‘Neuropolis’ booklet

In the initial draft of the booklet, the ‘codes’ were in colour and their position changed with each image. I did this to vary the rhythm of the sequence, but feedback indicated that this was distracting, and that having everything in black and white would achieve a more consistent visual style, and consistent positioning might be less distracting. I changed these for the final iteration.

Final draft of ‘Neuropolis’ booklet

The booklet is designed for Japanese three hole stab binding.

Japanese three hole stab binding

References

Cubitt, S., Palmer, D. and Walkling, L. (2015) ‘Enumerating photography from spot meter to CCD’, Theory, Culture & Society, 32(7–8), pp. 245–265.

Ludovico, A. 2012. Post-Digital Print: The Mutation of Publishing since 1894. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.
Online at https://monoskop.org/images/a/a6/Ludovico,Alessandro-_Post-Digital_Print._The_Mutation_of_Publishing_Since_1894.pdf [accessed 01.08.19].

Complex book form (Arles reflection)

Les Rencontres D’Arles, 26th-28th July 2019

Les Rencontres D’Arles 2019 Book Award

Working through the display of shortlisted work for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award 2019 gave an opportunity to look at some complex forms of book, incorporating a range of different types of image and text presented on different types of paper and in different formats (for instance, books within books, inserted cards and images, foldout sections and gatefold images, single images in envelopes). The most complex was Katherine Longly’s handmade artists book To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit, which explores the relationship between food and the body in Japanese society.

Longly interviewed people over a period of time, and the book contains testimonies, photographs, illustrations and archive material. She also gave participants disposable cameras in order to explore and illustrate this complex relationship from their own point of view.

The book is of interest to me as an artefact in its own right, and it was interesting to see how inserts, tri-folds and gatefolds, tipped-in photographs and half-pages were used with montage, photographs, texts (including letters, notes, menus, recipes, tables and graphs), diagrams and drawing. Four types of paper are used in the construction of the book.

Page from Katherine Longly, 2018, To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit

The work itself, on the borders of art and anthropology, also resonates with my own, in that it is collaborative, involves participant image-making and a range of forms of images, texts and artefacts. The book represents one possible form of output from the project, and Longly’s book demonstrates how a number of visual strategies can be used in book form. She has organised the book as sections, with each section focusing on one of the participants. Whilst the images are made by the participants (it is not immediately clear whether all the images are theirs, or whether some are made by Longly), attribution for the overall project and the book itself clearly belongs to Longly (appropriate attribution of work in these kinds of projects clearly being an important issue, and one that I will have to resolve in the final presentation of my project). Whether I produce a book in this form is still an open question, and depends on whether I want to force an order in which the reader engages with images and texts, or whether I want a more open and exploratory form of presentation (such as an archive, or set of micro-archives, from which the reader can create their own order and juxtapositions). Colberg’s (2017) analysis of photobooks, and schema for relating project concept to materials, design and sequencing has been helpful in thinking this through.

The wider 2019 Book Award entries illustrated the diversity of forms of books being produced, and reinforced the importance of strong editing, book design, quality of material, and the need to ensure coherence and consistency in the relationship between concept, form and content.

Alberto Piovano, Dual Landscapes New York 1999: Fifteen Diptychs

In Dual Landscapes New York 1999: Fifteen Diptychs, Alberto Piovano has used the book form to good effect to present diptychs where the relationship between the two images varies subtly. He has printed images on single sided photo paper, folded and bound to enable facing pages to be viewed as diptychs (see earlier post about ways of dealing with printing on single sided photo paper in handmade books).

Alberto Piovano, Dual Landscapes New York 1999: Fifteen Diptychs

Other books of particular interest. Monica Alcazar-Duarte‘s (2018) The New Colonists uses gatefold pages at key points in the book to insert contrasting images relating to space travel into a mundane sub-urban narrative. An app can also be used to seek out images and information concealed within the images, including 3D animations of spy satellites and space colonies, thus heightening the juxtaposition of the mundane with visions of a new colonial future.

Rif Spahni, 2018, Son Boter

Rif Spahni’s (2018) Son Boter elegantly and simply combines a collection of prints on cards inserted into an envelope which is part of the cover with a small book. This allows both sequencing (within the book) with exploration of the juxtaposition of images by the reader (with the cards)

References

Alcazar-Duarte, M. 2018. The New Colonists. London: Bemojake. https://www.photobookstore.co.uk/photobook-the-new-colonists.html [accessed 30.07.19]

Colberg, J. 2017. Understanding Photobooks: The form and content of the photographic book. London: Routledge.

Longly, K. 2018. To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit. Handmade artist edition. http://reminders-project.org/rps/to_tell_my_real_intentions_saleen/ [accessed 30.07.19]

Spahni, R. 2018. Son Boter. Joan Miró. Text by Gustavo Martín Garzo. Barcelona. Ediciones Anómalas. https://www.edicionesanomalas.com/en/producto/son-boter-joan-miro-3/ [accessed 30.07.19]