Community partnership developments

Important to get working on image making as quickly as possible before the next module. Advanced a number of possibilities in the past week.

Newham Partnership for Complementary Education

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, Mansfield House, 30 Avenons Road, Plaistow, London E13 8HT.

Meeting with Martin Pinder to discuss possible photographic work with complementary education groups in east London (follow up to Creating Connections event). Agreed on the following:

1. Make some images of the Ramgarhia Education Centre in Forest gate, exploring the building and how it is used (eg. the three complementary schools that run there at the weekend). Exploration of how the community reconfigures space for learning fits with the social infrastructure focus of my project. Martin to put proposal to Centre leadership.

2. Work with one complementary school to document and explore what they are doing. We talked about a Bangladeshi group, but open to any suggestions (not to overlap with groups participating in 3).

3. Talk with Layal Hussain about how photography might fit with her UEL PhD project ‘Growing up Bi-lingual’ with complementary schools in Newham , which might entail making images over an extended period of time as the project develops.

4. Get down to the proposed Asian Business District in the Albert Docks and see what’s going on. Follow up contacts with local community provided by Martin.

Thames Ward Community Project

Friday, 23rd November 2018, Barking Riverside.

Meeting with community organisers Matt and Jamie and members of the the residents’ group to take a tour around Barking Riverside and neighbouring estates, and learning about the work of the project. Thames Ward Community Project (TWCP) is a lottery funded project with 4 outcome priorities: health, environment, skills and cohesion and the aim to set up a Community Development Trust. Thames Ward is located south of the A13 and bounded by the Thames and River Roding. The ward is London’s largest growth area (and one of the largest in Europe) and includes Barking Riverside, a partnership between the Greater London Authority and London & Quadrant Housing Trust Limited to build 10,800 properties. Barking and Dagenham Council’s growth strategy (aka no resident left behind) indicates a wider ambition of building 60,000 homes, most of which will be in the wider Thames Ward area, giving rise to a new residential area of equivalent in population to Derby.

Photographic opportunities discussed include making images of members of the local community and exploring their relationship with the locality, and forms of social infrastructure (including community projects and services). The longer established estates have well-developed social infrastructure, but this is challenged by the development of the the new housing estates, in which developers have given little attention to social infrastructure. Photographs could be used in both an exploratory manner (in gaining insight into the community, its aspirations and its responses to development) and in advocacy (by TWCP and resident groups). Matt and Jamie are thinking through possibilities and we’ll meet to discuss.

The scale of the development is indicated by the ‘Barcelona on the Thames’ campaign and projection.

(Image from

As the photograph of the site, taken on Friday evening, shows, there’s a long way to go.


Meeting this week with Leslie Crosdale (MSc student) to discuss the development of a social media campaign to promote the responses of residents’ and community groups to the London Plan. Likely to involve photographs of the activities of groups across London.

ESRC Urban Displacement Project

Friday, 23rd November 2018.

Met with Adam Elliott-Cooper (KCL) to discuss photographic work relating to the interviews being conducted with residents on six London estates, exploring experiences, opinions and feelings of displacement, or the threat of displacement. The estates include the Gascoigne in Barking and Carpenters’ Road in Stratford, where I have done some preliminary work. Adam to set up meetings with residents in December.

Post-Capitalist Photography Now!

The Photographers’ Gallery, London, Saturday 24th November 2018.

A collaboration between The Photographers’ Gallery, Centre for Photography and Visual Culture, University of Sussex and The Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, London South Bank University.

After diving into the sea of photography and having to learn to swim fast, I now wash up on (relatively) dry land. With the familiar scent of Bataille, Baudrillard and Kristeva, and even, in the afternoon, the terra firma of the relative autonomy of the field of cultural production and Bourdieu’s three forms of capital. This one day conference was organised to complement one of the current exhibitions at the gallery, All I know is What’s on the Internet. Lots of notes, but for the CRJ I’ll just pull out a few points relevant to the development of my project and practice (and the current module).

Nina Power (Roehampton) traced a path through contemporary theory in relation to seeing and de-capitialism (preferred by her to the problematic term post-capitalism, which to some invokes a form of hyper-capitalism). Some familiar ground, but also plenty to follow-up (Aria Dean’s ‘Closing the Loop‘, Franco Berandi’s notions of necro-capitalism, Josef Leo Koener’s idea of enemy-painting). She proposes the practice of enemy-photography, but it was difficult to put substance on this and trace through what this might mean for photographic practice. The triple loop of representation warrants some thought (that photography represents, represents representation and represents the representation of representation). The point raised from the floor that she had conflated seeing with photography (particularly in the discussion of Kristeva and The Severed Head in discussion of engagement with images on the internet) seemed a fair one, and was perhaps the root of the difficulty, as a photographer, of relating this to image making (beyond raising a range of important critical issues, to which it will be productive to return as practice, and associated critical commentary, develops).

Martin Zellinger (Anglia Ruskin) provided a critique of Kodak’s attempts to financialise and produce artificial scarcity of images in the age of proliferation through blockchain technology. An issue that is raised here is the assumption that all images are assets with financial value, and therefore prey to aspirations for corporate control. The commodification of the image was addressed by others also. Kuba Szreder, in the afternoon, makes the point (drawing on Bourdieu’s notion of the relative autonomy of the field of cultural production) that not all images and image making can be seen as directly a part of economic production and circulation. Interesting that Szreder uses the Company Drinks in Barking as a prime example of alternative forms of organisation in the arts (and worth following in up relation to my work with Thames Ward Community Project).

Ben Burbridge (Sussex) addressed the corporate take over of public galleries in the face of decreased and constrained public funding and the impact of the new managerialism on galleries and academic institutions. Very familiar ground. Emily Rosamond’s (Goldsmiths) analysis of contemporary art and investment started to open up possible tactical and strategic responses, and the importance of understanding photography’s normative performativity and the attempt by investors to manage volatility and parse out uncertainty. References to follow up in a future post: Hito Steyerl (In Defense of the Poor Image, 2009), Paul Frosh (2015, The Gestural Image, IJ Communication, 9, 1608) and the ideal of kinaesthetic sociability, Michael Feher (2018, Rated Agency: Investee Politics in a Speculative Age), Petra Cortright (2007, VVEBCAM; 20167 i thot i wiz free), Femke Herregraven (2014, Volatility Storms), Jodi Dean (2017, Crowds and Party). Also questions around what it is to be a photographer in the age of de-professionalisation and uberization, new forms of alliance and ‘data artists’ (as a supplement to data scientists).

Harry Sanderson explored the demand for hi-res images, Rowan Lear photography as feminised labour, touch, gesture and finger work, Constant Dullaart on his social media manipulation work, Szreder on post-capitalist art worlds (and alternative organisation) and Mike Cook on Stocksy (making the point that co-operatives have to be founded on sustainable business models).

The major benefit for the development of my own work is to be able to position what I do more effectively and start to relate contemporary photographic practice to wider social, cultural and political theory. Two more events next year on this theme. For this module, the symposium has opened up an alternative, critical domain for the image making, and alternative (radical and oppositional) forms of organisation for the production and circulation of images.

Living with Buildings: Health and Architecture

Thursday 22nd November 2018, Wellcome Collection, London.

The exhibition features photographs alongside film, maps, document, text and artefacts exploring the relationship between housing and health, and also buildings for health services. Includes Tony Ray-Jones’s 1970s photographs of the Pepys Estate in Lewisham (one of the estates in the ESRC Displacement Project) and the film Bird’s Eye View by Edward Mirzoeff with poetry by John Betjeman.

Pepys Estate, Deptford, 1970. Photo © Tony Ray-Jones/RIBA Library Photographs

Pepys Estate, Deptford by John Betjeman:

Where can be the heart that sends a family to the 20th floor
In such a slab as this.
It can’t be right, however fine the view
Over to Greenwich, and the Isle of Dogs.
It can’t be right, caged halfway up the sky
Not knowing your neighbour, frightened of the lift,
And who’ll be in it, and who’s down below
And are the children safe?

What is housing if it’s not a home?”

The Tower: Tale of Two Cities (2007) also focuses on the Pepys Estate. As a photographer aiming to work collaboratively with the community, the following review left on the IMDB site is worth noting:

Having lived on the Pepys Estate while this film was being made I like most others who saw it being made were shocked when we saw this. The disparity between the way the film crew presented themselves to the community as ‘educational film makers’ and the largely sensationalist result which heavily featured the most vulnerable residents was jaw dropping. Many of the scenes are staged and scripted, incentives were made to encourage entertaining behaviour and some of the narrative is simply lies. After protracted exchanges with the BBC where all actions of the filmmakers were justified by the show being ‘award winning’ and ‘popular’ I received a formal apology from Harry Dean at the BBC about the false claim in episode 4 that the Pepys Estate ‘suffered the highest rape figures in London’ (when in fact they were lower than most boroughs). Altogether more fantasy than reality, I would take Anthony Wonke’s work with a pinch of salt.

Other more recent work featured: Gursky’s (1993) Montparnasse Mouchette Building and East London photos by Chris Dorley-Brown (though not this one of Ilford, but others in the 2015-6 series).

Chris Dorley-Brown (2016), Westplan House, Ilford.

For me, the Dorley-Brown images (impressive though they are) have reinforced my commitment to explore more collaborative image making and to explore more directly the relationship between the residents and the environment (and, in particular, the social infrastructure, or rather, in some cases, the lack of it). The emphasis of the exhibition is really on health, and the images play a supporting role. The accompanying Iain Sinclair book, Living with Buildings and Walking with Ghosts: On health and architecture, though, is something else (includes a very touching chapter about visiting Jonathan Meades in Marseille).

Addendum [26.11.18]. The above building in Ilford, taken in passing this morning. I didn’t have the right lens to duplicate the shot, but I did get the green traffic light (as Dorley-Brown always does).

And another angle on it, with Pioneer Point in reflection.

27.11.18. Final go at this (until we get longer and brighter days in the summer).

Week 9 Reflection

I usually work through the materials and make initial postings over the weekend, but unfortunately the Amy Simmons video wouldn’t run, so I missed that activity (I’ll revisit another time now that the problem with the video has been fixed). I am, though, working on the website and social media challenge that has been set for the three coming weeks. This fits well with the development of my project.

The Simon Roberts seminar this week was terrific. The breath and diversity of his work is impressive. Much to learn from the singularity of his vision and the way in which he integrates participation, dissemination and commercialisation with the production of the work. For instance, the Election Project has a very clear method for production of the images: just one day with each candidate, taking an elevated position on the roof of his van, use of 4×5 (10 to 20 shots a day, making it clear to everyone that he is there to photograph, but not aware of exactly when the shot is made). A website is set up for the members of the public to upload images and make comments (over 1700 images ultimately). Large (4 per image) and smaller prints are produced for gallery sales. An exhibition is arranged for the Houses of Parliament (24 images, one for each day of the campaign). A newspaper is produced for further dissemination and engagement. Also notable that he thinks carefully about how his archives are used (selling into the future) and how projects build on and related to each other. Also that he does extensive preliminary work, both in terms of contact with participants and exploration of related images (for instance, the relationship between Turner’s images of the Thames and the photographs of the Olympics (both similarities and differences – Roberts’ work particularly emphasizes the activities of people ‘in the landscape’ rather than images of the landscape, which relates closely to his background in human geography, and informs his use of an elevated viewpoint in making images).

The webinar to discuss work in progress provided useful feedback, and I need to work further on the format of the portfolio. I hope to have further images to add over the next two weeks.

Monday’s visit to V&A Prints and Drawings Study Room is discussed elsewhere. Likewise my meeting with Newham Partnership for Complementary Education on Thursday and Thames Ward Community Project (TWCP) at Barking Riverside on Friday, and visit to the Living with Buildings: Health and Architecture exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Busy week.

I have revised my presentation to incorporate feedback and add some new material, and have posted the final version for assessment.

Mnemotechnic devices and other tools

This is something I have been meaning to post about for a while. Having come across the term ‘mnemotechnic’ twice in one week, maybe now is the time. The first mention was in a passage by Derrida about writing as an aide-memoire, and as representing the passage of thought out of consciousness.

‘Writing, a mnemotechnic means, supplanting good memory, spontaneous memory, signifies forgetfulness … its violence befalls the soul as unconsciousness’ (Derrida, 1976: 37)

The second mention was … well, I can’t remember, though, by chance, I have just re-encountered it on a page left open in the Kindle app on my phone.

‘Long before the book, poetry was the brain’s first ‘external storage’, our first ‘mnemotechnology” (Paterson, 2018: 3).

And that’s the (pragmatic) point. In past academic work and study, I’ve relied on memory, and used writing principally to sketch out ideas and produce provisional and final texts as outcomes. Now, too frequently, I have the sense of having had an idea, or found something to which I might want to return at a later date, but no idea what. Entering a new field, and not having existing points of reference on which to secure my thoughts exacerbates the situation. So, suspending consideration of the inversion of speech and writing just for the moment (but noting the need to come back to it, of course), I’m going to map out my mnemotechnic tools and processes. And in doing so, assess the practicality and maybe even increase the prospect of sticking with them.

  • Sources found on the web, and iPhone photos of book covers and events, go into Evernote.
  • References, texts and reading lists go into Mendeley.
  • Notes are made in Simplenote, which is also used to draft CRJ and Canvas posts.
  • Resources are collected, clustered and classified in Devonthink.
  • Long documents, together with associated research and resources, are created in Scrivener.
  • My images are stored and processed in Lightroom with additional editing in Photoshop or Silver Efex Pro 2 as necessary.
  • Exported jpegs are filed in folders according to module (though should really move to using Devonthink).
  • Reflections, coursework, contextual research and project developments are posted in my CRJ according to module (WordPress).
  • Portfolios are created in Scribus and exported as PDFs.
  • Presentations are created in Keynote, exported as movies and converted to QT format in Quicktime.

That’s about it. Part memory supplement, part workflow. All these applications run on all my devices and are synchronised, so everything is available everywhere. In the remaining weeks of this module I will formalise my use of social media and develop a website – the outputs.

Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology (trans. G.Spivak). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

Paterson, D. (2018). The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre. London: Faber.

Week 8 Reflection

Tried to construct a narrative from the Barking images. A bit obscure and not really the kind of thing that would be saleable, but a useful exercise as preparation for the social media campaign on community responses to the London Plan proposed by JustSpace. Good to see other, more commercially oriented, stories from other people. Concerns about narrative claims, however, expressed in other posts (here and here) still persist. Material on pricing of projects is useful for grant applications, as is consideration of terms and conditions, legal and ethical issues. More time this week has been spent on completing the presentation (and getting useful feedback from Krishna) and preparation of the portfolio. Also spent half a day on the Courtauld digitisation project, and interested to find photos by ‘fourth man’ Anthony Blunt (also Professor and former Director of the Courtauld). He used a Leica apparently (and unsurprisingly – a Zorki 4 or a Fed would have been a giveaway, I suppose).

Clementine Scheiderman’s presentation was interesting, and provided insight into the process of constructing a project, and maintaining good relations with participants. As part of her Elvis project, she made an image of Eggleston’s piano, so here is Eggleston’s image of Elvis’s piano (from the JP Morgan collection, on show at Paris Photo last week).

Photograph taken at Paris Photo of William Eggleston (1984), Elvis’s Piano.

V&A Prints and Drawings Study Room

19th November 2018: Spotlight on Val Wilmer’s Jazz Seen Exhibition, 1973.

Went to this as part of my work on the Courtauld digitisation project. You never know what the spotlight will focus on, so really lucked out with this one. ‘As Serious as your Life‘, which I bought and read in 1977, is one of my favourite books, and really influenced me in so many ways (musically and academically). Prints from the exhibition, plus other supporting material, such as curator’s planning notes, posters (see above), photos of the Steve Lacy Quintet performing at the exhibition event (below), print material such as Ten8 24 (above) and boxes of related prints (like the Tony Ray-Jones US jazz photos, cited as an influence by Val, see above).

Photos of Jazz Unseen (1973) concert from V&A archives

The point here is not so much about the event (which was terrific) but the archive as a resource. Will certainly schedule visits to the prints and drawings study room in the future for research related to my project. Includes the RPS photograph collection. You can ask for up to four boxes of prints to look at per visit. I need to think carefully about how archival work might fit with my project. Whatever, looking through print collections is an important part of developing photographic and artistic practice.


Week 8: Tell a Story!


Seven images from the Gascoigne Estate in Barking.

The narrative is maybe not clear enough in images alone (and it helps to be able to read the text in the photos themselves). If I was able to make additional images this week, it could be strengthened. Whilst not really appealing for publication, it has helped me to think about the kind of storytelling that we will do for JustSpace in making visible what community groups are doing in response to the London Plan, and how the Plan might affect them.