Each image is made from the same three photographs (the place as it is, organic material from the site, construction work around the site) with different tonal mixing. Just to illustrate the approach. Let it run as a slide show to see the relationship between the images. Or click on the image to see the detail of an individual image. I’ve also uploaded an animation based on the sequence (below – best played full screen) which maybe shows the relationship between images more clearly.
Now working on images relating to the developments and communities in east London that I am focusing on for my project. My intention is that these will look very different – and will visually relate to the regeneration strategy being deployed (future post about this). Info on the process here. Discussion of what I am trying to do in exploring questions of space and time in relation to regeneration programmes, communities and the environment here. All work in progress, with a long way to go, as always.
Slade Research Centre, School of Fine Art, UCL, 21st March 2019.
This was the launch of an inter-disciplinary network concerned with materials research and innovation across the arts and sciences. It was the closing session of a two day symposium on Colour and Poetry, with an accompanying exhibition ‘The Nomenclature of Colours’.
The key message for me was to think about collaboration between the arts and sciences. The session was held in the Slade Research Centre, in the room where Ramsay had his lab and where he discovered the noble gases. Whilst collaboration is growing (the Slade has Scientist in Residence) and there are clear areas of common interest (this network focuses on materials) there remains a gap in conceptual frameworks, language and ways of working.
In my own work, I need to think more about surfaces, textures and colour (an interaction between the nature of the reflective/transmissive surface and the sensitivity of the viewer). Made me think about how I can better use the facilities at the Institute of Making, both in making artifacts and digitising objects. With the recent ‘digital turn’ in my work for this module, a core issue is the movement between the analogue and the digital, and the virtual and the material.
Wolf (2010), in a survey of the impact of new imaging technologies on the art of photography, states that:
‘digital technology calls upon us to rethink previous arguments or ideas about what a camera does and how photographic images function in contemporary culture. It allows us to consider reality as mutable, not fixed, and to think of space and time as fluid, not static’ (p.52)
For me, it is the dialogue between the analogue and the digital, and the virtual and the material, that will drive forward the development of the work, and create the space for collaboration. In the discussion, the role of the artist was seen as providing new ways of looking and making, about exploring and working with materials, doing and engaging rather than prescribing.
Wolf, S. 2010. The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Digital Age. Munich: Prestel Verlag.
Exhibition of some of the portraits made with participants and volunteers on the Shed Life project at the Sue Bramley Centre, Barking Thames View Estate. To co-incide with showing of A Northern Soul, and question and answer session with Director, Sean McAllister.
I’m working on a protocol to follow for the production of images in the different settings I’m exploring using the channel mixing approach. For the moment I am going to focus on monochrome images (colour would, in this method, be artifactual in any case – I’ll post something about this later, as it relates to the nature of digital, as opposed to analogue, images, and to contemporary debates in the philosophy of photography). In each setting I will produce three images which vary with respect to time (either through connotation, or by incorporating archival images of the past and CGIs or sketches of a projected future). The images will also explore other relationships, for instance between the natural and the built environment. Whereas photomontage and other photographic techniques layer or juxtapose images, channel mixing creates an interaction between the images which is not simply additive or subtractive, thus better reflecting contemporary notions of the relationship between space/place and time. Small changes in the prioritisation of particular tones in specific channels can create very different (but clearly related) images (as in the examples here). Whilst I want to retain a degree of chance, I also want to be clearer about the kind of images that will work best together to get the effects that I want in invoking the different relationships between communities and regeneration that I have identified. To that end, I’m experimenting with the process with some relatively simple images.
The process I have followed here is to take the following photographic image and create three images by horizontal translation (so each is a slightly offset version of the other).
The images are assigned to the red, green and blue channels in Photoshop respectively. Using a monochrome conversion layer, different composite images can be created by different mixes of the channels. To get a sense of how the channels interact, I produced four images and combined them in an animation. It works best in full screen mode.
Next step is to work with more complex images, and then, once I have a better sense of how the mixing process shapes the resulting image, with images produced in each of the settings.
I took part in three reviews. In each case I focused on the more experimental channel mixing work, to get some feedback on this and how I might develop it. I got useful comments from each session, and will think through how to respond to these constructively.
(i) Gary, Katerina and Clare. The focus in this session was on how to present the range of outputs from the regeneration work. Clare suggested a website. Gary suggested something more like an archive, which has physical presence, and whilst more difficult to access, is more difficult to destroy. My thoughts are that it might be possible to produce something that can be configured by others in different ways (according to their interest in the work). This resonates with my thoughts about using photography as a heuristic device (whilst critiques of the photography as representation abound, the alternatives proposed are either performative or introspective: photography as a heuristic offers a more social and potentially transformative alternative). Gary’s observation was prompted by my use of the archive box I made a London Book Arts, and I could certainly make a number of these in which to present prints (and this links with my focus on prints as artifacts). I’m also still considering handmade books. I need to look again at Christian Boltanski‘s work (I have one of the boxes he produced for the Whitechapel exhibition in the 80s). Other artists to follow up: Taryn Simon (suggested by Katerina), Andrea Luka Zimmerman (Haggerston Estate work, suggested by Clare), Mary Evans (on archives, suggested by Gary) and Mat Collishaw (suggested by all). We also discussed Forensic Architecture’s Turner Prize installation (see also my earlier post on the Turner Prize shortlist) and the use of timelines and time-codes. The overlaying of a map with historical settlements also holds potential for my work, I think. Could chart changes of use in the area over time, and link to other images and documents. This also links with the work with JustMap creating a community map of the Barking Riverside area.
(ii) Steff and Michelle. I wanted to think about the form and content of my WIP portfolio in this session. Comments received reinforced the need to focus more tightly on a particular part of the project. Reflection on this has strengthened my commitment to focussing on the level of my own creative work produced in response to the my experiences and work in regeneration areas. I need to make sure that the intent in making these more experimental images is clear (there is a strong expectation, I think, that photographic work in these contexts should take a particular form, as explored in my earlier oral presentations). I think there is also a concern about the complexity of the images. Michelle expressed concern about the descriptiveness of the images and lack of clarity about what I wanted the viewer to feel, for instance, was the intention to present a dystopian or apocalyptic vision. She suggested zooming in on a parts of the image (maybe those where there is ambiguity) and consideration of the political dimensions of Robert Rauschenberg’s work (also, complexity). And another recommendation to look at Taryn Simon, as well as John Stezaker (collage, and complex images) and Brian Griffin (for instance, The Black Kingdom). The images presented are just exploration of process at this stage, so useful to think through this issue now, which I will do in a later post. If I continue with the channel mixing idea, I need to think about whether (and if so, how) the constituent images are presented alongside the ‘mix’ (or mixes), also discussed in this session. It is also possible to animate the mixes, bringing particular aspects of the image to the fore, which could address the concern about the focus of the image (which would change as the interaction between the images changes). And I could incorporate sound, as with the Roding Valley Park work. Others in the group agreed that the images might work best if printed large.
(iii) Wendy and Stella. I wanted to look forward to the FMP stage in this session. Wendy’s comments helped me to be more confident in the research dimension of the assessment of the FMP, and reinforced the the need to ensure that this was clearly articulated with the image making. We discussed the possibility of printing the images on perspex (or on acetate) as another way of invoking interaction between the images. Stella was concerned about the arbitrariness of the colour aspects of the channel mixing approach, which worries me too and which leaves me with monochrome images. I think that is fine, but I need to work through the rationale and effects of the process, perhaps in relation to the production of ‘fictions’ that project backwards and forwards from a point in time (to a constructed past and an imagined future). Am looking at Stella’s paper on Moire. Wendy confirmed that not all the work presented in the FMP has to be done in the two semesters, for instance, where the project is longer term and developing over the course of the programme. There must, however, be significant value added to the project over the course of the FMP (it can’t, for instance, be an existing body of work that is ‘tweaked’ in the FMP). The presentations by current FMP students at the conference were particularly useful in seeing how the FMP could develop.
Really useful to get to know the facilities at the Institute of Photography, and to figure out how to make best use of what’s on offer when I visit again in the future to work on my FMP. The workshop helped to build skills in particular areas:
(i) Medium format digital. Got to know the Capture One software (similar in most respects to Lightroom) and work with the Mamiya/Leaf system in tethered mode. It would be good to hire a medium format system for the Object Lessons work in the UCL Museums, Collections and Galleries
(ii) Studio lighting. Great afternoon with Matt Jessop and fellow student Len Williamson. I have done a studio lighting course before. This gave me the opportunity to experiment with lighting and get immediate feedback by making images tethered to Lightroom (again, a new experience for me). See headshots below. My own work is in the field, but it was useful to be able to play around in a ‘controlled environment’, and this will certainly help me in the lighting design for the Object Lessons work, and for the portraits for the urban regeneration project.
(iii) Machine processing. I shoot on film from time to time. Good to learn to use the machines. However, as I think through my major project, I think there are environmental issues to consider in using film (particularly given that parts of Barking marshes are heavily polluted by the chemical plants that used to be there (and this is increasingly of concern as the use of the surrounding land switches from industry to housing).
(iv) Film scanning. As for machine processing, good to be able to use the Hasselblad scanners, particularly for my large format negatives.
(v) Preparing for print. A refresh rather than something new. Useful for getting to know the print service at Falmouth, and how to produce files specifically for that. Also helpful in thinking about file naming of outputs for web and print (which is pretty random for me at the moment). Will follow up advice on colour management at theprintspace.co.uk and tutorials on software at lynda.com
Together this made a fairly coherent package. I certainly feel more confident in planning to spend some time at the IoP in the future, and its good to get to know the academic and technical staff, and to work alongside fellow MA students.
A quick catch up on where I am, in practical terms, with the various strands of my project.
1. Community engagement with urban regeneration
This is the focus of my research proposal for the FMP. Building networks, contacts and relationships is core to the development of the work. This is focusing on two areas.
(i) Barking and Dagenham.
I have been making images to feed into an image bank for the Thames Ward Community Project (TWCP). My images of the Barking Riverside development were used in a presentation at the recent TWCP summit (at which the CEO of the development company, the Bishop of Barking, a local headteacher, the leader of the residents association and the local councilor spoke). I took photographs of the event and have added these to the TWCP repository. This contributes to the component of the project concerned with collaborative creation of images for advocacy.
I am working with a local arts project (ShedLife), and have an exhibition of portraits and other images of the participants to accompany a showing of the film ‘A Northern Soul’ and Q&A with the filmmaker (Sean McAllister) at the project on 27th March. The project also involves supporting young adults who are documenting the process and working with participants’ photographs and their own image making, which contributes to the component of the project concerned with working with images to gain mutual insight into and understanding of the lifeworlds of the residents.
Through the project, I am now also in touch with the Barking Creekmouth Preservation Society, the Barking Heritage Group, Thames View Community Gardeners and residents on the Gascoigne Estate. The work in Barking has contributed to the development of all three levels of my project work, and provides lots of opportunities for development at the FMP stage. I also want to open up the use of the local authority archives at Valence House and the use of images in community mapping by JustMap.
(ii) Stratford Olympic Park.
In addition to being a member of the London Prosperity Board, I am now an invited member of the EAST Education Leadership Group. This gives me direct insight into and involvement with the development of initiatives on and around the Olympic Park. In relation to image making, I am putting this on hold for the moment. I’ll continue to form links and networks to keep open the option to carry out the final project in this area. Chairing discussions at the Creating Connections East meetings has helped me to form links with community groups across the four boroughs surrounding the Olympic Park. I’ve also met with people on the Carpenters Estate through the ESRC Displacement Project, and with people organising arts related aspects of the project (principally to ensure that there is no confusion between my own work on the estates and their work – I’ll write more about community arts initiatives related to research and to urban development in a later post).
2. Object Lessons
I’ve continued to attend the weekly lectures and take part in the workshops. The students are now working in groups to produce online exhibitions based around different kinds of objects. They will present these at an all-day workshop on 22nd March. I have spoken to the course team about making images with the students and their objects in the various collections participating in the programme. The major contribution to my work, however, has been the focus of the programme on objects, which fits with the more materialist turn in my own work, and interest in artists like Cornelia Parker, and writers such as Peter Stallybrass (for example, Stallybrass, 1998) concerned with memory and materiality (see, in particular, Freeman, Nienass & Daneill, 2016). The programme has focused on the narratives that can be created around objects, and the value of objects in well-being and therapy (Solway et al, 2017). There is also, however, a growing contemporary theoretical interest in the disruptive and obstructive function of objects, and our projection of agency into the material world, creating ‘uncanny objects’ with an apparent agency and insistence, and resistance, of their own.
I am thinking about ways of using the collections, for instance the zoological collection at the Grant Museum (created to provide ‘artifacts’ for teaching and research in the Nineteenth Century but fulfilling a very different function now) in exploring these issues, and the role played by the collections in the emergence of eugenics and other oppressive regimes of thought.
‘Mid-Century Gothic defines a distinct post-war literary and cultural moment in Britain, lasting ten years from 1945-55. This was a decade haunted by the trauma of fascism and war, but equally uneasy about the new norms of peacetime and the resurgence of commodity culture. As old assumptions about the primacy of the human subject became increasingly uneasy, culture answered with gothic narratives that reflected two troubling qualities of the new objects of modernity: their uncannily autonomous agency, and their disquieting intimacy with the reified human body’.
This opens up new visual possibilities in exploring the relationship between the students and the objects they have studied.
This work has influenced all other aspects of my photographic work, and, in particular, treatment of images, in print form (and also, maybe, in materialised form on a smartphone screen), as material objects. In the other projects I am exploring this, and the form that my own ‘images’ will take, and how they will be circulated and encountered (for instance, made material as different kinds of prints, as books, as artifacts, in exhibition space and so on).
3. Digital Discrimination
This is a project looking at the relationship between location and quality of internet access, the uses that young people make of the internet and the manner in which advertising algorithms feed young people in different areas with different kinds of content. The project is running in Germany and the UK. I have been making images alongside colleagues who are collecting data through surveys, focus groups and mapping. Early days in terms of seeing where this might go visually. Recent interviews in Hull indicate that there might be potential in exploring the ‘layering’ of the located embodied lives of young adults and their virtual lives online (predominantly through their phones).
In relatively poor areas there appears to be a possible interaction between the decaying physical infrastructure (public transport, for instance) and an increasingly complex, and differentiated and disempowering, online world (with snapchat and instagram being used as the dominant means of communication, bringing commercial competition for users’ online attention, but in demographically differentiated ways, driven by algorithms that appear to have a locational component, as well as being shaped by usage).
Freeman, L. A., Nienass, B. and Daniell, R. 2016. ‘Memory | Materiality | Sensuality’, Memory Studies, 9(1): 3–12.
Mullen, L. 2019. Mid-century gothic: The uncanny objects of modernity in British literature and culture after the Second World War. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Solway, R. et al. 2017. ‘Material objects and psychological theory : A conceptual literature review’, Arts & Health. Taylor & Francis, 8(1): 82–101.
Stallybrass, P. 1998. ‘Marx’s coat’, in P. Spyer (ed.), Border fetishisms: material objects in unstable spaces. London: Routledge. 187–207.
Over the past few months I have been struggling with a way to create images that capture the temporal dimension of urban regeneration, encapsulating in some way the past, present and future urban landscape, and place people within this. I have experimented with the juxtaposition of images in early work (using triptych and grid formats) but felt that this was too static a form for such a dynamic process. Following up the work featured in Carol Squier’s 2014 ‘What is a Photograph‘ ICP exhibition led me to the work of James Welling.
I was particularly interested in his Multichannel Works series, in which images are overlayed and manipulated. In his 2017 lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Welling gives insight into the motivation for and production of this series. In earlier work, he explored the use of colour filters with multiple black and white images to produce complex colour images. For a commission to photograph the MoMA sculpture garden, he worked with archival photos over which her layered his own photographs. He placed the archive image in the red channel, and his own images in the blue and green channels.
In this way he sought to echo the work of Warhol and Rauschenberg in their exploration of the screen print process. He was also inspired by Avedon’s psychedelic pictures of the Beatles and his Moondrops campaign for Revlon.
Other influences included the colour solarisation process and the look of Agfacontour equidensity film, which was used for back cover of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. Subsequently he began to work with digital images and post-processing software. His initial images were architectural, but he later built on his background in contemporary dance to place dancers within particular built environments, including the Glass House (the focus of an earlier architectural study) and brutalist architecture.
Each composite image is produced from three black and white photographs. In post-processing software, each image is assigned to either the red, blue or green channel, and in some cases an equidensity gradient map is used. The three images used in the construction of the 2015 image 9472 from the Choreograph Series, are shown below, together with the final image.
The final print is produced on an inkjet printer, which Welling uses because it gives a print with texture and a sense of volume and surface, missing in chemical prints. His treatment of prints as artifacts resonates with my own work. Although the work is digitally produced, it gives me the opportunity to explore shooting on film in monochrome (which I can process at home), with the potential for very large prints by shooting on large format. Welling compares with process with the production of double/multiple exposure images in film (as practiced, for instance, by Harry Callaghan), with elements of surprise and improvisation in the production of the image, which also resonates with my artistic interests (in sound and writing as well as visually: the audio control of multi-channel video using Jitter in Max7 achieves similar effects).
The next step for me is to experiment, and get to know what kinds of images work best with this process. These images will include visualisations of developments, photographs of the areas as they are now, photographs of residents and archival material (which might include maps). Producing images that are aesthetically and compositionally strong and also comprehensible will be a challenge. The process itself, inspired by Welling’s work, is just a starting point, and I expect to develop the method and the workflow as I apply the approach to exploration of the context of urban regeneration.
This is my very first attempt, using a photograph of a discussion of self-publishing and post-capitalism at the ICA, a landscape and an experimental close-up.
As Welling says, you have to know where to stop. Lots, as always, to learn.
International Center of Photography. 2014. What is a Photograph [exhibition]. Curator Carol Squiers. ICP, New York, 31.01.14 – 04.05.14. https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/what-is-a-photograph [accessed 18.02.19]
Welling, James. 2017. Pathological Color, Rouse Visiting Artist Lecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 13.11.2017. https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/event/james-welling-pathological-color/ [accessed 18.02.19]
And some from neighbouring Creekside. More to be done here, I think, around the theme of erasure and overwriting. There was a community here until the 1950s, providing housing for people employed in the industrial works in the area. This was demolished to make space for further industrial development, and people relocated to other estates in Barking. Former residents meet regularly, and there is a simple heritage trail around the area, though very low profile. Might offer the opportunity to combine exploration of the area and former residents’ emotional ties with object focused and archival work.