Week 11 Reflection

This week has been dominated by finalisation of my WIP Portfolio and Oral Presentation. Both done now, and have been posted earlier in the CRJ. Have also made some additional links relating to my proposed final project (for instance, with members of the UKRI Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health network, and in particular an applicant for a Wellcome Foundation fellowship who wants to incorporate photography into his project). I have deferred work on my website and social media to next week. Took some time out to take more photographs in Barking and Romford in the hope of supplementing my WIP portfolio.

Romford, Tuesday 4th December 2018

The most interesting development of the week emerged from Richard Kolker’s excellent seminar on Wednesday. Richard’s work is CGI based, and falls firmly into the post-photography domain (my image above, made at a disused, modernist car park in the evening, with multiple light sources, has a strangely constructed quality to it).

Richard Kolker, Cafe (from England, The Game)

Richard’s presentation gave insight into the scope of and motivation for his work, and into his working methods. The work invoking the ‘digital uncanny’ was particularly interesting. I’ve followed this up online and looked in more detail at what he is doing. There might be some mileage in exploring the use of these kinds of constructed images in the collaborative exploration of the experiences and aspirations of residents on the estates on which I’m working . I’ve emailed Richard for any advice on this kind of direction – extract below.

‘My project focuses on community engagement with urban regeneration, with the aim of doing more than just describe and lament (but rather to produce insight and understanding alongside resources for resident advocacy). I’m working with some researchers who are exploring (through interviews) residents’ experiences and fears of displacement on six estates in London undergoing regeneration, and also with a community project supporting/advocating for residents in the largest housing development in Europe (Barking Riverside – dubbed by the local authority ‘Barcelona on the Thames’!). Other links with community and advocacy groups are in the pipeline. My work is focusing on social infrastructure and the lived experiences of residents. These people are bombarded by architects’ and developers’ constructed images and CGI representations of an imagined future. Your work made me think about the possibility of rendering the everyday experiences of residents in a similar way (including the social infrastructure and related activities that residents have developed over time on estates that have been neglected in terms public services and physical infrastructure). And the benefit of not getting picked up by the police or harassed by private security guards (as much of the land, for instance the whole of the Olympic Park development, and all the Barking Riverside development, is private land) 🙂 It’s not just experiences that I am exploring, but also aspirations, and that is maybe where the real potential of this approach (in collaboration with residents) lies. Whatever approach I take, I want the output to be multi-modal (text, sound, infographics/maps, images etc), so conventional photography will be part of the process and the outcomes’.

Just a thought. Will follow-up in future posts. Also relates to some of the themes explored in the seminar on Post-Capitalism and Photography at the Photographers’ Gallery. And possible work with Richard Sanford in his role as leader of the Future Heritage research programme at UCL Bartlett (will follow up earlier conversation with Richard once I have thought this through – I appointed Richard to lead our futures and horizon scanning work when I founded the research division at the Institute for Adult Learning in Singapore). One possible direction is the production of a counter-narrative on the future, focusing on urban development/regeneration.

Addendum [09.12.18]. Richard Kolker replied to my email and suggested that I download and experiment with Maxon Cinema 4D using the student license. Something to work on over Xmas. Also suggested I look at Rut Blees Luxemburg’s London Dusk, which I know from the Museum of London collection (large format photos of the City of London at night which include fragments of hoardings with developers CGI images).


Sustainable Prospects WIP Portfolio

In order to broaden my experience and expertise, I’ve submitted my work in progress portfolio as a pdf this time around. I liked the control that a web-based portfolio allowed for Positions and Practice, but can see the advantages of the pdf format. Scribus made design of the document straightforward. In terms of content, I think I would have been better to have set up a small project (related to my final project) that I could have completed within the module. This would have led to a more coherent portfolio. As it is, the majority of the visual work I have done in working towards my final project (in terms of building skills and developing approaches) can’t be included in the portfolio (as it would undermine the coherence). The portfolio captures part of the work, but not really the heart of it. I need to think clearly about this with respect to the next two modules.

I was aware from the outset that, not being a professional photographer and not coming from a visual arts background, this module was going to be a challenge (especially being the second module, rather than the final module). However, it has provided a good opportunity to think through how best to build networks and relationships, and consider ways of maintaining these and disseminating the outcomes of the proposed project.

Andrew Brown PDF portfolio


Week 10 Reflection

The course activities this week have focused on completion of the portfolio, development of a website and consolidation of social media presence. I have made progress on all of these, but the major personal focus has been on development of networks for my project and initiation of image making (unfortunately, too late for my portfolio). I’ll post in more detail in the project development section of the CRJ as things develop, but to summarise  actions this week:

Thames Ward Community Project. Planning with project lead about the following: photos of all community events by way of a community archive; photos of local spaces – especially with an environmental and health focus; photos that show the challenges to the local area – pollution, litter, potholes etc. as a prompt for inclusive growth/sustainable development: help with social media campaigns and synergies/collective action with citizen action groups.

JustSpace. Planning with Lesley from the Bartlett MSc for a social media campaign to run over 6 months focusing on 6 stories exemplifying different aspects of community engagement with the London Plan. Contact made with JustSpace communications lead. Lesley to draft proposal. Will involve going out to collect narratives and take photos.

Bengali International. In contact with leadership via Newham Partnership for Complementary Education, who have proposed the following around the theme ‘Growing up Bilingual’: (i) photos of the school in action, (ii) photos at family homes and in the community where the pupils are talking, reading, writing in Bengali directly with family and community members.

Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health network. Launch event on Monday 3rd December at Friends House. This is a cross-disciplinary UKRI funded network seeking to develop links between people from different disciplines (including psychology, cognitive neuroscience, sociology, the arts, geography, public mental health, architecture, digital design and human-computer interaction) working on aspects of social isolation and mental health.

Together with the ESRC Urban Displacement project (on six London estates), this probably secures a critical mass of photographic work around the theme of social infrastructure, community and urban regeneration. The development of my own website and a range of focused social media campaigns tie in the development of my project neatly with the themes of this module. I’m going to focus on this over the coming weeks, once my portfolio is submitted.

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.

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.

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.

Week 7 Reflection

I’m not likely to become a commercial photographer, but thinking through issues relating to commercial practice and the broader photographic landscape has been really useful. Considering what happens to the images I make is important, and I need to think through what value they have to whom (and what value my expertise has as a member of a team). Commercial questions are not irrelevant, as time and materials need to be paid for, and I have to be able to cost and price my work, for instance for grant applications.

The principal focus for this week has been the Creating Connections meeting on Thursday and the MA face to face meeting at Paris Photo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reflections on the gallery visits, Photo Paris and the portfolio review are in the Contextual Research section of the CRJ.

Week 7: Innovative Distribution

To mark my shift from sociologist to photographer (or maybe sociologist/photographer to photographer/sociologist) I have repurposed some of my academic business cards by printing images on the ‘back’. Maybe not particularly innovative, but it has worked for me. My three outings in my photographer identity in the past week have been really productive:

  • A successful workshop with urban development planning students on Friday – half the group have just said that they are using photographic image making as their primary research tool in their forthcoming project;
  • Fieldwork on Wednesday with ‘Rooms of our Own’ at the Feminist Library (which I found has some of my own teaching materials and course readers) leading to a follow-up session to make images of the library before it moves to its new premises;
  • Leading a discussion on Thursday with community groups on Heritage and Well-being in East London at the Creating Connections session in Stratford, which has given enough photographic project opportunities to last a lifetime.
A simple way of signifying a change in direction/identity.