First shot at looking playing around with different ways of representing the group, taking influences from forms of group and individual portraiture. We spent some time looking through Dutch 17th Century paintings of civic leaders. This one by Bartholomeus van der Helst appealed, so we had a go using a simple single strobe set up.
We’re going to need a shorter table … More to follow maybe, after the group have looked at the prints. Followed a session of individual portrait work.
I’ve used the time over the break to explore practically the analogue and digital dimensions of the project, and how I can visually, and in terms of process, explore both the ‘datafication’ of decision-making in regeneration, and the transition from chemical/material production/distribution to digital/symbolic production/distribution in this part of east London (and, of course, the residue of the former lies alongside, and acts and is acted upon, by the latter (I’ll post a project statement that encapsulates this later). So moving back and forth between chemical processing, handmade bookmaking, coding and image manipulation (whilst initiating three new projects, starting the London Creative Network intensive artist development programme, and preparing for two pop-up exhibitions in the coming month, and all the ongoing work).
The algorithmic manipulation of images is a new strand, but important as it addresses part of the overall project that I have been struggling with (particularly finding a way to relate the quantification of community characteristics, and use of that data in decision-making on housing and social policy, and the lived, and located, experiences of residents). Using the Processing language (see Reas and Fry, 2007) to automate, through the use of algorithms, the manipulation of images is promising. To explore this, I have used Kim Asendorf’s pixel sorting (a term coined by Asendorf in 2010, according to Hight, 2013) code (available for download here; see examples of Asendorf’s work here and here).
At this point, I am playing around with changing the thresholds in the programme to produce different treatments of some of my landscapes and portraits, as well as some archival material. Here’s a version of the Barking Harbour image featured in an earlier post.
Each image is uploaded onto a surface as a bitmap and the procedure (sketch in Processing terms) runs along rows or columns (this can be set) to look for pixels in terms of darkness, lightness or brightness (this can be set). If set to search for ‘darkness’ along rows, the algorithm searches along each row for a pixel which lies within the thresholds set for ‘darkness’ and places these in order until it reaches a pixel that falls outside the defined limits. The number of iterations (loops) for this process can be set. The thresholds for each can be set to create different forms and levels of ‘mutilation’. This gives me an opportunity to contrast chemical degradation of images (using the immersion methods developed by Matthew Brandt) with these forms of digital degradation. I want to go beyond playful data-moshing, however, and see if I can feed in data (for instance, social progress indicator data) relating to the specific communities that I am working with.
This raises again the question of how to present the outcomes of the manipulation. My intention here is to continue to move back and forth between the digital and the analogue, and the abstracted and the located. So printing these could take us back into the analogue, local/located and visceral. As with all this work, the question is what is gained and lost in each translation between forms, if translation is possible, of course, in any meaningful sense (see Apter, 2013).
Apter, E. 2013. Against World Literature: On the politics of untranslatability. London: Verso.
Hight, J. 2013. An introduction to Kim Asendorf. Unlikely Stories, Episode IV. Online https://www.unlikelystories.org/13/asendorf0913.shtml [accessed 23.01.2020]
Reas, C and Fry, B. Processing: A programming handbook for visual designers and artists. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Experimenting with different book forms. The challenge with the neuropolis series has been to show the relationship between each final image and its three constituent images. I used Japanese stab binding for this book. As the pages are folded (with the open edge at the binding), I have been able to print the grid of initial images ‘inside’ alternate folded pages, and cut windows to show the three images that are used for each of the final images.
The paper is double-sided matt 170 gm. Heavier than I would have liked, but OK for a trial. More difficult is getting photo paper with the right grain direction. To get the book pages to sit properly requires short grain, but this paper is long grain. The only solution, for small scale production by hand, would seem to be to use watercolour or sketching paper (which can be bought in larger sheets and cut to size with the correct grain), and to coat it for inkjet printing.
Stab binding isn’t ideal for this kind of book. It would be better to use a form of binding which would allow the pages to lie flat. I also still like the idea of presenting these images in a portfolio box, and allowing the reader to order the images in different ways. More experiments to come.
I am working through ideas for a portable exhibitions, and seeing what can be produced with existing resources. Following earlier consideration of work by Dayanita Singh, I have produced some prototype accordion books, to explore size and format, and the suitability of different types of paper (in terms of printing, use in book production and in display). I’ve used the following images of housing developments in Barking, for instance.
I’ve used 200 gsm single-side coated matt photopaper for this. There is a problem in getting stock from which I can get A3 sheets which are short grain. The print surface is good (certainly works well for these monochrome images) and it handles well for book making.
There is work to be done on how they would be used in display, and how different angles of view and light can be used creatively (and, consequently, how images are sequenced and arranged). Some kind of clip that holds each fold at 90 degrees would be helpful (I saw something like this used at Paris Photo last year). The next step is to explore other formats for books/displays and other sequences of images.
I have been looking at work by Heather Weston, a book artist who explores ways in which established book forms can be used creatively to produce resonances, and tensions, between form and content, for instance in her works a diction (2004) in which the pages are the shape of a pint glass, and unfold into a circle, READ (past, tense) (2000) which is printed with heat sensitive ink that responds to the touch of the reader and Paper Cut: relief (2007) dealing with self harm and taking the form of an accordion book with cut outs (below).
In Bookcraft (2008), she refers to Karen Hanmer’s Destination Moon(2003) which takes the form of a ‘flag book’ (a kind of accordion book) that juxtaposes archival photographs of the Apollo Manned Space Programme with John F. Kennedy’s “Man on the Moon by the end of the decade” speech and a whimsical song about a romantic journey to the moon.
This dynamic handmade book form, which has been produced using an inkjet printer, is well suited to the forms of juxtaposition and change that I am exploring in my own work, and warrants some exploration.
As a foonote, the black and white images above are all reflections of developments along the River Roding taken from the same place as this 1832 drawing of Barking town (the vantage point is now a supermarket car park).
According to the schedule, at this point (Week 14) I should have completed my fieldwork, and be working on composites and other images for the outcomes of the project. Seems like a good time to review progress to date and map out activities for the next 4 months.
Image making for and with community groups has been pretty intense over the past few months.
Thames Ward Community Project (TWCP). Following on from a series of photographs of the members of the Citizens Action Group, I decided to focus on activities within the community. Consequently, I have made images of the following activities: TESOL for Parents (two sites – Riverside and Thames View), Mums with a Mission (Thames View), DJ workshops (at Riverside Campus: see selected images below), Thames Ward Health Stakeholders, Young Citizens Action Group.
A repository of photographs has been created and I have made prints for the project leaders and participants. Prints from projects have been used to raise awareness of the different activities amongst the project team (for instance, at the recent project dinner).
Photographs have been used in press and promotional material. The 100 images made for the Thrive Community Day have been given to the Mental Health Foundation for the report on the Thrive Thames View project. Next step is to produce a collection of larger prints for the TWCP to use in promoting its work.
New View Arts. My Shed Life photographs (of participants, the area and the models produced) have featured in the press and funding campaigns. They have also been used in the report produced by University of East London architecture students and in support for the planning permission application. I would like to submit images to the WISERD Civil Society Photography Competition, which closes on 13th January. I will continue to make images with the group to feed in to the exhibition planned for the opening of the Shed and any prior promotional work. The Arts Council funded film on the Creekmouth flood and displacement, to which the summer workshop for children contributed, was presented to residents on 2nd November and I gave to prints of photographs used, including archive photographs, to the group. The film was also shown to the public at the Sue Bramley Centre, with accompanying pop-up exhibition of my images and photographs taken with and by the workshop participants, on 13th December. Future showings are planned.
Everyone, Everyday. This is the local incarnation (and most prominent project) of Participatory City. I have joined the project and attended events, and discussed the possibility of exhibiting at the Warehouse with the facility manager and running workshops with the project officers. Their next planning cycle starts in January, and I have a meeting with the Barking project team on 9th January to explore contributing to the programme of activities, which starts on 25th February.
Eastside Community Heritage. Photographs of the demonstrations relating to the Riverside Estate fire, and images of the estate, are being used in the independent report and the website being produced around resident accounts. They have been used in press coverage, and a BBC feature was made with footage from the demonstration on 19th October. Follow up with residents planned. Possible collaboration with ECH producing images for their Becontree Estate project. ECH has previously collaborated with Studio 3 Arts on the Open Estate project, focusing on the Gascoigne Estate.
Barking and Dagenham Heritage Conservation Group. I have continued to to attend meeting and kept in touch with activities. I have made images of developments around Barking, and collected a list of proposed developments from emails about applications for planning permission. May be possible to draw work together for a pop-up exhibition in the town centre (for instance, at the Barking Hotel). Another possibility would be to do a collaborative piece with Keith, who has a particular interest in photography, particularly with film, or to focus on some of the members of the group and their concerns. Might fall outside the scope of the FMP.
Greatfields School. On 8th October, I ran a workshop for GCSE Photography students to introduce a collaborative project focusing on the impact of changes taking place on the Gascoigne Estate. Kiran (the photography teacher) repeated this with another group, and invited proposals for projects from the students. These have been submitted and projects selected. We plan to run the sessions after school on Thursdays, alongside the photography club. Pressure of work around the end of the year have led us to postpone the project start to 23rd January (to run for 6 to 8 weeks).
Exhibition and engagement
Work has been exhibited locally in pop-up (such as the Creekmouth film showing) and other exhibitions (such as the IG11 Art Trail, which ran until 9th November) as planned, and used in community engagement and dissemination activities (for instance, the Community Day, TESOL for parents and DJ workshops). These opportunistic exhibitions will continue. For the FMP outcome, however, something more formal will be needed, which can incorporate and showcase my own work. I am pursuing a number of possibilities, and the London Creative Network will give rise to new opportunities, including the new block at Barking and Dagenham College and the Warehouse. Most likely is the Sue Bramley Centre, which has good outside space in which work could be displayed without danger of vandalism (which would be a problem with the hoardings in the areas, which would otherwise provide a good display surface).
I have discussed this with the centre manager, who is supportive of the idea. Other site specific exhibitions could also be organised. I have also discussed the possibility of running workshops at the Centre, for TWCP project leaders and at the Warehouse. At this point, there are ample viable sites for exhibition and engagement, but this will have to be tied down in the coming month, and work produced for exhibition if this is to be a principle outcome of the FMP. I am also exploring handmade books as a way of displaying photographic work in easily portable form (I’ll make a specific post about this).
I am currently collating images and other material (including maps, planning documents, data and archive images), and exploring how these can be juxtaposed. Ethically and practically, I am inclined now to identify a number of key collaborators, and a narrow range of themes, and to work with them as models, and in selecting images with which to work. Over the next two weeks, I need to produce a range of images to exemplify the form of outcome, and/or to act as base composite images to which to add images of members of the community. Alongside this I will identify the most appropriate ways of disseminating and exhibiting the work. I will also produce a range of forms of book to illustrate how the work might be transported and shown. In addition to the photographic work for and with community groups, I have been exploring the boundary between the Riverside development and Footpath 47, which runs alongside the Thames. Currently this gives direct access to the riverbank, but under plans for the estate development, will become a paved walkway between the housing and the river, which will dramatically change the local ecosystem, and access to the marshland environment. In addition to the community related composite work, I will explore the environmental aspects of the development through the incorporation of environmental effects on the images themselves (see, for instance, the discussion of work by Matthew Brandt; I have collected samples of water from the marshes and rivers to experiment with the effects on images). Related to this, I want to visually explore the boundaries that are being created, and the conceptual limitations of the notion of boundary in understanding the entanglement of human activity/well-being, the built environment and the natural environment. From this work I also need to produce a clear statement of the focus of the FMP (as a subset, or intermediate stage, of the wider project) – a post will follow about this. Commencement of the LCN programme at the end of January will also have an impact on the development and ultimate focus of the FMP outcomes.
Whilst progress with the work has been good, and largely to schedule, there is a need to fix the focus of the FMP and revise the schedule to ensure that adequate time can be give to the work that needs to be done. The revised schedule looks something like this:
Composite image-making and preparation of prints prototype books (16th December 2019 to 12th January 2020)
Week 13 Collation of images and documents Week 14 Creation of initial composites and other images Week 15 Printing and preparation of images and prototypes Week 16 Final determination of project focus, collaborators and outputs. WISERD images submission.
Sharing of composites, creation of images, feedback and preparation of cumulative outcomes (13th January 2020 to 23rd February 2020)
Week 17 Image making with participants. Commence work with Particatory City. Week 18 Image making with participants. Commence Greatfields project. Commence LCN programme Week 19 Image making with participants Week 20 Image making with participants. Thames Ward Growth Summit exhibition Week 21 Production and presentation of work Week 22 Reflection and follow-up with participants
Final outcomes: exhibition, artists book/archive and workshops (24th February 2020 to 5th April 2020)
Week 23 Preparation of material for exhibition and workshops Week 24 Warehouse exhibition and workshop. Complete Greatfields project Week 25 Falmouth workshops and portfolio review Week 26 [Singapore & Canterbury] Week 27 Workshops and exhibition Week 28 Finalisation of outcomes.
Preparation of FMP submission (6th April 2020 to 1st May 2020)
Week 29 Review CRJ and online portfolio (Easter) Week 30 Finalise Critical Review of Practice (Easter) Week 31 Finalise Project pdf Week 32 Submit Project pdf and Critical Review of Practice
In the approach I am taking to the project, photography is seen as a social, cultural and material practice, leading to the development of a range of distinct but related forms of photographic work. As a material practice, I am interested in exploring the impact of environmental factors in the settings I am exploring on the form taken by the images produced. In Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography (2015), produced to accompany the exhibition at the Getty Museum, Virginia Heckert explores the work of seven contemporary artists whose image making extends and expands the exploration by the founders of photography of the manner in which light and chemical processes act on photographic emulsions to produce images.
This relates closely to the analog aspects of my work, though one of the featured artists, James Welling, has been a key influence on the digital dimension of my practice. The work of the photographic artists featured in this collection resonates with my project not just in their emphasises on the materiality of photographic practice, but also the exploration of the natural world not through description or representation but through its inscription on photographic material.
The work by Alison Rossiter, Marco Breuer and James Welling featured focuses on the interrogation of the effect of chemical processes on light-sensitive materials. There is an environmental aspect to the work, for instance the Lisa Oppenheim’s series Smoke, in which found images of smoke are cropped to remove the source of the smoke (including volcanos and oil refinery fires), but fire is re-introduced in the darkroom as the light source for the exposure of negatives made from the images.
Chris McCaw constructs cameras in which the trajectory of the sun is burned onto the film.
Matthew Brandt explores the use of materials derived from the objects depicted in his photographs in the production of images, for instance in his Trees (2009-11) series using fallen branches from the trees photographed to make pulp for paper and burned to make pigment for ink which is then used to make prints of the trees.
In his Lakesand Reservoirsseries, chromogenic prints of a lake are soaked for different periods of time in water from the lake, creating images in which the characteristics of the water have influenced how layers of the print are affected in the production of the final image.
Like my own work, these works are site specific, and entwined with the objects depicted. They also incorporate non-visual elements of the site in the production of the images. Given the interest in my work of features of the settings such as fire (relating, for instance to cladding of buildings), water (for instance, flooding and building on marshes and by rivers), infestation (for instance, mosquitos, ants and rats relating to the marshes and surrounding industries, such as waste processing) and pollution (both air pollution relating to neighbouring industry and major roads, and soil and water pollution relating to waste from power stations, chemical plants and dumping of pollutants such as asbestos), similar ways of inscribing, marking, modifying or making images could be explored. As a first step, I am exploring, through archival research and conversations with residents, characteristics of settings, and collecting materials that could be used in making or altering images (for instance, collection of marsh and river water from the Riverside development, which could be used to soak prints, or in the processing of film and prints). In earlier experiments, I collected organic material from sites and combined microscope images with Google Earth images of the area.
Heckert, V. 2015. Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
MOMA. 2013. Lisa Oppenheim discusses her series Smoke. Online.
In the publication produced to accompany her three simultaneous London exhibitions in 2018, Landscape, Portrait, Still Life, Tacita Dean considers the extent to which Paul Nash’s watercolour Cumulus Head (c1944) can be considered to be a portrait (of Nash’s wife), a landscape (or more precisely, a cloudscape) and a still life (the head takes a sculptural form).
As such, the work questions, and subverts, the established distinction between landscape, portrait and still life. Dean’s three exhibitions focus in turn on each of these forms, but, as with Nash’s work, the permeability and instability of these forms, over time and across contexts, and the manner in which Dean’s work is positioned in respect these categories of work (and others working in these genres), raise further questions.
One question, which resonates with my own work, is the extent to which her landscape work tends to focus on the landscape, or on elements in the landscape. My own work tends to be very much in the landscape, tending to focus on objects and artefacts rather than the larger features of the landscape (as do many other so called landscape artists, like Fay Godwin, who’s photographs draw us to what is in the landscape, which prompt out attention to flicker between landscape as context and landscape as content: what is in the landscape provokes us to think differently about the landscape itself). This, in turn, raises a question about the category of still life, the defining feature of which appears to be the decontextualisation, or rather recontextualisation of the object (from, for instance, the field to the studio). Artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long also question this distinction, creating works in and from the landscape.
This calls to mind the work of still life artists, such as John Crome, who work in the field, foregrounding particular aspects (for instance, Crome’s studies of flints, c1811, which, by focusing within the landscape, blurs the landscape/still life distinction).
The distinction is further problematised by the question of whether a still life has to be of inanimate, or dead, artefacts. Can living plants, or animals, or people, be the subjects of still life? Ultimately, the photograph renders them still, and animation can only be implied or inferred. New materialism, and object orientated ontology, of course, re-animate these objects and artefacts, in de-centring humanist accounts. This focuses us on consideration of how the landscape, human activity and objects inscribe and mark each other in the process of co-production, which I aim to explore in my own photographic work.
The composites produced for my neuropolis series can be seen as combining the landscape (urban), portraits (street) and still life (flora) in the same setting, with accompanying connotations of, in turn, a future, present and past. Whilst I have explored the interaction between these elements, I haven’t thought about the work in terms of artistic forms or genres. Dean’s exhibitions produce resonances between forms and each raises questions about stability and integrity of the boundaries between forms and genres. My work mashes these forms together and, in a modest way, raises similar questions in a different way. In addition, I hope, the use of composites and juxtapositions creates a possibility space for exploration of the potential of photography in inter-disciplinary enquiry and practice.
As a parenthetic thought, looking at Nash’s work in doing research for this post, there are other resonances with strands of my current work. In Landscape from a Dream (1938), for instance, Nash places frames and art works into the landscape, which is echoed in thoughts about exhibiting my work in non-gallery internal and external spaces, placing art work, and the structures that support it, in the landscape. I’ll follow this up in a future post.
His work held at the Imperial War Museum, for instance The Menin Road (1919), explores the manner in which war scars the landscape, in ways not dissimilar to the impact on the landscape of preparation for the large scale building development.
Interesting that entry to the AOP Student Awards 2020 has to be in one of three categories, people/places/things, that mirrors the long established, but clearly questionable, portraits/landscape/still life distinction considered here.
Harris, A., Hollinghurst, A. & Smith, A. 2018. Tacita Dean: Landscape, Portrait, Still Life. London: Royal Academy of Arts.
I’m preparing work for two pop-up exhibitions over the coming two weeks: (i) images from the Creekmouth project with 7-11 year olds over the summer to accompany a public viewing of the film made with NewView Arts and funded by the Arts Council: (ii) images from the English courses being run for parents at Riverside Campus and for residents at Sue Bramley Centre. As with the earlier Shed Life pop-up, I am printing and mounting photographs and figuring out how to exhibit them in the space available in a way that is quick to assemble and low impact on the space. At the end of the Shed Life event, I gave most of the photographs away to people who took part, and it’s likely that I’ll do the same for these events.
Longer term, though, and in relation to the outcomes of the FMP, I need to think about developing a way of displaying my work which is both durable and portable. Using an archive box has enabled me to carry and show the work I am doing in an intimate manner, and it might be fruitful to develop this further for material that can be displayed.
This idea of portability and adaptability is at the heart of Dayanita Singh’s work, and in particular her book objects. For instance, her Box 507, which she describes as follows:
‘an unbound book of 30 image cards held together in a wooden structure. It is meant to be hung on a wall or placed as an object on a table. The structure has been built to allow the collector to change the front image as often as they like. The image cards, however, exist as a set of 30 and are not meant to be separated from each other or the box. Once you have more than one box, you become the curator of my work, as you build your own conversations between the boxes. Box 507 has been published in an edition of 360 and is available only in its exhibition format. It is to be acquired directly off the wall. In this way the exhibition disappears with time and when all the boxes are sold, the edition and exhibition are over.’
The work thus consists of both the images and the casing, which allows the images to be transported and exhibited in different ways in different spaces. Museum Bhavan takes this a step further in presenting a number of ‘museums’ as a set of books, allowing the reader to construct different configurations of the work.
This ‘pocket museum’ mirrors Singh’s traveling exhibition, which can be configured in different ways in different galleries. The plan below is the scheme for her Haywood Gallery exhibition.
Accordion-fold books are also used as a way of displaying work, which I will explore with the work that I have been doing with Thames Wards Community Project (better, I think, than zine format as it provides a more satisfying object and allows the work to be displayed).
Looking at other forms of low-cost but flexible forms of display, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie exhibit at Unseen Amsterdam this year is interesting.
Their Uncut 2019 group exhibition provides another option (using photostands for the suspension of large prints).
Great to see SPACE Ilford open this weekend. Provided the opportunity to visit the new studios and talk to the artists who have moved in so far. Not much in the way of photography, but some interesting digital media work, with a number of artists in residence working on new projects.
Spoke to people from the London Creative Network (LCN) and have subsequently put in an application for their artist development programme – see statement below. A great opportunity to make links with other local artists and work on development of my practice beyond the MA. Putting the application together provided an opportunity to think about how I frame my current practice and how I might develop my work over the coming years.
I am a photographic artist, writer, academic and educator exploring the ways in which photography can make a distinctive contribution to inter and multi-disciplinary practice and enquiry. My current work focuses on community engagement with urban regeneration in the outer east London boroughs, through exploration of the entanglement of human activity with the changing built and natural environment. This involves three forms of photography: working with residents’ own images to explore and understand their lived experiences and aspirations, collaborative image-making with community and activist groups for use in advocacy, and my own artistic exploration stemming from a range of local community projects. My practice is post-digital, and I produce images and artefacts using digital, analogue and alternative processes, exploring what is added and subtracted as we move between different forms of production and circulation. This resonates with the increasing quantification of human experience and data driven decision-making (in housing development and employment) and the environmental consequences of the change over time from chemical to digital industries in east London. To date this work has been disseminated through community pop-up exhibitions and group shows, and contributions to publications and archives (for instance, relating to a recent fire on a local estate).
Following a career in education, I have returned to an earlier interest in photography (which began at the age of four as a child model). I will shortly complete an MA in Photography. My artistic work is currently subsidised by other forms of income. The LCN programme will help me transition to a primary focus on artistic work, and enable me to develop a financially, ethically and artistically sustainable plan for developing my practice.
I have lived in Ilford for the past 20 years. I am committed to development of the community, and have, for instance, served as a governor of local schools and colleges. I am excited about the developments at SPACE and potential for the arts to play a part in the revitalisation of the town and borough. My current work focuses on estates in Barking: having seen how developers exploit artistic work and that arts funding often fails to engage residents meaningfully, I am interested in developing alternative funding models for community focused art.
My primary motivation is to learn. I also hope that my experience and expertise can benefit others in the network, at a time when inter-generational understanding and collaboration is vitally important.