MA in Photography Blog and Critical Research Journal
Professional Location of Practice. Establish an understanding of the range of professional contexts for the dissemination and consumption of contemporary photographic practice, and identify opportunities to engage with audiences and markets.
Alongside the visual and textual contents of the boxes, I have provided a soundscape for each of the three settings. ‘Soundscape’ is a term first used by composer Murray Schafer (1969) and subsequently used widely, and variably, by scholars in the sonic arts (see Kelman, 2010). Here I am using the term as a sonic correlate of ‘landscape’: these are binaural field recordings that provide a sense of the place, which contextualise, and are contextualised by, the images and other material. As Labelle (2018) has noted, street sound is leaky and transgressive. In all three cases, one can hear what cannot be seen in the images. And, in all three of the recordings, the human and the non-human, the constructed and the natural are inter-woven, as they are, in different ways, in the images.
I have uploaded the soundscapes to the web and in the pdf and in the archive boxes I have put a QR code for each setting that will download the file and an audio player to a browser when scanned.
Kelman, A. 2010. ‘Rethinking the Soundscape: A Critical Genealogy of a Key Term in Sound Studies’, The Senses and Society, 5, pp. 212–234.
LaBelle, B. 2018. Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance. London: Goldsmiths Press.
Schafer, R.M. 1969. The New Soundscape; A Handbook for the Modern Music Teacher. Don Mills, Ont.: BMI Canada.
The clamshell box (above) that I made at a London Centre for Book Arts workshop last year has done good service as a portable portfolio, and prompted the idea, at the Falmouth portfolio review, of incorporating some form of physical archiving, and making archive boxes, as part of my final major project. After a couple of days of making therapy, below are the three A4 boxes that I’ll use for the three collections.
Although I’ll not now have an opportunity to use them before the end of the MA programme, I have also put together a set of large mounted prints, stored in an archive box (I didn’t make this one) for portability, for pop-up exhibitions.
Completion of an MA programme seems relatively trivial in the light of the pandemic crisis and its repercussions, but, in order to get the work done by the due date, I have to think through how I will adapt my project plan to these new circumstances.
The work in Singapore that I had scheduled for early March had to be cancelled (maybe to be rescheduled for September) and, in order to safeguard my mother, I had to cancel my trip to Falmouth to for the face to face event (workshops, portfolio reviews, conference). The following events and activities relating to my project have been cancelled:
25th March: Memory and Archiving Workshop (Everyone Everyday, Barking)
9th April: Trade School on Community Archiving (Participatory City Warehouse, Barking)
18th April: Open Table Exhibition (Everyone Everyday, Barking)
29th April. Presentation to the London Prosperity Board.
In addition, the weekly workshops and meetings with the Shed Life group and at Greatfields School (and the planned exhibition) have been postponed for the foreseeable future. It is unlikely that any of this work will take place before the submission date for the final project.
The cancellation of the two archiving workshops means that I will not have the opportunity to work further on the contents of the archive boxes with residents, and therefore will not be able to include resident material in the collections nor get further feedback from them on my own work. We have looked at and discussed my images at earlier workshops (likewise with the students at Greatfields and other project participants over the past two months), but I haven’t formally recorded this. The cancellation of the exhibitions means that I will not be able to present this work to a wider audience as planned, and get feedback from those events. The presentation to the the London Prosperity Board would have provided an opportunity to reflect on the project as a whole and reflect on the wider implications of this way of working, and in particular the contribution of the arts to multi-professional activity and interdisciplinary enquiry, with policy makers and practitioners. It is possible that this meeting will take place online, though this does not allow people the opportunity to handle the materials (the tactile and material aspects of the collections are important, for instance relating to the material used for the prints, and the handmade books) and take part in the planned activities.
I want to be able to complete the project and submit on time despite the extraordinary circumstances, and the increasing volume of other more pressing concerns as the pandemic develops and wider consequences are felt. That means adapting planned activities from this point onwards and rethinking what I submit as a final outcome. At this point, it looks something like this:
For the final PDF, submit a selection of my own images from three series (one focusing on Barking town centre, one on the wharf area and one on Riverside), with short passages to contextualise the work.
Compile the three collections for the archive boxes for each of the areas (my own images, including those in the pdf, handmade books, maps, documents, historical images) and make the boxes to house these.
Edit and upload soundscapes from each area.
Make and upload videos of the contents of each box.
Pull together and represent public engagement (pop-up exhibitions, workshops and presentations) to date.
Design and compile the draft PDF.
Send out the PDF to a small group of people for comment (to meet the requirement for reflections on the work by other practitioners, which would have been met through the events that have been cancelled).
It will be a challenge to place this material in the context of the wider project. Longer term, I need to think about how to develop this work in a (hopefully) post-pandemic world. The materiality of what I am producing has been an important part of the work (having prints of different sizes and media to handle and discuss together, for instance, and the pop-up exhibitions). This does not translate directly to online environments, and workshops will be challenging if social distancing continues for an extended period of time.
‘This day will begin with a practical session of developing your presentation skills and techniques for effective communication. We will then look at the different economies and strategies that exist to support artists and artistic development, followed by a session around crowdfunding’.
The first LCN day was excellent, not only for the substantive content but also for being able to get to know other artists working in the area. I want to make some quick notes about the sessions, focussing on aspects of particular relevance to my current work and thinking about what I might do after the MA.
Persilia was able to give us insight into the process by which the work for the first exhibition (by Lindsey Mendick) was selected through an open call process and how the gallery worked collaboratively with the artist. A key factor was engagement with the local community, and the ability to ensure both that the process of producing the work was of value, and that the outcome is a worthwhile and engaging exhibition. In particular, it was interesting to see how the work from the workshops (making work in clay with elderly people from the area with no prior experience) fed into the exhibition. The process also allowed the artist to experiment with new ways of working, and for participants to gain new skills and interests. The central theme for the exhibition (advice that you wish you had been given and taken, inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen), was clear and relatable.
Good opportunity to get to know other members of the group and learn about Alex’s practice (which spans community focused work in east London and his own drawing based work). One of the communication activities involved describing a Lego construction to a partner who had to construct it solely on the basis of the description, exploring the need for a common language. This was reinforced in relation to describing our own practice to different audiences and for different purposes.
Alex introduced the Who (you, brand, partners, fabrications, collaborations, organisations, audiences, customers, clients), What (activity, product, services, company, charity), When (milestones, markers, timelines, stages, evolution), Where (places, spaces, residencies, stockists, connections, communities), Why (reasons, motivations, drive, values, ‘call to action’, ‘reasons to believe’), How (processes, skills, ethics, forms, discoveries), Wow (concepts, achievements, unexpected, magical, imagined) structure and we prepared one minute statements to share and discuss in groups of three (see below for mine).
The framework provides a structure and set of prompts for production of accounts (for instance, and artist or project statement) that can be adapted to different audiences (by, for instance, shifting focus, realigning priorities and changing language). It can also be used cyclically and a different levels in the same account, for instance to describe practice in general and the details of a specific project or a particular work.
In this session we (i) identified and mapped out our networks; (ii) looked at the economic underpinning of artistic practice; (iii) considered an ‘iceberg self-portrait’.
The network mapping helped me to think about the relationship between my prior (academic) work and my current (artistic) practice, and the manner in which networks relating to these different domains might be mutually supportive. For me this is a matter of bringing my artistic and photographic work to a state of relative maturity, and keeping in mind how the work produced (and the processes and contexts of production) might constructively draw on and feed into my academic work and networks (for instance, in forming partnerships between academics and artists in the development of community relationships around UCL East). It was particularly productive to be able to put artistic practice at the centre of the network diagram. Kathrin emphasised the power of working as a collective.
Katherine Gibson’s (2014) iceberg metaphor was used in considering the economics of artistic production. This acknowledges that visible practice is supported by a greater volume and diversity of invisible activities (both personal and institutional). This led to a consideration of the diversity of forms of and audiences for art, and Stephen Wright’s concept of ‘usership’ rather that spectatorship, emphasising a need to be clear about how art is used in different contexts and by different communities. This relates to the manner in which I am using different forms of photography, and using photography in different ways, in different parts of my project (for instance, in activism and as a collective activity). Similar ideas are put forward by Arte Util (useful art); I will explore these further in the critical review of practice, in clarifying the relationship between the components of my project, and, in particular, the positioning of the outcomes of the FMP (as a subset of a wider programme of activities). Returning to the iceberg metaphor, we considered Gregory Sholette’s (2011) application of the idea of dark matter – the stuff that holds the market together but is not readily visible – and where in our own practice we might identify the ‘visibility’ line. Art viewed in this way is special (as a particular form of activity) but not other (set above or apart from everyday activity), resembling Laruelle’s notion of ‘non-philosophy‘.
This session was particularly important for me in (i) helping to think through alternative forms of relationship between art and everyday practice, particularly through the idea of ‘usership’; (ii) thinking through how I can use visual means to describe the relationship between the components of my work (for instance, in providing a ‘visual index’ in my FMP pdf submission).
Tamara mapped out how she moved from the production of a book dummy for her Ridley Road project (8 years and 150 colour images) to publication, and how she used crowdfunding to fund the print run. The project stemmed from identification of a gap in the Hackney archives around the history of the market, and evolved into a site specific, collaborative project concerned with ‘streets and the people who make the streets’. Centerprise was an important influence (in both the publication of local writing and as a place to meet). As in my own work, building trust among the community was important, and she took on the informal role of campaign photographer for the Save Ridley Road campaign, organising workshops and exhibitions. She uses a TLR on a tripod to make the portraits, which quickly distinguishes her from the opportunistic street photographers who are not particularly welcome in the area.
Lots of insights into Crowdfunding – see notes below (and pdf provided by Tamara).
The major insight for me, however, was into Tamara’s work, and resonances with aspects of my own work. In all, the day provided a number of strands to follow up, particularly around relationship between the community engagement aspects of my project and my own work
Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2014. ‘Rethinking the Economy with Thick Description and Weak Theory’. Current Anthropology 55, S9: S147-153. doi:10.1086/676646. [Accessed March 7, 2020].
Sholette, G. 2011. Dark Matter : Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. London; New York: Pluto Press.
Wright, S. 2014. Toward a Lexicon of Usership. Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum. Online at https://www.arte-util.org/tools/lexicon/ [Accessed March 7, 2020].
Half day session at the London Centre for Book Arts. Had the opportunity to talk through ideas for constructing my archive boxes for the FMP with people there, as well as learning about and experimenting with Risograph printing. Lots of potential for producing vibrant colour work at volume for a reasonable price (cutting a stencil costs £1.50, ink costs £1.50 for 50 sheets, provide your own paper). Could be useful for outputs from community focused work, and in particular production of posters, zines and books (paper up to A3, and can scale up). Not sure whether this is something I would use for the FMP as it is currently conceived, though people have used it for reproduction of photographic work (see work by Christine, who has produced a case bound book combining letterpress with risograph – see test prints below).
We worked from original and found artwork, but it is also possible to work with digital files (though the software for this is dated). Useful tips for using risograph printing at http://stencil.wiki/
Selection of initial reflection shots of the developments along the River Roding, optimistically dubbed the ‘Roding Riveria’. Will use these in the Warehouse exhibition, but work on others for the FMP (both on the river side and the side of the development facing the Abbey – see developer images on hoardings below).
31st January 2020. The Photobook Cafe, London EC1.
Interesting to talk to Vincent about the project and process of producing the book. He’s known as a portrait photographer, and has an image in the 2018 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition (see below – also from The Trap).
It took three trips to Atlanta to complete the project. He was disappointed with the images from the first trip, principally because they were predominantly portraits which gave little sense of the distinct context (as he observed, they could have been taken in London). The images from the next two trips convey much more of the context and the relationship between people and place. For the editing and sequencing the images, he worked with an editor who asked to look at all of the images, and some images (including the cover image) were included in the final edit that had initially been rejected (this reinforces the importance of working with an experienced editor). It is interesting to see the manner in which images, which may not seem strong in their own right, can form effective bridges and transitions between other images. I particularly like the manner in which maps, on tracing paper, are included in the text, further emphasizing the importance of place in this particular project.
Desailly, V. 2019. The Trap. Edited by Hatje Cantz – 51 pictures, 128 pages, English text, introduction by Gucci Mane. https://www.vincent-desailly.com/
This gave me the opportunity to try out the idea of a rapid set up (and demount) exhibition, and to show the work I have produced with the Thames Ward Community Project. In total there were 120 prints, which took a week to produce and mount. Putting the work up took about four hours, mainly because pieces had to be clipped to each other to adapt to the space. I feel more confident about exhibiting in these kinds of challenging spaces, and being able to put together sets of images and other resources that can be displayed effectively and quickly.
The exhibition was easily taken down and stored at the end of the day. I need to produced appropriate storage boxes for the mounted images and the materials needed to put together the display. I am not going to use any of these images for my final project, though the work I have done with TWCP will influence the form and content of the work and the manner in which it will be presented to an audience, and the exhibition is part of a sequence of project engagement activities. I’ll write about this in the Critical Review of Practice.
First shot at 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.
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.