I took the complete set of prints (each print 24x16cm on A4 paper) of my WIP portfolio for review with Jesse and others in Bristol (at the RPS). I wanted to get feedback on the quality of the prints and the extent to which the way I had placed the ‘codes’ between the images had worked. Having made prints, I could experiment with the manner in which they are arranged spatially (keeping the code close to the related image).
Whilst the pdf submitted has to take a linear form, it is interesting to think about the effect of displaying the prints in different ways in a gallery or other exhibition space. The grid layout, for instance, has very different connotations than the linear (vertical or horizontal), suggesting layers rather than a sequence (which might lead me to think differently about the ordering of the prints),
The feedback was very positive and reinforced my intention to work further on the printing of composites, with careful attention to tonality and texture. Jesse suggested experimenting with liquid light and printing on glass, and also exploring the physical layering of images. The codes seemed to make sense to people, and were of visual interest in their own right. One suggestion was to explore 3D ‘cut outs’ of the images used, in the way that Emeric Lhuisset has done with maps of areas destroyed in conflict in When the Clouds Speak (on show at Cloitre Saint-Triomphe, Les Rencontres d’Arles, until 22 September 2019).
One major consequence of thinking critically about both methodology and modes of presentation (and the relationship between these) has been to consider the relationship between analogue and digital forms in my practice. In making my composite images (see, for instance, the Neuropolis series) I have worked entirely with digital images. Alongside this I have been making large and medium format film images and experimenting with the use of these in producing large composite images, using the following process (which can also be integrated with collaborative workshop activities).
Initial research and exploration of the area using archival, resident and made digital images.
Identification of scenes to be rephotographed in large format film.
Scanning of negatives and the production of composites digitally.
Production of prints and use in projection and on screen in local pop-up exhibitions alongside other images and artefacts.
As well as the technical benefits of this process, in enabling very large prints to be produced, this approach has the potential to be collaborative (for instance, in the initial production of images and making decisions about rephotographing and combining images). It also mirrors the process of decision making in urban regeneration, which is increasingly data driven. The lived experience and characteristics of residents are quantified and decisions are made on the basis of the analysis of this data (see, for instance, how demographic data, and projections, are used in applications for compulsory purchase orders, which lay the basis for large scale redevelopment of housing estates). The consequences of these decisions are subsequently felt directly and viscerally by residents, translating this back again into ‘analogue’ form. The photographic process I am exploring here mirrors this process of ‘datafication’: analogue forms are quantified (scanned) and manipulated digitally, and then translated back into analogue (as physical artefact) form, and placed back into everyday activity and experience.
I am identifying this shuffling between analogue and digital as ‘post-digital’ practice in the sense that the term is used by Alessandro Ludovico (2012) in relation to print. Ludovico argues that, despite declarations of the immanent death of print in the face of digital forms of production and distribution, print has come to thrive in particular domains (there is, for instance, an interesting case to be made for paper based archives, especially among mobile migrant and displaced communities, in the light of the instability of digital systems and dominance by corporations and the state). In a post-digital practice, analogue and digital forms exist alongside each other in synergy and critical dialogue. This goes beyond a nostalgic yearning for lost or increasingly marginal forms of practice, to looking at the ways in which the dynamics of digital production and distribution create (deliberatively, incidentally or serendipitously) spaces for analogue practice (and vice versa). As Cubitt et al (2015) argue, the technologies and political, economic and socio-cultural practices that fed into and influenced the development of and transition to digital photography, from analogue forms, have shaped digital practice in such a way that qualities that are available in analogue photography are not available to those working digitally. In developing a form of post-digital photographic practice, I am working with the affordances of different forms of production and distribution in a way that acknowledges the wider political, economic, social and cultural contexts and connotations of these forms, and the transformations that take place, beyond the solely technical, as we move between the analogue and the digital. This requires a broader and more nuanced conception of both analogue and digital domains. For instance, Robinson (2006) has observed that analogue:
‘has come to mean smoothly varying, of a piece with the apparent seamless and inviolable veracity of space and time; like space and time admitting infinite subdivision, and by association with them connoting something authentic and natural, against the artificial, arbitrarily truncated precision of the digital’ (p.21).
In relating post-digital photographic practice to (data-driven) urban regeneration, I wish to highlight the losses and gains in moving between the qualitative/analogue and the quantitative/digital (and the connotations of these moves), and the heuristic potential of image making and engagement in illuminating, understanding and influencing the transformations that take place. This brief post is just intended to indicate a direction for further investigation, theoretically, methodologically and practically, in my FMP.
There is also some technical experimentation to be done, particularly in the production of composites from film negatives, and in chemical printing from digital negatives, to increase the number of points at which moves between analogue and digital can be made.
Cubitt, S., Palmer, D. and Walkling, L. (2015) ‘Enumerating photography from spot meter to CCD’, Theory, Culture & Society, 32(7–8): 245–265.
Ludovico, A. 2012. Post-Digital Print: The Mutation of Publishing since 1894. Eindhoven: Onomatopee.
Robinson, D. 2006. Analog. In Fuller, M. (ed.), Software Studies: A Lexicon. Cambridge, Mass: Leonardo Books. 21-30.
I have considered the development of my project over the course of the module and critically discussed production methodologies and presentation strategies in relation to this. Whilst it makes sense to separate methodology and presentation pedagogically, in practice they are closely related and this makes structuring the presentation tricky. I have also considered a selection of relevant work by other photographers, and how, in terms of methodology and presentation strategies, this relates to my own. Keeping within the time limit, as always, means heavy editing is necessary. Rather than attempt to be comprehensive in discussion of my project, and other work, I have selected examples from the work. Hopefully, there is enough background material in my CRJ to make it comprehensible.
Each image is made from three constituent images (human activity, the changing built environment, the natural environment) from the same location (in this case Ilford and Barking town centres, each of which is undergoing substantial planned redevelopment) through a process of channel mixing. Each image in the portfolio is accompanied by an ‘image code’ which gives a clue to its construction (example below: see here for explanation).
To contextualise the work, I have included two quotes from Fitzgerald et al (2018), which indicate the themes being explored.
‘The Neuropolis is the city understood as a matrix of transactions between urban life and the always-developing, malleable brains of urban citizens. Its object is a real conurbation, and not an ideological fiction: it describes an organization of physical spaces and social lives, of interpersonal exchanges and chance encounters, of economic relations and commercial transactions – and all of these simultaneously lived and transacted through the embodied lives of Neuropolitan citizens’ (p.223).
‘The Neuropolis is old, and winding. It’s easy to get lost there. To think about good life in such a space means not only grappling with history, but also coming to terms with a complex simultaneity of past and present – of the ideas, people and inclinations, that persist, in the shadows, across them’ (p.235).
A major theme in my work (and in the work quoted above) is relationship with the environment. I think this is clear in the images, but not in the quotes. Whilst I could have included more, I think this would have over-complicated the portfolio format and content. I will discuss this in my presentation (and also relate this work to the participatory ‘micro-projects’ and the photography for advocacy work that I am doing as part of the wider project).
The draft WIP portfolio (to be discussed with Cemre on Tuesday) previewed below.
Working through the display of shortlisted work for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award 2019 gave an opportunity to look at some complex forms of book, incorporating a range of different types of image and text presented on different types of paper and in different formats (for instance, books within books, inserted cards and images, foldout sections and gatefold images, single images in envelopes). The most complex was Katherine Longly’s handmade artists book To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit, which explores the relationship between food and the body in Japanese society.
Longly interviewed people over a period of time, and the book contains testimonies, photographs, illustrations and archive material. She also gave participants disposable cameras in order to explore and illustrate this complex relationship from their own point of view.
The book is of interest to me as an artefact in its own right, and it was interesting to see how inserts, tri-folds and gatefolds, tipped-in photographs and half-pages were used with montage, photographs, texts (including letters, notes, menus, recipes, tables and graphs), diagrams and drawing. Four types of paper are used in the construction of the book.
The work itself, on the borders of art and anthropology, also resonates with my own, in that it is collaborative, involves participant image-making and a range of forms of images, texts and artefacts. The book represents one possible form of output from the project, and Longly’s book demonstrates how a number of visual strategies can be used in book form. She has organised the book as sections, with each section focusing on one of the participants. Whilst the images are made by the participants (it is not immediately clear whether all the images are theirs, or whether some are made by Longly), attribution for the overall project and the book itself clearly belongs to Longly (appropriate attribution of work in these kinds of projects clearly being an important issue, and one that I will have to resolve in the final presentation of my project). Whether I produce a book in this form is still an open question, and depends on whether I want to force an order in which the reader engages with images and texts, or whether I want a more open and exploratory form of presentation (such as an archive, or set of micro-archives, from which the reader can create their own order and juxtapositions). Colberg’s (2017) analysis of photobooks, and schema for relating project concept to materials, design and sequencing has been helpful in thinking this through.
The wider 2019 Book Award entries illustrated the diversity of forms of books being produced, and reinforced the importance of strong editing, book design, quality of material, and the need to ensure coherence and consistency in the relationship between concept, form and content.
In Dual Landscapes New York 1999: Fifteen Diptychs, Alberto Piovano has used the book form to good effect to present diptychs where the relationship between the two images varies subtly. He has printed images on single sided photo paper, folded and bound to enable facing pages to be viewed as diptychs (see earlier post about ways of dealing with printing on single sided photo paper in handmade books).
Other books of particular interest. Monica Alcazar-Duarte‘s (2018) The New Colonistsuses gatefold pages at key points in the book to insert contrasting images relating to space travel into a mundane sub-urban narrative. An app can also be used to seek out images and information concealed within the images, including 3D animations of spy satellites and space colonies, thus heightening the juxtaposition of the mundane with visions of a new colonial future.
Rif Spahni’s (2018) Son Boter elegantly and simply combines a collection of prints on cards inserted into an envelope which is part of the cover with a small book. This allows both sequencing (within the book) with exploration of the juxtaposition of images by the reader (with the cards)
Alcazar-Duarte, M. 2018. The New Colonists. London: Bemojake. https://www.photobookstore.co.uk/photobook-the-new-colonists.html [accessed 30.07.19]
Colberg, J. 2017. Understanding Photobooks: The form and content of the photographic book. London: Routledge.
Longly, K. 2018. To tell my real intentions, I want to eat only haze like a hermit. Handmade artist edition. http://reminders-project.org/rps/to_tell_my_real_intentions_saleen/ [accessed 30.07.19]
Spahni, R. 2018. Son Boter. Joan Miró. Text by Gustavo Martín Garzo. Barcelona. Ediciones Anómalas. https://www.edicionesanomalas.com/en/producto/son-boter-joan-miro-3/ [accessed 30.07.19]
I gave an overview of my project presented some prints made from the three series of composites produced towards the end of the last module. In particular, I wanted feedback on how these might fit within the overall project (as examples of my own artistic response, and possibly as one way of working with participant images) and how they might best be presented (so far, I have presented these on screen and as projections, but want to think about how they might be best presented as prints). I showed prints made on different types of paper (semi-pearl and fine art smooth cotton).
The work was well received and a number of helpful comments were made on how I might develop this aspect of the project.
the first image in each series worked best, and could produce engaging prints (Jesse commented on the manner in which human figures were concealed in and emerged from the images, and these could make good platinum prints).
Wendy cautioned, though, against over-aestheticising the image/context, which could create tensions with the overall intent of the project. She mentioned looking again at Joan Fontcuberta‘s work in this respect.
the link between switching between analogue and digital image forms and the tension between resident lived experience (qualitative/analogue) and data driven decision making in housing and other areas (quantitative/digital) was appreciated, but wasn’t clear in the way in which the images were presented (without a supporting narrative). Jesse suggested that some form of random or automated image manipulation might be used to give versions of the images that were not ‘human-made’. This could be in the form of ‘glitches’ or types of juxtaposition or interaction between images. I could do this with my own images, and/or with resident images (which could be exhibited in the way in which Edmund Clarke showed images in Control Order House as a grid of jpegs).
Bekkie suggested the interleaving of digital data in making the composites, which I’ll experiment with.
in terms of process, Anthony Luvera‘s work was mentioned, and in particular his recent writing on the ethics of participatory photography. Earlier conversation with Mick has also provided other references on ethics to follow up (he also mentioned code that is available to remove elements of digital images, for instance human figures – to follow up).
Having had to work intensively on production of a book manuscript to a tight deadline over the past few weeks, I haven’t felt much like writing CRJ entries (beyond the routine). I have, though, been able to reflect on the development of my practice in process terms, and relate this to my plans for the FMP. In doing this, I have tried to develop a coherent and consistent approach to the development of my own practice, which is reflected in, and consistent with, the constituent components of my final project.
The approach I am developing is iterative in the sense that it evolves incrementally through interactions between theory (general and specifically related to the arts and photography), field (what other artists/photographers are doing, both as individuals and as ‘schools’), practice (what I am doing in terms of my own photography, and other artistic and academic work) and context (the macro and micro contexts within which I am working). With a bit of thought, I could probably represent this diagrammatically, but for the moment, there are a couple issues that I would like to explore.
The first question is where to start this process? My feeling is that it doesn’t matter, hence the title ‘learning to read (and write) our own work’. Reflection is a process of making sense of our work, relating it to theory (the concepts and frameworks available to us to make sense of and advance our work) and to the field (positioning our work in relation to other practitioners and transform how we view that work relationally). The sense we make of the work is also influenced by the contexts within which we do the work, and what is possible within those contexts, and how this might affect both what we do and how we interpret and describe it. Viewed in this way, our readings of our own work (and consequently, our readings of the work of others) is becoming incrementally more sophisticated and informed, and that in turn facilitates the iterative development of that work. This does not, of course, preclude quantum leaps (radical changes in how we understand and position what we do, or in the form of work that we produce, where we do the work, where and how we distribute the work and so on). We are not, however, just producing, circulating and reading our work, but also writing it – that is making our practices and interpretations explicit. This is a necessary part of a pedagogic process (‘showing our workings’), and also a constructive component of a wider process of producing and distributing our work as part of a community of practitioners. Whilst a clear sense of intent is necessary, it is not sufficient: that intent has to be positioned (principally, but not exclusively, in the field of photography) and it has to be capable of being realised in practice.
Secondly, there is the question of the relationship between this process of development of practice and the practice itself. In an attempt to avoid an overly deterministic approach to participatory photography, I have attempted to mirror the relational and iterative nature of the development of my practice in processes that I use in my project. This is a way of escaping from the restrictions of bringing an already prefigured project to participants, which necessarily objectifies participants and restricts their agency and ability to produce something that has both value to them and to the wider project. So having defined a broad focus for the project (community engagement with urban regeneration) and a conceptual base (drawing on post-humanism and new materialism, exploring the entanglement of the human and the non-human in spacetime, and oscillation between the analogue and the digital, and the embodied and the virtual), the specific focus of each component of the project and the forms of the outcomes in each component of the project emerge from following the same process (creation of an archive, digital image making, sorting/classifying/editing/relating, rephotographing, mixing/compositing/juxtaposing, narrating, curating/disseminating). How different the outcomes are from each component/setting is an open (empirical) question.
There’s a lot to be done on every front here (for instance, in clarifying the theoretical underpinning of the move between analogue and digital, in the specification of the process, in the identification and organisation of the settings and participants, in the archival work on each location and in the development of the skills necessary for every part of the process). I’ll address these in the coming posts, and index these posts to the key themes of the module.
My project is fundamentally place-based and participatory, so it makes sense that the presentation of the outcomes relates closely to the context in which the work is produced, is accessible to local people and encourages active engagement with the work and the issues being explored. The final project is composed of a number of smaller projects exploring change in particular places with different age groups. Each of these small projects will culminate with a pop-up exhibition in, or close to, the place that we have been working (for instance, in the school or community centre where the workshops were held). As well as these ‘local’ exhibitions, material from all the projects will be brought together in a final ‘joint’ exhibition. I have a number of places in mind for this exhibition, which will be accessible to the participants in the projects (including the local theatre, local FE college, a hotel threatened with demolition, a community centre, and a disused power station) – the form taken by that exhibition, as with the pop-up exhibitions, will depend on the characteristics of the space.
From the early stages of the project, I have been committed to a ‘multi-modal’ form of exhibition, which includes artefacts, texts and sound, as well as photographs (which can also be treated as artefacts). In the previous module I explored the use of animations and in this module I am experimenting with projection. The tpg new talent 19 exhibition at The Photographers Gallery illustrates a number of the ways in which contemporary photographers are exploring different modes and materials, and ways of juxtaposing elements of their work. These works do not meet the criteria that Bishop (2005) provides for ‘installation art’ (in the most part, they are not immersive, theatrical or experiential), but nor are they clearly ‘installation of art’ (as the individual pieces do not assume a greater significance than the whole). My sense is that new, and more complex, meaning potential is produced through the juxtaposition of images and other elements, and through the exploration of different surfaces.
Seungwon Jung, for instance, prints photographs on fabric and then shapes and pick away strands from this, producing three dimensional works. As with my own work, she is interested in the exploration of notions of space and time (and memory and oblivion), and does this through the overlaying of images (on fabric) in ways in which layers interact with, but do not destroy, each other.
Rhiannon Adam‘s exploration of life on the Pitcairn Islands uses a range of forms of photography (including the use of expired Polaroid stock) and presents images alongside texts (including notes, documents and letters) in a single plane. Alberto Feijóo combines photography with collage, book design and model making, bringing objects that have been used in the production of the images into the gallery, and giving the process of making equal, or greater, status to the images produced in a three dimensional exhibition. Giovanna Petrocchi draws on images from online museum collections and combines these with personal photographs and 3D printed artefacts, moving between an imaginary past (as represented in museum artefacts) and an imagined future (in the creation of future artefacts), and using traditional and digital production processes. The other artists similarly combine modes in a variety of ways.
Key considerations for my project are how visible to make the process for production of the work, and what balance to be achieved between different elements of the work (for instance, contextual material about the area, work produced by participants, collaborative work and my own work). A 3D component is also worth consideration, not just in the use of artefacts and the arrangement of work, but also, perhaps, in some form of model making (using, for instance, folded card, drawing on Paul Jacksons’ (2014) cut and fold techniques), subverting the use of models by developers.
Bishop, C. (2005). Installation Art: a critical history. London: Tate. Jackson, P. (2014). Cut and Fold Techniques for Pop-Up Designs. London: Laurence King Publishing.
It’s been a busy week, with the collaborative zine activity to complete and the 24 hour ‘Hands Off!’ activity. Plus exhibitions in Sydney, 30 hours in the air crossing continents, and guest lectures and webinars. The feedback I have received on my work and plans for the FMP have been reassuring, and I feel confident that I am well prepared for that (as long as I can get all the preliminary work done in the next two weeks, which will be tricky with a book manuscript to deliver, and an introduction to write, in 10 days time). There are also sensitive political issues to address. My major concern is determining the focus for my WIP portfolio for this module, and this will be the focus for my one-to-one tutorial with Cemre on Monday.
Anthony Luvera’s presentation was insightful. Luvera sees his work as a direct descendant of the participatory and critical photography of the Camerawork/Half Moon/Cockpit era (I knew Jo Spence, did my darkroom work at Camerawork and worked for many years with the Director of the Cockpit from that period, so know this work, and its political context and orientation, well). He places equal emphasis on the process of production and the outcomes. His presentation raised interesting issues about the ethics of participatory photography (especially in relation to the regulation of social research, and differences in ethical expectations, for instance in managing risks to the participants), and about authorship (on which he was resolute about the importance of including appropriate attribution to artist in co-authored work, for instance, assisted portraits). Having moved from using photography as an educator, both in classrooms and in the training of teachers, to placing greater emphasis on my own work as a photographer/artist, it was good to be able to position my previous work and my current practice in relation to what Luvera and others are doing. The question of authorship and attribution wasn’t quite resolved for me, and I have to think more about how I attribute work appropriately in the FMP project.
Through his journal ‘Photography for Whom‘ he intends to make visible some of the cultural history of participatory photography; it might be productive to submit a paper which explores the relationship between the fields of photography and education in the development of this work, and the impact of the different forms of institutionalisation of practice, and careers, between these fields. The point he raised about the impersonal nature of the literature and other material available to the providers and recipients of social care, and the inaccessibility of these services, is very important, and his project ‘Frequently Asked Questions‘ is an imaginative, critical and effective way of addressing this.
The zine activity was interesting, and reinforced the importance of clear communication, sense of direction and responsibility in any collaborative project. The resulting zine is successful, in the sense that the images and intent are interesting and consistent, and the final online booklet works well. The activity does, for me, raise questions about the extent to which the spirit of the zine (cheap, lo-fi, accessible, counter-cultural, from and for the community etc) has been lost, or diluted, and the distinction between the zine and the photo-book eroded (again, worth re-visiting Simon Norfolk’s (2019) view of photo-books as indulgent vanity). The final booklet can be found here.
The reflection brief asks for statements about personal practice and methodology, which I think I have addressed elsewhere. In terms of moving my project forward, the next couple of weeks will involve getting approval and making arrangements with key stakeholders, and refining the form the activities will take and working towards achieving the practical competence required (for instance, in the use of the 5×4 in the field, and processing in ecologically low impact ways).
Looking at Luvera’s current working practices has also encouraged me to look at tethering in making assisted portraits. The 24hr activity has opened up two other forms of image that could be used in my FMP (Google satellite images and electronic microscope images). The workshop with Lewis Bush on Saturday should also help me work through what kind of documents and other data I should include in presentation of the FMP (and in the process).
Norfolk, S. 2019. Interviewed by Ben Smith. A Small Voice [podcast], 107, 12th June 2019.
This work was produced as part of the Week 4 activity Hands Off!: ‘you have 24 hours to produce a mini-series of five images relating to your research project, without using apparatus that is familiar to you’. My project, which address community engagement with urban regeneration, has recently taken on an environmental dimension. This is provoked by an emotional response to the ecological violence of large scale urban development projects and engagement with work on the relationship between mental well-being and the built and natural environment (the ‘neuropolis’ – see Fitzgerald et al, 2018) and different understandings of the relationship between communities and the land held in Aboriginal cultures (see Pascoe, 2014). Buttrose (2019), in her curatorial notes to an exhibition exploring the transformation of the Australian landscape, observes that ‘throughout ‘Material Place’ there is a recurring motif of ‘zooming in and out’ suggesting that both macroscopic and microscopic viewpoints need to be captured concurrently to understand the complexity of the world today’. So, in this challenge I have combined two image making strategies that I haven’t used before: (i) screenshots from Google satellite of the areas I am exploring, made on Wednesday morning; (ii) iPhone digital microscope images of organic material collected from these sites on the same day. I have presented these as diptychs.
I am not sure where I’ll take this. I’ve always liked the Boyle family work (see Boyle, 1970), and it would be good to do something like that which engages directly with the ground/land (they chose sites randomly). My desk is covered in bugs. I’ve done some quick channel mixing of images from the same site, just to see how it looks – a couple of examples below.
Boyle, M. 1970. ‘Journey to the Surface of the Earth’. Online at
http://www.boylefamily.co.uk/boyle/texts/index.html [accessed 26.06.19]
Buttrose, E. 2019. Material Place: Reconsidering Australian Landscapes [Curatorial notes]. UNSW Galleries, Sydney. 21.06.19-07.09.19
Fitzgerald, D., Rose, N. and Singh, I. 2018. ‘Living Well in the Neuropolis’, The Sociological Review, 64: 221–237.
Pascoe, B. 2014. Dark Emu. Broome, Western Australia: Magabala Books.