24-30 September – Rework and Refinement

Fresh off the critique of last week it seemed I had my work cut out for me. I had to rework both the videos I had completed and rethink completely my approach to including some wildlife photos in the exhibit. I tried a few approaches to the intro video eliminating the photos completely, but it seemed too much to lack context.  I then tried leaving some photos and reducing the number of words.  I used animation effects to bring the key words in and out with a select group of photos and it had the effect of reducing the overall time to less than 2 minutes and serving as a perfect trailer to introduce the key themes of my work without telling the whole story. I plan to set this up at the exhibition entrance so it is the first thing people see when they enter the space and it will be positioned next to the artist’ statement.

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The second video to be reworked was the Changing Faces piece that had already been through several iterations.  I took the suggestion to consider using synchronous view in PowerPoint and the result was quite effective.  Rather than requiring a viewer to stand and wait for the next sequence and either ‘forget’ the prior comparators or get bored and walk away before seeing what I would like them to see, the synchronous view allows four separate seasons to be viewed simultaneously.  The message of change is unmissable and it has the advantage of keeping the eyes moving from frame to frame looking for comparisons.  It also has the advantage of three of the four frames being essentially identical in their perspective and timing.  There are slight variations due to wind and other flight affecting factors but they are close enough so as not to be a distraction.  The fourth frame was a video created before I had pre-planned mission profiles that provided the repeatability of the other three videos and while it starts off differently than the other three it synchs up rather closely toward the middle section where the differences in the four scenes are the most dramatic.  The changing perspective of the first frame also contributes to the need for the viewer to keep their eyes moving between frames and creates attention holding interest that causes the 8 minutes to go by rather quicker than realised.

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I also did a revision to my Artist’s Statement to put it into first person rather than third person narrative.  I did create some new aerial work, still images and sound recording to augment the final video expect to capture next week with the new mission profile I created that overflies all of Coul Links perimeter of the proposed development area capturing video rather than the still images of the typical profile.

For the wildlife photos, I created on A3 paper a 4 x 5 grid of images and printed three sheets (60 images) that are 5 x 6.5 cm and are sufficiently large to be able to see what they are if one gets close enough.  I considered different ways of displaying these images ranging from mounting them all on one large board with windows in the top mounting board to mounting on one board with a slight stand off to create some additional dimensionality.  In the end I decided to mount them individually on foam core board and distribute them randomly around the exhibit including suspending some so they ‘floated’ in space.  This approach does two things.  First, the scale of the landscape to wildlife in actuality is more closely approximated by the scales of the landscape to wildlife photos.  The birds occupy a very small segment of the landscape and are constantly moving with in it.  Which leads to the second point and that is the random distribution of the small wildlife photos is again a metaphor for how they exist in nature.  One never knows exactly what one might encounter and when.

Another week with significant tangible progress.  Next week the large format printing and mounting will be done along with one more new capture video showing the overview of Coul Links.  I hope to have the exhibition layout completed next week and all of the technical issues sorted with respect to projecting the video imagery in conjunction with the still images in the exhibition space.

16-23 Sep – New Work and Unseen Amsterdam

I finally caught a break with some good weather at the right time of day and was able to make some new work with which I am very pleased and some additional sound recording.  In fact I am so pleased with the new work that two have been added to the edit of large format photos that I will be printing the first week of October.

The first part of the week was also spent doing proof prints after recalibrating the computer, both monitors and the printers.  Lots of prints with different print profiles were made to determine the most faithful rendition of what I see on my screens.  After about 10 prints of the same photo that had a particularly rich set of colours, I arrived at best my printer could produce and began the proof prints in A4.  I would be taking them to Amsterdam for the portfolio review.  The multimedia files were also refined some more and in the case of “The Changing Faces of Coul Links” reworked completely after some peer feedback.  I leave for Amsterdam feeling pretty good about the work so far, and am anxious for some tutor feedback on how I can make it better.

The opening exercise Gary McCleod conceived was very engaging and interesting and served as a great way to get to know some of the other MA students who were attending as well as facilitate some critical thinking about one’s own work and that of others through an interrogatory process.

An afternoon visit to Huis Marseilles, brought me my first exposure to the brilliance of Berenice Abbott.  As was not uncommon in that time here work spanned several genres, but that she was a woman pushing boundaries was.  Her portrait work had a way of feeling as though she captured the personality of her subjects, but her architectural and science work were fascinating.

I did a review of my FMP work with Gary McCleod and Paul Clements the first evening since I was commuting from outside Rotterdam and was hoping to not have to come in Sunday just for a portfolio review.  And a solo review turned out to be exactly what I needed since a group review would not have allowed the time to get to the depth we did.

There was no question about the quality of the work, but there were many questions about how I was presenting it and whether I had a clear narrative. Gary specifically noted that I needed to be bold and radical and elevate the sophistication of the exhibition.  While some of the ideas they suggested seemed quite radical redirects, they insisted they were only refinements. Some specifics were:

  • The Beyond the Noise video that I was thinking about as the centrepiece that set the tone for the exhibition Gary thought I should remove all of the images and just use the words. He suggested that it might be better placed as an introduction and that I should revisit the video considering the images and the pacing.  It would require some extra thinking and experimentation next week.
  • When I explained I would be doing the principal photos in large format A1 or A0 and some of the wildlife photos small in A4, I was informed that A4 is not small and rather these were ‘too loud’ in the overall context and that they were confusing the story. They suggested ‘small’ so people would stop and look so that too would require some rethinking, but I quickly warmed to the concept and have several ideas on how to execute.
  • On the Changing Faces video which I had reworked several times, Gary suggested I try synchronous view in PowerPoint; a feature of which I had not been aware. It is something I wanted to do but wasn’t able to make it happen with Adobe Premiere so far. Again back to the computer to see what I can make because this approach solves a couple of the nagging reservations I had about this particular video which I believe is important to my narrative, but needs to be captivating as it is shown.
  • The last major point Gary had for me was to think about the experience from the viewer’s perspective. Take them on a journey and don’t be tempted to spoon feed them along the way.  This was the essence behind his suggestion of removing the photos from the Beyond the Noise video.  He also enjoined me to be sure what was the ‘main meal’ I was serving and to not let the story get muddled with the fact that I am using various media to communicate it.

On Saturday, I visited the Unseen Exhibition and found it much more enjoyable than last year’s show. While there were quite a number of cyanotypes, they were different enough so as not feel like a trope and the rest of the work was sufficiently diverse to really keep my interest.  I thought there was a much better mix of genres this year than last and was happy to see landscapes represented.

I also took in the exhibit that was on at FOAM.  We had some intense and interesting discussions about the non-photographic work, but I found the Brassai work again quite interesting and was particularly amazed that there was a sharpness of focus that was not always common among his contemporaries using the large format cameras.  His night time Paris work is an especially good example.

My last event of the day was a super visit with Liz Halls and Addie Elliot at the Elliot Halls Gallery.  Liz was very generous with her time and we had a lovely discussion about the work they had on exhibit and even a bit about how my worked related to it and Matthew Murray’s work.  I was very excited to find they had copies of Saddleworth as I had been looking for nearly a year for one.

 

9-15 Sep Preparation for Exhibition continued

I have been continuing work on the multimedia bits of my upcoming exhibition and completed two videos that I plan to review in Amsterdam in the portfolio review.

I have also been working on an invitation list and the advertising posters, and have been writing the artist’s statement that will accompany the exhibition.

I feel a bit behind in writing as I have been so busy doing and yet the weather has been highly uncooperative for getting the remaining drone footage I would like to have.

Printing of the large format photos will the week after returning from Amsterdam.  I have settled on the edit and am comfortable with my choices.  The chosen work includes a cross section of the work I have accomplished while on the MA with a heavy weighting toward more recent work, but I felt the context provided by some of the earlier work was important to the overall narrative.

1-8 September

Yet another busy but productive week.

I visited the Highland Print Studio in Inverness and met with the Studio Manager and digital media printer John McNaught and found that he had just completed printing all of the photos for the 2019 FLOW Photo Fest which began 31 August and runs for a month.  I viewed some of the work at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and was impressed with the quality of the work.  The Studio have state of the art large format printers and are happy to have my direct involvement in doing test strips and making sure that what is coming off the printer is indeed what I want and expect.  It is 45 minutes away and therefore very accessible and we can complete the work in a day.  I was also pleased to find the cost about half the going rate of that of the London or Edinburgh print shops for Giclee prints. John had a variety of papers available, but I quite like the paper that was used for all of the FLOW Photo Fest work, which even though it is technically a matte paper had virtually no detectable texture and provided great colour saturation and deep true blacks.  It will also work well in my exhibition space where I may not be able to have perfect lighting and the matte finish eliminates some reflection and glare without compromising fine detail that my photos require.

I am so pleased with what I found in Inverness that I have cancelled my scheduled visits to Edinburgh and London and have committed to do my printing at the Highland Print Studio.  Now I just need to finalise my edit.

I continued work on editing the second video, “The Changing Faces of Coul Links”, and doing the usual fight with Adobe Premiere.  Despite the obstreperousness of the program I am making progress and have sequenced segments from different months of the year from the programmed route I have the drone fly around the site.  I have to add some graphics yet and do some final tweaking of the transition points to fit it into the soundtrack I have chosen to use.

I have started thinking about some of the supporting materials that will be required for the exhibition such as advertising posters and the graphical material that will be part of the exhibition itself.  One of those is of course the “Artist’s Statement” and I have been compiling notes and thoughts and expect to start creating drafts next week.

25 – 31 August

This week was largely consumed with editing video and sound to finalise the first of two video pieces that will be included in my exhibition and the one that addresses the primary theme “Beyond the Noise”.  I have now what I consider a virtually final cut and although there could yet be some minor changes, it is in a very publishable state.

I also began compiling from the archive the aerial video sequences that show some of the more dramatic seasonal changes that occur at Coul Links and hope to complete that over the next two weeks.

I also spent part of the week researching potential sources for my large format prints.  I looked at options in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.  I progressed as far as I could with on-line research and need now to make some site visits to discuss my needs with the shops directly.  I have scheduled visits in Inverness next week and two weeks subsequent in Edinburgh.  I would ideally like to find a place comparatively close so that I can easily get there to work with the printer on test strips and evaluating the output in comparison to my screen and proof prints.  While I considered the possibility of constructing lightboxes and printing on Duratrans, I have eliminated that due to the cost and the short duration of the exhibition.  Additionally, while it might be attractive for an installation it is less likely to be something most people would consider purchasing whereas a print would work better for most people.

I also finalised the booking on my exhibition hall and now have the Dornoch Social Club booked for 1-2 November.  There will be a private invitation only premiere on the evening of the 1st and then a open public exhibition on the 2nd.  I will be testing various equipment and setups to determine which provides the best result with the least amount of complexity over the coming weeks.  I also will be testing various methods of hanging the large format prints and working out the layouts for the installation.

 

Week ? – 18-24 Aug

Truth be told, I have completely lost track of what week of term it is and have been so busy doing that I have gotten slightly behind on writing.  That said I have accomplished a good bit.

I continue to record additional sound tracks to get a suitable array of nature sounds to accompany the Beyond the Noise video.  I am pleased with the progress in recording quality and with my editing ability in Adobe Audition.  I continued to refine the video sequence and was able to show another version in the evening guest critique with Krishna.  The feedback on the concept was very positive and the consensus was the imagery chosen was good.  There was some glitchiness in the video playback that may have resulted from bandwidth issues and it will require further investigation.  There is interesting divergence on the part of those who have seen the video on the size of the font used on the section headers.  Wendy thought my initial version had font that was too large, so I eliminated words, simplified the flow and reduced the font size.  Krishna and Mick thought perhaps the font was too small and those slides went by rather too quickly.  So, I will look at that again.

I made a preliminary booking for the hall where I plan to exhibit and took some basic measurements.  It is a space with which I am well familiar which is helpful, but I still need to do detailed space layouts.

I also began finalising the edit of photos that I intend to print and am now making curatorial decisions on which of those will be printed in what size.  I am also weighing the options of  type of printing I will use for the large format prints and whether they will be C type, Giclee or Duratrans for installation in a lightbox.

I also this week attended two exhibitions in Edinburgh.  The first was a small exhibition in the Ocean Terminal in Lieth by the Society of Scottish Landscape Photographers titled “Intimate Landscapes”.  This was of particular interest to me since much of my recent work is very much in this category. It was also useful from the standpoint of learning how others value their work for sale. I did feel my work is every bit on par with that which was on exhibit.

The second was the World Press Photography exhibition in the Scottish Parliament building. The exhibit consisted of photos which had been awarded prizes in a number of different categories of journalism photography.  Most as one might expect were of horrors that humans have managed to inflict upon each other and themselves.  There were not many happy endings on view. I found quite remarkable how vividly portrayed were many of the stories in both series and single images with relatively little need for words to accompany them. Moving, poignant, sometimes appalling and heart-breaking, these were photographs that deservedly made their way through the down selection from tens of thousands of submissions to the hundred or so that won recognition.

 

 

Week 9 and 10 – Sound recording and additional images

I was back out to Coul Links this week flying the drone to capture the normal series of 40 rephotography images and additional video plus some aerial views of the felled tree plantation I had not done before.

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Wind and weather have made it difficult to fly in the past two months and I was happy to have the opportunity.  Additionally, I acquired a decent quality, very sensitive, sound recording device and I began experimenting with it this week. Unfortunately, the first day I chose to do work, the RAF jets from Lossiemouth, which had been fairly idle in recent weeks, were flying at the Tain Bombing Range just across the Dornoch Firth and the noise of the jets was saturating the recordings of natural sounds.

I went back out a couple of days later early in the morning to experiment more with capturing sound and then working with the files in Adobe Audition to create tracks that could be laid into Adobe Premiere.  I also did several minutes of recording of people at a public gathering prior to event when they were all chatting among themselves and it created a nice murmur of what are clearly people, but without anything specific being discernible, so it became essentially the noise that I wanted to capture.

Now a week later I have assembled the sound tracks and photo presentation in Adobe Premiere and did a preview with Wendy.  The sound track needs to improve significantly, but Wendy did like the concept.  She also suggested I rethink the fonts and the typed narrative.

I have been out capturing more raw sound files and working with Adobe Audition to tweak the files before importing them to Premiere.  Sound quality is improving, but needs to be better.

I have rethought both as well as the backgrounds and moved from black to white backgrounds, made the font smaller and reduced the repetitive words in the narrative to let the story unfold more simply.  I have added photos and altered the way they sequence in and produced a better sound track, though it still has lots of room for improvement.

 

 

Week 9 – Curating an Exhibition

I had the opportunity to curate the hanging of the exhibition of the East Sutherland Camera Club (ESCC) at the Grace of Dornoch Café and Deli.  The photo collection was comprised of the regular contest winners in the three categories of colour, monochrome, and creative (altered reality), along with the club’s selected entries for the Highland Challenge, an annual interclub competition among a half dozen or so camera clubs in the Highland’s.

While in the past ESCC has only shown their work in the Brora Library during the month of August, the committee (of which I am part) was convinced to exhibit in other communities to promote the club and showcase the excellent work of local photographers.  As I had done an exhibition of my own work last August at the Grace Café I was able to secure the space again this year for the ESCC show.  In the past, the exhibition was always hung in the 4 categories in conventionally oriented fashion without necessarily considered visual or topical continuity. For the Grace exhibit I was given free rein to organise the show as I saw fit, so I chose to group the work differently and to arrange it with an eye to visual continuities and transitions.

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At the extreme right are a group of portraits.  At the center is a puffin, while surrounding are 4 portraits of people arranged such that their gaze is directed a the puffin.  To the left of that grouping are the landscapes with the upper row arranged such that there is a gradual transition through the colour palette and the horizons are roughly aligned.  The lower row is slightly more eclectic mix of photos in the landscape category that include colour, monochrome and some altered reality photos.

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One next wall to the left are a grouping that are based around a theme of circular forms and next that grouping another of more linear geometric forms.

The two photos that did not fit into any of these other groupings, an owl and a highly manipulated image of a boy gazing at the sea each got their own space on a smaller section of wall.

 

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I am pleased to say the exhibit was generating a good bit of interest and discussion among café customers on the opening day and hopefully will continue to generate footfall as the word of mouth and the social media advertising take hold.

I believe these opportunities to think critically about how work should be exhibited and viewed to develop a hang plan as well as the logistics involved with securing locations, planning the use of space and the actual logistics and process of getting work on the wall are valuable bits of education and experience that will continue to serve me well in future.

 

Week 8 – Tutorial with Dr. Steph Cosgrove

In preparation for this tutorial I out together a PP as a prompt for some of the items I wanted to discuss and about which I had been ruminating as I work to resolve the specific direction of my FMP.  The pdf can be found at the hyperlink that follows.

The conversation with Steph was helpful and she thought the Beyond the Noise approach was very viable.  We discussed the concept for presentation and the attendant soundtrack and the idea of using the natural sounds of Coul Links as the background for the projected display.  I would also include “people noise” as background for the archival material,

Steph suggested I look at “Shores of an Island” by Breure and van Hulzen, Vivianne Sassen’s installation at TPG, Zed Nelson’s “Gun Nation”, Nicola Dove’s “Observance” and Richard Misrach’s “Desert”.  Shores of an Island and Observance both incorporate sound with subtly changing video scenes.  Sassen’s installation was a multimedia presentation.  Nelson’s work looked at a topic and then revisited the same people 20 years later, recording interviews and recreating the original photographs taken those many years ago. Misrach’s Desert is among the series of projects he did which are all studies of place.

While none precisely correspond to my project they each include elements from which I can learn.

Project Ideas rev 1_30 Jul

FMP Week 7 – Zine Project

I have spent the week producing a publication for the Dornoch Cathedral about the stained glass windows.  The windows are an item of special interest for many of the visitors to the Cathedral.  The docents and welcome table have been using a loose leaf binder with poor quality photographs to provide information on the widows to visitors.  We decided that it was likely that some number of visitors would be willing to buy an affordably priced guide from which the proceeds would benefit the Cathedral maintenance fund.

I produced a 32 page magazine sized publication that included photographs and descriptions about each of the 25 windows.

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I was well pleased with the outcome despite the relatively short time that was available to design and produce the zine.  I had the advantage of having access to prior research on the historical aspects of the windows and a library of photographs I had taken previously, some of which I had used in a prior publication..  Key drivers for this publication where cost, portability and legibility, with accompanying photographs that were of sufficient resolution for visitors to want to purchase as a memento of their visit to the Dornoch Cathedral.

As the principal driver, production costs had to be low enough to be able to reach a price point that was attractive for visitors while still allowing a reasonable profit margin to benefit the Cathedral Maintenance Fund.  This dictated a Zine format as opposed to a photobook or trade book.  This allowed for good quality coated paper that was bright, had a good feel, and reproduced the photographs to a reasonably high standard. Page count was another factor, and I had to manage the design, layout, and amount of text in order to stay within an affordable page count.

Portability was also key as the Cathedral is typically just one stop among many in the typical visitor’s Highland itinerary.  An inflexible, heavy book (aside from the attendant cost) would cause most to balk at a purchase.  On the other hand, something light and even foldable would make it easy to pop into a purse or rucksack.

Legibility was the key criteria in choice of font style and size as well as the glossy coated paper.  It is often not exceptionally bright in building and having font of sufficient size and sans serif on bright paper makes it far easier to read as visitors walk about the Cathedral looking at the windows.

Lastly, photographic quality at a standard that reproduced well enough that visitors would consider having the publication as a keepsake was an important consideration.  This again factored into the paper choice for how the photos reproduced, but the capture and post-processing of the images was equally important.  Stained glass is notoriously difficult to photograph well and the dynamic range and colour palettes are widely varied from window to window and often within individual windows.  Particular attention had to be paid to when to photograph to prevent excessive highlights as well as excessive underexposure.  Typically, exposure bracketing is employed, but I did all of these windows with single exposures by working primarily on cloudy days and with the interior lights off.

The production of a Zine was good practice in designing and producing another publication. It made me think very specifically about the intended audience, the practicalities of publication, and the requirements of the customer in order to strike the correct balance among the competing factors. It also required editing, and in some cases, rewriting text from the source material I obtained from those who did the original research in order to stay within the design layout and page count. All of this is excellent experience and I learn more with every publication.

I have yet to determine whether I will produce a publication in conjunction with my exhibition or whether I will wait until the decision on the future of Coul Links is taken.