Artist’s Statement

For my Exhibition Beyond the Noise: Coul Links I believed it was necessary to create a statement of intent that would be among the first things visitor’s to the exhibition would encounter as they entered the space.  This statement needed to be concise, and clearly set the stage for why they were about to see what they were going to see.  It also needed to be accessible, written in language that did not obfuscate but rather in terms that could be understood by anyone who visited.

BEYOND THE NOISE

My work over the past two years is first and foremost an exploration of place.  The intent was to look past all of the on-going controversy to get to know “photographically” this place known as Coul Links.  I have used my cameras to record what constitutes Coul Links today and how it changes in response to natural forces.  It is just the beginning of a longer-term project to study how Coul Links adapts to whatever changes it sees in the future.

“Place” is a rather more complex concept than just physical existence.  Think of the old question, “If a tree falls in a forest on a deserted island, does it make a sound?” If you don’t know it exists, is it a place, or is it only when significance is attached that a space becomes a place?  A house becomes a home because someone lives there.  Our increased mobility and the never-ending onslaught of information that takes our attention results in us all being faced with more and more “non-places” in our everyday lives; spaces we pass through or spaces of which we are not even aware.

Coul Links was a largely unknown space until a proposal surfaced to use it in yet another way than it had been used over the centuries of its existence.  The number of people who actually knew of Coul Links beforehand was quite small, and there are still a significant number of local people who have never been on Coul Links.  As for the 90,000 people, most of whom from well out of the area,  who signed a petition opposing the development, Coul Links remains for most of them just a space or “non-place” to which they have no real connection or likelihood of ever establishing one. It is just another in the long list of non-places for most of these people.

For those who know Coul Links and who have established their connection to this place, that connection takes different forms.  Coul Links has been many things over the years and remains many things to those for whom it holds some significance.  For me it has been a slow courtship that over the past two years has led me to an intimate understanding of and connection to Coul Links.  I have discovered things and places that I suspect few people know and I have watched and documented with great interest how this magnificent landscape changes and adapts to the forces which act upon it. It remains and will continue to remain in its ever-changing forms Beyond the Noise.

Ashley Rose

FMP Exhibition – The Checklist

I believed it was important to hold my exhibition locally because the subject of my work is of significant interest to the people in the local area.  However, the choices of venues are extremely limited and because all the suitably large spaces are multi-use facilities that have a variety of regular activities and events booked in them throughout the year, availabilities of even a couple of contiguous days were extremely limited. That created a multitude of planning and logistical challenges that had to be managed in order to have a successful exhibition. In order to organise and execute a major exhibition in a venue that is not optimised as a gallery and with no help from on-site staff or curators a significant amount of planning and investment was necessary.

The lack of suitable wall space and lighting demanded an exhibition design that created a proper backdrop to highlight the work and lighting to complement it.  It had to accommodate A0 or A1 prints which meant the fixtures needed large faces of at least a metre across. Since lighting had to be incorporated into the display fixture it had to be of sufficient height to ensure the light was both far enough away from the photo to spread and cast the correct amount of light, and high enough to not interfere with even the tallest visitors. Another consideration was because I intended to use the fixed cinema projector, screen and surround sound system in the venue hall I had to manage the footprint of the display system such that it would not interrupt the projector beam. That set the maximum distance at which the furthest display unit could be set from the entrance and their needed to be enough space to accommodate the other three units and allow adequate space for people to move unobstructed between them and to have sufficient space to stand back and see the large format prints. I also wanted the fixtures to be re-usable and re-configurable for different venues in the future as building them would be a sizable investment in time and money.

The Checklist of items that needed to be completed for a successful exhibition follows.  They are organised by category and tasks.  The categories not in a necessarily fixed sequential order but the tasks are generally dependent on the predecessor.

Venue Requirements

  1. Survey local venues for suitability and availability
    1. Size
    2. Configuration
    3. Catering accommodation
    4. Accessibility
    5. Access to power
    6. Ability to accommodate still and moving image displays
  2. Select venue
  3. Book venue
Dornoch-22
Dornoch Social Club – photo courtesy of Mick Yates
IMG-20191102-WA0001
Dornoch Social Club interior

 

Display Requirements

  1. Determine exact measurements and restrictions in the venue space
  2. Determine which photos are to be shown in what size
    1. Choose a print house to print and mount
    2. Produce test strips to calibrate printer20191002_140955
    3. Print and mount all large format photos

       

    4. Print miniatures in house and mountIMG-20191101-WA0017
    5. Establish Hang plan
  3. Establish the size and number of display fixtures required to accommodate photo selection
  4. Build scale models and test concepts20191022_152844
  5. Establish lighting requirements
    1. Purchase lights
    2. Purchase and prepare mounting hardware
  6. Prepare detailed design drawing as requirements
    1. Determine materials and quantities required
  7. Find and contract a joiner to assist in the building of the fixtures
    1. Build first unit and validate design

       

    2. Build remaining units20191025_130249
  8. Move to paint facility
    1. Paint all panels matte black20191026_101848
  9. Move to exhibition venue
    1. Touch up paint as required20191031_162506
  10. Assemble fixtures20191101_003326
  11. Install lightsIMG-20191101-WA0002
  12. Connect to mains
    1. Qualified electrician to construct custom cabling from light fixtures to mains
  13. Mount photographs in accordance with hang plan in 2e aboveIMG-20191101-WA0004

Video Requirements

  1. Edit and create videos
  2. Burn to BluRay
  3. Test with venue projector and sound system
    1. Calibrate projector colour as required
  4. Establish requirements for entry wall video monitor to play trailer slide show
    1. Pick monitor
    2. Purchase mounting system
    3. Install after Display Requirements item 9 above
    4. Provide access for cable from laptop to the video monitor and mains power for both

Advertising Requirements

  1. Design and print posters for distribution in Dornoch, Embo, Golspie and Brora
    1. Hang poster 3 weeks prior to event
  2. Publish Facebook and Instagram announcements of event 3 weeks prior with weekly updates
  3. Newspaper article published in the local paper
  4. Get announcement published in the weekly Royal Dornoch Golf Club newsletter
  5. Use Falmouth Flexible Photo Instagram account to announce event
  6. Promote word of mouth communications about the event

Reception Requirements

  1. Determine guest list and send invitations
  2. Monitor RSVPs to establish catering requirements
  3. Survey and select caterer
  4. Choose menu items
  5. Buy wine and soft drinks
  6. Purchase guest comment book
  7. Signage for directions within venue
  8. Prepare and practice artist’s talk
  9. Arrange to video and record artist’s talkBeneath the Noise -3

    Beneath the Noise -28
    Photos courtesy of Mick Yates

 

Documentation Requirements

  1. Installation photos
  2. Installation video
  3. Artist talk video

 

In the end, because I had my venue for only 2 days and had to set up on the day of opening and tear down after the second day, meticulous planning and attention to detail was required.  I had no ability to dry run the installation nor did I have the luxury of several days of set up to work out any kinks.  It had to be right the first time and there was almost no margin for error or for having forgotten something in the planning phase.

I am pleased to report the planning and preparation led to a near flawless execution and a successful event.

 

All photos by Ashley Rose unless otherwise annotated.  Thanks to Mick Yates for attending the reception and taking photos of the event.

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.

Capture

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.

Capture2

 

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.

untitled-0450

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.

untitled-112119

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.

untitled-100546

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.

 

untitled-112014

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.