Week 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.

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.

FMP Week 6 – Proposal feedback

I had my proposal feedback session with my tutor.  Some of the key points included:

  1. Thorough and detailed
  2. Showed excellent scholarship and communication
  3. Felt that I may be hedging my bets too much and that I need to adopt a clear stance
  4. Title is not strong enough yet
  5. Noted the significance of the Liz Wells quote – “… our relation to the environment in which find ourselves, and of which we form a part, is multiply constituted: the real, the imaginary, the symbolic, memory and experience, form a complex tapestry at the heart of our response to our environment, and, by extension, to landscape imagery.” (2011: 2)

 

The questions and suggestions that followed included:

How, why and if people are in this story then how can they be contextualised. E.g. how have people used and abused; political conflict, etc.?

It was suggested that I revisit Feldman’s 9-11 work and Mathieu Asselin’s Monsanto

It was also suggested that I research news clippings  and consider rephotographing those and the history of the development proposal.

WELLS, Liz. 2011. Land Matters: Landscape Photography, Culture and Identity. London; New York: I.B. Tauris.

FMP Week 5 – Reflections and Progress

As I await the feedback on my proposal, I am continuing to explore narrative approaches to the project.  Recent political events have, in my mind, cast further doubt on the likelihood that development will be approved and that alters the calculus on a major element of the originally envisioned project.  On the other hand, underlying the subtle and not so subtle aspects of the controversy, most of which are not visible, lies the place, Coul Links, which goes on oblivious to the attempts to alter or preserve it.

So, I find myself asking; is the controversy about the potential development even important at this point or is it just noise hovering around the periphery of a more enduring story?  Or conversely; is the place only significant and on my radar because of the controversy of the potential development?  Would anyone notice or care truly about Coul Links had someone not proposed building a golf course there?  After all it has been a designated site for a quarter century, and no one really seemed to care that that the site was not being maintained as it was meant to be.  It is perhaps only because of the proposed development that anyone aside from local residents are even aware of the environmental designations assigned to the site.

And here is the crux of the issue with regard to FMP; which perspective to adopt and which chapter of the story to tell. I have begun the process of looking through all of my contact sheets and archives of the work done on the course and I have also started researching the print and on-line sources that addressed the Coul Links development. I can see potential narratives from several perspectives and yet I haven’t enough clarity or conviction to settle on one just yet.

I think perhaps the process of choosing photographs may help a narrative emerge.  Additionally, the archival research from the news coverage over the past 3 years will also support the narrative.  Time to get on with it.

FMP Research – Week 4

I travelled to the Netherlands and Belgium to visit museums and galleries in Rotterdam and Antwerp to further research how work was being exhibited and how those techniques might be applied to my work for FMP.  I also looked at many photobooks and had the benefit of the principal exhibition in the Fotomuseum Antwerp be about the history of Belgian Photobooks.

My first stop was Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. The main exhibit was a retrospective of the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elksen titled “Lust for Life.”  It was quite differently curated and hung than the Cas Oorthuis, “Dit is Cas” exhibition I saw last September, and I appreciated how the museum’s curatorial staff adapted their techniques to the suit the artist’s work so effectively. Several aspects stood out in the “Lust for Life” exhibition: 1) Simplicity of the photographic installation – edge to edge printing, no mounting except very thin backing board (Fig 1);

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Figure 1- Minimal mounting

2) How effective both solid white and solid black walls were in making the colour photos stand out with neither being more or less effective or detracting (Fig 2);

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Figure 2- Black and White Walls

3) The use of simply constructed temporary modules to augment fixed wall space and to direct flow (Figs 3-5). Simple, relatively inexpensive, but effective construction that served multiple purposes as display space and traffic director.  Being exposed also provided a contemporary and almost casual feel that suited Ed van der Elksen’s style and subject matter;

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Figure 3- Temporary Walls

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Figure 4 – Temporary Wall construction

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Figure 5 -Temporary construction

4) How effective projected images with either some narration or music were (Fig 6);

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Figure 6 – Projected Images with Temporary Construction

and 5) Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibition was a multi-screen projected  series of images set to music and introduced with text slides at the major transition points presented in a ‘living room’ setting with a mix of sofas and chairs randomly arranged (Fig 7).  Viewers were provided with headsets to listen to the music that accompanied the images and it made the viewing very intimate and personal.

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Figure 7 – Multi-Screen projected display

This images projected were in many cases the same as those shown in the main gallery upstairs as individual images on the walls, but I found this to be very engaging and dynamic as the images changed at different times on each of the screens and required the viewers eyes to move quickly between images in contrast to upstairs where one could linger with an image and study it in detail.  While upstairs didn’t promote a narrative and the photos were somewhat randomly arranged in terms of location and time frame, the downstairs projected version was far more narrative and organised in logical segments, topically or chronologically.

I can see this as a very viable approach to exhibiting my work if I can find the appropriate space and solve the technological aspects as it would allow a fast paced, coherent narrative approach while the still image prints in another section would allow the viewer to engage with specific images more fully.

Antwerp was the next stop and I took in several venues while there.  Fotomuseum Antwerp was largely between major exhibitions and was a flurry of activity preparing for 3 openings the following week.  However, the exhibit that was open was on the history of the photobook in Belgium. Figure 8 is an except from the exhibition introduction. It describes the significance of the photobook as a media form as well as the history of the place the photobook has held in Belgian history.

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Figure 8 – Photobook Belge Exhibition Introduction

Many of the books were understandably behind glass cases, but the curators used tablet computers with video of the books being turned page by page which I found a clever way of allowing the public to see inside these rare books.  There we also a number of books located throughout the exhibition that were available to the visitor to sit and look through selected books.  A large number of the books on exhibit were created during the colonial period and dealt with the African colonies and their inhabitants.  Many were propaganda and the curators addressed the notion of “colonial gaze” head on in the introduction to that section of the exhibit.

Mounted on one wall were pages from a 1911 book that chronicled a vegetation survey in the various districts of Belgium (Fig 9-10).  I found this interesting and relevant in its similarity to work I have been undertaking, but also in something that I have perhaps been remiss in recording in my work; latitude and longitude information.  That is an omission I intend to correct, particularly since the camera can be set to record that information in the metadata automatically.

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Figure 9 – 1911 Vegetation Survey Plate

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Figure 10 – 1911 Vegetation Survey Plate

The exhibition also touched on the inter-relationship between words and images.  I thought the introduction to this section displayed in Figures 11 and 12 summarised the issue well.

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Figure 11 – Photobook Belge exhibit section

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Figure 12 – Detail of above

So while the prints in the Nederlands Fotomuseum exhibition were unframed and uniform in size and placement, the Saul Lieter exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE and the exhibits in the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA) were decidedly different.  While the Lieter photos were all mounted and framed in a similar way, they were not all the same size and they were hung quite differently on different walls.  Some were evenly spaced and set at uniform height, while others were arranged in patterns nearly symmetrical, but not quite (Fig 13).

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Figure 13- Lieter Exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE

I was unable to discern a reason for the arrangement and order in which these photos were hung, but it shows that it is not essential to have symmetry in a hanging plan.  Similarly at M HKA there were exhibits that demonstrated asymmetry, but also there were others that were more traditionally arranged (Figs 14-16).

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Figure 14 – M HKA asymmetry example 1

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Figure 15 – M HKA asymmetry example 2

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Figure 16 – M HKA symmetry example 1

As is evident in Figures 14-16 all the photos were mounted and framed in a similar way, however, in other areas, simple thin backing with edge to edge prints were used (Fig 17), and in another area bordered prints were pinned to the wall with no mounting at all (Fig 18).

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Figure 17 – M HKA thin backing, edge to edge print

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Figure 18 – M HKA pinned print

The final point from M HKA was an installation of newspaper clippings that occupied 4 walls in a large section of the gallery.  The clippings were seemingly each randomly mounted on coloured backing paper and then arranged according to the colour together on one wall (Fig 19).

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Figure 19 – M HKA Newspaper clippings

As I am considering using references to on-line and print media as part of my exhibition, this was informative.  I don’t believe I would choose to replicate this format, but it was interesting to see how current news was gathered and collated to create an art installation.

In summary, this research provided some valuable insights into the ways exhibitions can be staged and proof that there is no one correct way to stage a successful exhibition.  It also offered some stimulating ideas that I plan to explore further in coming weeks.