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.


Week 4 – Evolving

The Face to Face workshops, Symposium, Portfolio Reviews and this week’s collaborative projects have provided more interaction with other photographers than I have ever had before. The talent was extraordinary and caused me at moments to wonder if I belonged among this company and course.  I was astonished by the varying perspectives photographers took in how they approached the same subject, and I was even more surprised at how varied the feedback was on my portfolio of work.  I have to say the emphasis I put in on bird photography was beginning to leave me feeling a bit boxed in  and I am thankful to Paul Clements who, in an informal review in which I also showed him some of my other work, told me to go in what ever direction I wanted and just because my admissions portfolio was wildlife and natural history based it didn’t mean that was what I had to do.  Quite liberating that; and it opened my mind to some other possibilities.

Collaborations during the workshops and this week in the exercises showed again varying perspectives can contribute to an outcome.  But as I got to thinking about photography and the stereotype of it being a solitary experience I began to realize it is never a solitary experience.

“Photography is conventionally understood as a practice engaged in by solo, even solitary, operators. True enough, typically only one eye and finger are responsible for pressing the shutter release. However, photography encompasses much more than button pressing, and many hands are often involved in the broader photographic process of printing, editing and distributing images. The popular image of the photographer as someone working alone — from the intrepid photojournalist to the introverted artist — is therefore something of a fiction.”  (Palmer 2013)

We as photographers are always collaborating.  We collaborate with our equipment.  We collaborate with the light. We collaborate with our subjects.  We collaborate with our consumers and we collaborate with everyone else in between who might be involved with bringing our image to a consumer.  So while the notion of a lone photographer trekking off to a far away place to capture an image is romantic, it belies the degree of collaboration required to bring that image to view.

The project I am proposing to do will require a great deal of collaboration.  It will require a combination of documentary photography, landscape photography and wildlife/ natural history photography to tell the story of the Coul Links project.  It will require me to work with the team developing and constructing the project to stay attuned to their schedules and plans.  It will require some collaboration with outside groups to understand their concerns and objections to the development so that I can if possible record the actual results of the development and its impact on the SSSI site and the species that exist there.

I can sense that I am evolving, and am beginning to better understand the overall objective of this course, and to find my voice.  It finally occurred to me that that if I were doing a Masters programme in Organic Chemistry, I wouldn’t just be doing a set of elegant experiments to demonstrate reactions that were independent of each other.  I would need those experiments to relate to each other in a way that would lead me to a evidentiary conclusion; that is to prove or disprove my hypothesis.  Similarly then, a series of beautiful photographs without a story that binds them together would not answer the question being asked of me as an photographer in pursuit of an MA.


PALMER, D., 2013. A Collaborative Turn in Contemporary Photography? photographies, 6(1), pp. 117-125.