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.

Publications – Closing out Surfaces & Strategies and transitioning to Sustainable Prospects

While not directly related to my Coul Links project work, I had been working on project in support of a charity function that would result in a book that would be a very limited edition and which could be auctioned at the event as part of the fundraising activities.  The work involved photographing Dornoch Cathedral and all of the holes of Royal Dornoch Golf Club as well.  I then need to write the copy, edit and publish the commemorative book.  So while not directly project related, it did provide valuable experience in photographing golf course landscapes and using the drone to capture perspectives of the course and cultural structures that would not otherwise be possible.  It also provided another valuable opportunity to produce a publication.

I was able to use the process of a dummy book for the initial concept and editorial reviews which proved very useful to me and to the committee for which I was producing the book.  The next stage of review was accomplished with a PDF version of the book created directly from Lightroom.  The need for fresh eyes and plenty of them cannot be overemphasised. I used three separate individuals in series to review the PDF.  I made corrections after the first review so the second reviewer had a “clean” version to review and yet the second and third reviewers each found additional and unique things that needed to be corrected.  Did something slip through the cracks still?  Perhaps, but I will be surprised because my editors were so competent and thorough.  So great thanks go to Jerry Horak, John McMurray and Roger Boyce for their time and efforts.

It was a very short time frame to produce a quality publication and it was a challenge to get all the photos of  both venues with weather and limited time for best light.  I was able to make photos with a combination of  drone and traditional DSLR work.  Fortunately the golf course and Cathedral are frequent and favourite subjects so I did have work in my archives that could be used to augment what I took in that past few months.  Some technical challenges with the drone resulted in at least one day’s work having to to be largely scrapped because the photos were not sufficiently sharp despite having had extraordinary light quality during the shoot of the photos taken that day had to be scrapped.  This put additional pressure on as the deadline loomed.

I began the book design in the Adobe CC InDesign and completed the publication design in Blurb using their proprietary design software.  I did learn a great deal more about publication design than I did with my first book and was able to produce a far more sophisticated layout.  I was able to explore far more features in layout and design that I didn’t even know were there when I did 19 Sutherland Bridges.  In the end the book totalled 60 pages.  If I had another few weeks there might have been an opportunity to get additional photos that may have been even better than the ones I chose to use, but then that process too could be infinite.  At some point one always has to say, it is time to publish.

A PDF version of the book can be viewed via the following link.

Moderators Tourney Commemorative Book_Final

I must say I really enjoy to idea and the process of creating books and I look forward to doing it again soon.

Week 11 – Breakthrough

During last week’s webinar with Cemre Yesil, she noted how the photos I showed her as part of my WIP portfolio that included people were more powerful.  Now several days later after working through the selections for my portfolio and exhibitions and trying to find the story, it suddenly occurred to me that I may have been approaching this story from the wrong angle entirely.  I started this journey thinking of the Coul Links project as principally a natural history project and that I would observe and document how the landscape and its inhabitants changed due to natural and in response to anthropogenic changes.  And there is some merit in that yet, but that approach doesn’t speak to the root of the controversy that has dogged the site and the planning application for development over the course of the last three years.

As I thought about Cemre’s comments and looked at hundreds of photos, I realised the crux of the controversy is a difference in opinion about how the land should be used and by whom it should be used.  This land has seen many uses over time.  It was home to the Dornoch Light Railway for many years.

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Until 1989 it was a fully working farm when the displenishment sale relegated it to grazing land and haylage harvest.

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It had a tree plantation which was harvested many years ago and the remnants of which can still be seen today.

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It has been used by the landowners to hunt deer and waterfowl, though under the proposed development that will cease.  The abandoned light railway bed is a walking path, and myraid path and trails from the village of Embo are frequented by walkers and their dogs.  The beach ahead of the foredune is spectacular and draws locals and the many visitors who stay in the caravan park just to the south of Coul Links. The northern end of the property along the Loch Fleet estuary is home to tens of thousands of wintering birds.

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So it is clear that this land has seen many uses over the centuries.  Now there are many who would see the landscape altered slightly to allow yet another use as a golf course without denying the current uses, except for the hunting.  The developers intend to preserve and enhance access for walkers and nature enthusiasts.  The wintering bird populations will not be impacted as the golf course will close in October and not reopen until April each year and the majority of the birds are not actually on Coul Links proper in any case.  Grazing will continue.  The opposition groups however fear the introduction of a golf course on a small fraction of the total acreage will irreparably harm the site and I believe they are also afraid non-golfers will be excluded from the site as they have been at the Trump golf course in Aberdeenshire.

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So, though I am somewhat surprised to admit, the heart of this story is actually about people and their interactions with this land.    Yes the landscape will change with the seasons, the weather, climate change and inevitably with some form of man-made change.  Wildlife, flora and fauna, will be affected by natural and anthropogenic change in any case and it is only a matter of degree as to when and how much, but they will adapt in almost all cases.  Natural succession is evident across the landscape and land ungrazed quickly returns to wild and overgrown state.  There will still be those interested in seeing the bird populations that will use the land.  At the end of the day though, who uses it and how will it be used in the future is where the broader interest in the story lies.

So while it is a bit too late to alter what I have done for this module, I will be shifting my approach somewhat going forward to capture more of the aspects of how people are currently using the land and how that changes along with the landscape in the future.

Week 10 – Finalising Exhibitions

There was a bit of wrinkle in the plans for the local exhibition at Grace of Dornoch Deli and Cafe and we have had to delay the opening one week.  There was a misunderstanding on the original dates and there was a conflict with another artist to whom the owner had committed.

So no real bother.  All the work for the exhibit is mounted and ready to hang.  I will be allocated space in three principal areas as previously discussed and it will show along with the other artist’s work that will be installed in the prior week.  The owner’s were very keen on my work when I first approached them and even more so when I brought in the mounted work that would comprise the exhibit.  We are planning an opening reception on 27 August and the exhibit will run for at least a week, though the owners have expressed and interest in having some of my work on a longer term basis.

Social media announcements will go out shortly on the venue’s Facebook page as well as mine.  Word of mouth has also been generating some excitement and I believe the opening and exhibit will be well attended.

My selections and preparation for the Landings online exhibition were completed just in the nick of time as it went live a few days earlier than I had expected.  I found myself wrestling with different ways to order and organise the photos I selected.  Originally I had some of the macro work in the selection for both the Landings exhibition and my WIP portfolio, but last week’s webinar with Cemre and peers strongly suggested that those photos detracted from the rest of the work I selected and was not consistent enough in style to hang together with the rest of the work.  Though I spent a good bit of time this term on the macro work I understood the comments and took them to heart.  It is still solid work and can stand alone, but it didn’t mix well with the bigger landscape and wildlife work.

It is challenging to step back from one’s work and look at it with a dispassionate eye and think about how differently viewers will see the work, and how the selections are both meant to be read and likely to be read by viewers.  I found that the story I hope to tell is both early in its evolution and not fully formed in my own mind.  And at the same time it is a big and complicated story that is not necessarily easy to tell.  “A lot of us go about our work and feel like we have nothing to show at the end of the day. But whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way.  In fact, sharing your process might actually be most valuable if the products of your work aren’t easily shared, if you’re still in the apprentice stage of your work, if you can’t just slap up a portfolio and call it a day, or if your process doesn’t necessarily lead to tangible finished products.” (Kleon, 2014)

I believe that not trying to determine the outcome before sufficient data are collected can be in part attributed to my training in science and perhaps personal proclivity, but that adds to the challenge of trying to make a narrative hang together at this point.  I hope I have chosen well enough to give some sense of scale, process and context to the beginning of the story and at least pique the interests of people enough to cause them to look forward as I do to seeing the remainder of the story unfold over time.

I am fortunate to have talented peers in this course and they have been very helpful in the process of choosing what and in what order to show my work.  Despite taking photographs for over 50 years I rarely showed my work and never before exhibited or published until beginning this course.  The feedback from peers and tutors has been invaluable in helping me to begin to understand how others see, often differently, than I do.  I have much to learn yet about editing, curating and presenting my work, but it is a path down which I have begun to journey and one I look forward to continuing.

I have a third opportunity coming up as I have been asked by the local chapter of the Scottish Women’s Institute to come speak and display my work on 18 September.  They are expecting me to speak for about 45 minutes so there will need to be some extensive curation to fill that amount of time.  That push will have to wait until after the assignments for this term are complete.

Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

 

Week 7 – Reflections

This week’s lessons revolved around publications and the various forms they might take with our work.  We were tasked with creating a dummy book that I discussed and posted in my previous post.  In my webinar with my tutor Michelle Sank, discussed the need for more thoughtful and perhaps non-traditional graphic design and provided me with some references to research.  I was aware that given the limited time and the fact I started with the idea of doing a Zine exhibition guide and along the way morphed it into more of concept for a three part book that it lacked the necessary attention to graphic design.  When it comes time to do a full blown book for my project I will have to seriously consider using a good graphic designer as it is an area in which I have limited experience.

Michelle asked to see a few of the photos of my most recent work in a larger size.  I am continually amazed at how differently she sees photographs and how quickly she is able to identify elements to remove or crops that make the photo have stronger impact.  I am a bit stuck in what I know, not because I want to be there or am uncomfortable elsewhere, but rather I am still finding my way through the labyrinth of photographic practice en route to discovering my own unique voice.  Michelle was encouraging and felt she has seen a definitive shift forward in my recent work and I have been experimenting with both different techniques i my macro work and different moods in my my post processing.  Some of the specific ideas she gave me about photos were almost startling to me and turned what I thought was the main focus of the photo on its head by telling me they were to predictable and in Flusser’s vernacular “familiar and redundant.”  I made the changes she suggested re-cropping and or removing elements from the photographs.  I have to admit those changes did indeed change the feeling and impact.  I need to find a way to see more photobooks and acquire in my own mind what is familiar in the genres in which I work.  How can my photos, again in Flusser’s words, become “informative, improbable images that have not been seen before?”  I’ve work yet to do, but the journey is begun and I am moving forward.

 

 

Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(10)62747-2

Week 7 – Publications

This week’s course work had a number of tasks.  First we were to look at our personal libraries or pilebraries as the case may be and share an image with our classmates.  It was interesting to see people’s varied interests reflected in the books in their collections and how and where they kept them.  My collection here in Scotland is relatively small as most of my books are still in the U.S., but the ones I have clearly reflect my interests and the books I have been reading as part of the MA.

The second task for the week was to amass “all” of the work made to date and put it “on the wall”.  That proved to be a tall order given I have a huge number of photos related to my project and the time and expense were prohibitive.  Furthermore the repeat photography elements, while they show subtle changes in the landscape do not yet in my opinion have enough context in just a few months to tell the story I hope to tell.  However, there was enough demonstrable change to print and arrange some examples that show where the story might be headed.  I also printed a good many examples of the the other categories of photos that fit the themes of Coul Links; From Above, Below and In Between.  From this collection we were to curate and organise into something that could be become a publication in some form.

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The final task of the week was to create a “dummy” publication.  This was admittedly a bit of rushed attempt, and what started as a concept for a Zine type publication of an exhibition guide began to look as though it could well be the beginnings of one or more bigger publications.  Having decided to do a local exhibition I likely will publish a small exhibition guide using the only the photos I am exhibiting.  This exercise though helped to coalesce concepts that will be more relevant as I move closer to my FMP and the outputs I envision as my project progresses both during and after the MA.

I created the book just with A4 printer paper bound with a few stitches of thread.  It was organised around the themes mentioned above and used the cyanotypes I did a few weeks ago as section breaks.  It is conceptual at this point and requires refinement into a final form or forms and there would be words to accompany either an exhibition guide or a larger book.  Once the dummy was assembled, we were to video it and share it in preparation for the week’s webinar.  Here is the link and password.

Dummy Book video

Password:  Falmouth