Category Archives: Research & Reflection

I bought a Polaroid Camera…

I’ve been thinking about it for a while…should I or shouldn’t I buy a Polaroid Camera? I eventually took the plunge this week and purchased a refurbished Polaroid Sun 600 through The Impossible Project.

I like the idea of putting all of the modern technical capabilities to one side and focus on capturing moments using an instant camera.

There was a sense of excitement and anticipation waiting for that first Polaroid image to develop, it was wonderful to see it come to life. Looking at the image my wife and I both said its like being transported back in time to our childhoods or looking at old family photo albums, its strange and slightly enlightening to me as a photographer; new but old possibilities. I’m looking forward to getting out to experiment and to be honest, have some fun with it!

First Polaroid, testing it out. A rather plain shot of part of our back garden and house. Interesting how it gives a different feel and sense of time and place.

 

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Recognition from the ones that matter most – Randomness May 2017

Its been a tough week and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, probably too much. Watching far too much news coverage here in the UK.

I was sad to read recently of the death of Chris Cornell, RIP. I love Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave. Soundgarden are one of my all time favourite bands. So many memories, good and bad. The ‘grunge’ scene (and heavy metal) was my scene growing up in the 90’s.

I used to play music in bands. I used to love playing in bands but it never really worked out, band members move on, some people are more committed than others or views on style directions change. I got overwhelmed in the end with a back injury and an unbearable level of stage freight and anxiety which I think I’m only really understanding now in my 30’s for what it really was. I still have some old photos of the band taken by a friend of the band who sadly passed away. Some photos below. He had a real knack of capturing action and was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, despite everything he was going through. Its nice to look back at the old band photos and remember some of the good times we had.

Minion Race. I'm on the far left.

Minion Race, I’m on the far left. 2001. Copyright Rowland Boys

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Minion Race. Copyright Rowland Boys

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Minion Race. Copyright Rowland Boys

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Minion Race. Copyright Rowland Boys

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Minion Race. Copyright Rowland Boys

I re-watched the documentary McCullin again this week. Almost all of his life photographing the human condition, war and famine. It must change you, unrepairable change/damage. Hearing Don McCullin speak now in reflection looking back at his photographic career, its hard to see him relive some of the experiences he photographed. Its made me really think about photography and I don’t know how else to say or phrase it but photography is not about photography, it can sometimes feel strange reading so much about photography and thinking so much about it….its about life and every single thing that encapsulates. What I love the most about photography, is being out there taking photographs, connections with nature and the world, its nice to recentre yourself sometimes on your core values and the reason you are doing it.

I finished reading a short book about Dorothea Lange this week, some really thought provoking work.

I got out for a nice stomp in nature this week with a good friend. Good to reconnect and take the time to take in the view.

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I had some awesome news from two of my nieces this week. They had to do a project on a photographer for school, so they picked me. It was so lovely to get some recognition from the people who matter the most, your family. I feel they speak from their hearts when they say which photos they like or don’t like! A little boost is sometimes just what you need.

Laura with her photography presentation

Laura with her photography presentation

Sophie with her photography presentation

Sophie with her photography presentation

 

 

 

Exhibition Visit – Gillian Wearing 4th May 2017 National Portrait Gallery, London

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Rain on the window from our hotel room

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We also went to see Les Mis on the Wednesday. It was amazing!

We arrived at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday afternoon. I was excited to visit, I had never been before. We didn’t have lots of time on this visit so decided to check in our bags and go straight to the Gillian Wearing expedition, we paid for our tickets and headed to the exhibition.

In the entrance we saw the newly acquired portrait of Ed Sheeran by Colin Davidson. I’m not a big fan personally, I don’t particularity dislike him either but my wife likes his music. I must admit the portrait is incredible.

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Ed Sheeran by Colin Davidson

As we entered the exhibition I was in high spirits, ready to document my visit for the learning blog on C & N. Unfortunately as I started to take some snapshots as a record for my blog I was rudely approached by a member of staff and told something along the lines of ‘there is no photography in the photography exhibition’ I must admit I was taken aback initially and also contemplated the irony of the statement. I tried to explain I was a student but before I could say anything else, I was told it didn’t matter and I wasn’t allowed to take shots on my i-Phone. For the entire remainder of our visit around the Gillian Wearing exhibition we were followed and observed by staff from the gallery, making us both feel really uncomfortable. I’m not that great socially at the best of times and it took a lot of effort and courage for me just to get to the exhibition in London with so many people but it just made me feel horrible and not welcome in the slightest. I also find when I get anxious I struggle to remember things so the snapshots usually help. The whole experience left me with a bit of a foul taste in my mouth but I tried to take in some of the photographs on display as best I could.

The bad experience had me contemplating what the artist would have thought, what her position would have been and also what my own thoughts would be if I were displaying my work in an exhibition and someone was taking snapshots. I mean, I wasn’t looking to steal the artists work….all of the images are available to view on line anyway if I really wanted to, there are countless images of the exhibition online elsewhere under the hash-tag #wearingcahun. I only wanted to document my visit visually.  Was I asked permission to be filmed whilst I was attending the gallery? No, however I was…should I have protested being filmed without my consent? I have now visited a number of exhibitions and I’ve never had a problem with taking shots for my learning log. Some probably think I am making a big deal about this but I feel it’s a really important issue.

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I have no other images to support the visit. I viewed the work by Claude Cahun but I was more interested in the images by Gillian Wearing, I was interested to see some of her work as it has been covered in this unit of my degree, ‘Context and Narrative‘.

I enjoyed seeing the Family portraits series Album in large scale print, they just make more sense in person seeing them so big on a wall rather than in my study books. I find the use of masks quite creepy and unsettling but its a really inventive way of doing self portraits. It’s amazing how she takes on the role of the other family members. It questions identity, gender and roles within families but also the links that connect the family chain. My wife observed how the faces looked different yet you can see the link of the same person through the eyes (my wife didn’t initially know about the masks but she spotted the eyes) she said ‘these eyes look like a younger persons eyes’ when looking at the image of Wearings father. There was also a fascinating series of Polaroid shots of Wearing taken over a number of years starting from the 1980’s up to 2005, all compiled together in one display, I found it was good to see the visual development of the artist over a long period of time, they are essentially all ‘selfies’. There were also images Wearing had ‘recreated’ of some of her ‘idols’ again using masks.

I must admit I went into the gallery not really being a fan of the artists work but I left feeling I had a better understanding, appreciation and respect for her work.

There were also some great portrait images on display at the gallery by David Gwinnutt ‘Before we were Men’.

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Trying to collect my thoughts after the gallery visit

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Experimenting with the 360 panoramic feature on the i-Phone

Its definitely worth a visit to see this exhibition, its on until 29th May 2017. I hope next time its a more enjoyable experience.

Reference:

http://www.colindavidson.com/

http://www.davidgwinnutt.com/

National Portrait Gallery London

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/wearing-cahun/home/

Exhibition Visit – ‘Plants in a Different Light’ by Jan Ramscar LRPS, Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock – Saturday 15th April 2017

Today I visited an exhibition at the Fox Talbot museum in Lacock by Jan Ramscar LRPS titled ‘Plants in a Different Light’. It was a fascinating exhibition, very different to other exhibitions I have been to.

I got to meet the artist Jan Ramscar who briefly explained the process behind creating the photograms by shining light through the plants onto light sensitive photographic paper, so the images are created without a camera and how she blends her love for science and art together. I mentioned to Jan how some of the images reminded me of an underwater exhibition I had seen previously at the museum, how some of these images could be slotted into that exhibition as they looked like they could be alien like creatures from the depths of the ocean.

I loved the vibrant luminous colours in the images, patterns created by nature, how science and nature can become art. It is fitting that the exhibition is at the Fox Talbot museum as some of Talbot’s first images were of plants like flowers, leaves and ferns.

A couple of i-Phone snaps from the visit:

Reference:

Fox Talbot Museum

Jan Ramscar Art

 

Exhibition visit to the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath – ‘History through a lens’ The Incite Project – Friday 24th March 2017

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Today I visited the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, where they have a new exhibition on called  ‘History through a Lens: Iconic Photographs from the Incite Project’

The exhibition displayed documentary and photojournalism photography from some of the greats; Don McCullin, Steve McCurry, Dorothea Lange, W. Eugene Smith and Robert Capa. As described in the exhibition, by extracting the photographs from their context within newspapers and their accompanying captions they become standalone art within their own context. I found the exhibition to be very moving and thought-provoking. Some of the images were very tough to view but great photography doesn’t shy away from controversial issues, it tackles it head on. A number of the photographs covered conflict, war, historical issues of race, religion, refugees and politics.

The whole exhibition had me thinking again about the boundaries in photography (if there are any?!), I mean, what can or can’t be photographed, or perhaps what should and shouldn’t be photographed? Are their limits on what is acceptable or is everything/anything fair game as far as subject matter and subject is concerned? Do I think suggestion is more powerful as a story telling tool/technique than shock? I am curious as to the longevity of the shock factor in imagery against perhaps a more psychological, suggestive approach. Once I have moved past the initial step of an image being shocking is there anything within that image that makes me want to return to view it or stay looking at it? I guess if I were to illustrate this, I would say the image of the Shell shocked marine by Don McCullin or the image by Henri Huet of the dead US paratrooper being airlifted say more to me about war than anything else I have seen. That is not to say they aren’t shocking in their own way, they are, the images sit with me in my mind for a long time but they used a different method of delivery.

I think the exhibition shows the historical importance of photographry as a means to record the past. It also illustrated to me again how the photographs from photojournalism and documentary photograhy can stand within their own space, seperate from its original intention, text or captions to become art within a gallery space.

I was really moved by all of the photography that was on display today but one of the images by Nilüfer Demir showed a dead Syrian child refugee on the beach, I remember the image being featured in newspapers and in the media. I believe the boys name was Alan Kurdi, he was 3 years old. It really cuts deep. I haven’t included a snapshot of the image in my write up… it feels disrespectful. I spent some time viewing the image and just thinking….no thats wrong….feeling, it was emotion not thought. We get wrapped up in our own little world sometimes and then when you see something like this it puts your whole life in perspective. Maybe in this instance the shock works. Most of us have a really comfortable life, whilst others are literally fighting for their lifes, fleeing from conflict or famine and sadly in many cases, dying. I can sit here comfortably and write up my random thoughts but I don’t mean to pass any judgement. I remember seeing the image when it was in the papers and thinking this has got to change things, people will act, rise up, help but I fear nothing has changed and it just feels like this revolving cycle of documenting the human condition.

I would highly recommend this exhibit to my fellow students.

Some snapshots from my i-Phone of the exhibition:

 

Gallery visit to The Photographers Gallery and The Mall Galleries London, Friday 10th March 2017

Today I visited 2 galleries in London; The Photographers Gallery at Ramillies Street and The Mall Galleries just down the road from the Queens House. It was a long journey again on the National Express from where I live in Wiltshire but I quite enjoy the journey now, it gives me time to take in the view, catch up on some reading, sleep and a bit of music as well. This is my second visit to London in a couple of months. I’m not really very good with large crowds of people, the city, enclosed or confined spaces like the underground etc but I am trying to find coping strategies, bringing along a friend helps. First on the agenda is to get a strong cup of caffeine, I haven’t had any yet today and I’m slowly slipping away into some strange state of dreamlike-zombie-walking akin to the walking dead. We stop at a coffee shop in Trafalgar Square then head on up to The Photographers Gallery, we are travelling by foot today, I prefer it that way,especially after a 3.45hrs sat on a bus.

The Photographers Gallery

Its gone midday by the time we arrive at the gallery and there is a bit of a buzz around the place. At the Gallery today there are a range of exhibitions on show, the gallery exhibitions are split out over about 5 floors, the ground floor has a restaurant/cafe and the basement has a shop full of photo-books and camera gear along with print sales today showcasing some early black and white photos on display from  Martin Parr called The Ceremony of Life, you can see at this early stage in his photographic career he just has this eye for noticing and framing things beautifully.  I watched a clip on YouTube with Martin Parr giving a speech I think to students, he basically said you need to take more crap photographs, take more crap photographs, that’s how you get the good ones essentially, or something like that. I thought it was funny but also spot on!

The first exhibition I come across in the Wolfson Gallery shows photographs by British Photographer Roger Mayne which illustrates the urban city of West London and Sheffield during the 1950’s and 1960’s there is also a projector room setup with multiple projectors which fires of a series of slides every couple of seconds, called The British at Leisure I found this a little hard to watch as there are around 6 photographs being displayed for a couple of seconds then they all change, it gave me a bit of a headache so I went back to looking at the the printed images. I really enjoyed viewing Roger Mayne’s photography on display here, he really managed to blur himself into the background as a photographer to almost be unnoticed to show the unseen world and culture of the time,  the playfulness of youth, you feel like you are peering into these people’s life’s and there are some really interesting characters captured on film, from the teddy boys to the kids playing in the streets.

Next up in the John Lyon galleries are photographs on display as part of the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize 2017 with images from Sophie Calle, Dana Lixenberg, Awoiska Van Der Molen, Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs.

I am drawn to the the large scale photographs by Awoiska van der Molen, which explore landscapes, place and I think isolation. I have had that moment when you are on the trail alone and stare into the darkness of the deep dark woods and a little part of you stares back at you like a reflection,  a bit of excitement but also some fear of the unknown.

I was also really keen on the work by Sophie Calle called My mother, my cat, my father, in that order. The photographer of objects she relates to her parents or cat with large scale accompanying text explore the death of her parents and her cat and these relationships. I thought this was a great display and made me think about my own relationships I hold with the people in my own life.

Some i-Phone images from the visit:

The Mall Galleries:

On the suggestion of my friend who is an artist, we also decided to visit The Mall Galleries which displays a range of contemporary art. It’s free to get in and they also have a cafe in the gallery space. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I must admit I was really pleasantly surprised and also impressed by the incredible works of art on display. As with all art, everything is subjective and somethings I preferred to others. When I visited there was art on display fin the main gallery for The Lynn Painter-Stainer’s Prize 2017  there was also an exhibition displaying some fine art by John Sprakes. I would highly recommend a visit. I really enjoyed some of the beautiful landscape art that was on display from the likes of Emma Haworth and Tessa Coleman.

I have included some i-Phone snaps from my visit below :

 

 

Research point – Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’ and Sophy Rickett’s ‘Objects in the Field’

Look these pieces up online (Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’ and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field).

Investigate the rationale behind the pieces and see if you can find any critical responses to them.

Write down your own responses in your learning log.

I read through the interview with Sophy Rickett’s in the appendix to the course. It would seem there was a really distinct conflict in the perceived idea of the project between Sophy and Dr Roderick Willstrop; ultimately the difference between/use of photography for art and photography for science. This comes through all the way to the creation of the large scale pieces from found or archival negatives for the final exhibition and the use of mixed media, the collaboration with Sophy creating titles and Dr Willstrop producing captions, there is a tension in the narrative. Sophy also created an accompanying text which I found on line on the Photographers Gallery blog which gives a better understanding to the project here

I have mixed feelings about the final images as they are essentially found photographs which have been re-created in large format. The project highlights the significance of the Three Mirror Telescope used by Dr Roderick Willstrop and captures a historical record of the night sky as it appeared at the time they were created. I don’t really get anything from the recreated images other than them being a historical record. I love the photograph by Sophy of the telescope. So I have to conclude that the text is in many ways, in this instance, as important if not more important to the narrative of the project, without it, for me, the images would be hard to decipher or place anywhere in time or place.

Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’ is about a letter/email Sophie had received from a previous boyfriend, basically a break up letter ending in the words ‘Take Care of yourself’, she presented this letter to different women, from different professions (writers, philosophers, singers, actresses, etc) and asked them to think about how they would response, they then interpreted the response in their own unique way. The work is exhibited through mixed media formats; photography, written text, video.

• How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?

The accompanying text for ‘Objects in the field’ shifts around in time, the story doesn’t unfold in a strict chronological format, I mean this both in the written text and through the production of the final images; the images are old, of a night sky which is completely different to the one I see when I look out of the window this evening, but by re-producing them now it has given them a new lease of life, yet the first image in the series is taken years later. So the work essentially shows a postmodern approach by challenging our view of time in storytelling from a non linear perspective. It also challenges the use of photography originally intended as a scientific method of recording the sky and turns it into photographic art.

For some weird reason it makes me think of Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap the scientist from the future bouncing about in time. As the observer I have no real distinct idea of time of place, so I am just a time traveller following the story to see where it leads me. Then my tiny mind implodes, boom! Ha! I like the idea of challenging the traditional ways of storytelling, sometimes I feel it is only done to be rebellious but done right it can lead to different, new or unique ways of communicating.

Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’ completely challenges traditional storytelling and narrative by flipping the creative response through the eyes of a select but numerous observers and then converting this into the final product or project. So it is a mass of different life experiences thrown into the creative melting pot as opposed to just the experiences of the one artist, in this instance the artist Sophie Calle almost project manages the work but is not in control of the output. Its a really interesting idea. We see all of these responses but the instigator of the letter is not seen and a response to the work is not sought out (as far as I am aware).  We also have to take the ‘author’ at her word that this is a genuine letter and not one she has created herself in order to make some art – I’m not saying she would do that, I’m just saying.

So I would say it challenges the postmodern approach to narrative by using multiple streams of creative input to pull together a creative response which congeals into this one over arching project but with no definitive answer in response to the letter. So it is essentially open ended, there is a beginning, a middle but no end.

Reference:

Sophy Rickett – Objects in the Field – The Photographers Gallery Blog

Stories from the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford Sophy Rickett: Objects in the Field

https://www.littletoller.co.uk/the-clearing/sophy-rickett-objects-in-the-field/

TateShots: Sophie Calle – Take Care of Yourself

Museo MARCO Interview with the artist Sophie Calle about her piece Take care of yourself

Take Care of Yourself at the Paula Cooper Gallery

Quantum Leap