This introductory entry will stay at the top. The other entries will be in descending date order. This blog will track the activities and progress of my BA in Photography with OCA.
† Expressing your vision, the first course of the degree
The result is in, an uninspiring 53%. But at least I can switch the web site to C&N now.
This is the penultimate post in the EyV blog: the final post will be the mark I get on final assessment next year.
This blog will now be formatted to a pdf for assessment submission. Any subsequent updates will be on the assessment page.
The clamshell is now acquired and I am processing the images for printing. Formatting for 6x4" prints has taken some thought.
As EyV winds down, BBC Radio's Poetry Extra show provided its occasional inspiration with an episode on the Welsh concept of Hiraeth — a word which has no English equivalent and a diversity of translations, but commonly some form of sentimental longing.
This brings me back to the start of the course and Y Filltir Sgwar. I expressed the view that, "I did not regard myself as susceptible to Square Mile Syndrome, particularly as regards Wales, though I may have changed my mind while working on the assignment".
The poet Mab Jones presented the show and she has a refreshing view of the Welsh tendency to self-obsession, a view that I share (including the melancholy last line).
It is always a challenge to transcribe a poem from audio. I definitely heard "knees" at 05:20 this morning in bed — and it works. But listening back at my desk at 08:00, it could be "news". ‡
Anti-Hiraeth, Mab Jones
Do I have to write about these bold Welsh hills
As senseless and certain as an old man's knees (or was that news)? ‡
Do I need to contemplate the coughing wind,
the spit-soak (?) rain, the sky as grey as a flannel?
So many poets spin meaning from this landscape,
dip ink from in its wells.
But why should I pen what I feel pens me in
The woollen past, as smothering as a blanket?
Give me what is new
give me youth, travel, fashion,
airports and Twitter,
my Italian coffee maker.
Give me strong wi-fi which pierces the fog of the Rhondda
bringing me daily connection with the world.
Old man Wales with your bleating hymns of the past
you can't tell me how to feel
can't tell me what to do
though, like the sheep, I'll leave you all my bones.
© Mab Jones
If I return to Newport it will be for my mother's funeral (currently 99 and living, just about, in Stratford-on-Avon). And I'll photograph my Square Mile: two houses, chapel, two (or three) schools, two pubs and my father's grave. And whatever is where the New Found Out used to be.
† This is the only image I have managed to find online of the New Found Out exterior. There is a band of the same name that has the photograph on their web site. There is no attribution. Their BandMix web site states,
The band’s name comes from memories of one of Newport’s notorious pubs that was a true scrumpy house and known in some circles as ‘The Office’ or ‘NFO’. It had sawdust on the floor, seats made from barrels that served up cloudy scrumpy cider and even one pint called "All Slops" would cost just a few pennies. Bandmix, New Found Out
There are, of course, plenty of shots of the NFO's interior from Tish Murtha.
‡ [26Nov] Mab has kindly confirmed by email that it is "knees".
I visited Hobbycraft today, having seen a clamshell archival box on their web site. None in stock and none of the staff had ever heard of such a thing, but I'll try their click and collect service. They did have a clear plastic A4 box, at £4, one third the price of the clamshell. I bought one and might go with that — if that's good enough for Diane Arbus, who used a "Plexiglas box designed by Marvin Israel" for her box of ten photographs … (quote and image from Christie's).
In my recently formulated workflow statement of practice, I noted that I would, "Default to black and white, unless there is a compelling reason to shoot in colour."
There is an interesting piece in Issue 155 Of Visual Art (the magazine of the RPS Group of that name) on the work of Drew Doggett. He has photographed the remote Kenyan Rendille and Samburu tribespeople who are notable, amongst other things, for their beadwork, which denotes status to a biographic degree. The beads identify, for example the number and gender of children a mother has. Despite the key significance of the beads, Doggett chose to photograph in black and white. Surprisingly, his article does not comment on that choice. It may be seen from his website (link below) that he also works in colour.
Links - artist's web site
More interestingly, a recent piece in PetaPixel described the sainted Greta Thunberg being photographed on wet collodion by Shane Balkowitsch. By a happy coincidence, Balkowitsch appears in the current (October 2019) edition of Black+White Photography where his extensive project documenting Native Americans (also in wet plate collodion) is described. See the artist's web site.
Feedback arrived last week and I'm working through it before reworking the submission. It's fair to say that while it was the first assignment that I was content with and I have evolved a methodology that I find satisfactory, my tutor was underwhelmed.
On a separate matter AmPhot celebrated its 135th anniversary last week and while most of the issue was understandably self-congratulatory, there was a piece on the best photo-books, chosen by Martin Parr and others. Parr's choices are:
Stephen Gill, The Pillar, 2019
William Klein, New York, 1956
Miguel Calderon, 2007
Peng Yangjun and Chen Jiaojiao, Pass it On, 2011
Daido Moriyama, Bye Bye Photography, 1972
Chris Killip, In Flagrante, 1988
To town, yesterday for the Gerty Simon show at the Weiner Library. A modest but nicely formed exhibition remembering a great, but forgotten photographer. There's more here.
Nearby is the Gower Street Waterstones which has the finest offering of books photographic that I have found. I particularly liked Marta Weiss' Making It Up: Photographic Fictions, 2018, to which I will return.
I am awaiting the return of the final EyV assignment, then I have to turn around the rework and start preparing the assessment package. I think I know what I intend to do for that. I might have to resort to some sort of box, containing:
1. A4 prints of the last three assignments
2. A standard photoprocessing packet containing 6x4 prints of all the photos (intended to a) give a representative sample and b) reinforce the point that "they're only photographs")
3. A booklet containing a 1-page summary; submission and tutor response text (SPELL-CHECKED) plus thumbnails (original and rework) for all assignments; prints of the significant exercises (4.5 and 5.2); details of the other material available online (website, pdf prints of the blog, each part and each assignment).
The instructions (I recently noticed) state that the blog should state where each part and each assignment begin: I'm not sure that is possible retrospectively, but I'll try to bear it in mind for the next course …
I will apply for that soon with these prior intentions:
1. reduce the time between assignments to 6 weeks rather than the current 8 (the course calls for a timetable in advance so that will help).
2. be aware of all the assignments from day one and accumulate ideas and images for them, though obviously prioritising in sequence.
3. be aware of the final assessment throughout: accumulate material for it and produce suitable formatted output for it, given what I learn from EyV assessment.
4. "attend" online tutorials this time (I expect that will be mostly in a lurking capacity with possibly textual interventions as I struggle verbally).
5. continue to submit assignments as physical prints.
So far as the web site is concerned, I intend, as stated at the outset, for it to be a record of the whole course. EyV will still have to dominate until it has been assessed (Jan 2020). Thereafter I will:
1. Restart the blog (this will already have happened in background, noting assignment and course part start this time.
2. Rewrite the home page - this will look very similar, but focus on C&N with EyV as a single line link to the current page.
3. Reformat the Gallery, putting all of EyV on a single page then extending for C&N.
4. The Photographers pages are a problem. It is important to me, given my memory issues, too have this aide-mémoire of the talents and, as I opined early on to my tutor, if the OCA requires students to work in the public view, the web sites should offer an attraction or service to the public: mine is a growing thumbnail encyclopedia of photographers.
That said, the current format does not suit the course as more detailed, personal responses are expected. I have in mind a new approach with a new front page for photographers linking to the 10 or 20 or however many studies arise in C&N, with a subsidiary link to the existing service that will continue to build.
5. On the Links page, I will start a new list of C&N links, differentiated from the EyVs.
6. Anything else arising from the Assessment.
7. A general tidying, losing some of the unused byways developed early-on and improving the structure to help maintenance.
Quite a lot to report:
Asg.5 was submitted yesterday.
I witnessed, as a lurker, my first video-conference-tutorial today, conducted by Rob Bloomfield, who wrote the course. It was about assessment, which I hoped would mean, assembling material for the final course assessment, but actually was more about the assessment criteria. The key points were: 1. take creative risks; 2. cite influences from the course material and independent research. These seem to be the difference between success and mediocrity for the course. He also mentioned clam shell cases for image submission on the final assessment.
Christie's New York have a fine photographic auction on 2nd October. It includes some remarkable images from Penn, Wegman, Strand, Outerbridge and May Ray that I will detail later - see below.
Finally, there was an interesting quote from Antony Gormley (whose RA show opened last week) on R4 this morning - I'll try to dig it out.
[25Sep] Gormley said (on BBC Radio 4's Today program), "What's art for, anyway? It's no longer about representation, because photography and film … does it better. So it should be about intensifying experience." It is not clear whether Gormley regards photography's role as entirely representational perhaps leaving real art to carry on developing. Personally I would not have too big a problem with such an assertion as I regard representational photography highly. I suspect that some photographers would take issue.
Frank died on the 9th September, age 94. The New York Times obituary states,
Mr. Frank may well have been the unwitting father of what became known in the late 1960s as “the snapshot aesthetic,” a personal offhand style that sought to capture the look and feel of spontaneity in an authentic moment. The pictures had a profound influence on the way photographers began to approach not only their subjects but also the picture frame…
Mr. Frank acknowledged that in photographing Americans he found the least privileged among them the most compelling.
“My mother asked me, ‘Why do you always take pictures of poor people?’” Mr. Frank told Mr. Dawidoff in The Times Magazine. “It wasn’t true, but my sympathies were with people who struggled. There was also my mistrust of people who made the rules.” NYT 11 Sep
The Times obituary was published on 14th Sep. On early reaction to The Americans, it comments,
… at first no American publisher would consider the book and it was initially published in France. When it did appear in the US, where seminal Beat texts such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Kerouac’s On the Road were already questioning the efficacy of the American dream in similar style, Frank and his book were excoriated by the mainstream. His pictures were denounced as “sick” and “deranged”, and the editors of Popular Photography derided Frank as “a joyless man” whose work was nothing but “warped and wart-covered images of hate”.
He was also attacked for what were seen as technical deficiencies. His photographs were often grainy, asymmetrical and shot at oblique angles, but the effect was deliberate. Ignoring or subverting the established conventions of image-making was part and parcel of the existentialism of his art. The Times14 Sep
I have been on the Photo-eye Bookstore mailing list for years and every once in a while it throws up a photographer of merit that I've not heard of before. It happened this week with Renato D'Agostin as they are promoting his book, Tokyo Untitled.
He's straight into my list of ten Best Three photographers. Mostly black and white and mostly high contrast, highly stylised often near the point of abstraction. I will attend to a full listing in due course.
There is an interesting piece in the October edition of BJP (Issue 7,888) on the subject, based on an interview with Barbara Stauss, the leading light of Studio Stauss, Berlin. Stauss bemoans the lack of funding for photographic projects and printed outlets these days and her Studio seeks to alleviate this through promoting editing standards and photographic talent.
One key message from the interview is the importance of pairing pictures in a publication, and mention is made of the 1940 book, Chamberlain and The Beautiful Llama and 101 more Juxtapositions, by Stephan Lorant. I have ordered a copy online from Oxfam, Exeter and hope it won't be cancelled as that was ¼ the price of other outlets.
What can I take from this?
It will soon be time to submit Asg.5 and while I am satisfied that there are some worthwhile images to show, I am concerned about meeting the requirement that there should be a “sense of development through the sequence”. Given my liking for submitting physical prints in a presentation folder, thereby imposing my display sequence on the viewer, but using only prosaic, factual titles and leaving interpretation to others, I will concentrate on pairings.
Today's Times carried an obituary for Steve Hiett, 1940-2019. I had never heard of him and I don't have a deep interest in fashion photography: that said, a lot of the greats were involved in that area, Avedon, Penn, Fonssagrives, to name a few.
Hiett, to judge from the obit, was an interesting person, had a bold approach and took some good photographs. He deserves an entry in the aide-memoir and [6Sep] this has now been done.
I popped into town specifically to photograph for Asg. 5 an experimental plant installation designed for air purification near Piccadilly last year but it has gone.
Fortunately, there is a small exhibition of Vivian Maier's later colour work nearby which made the day worthwhile.
One conclusion I have come to in recent months is that I find reward in photographing things that cannot normally be seen easily, such as near macro (i.e. not bugs' eyes) and shots needing a long telephoto. I noted this as, "Things not normally seen, whether through lack of access or laziness of view".
In this vein, a new project or series came to mind while travelling up to town, The Tops of Churches (or any building, but there are many churches within easy reach of stations).
Georgia Mann on this morning's Radio 3 Breakfast Show, quoted conductor Semyon Bychkov (R3's guest of the week) who said of his job,
I always compare the state in which I find myself to someone who has a split personality”, he says, “ I feel very much that this separation in two is absolutely necessary in so much that a part of myself has to engage totally with the emotional side of the music, but the other side of myself must remain analytical, like someone observing from the outside Georgia Mann, BBC Radio 3, quoting Semyon Bychkov
There is a clear read-across to photography where, I believe, there must be some level of engagement with the subject (be it, empathy, haughty disregard, love, contempt, aesthetic admiration – anything but indifference will do, though a strong feigned indifference might serve). At the same time, the dispassionate technical aspects of the task must be considered, all the usual factors: position, lens, frame, exposure, and so on.
This is standard right brain (artistic, emotional) – left brain (analytical, technical) duality, which I have always considered rather fanciful: while MRI scans of regional brain activity can be advanced in evidence, it still smacks of the myths of phrenology.
Hyperallergic reports that controversy has arisen over the definition of museums' purposes. For 50 years, it has been,
a nonprofit institution [that] acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment International Council of Museums (ICOM)
but at a recent conference, there were moves to add reference to, "human dignity and social justice". The conference deferred a decision.
It would be interesting to adapt and apply Terry Barrett's definitions in Criticising photographs (1981 et seq.) to log this changing emphasis. The process mirrors the rise of socially-aware photography that Barrett characterises as ethically evaluative and which, as I mention in Exercise 5.3, partly explains Cartier-Bresson’s fall from favour.
While gently easing my way through several editions of Barrett's fascinating, heavy-going and theory-rich Criticising photographs, an introduction to understanding images, a simple, shortcut starting point occurred to me this morning. If any photograph prompts the response I wish I'd taken that, it is probably worth making the effort to analyse what is "good" about it (which may or may not be equivalent to "liking" it). That is when Barrett's techniques can be deployed to give some backbone (aka intellectual, academic and systematic rigour) to the process.
It is possible to argue that analysing photographs that one does not "like" may be equally revealing and/or important and/or worthwhile but I would suggest that is not the case. If one is in the process of developing (ho-ho) as a photographer, it is more helpful and potentially useful to examine routes that one is inclined to follow than routes that one is not.
Conclusion: don't be afraid of something as mundane as having a list of favourite photographs. Try to understand them. I'm glad you asked. My (at a guess) eight top thee snaps (not necessarily in order) are:
1. Ilse Bing, Self portrait with Leica, 1931
2. Richard Avedon, Ronald Fischer, Beekeeper, Davis, California, 1981
3. Keith Arnatt, from The Tears of Things (Objects from a Rubbish Tip), 1990-91
4. John Baldessari, Throwing Three Balls In The Air To Get A Straight Line (Best Of Thirty-Six Attempts), 1973 †
5. Bill Brandt, [many things, including] Northumbrian coal miner eating his evening meal, 1937
[this is clearly going to be a struggle — I'm working my way through the Snappers pages (extended edition) and I'm only half way through the Bs, but already up to five entries. So it goes.]
6. Harry Callahan Eleanor, 1947, paired with Weed against sky, 1948
7. Robert Doisneau, Les Hélicoptères, 1972
8. Walker Evans, it's the whole body of work, rather than one particular image. That probably doesn't count for this exercise: I might be too influenced by Evans' place in Jerry Thompson's Why photography matters.
=8. Fernand Fonssagrives, Sand Fence, 1930s
9. Lee Friedlander, Chicago, 1966 ‡
10. Fay Godwin, Chatsworth Lion, 1988
11. Tish Murtha, from Newport Pub, 1976/78 §
12. Casper Sejersen, The Golden Ratio (Ace of Hearts), 2019
13. Otto Steinert, Boulevard St Michel, Paris, 1952
14. Francesca Woodman, but again it is the body of work rather than one piece.
and Sam Taylor-Johnson's Self-portrait in Single-breasted Suit with Hare, 2001 very nearly made the cut.
† But only if the title is part of the package.
‡ I was rather underwhelmed by Frielander's oeuvre when I first encountered it but gained greater appreciation with the scale of his In the picture pelf-portraits 1958-2001 (2011).
§ The reasons here are as much sentimental as subjectively aesthetic, as Murtha spent her student days photographing a down-and-outs' pub I (occasionally) visited in my home town, and at about the same time. Nevertheless, it should be included because, as I have insisted several times in my reactions to this course, sentimental and subjective and tangential reasons are a key and (thus far) unmentioned component in individuals' reactions to photographs.
This entry was prompted by the realisation that with Asg. 5, for the first time on the course, I had some work of real merit that, if seen in someone else's show, I would rate highly. Also The Times had a selection of remarkably pretty landscapes from the National Trust today.
The top two are Bing and Godwin, then either Steinert or Fonssagrives.
Conclusion 2: 15 photographs; 12 in B&W (I interpret that to mean that I like historic photographers); 4 self portraits; 10 human subjects (if we include parts of Eleanor, and a pedestrian's foot); 5 inanimate subjects.
On the Terry Barrett categories, I would say, at first glance:
… on second thoughts, I'll turn this into a separate web page before doing that.
Mr. Self (who I usually find amusing and annoying in equal measure) has the current series of Radio 4's Sunday morning pontification slot at his disposal. He was on good form on 4th(?) August:
It's art that lies behind all of this culture, isn't it, and by art I mean the impulse to create, free of all restraint, let alone any anticipation of what the market will bear.
I remember as august an authority as Grayson Perry, a Commander of the British Empire, no less, saying at a lecture I attended that,
"90% of all contemporary art is rubbish."
a sentiment with which I, and quite possibly you, would happily concur, although the problem is, I suppose, agreeing on which 90%. BBC Radio 4, A Point of View, 4 Aug 19
A productive day, with a visit to Southbank, intending to photograph occupied benches for Asg.5, but I took more of plants than of benches. Nevertheless, a good time. If the weather is decent, Ill be at Highgate cemetery tomorrow for more plants. [19Aug it rained, didn't go.]
And on Kickstarter, a till roll camera, the Alulu— of course, Francesco Capponi thought of it first. The project is nowhere near its funding target and with only 5 days to go, there is little chance of them being made, but I have pledged my $109 ($89 plus $20 UK shipping).
I have expressed a preliminary opinion on image titles here.
I have been looking, perhaps rather later than I should, at the assessment process. I have been naive and / or blasé about this stage and that might be because I am not sure whether I am that concerned over the academic outcome of the degree or if my main priority is aesthetic progress in my photography (and there is also the possibility that poor health will prevent me from completing the course). Nevertheless, the degree will be progressed and "next year" the work will be organised with assessment in mind — having settled on a presentation methodology after EyV.
I quite like the idea of compartmentalising everything into PDFs. I am more inclined to a lever arch file than a "clam shell archival box".
Reasonable progress is being made on Asg.5, more on Plants (The use, abuse, misuse and misrepresentation of plants) than on Benches (The art of separation).
I have just submitted my application for assessment. With the last assignment being due on 1st October, I have asked for a March 2020 assessment for which the work must be submitted in January. I do not have a clear idea what it is that I actually submit, although on the last feedback my tutor mentioned,
As you are approaching the end of the course I would suggest looking online at how to book an assessment date, and consider how you will send your prints for assessment. A4 size is fine to print your final assignment images, once you have thought about reworking or adaptations you might make (with other earlier versions left displayed and clearly labelled on the blog). Label and number your prints on the back. You can also print out your commentary for each assignment. It is recommended that the work is well presented in a clam shell archival box or something similar to show your work in a professional manner.Asg.4 feedback
This link is to a document called, Assessment and how to get qualified.
This entry is just to remind myself that only photographs taken during (and possibly for) the course can be submitted. This is in the Student Regulations 2017-2018, Section 3 which can be found (for the moment) here: link (they have already moved at least once since I last quoted them),
A student may not submit for assessment any artefact or piece of work which was not made during the course of study of the unit with OCA, or that has previously been assessed, except where specifically required to resubmit that piece of work as part of a re-assessment. Student Regulations, Procedures and policies, September 2017 version
As noted on the development page (for the first three assignments, I had an images page and a text page, but the latter was just a dump for early drafts of the submission text; for Asg.4 I combined the two into a development page). To continue, I have had for several ideas for the last assignment, on which my tutor stated,
For your last assignment you can bring together all the skills you have learned and really push your personal voice. Consider location, props, and how best to communicate your chosen idea…
Keep developing a personal voice, and consider how best to visualise what you want to communicate with your images feedback on Assignment 4
1. Rooftop architectural details near Harrods. I had a run at this on 12th July but the results were not as interesting as I had hoped.
2. Shadows — following on from the Asg. backup project, Shadows of small things, I came upon a book of Friedlander self portraits. As I noted on the dev page, Ilse Bing (see Exercise 5.2) took shadows too, as did Vivian Maier (see Photo London 2019), whereas Peter Cohen collected and curated other people's photographs of shadows (see V&A, new photography gallery). So perhaps Larger Shadows, but I'm not sure where to go with this one.
3. Torn signs, on the heels of Jonathan Miller's nowhere in particular and the current Ralston Crawford exhibition and my own ongoing interest in politically correct advertising, perhaps this could be widened to advertising in general. I have also always been intrigued by fading business signs pained on the sides of Victorian buildings.
4. Flowers — this topic is fertile for wide interpretation,
macro, roadside shrines, shops, B&Qs unwatered and uncared for killing fields, the joy that is a garden centre, funerals, loaded hearses, cemeteries, weddings assignment development page
I have already made a start on this and will start pulling a portfolio together.
I might try to tie it into Barrett's list of photograph types and try to get at least one of each, thus combining technical range with conceptual diversity.
5. Benches —again as noted elsewhere, my interest in how people arrange themselves on benches goes back to the 1970s. This would be more conceptually cohesive.
I'll start with flowers and benches and see how that progresses. I'll assemble a few flowers (noting the restrictions on self plagiarism), and might try a benches outing tomorrow.
I am a little concerned about format. The advantage of consistency of format, particularly when submitting physical prints, was learned early on. I might shoot square.
Shore's representation on this site to date has comprised an entry on his 2007 book, The Nature of Photographs, which I find very useful in providing a method of analysing photographs, and his participation in Photo London 2019, where he was anointed Master of Photography 2019 — I was much less impressed with his images shown there which I described at the time as, "large snaps of litter".
There is an interesting piece on Shore in July's RPS Journal which throws considerable light on his long and extensive body of work, including the London 2019 pieces.
Shore is renowned for his championing of colour photography (both in 35mm and with an 8x10) in the 1970s when "art" had to be monochrome and the photograph as gallery art was a thing of the future. Of Luzzara, Italy, 1993 (shown, right) he says,
In the nineties I went back to black and white, and that gave me two more stops of shutter speed. And that gap made a picture like this possible. The faster film allowed me to photograph people in a way I hadn't been able to in years. That was a door opening. Stephen Shore in the RPS Journal, July 2019
Regarding the pieces in Photo London, Shore describes an episode of toy joy,
I got my hands on this new camera, a Hasselblad X1D, that has a higher resolution than an 8x10 camera. These prints are large, four feet by five and a half feet. When you go close to them, they are totally detailed. I'm not interested in that as a visual gimmick. I'm interested in the experience of it. It almost becomes three-dimensional. They're so tactile. Stephen Shore in the RPS Journal, July 2019
Although he denies gimmickry, Shore is, perhaps, by photographing banal subjects close-up and printing them greater than life size, exploring and toying with the gallery effect of engendering bigger prints in colour: a matter of never mind the subject, regard the width.
As a final quote, Jamieson states that Shore, "time and again describes his work as a way of 'paying attention'". That is a simple yet powerful remark.
Jamieson, T. (2019) Casual Observer: RPS Journal 159 (7),pp.471-477
A piece in DPReview links to a fascinating youtube video demonstrating the wet plate collodion process and Markus Hofstätter making it look (relatively) easy.
I keep on using the phrase striking image, largely because it suits the purpose. I guess I'll just accept that. There was one in the Sunday Times Culture section today in a review of a new album, Anima, by Thom Yorke. The photographer is Alex Lake and he has taken numerous interesting celebrity portraits. Here is his web site.
To the National Portrait Gallery yesterday for a tutor-led visit to the Cindy Sherman retrospective. There's a review here.
The assignment is ready to go, six photographs, narrative 1,000 words exactly and it should get there just in time for the 1st July deadline.
I also managed a second session for the backup project, The Shadows of Small Things.
Now on with Exc. 5.2.
The Barbican shots for Asg. 4 are back from the printer. I am still struggling to choose which to submit.
I have spent the afternoon on Exc. 5.2, Self portrait with Fuji after Ilse Bing. Immense fun and a reasonable effort. The tethering was a complication too far.
I am preparing Asg. 4 for printing. I will use DS Colour Labs as I found them inexpensive and reasonably good for Asg. 3, once I came to terms with the processing needed. The purpose of this post is to remind myself how convert to A4 size with a safe margin.
1. add border
2. flatten layers
3. rotate to landscape
4. increase canvas size to 115% (and make it white)
[15Sep19] if working from square, increase the long side to 141%
5. crop to A4. 297x210, but there is a Photoshop preset.
A visit to the V&A library for research on Michael Schmidt, the original impulse between Asg. 4 at The Barbican and Ilse Bing, the probable stimulant for Exc. 5.2. The data obtained is being processed.
Asg. 4 itself is progressing apace: the photographs have been selected and prepared for printing.
On Exc. 5.2, the intention is to modernise self portrait with Leica to self portrait with tethered Fuji and so tethering is under investigation.
The Barbican visit happened and I believe it was quite successful — the photographs are currently being processed. I intend to take another batch of my second Asg.4 project, small shadows. The assignment delivery date is 1st July and I hope to submit physical prints again.
In the meantime, on with Exc. 5.2. I have in mind a Bing homage.
I hope to make a second working visit tomorrow.
T o EC2 - at long last for some architecture studies for Asg. 4.
And a reasonable start to the project: the images are currently being evaluated.
I think that is an unexpected bee in the image on the right.
[23May] There is quite a strong shortlist of submissions currently being prepared and the prospect of another visit in a week's time.
To Somerset House for the annual bun-fight of booths and hype. I reasoned that,
noting the categories and types of photographs that I appreciate might produce some indications on where to take my own work. Blackburn on Photo London 2019
It was well worth a visit and my favourites are here (or they will be when I finish the page).
A graveyard visit has at last occurred, in fact two. Nunhead today (the images will not be processed until Amazon deliver a new SSD backup disk as the current one is full) and Eltham a few days ago, just in case I didn't manage today.
Some new kit was deployed — a pinhole lens cap at Eltham (I took it today but didn't use it) and the Lensbaby Velvet which I have used for some close-ups in Part 4 but not previously outdoors.
On Asg.4, I have yet to make my first visit to the Barbican. I am inclined to follow Schmidt's lead in photographing architectural foreground details with the background revealing the larger context. I might have to extend the project beyond the Barbican, but following the same principle. I have a notion to shoot all the images in vertical format. A similar image to mine of the Barbican water feature appeared in this month's RPS journal in an ARPS distinction panel by André Meyer-Vitali — I'm glad I got there first to avoid the risk of plagiarism.
I noted from a #9 bus this week that an afternoon with a telephoto lens photographing architectural details at roof level for half a mile around Harrod's would be time well spent.
I have not given up on my second string of shadow-oriented images, though I'm not sure where that is going.
It must be time for a new banner — I wonder if the water feature would serve.
Some more experiments with shadows for Asg. 4 have been undertaken and fun was had.
One of my shots for Asg.3 was included in the new edition of fLIP, on the subject of belonging.
I plan on entering another shot from the same day for the next issue on Youth.
I struggle to understand why I do what I do with a camera, both the general (why I set out to photograph things) and the specific (why I choose a particular thing and capture it in a certain way).
I also struggle to identify the concepts and to choose words to describe these activities.
A great help in this regard has been a book I bought on a recent visit to Brighton (or, at least, the first half of it), Stephen Shore's The Nature of Photographs. I describe it here.
Part 4 exercise 5 is now done, but I still have to fill the gaps in earlier exercises now the weather is improving, though I no longer have the M43 long telephoto for the moon shot. I will hold off on Part 5 until that is done, else the danger is that I will never get round to the gaps.
For Asg.4, I have had two ideas so far — architectural, possibly The Barbican channelling Michael Schmidt and/or Atget as in Part 4 Project 2. We took a guided tour of the site last weekend which was very informative. The photographs taken were just snaps on the tour, but here are the contact sheets.
The second idea is playing with shadows in artificial (or even natural, if we ever see the sun) light, as in Part 4 Project 3.
The intention at present is to run both projects in parallel.
I t had to happen - I have bought a used X-T2 from MPB. I was waiting for a 2018 model to arrive and it did this afternoon. Also an 18-135 lens and a macro extension tube as 1. they don't come up often and 2. I am unlikely to spend £999 (the MPB used price) on a Fuji macro lens.
Next on the shopping list when funds allow, a battery grip, a 35mm f/2 and a w/a zoom.
The first draft of the text for Asg. 3 is complete. This assignment must be submitted on paper and my old £30 printer/scanner is not up to the task of printing B&W, so I took up a recommendation in the OCA chat and tried DS Colour Labs. Their basic print service is good value (roughly £5 for 8 A4 prints plus £5 postage) and it's pretty quick, but they chopped of my black borders top and bottom. Fair enough, it was my fault — I sent them in 4x3 format and should have padded them to A4 AND added extra white border, but in my naivety, I assumed their automated process would "resize to fit" the paper: if I had programmed it, that's how it would work.
I tried Snappy Snaps on my High Street today and they wanted £10 per print (£7 each for 8), compared to 65p for DS Labs, so I have reformatted and tried again with DSCL.
I am still hovering on buying a s/h Fuji X-T2: the prices at MPB are rising.
A good day out on what is probably the penultimate shoot for Asg. 3.
I am working on the text for Asg.3 which is due in on 1st March. I decided early on to shoot the set in black and white, largely because, being of a certain age, I perceive "serious" documentary photography as being monochrome. I need to justify this decision in academic terms and there will not really be sufficient text allowance to do so in the 1,000 words allowed for the assignment and so I'll do it here at greater length.
David Bate (2016, pp. 74-75) notes that documentary photography in the 1970s “stayed steadfastly a black-and-white world ” to distinguish itself from advertising and commercial photography. Colour was regarded as too “easy, superficial and cosmetic”. By the 1980s, however, as newspapers moved to colour images (and although Bate does not mention it, I would also cite the influence of colour television in the early 1970s and the enabling technology of new printing methods led by the Murdoch titles as the newspaper press left Fleet Street in the late 1980s) and he describes a "new reality" of the acceptance of colour documentary photography.
Bates also cites the increasing use of colour in amateur snapshots as leading to the normalisation and expectation of the use of colour in documentary photography. He notes that documentary shots were being absorbed into the art world at the same time as pioneers such as Eggleston and Goldin were introducing colour and a "snapshot-based aesthetic". Then in the 1990s (following Stephen Shore's large format urban street photography of the 70s) the use of medium and large format colour for documentary work establishes a link between Atget's images at the beginning of the 20th century and Gursky and the German School at its end. And let's not forget (though not in Bate's sweep) Tina Barney's large format snapshots to round off the survey.
This has become the theme of Asg. 3 which is due to be submitted on 1st March. It is time for a summary of the events in prospect: this was last done on 27th December.
Parliament - this is an ongoing circus. There are no further visits currently planned.
veggies.org.uk highlights a demo every Saturday outside Canada Goose, 244 Regent Street. I'll try to get to one of these.
networkforpeace.org.uk lists a regular women only (preferably wearing black) demo at the Edith Cavell Statue near St Martin in the Fields. I tried this the first week in January, but no-one came. I'll try again - 6th Feb is noted on the web site.
The Humanists next BBC demo is 14th Feb.
DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) notes a protest 12.30-1.30 outside the Holborn family court on the first Weds of every month. I'll write to introduce myself. The next should be 6th Feb and I have taken the day off work.
The High Street time lapse was accomplished for Part 4 Exc 4.2/3
Two great pieces of news today.
1. Darkroom London are running a Direct Positive Workshop,
Have you always wanted to use a large format camera? The ones with bellows that you have to crouch under a black cloth with a magnifying glass to use? Come and try it out and make portraits and/or still life shots on Harman Direct Positive paper.
By loading the camera with this positive paper you cut out having to use film and jump straight to the magic of seeing that darkroom print emerge. The king of analogue cameras, the magic of the darkroom and beautiful rich fibre-based black & white prints to take home with you!
In this three-hour workshop you will learn how to use a classic plate camera and be introduced the fundamentals of print development in the red light zone. Darkroom London
I have booked for the afternoon session, 16th Feb. The other two slots were full, less than an hour after the email went out.
2. I have had my assignment from the Art UK photographing sculptures project. I own Greenwich.
I happened to be in the NPG today for other purposes and so took in the Taylor Wessing show. It was better than I expected: I am working on a review here.
I walked to the High Street, considering taking my time laps for Exercise 4.2/4.3, but although there was strong wind, the sky was leaden and featureless. Another day.
I might head back to Parliament Square on Tuesday as things are heating up on the Brexit front and there might be some activity suitable for Assignment 3.
A funpacked day today with an OCA group visit the the Wellcome Collection Housing exhibition (including a fine Gursky), with a minor demonstration, plus scuffles in Trafalgar Square and then the protesters at Zimbabwe House.
A trial run for the High Street time lapse for Exercise 4.2 in my front garden tonight was quite successful. More details here.
As I happened to be on the Hight Street today, I tried out some old glass with a new Olympus OM to M4/3 converter, a Zuiko 200mm f/4 (so 400mm equivalent). It is too long for my Hopper shot for Ex4.2, but works very well with the G80. I have a Sigma 400mm OM mount for the moon shot, just need a moon.
There was a small demo by right-wing yellow-jackets in Parliament Square today.
There is probably a vigil tonight and I'll be there if it doesn't rain.
[4Jan] Noshow on the vigil last night, I'll try again. It was a new experience and quite fun shooting at night though.
There is something, satisfying, decisive and nostalgically reassuring about the clunk of the mirror on an SLR, and so it was as I took the Nikon D300 out on two ventures today. An early morning foray for Assignment 3 to rail stations to photograph two barely perceptible leafleting initiatives against the fare rises and a forlorn attempt later that day to make Eltham High Street interesting for Exercise 4.2.
I had forgotten that Boxing Day is traditionally a red-letter day for foxhunters and thus also for saboteurs. I was therefore surprised to find in the Times that a "sab" had been attacked in Eltham, Kent. I live in Eltham (very close to) Kent and therefore misread it at first.
In Eltham, Kent, a saboteur’s eye socket was broken when more than 100 people turned out to oppose the East Kent with West Street Hunt. Saboteurs said that the victim had been thrown in front of a car, punched and kicked by at least two men. A man was arrested on suspicion of assault. The Times, 27 Dec 18
More mundanely, but a lot more locally, there will be protests about the rises in rail fares at both Eltham and New Eltham stations on 2nd January. I will be at one or possibly both if I remember to get up for 7.
Finally, I have completed Exercise 4.1 today. Jolly good it was too.
And one of the London branches of the Humanists pickets the BBC at Portland Place every month in favour of inclusion in BBC R4's Thought for the Day on the Today Programme. Next one Tuesday 8th.
DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) notes a protest 12.30-1.30 outside the Holborn family court on the first Weds of every month. I'll write to introduce myself.
I have received a positive reply from the WIB vigil group for 3rd January. No replies from the Mayor or the Met. [7Jan19] A reply from the mayor - nothing to offer.
Further to this project which centres on marches, vigils and the like, as a person with a keen interest in national politics, I would like to extend the notion to politicians in action. I have written to the Labour, Conservative, LibDem and Green parties asking whether it is possible to get notification of speeches in the London area I could attend.
Other students (see the Links) are much better at finding and citing photographers that have influenced or inspired their various assignments. I think this adds authority, heft and an air of academic gravitas to their work. For Asg.3, given the context in the course and the title, The Decisive Moment, the obvious starting point is Cartier-Bresson, though while the images I have taken so far are on the street, they are chasing targets rather than the result of flâneurism: in Part 3, commenting on the Cartier-Bresson documentary, L'amour tout court, it was noted that at 1:01 he says, "It's always luck. It's luck that matters. If you want it you'll get nothing. Just be receptive and it happens."
The same applies to other toilers in C-B's field such as Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis (although in these cases there was more posing and even hiring of subjects), but really what I am aiming for is the documentary output of an anonymous jobbing newspaper photographer. Perhaps Ian Bradshaw and his great streaker shot would be more appropriate.
One influence I did have in mind on the outings so far was Weegee's alleged advice, "f/8 and be there". I did indeed spend a lot of the time in f/8 on the basis that this would give a usable depth of field and shutter speed on a reasonably bright day with the ISO set to max 1600. I was reading (i.e. surfing) around the subject today and found a blog at Jason D. Little's site lightstalking where the principle is discussed. It more-or-less concurs and also bangs on about zone focussing. There is an interesting reply posted by Robert Fisher in August 2017,
Unfortunately, as with the equally famous ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough…” quote, this one from Fellig has been equally misinterpreted.
Fellig worked with a 4×5 Speed Graphic, not a 35mm camera. He used a 127mm lens, not a 35mm, although the two have roughly the same angle of view. He used an aperture of f/16; which is close to the same 7’ DoF as f/4.5 on a 35mm camera, not to f/8. He also set a focus distance of 10 feet.
The settings Fellig used really don’t correlate to the way the the concept has been interpreted over the years. It really isn’t a mantra for zone focusing, and if he even ever made the statement, it was quite possibly an off-the-cuff remark intended to be humorous. Robert Fisher
I have been contemplating a macro lens during the Olympus Cashback offer. The new AmPhot has one of their periodic second-hand gear articles which always suck me in. In the camera cupboard there is a lovely Nikon D300, 3 lenses and accessories and this time they are recommending the D600 (5-600 notes) and the Canon 6D (same price). They are both 2012 models. I had just about decided to get a D600 (24MP, two card slots) but then got to Ken Rockwell's review of the 6D, which he much prefers. I have never owned a Canon, and therefore have no suitable lenses in that cupboard, so that will drive the price up, and while it is 20MP, it only has one card slot. So I have just about resisted the urge. If the 6D had had two slots, I'm pretty certain I would have gone for it. I love toys.
As noted elsewhere, finding demonstrations to photograph is not easy. I have today written to City Hall and Scotland Yard asking if they maintain online lists of requests for permission.
A couple of smaller events I have found online:
1. veggies.org.uk highlights a demo every Saturday outside Canada Goose, 244 Regent Street.
2. networkforpeace.org.uk lists a regular women only (preferably wearing black) demo at the Edith Cavell Statue near St Martin in the Fields.
3. And that reminds me, I have often passed demonstrators outside Zimbabwe House on the Strand. I'll look into that - details here - every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 .
There's another tutor-led-visit on 12th January to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Three other EyV snappers have applied - on the first one I attended at Canary Wharf were one sculptor, one textilist and one fine arter.
Last night's BBC Newsnight reported on Justice for Women and Children the "first female-led group with links to the far right". Their demonstrations are in the North and so cannot be a target subject but the report also included the Football Lads Alliance who do demonstrate locally. I had a look on the web, rather warily, and found some opposition groups, notably the Anti-Fascist Network, with which I am rather more comfortable. It is likely that wherever the FLA demonstrates, the A-FN is likely to turn up too, so there may be some photo opportunities.
I have received a positive reply from the WIB vigil group for 3rd January. No replies from the Mayor or the Met. [7Jan19] A reply from the mayor - nothing to offer.
To town again, snapping just off ParlSq, specifically trying to get some shots of the demonstrators trying to get their banners into the background of TV interviews. This is happening less these days because the tent village of the broadcasters has been cordoned-off from most of the protesters, though their leader (Steve) seems to be tolerated, even with his extended placard pole.
Well, here's a thing, I have been spotted on YouTube photographing yesterday. The commentator is Jonathan Pie. Here's a snap and here's a link (skipping to 2:30 is recommended, bad language alert for the sensitive).
Having decided to try photographing rallies and demonstrations and reluctantly concluded that a weekend in Paris snapping the gilet jaunes was too extravagant, a trip to town to see both sides of the Brexit debate marching in Whitehall was the next best thing.
The first problem was getting any information on what was happening and where. One might think that the Met Police and/or City Hall night have useful web pages on the subject of upcoming demo's (as, I imagine, both have to approve any such events), but none were found. I might be forced to open a fictitious facebook account and subscribe to left and right wing activist groups to keep on top of this subject.
As, in any case, I am not especially mobile and skipping along beside marches is beyond me, I headed for the destination of both Tommy Robinson's supporters and Momentum's Corbynistas, i.e. Whitehall. And got there far too early. While wandering around, I passed a chap with cameras asking a police Liaison Officer (they wear blue vests, or gilets bleu) for information and so joined in and received four pieces of paper issued under the Public Order Act, 1986. Section 12 of the Act covers marches and s.14 assemblies (the speeches when they get there), see figs. 1-4. They have maps on the back (fig. 5) and indicated that there was to be (what the US military used to call) a DMZ preventing approaches to Downing Street and that the right-wingers would be south of the Zone, and left-wingers north.
On the basis that there are more left-wing than right-wing marches (that is a perception, not a known fact) I first waited on the Tommy Robinson side, took a few photographs, flourished my Student NUJ press pass to enter the press area in front of the podium. An hour later nothing had happened, my knee was seizing up and, judging from the noise, the other march had reached its destination. There was no way through the DMZ and so it was quite a long walk along the Embankment, past a guarded New Scotland Yard to the other side where the speeches were in progress.
I stayed for some shots of the speechmakers and a few of the crowd (including one delightful chap in a purple suit, though I was shooting black-and-white, of course). And some of the defensive line of mounted police on the way back to Trafalgar Square. A quick look at the contacts suggests that there are a few useful shots there.
So what have we learned today?
1. find an information source
2. don't get there too early
3. refine the exposure setting
4. take a long lens too
5. use the motor drive on face shots.
Asg.3, The Decisive Moment, calls for,
Send a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’ to your tutor. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.
You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time. EyV pp. 72-73
I have a plan,