Assignment 2 preparation – contact sheets

The more I think about this assignment the more I realise that I am over complicating things. I have set myself too rigid a framework within which to work with too many rules, which makes the whole project more difficult to manage and more things to go wrong. One of my aims was to take more risks, relinquish control and work more freely and to leave more to chance. So the resulting images would effectively be a by-product of the process, the means being more important than the end. That is quite a scary thought for me and my natural instinct to take control has got the better of me.

So attached are my contact sheets of the RAW unedited images. There are two sets, one  for the journey from Gloucester to Cardiff and the other, the return journey.  My instinct is to go through and pick draw up a shortlist of the best photographs from each trip and from that, choose my final 12.  What I’m going to do though, is attempt to map out those photographs taken were I planned to take them using a google map screenshot of the trip and the National Rail timetable for the journey.

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From this longlist I will then select my shortlist and see what I have.  I may still retake this trip with a simpler set of rules but will wait for feedback from my tutor before making that decision.  Here are the contact sheets.

Journey from Gloucester to Cardiff

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Return journey from Cardiff to Gloucester

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Assignment 2 preparation – the best laid plans….

Today was the day I planned to make my journey for assignment 2. It had to either be this week or wait until the beginning of December before I had another opportunity.  Bearing in mind that the dummy run was made on a very sunny day, I had chosen today as the weather forecast was overcast with some sunny spells.  I would take the same train at the same time, the 8:58 to Maesteg, as I knew where the sun would be and as far as possible sit in the same forward facing position. I am still in the process of writing up the background and context to the assignment but having done my research, had made the following decisions:

  • Focal length would be fixed at 35mm (50mm equivalent on full frame) and pretty much what I would see with the naked eye.
  • Shutter speed at 1/8 sec because I wanted to intentionally blur the images
  • Aperture f/8
  • Auto ISO
  • Focus set to manual at 10 meters
  • Apart from the first and last photographs which would be taken on the station platform, all photographs would be taken from my seat
  • I did not mind the window frame of the train being in the photographs because that is part of my experience of the journey as are the dirty windows
  • I recorded all of the station stops in my note-book and tried to estimate the best time to take a photographs midway between stations and just before arriving and just after leaving in order to get a mix of landscape and edgelands
  • I would resist taking extra photographs in between these stated times just because I saw something that I thought might be interesting.

My first problem was that the 08.58 train to Maesteg was cancelled so I had to make a decision about which alternative train to take.  One went via Bristol, the journey was half as long again and for the majority of this time we would be travelling into the sun. A second option was the Nottingham to Cardiff train which travelled on the preferred route but with far fewer stops so my concern was whether or not I would have enough variety.  In the end, I opted for the next Maesteg train which left Gloucester at 10:58, so 2 hours later than my original choice.

My first problem was getting a forward facing seat with enough window beside me to be able to take photographs.  The coach where I would have been able to do this consisted mainly of pre-booked seats and as my train had been cancelled….. In the end I got a seat but on the opposite side of the train from where I really wanted to be.

My next issue was the sun. There was a lot more of it than forecast and being 2 hours later it was much higher in the sky and even on the right hand side of the train, created a lot of glare.

Most of the photographs appeared to be over exposed. I’m not entirely sure why but rather than just going with the flow, I started fiddling with the settings and ended up ignoring the timings I had set myself. I also found that the focal length and f-stop had slipped even though I had taped them in place.

I also felt that the manual focus was not set to the right distance as even in the stations when stationary, nothing was sharp.

I decided there and then to have a coffee, check all my settings and re-shoot on the way home which is what I did.

I couldn’t quite understand why every thing was over exposed when the only movable feast was the auto ISO setting and the exposure setting.  During my coffee break, I discovered that there are 3 settings for auto exposure on my camera and each of them are user definable set to a default setting.  I was using ‘Auto Exposure 1’, which was set to:

  • default sensitivity 200
  • max sensitivity 800
  • min shutter speed 1/15

I am making the assumption that as I had set the shutter speed to 1/8, slower than the minimum for this auto ISO setting, this may have over ridden the default and caused my images to over expose.  I’m not sure about this though and will check with the Fuji help on twitter.  I reset Auto Exposure 1 to read:

  • default sensitivity 200
  • max sensitivity 800
  • min shutter speed 1/4 sec

The other possibility was that I was using the wrong exposure meter setting. This is something that I had working perfectly on my old Nikon DSLR but have never quite mastered on the Fuji mirrorless.  If I am taking a photograph from inside the train looking out, where will the meter take the reading from?  Something else I need to check.

So  for the return journey, which was the 14.45 Cardiff to Nottingham service and a much faster train stopping at fewer stations I set the camera at:

  • Focal length 35mm
  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter speed at 1/8 sec
  • Auto ISO set to 5 meters
  • I would go with these settings regardless and not check my images in between taking them

This was a busier train than on the outward journey but I managed to get a forward facing seat on the side of the train I wanted.

On first inspection, the images are slightly better but I wont know until I have uploaded them onto the computer and looked at them properly, which I hope to do later today.

 

Osmosis exhibit finished

They do say that 80% of the time goes into 20% of the outcome and that has certainly been the case for my contribution to OCA South West student exhibition.  I thought I was just about finished when I made my prototype, here, all I needed to do was prepare another folded book, print some more photographs and stick it all together.

In the meantime I have bought a new Canon photo printer and discovered that a local office supplier stocks Canon photo paper in a 13 x 13 cm (5 x 5 inches) size which was perfect for my 6 x 6 inch pages. This is only available, or at least stocked, in glossy, which wasn’t really what I wanted but decided to give it a go. I had planned printing on 7 x 5 inch paper but this saved some money and I thought would also save some trimming, although that turned out not to be the case.  The standard sizes of Canon paper on the printer does not include 5 x 5 inch, however there is a custom setting which enabled me to set this up.  For some reason it does not allow me to print borderless prints when using a custom setting so I still had to trim the prints.

In my earlier post I talked about removing the cover but wasn’t sure how I was going to complete the circle. In the end, I have left a single sheet at the end, which can be slipped inside the first 2 pages, thus creating a 6 point star. These pages can be secured by small magnets for the exhibition. It also means that when not displayed it can be folded flat.  I will continue to think about how best to include a cover when I come to submit for assessment.

The general consensus at our last OCA SW meeting was that an artist’s statement either wasn’t needed or wouldn’t  be appropriate for the way the work was being presented for the exhibition.  This is all quite timely as I have just been reading in part 2 of the coursework about text in art, as an additional or alternative means of expression – so I have written a poem, the lines of which are interspersed between the images. When I submit this for assessment as a book, the poem will go at the end.  Something in the back of my mind, probably from school, tells me there should be 4 or 8 lines, I have 6 – maybe should have spoken to a creative writing student!

I had calculated that I needed 8 images and 3 lines of poetry for each side of my book. Wrong, I need either 9 images and 3 lines of poetry or 9 images and 4 lines of poetry as there are 12 pages on each side! This was only discovered when I laid it all out to work out the sequence. As I have plenty of photographs to choose from it is much easier for me to find another 2 photographs than write another 2 lines of poetry!

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Having sorted the sequence, the final stage was to measure out the setting and attach the images and text lines to the pages of the book.

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I started using spray glue but was slightly worried that it might contaminate the outside of the pages and make them stick together when folded so resorted to double sided tape which worked equally well.  A few final tweaks and here is the end result.

And here is my poem:

Feelings of unease and dread assault my mind and fill my head
Bars and fences at every turn, razor wire glinting in the sun
Glimpses of life beyond the walls whilst here within, depression falls
Damaged men in a dysfunctional place repenting for their fall from grace
The sounds and smells of humankind still linger after all this time
Claustrophobia, panic and despair, what I’d give for a breath of clean fresh air

Exercise 2.5: Text in art

For the most part I found it difficult to see art in Richard Long’s text because it mostly  relates to the factual elements of the walk in the title of the piece rather than his feelings about the journey. If it were to accompany a piece of physical artwork maybe that would work for me but the words alone don’t tell me anything about the landscape or the environment.

I have also looked at the three websites mentioned for additional inspiration and I didn’t find any of them particularly inspiring. Ed Ruscha and Barbara Kruger left me cold – I couldn’t even find the relevance to landscape in its broadest sense; maybe I need to be more open minded!!  Mark Titchner’s work interested me more. It is more formal than graffiti and it contains messages that I can understand.  Titchner’s work is displayed on the side of a building or on a billboard so in that respect it is in the landscape or part of it so I can see the relevance there too.

When I started this exercise I could not see me using text as an alternative means of expression but as I think about it I realise that 2 of the images in my assignment 1 work are images of text.

Granted, I have photographed existing text rather than using my own and to my mind these images work in the context of the series, which was about my feelings as I walked round this place. Whether they would work as stand alone images, I’m not sure.

I am currently preparing my assignment 1 work for our South West students’ exhibition which takes place later this month, and having had feedback that an artist’s statement didn’t really work with the display, I have written a poem to support it.  The lines of the poem will be interspersed with the photographs, so to that extent I am already using text as an additional means of expression.

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One artist whose work I have seen recently and who does use text to great effect is Tacita Dean. I was able to visit an exhibition of Dean’s work in the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh a couple of months ago, reflection here, and one series entitled Russian Endings features handwritten notes scribbled over photographs of old postcards which were meant to depict the final scenes of films. In this particular case the words and phrases appeared like directions for the shooting of a film, whilst in other pieces of her work they could be lines from a Shakespeare play. For me, Tacita Dean’s use of text adds something to my interpretation of her work whereas I can’t say that about Ruscha or Kruger.

For the brief observations part of this exercise, I am going back to the dummy run of my assignment 2 journey because I jotted my thoughts down in a notebook throughout the whole trip, initially for the purpose of making decisions when I make the journey for real.

Here are the notes I made:

  • 08.58 to Maesteg from platform 2 – the platform is important because it determines the direction the train goes out of the station and therefore the route it will take.
  • Forward facing seat on the left hand side of the train so that I am facing the direction of travel with the sun behind me and on the platform side for most stations stops.
  • Train calling at Lydney, Chepstow, Caldicot, Severn Junction, Newport and Cardiff Central
  • Journey time 1 hour 14 minutes – if on time!
  • Sun very bright and quite a lot of glare – how to overcome that?
  • Travel on an overcast day, use polariser filter?
  • Train windows dirty – does that matter
  • No control where, on the platform train stops
  • Try taking some photographs across the train to opposite platform – only if no-one sitting in those seats
  • Inside of the train reflects in my images – I quite like that
  • Do I take photographs only in stations or while the train is moving? Both.
  • Technical requirements for when the train is moving, ISO, shutter speed, focus etc.
  • Rules for taking photographs – every so many minutes, try to capture landmarks, every so many miles?

So how could I have made additional observations in line with Long’s practice that I could use as text? I could probably use the notes in italics as they represent facts rather than questions.

I might add:

  • Journey time between station stops
  • What time I got to Cardiff
  • What the weather is like
  • My seat number
  • Whether anybody is sitting next to me

The other thing I did on that dummy run was to record the train noises and conversations of those around me on my phone. What I had in mind here was more to do with a soundtrack should I decide to put the images into an audio visual format, however this could also be used as text accompanying or over some of the images.

Sources:

 

Project: Land Art

I found the introduction to this project slightly confusing because it starts with a distinction between land art and earth art:

Land art – a conceptually based approach to making art  work ‘represents the artists experience of visiting or travelling to or through it (the land)’

Earth art ‘involves direct intervention with, and often the use of, the raw materials of a landscape’  (OCA, 2013) p. 71)

It then goes on to describe Richard Long as a land artist, yet an exhibition I saw recently in which included some of Long’s work and much of the content of his website would suggest to me that he is an earth artist.

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Six Stone Circles, London, 1981 © Richard Long

I first came across Richard Long at one of my fist OCA study visits in April 2016, when I went to see ‘Conceptual Art in Britain, 1964 – 1979’ at Tate Britain, reflection here. One of the exhibits was ‘A line made by walking’, 1967 and it was one of the exhibits I could relate to, partly because of the idea of walking that line enough times to create the path which he then photographed.  Then whilst on holiday in Avignon a couple of months ago, I attended an exhibition in Collection Lambert, the Museum of Contemporary Art, reflected on here, which included work entitled ‘Beyond Landscape’ and within that, black and white photographs by Hamish Fulton and a ‘Slate Path’ by Richard Long.

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From Beyond Landscape, at the Collection Lambert, Avignon, 2018. Featuring Richard Long’s Slate Path

The ‘Snake Path’ fascinated me in particular, though did wonder at the environmental ethics of removing natural material from the landscape for the purpose of creating a gallery exhibit and so Long’s objection to Smithson, Heizer and Christo and Jeanne-Claude surprised me slightly. Granted they are huge, absorbing the land and certainly in Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s case, I would question whether or not they fit into their environment, but pots and kettles came to mind.

I found the talk by Clarrie Wallace, which we were asked to listen to, quite hard work. Although she speaks clearly she talks very quickly, which is a problem for me. It is also almost an hour-long and this is a visual medium, where she is clearly using slides which of course we cannot see. Had the lecture been filmed rather than just recorded, I might have found it easier.  Wallace talks about Long’s early life as an artist, his thinking and influences to his work and some of the rules he set himself, for example, walk 1 mile, take two photographs, one in an upwards direction and one downwards, so although there is a structure and framework to his work, there is also a randomness because he has no idea what he will find.  She goes on to discuss a number of his sculptures, many of which are in the Tate exhibition, Heaven and Earth, which this lecture introduces. I did try to follow the sculptures discussed on Long’s website but this was too difficult because although they come under that heading of exhibition, the exhibitions are not named and you have to go into each of the images in turn.

So what did I get from this lecture?  It is clear that Long’s art is driven by a love of nature and walking and his direct experience of the land. Sometimes the walk itself becomes the art for example in his text work.  I can see that Long’s work is very different from that of Smithson, Heizer and Christo and Jeanne-Claude in that he is using only natural materials and perhaps doesn’t have the huge budgets which they need for their installations but perhaps that his just sour grapes on Long’s part and I still have an issue with removing the amount material from the landscape which he must need for some of his work. I do like the idea of setting rules such as, walk 1 mile, take to photographs, etc., although it would be a challenge for me as it would mean relinquishing some control.  I also think that there is a lot more research to be done on Richard Long and wonder if this might be an option for my critial review for assignment 4.

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Mondoza walking, Buenos Aires, 2014 © Richard Long

Sean O’Hagan’s interview in the Guardian in May 2009, is less in depth than Clarrie Wallace’s lecture but more human too. We learn that Long was thrown out of the West of England Art Collage in 1964 for what we would probably now call contemporary art but back then was seen as madness. From Wallace, we learnt that he then spent two years at St Martin’s School of Art, obviously more innovative and broad-minded than the first, where he flourished and the contemporary nature of his art was embraced.  You get a sence of the person and the passion from the O’Hagan interview, yes, definately more research to be done.

I can see where more conceptual work such as Liz Nicol’s cyanotypes and Ian Brown’s dreamy landscape compilations, where each photograph represents one journey fits with the definition of land art but a search of the Lens Culture site using both categories produced very similar results for both.  Researching this also drew my mind back to my dummy run for assignment 2.  I was concerned that the photographs I have taken were marred because of dirty train windows, the glare of the sun and not being in control when taking photographs when the train was moving, however I got very positive feedback from fellow students at last week’s Landscape Hangout. The general feeling was that if I was looking for perfect images then I needed to find a different way of making my journey and that the dirt, glare etc. added another layer of interest to the images. So could these images be described as ‘land art’ even when they were taken from inside the train?  They certainly represent my experience of the journey.

One artist whose work I have seen recently, and whom I feel definitely falls into the category of land art, for some of her recent work at least, is Helen Sear. I visited her ‘Prospect Refuge Hazard 2’ exhibition at Hestercombe in August, here, and went back for the artist’s symposium Disrupted Views, here, in October.

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Caetera Fumus – Durantran Light-box, 210cm x 171cm – 2015 © Helen Sear

Her ‘Greek Goddess’ tree roots and Caetera Fumus, where she has ‘directly intervened with the natural material’ (OCA, 2013), possibly constitute earth art although two videos, that I have watched again since I came home; Wahaha Biota and The Beginning and End of Things are definitely land art for me.

Wahaha Biota is a 28 minute long video resulting from a year-long art residency in Dalby Forest, where Sear followed and filmed the management of the forest from ploughing and cutting, to planting saplings, to the gamekeeper doing his rounds, to a young deer being cleaned and gutted.  The sound track is a mix of natural noises; birdsong etc., and lyrics from some of the many artists who have played in the forest.  I found this film mesmerizing.   The Beginning and End of Things   is projected onto the bare floor boards which, I thought added to the effect.  I imagine it is a mix of 2 films, one up into the tree canopy and the other into a moving pond.  Again, I couldn’t peal my eyes away from the film.  There are still a number of videos on Helen Sear’s website that I am slowly working my way through.

I have found this project really interesting with so many ways of bringing nature and natural experiences into art. The problem I have with research such as this is that I have a tendency to get drawn into it and forget to move on.

Sources:

Reflection on ‘As I walked out…’

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was re-reading Laurie Lee’s ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’, here,  and what a gentle relief it was compared to some of the heavier text we are required to read for the course. Now that I have finished, I thought a brief reflection was in order because it struck a chord with me on so many levels.

I said initially that his language, described by Robert MacFarlane (MacFarlane, 2014, p. x) in his introduction to the book as ‘voluptuous’ enabled me to see, feel and smell Lees experiences and he set of on his journey, initially to London and then to Spain, where he travelled, or more precisely, walked, and lived for a year, until the start of the Spanish Civil war.  Lee’s mastery of language takes you with him on this journey. You feel the heat and the cold, smell the smells, taste the revolting but none the less, sustaining food, experience the welcome and generosity of the locals, feel the fear, hear the music, in a way that few other authors are able to get across in their work.

Two things struck me about this. Firstly, Laurie Lee set out on this journey in 1934 but he didn’t write about it until 1969.  So this journey and the experiences it generated were such a huge part of his life and so indelibly ingrained in this mind that he was able to write about it in such detail, 35 years later. Maybe he had kept detailed notes and maybe there is an element of fiction intertwined with the fact but either way, I find that quite remarkable.  The second point is that Lee was able to paint this picture with words whereas I have to paint the picture of my journey with photographs and relatively few photographs at that, so they have to be good and they have to be chosen carefully so that not only do they tell a story that means something to me, other people have to be able to follow my journey too.

No pressure then!

Source:

Lee, L. (2014) As I walked out one midsummer morning. (s.l.): Penguin Books.

 

 

Exercise 2.4: Is appropriation appropriate?

This is a timely exercise for me because earlier this week I was attempting to map the train journey I made from Gloucester to Cardiff for the Artes Mundi exhibition last Saturday and I have to say it wasn’t that easy. I kept getting as far as Newport and getting asked to start again!  I hadn’t considered Google images as being appropriated as photographs or art though and my initial reaction when I read this section of the materials was no, appropriation is not appropriate, or at least not for me.  But then, what was I going to do with my map if not include is as part of my assignment? As I read Geoff Dyer’s article I began to think about this further and my next reaction was, so what right does Google have to film everything and everybody and track our every online movement in the way it does anyway?  Perhaps they do legally, but morally?

Geoff Dyer only became aware of the practice of appropriating Street View images when Michael Wolf’s work was acknowledged in the World Press Awards and in the short video, linked from Dyer’s article, here, Wolf talks about moving to Paris when his wife was offered a job there but didn’t like with the city and started exploring Paris and other cities through Google Street View.  He started photographing the images on his computer and applied his own crops making them, in his view, his own photographs.  He justifies appropriating Google’s images as this has been commonplace through photographic history and responds to critics by saying that they are not familiar with the history of appropriation in art.

Wolf raises a point that had already occurred to me and is the focus of the second ‘WeAreOca’ post we are asked to read; that of copyright, because as Wolf explains, ‘Google have very deep pockets‘ (Wolf, 2011) He explored this and found a statement in 2009 saying that Google would not pursue anyone using Google images for artistic purposes.  This must have been a frequently asked question because they updated their guidance earlier this year stating that as long as Google’s terms and conditions are followed and they are credited appropriately, we are free to use Google Maps. Google Earth and Street View in ‘creative applications’ for ‘non commercial purposes’.

The interpretation of whether appropriated work falls under the ‘fair use’ clause of copyright law seems to depend on the amount that the original photograph is altered by the artist. My thoughts on that are that the law differs from one country to another and that it changes and is updated, or at least re-defined continually so is something that you constantly need to be aware of and keep on top of.

When you look at Michael Wolf’s photographs it is very obvious that he has put his own stamp on them. They look more like CCTV images than Street View images; severe crops focusing on a small part of the original image and because of this quite out of focus.  Wolf apparently spent about 500 hours over a period of 6 months working in this way because he wanted to go through each image in detail looking for ‘his’ picture, after which time he decided he had spent long enough in front of a computer screen!

By contrast, Jon Rathman’s photographs look as more like screen prints taken directly from Google Street View, some even still including the tell tale arrows on the street. He has chosen the quirky things he wants to show but you don’t get the feeling that he has done anything different with them. Dyer makes the point that some of his images show crops from some of the same views as Wolf’s but if, as Wolf says, there is a band of photographers following Google closely for anything new that comes up, this is not surprising.

Doug Rickard’s work is different again. Like Wolf, he trawls through Google images on his screen but rather than looking for quirky or unusual, he selects work that he feels depicts the ‘forgotten, economically devastated, and largely abandoned places’ (Rickard. 2011) much in the way that Walker Evans or Robert Frank photographed the poor.  Having found photographs he likes, he re-composes them then photographs them again emphasising the low resolution and pixelated effect and although he often includes people in his pictures, he anonomises them by blurring their faces.  Rickard sees his work very much as art and this is supported by  the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art where some of his images are in their permanent collection.

I wasn’t surprised, reading the WeAreOca post that photographs were being used in tapestry because this medium has been used for centuries to depict historical scenes as works of art and if photographs are to be appropriate by other photographers why not people working in textiles. What I hadn’t thought about was Marc Quinn’s idea that pixelation in a photograph being very similar to the stitches created in tapestry or any other form of embroidery for that matter.

Update

Since starting this post I have explored Google Maps a little more and have discovered how easy it is to map a train journey by simply adding my destination and starting point and selecting public transport from the means of travel, it even gives me different routes to select from depending on which train company I use!

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Sources: