Chlorophyll printing experiment part 3

For part 3 of my chlorophyll printing experiment I chose to restrict myself to 1 high contrast image and only 2 leaves, host and oak leaved hydrangea, as discussed here.  This time I secured the leaves, acetate and glass together using bull dog clips as rubber band used previously had perished. I also resolved to leave them in the greenhouse for longer than the previous experiment; 20 days instead of 10 as in the last trial. In the end, they were only left for 14 days as I wanted to take them with me to the SW meeting yesterday.

I am delighted with the results using the hosta leaf.

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High contrast print on acetate layered with hosta leaf, left in the sun for 14 days

The image of the tree is clear to see and I can even make out the lower contrast areas such as the grass and the clouds.   The oak leaved hydrangea was less successful,  I can just about make out the shape of the bottom of the image but not much more than that.

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High contrast print on acetate layers with oak leaved hydrangea leaf left in the sun for 14 days

This is a much courser leaf which changes with the seasons in a very different way from the softer hosta leaf and as I’m not a scientist, I don’t know what impact that might have but for now, the hydrangea leaf is going back in the greenhouse until we come back from holiday on 4th August.

Just wondering what other leaves I could use,  maybe cabbage or even rhubarb!

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Another excellent SW OCA Meeting

Our venue this month was the lovely new library and information centre in the centre of Paignton with plenty of parking nearby, although some of us cheated and took advantage of free parking a couple of streets away at Anna’s house.

Seven students from various disciplines, met with OCA tutor Steven Monger, a man with many titles as became apparent in his introduction when he talked about his different labels and titles and the shifting boundaries of practice.  ‘Was it graphic design, photography or illustration?’ he asked. The similarities and blurring of boundaries became apparent when he showed us some of the work of his MA students; a set of balancing blocks which looked for all the world like peeled potatoes ready for the pot, printmaking tests made with conductive ink, or perhaps most intriguing of all, Merging Cups – Working Together, which can be seen at https://vimeo.com/259609267 and is described on the Vimeo site as ‘Metaphorical ways on showing the process of working together. The challenge is to finish the drink, drinking alone is not allowed’.

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© Steven Monger from Box Scans

Steven went on to share some of his own work which emphasised his point about shifting boundaries. His 1995 degree show work, ‘Box Scans’ shows images made by constructing boxes that are then attached to desk top scanners and filled with various items found in his garden, plant material, a snail shell, a ring-pull from a can. His obvious interest in architecture, apparent in the next project he showed, entitled ‘Urban Documents’, evidently stemmed from this project.

Urban Documents is a fascinating project and consists of photographs of actual buildings as well as cardboard models that have been adapted and added to over time.

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Stephen Monger Urban Landscape Project

The only way I could tell that the photographs shown to us were of models rather than the actual building was the absence of the normal grime and litter you might expect to see around such old buildings.  Steve’s meticulous attention to detail as well as creative use of material is evident, till receipts were rolled to construct down pipes and the glass in the windows fashioned from the plastic film from take away sandwich wrappers.

After coffee Steve put us to work developing a manifesto for our group. We started by responding to 5 questions:

  • Describe what you do in one sentence
  • Describe creative thinking in one sentence
  • Where are your boundaries of practice?
  • What is risk taking?
  • What are your outliers? (described in Steve’s overhead as a source of intrigue, possibility or challenge)

Anna then donned the mantel of ‘teacher’ and collated the responses from which, after much discussion about wording, our manifesto was developed:

  • We challenge, we PLAY, we provoke

  • Creative thinking blasts protocols and asks What if….?

  • Our boundaries transcend driverless cars

  • Risk taking acknowledges the benefits of failure and the rewards of chance

After lunch, I kicked off the ‘stuckness’ session sharing my initial thoughts for Landscape assignment 1, the theme of which is ‘Beauty and the Sublime’. I had taken photographs taken at Gloucester prison which closed in 2013 and asked, do these photographs portray a sense of being trapped, does this constitute landscape and does the mesh work?14.07.18-3962

Steven’s view was that I needed to experiment further and decide on my voice; either closer or further away. For some the mesh worked, others were not so sure but yes, it constituted landscape.

Sue came next and started with an amazing drawing of a hand, holding the top of a biro (which I failed to photograph!) She explained that she had also produced an electronic book of her work which she called ‘3 acts in a biro’s life’.  Sue showed experiments using ink and cyanotypes photographed over a period of time and explained that her ideas were about interactivity – celebrating the things we take for granted such as printers, scanner, copier etc. Really creative work that we were all envious of.

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Anna’s Rocks Rock

Anna is extending her level 3 body of work by focusing on the therapeutic effect of prison gardens and is interested in the work being done at LandWorks where prisoners are trained and rehabilitated through land-based projects.  Anna likened rocks to people because of the clashes and crashes they, like us, go though.  We tend to cover over our fault lines whilst in rocks, they remain exposed.   She has abandoned the pixel stretching, shown at previous meetings because this results in imposed lines and her current experiment involves tracing the natural lines of the fault.  Steve was particularly interesting in some of the small marks and felt there was scope for further development. The general consensus was that the work needed to be much larger as A4 did not do it justice.

Derek has revisited his ‘Decisive Moment’ assignment and brought his tablet along to show some new images he had taken for this project. He explained that he has been experimenting with street photography, which is outside his comfort zone and all agreed this had resulted in some really interesting photographs with lots of potential. For me, some of Derek’s images portray the surreal rather than the decisive moment but this is such as subjective area and Derek is keen to keep some of himself in his work, as indeed we all should.

Diane, who had recently been brave enough to take part in a local exhibition and sold one of her pieces, shared her first portrait with us. Sadly, I did not take a photograph of Diane’s painting either, however looking at the photograph she had worked from, her painting of Bob (the biker) it is a very good likeness.  Sue, also a fine artist, asked her about her process and recommended that if using a photograph, zooming in to the image on a tablet allows you to see more texture, lines etc.  Sue also suggested that Diane go larger and ‘grid’ and that would enable her to get more character in her painting.

Paddy continues to work on her ‘ecopsychology’ project, looking at the disconnect between people and nature.  Steve was interested in her use of black and white and suggested she might try flesh colours and tones.  He also suggested there was more of a power of suggestion in the closer more abstract images

Karen is working on her final assignment for Identity and Place which is focused on homesickness and loss.  She has photographed benches with plaques remembering loved ones who had died and where flowers are laid to remember them.  She has then constructed new photographs using the plaques, flowers and her own old family photographs all bound together with thread.  This is quite a moving and personal project for Karen who lost her mother not long ago and we particularly liked the photograph, above, that included Karen’s father.  Anna recommended a book called ‘Life of Lines’ by Tim Ingold and Steve suggested there may be further research Karen could undertake looking how other people leave memorials like this.

We were reminded that anyone wishing to exhibit in the November exhibition, provisionally called ‘Moving Forward’, send Sue a piece of work so that she can start preparing the publicity material.  November seems a long way away but will be here before we know it!

Many thanks to Steve Monger for his time, wisdom, patience and gentle challenge and questioning and as always to Anna for organising the event.  There is no meeting in August, for which I am relieved as much as I’d have hated to miss it, I could not have faced the M5 on a Saturday in August! It will be interesting to see how everyone has progressed and in some cases, finished their projects when we meet again in September, this time under the guiding hand of Jesse Alexander. For me this will be very relevant as Jesse is the former photography course leader and author of much of the Landscape course.

Sources:

http://www.stephenmonger.com/ [Accessed 15 July 2018]

https://www.landworks.org.uk/ [Accessed 15 June 2018]

Exercise 1.7: Assignment preparation

I have been thinking about assignment 1 whilst working on the last couple of exercise and how now emailed my tutor with my thoughts.

I am very conscious that, up until now, my landscapes have tended to come under the ‘beautiful’ category rather than ‘sublime’ but said at the start of this course that I wanted, wherever possible to step outside of my comfort zone and this seems an ideal place to start.

The location I have in mind is Gloucester prison which closed in 2013 and is currently open to the public for tours.  It has not yet been developed into the tourist attraction that has befallen may of these old jails in fact there are plans to develop it into luxury apartments but there were some archeological remains found when they did the initial survey and further exploration needs to be undertaken before they can apply for planning permission.  Whilst I know that landscape encompasses urban as well as rural spaces and places, does one building or institution such as a prison count as landscape?  This is the question I have asked my tutor.

So why Gloucester prison?  For 20 years, I worked opposite the prison and walked round the perimeter many times so thought I know what there was to know about it.  Last year, I booked a tour with another OCA photography student whose body of work for level 3 was focused around prisons and I was completely overwhelmed, not only by the conditions but also the scale.  I also felt extremely unnerved, particularly when our guide moved out of view, partly for fear of getting lost but partly the knowledge that 121 people were hanged at the prison and some of those are believed to be buried there. I have taken a self guided tour by myself since and still felt quite uneasy.

I have also been inspired by the work of Helen Sear, discussed in my last two posts, here and here and I’m wondering if I can incorporate a lace, or mesh effect in my images to give the sense of foreboding . Helen uses a drawing tablet and pen to create the lace effect and then combines the two images in Photoshop.  My technical ability is not quite at that level so I need to find another way; not yet sure how, but I hope to get some ideas from the South-West group on Saturday. In the meantime, I have tried scanning some images taken on my earlier visits with lace underneath them just to see what the effect would be. I’m not sure that the ‘spider lace’ works that well as the webs are too heavy but maybe a plain black mesh.

 

 

What I’d really like to achieve is the impression of being inside looking out as I in the two following photographs.  Whilst there is a small clear window in the top of some of the cells, from the corridors and open internal spaces, you can only see outside through a grid.

Thinking about Henry Fox Talbot’s piece of black lace, I also tried scanning traditional landscape images with cream lace,  but don’t feel that achieved anything at all, possibly again because the lace is too heavy but I think I need to be clear about what I’m aiming for, for it to work.

 

 

Exercise 1.6: The contemporary abyss

In the opening sentence of  Simon Morley’s article ‘Staring into the contemporary abyss’, the author quotes 18th century essayist, Joseph Addison as describing the sublime as ‘… something that ‘fills the mind with an agreeable kind of horror’’ (Addison, early 18th cited in Morley, 2010).  Given my own personal experiences outlined in my last post, here, this makes complete sense to me, although I see no horror in the work of Helen Sear, also discussed in that post.  Further analysis of the word, based on its Latin route brings me to define sublime as,  ‘up to the limit’ …. but of what? Our imagination – positive? What we can endure – negative?

I also understand the idea of extreme examples of nature, e.g. mountains, oceans, deserts, etc. evoking ‘irrational emotions’.  Perhaps that is why I love the work of Turner and landscape photographer Colin Prior, discussed in an my first exercise, here, with their untamable seas and vast, wild wildernesses.

Morley further tries to clarify the meanings and uses of this word by demonstrating five ways in which it is used:

‘in relation to the problem of the unpresentable in art, and to the experiences of transcendence, terror, the uncanny and altered states of consciousness.’   He also suggests there are ‘two main contexts for such discussions: nature and technology.’ (Morley, 2010)

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Marsyas, Anish Kapoor, 2002

That said, I struggle to see how some of the examples that apparently work for Morley, fit –  ‘Anish Kapoor’s huge maroon trumpet Marsyas 2002′ for example.  So, it’s a big trumpet, but does it evoke terror, the experience of transcendence, the uncanny or an altered state of consciousness?  Not in me.  And what of nature or technology?  I guess the key is that these states are all very personal, so what is sublime to one person won’t be to someone else.

Morley refers to one of Edmund Burke’s  key aspect of the sublime as being ‘the heightened and perversely exalted feeling we often get from being threatened by something beyond our control or understanding’, as being ‘a kind of negative sublime’ (Burke, cited by Morley, 2010), and I can understand that.

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Untitled (Text For Some Place Other Than This) 1996

Douglas Gordon’s  untitled work from ‘Text for somewhere other than  this’, left me feeling confused and slightly disoriented – is this an ‘altered state of consciousness’?

The second part of this exercise is to select a body of work that explores the sublime and discuss this in relation to Simon Morley’s text and for that I’m going back to Helen Sear’s ‘Inside the View’ as I am hoping to use this as an influence for my first assignment. For me,  Sear’s work, discussed here, puts the women in the images right inside the awe-inspiring landscapes, giving an impression of the emotions experienced.  Is she inside of and immersed in the view, or is it inside her head, perhaps a memory from the past, or is she, as David Chandler suggests in his essay ‘Helen Sear: Seeing in the Dark’, perhaps trapped and looking out, perhaps longlingly? (Chandler, 2012).

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Helen Sears, From Inside the View

Certainly, I don’t see these images fitting with Joseph Addison’s definition of the sublime, quoted by Simon Morley, as being ‘an agreeable kind of horror’, unless they spark irrational emotions or fear of the unknown in Sear. Nor do I recognise  Edmund Burke’s belief that “terror is in all cases whatsoever . . . the ruling principle of the sublime” (Burke, On the Sublime, ed. J. T. Bolton. 58). So is this an example of transendence, or an altered states of consiousness?  I’m not sure exactly what it meant by that so I go back to my original assumption that the woman is overwhelmed by what is in front of or around her. Maybe that is the same thing.

 

 

Sources:

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Trying to get me head round ‘sublime’

If you had asked me to define ‘sublime’ before studying this module I would have said something like ‘extreme beauty’ and my go-to dictionary definition is: 1. ‘noble, exalted’. 2. ‘inspiring awe or admiration through grandeur, beauty etc.’ (Collins Pocket English Dictionary, 1986)  Granted, this is an old dictionary given to me some years ago and if I go to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, there is a second definition:

‘1.1 Producing an overwhelming sense of awe or other high emotion through being vast or grand.   ‘a sense of the sublime’’ (Oxford, 2018)

So the key in relation to art seems to be ‘awe or other high emotion…’. Certainly I would never have associated sublime with fear, or dread, nervousness or phobia but Jesse Alexander’s words when discussing his ‘Freestone Quarry’ image in the course materials make a lot of sense when he talks about his own phobia of being underground but was still determined to make the images, and with a large format camera and only natural light must have made executing the project scarier still.   The other thing that struck me in this passage was Alexander’s words about many cultures confronting the sublime as a normal right of passage and this brings to mind some of the painful and barbaric initiation ceremonies still practiced in some countries, that young people have to go through as they pass into adulthood. So sublime is not just about beauty and when it is, it is of a much higher order.

Helen Sear’s work intrigues me and I like the idea of combining nature with, in this case, human subjects.  The course materials talk about Sear painstakingly ‘picking out holes to form an intricate, lace like patina across the surface of the image’  (OCA, 2013).  If I look closely, I can certainly see the lace-like holes in the first of the images below, both of which are from Sear’s ‘Inside the View’, one of the projects referred to in the text, however I think that focusing on the technique is missing the point here.

If my emerging understanding of the sublime is to be trusted, the women depicted in these pictures are inside and totally absorbed by the natural spaces that they are in and I can identify with that.   Talking to tutor Matt White at last week’s MPF visit, I mentioned that I was struggling to get my head round the concept and his question to me was, ‘could I think of a time when I felt totally overwhelmed by a place or an experience?’  Yes I can; childbirth and scuba diving in the Caribbean and although I wouldn’t have missed them for the world I wouldn’t want to repeat either. In each case I was terrified but knew that the results would be amazing and worth the pain and anxiety, which of course they were.

Helen Sear’s work gives me ideas for possible scenario’s for my first assignment, which I need to think through and run past my tutor, but include neither childbirth or scuba diving.  I will need to hone my Photoshop skills too, though not at this stage to the extent of picking out holes in my images!  Helen Sear has an exhibition at Hestercombe House in Somerset starting next week and running until the end of October 18.  The South West OCA group have a mini study day organised for 21st July but unfortunately I will be away.  However the exhibition is very timely for me and I will certainly visit at some point during the summer.

The link to the Tate resources quoted in the course materials, seems no longer to be working, however  I did find information about a Tate project, ‘The Art of the Sublime’, which explores the history and relevance of the sublime, particularly in relation to the Tate collection.  There is a huge resource here which I will explore further in the lead up to my first assignment, including the text-based work by Douglas Gordon, commissioned to be installed alongside ‘The Art of the Sublime’ in 2010. I think at this stage, incorporating text in this way is a stage too far for me but the concept behind Gordon’s thinking and the quotes used are certainly worth exploring further.

Still looking for Assignment 6 topics

When I spoke to Andy, my tutor last week, my subject for assignment 6 was raised.   Andy quite liked one of the ideas I was mulling over as a location, the barn at the end of track in my village.  Astransitions (10 of 15) I explained in my last blog post on the matter, here,  a planning application was submitted for this land back in October 17 but as far as I can see, has not yet been approved, so it may be developed within a fairly short space of time or it may just become more and more overgrown.  He also seemed quite keen for me to explore urban landscapes and when I indicated that I would like to choose a location where I had no idea what the changes would be, he suggested I explore the ‘Flaneur Society’, the work of Walter Benjamin and the concept of the ‘wanderer’.  I have not come across this before but found a lot about it on the internet, including a couple of definitions, so some research to be done here:

‘Flâneur is a French term meaning ‘stroller’ or ‘loafer’ used by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire to identify an observer of modern urban life’  (Tate Website, 2012)

‘A man who saunters around observing society’ (Oxford English Dictionary, 2012)

So the idea is that you basically wander aimlessly and see where it takes you.  The Flaneur’s Society’s little book, ‘A guide to getting lost’, looks interesting too. It basically suggests that you set yourself some rules, e.g. take a bus, get off at the 15th stop, turn left, as soon as you meet someone, turn left again, and so on.  Andy’s suggestion was that I could find a little hidden alley or place of interest that I could then use as my location for assignment 6.  It is my plan this weekend to go and explore in town to see if I can find such a location but in the meantime, I have been to another place I already know quite well and that I think could be worthwhile.

These images were all taken at Newnham on Severn which is about 5 miles from where I live.  The Severn is a tidal river that changes so much and I thought that if I used this location I would set dates and times in advance so that I had different tide times as well as times of day and weather conditions.  I have already decided that I will use only 1 focal length in my images, i.e. 35mm, which equates to 50mm in full frame.  The first 2 images above and the 6th, will show the difference in the river as well as season and the last has the added attraction of the binoculars, which I would leave as found to show the ‘people’ element. The old hut in image 3 looks as though there is work about to start, but talking to a local, it seems there is always work about to start but nothing much happens.  There is potential for  a ‘people’ element in images 4 and 5 as this is a popular place for dog walkers of people just enjoying the view.

As I am advised to have a back up location in case something doesn’t work, I will almost certainly use one of those shown above, just not sure which yet.

Sources:

David Hurn Study Day at the Martin Parr Foundation

I have been to the Martin Parr Foundation a couple of times to see exhibitions but today was special because not only did we have a tour of the MPF but also, the exhibitor, David Hurn himself, joined us for the day.hurn1 (1 of 17)

The exhibition consisted of 40 prints from Hurn’s vast ‘Swaps’ collection accrued over the years and which has recently been donated to the National Museum of Wales.  David explained that in the mid 50s, when he started collecting these pictures, prints were worthless in themselves as there were very few galleries which would exhibit them. The first gallery dedicated exclusively to photography, The Photographers’ Gallery, did not open until 1971 and prior to that, the main outlet for photographs were magazines and Sunday supplements.  David would spend time researching the work of people he admired and ask for specific prints so that his collection consists only of pictures he genuinely loves. Photographers would find this flattering and lifelong  friendships were formed.  He told the story of how he knocked on Bill Brandt’s door, said how much he admired his work and was invited in. This is a very different reception from the one his friend Bill Jay was given when he approached Brandt for an interview, according to Jay’s account of the interview in Occam’s Razor. The difference it seems was that Hurn was able to show he was genuinely interesting in Brandt’s work and what had influenced him. (Jay. 1992).   It wasn’t until much later though, that Hurn had the confidence to offer one of his prints in return for a swap, in fact only after he was invited to join Magnum did he realise how highly thought of his own work was.

hurn1 (2 of 17)David Hurn is quite down to earth with little time for fancy equipment saying that you are better spending your money on a good pair of shoes than a high-end camera. The only difference between expensive and cheaper cameras is the number of pixels; so if you spend £3000 you will be able to make a print the size of a wall, but who wants a print that big, he asks?  This reminds me of  Matt Stuart’s quote:

‘Buy a good pair of comfortable shoes, have a camera around your neck at all times, keep your elbows in, be patient, optimistic and don’t forget to smile’ (Stuart, date unknown)

Hurn’s advice to would be photographers is to:

  • ‘get off our backsides and go out and take pictures, lots of them, that’s how you get better’. 
  • there are only 2 things  you need to think about, where you should stand and when you should press the button’. 
  • ‘if you want less in your picture, move forward, if you want more, move further away’
  • ‘you need knowledge about your subject matter, for example, when is this flower in bloom and where?’
  • ‘you need to be in love with your subject matter, not with photography’
  • ‘go and look at pictures, all kinds of pictures not just those you like – you learn more from pictures you dislike if you try to analyse why’

David suggested that we could all build a collection of pictures we liked but swapping with other students but warned only to swap/request pictures we actually liked.  What a good idea. Two of the images I would choose for my ‘swaps’ collection:

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Bruce Davidson, Welsh Miners, 1965

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Matt Stuart, Charterhouse Street, London, 2004

I would like to have been a fly on the inside of David Hurn’s head during the afternoon session because the work brought by students to share and seek views on was at the opposite end of the photographic spectrum from Hurn’s own work or the photographs in his ‘swaps’ collection.  Very contemporary, where Hurn’s is traditional, very creative, where Hurn’s is straight, lots of manipulation, where Hurn’s is ‘as shot’. Sadly I had to leave for my train before Amano showed his work but I suspect from the little I saw that it was more likely to have been to David Hurn’s taste than some of the more contemporary work.  This was a really interesting morning which provided much food for thought which I will mull over and reflect on separately.

The tour of the Martin Parr Foundation was something else not to be missed. I had not realised just how much, in terms of Parr’s life work is housed in these few rooms and the practical, analytical side of me came away wondering about the complexity of ensuring the safety and security of such an archive – the Glasgow School of Art comes to mind!

We started off in the temperature-controlled archive which houses the collection of work and the server on which all of Parr’s digital images are stored, off this is another, smaller room, this time humidity controlled, which houses all of Martin Parr’s contact sheets.

Nathan, who showed us round explained the cataloguing process and was able to pull out the file containing all of the contacts prints from ‘The Last Resort’.  From there we moved into the library.  I knew that Martin Parr had partly sold and partly donated his collection of photo books to the Tate, what I didn’t know that he had purchased Chris Killip’s collection of photobooks and this will form the basis of the library at MPF, which will eventually be accessible by members once their membership scheme is launched later this year.  This is quite an extensive and varied collection which they are still in the process of cataloguing and will I’m sure be an excellent resource once it becomes available.hurn1 (9 of 17)

From here we moved through to the studio, where as well as the usual computer workstations, huge work benches fill the centre of the room and the largest printer I have ever seen occupied most of the rear wall.  hurn1 (13 of 17)More shelves, this time with all of the original prints from Parr’s numerous projects but the thing that interested me most was the original handmade book  from which Chris Killip’s ‘In Flagrante’ was produced; full sized and with exactly the right space in the centre where images had to be split over 2 pages so that when the published version of the book was opened, none of the image was lost.

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There is apparently a newer version, In Flagrante 2, which is wider  enabling the larger images to be included on one page but I have to say that I preferred the original, it is more tactile somehow.  The handmade book is something for my swipe file, relatively easy to make as the full sized pages are taped together in a concertina style, enabling you to see exactly what the printed version will be like.

And tucked away round the corner…. hurn1 (16 of 17)

… maybe I will even manage to persuade my husband to become a member of MPF once the membership scheme is launched!

An excellent day, very hot walking from the railway station and back, only to find that my train was 45 minutes late but that gave me mull over and absorb what I had seen. I will definitely make the journey to Cardiff to see the rest of David Hurn’s collection before too long.

Sources: