TYB : Pleyber-Christ

Two days before setting off to France to put the TYB exhibition up, I’ve had a last minute phone call from the mairie’s office in Pleyber-Christ - they will be able to participate after all, putting the photograph up in their mediathèque. That means I have 11 locations and an updated map. I’ve also been able to update the poster I want to put up in the tourist information offices, etc. and have updated the press release pdf, although I doubt I’ll be sending it out anywhere else. Pleyber-Christ won’t be getting a mention on the radio though, the interview with my wife (I’m too English...) should be airing today (31st March), with the soundbite hopefully also being available on the RMN FM website.

(note - entry typed on the 31/3, but not uploaded due to lack of Internet connection)


Well, today I’m moving and won’t have broadband reconnected for 2 weeks.


I’ll have to see what I can do about connecting and updating and stuff - iPad in spurious locations will be the way I’ll have to achieve that, I’m guessing I’ll be somewhat quiet though.

Where the heart is: US photographer Robert Adams heads home – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

Perhaps the salient thing about food, from a photographer’s point of view, is that it doesn’t last. Even the most gorgeous, curvaceous pepper – those shot by Edward Weston in 1930 are among the camera’s greatest still lifes – must either be chopped up and eaten, or rot.

Well, for some reason, the Guardian didn’t ask me, but then that maybe because I’ve been less than complementary about some of Jonathan Jones’ views about photography in the past… Well, maybe not. Here’s my contribution anyway, from the project Andy Warhol’s Dead – a photographic study of 32 different tomato soup tins. I’ll still only eat “normal” Heinz tomato soup.
Tomato Soup

Source: From Ansel Adams to Stephen Shore: famous photographers shoot their favourite food | Life and style | The Guardian

TYB : Facebook

I’ve gone and set up a Facebook page following pressure from Aude at RMN FM… It’s at www.facebook.com/iamRobTM

Beyond the immediate TYB use it will get, I suppose I ought to now include it within my PPP. I’ll try and keep it going.

TYB : further promo... (UK)

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 21.38.07

TYB : Too "English"...

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 20.12.08

“Effectivement Rob a un fort accent anglais. Je pense qu’il serait mieux que ce soit vous, Lory, qui preniez la parole à l’antenne.”

It seems my French is too “English” for the radio... And with that news I breathe a huge sigh of relief as it will be my wife (Lory) who will be giving a 2-minute soundbite to regional Breton radio station RMN FM to promote the upcoming exhibition in Brittany in their cultural segment. Of course, I’ll have to tell her what she has to say.

In addition to the above, I’ve to send some stuff over to the regional newspaper Hebdo du Finistère for inclusion, including an image from the show and a photograph of me. Ha, I’m a photographer, I don’t have images of me...!

I’ve also got the photo call with Le Poher for a piece and have to get in touch with Le Telegramme when we arrive there.

That week is going to be crazy busy!

The road trip... Why?

As we were all sat together looking at our computer screens last week, waiting for the TYB "show and tell" to start, I began wondering why I was so fascinated by the idea of the journey, by the road trip. I'm not sure why I specifically thought about it then, but I did. I also came up with a simple answer: I'm something of an "outsider".

It's a simple and somewhat sweeping generalisation. I'm not really an outsider, I've lived where I do for 10 years or so (but will be hopefully moving soon), and before that I spent the previous 30-odd years living in the bright lights of Blackpool. Clearly I'm not an outsider there. Well, actually, in many ways I am... and it's reflected in my outlook on life, on the way I take photographs and what I take them of.

I prefer to sit on the periphery, looking in, rather than on the inside looking out. I suppose it's this trait that draws me to photography and the road trip - you can move from place to place, taking the images as you go without having to travel into the centre of it all. And now, with GSV, you don't even have to travel at all!

Would I like the life of a traveller, with nowhere to hang my hat? No, not at all. I like my home comforts, and I suppose that's one reason why my wife and I bought a holiday home a few years ago (there are other reasons too, practical ones...). We get to travel whilst enjoying the familiarity of home. We come back here, so whilst my current project (Le Loup...) is labelled a road trip/travelling experience, in some ways it's not. Outside the walls of my little French cottage I am that outsider though, even amongst the neighbours who have accepted me. I'm far from fluent in French, although we do communicate well enough for the most part. And yes, I'm part of the Brittany problem of too many holiday homes (although with perhaps an intention to settle here once my working days are spent).

When looking at what I photograph though, and perhaps more importantly how I photograph it, I think this is with non-native eyes. I look for things that are somewhat "quotidien", banal and everyday things that get overlooked because of this. I'm not alone in working with such subject matter, it really is a mainstay of contemporary photography - normal things recorded in an unsentimental way. I'm not necessarily attached to anything that I photograph, and that sometimes makes it difficult for some viewers... They don't always understand that the odd things I focus on aren't always meant to "mean" something, it's just that I'm highlighting things that I see so that they might see them too. It's easier to do this when you're just passing by, seeing new things with new eyes.

TYB : Vos Photos

Pasted Graphic
As part of the push to interact with an audience, I’ve included another gallery to the website louprenardbelette.weebly.com - for the viewers photographs (Vos Photos). Hopefully this will provide a chance for the audience to feed back, drive interest in the exhibition and traffic to my website. I’ve also created a tumblr at louprenardbelette.tumblr.com to put the images on, these will also be tweeted to my main account - the idea for this came from Tanya’s Postcards of Reading and we’re also talking about setting something similar up for the Oxford project.

I’ve no idea if this will be picked up on, I suppose it will depend on people being made aware that something is happening - that’s where all the press activities come in, and the tweeting in French (to a mostly English audience... hmm). I’ll have to hope for the wonders of social media to take hold!

TYB: Final Locations and other news


Two weeks to go before I head off to France to distribute the photographs to the mairies and it’s now confirmed I have 10 locations to put the work. I originally tried to get 15 involved, so I don’t think a 66% hit rate is bad at all - some have been harder work than others to bring on board, granted, but 66% is good I feel. And 10 is a nice round number.

One of those that turned me down has another event on at the same time and will be using the notice board space to promote that, but they have said there is a possibility of putting something up in the adjacent mediathèque but we won’t know until the beginning of April. Another has been impossible to get hold of, the other three simply not interested for whatever reason.

Having the locations finalised (ignoring the possible prospect of adding Pleyber-Christ via the mediathèque option), I’ve now been able to finalise the press release and will be sending that out. Initial probings into getting media coverage have raised some potentially very positive opportunities, although actually quite terrifying. My boundaries will be tested to the limit by the potential coverage in the newspapers (Le Poher are talking of sending a reporter/photographer over on the 5th April), there’s a radio segment (my wife will be covering this on my behalf for ease...) and even (GULP) some TV coverage on the local network. One contact has been particularly positive sounding as she is a photographer graduate from Paris, and this has piqued her interest. I’ve also been promised an entry in the English language Central Brittany Journal for April.

None of this media coverage is finalised, stemming from some phone calls made by my wife over the last couple of days. All sounding really exciting though!

You May Be A Photographer, But Are You An Artist?


TYB : Presentation

The presentation of the TYB project went painlessly enough, talking over the shared slides. In discussing further a few thoughts came more to the fore in my mind, and I've also been asking myself questions about this body of work and my oeuvre in general. First of all though, the comments that were raised by Les and the cohort:

I spoke about how the organisation may not have been made any easier by my style of photography; I don't really make pretty photographs. Mathew countered this with what I must assume was an observation based on the 2 or 3 "purer" landscape images, the mist over the hills or in the trees. These won't be a part of the printed selection and are really there to pander to the needs for "prettiness". Is this a cop out? Have I sold myself short by including them? In a way I have, but then I'm sure I'm not the first to compromise a little on these things.


Ode Tredudon

Mathew also questioned the 2 empty whisky bottles by the corn field, and whether these were a metaphor for the loss of people form the region. I rather glibly responded that the people liked a drink (I have more photographs in the same vein, but the light works better in that one). In truth though, I'd not consciously thought about it like that, but all of the images are really within one of maybe three themes; the melancholy emptiness of the region, or the protest (resistance) or perhaps, in conjunction with one of the previous themes, a touch of quirkiness (use of colours, fluffy bikes, etc.). Yes, there's other things too but it's mostly shot through with these themes - even down to the Fest-Noz posters which, of course, are written in Breton. So, on a subconscious level, I will have picked up on this. It's my way of working. It's sometimes a surprise what you find in your own work when you stop and think about it. And that's what I'd appreciate more than anything; people stopping and thinking about it rather than being momentarily charmed by a vapid prettiness (that's a different "vapid" than what might be drawn from the images).

Tanya mentioned that perhaps Brasparts might be an idea for the location for a second exhibition. Maybe that might be the case, based on their interest in this first one. I'd certainly like to pull together a second exhibition, and have mooted such an idea as part of the proposal with the mairies - that the original images will be pulled back into a single location. I particularly like the idea that these images might be the original images, perhaps with signs of weathering, fading or whatever. A flavour of having been outside... I think in reality this might be a bit of a pipe dream for the moment - it certainly can't be until next year due to other commitments, but then it will either have to be a short show, or there is a logistics issue with taking it down again. I'm not sure I'd be able to stay in country long enough for it to be worthwhile...

Les questioned whether I'd made it all a bit too difficult, that I'd set my sights too high and was trying to achieve something... not impossible, but dogged with issues. The language, the distance, the time required for responses to be forthcoming, etc. I don't think so though. The work needs to be seen in such a way, it makes sense to me for it to be seen in this way. I'm not sure I'd have been really happy for it to be seen any other way. I draw a parallel to an earlier body of work I've produced, Into the Valley, which should be viewed in the Ribble Valley, where it was photographed. At least initially. I've resisted this being shown elsewhere first, and perhaps its time has passed now - there is a reluctance for it to be shown as intended within the local gallery system as there are photographs of people (even children) and I don't have model releases. Not that I legally needed them. Perhaps the French system isn't so bureaucratic and oppressive after all - I've encountered the same over here in England!

The other question that came to me indirectly (i.e. it wasn't raised by Les or the cohort, rather as I sat thinking just before the presentation) was "why do I photograph the journey?" I'll save this for a future post - I think it needs some serious contemplation, although I do have a sort of half answer ready...


TYB : Press Release

(the ones in magenta haven’t agreed yet...)


TYB : website views

I don’t always get a great deal of interest in my website, sometimes even only one viewer a day, and that has been known to be a bot trawling for tags or optimisation websites searching for targets to advertise to. I need to push the site some more, get it seen by anyone who might have an interest - the newsletter will achieve a degree of this - yesterday’s one has triggered 8 unique hits to robtm.co.uk, 10 to louprenardbelette.weebly.com and a bunch to Tanya’s website. How do I work this better though? It’s great to produce the work, but how to get people to see it? Social media is one clear answer, and I need to push that more, I really do. I also need to get my work seen by other curators and publishers, etc. Spread the word that way... All stuff to go in the PPP again.

Anyway, here’s some recent metrics from the weebly site - not fantastic, but until I get some form of name, or starting hitting the social media, I guess it’s the best I can hope for.Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 18.02.29Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 17.46.20

TYB : Newsletter


TYB : slowly coming on board

I now have 7 mairie’s offices that have agreed to host an image, with another still umm’ing and ahh’ing. I’m hoping to hit ten...

Those that have given the thumbs up are:

​ Brasparts
​ Kergloff
​ Plouyé
​ Landelleau

I’ve got to e-mail a couple of images of to a couple of them so they can chose which they host, but that’s fine...


Roland Spencer - Pent

The future of the road trip experience?


TYB: Something for the media?

Whilst TYB is essentially a short time project (circa four months from initial presentation to getting the work out there), is there any real point doing things unless there are people to see it? And if not, how to get them to go and find it?

My TYB is spread across a region, on the notice boards in and around various village mairies in Brittany. Yes, by being on a community notice board, there will be people seeing it as they head over to the mairie for whatever it is they’re going for, as they head across the village square to the boulangerie or whatever it is that they’ll be doing. I do like this somewhat random aspect to the exhibition, the step away from the gallery and bringing it to the public. But, it would be nice if people took the time to see more than one of the images, even though it is possible (probable) that I won’t get to know that they have.

So something for the media - my wife thinks it should be print, online, radio and social. I tend to think not the radio but anything else would be good. I’ve already managed to get Central Brittany Journal to commit, so what else?

There’s the tourist information office - I’m thinking maybe an A4 poster for here.

The local press (in French) - there are a small number of newspapers it might be worth approaching with a press release. Breizh Info, Brud Nevez, L’hebdo du Finistere, Le Poher and Le Télégramme. But what to put out to them? What follows is a starter for 10:

Le loup, le renard et la belette
is an exhibition of photographs of Brittany by the artist Rob™. However, there is a difference to what might normally be expected: instead of being held in a single gallery location, the photographs are being displayed on the Mairie’s notice boards across the central Finistère region, making them available to everyone to see, inviting the viewer to travel to further locations to experience the fuller exhibition, thus experiencing more of Finistère in the process.

The exhibition will start around the 4th April 2016, and will remain in situ for varying periods, depending on the local Mairie.

The photographs themselves do not aim to glorify or condemn, merely to record and to present what can be seen in Finistère. They hope to capture something of the life, beauty, solace and the fortitude of the region, whilst not brushing over the hardship and the conflict that life there can undoubtedly contain. A theme that recurs through this and other projects is what has been termed the “mundane” or "neutral"; those everyday things we fail to notice until someone makes an image and we are asked to stop and consider them: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” (Paul Klee). The exhibition therefore aims to make Finistère “visible”; a chance to stop and contemplate.


The following Mairie’s offices will feature a photograph from the exhibition:
​ Brasparts
​ Kergloff

Rob™ is a photographic artist living in the rural North-West of England whilst spending regular periods in Central Finistère.

After leaving school, he studied graphic design before moving into a career in engineering, initially as a designer and subsequently as a certification specialist. A number of years ago, he picked up a camera again in order to break away from the rigid constraints and structure of the technical and back into something more creative.

His aim is to record the journey, the road trip, getting from A to B geographically, temporally or metaphorically, and the things he sees whilst on that journey, using whichever style of image making seems right at the time. Occasionally he even tries different things.

His work has been exhibited around the world, and is held in both public and private collections.”

It’ll have to be in French of course.

[( 6 )] - a reunion


A couple of years ago, I pulled together current cohort member Tanya Ahmed and 4 other OCA photography students to exhibit at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. This year we’re getting back together!

It all started a little while ago when Tanya mentioned she was heading over to the UK and asked me if I’d be interested in meeting up for a shoot and to potentially exhibit the results. Obviously I was up for it, and it has evolved into getting the other guys involved and heading over to Oxford in the UK for a weekend. We’ve also managed to get another of the cohort involved, Mathew Aldred, by getting him to agree to hosting the exhibition at his Oxford Riverside Gallery. So photographs of Oxford (UK) to be shown in Oxford (Canada)... See what we’ve managed to do there? Heh.

It’s all still early days - lots of planning for the shoot to be done as Tanya is in NYC, and Dewald Botha is in Czech Republic, then there’s my flight over to Canada later in the year too (yes, I’m heading over!), so there’s costs involved, etc. It’s probably worth all staying in the same place in Oxford for the shoot, and blah, blah, blah. A website to sort out, catalogues, postcards, printing, framing, publicity and we’re even thinking about a kickstarter to cover some of the costs... Whilst this is really Tanya’s brainchild, I’ll be getting as involved as I can in the planning and stuff. And yes, I’ll be there to hang out and drink beer and schmooz at the opening night.

TYB : a bit of an update...

It’s all been quiet with TYB for a couple of weeks - I’ve turned my attention elsewhere, the essay and the PPP for example (in terms of the course). However, things are inching inexorably onwards - a little frustrating when I sit down and pause to think about it, but it is moving on.

There are still only four confirmed mairies taking part, with another one looking probable (they’ve asked to see what photograph they would be hosting). I’m hoping a few phone calls next week will improve the situation and get me nearer to the hoped for 10 or 12 taking part.

I’ve also had an English speaking ex-pats magazine, the Central Brittany Journal, confirm they will run a little something on the exhibition in their April issue. I’ll send something off to the French media soon in the hope they can include something. I’ll also have to start hitting the social media a bit more!LeLoup-4

The incredible shrinking man: the photographer who gets a whole film into one frame – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

Hiroshi Sugimoto photographed cinema halls – exposing his shots for the length of the film. The results are spectacularly eerie

Source: The incredible shrinking man: the photographer who gets a whole film into one frame – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

Somewhat related to what I was doing with Some Unholy War last year, but clearly very different too... The cinemas are a lot more impressive than my lounge (which you didn't get to see anyway).

PPP : it's time to come back to it again

I’ve been ignoring my PPP for some time now, but I’ve known it’s been there, waiting for this day to come when the thorny subject of Personal and Professional Practice (and how to Plan for it).

Is my “personal” practice “professional”? If the guidelines for something being “professional” is that it is an activity that’s your main paid occupation, then no, my personal practice is quite categorically not professional. I have to work in order to self-fund my art making, and whilst it might be possible (at a push) to fund my art through art, it would take a major change in lifestyle and working ethic, and some considerable support from my wife!

But no, that’s not all. In Monday’s hangout we collaboratively worked up a response to the discussion point below regarding art practice:

“Exhibitions have become the medium through which most art becomes known.” (Ferguson, Greenberg and Nairne in The Curatorial Turn: From Practice to Discourse, in O’Neill P, Issues in Curating).

I think that here, in the twenty-teenies (or whatever this decade is called) there are far more things at play. Walter Benjamin wrote around this subject with his essay mechanical reproduction, and now we have electronic reproduction and, more significantly, instant dissemination. The exhibition is perhaps still something seen as being for the elite, although clearly this is not the case. We all have access to the galleries, accepting our geographical limitations - I would love to get down to London over the next couple of months for Fukase’s Solitude of Ravens (Kurasu) exhibition at the Hoppen gallery, but the distance and the impending house move means it simply can’t happen. I’ll have to make do with the Royal Photographic Society archives in Bradford... oh, wait a minute, they’re being transferred to London too!

So, living in the sleepy North-Western backwaters as I do, I don’t get to many exhibitions, so if the exhibition was the medium through which I get to know art, I’d be pretty much working in a vacuum. What’s art? Luckily, I have the Internet.

Granted, when you browse the culture pages of the various news outlets’ websites (such as the Guardian’s) many of the articles are written in response to, or to promote, an exhibition. It’s not always the case though. There’s a cultural thing to take into account too. I’ve said it before, and hinted at it above, but I’m a huge fan of Japanese photography. With this, the photobook has always been the dominant form, the intended form. It was only in 1990 that the photography museum opened in Tokyo, before this there were exhibitions of course, but photographs were not intended to be produced primarily for the gallery walls, they were intended to be seen on the pages of a book.

Magazines too. It has to be said that magazines a great promotion tool - getting your work seen in BJP (for photographers), or Frieze or whatever will mean that it’s seen by a serious audience. Your stock will go up. However, there are ‘zines that are the work, newspapers that are the work. I’ve got a series of collaborative zines by Erik van der Weijde and others that I’ve not seen in any other form, similarly a newspaper by Erik Kessels where the only time I’ve seen it elsewhere is as a photograph of the newspaper. That is the work. True, I got to know Erik Kessels through seeing his work in an exhibition, but not that work...

In the collaborative document, others spoke of street art (a form of exhibition it might be argued). Participatory practices that form part of the art practice as a whole, Open houses (again, a form of exhibition?), land art, workshops and demonstrations, residencies... Guerrilla art, infiltrations, giving art away. The various (potential) art practices of the cohort are quite varied.

The second question collaboratively answered was “What do you need?” - I think the overwhelming need for people to work their practice was funding, followed by some association with a gallery, some contacts on the inside of the system. One might lead to the other, a self-fulfilling circle of art. Time is another commodity that is in short supply, certainly for myself - a full time job, time for study, time to create art, time for family and friends, time to network, to promote, to research, to plan, to relax, to sleep and eat... There isn’t enough time, especially in these quite taut days immediately preceding an impending house move. We’ve not got the date yet, so things aren’t packed, but there are loads of little jobs to do, and the same will follow - a studio/office to decorate before the furniture can be delivered and the IT set up and my “stuff” settled in... It’s going to be difficult.

So, with all these thoughts going around my head, it’s time to update the PPP. I’m not sure where I’ll be going with that yet.