08/05/16 18:05 Filed in: Studio Practice
The tutorial with Joanna Lowry was late (all my fault - TYB in France, then no Internet, etc.) but it was great. She said I made some great formal compositions, so my ego was stroked. That's largely insignificant though as we went on to discuss where the project might end up, and from that it can be deduced it''s not finished yet.
Part of the tutorial spoke of what the story might be, the photographs have a feel of an empty film set, waiting for a story to be told. In the last tutorial she had advised doing more research into local events, local history and she was pushing this. I have done some research though, and pulled the name of Sebastien Le Balp out of the bag. Le Balp led a revolution in 1675, taking the Bonnets Rouges on to victory in Lower Brittany before being killed by a prisoner. It's this spirit of revolt that I've been trying to capture in one thread of the photographs - the burned out car, the graffiti, even the empty bottles...
So, next year I plan to bring this more to the fore somehow. I don't like being too direct, but if I can find a way to lift it... It might even be by including other objects. Extracts from memoirs, photos of old paintings, or similar. I don't know what there is available on that level just yet, so I'll have to do some further research and it will therefore run into next year.
13/04/16 06:42 Filed in: Professional Development
For the moment at least, the radio interview with my wife played on RMN FM is available as a sound bite on their website http://www.rmnfm.com/index.php?page=coupdefil
Monday 4th April was an incredibly hectic day, hitting the first mairie in Kergloff at 9:00, before our point of contact walked in with her dog (only a minute or so before). After a quick refresh about the raisin d'etre for the exhibition, the photograph was selected and on the information board just outside the mairie's offices, and a photograph taken of the two of us stood in front of it. A good and easy start.
The next mairies offices didn't have the keys to hand, so it was to go up later in the week. The third is still in the middle of a renovation and hasn't actually got an information board erected at the moment (it will be this month though). Things were beginning to dip a little...
Carhaix took delivery of their photograph and promised to have it up the following day, then asked whether we had been in touch with their communications team. We didn't know they had one as they hadn't mentioned it before, so the short answer was "no". A quick introduction was made and a promise to send some information later when we had a wifi connection was greeted with a pledge to see what they could do...
Almost lunch time already and one more squeezed in (to my local Plouyé office). Again, no keys to hand but a promise that the secretariat would pose for a photo with me later in the week (Marcel the maire wasn't feeling photogenic).
After lunch and a frenzied distribution of information, Poullaouen's maire wasn't in, so a return trip scheduled the following day. A couple more visited, and Loqueffret and Brasparts both put their photographs up, although no representatives were available and photo shoots rescheduled. I also took the opportunity to drop a poster under the door of the Brasparts Tourist Information office (which was closed on Mondays).
All in all, 11 mairies offices were visited (over 100 miles travelled in total, back and forth), with 10 photographs deposited and three put up straight away, and one photograph with a representative taken. A hard day, and not quite as immediate as I had hoped, but it was a good start...
Tuesday was filled with appointments and actions - people to call, people to visit and things to arrange. A visit to one of the mairies saw the photo installed but without the little card, this was sorted and a photograph taken with the maire... A bit of running around and Carhaix's image was installed on a smaller information board around the back of the building because it could be alone and not half hidden by other notices and such. Perhaps a nice thought on their behalf, but I actually like the way the photograph interacts with other posters, etc. One of the local newspapers met up for a photo shoot for the next day's paper (Le Poher), and posters were dropped into various locations.
The final visit for the day was with the maire of Poullaouen - earlier in the day he'd been rescuing an abandoned pig, and now he was posing for a photograph in front of my photograph he'd just selected and attached to the notice board next to the front door of his building. Such is the life of the mairies of rural Brittany...
So, many miles covered, most of the photographs installed and some media coverage achieved. Now let's see if anything comes back.
Well, as I write this it's early Friday evening (or late afternoon if you prefer), the log fire is burning (it's a little too chill here in Brittany for it not to be) and I've still not finished getting around the various sites again to document the images presence.
As I mentioned the other day, all the images are out there with the mairies, but I will be photographing the last two in situ tomorrow. My wife had the idea of taking a photograph with a representative of all the mairies offices in front of the photograph, and most have accepted for this to take place. Today it was the turn of Brasparts (up on the day we delivered it, but no representative available), Huelgoat and Motreff. Even though both had received the photograph on Monday, these latter two put them up today just before the documentation photograph with their representative - would it have happened at all if we hadn't insisted on such a record being made? Possibly, but I do wonder...
Tomorrow is the turn of my local Plouyé and Pleyber-Christ, one wasn't up yesterday, the other we've been assured is up in the mediatheque. Only Carhaix has declined to have such a photograph taken, not sure why. Certainly the maire has today announced his candidature for the next presidential elections (2017), the news of which is jeopardising my chance of making an appearance in the newspaper Ouest-France (they have more newsworthy things to consider now). Still, I made it into 2 of them, and I have posters scattered across the region, even one on the door of the Huelgoat notaire's office and the Carhaix cultural centre. If the exhibition doesn't reach its audience, it's not for the lack of trying!
(Poster in the window of Ouest-France - right of door, top right of group of 4)
(Poster in the window of Le Poher - third from right)
(photoshoot with a top model and a photographer from Le Poher)
(top model in front of photograph in Carhaix - from Le Poher)
Having said that, it is reaching "an" audience. Figures for the website (visitors and page views) have gone up, and there are spikes that correspond to announcements being made (newsletter, newspaper articles, etc.), and whilst the viewing figures aren't gargantuan, they're pleasing, with over 2150 views so far since I set it up (first spike being a request for feedback), and several hundred this week...
Viewing Figures (from Weebly dashboard)
I guess many of these will be people I know, but I'm hoping that it will reach others - appearing in the newspaper, posters in various areas, mentions in community newsletters... Yes, I'm hoping the audience will be expanded. I've not received any feedback yet though - I guess some people might be worried about being the first? Much like life here in Finistère, it can be a long hard slog rather than a sprint, so I will have to play a waiting game I guess.
Lunch time, the second day of the LeLoupExpo set up, with most of the photographs dispersed and some chasing up done, I'm sitting (with my wife) in a little creperie in Carhaix. After lunch, it's off to the local newspaper offices opposite the mairie in Carhaix for a photoshoot to go with the article they're running in the Wednesday edition. Now though, having placed our crepe order, there's a mind dumping session - lessons learned so far, what seems to have gone well, what hasn't, etc.
So here it is, elaborated a little from that scrawled onto a sheet of paper in a creperie - it will form a basis for what goes into the reflective report on the experience.
Plan for change. Also, people don't always deliver on the first opportunity. There's a need, in some instances, to push a bit more... A day seemed to be ample in my own mind for distributing images, and it pretty much has been, but I also expected to have the images up on the board, the photograph of it in situ taken, together with a snap of the maire (or whoever). This certainly isn't the case, with only three photographs up on the first day, and only one photograph of someone from the Mairie taken. I'd also hoped to visit the tourist information offices, but this hadn't happened at the time of eating our lunch either.
Explain. It's necessary to re-explain things even though it was explained in the submission e-mails and over the phone. Doing so seems to get the message across. More clarity is required for some things though. Some people thought it was a painting exhibition (awkward silence) of animals (awkward silence - le loup, le renard et la belette is the wolf, the fox and the weasel). Not that paintings of animals was ever suggested in the sample image I sent physically, via e-mail or can be seen anywhere on the weekly site...
Recognition. I've made sure that I've tried to recognise the various mairies as collaborators, I've made sure they know I'm grateful, but also included the names of the villages in all communications with the press and the radio, etc. I've tried to get a photograph with someone from the mairie's office (not all have been happy about this), so that I might include them in a further development. If I was having an after show party, they'd all get an invite, so it will have to wait for that development to (hopefully) materialise.
On the subject of recognition, another facet of this is using a more personal touch. Some mairies asked if we were going to drop the photographs in the post , but we decided to visit them in person. We've treated the peopled we've dealt with as people, not just as being "the Mairie" or "the press". Some have even gotten around to calling us now, rather than waiting to be chased (not all though...)
The A3 posters I had printed have been well received (even if there is an auto-correct spelling mistake in there - lesson learned is check and check again, especially the French!!) They were less than a couple of pounds each from Staples, less than it would have cost to print them on my inkjet with ink the price of liquid gold... Well worth it, and worth doing it again for future. (Posters left with the mairies, tourist information offices, the local press, etc.) In hindsight though, a little more information on there might have been useful.
Photographs selected.. Always a tricky one. My vision is perhaps a little bleaker than some of the mairies might want to show, so in allowing the mairies to choose which image they displayed from a small selection printed it was the more colourful, dramatic or "pretty" that were snapped up first. My personal favourites are generally unchosen. Go figure. This would then lead to some hard curatorial choices - should I have chosen the more picturesque and cater for the audience more, or stick with my own vision, my own preferences? Sell out, or sell nothing? (Not that anything is for sale this time). Allowing the maire (or secretariat, adjoint culturel, etc) to choose certainly seems to have been a positive in terms of making them feel included - a form of psychological empowerment I guess.
To get the viewers (and for them to participate) I need to get the news out there. Time will tell if I've managed to do this with the use of (limited French) social media, the radio (my wife's interview on RMN FM) and the newspapers (Le Poher and Le Courrier already to press, with Le Telegramme and Ouest-France yet to commit). There's the posters too... I've even started using Facebook, but I've not yet got a great reach. The weebly exhibition site has been getting more viewers than my own website though, although there has been a sudden spike today (50-odd viewers compared to single figures seen normally). Sitting in the creperie I'm surrounded by posters and flyers from other exhibitions, I should've targeted some of these too...
The card. I chose early on to present a photograph at A4 size, together with an A5 information card. Some mairies expressed a desire for a larger photograph, but not all could accommodate this, so I opted to keep them the same (no favouritism!) The card was intended to have a bit of an artists statement on it, together with an URL for the weebly site, but as things evolved, and Facebook strongly advised for online regional interaction (by Aude from RMN FM), there was then 3 URLs, and therefore less room on an A5 card, so it really became a signpost pointing to the website. More information would've been good at the "point of sale" to get people to visit. It might still come to pass - we'll see...
Whilst on the subject of the card, one of the mairies (so far) neglected to pin it to their board. This has been rectified, but it raised the question of whether it might have been better to print differently and include the information from the card on the same sheet. This is not something I would normally consider, but it's a case of adapting to the environment. With the card separate, there is nothing other than proximity to tie the two together. Will the audience understand?
One things that has only really occurred to me now I've seen things installed is how the context I envisaged changes with the surroundings, both in terms of being in the open in village centres or even almost rural surroundings, and what else is on the board. A fellow photographer friend (Dewald, one of the photographers shooting with me and Tanya for [( 6 )] Oxford) also noticed this, commenting on Twitter. Seeing things in a gallery context gives a certain expectation - it's in a gallery therefore it si art. Here it's on a community information boardtherefore is it something for the community? In a way, it is, and I've been pushing for community collaboration by offering to include their images on the website...
Also, and a really important point - the research is never over! Well, not until the project is finally put to bed, and even then... There's the research in terms of the project itself (e.g. Local history, additional communities - I'm still shooting, and whatnot) and in terms of getting it out there. Whilst in the Carhaix office I was asked if we'd been in touch with their communications department, which we didn't know existed. We also found out whilst talking to people that there are several of the mairies that do community newsletters - further details have been sent for inclusion in these.
It's also been HARD. Not being on site has brought its own difficulties that should be obvious. There's also the language barrier - my wife has been utterly awesome as there is no way I could have navigated all the things that have happened without her. I can get by, but it's more of a "not getting hungry" getting by than an "organising an exhibition" getting by. So hats off to her, I acknowledge I would've bitten off far more than I could chew without her...
That's it, the crepe (trois fromage, a local speciality I gather) has arrived and the pen and paper put away. It was time to chew on something else.
“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!
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!
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!
08/11/15 09:28 Filed in: Studio Practice
I'm not 100% sure about the Breton name here - the hamlet is named after the chapel that's there. In Breton, that's the Chapel Sant-Herbod
, rather than Chapelle Saint-Herbot
in the French. However, I've only seen the French spelling for the hamlet - Saint-Herbot
. All the road signs are in French (unless referring to the chapel), and I've not found anything online yet to say otherwise.
23/09/15 21:14 Filed in: Studio Practice
I’m going to post an (ir)regular image from the bank of images I’m accruing for Le loup
… just to slowly build up a sort of gallery from which I will draw the final curated “narrative” (or whatever it will be).
19/09/15 08:30 Filed in: Studio Practice
23/08/15 09:45 Filed in: Studio Practice
My thoughts for the coming year are moving towards doing something with my "second home"; Brittany. I've got a few little projects going on to be honest, all of which are connected to "the journey" in some way (a slow burn on train stations with an iPhone, and the Stephen Shore stuff), but I really want to do something in "Penn-ar-Bedd" (its Breton name). For one thing, it will force me to get out to explore the place - it's all too easy just to get there and become a recluse and to try and relax in-between all the little DIY jobs that need doing, so going out to photograph will be excellent.
The thing is, I'm not sure what it is I want to do. I have no real preconceived ideas about what I want to say, I've no real agenda and I've no idea what will come of it all. All I know is that I want to take the photographs and then see what they all say to me at the end. See what my subconscious was picking up. No, actually I do have one little preconception, and that is the omission of people from the photographs - in France you must obtain the subjects permission to photograph and publish (see here
for a bit of background), something that I'm not planning on doing. There is clearly a danger that this might lead to a rather empty feeling to the series, but then, this might also work in its favour in terms of creating a certain atmosphere. We will have to see.
Another "danger" with approaching Brittany as my subject is that I'm only there sporadically - a week here, ten days there. Four or five times a year. Is this enough? Certainly, if I was to produce something like the Into the Valley
project from my own region here in England, it might not be - I photographed the Ribble Valley on a fairly regular basis, and from that there are a number of different narratives that can be taken from the work, the one I chose was more personal than I'd intended. I don't want to produce the same thing in a different space. It wouldn't represent a step forward in any way for me - I will need to push and step beyond the pale in some way. But yes, I know there will be certain similarities, it's still me taking the photographs after all.
The project will develop slowly, but hopefully sufficiently, throughout the year which will also allow me to work the other projects and maybe even come up with something new too (I'm sure there will be something the MA actually instigates in its own right...).
And yes, the working title - Le Loup, le Renard et la Belette
- is a song title. After wandering away from my little idiosyncrasy with the two GSV projects, I'm back naming my projects after songs. I might change it, but its there as an anchor - if it has a name, it clearly exists, so it's a start!
And yes, I've started with a petrol station...