Visual Enquiry

End of year feedback

I’ve received my grading and feedback from the assessment, and I’m happy with it. I wasn’t graded as “100%” (as if I could be), so there’s room for improvement and also a case for not resting on any laurels I might have (I don’t want the grade to slip further south...). Yes, the grading mark was lower than that of my degree, but then this is a step up in terms of academic level and a step away from “pure” photography and into a fine art arena, so this was expected. I have a clearer idea of any expectations now, and a more accurately defined goal to aim for...

In terms of the assessment comments, I’ve included excerpts from them below:

Overall comments
This was an imaginative submission, after initial problems you were able to refocus, working only with images available through the internet.
The experimental element that brought in literal aspects of a journey, i.e. diesel fuel, was inspired and the whole submission is satisfyingly coherent and well executed with aesthetic care and consideration.
The quality of your reflection and your commitment to research and understanding contemporary photographic practice clearly is reflected in the quality of the work you make.

So, it seems to have been well received 😀. To be honest, some of the credit for the diesel needs to go to my visiting tutor, Lisa, as the idea came from the session I had with here, and discussions around some of the difficulties I’d been having with the execution of my original idea (more down to self imposed limits and the practicalities of doing it than anything else - I needed to work with a larger format than FF, but couldn’t because of focal length).

Knowledge of contexts, concepts, and methods specifically
Your essay identifies and discusses some of the problematics of appropriation in contemporary photographic practice; it shows a discerning level of academic research and is a critically informed debate of topical issues directly relevant to and informing your practice.
Your understanding of the medium means that you have established your own technical framework that supports your practice, you are also becoming more open to exploring wider lens-based and other practical techniques that could expand your themes.

“...becoming more open to exploring wider lens-based and other practical techniques...” is perhaps a key phrase in there. I’m not 100% sure I’ll be doing too much in the realms of “wider lens-based techniques”, but hey, who knows where the fancy will take me? I do like the work Daisuke Yokota turns out, so maybe. I’ve also recently bought a book on alternative techniques, I’m just not sure I want to step away from digital yet. And yes, I’ve started some more work using Google Street View – my series After Stephen Shore (I’ve moved away from song titles for the GSV work – I’ve not thought of a relevant one for this yet). I’ll post some of these soon.

Understanding through the application of knowledge
Your submission clearly shows that you are adept at the material realisation of your ideas, you exercise considerable discernment in the details of editing and presentation of your photographic work in line with the subject matter to produce pieces that are materially and conceptually coherent.
We recognise that you do not have a fine art background but we would encourage you to be more vocal with your opinions in seminars and group crits.

A nice paper and a book has done the trick it seems. No, that’s playing down the thought that went into it, the paper was chosen to make the most of the images. The book was designed to be acknowledging of Ruscha’s original, but not a copy. There was a little bit of a compromise there though, and in keeping the cost down, the paper of the book is not quite what I would’ve wanted, but then if it was, the cost would’ve been 5-fold, if not more, and I wanted to keep it in the sub-£10 bracket so that it was easily affordable. And yes, I know I can be quiet during the seminars for some subjects (i.e. those that don’t involve photography). I’ll see what I can do on this.

Application of professional skills
You began the MA with strong feelings of ambivalence, we hope that these have settled and you can now concentrate on identifying and developing the areas of your practice that will help you realise your ambitions.

If by “ambivalence” it refers to my understanding that my photography is not a main career at the moment, and is perhaps unlikely to become one until I can at least semi-retire, then this is still the case. I do however have ambitions, things I want to achieve, so I will be looking at this going forward.

Things to build on and certainly with positives in there. Yeah, I’ll be signing up for the second year. I will be having a little break from all the reading and making in the meantime though. My batteries need recharging, and not just the ones from my cameras either.

A little red book

The first year of this MA course is finished. The photographs are printed, the essay written, PPP progressed and the journal entries blogged and extracted. Everything has been uploaded ready for the assessors and I'll be setting off to Barnsley in an hour to see if they will accept to take the diesel prints in to support the assessment process. If not, it will be down to the rephotographed prints and this...

red book
Ruscha's Gasoline Stations (virtually) Revisited

As supporting material, I have produced a little book. The dimensions are not too far from Ruscha's - his was 7"x5", this is the nearest Blurb do at 8"x5". The design of the book is loosely based on what Ruscha produced - the cover is colour reversed with a similar typeface, it's closer together though; the images are in the same order but are 5x4 format (generally) rather than square; there's also a bit more text in there at the end, and therefore a few more pages. It's largely 'similar' though, and that seemed appropriate for me as I have appropriated his theme.

Yes, it's been done by Blurb, so I was stuck in the format they have defined, with the paper choice they make available, so it's not necessarily the finest object that can be produced, but it is affordable and that again matches what Ruscha's intentions were, even if the fact is that the entry level prices for a third edition of his book start around the £500 mark (generally a little less), and I've seen a first edition advertised at approaching £17000 - you can buy a brand new Mini Cooper or a 48 page book... (I know, nothing compared to the Picasso - there were 300 of these books though).


T4 : Ruscha's Gasoline Stations Revisited

All 26 images from the project can be seen on my website at

T4 : Removing the essence of the object

The ephemerality of the primary object of this project has led me to consider the nature of what the physical object for display has become. Rather than being something that resides within the diesel prints themselves, it has become a dislocated copy; a reference print that has locked down the affect of the diesel on the paper to a point in time about a week to 10 days after the print was taken from the diesel.

Whilst this provides permanence, something that I would normally take for granted in my work, it is also somewhat reductive of the overall… ambience (?) of the work. Is this Benjamin's "aura" I'm talking of? Authenticity? During the making of the images, the smell of the diesel impregnated through the paper has become part of the experience of the images for me, so looking at the re-photographed images is different to looking at the original version. The smell of the diesel provides a physical link to the process, but also more importantly a metaphoric link to the subjects themselves, the gasoline stations.

It’s a conundrum for me – how to have permanence and the olfactory element together. One suggestion made would be to exhibit the prints alongside a glass tank of diesel. This would provide both an interesting visual element and the potential for the smell, although there will be significant fire prevention and health and safety risks to take account of. Another method would be to synthesize the smell somehow, but I wouldn’t know where to start!

So, for assessment, this leaves me in an odd place too. The original object is now the secondary object, nothing more than part of the process, but the presence of the diesel images during the assessment will provide that trace. That is assuming OCA will accept the prints. I certainly can’t post them, and whilst I should be able to hand-deliver them, there remains storage and other considerations for their insurance, etc. I await clarification – my submission may change again before the time comes for assessment.

T4 : Exploratory Project Evaluation

In its execution, the project diverted from the intention. Despite this, the forensic investigations went well; all Ruscha’s gasoline stations were found, albeit with the assistance of others. Tracking down “Bob’s Service” somewhere in LA, the last of the sites to be found, provided me with a certain level of satisfaction. The effect of immersing the prints in diesel was pleasing, although not at all what I expected, which was that the pigment would be affected rather than the paper.

At this point I have to accept that one or two may be wrong, that the findings of others have led me to view places that didn’t sit right with me (Standard, Williams the prime example). Others used empirical evidence though, including copies of the 1962 regional Yellow Pages, something I could not access. It’s been 50-odd years, maybe things changed more than I anticipated.

My intention was that I would marry Ruscha’s 26 stations with a similar number from my own locale. The area I chose resulted in just half that number (12, plus a disused one), so this was disappointing. Still, it allowed the project to progress in the way that it did, rather than being constricted by reductive initial planning.

I would have preferred it in terms of the “object” if the resulting images weren’t so transient. As the diesel dries (which takes weeks), the patterning of the paper changes, becoming tighter and less aesthetically pleasing. This transience provides some metaphoric resonance to the subject matter though, so maybe it is appropriate. However, I now have no idea what will be seen at assessment.

In terms of the process, I’ve missed “normal” photography – I’ve not used a camera except for the local petrol station side of the project and for recording of the diesel objects at a point in time. Having said that, maybe I’m realising its more a means to an end, that I should be more accommodating

The Internet is quite some resource! Without it, this project would not have existed in the way it does. Google Street View is pretty awesome in itself, but then there’s the access to other artists that have worked with Ruscha’s ideas. I’d have been stuck without them.

This was all a big risk, if truth be told. From using GSV to immersing prints in diesel, it’s a long way from what I would normally do and way outside my comfort zone, (technique and results). I’ve wanted to use GSV in the past, but it always seemed inappropriate, but here I’ve been able to make it go the distance, see it through to some sense of completion.

I’m not sure how this can be directly taken forward within my practice. Will I ever use GSV again? Maybe, but probably not. I very much doubt that I will be using diesel in my photography again either, other than for what it was intended and driving me to somewhere I want to photograph. That is perhaps the major realisation I’ve reached; it’s the journey I’m constantly drawn to. I thought it was landscape, but I’m more interested in the getting there than the subject. I think my recurring muse is the journey, whether it be physical, temporal or metaphorical. That is something I want to take forward.

T4 : Trials with the litho print

The litho prints I received from Emma have been in the diesel and whilst something has indeed happened, its not in the same manner as the photographic print. With the litho, the greys and blacks seem a little darker, the central mottling is more accentuated. It's also maybe a bit "smudgier", although not as if the ink has run in the diesel as it's still cohesive. The paper (a standard cartridge paper rather than a photo inkjet paper I think) does not produce the same patterning as it is drying. Yes, there is some visual change, I'm just not convinced it's wroth pursuing any further. It doesn't interest me.

Polyester Litho Print (before diesel)

litho diesel
Polyester Litho Print (after diesel)

So, I'll leave that at that - thanks to Emma for making it possible to try, but it's a "fail" in my eyes.


T4 : Thoughts about scale and some doubts

With the increasing realisation that the A5 prints that have been subjected to the diesel will not be the final product of the exploratory project, questions need to be asked about where I see the project ending up. The obvious answer would be in the book form I had always intended, and yes it does remain something I want to look into when I have the final images at a point of finalisation again (those they have been resubjected to the the diesel). Another option would be in reprints; photographic prints made of the dieseled originals at a point in time chosen for the perceived aesthetic interest of the mottled effect.

I will leave the idea of the book for the moment, well for a week until those last prints have hopefully developed in terms of the pattern. Photographic prints are going through something of a reinvention, or maybe they have been through it already. Historically, many photographic prints tended towards the smaller end of the spectrum. Not a hard and fast rule, Oscar Rejlander's The Two Ways of Life from 1857 was some 76cm in length, but that was very much the exception rather than the tule. Now, if you have the money, much bigger things are possible. It's really not uncommon to see enormous prints, thinking back to the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition at the Tate Modern, there were some really large prints - Jane and Louise Wilson's photographs of the Normandy fortifications were some 180cm square. Looking elsewhere, Thomas Struth's Shibuya Crossing measures 184x241cm and Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent II Diptychon 207x307cm (albeit in two parts). Size no longer appears to be (realistically) limited.

So, where does this leave my gasoline stations? I won't be going seriously large, I don't feel that the subject matter suits this anyway. I guess I have three sizes in mind. Firstly, it's the A5 of the original, there's a degree of appropriateness in this. But what of A4 or A3? or even the "logical" sizes of 10x8 or 20x16? Of the enlargements, the A3 size was the one that immediately appealed in theory, but in practice, I'm not so sure. I've printed one of the images (Texaco, Vega) onto the sort of paper I felt might be suitable at the three sizes.

Texaco, Vega, Texas (January 2013)

The image is a difficult one to view as the building is disappearing, but then this is one reason I chose this image for the trial. The first thing I "feel" when looking at the images is that I'd maybe like them lighter. It would make them harder to view, but this would be nearer to the experience I get when looking at them backlit. They would feel more ephemeral, but then I think I need to acknowledge and accept the fact that they won't be viewed backlit and so will have a very different viewing experience; paper isn't naturally luminous! The second thing that I notice is that the larger print feels "looser", like its losing some more of the cohesion that keeps it on the page. It's true that the image is naturally incoherent, the detail is "washed out", it's low contrast and there's the overriding mottling to camouflage the building into the background. It's not working for me, but conceptually I can see why you might want to go this way. The A4-ish is better, but then I do like the fact that you have to get in closer to the A5 version. It feels more intimate, and that's something I've thought for a long time about smaller images.

That said, I'm beginning to doubt if this all works at all. I know what the image is, what it's about. I know the context in which I made it, why it looks the way it does and its relationship to some other work that I have to accept that the viewer may be unaware of, or not fully aware of. Will a series of 26 of such images (ok, 25, + 1 that is "normal") hold the attention of the viewer, regardless of what size they are printed? Will they invest in the images? Am I expecting too much of the viewer? Do I have the right to make those expectations? I really am doubting that. The obscurity of the image, the strained relationship with an original and the fact that some of these places have no obvious relationship, even if the details were there to be seen... Is it all fluff about an aesthetic that I can work around, but obfuscates too much? Hmmm....


T4 : A few more dieseled prints

Here’s a few of the “more interesting” prints as they were yesterday morning. Of course, as I now know, it’s an ever moving result, but anyway… all part of the exploration.

Dixie, Lupton

self service
Self Service, Milan

Bob’s Service, Los Angeles

Beeline Gas, Holbrook


T4 : mixed feelings with transience

It seems the interestingness in the diesel-soaked prints is short lived. At the least it is transient, and the patterning changes over time. I knew this anyway, as the photographs are translucent when they come out of the fuel, with the pattern appearing after a couple of days of drying. They just don't seem to stop though...

This is what the Shell, Dagger photograph looked like after maybe a week to 10 days after it came out of the diesel bath:

Shell Daggett Diesel
Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012] + 1 week

And this is what it looks like another two weeks later:

untitled (43 of 46)
Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012] + 3 weeks

The photographs have been taken with different cameras and with different light sources, so there will be a slight difference in colour temperature (I've not bothered "normalising" them), but it's more the size and style of the grain that causes me the issue. In another 2 weeks, will the trace of the diesel have gone? Is the conceptual impact that transient? It seems so, which would then indicate that the light-box mode of display might be somewhat meaningless - if the pattern has gone, what's the point? It seems that the object might then need to be the photograph of the print after about a week after being in the diesel bath. This would close the light box avenue, but open others, albeit possibly weaker ones. And yes, the transience of the effect possibly overshadows the transience of the gasoline stations, at least in terms of what I was hopping for.

So yes, this is something of a disappointment, one I hope to work around in the short term by putting the prints back in the diesel for a couple of days and then photographing them all again when the mottle is more interesting. And yes, this was an exploration, an experiment into trying something more divorced from my "normal" image making. It's not really paid dividends, but at least now I know. I'm not ready to go full "Daisuke Yokota" just yet, so I expect a return to normality. That said, I do like some of what he is doing. I'll post a link soon.


T4 : Polyester Litho Prints

Emma was really generous and offered to print me out a couple of litho prints to see if they reacted any differently to being submersed in diesel. Time will tell on that score, but here's a couple of images:

Polyester Litho Print

Polyester Litho Print

I picked them up from the Post Office earlier today, and they're in the diesel now. The paper very quickly became saturated with the fuel, much quicker than the photographic paper, which will have been coated with whatever it is they get coated with. Nothing immediate happened with the ink, but as I said, time will tell...


T4 : The Diesel Process

The process of soaking my prints in diesel is now pretty much finished, but as has been suggested, I’ve recorded the process. It’s really quite straight forward – I put prints in a baking tray with diesel for a week, letting them soak. Longer might be better, it might be though, I’ve not really got time to truly experiment during the exploratory project. Not if I’m to get something that’s “finished”, which I know isn’t absolutely essential, but I want to get something finished. It doesn’t sit well with me not to do so. After soaking in the diesel, I’ve been soaking them in a washing detergent solution with the aim of removing some of the traces of the fuel. I’ve no idea whether this actually works, but is based on the fact I know that some decorators using the detergent to remove traces of white spirit from their brushes after using oil-based paints. Then they are put to dry for a few days.

diesel soak
Beeline, Holbrook in the old baking tray

detergent soak
Soaking in the detergent

diesel detail

detergent detail

The tray is an old rusting one, well past its best, and as a result of this, some of the images are beginning to exhibit small spots of discolouring which adds some further randomness and interest. AS the images dry, they begin to exhibit the speckling – they’re just wet and translucent beforehand. Of course, if viewed against a dark background, they actually don’t look that different from when they’re unprocessed.


T4 : Group Critique

The small group critique of progress in the exploratory project was an interesting experience. The caution I feel in trying to explain my thinking about my work is slowly beginning to leave me, but it's still not something I truly relish. The work I presented is as follows:

Ed Ruscha, Whiting Bros. near Ludlow, California, 1953

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Rimmy Jim's, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire


  • Does the act of attacking the print with diesel add anything interesting to the GSV images? (aesthetically or conceptually - or is it just pretentious?)
  • Other than the fact they’re petrol stations, are the two parts of the project actually related in any way, or do I just drop the local photographs?

There was some talk about the process I was following, how the bathing of the prints in a tray of diesel is reminiscent of the analogue printing process. Indeed I was asked if I had a darkroom for making my own prints, but whilst I can develop negatives (if I was to buy the chemicals once more), I am unable to print myself - I don't have an enlarger. Or the space to make a darkroom for that matter (for the negs, you just need a drum). Is this fact really important to me? I'm not really sure it is. I know for some, the process to get to the end result is all important, but for me... I think the final image is where it's at, actually, no, it's the narrative that is formed by the images in groups. When I photograph "normally", as with the last two images above, there is not a lot I do with the image, maybe a slight tweak to the highlights and shadows to ensure there's no "paper white" and some range in darker areas, but that's it - similar to a quick dodge and burn in the old darkroom days.

Something else that was mentioned that does arise from the process is that the residual smell of diesel that remains on the prints after they've been washed - the smell reinforces the connection to the subject matter and the process by which the images were made.. It's possibly a touch overpowering, but then again there's still a tray of diesel in my garage (where the prints are at the moment), but I'm hoping that there will be something left and that it will be possible to show the prints. Having said that, I'm still planning to rephotograph the prints with the thought of putting them in to a book. In a book, clearly there will be no diesel smell.

A popular proposal amongst the cohort was that I should draw on the images. I'm really not comfortable with this and would not be intending to do so. What has drawing got to do with my practice? Taking the comments from Lisa Barnard on board, surely this would serve to further weaken my larger body of work, which she saw as disjointed anyway. I'm still in the process of recontextualising my back catalogue, weaving what is there into something that might be considered more cohesive (bearing in mind that there's various styles of work in there). Enough of that for the moment, I don't consider drawing on the images to be appropriate for me.

I was also encouraged to continue both sides of the project, continue to photograph the local petrol stations. I'll do this, maybe on the back-burner though. I'll be concentrating on the "diesel" images for the moment.

Finally, Emma made a really generous offer to produce a couple of polyester litho prints (her school has the facilities). This means I will be able to experiment with a different paper/ink combo in the diesel. When they arrive in the post, I'll do what I need to do to them with the diesel and take it from there - it might be a little late but it's worth the effort.


T4 : Progress to plan

Things are not progressing as initially anticipated, but that's because the project has changed at the moment (and may well change again after the next couple of weeks of crits). Here's what I originally anticipated:

Week 1: deciding what to do and writing the proposal

Week 2: initial research into Ruscha’s style and approach, his route through America and my route through England

Week 3: continue research

Week 4: start making images (either GSV captures or real world)

Week 5: continue making images

Week 6: reflection and down select images

Week 7: (Easter - in France)

Week 8: image sequencing

Week 9: book design

Week 10: reflection and book refinement

Week 11: printing

Week 12: contingency (will depend on printing methods)

Well, it's week 9 and I should be starting the book design... But no. I'm still working on the images, so things will be tight (which is why the diesel is currently just a week, instead of the initial two). That said, if I do go with a book it will need less designing as the obvious thing would be to follow the original sequencing (so why not mix them up into 'proper' geographical order?). But I might not even put them in a book. The photographs look interesting as objects when backlit, so that seems to be an option, although I'm really not that confident it can be done as the lamp would raise the temperature and make the diesel a problem (diesel needs a higher temperature to burn, which is why diesel engines are generally heavier and more expensive to allow for the pressurised hot air and the fact that there's no spark plugs). I don't know enough about the science to be truly confident though... I'm also not sure if washing in detergent will do enough. I'm glad I had a week as contingency, and also that there is another couple of weeks afterwards before the package of work will have to head on over to OCA in Barnsley for appraisal.

T4 : Shell, Daggett, California

I've had a second batch of images in diesel for a week and thought it was about time to take them out - not as long this time but I figure that I need to get this done for mid-May so I needed to get a move on. They could also go back in if necessary. This one has also been "washed" to try and remove the diesel, just in case I wanted to put them in light boxes. Again, I've just taken an iPhone photograph but this time it's much greyer. Obviously, the white balance control of the iPhone (at least in the basic camera app) is non-existent, so that might be a reason, but the earlier one (with a little over 2-weeks soaking) is much bluer (first one included for reference, below). Another effect of the diesel, or just the light? I don't know, but I will be re-soaking a larger version of Whiting Bros anyway, then re-photographing them all in the same conditions once they're all soaked, rinsed and dried (in a few weeks time). If necessary/desired I might then normalise them again in PS - it depends how I feel about it.

Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012]
Shell, Daggett, California [July 2012]

untitled (1 of 1)
Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]


T4 : Jeff Brouws comes through

I received a response from Jeff Brouws, so I can now complete my project:

Hi Rob:

No problem at all in terms of contacting me...we're all brothers here.
I can't say why we made the determination we diid, but we went with the building that was at 3500 North Broadway. I felt that the buildings in the background to the right could have been the same ones in Ruscha's photo, but modified since Ruscha's took the picture.
Not certain however. Hope this helps. It's a burrito / taco stand now. We ate was great.
I realized after the fact that MM had done a "best guess" in certaini towns and that was fine.
I believe I did locate Rimmy Jimmy's in AZ...there was a definite foundation there and the owner of the present gas station there had a picture of the former Rimmy Jimmy's hanging on the wall and knew where the original location had been.
Exit 233, to the slight SE behind the gas station.



And here is the assumed site of Bob's Service - a little in contradiction from what Möll stated in his e-mail, but it is the place he photographed back in 2009.

untitled (1 of 1)-Edit-Edit
Bob's Service, Los Angeles, California [Sep 2014]


T4 : Some progress perhaps...

Some progress on a number of counts this week…

Firstly, I’ve completed the first draft of the essay. It will change in some way, the conclusion isn’t right and I need to get it tighter, but I think I’ll let it lie for a week first (not too long though)

MA1 Essay DRAFT1 (password protected - e-mail me if you want to read it)

Secondly, I have had a response from Martin Möll about the location of Bob’s Service in LA. As it happens, he’s not actually sure, but he sent me some information anyway:

Hi Rob,

Thank you for your e-mail. I’m glad to hear that my work has been a great help so far for your own project.
To be honest, Bob’s Service in L.A. is one of the few sites I can’t with a 100% certainty say that I am right with my choice.

Here’s what I wrote down for my own purposes after visiting L.A. in 2009:

“The Los Angeles Central Library downtown has the
1962 yellow pages on micro fiche. After two hours
going through listings of service stations, gasoline
companies, automobile repairs and services as well as
restaurants, the following information was found:

– There are no listings for Bob‘s Seaside Service, there
were a few Seaside Service Stations, but not one near
Route 66 at that time. There were four Bob‘s Service.
Two of them are too far off from Route 66, one is on
3500 North Broadway (Route 66 from 1926 until 1931)
and one is four blocks south of Santa Monica Boulevard
(Route 66 from 1953 until 1964).”

Since Ruscha photographed each of the sites in 1962, I chose to photograph the former place of the Seaside Service south of Santa Monica Boulevard.

However, it is possible that Jeff Brouws could provide you with a different information, since he revisited the sites only last year. Together we work on the project to revisit the revisited.

I’m interested to hear more about your project and would appreciate it if you could tell me in more detail about it.

And I hope my information is of any help to you.

Kind regards

I was aware of a Bob’s Air Service on Wilshire Blvd, which is south of Santa Monica Blvd (not sure what constitutes a “block” in America…) I’m really not sure this is the place though. I have now contacted Jeff Brouws, hopefully he will get back to me soon with something more definitive. I’ve not heard from the others I’ve contacted (from Road to Ruscha, etc.)

The other thing that I think is quite positive is the effect putting diesel has had on my test prints. This came through as an idea following discussions with Lisa Barnard, and initially it didn’t look like it was doing anything – I was hoping it would affect the image, but I experimented anyway, using a spare commercial digital lab print I had, together with a few different papers through my inkjet. The commercial print didn’t really do much, but I did get an interesting effect from a matte paper as the diesel makes it largely translucent if you hold it to the light. It also makes them smell, but that’s another issue. The photo below is just a test print, but I like what it has done after about 2 weeks – it mirrors the fact that the gasoline stations have largely disappeared (there’s maybe just the Jackrabbit one that is still operational, but I can’t really tell). If you lay it down, it feels much more like a “normal” print though.

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

This leads me to wonder whether light boxes would be the way to go (or is it a fire hazard, bearing in mind they’re soaked in diesel!)? And do they stand up in isolation and therefore not need the local works in juxtaposition? Something to discuss over the next few weeks in the group crit and tutorial, see what others see in there.

The above is just a 15x10cm print, so I’ve done some a little larger (limited by size of my diesel tray) and will see how we get on after a week – time is running out I guess, so if I can squeeze the soaking time, it would help.


Andy Warhol's Dead

A sort of mini-project, sort of titled in my usual way after a song (Andy Warhol’s Dead by Transvision Vamp this time) – 32 tins of tomato soup to the same approximate dimensions of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans. Appropriation of an idea, twisting it to my own chosen media, and my own preferred soup flavour. Photography of a “readymade”?
Andy Warhol's Dead

Tomato Soup (after Andy Warhol)

Does this fit in any way with my supposed “grand narrative”? Well, I suppose it’s similar to the objects in A Forest, although that’s where I think the connections start and end. Does this matter in the great scheme of things? Am I what Lisa Barnard expects me to be/interprets me as wanting to be? Am I too superficial in my making? In my ideas? I think I’m getting closer to the realisation that if I work one theme, a grand narrative, I will soon tire and give up. This random approach may well dilute my work, confuse my oeuvre and ultimately deny me any sort of recognition within the outside world (and possibly even an MA), but it is more in keeping with my own psyche, my own way of doing things and my own raison d’être. Should I strive to produce the work that others expect of me, or what interests me? Even if that interest is only in transitory.


T4 : 6 to 9 Petrol Stations (inclusive)

Firstly, just a note to say I've contacted Todd Stewart (one of the Oklahoma University faculty) by e-mail to request permission to use some of his Ruscha images as reference, and also to ask if he can help me in tracking down Bob's Service in LA. If they visited them all, hopefully he will.

And here's some more petrol stations photographed within the Ribble Valley...
Shell, Longridge, Lancashire

Shell, Longridge, Lancashire
Texaco, Clitheroe, Lancashire
Texaco, Clitheroe, Lancashire

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire
Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire

BP, Clitheroe, Lancashire
BP, Clitheroe, Lancashire



A bit of a diversion, something I had been considering as a possible project but I decided there wasn’t enough in it to be the final project. Appropriation of another idea, this time it’s Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup tins. I had wanted to do the full 32 tins of Campbell’s soup, but there’s only half a dozen or so that are available in the UK so I moved over to something a bit more personal; tomato soup is the flavour I eat 99% of the time, to it seemed completely appropriate. A typology of tomato soup tins so tying into my interest in that mode of working, and it’s nodding towards the work of Warhol and my chosen essay subject of appropriation in photography.

It’s only 16 tins at the moment, there
might be enough own brand tomato soup tins to take it to the “magic” 32. Do I bother? Perhaps I should, but then I’d have to leave the setup or rephotograph them all in order to be “the same”. Once set up, I suppose they don’t take long to do though, once set up. More tins would then allow there to be more space between the Heinz, allowing them to appear more “random”. And of course, these would need to be printed and framed individually and presented in an 8 x 4 grid…

Something to think about.


T4 : A little "bonus"

Whilst I've been going around searching for petrol stations, it's been increasingly obvious where the old petrol stations have been. It's the style of the buildings, the concrete plinths on the "forecourt" and such. I'm not going to be looking at these, I could be looking for these things for far longer than I have to spend on the exploratory project. However, I found out about this one in Whitechapel near Longridge so thought I'd go that way when rephotographing those I'd seen the week before. A bonus, but not one of the ones that will form part of the 52 that I will hopefully reach before too long.

Church Lane
Church Lane, Whitechapel, Lancashire


T4 : Five Petrol Stations

Last weekend was a disappointment. The camera I had wanted to use wasn't really suitable, and I couldn't find a couple of the stations that I thought I should be able to. Further research has been done and it's another disappointment. There are currently only eleven petrol filling stations located within the Ribble Valley, and one of those I have a little niggle about - I don't recall ever seeing it, although granted it's not on a road I go down often. There was another that I've located on Google Street View, but can confirm that it's now been flattened and being replaced by housing. Whether it be ten or eleven though, it doesn't really matter as it's not quite up to the magic number of 26. I'll have to open up my area of exploration, and to be fair it shouldn't have to be by much to start getting some additional ones in the net. I'll just keep pushing the boundaries until I reach my total.

So, what is actually available? Within the Ribble Valley itself, it's:
Barrow : 1
Chatburn : 1
Clitheroe : 2
Dunsop Bridge : 1
Gisburn : 1
Langho : 1
Longridge : 2
Mellor Brook : 1
Osbaldeston : 1
Simonstone : 1

I've visited all of these over the last two weekends, except the one in Langho. I'll hit that one tomorrow and also go to some of those I visited with the MF camera. After that... it's back to pushing the boundaries. This is what I have so far with the Canon DSLR though. 

Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire
Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire

Texaco, Gisburn, Lancashire
Texaco, Gisburn, Lancashire

Esso, Osbaldeston, Lancashire
Esso, Osbaldeston, Lancashire

Cooke, Chatburn, Lancashire
Cooke, Chatburn, Lancashire

Shell, Mellor Brook, Lancashire
Shell, Mellor Brook, Lancashire


T4: a first foray into the Ribble Valley - disappointment aplenty

Last weekend I set off with a full tank of fuel, my GPS in fuel station locating mode and a couple of cameras to find some petrol stations. There's a number I know about, the one on the end of my lane, on the A59. Another next to the only McDonalds in the area. Some in Clitheroe. One in Dunlop Bridge. Bound to be at least one in Longridge. And a strong recollection of seeing one just to the north-west of Ribchester, but that one wasn't where I thought it was...

So, a first disappointment, not an auspicious start. I had thought that was an old fashioned style pump too (so probably not in service). Maybe it was somewhere else I passed whilst do another project in the area? I'll keep an eye out for it. I headed off to Longridge and soon found a second problem. I'd planned to shoot the project using medium format cameras; I have two of these and started off with the Pentax - a bit friendlier to use and a pile more pixels to play with. The lens is 55mm, which will equate to probably about 42mm on a 35mm camera and this is wider than the Hasselblad with it's 60mm lens and crop factor from the old digital back. However, the lens is still too long for what I want. You see, in America, there's lots of wide open spaces, and even when the spaces aren't wide and open, the roads are still wider than the little roads we find in our rural towns and villages. Using the Pentax, the Texaco petrol station in Longridge pretty much filled the frame. I prefer a wider lens, and a level of distance between the subject and the viewer. 

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire

I'd have preferred it something more like this, which was taken with a little cheap and cheerful Fuji (I have intended to take two styles of photograph and see which works for me more):

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire

So, a wider lens needed and therein lies the third disappointment. £1700! I'll have to resort to eBay and hope something turns up. Having said that, I can always use my Canon - nothing wrong with it at all, but just not what I had intended. Not quite back to the drawing board, but an obstacle to overcome.


T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (parts 4 and 5 of 5)

I had meant to do this as blocks of 5, but I’ve decided to end it all with one big push…

Enco, Tucumcari, New Mexico
Now a bank
Enco, Tucumcari, New Mexico [Feb 2008]

Hudson, Amarillo, Texas
An empty lot

Hudson, Amarillo, Texas [Jan 2013]

Standard, Amarillo, Texas
The inspiration for Ruscha’s
Standard painting is now a mechanic’s workshop.
Standard, Amarillo, Texas [Jan 2013]

Enco, Conway, Texas
Nothing much…

Enco, Conway, Texas [Dec 2012]

Mobil, Shamrock, Texas
A beauty salon

Mobil, Shamrock, Texas [Mar 2008]

Texaco, Vega, Texas
Is this now a house?

Texaco, Vega, Texas [Jan 2013]

Conoco, Sayre, Oklahoma
Another empty site

Conoco, Sayre, Oklahoma [Aug 2013]

Apco, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Another car sales pitch

Apco, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma [Aug 2014]

Knox Less, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
and another…

Knox Less, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma [Oct 2014]

Fina, Groom, Texas
The last one, demolished and replaced with a house.

Fina, Groom, Texas [Feb 2008]

So, that’s it. All located thanks to Road to Ruscha, Martin Möll or just plain detective work on my part. All except Bob’s Service. It’s back to the Internet search with that one. I’ll also send Todd Stewart and Oklahoma University an e-mail too, maybe he will be able to help…


T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (part 3 of 5)

Flying A, Kingman, Arizona
Not a lot remains of Flying A... although it has kept to its car related heritage.

Flying A, Kingman, Arizona [May 2009]


Dixie, Lupton, Arizona
There's an Indian tourist spot at Lupton, but the old petrol station is apparently empty and not in good shape. It can't be seen on GSV though. I've found where it should be (the profile of the rock formations the same), but if you go along the old road, I can only assume it's very dusty as this is what is seen...


However, rather than running with this as the available imagery, I moved the few metres back to the newer I40 to get this - nothing to see in terms of the station, but that's part of the fascination with working this way,

Dixie, Lupton, Arizona [Oct 2013]


Rimmy Jim's Chevron, Jimmy Jims's, Arizona
Rimmy Jim's Chevron burnt down back in the late 60s (see
here), whether this has anything to do with the "Mother Road" being replaced I've no idea (my suspicious mind tends to think it might). It was't rebuilt though, what was the point? I think this will be the place.

Rimmy Jim's, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Self-Service, Milan, New Mexico
Now a car park for the Family Dollar store...

Self-Service, Milan, New Mexico [Apr 2009]

Conoco, Albuquerque, New Mexico
From petrol station to restaurant to empty.

Conoco, Albuquerque, New Mexico [May 2014]



T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (part 2 of 5)

Mobil, Williams, Arizona
There seems to have been three Mobil stations on Route 66 in Williams over the years. Ian Walker talks of one at the entrance to the town from the west, next to a Chevron that he photographed for his essay 
A kind of “huh?”: the siting of Twenty-six Gasoline Stations (1962). There’s also another that is now a car themed restaurant on the corner of W Railroad Ave and 3rd (you can still see the old building there in amongst the new). The one Ruscha photographed is apparently on the site of what is now the police station though. Nasty burnt out clouds in the GSV here…

Mobil, Williams, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Standard, Williams, Arizona
Möll has shown the location of the second of Williams’ gas stations as being a Mexican restaurant, the Road to Ruscha project the same (have they just used his research?) There are little niggles with this one for me, the buildings in the background have changed as well, although this can’t be seen in my view use to where I’ve selected. Having said that, if one building changes, then why shouldn’t the next? The “closure” of the 66 meant that Williams has changed it’s source of income form the road and the traffic that used to pass through (according to some random “fact” on the Internet, 1m trucks/year would pass though) to tourism, so more restaurants, gift shops and hotels are needed… It does look like another repurposed gas station in its place though.

Standard, Williams, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Texaco, Jackrabbit, Arizona
The Jackrabbit Trading Post is still there and still in use, however the GSV car has not passed by it from the old Route 66 road it’s tied on. It’s only possible to view the back of the building form the I40 that passes behind it. It’s possible to see the old jackrabbit sign though, so it’s clearly the right place. It’s one of the drawbacks (together with the burnt out clouds, less than ideal contrast, compositions, etc.) of working with images being made available by someone else though (i.e. Google).

Texaco, Jackrabbit, Arizona [Oct 2011]

El Paso, Wilmslow, Arizona
Another one that has been taken down and built over, this time it was the building in the background that makes it clear it’s the right place – the satisfaction of seeing this is quite something, makes the forensic search through the street corners (in this instance) of a town quite rewarding. Things like this also mean I’m looking more closely at both the Ruscha image and the GSV, it puts me in mind of the analysis being made by Errol Morris in his 
Believing is Seeing book.

El Paso, Winslow, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Beeline Gas, Holbrook, Arizona
Another that I only located because of the work of the Road to Ruscha group who photographed some of the surroundings, referencing the Sandman Motel just over the road from here.

Beeline, Holbrook, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Di Bello, P, Wilson, C & Zamir, S (eds) (2012) 
The Photo Book: from Talbot to Ruscha and beyond. London. IB Tauris & Co Ltd. 


T3 : Mapping the Territory Pecha Kucha

The Pecha Kucha presentation is here:

Draft v1 of my notes for presentation are as follows (not time trialled, so fully expected to change when I say it):

1: I started this task using mind mapping - a little program I'd never used before called Mind Maple on the Mac. Inexpensive, but it allowed me to start putting my thoughts down in some form of logical order, although I did actually change my mind on this a couple of times. The thing with the software though is you need to know where you want to be going from the outset.

2: Having changed direction a little, the mind map quickly grew as I added more artists, more influences and more subjects into it, even though the categories were quite broad to begin with. I could've continued adding names, but felt I had to stop somewhere. I also knew this wouldn't be the finished piece.

3: It all got very complicated very quickly when I added some of my own categories so it became useful to me personally, even if I left these at a top level.. There's not really enough within the tool to allow me to do this as I wanted. Everything is too chaotic to be neatly arranged. And too neatly arranged to be chaotic...

4: If you take someone like Martin Parr, he's influenced a lot of photographers, and has been influenced by them too. I do find that photographic national identity interesting, so being able to trace from Tony Ray Jones to Parr to Peter Dench... the stylistic patterns can appear, but then that all relates to others again and identity can become diluted.

5: With Japanese photography, there's a very distinctive identity at the surface, but then there's also many others that don't follow that obvious style. And Japanese photography traditions are rooted in European photography anyway, but with a little twist. It's not so easy to pigeon-hole.

6: As well as other artists and influences or interests, I also added a few questions that I sometimes ask myself, questions that I probably won't be able to answer as a result of doing this activity in isolation, but I thought they needed to be there.

7: So how to make sense of it? My first thoughts were to fill the walls of a room with images. Erik Kessels took this to extremes with his 24 hours of Flickr. It's a valid approach in questioning how we make sense of visual stimuli in the 21st century. Or even whether we can make sense of it at all.

8: I kept it somewhat lower key, selecting some images by those artists I'd written down, adding some of my own to the mix, and a couple of others that I felt were relevant to a somewhat vague plan that was growing in my head who didn't appear in the mind map so far.

9: From there I pinned them randomly to a board and started to trace what I saw as logical lines between them, not necessarily who knew or followed who in their world, but how things appeared to me. What they mean to me and how I interpret them.

10: This approach reflects the chaos I feel when trying to unpick the contemporary photography scene, and the art scene in general. Things that might not actually be connected in real life are connected because of associations I make, rightly or wrongly in terms of their intentions.

11: As some of the things from mind map weren't easy to pictorially define, I opted for some text, the use of which within the image I find interesting anyway, so it seemed relevant to do it this way. Again, they were pinned randomly to the board, using the same pins as the photos. Not sure if this was the right way forward.

12: The questions are things I often ask myself. Should I have photographed this empty cereal bowl, or should it have been a full one as seems to be a bit of a trend in social media from time to time? Is something so mundane actually interesting, or is it just like a filler track on an album? I do like the idea of "elevating the mundane" though, as with pop-art, and a lot of other photography, basically...

13: I stood and thought about the images then tried working with long lengths of thread, linking the images in a single line according to an idea I had that created connections for me, this generally didn't work out though to be honest, and I often found myself adding legs later as something else occurred to me.

14: Not everything is linked either, some of the text especially has been overlooked at the moment (the images are linked though). I might add these in time, although it may be a good thing that it be changed so they stand in isolation. It appears they're linked but its not the case.

15: There's so many connections that haven't been made too, but to do this properly would result in something truly chaotic and needing another way of fastening things - the effect is getting close to what I envisaged though and information overload. I also need more colours of thread.

16: The fact that almost everything can be connected is sort of like the movie game the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You will be able to do the same with these artists, although that's not really what i've achieved here. Not in such direct terms. It might be an interesting approach to take with it though.

17: But in a modern visual culture, the links are for the reader to make, and as Foucault said, we interpret everything in terms of everything else, so with enough different colours of cotton and enough time, this could take on all sorts of different meanings.

18: I suppose doing this is a little like looking inside my own head, and the jumble of things that can be there in terms of the visual - over time I will be processing all these things and trying to make them ordered, as they were in the mind map, but the truth is that the more I look at, the more unordered things can be.

19: And the more questions I can find myself asking too, and the more things - images, songs, films, books, whatever - are added to the mix and the more connections can be made or, in some cases, unmade. It can gets complicated even as I try and make sense of it.

20: I suppose the most important question for me is that which sits above a snap of my camera at the approximate centre of the board - what is photography?

T4 : 25 of 26 Gasoline Stations (part 1 of 5)

Ed Ruscha decided to work his project whilst driving the thousands of miles from LA to Oklahoma to see his parents. He also liked the word "gasoline" and the "specific quality of 'twenty-six'" (Richards, p31). The 26 photographs document further iterations of that journey through the gasoline (or Petrol for those of us this side of the Atlantic) stations that were peppered along the route, in some instances in areas devoid of much else. The presence of these stations tell us of the size of America, the fascination with the great American road trip, Route 66 and the culture of the time. Was this the intention with the project though? It certainly confused at the time, and book sellers didn't know how to classify the book. Rust hasn't been the only one to photograph petrol stations, but that can be subject of another posting. What I was meaning to do here is provide the 25 stations I have found during the last couple of weeks of fevered searching.

Bob's Service, Los Angeles. California
This is the one that I've not tracked down yet. Los Angeles is a pretty big place and there aren't many clues in the photograph. Certainly "Bob's Service" doesn't come up with anything, other than links to Ruscha's photograph or things that seem unrelated. The only thing I can assume is that it's somewhere between the Santa Monica seafront and the Texaco on Sunset Strip. However, this isn't an absolute given as some are known to be "out of order", going from LA to Oklahoma.

Texaco, Sunset Strip, California
This Texaco has gone, although the location was found thanks to the presence of the Har-Omar restaurant behind it. Here, the composition is broadly similar to that used by Ruscha, albeit a touch wider.

Texaco, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles [GSV Dec 2014]

Union, Needles, California
Still looking pretty much as it did, although a bit more "tired" perhaps. Just like the majority of those located, it's no longer a petrol station, the need having passed with the decommissioning of Route 66 as the major transport route - this one is in the shadow of the I-40 Needles Freeway which took the traffic over W. Broadway.

Union, Needles, California [Oct 2011]

Shell, Daggett, California
This is one that I'm a little less confident about. There aren't many clues to be taken from the original photograph, and to be honest, the size of the cabin seems a little small although as can be seen in the others, a lot can happen in the intervening years. This is the site that Martin Möll uses in his 
Twenty-six Gasoline Stations Revisited though (I found this work through the images included in Todd Stewart's Context site that I've linked to in the titles here).

Shell, Daggett, California [Jul 2012]

Whitling Bros, near Ludlow, California
This one was problematic. Ludlow has been pretty much levelled when you look at the Google satellite and Street View maps and nothing even comes close. However, this is 
near Ludlow not in Ludlow. The Context site has an image of what it looked like in 2013, so using with the help of Flickr and Google, I've been able to find that station in Newberry Springs but my "problem" is that it's 29 miles from Ludlow. So, is it actually the right one? Evidence would say "yes", my inner voice says "no"; maybe my English idea of "near" is very different to an American idea of the concept.

Whitlow Bros, Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona
After the uncertainty of the last one, I thought I'd found Phillips 66 because of the distinctive shape, but on closer looks it's just not the same. The scaffold at the front of the roof is a different shape, but the much bigger problem is the shape of the hills behind.

Monte Vista Marine

Instead, it would appear that the dart-shaped roof has been removed and we have a different building. This is as deduced by the Road to Ruscha and Martin Möll sites.

Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona [Sep 2011]

Richards, M (2008) 
Ed Ruscha. London. Tate Publishing (accessed throughout March 2015) (accessed throughout March 2015)


T4 : Road to Ruscha

The Route 66 section of my project is heavily research driven, a more forensic research than might normally be expected because I have to find his 26 gasoline stations locations based on a series of simple captions - Bob's Service, Los Angeles, CA or Texaco, Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. The only other geographical clue is that they're all on Route 66, so that cuts it down somewhat, although "Los Angeles" is still a pretty major length of road to go checking all the buildings on... I have found a useful resource though, and that's the website of a research based art project called Road to Ruscha by the art, art history, architecture, and geography students and faculty of the University of Oklahoma, who covered the journey back in 2013 (the 50th anniversary of the book). There's also a few blogs around the subject too, such as this one by one of the faculty members.

I got quite excited when I saw a map with all the photographs from the book pinned on it, I thought my research had been shortcut. But no, the map is wildly inaccurate and I can only assume that the locations were marked from a distance. If we take the Texaco on Sunset Strip as an example, they have located it at Hammond Street, a residential area situated roughly 11 miles from the actual location at 8795 Sunset Boulevard, which I found by Googling the Har-Omar Restaurant, a sign for which is in Ruscha's photograph. However, whilst the map is next to useless, there are photographs and short blog entries about their discoveries, dead-ends and u-turns, some of which has already proven invaluable in locating the stations that have been demolished or repurposed. Photographs of street signs are quite useful, even if the locations they're in aren't given there's only 26 to check, so it's certainly helpful.

Road to Ruscha map - Western Section

Road to Ruscha map - Los Angeles

Road to Ruscha map - "Texaco, Sunset Strip" [not]

Even so, the locating of the gasoline stations is still proving problematic. It looks like one of the towns featured in Ruscha's book has been completely demolished when you look on Google's satellite view, although there are still a few buildings left when you look on the earlier GSV, but none of them look like what I was expecting in Ludlow. Maybe that one has gone and can only be approximated? Others have gone, but there are still traces of what was before, the one on Sunset Strip being an example of this as the restaurant still remains and is easily identifiable, but it looks like the gas station is now outside dining. It's similar in other locations too, and I've only confirmed that they're what I believe they're meant to be using the backgrounds.

So far, I've located just over half of the sites, with a couple more that are possibles although I'm not completely certain it's the right place, and maybe I never will be. Having found the locations, I'm pseudo-photographing them; picking a location from GSV and composing what I want the shot to look like. Maybe they'll be similar to Ruscha's photograph, but I don't feel that is necessary (nor even possible in some instances). They'll be something I think suits my purposes. In terms of the aesthetics of the images though, I have done some manipulation. I've straightened things, removed excessive convergence that can occur with GSV, I'm not removing other GSV "features" though. I'm also converting them to a monochrome image, purely as a reference to the source material. I might change these choices before the end, we'll see how things go.

Anyway, here's the Texaco that I've been talking about as it was
before and how it is now(ish).

Texaco location from GSV
(screen captured March 2015)

Texaco, Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, CA [GSV Dec 2014]



T4 : Exploratory Project

Rather than simply copy out the Project Plan here, I thought I'd simply state the idea, and I suppose the simplest way of doing that is with a title: Fifty-Two Petrol Stations.

There's an obvious starting point here, and that's Ed Ruscha's Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations; photographs of exactly that, taken on Route 66 in the early 60s. What I'm looking to explore is an appropriation of his idea, rather than simply copying and repurposing his images. One of things that I've found interesting over the years is the elevation of the mundane things that we see but ignore into something that acquires relevance - if it's photographed, it means something. Or so it seems.

Knox Less, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
(located at

Doing this will hopefully serve to allow me to scratch a number of itches that I've had for a while. One "itch" stems from Martin Parr's Boring Postcards in that, whilst these are indeed simply postcards you wouldn't necessarily want to receive, they also have some resonance with the cool or deadpan approach of much contemporary photography. Within volume 1 of his book, there's a photograph of The Fast Reactor, Dounreay, Caithness  that reminds me of The Bechers and The Tourist Information Centre, Fort William reminds me of Stephen Shore. Don't get me wrong, they're not the same, not by a long shot (although perhaps it should be noted that Shore printed postcards of some of his photographs and inserted them uninvited into postcard carousels....). But there is something there, for me at least. Maybe it's a reflection of contemporary photographic practice, as much as anything.

The Fast Reactor, Dounreay, Caithness (from Martin Parr's Boring Postcards. Reproduced with permission)

The Tourist Information Office, Fort William (from Martin Parr's Boring Postcards. Reproduced with permission)

Anyway, I wanted to revisit scenes from the book for my degree, rephotographing them to show the passage of time and with the intention that they be serious photographic art, rather than postcards. For one reason or another, I didn't do it. But I feel like I want to still.

The second itch that I've scratched around a few times is that of Google Street View (GSV). Using GSV is not "photography", but I don't see any reason why it can't be used as a tool in the making of art. What I hope to do is something of a forensic search to find what remains of Ruscha's 26 and rephotograph them using GSV. Not necessarily trying to get the same composition (which would be largely impossible anyway), but to get something I like out of it. This might be an impossible task - none of the gas stations were given particularly definitive titles, "Enco, Tucumcari, NM" is one example. Tucumcari isn't a particularly large town (population circa 5500), but still... Anyway, I'm hoping that by digging around for info on the Internet I'll be able to locate these 26 sites on GSV and create an image using my own composition, etc. Doing this will also serve to scratch the first itch. Will it be possible? Will it be interesting and worthwhile? I've no idea.

The second part of the project brings me home. I'm planning to track down 26 petrol stations in the rural (largely farming) community I live in - the Ribble Valley in NW England. I've photographed the Ribble Valley before. It's where I live, so why wouldn't I? It's relevant to me, it makes the project "matter". I'm fairly confident there will be 26, but there is a slight risk here - the Ribble Valley consists of 2 small towns and a number of villages and hamlets, this is no bustling metropolis! In searching out this petrol stations, I'm hoping to create some interesting images of my own. I'm planning on working in two styles, the first being more fluid and casual, the second with a medium format camera, which will likely end up something akin to that included below, which comes from
Into the Valley, a project I did a couple of years ago. Which style will I use...? I guess that depends on how I feel when I have a raft of photographs in front of me.

"Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire"

Anyway, that's the loose plan. We'll see how it ends up.
Parr, M (1999) 
Boring Postcards. London. Phaidon Press Ltd.


T3: Mapping the Territory, v0.5


I've been thinking about where to go with my map. I have a board, I have images tacked to it, but what does it mean? As is, nothing. Well, nothing more than any board with images tacked to it will mean. I need to branch out more to reflect the way the mind map was going before I paused with it because it was becoming too much; too unconstrained and too complex (last version below). This fully reflects the way I've been thinking though, so it will undoubtedly be useful. But what to do with the board..?

Well, I've decided to add snippets of text in the form of questions, places, things or people. This will then add another layer to the board map. Will it work, time will tell... I think it is though. A little more work and I'm hoping it will be ready to Pecha Kucha-ise, and hopefully I'll be able to make sense of it in order to talk about it for 8 minutes or thereabouts.


Another thing worth mentioning is the Constellations map currently at Tate Liverpool - another way of doing...

Constellations at Tate Liverpool


T3 : Mapping the Territory, v0.2

Added more… now I’ll have to do something with it. In doing that, it will change again and, as with Angela’s video, the making will allow me to think about it some more.

Writing workshop

It’s a small room, an office, a home office. Filled with the desks, computers, printers, books and assorted paraphernalia of study, trying to be an artist and running a business. In the midst of this I sit, typing, looking intently at the large screen with my back to the door. There’s a wall of photo-books to my right and front (some of which are prized possessions) and a window to my left. The window often lets in too much light, which causes reflection problems on the screen, but not now on a cold winter’s evening.

It’s time for a coffee.

100 words on my environment, from the hangout on writing. I had lumpy Internet and there were server issues, so it was frustrating as I kept on coming in and out, but there we go. To add to the growing pile of things I have to get moving on, there's an essay to write, which will be somehow based on the
Mapping the Territory thing, support my work and probably anchor in to the P3 too. I need to get moving, need to get motivated and need to actually do something visually creative at some point.

Still, we have a week off next week. So there's time to do the reading we have to do for the week after... Oh, did I mention the P3 is due at the same time?

VL5 : Mapping the Territory

A short video from Angela covering some of the work she did herself as part of her doctorate (I think) on mapping her own territory. The starting thrust was to ask a series of questions about collaborative drawing - when does collaborative drawing happen? Who does collaborative drawing happen with? What is it about? How, why, when...?

Then her map became conversational, documenting conversations with others, It also listed drawing initiatives (Jerwood drawing prize, biennale's that sort of thing...). There was the oppositional aspects of verbal and visual encounters, positioned both visually and conceptually in the middle of the map. A list of one-off questions...

The map was embellished in dots, which served the purpose of being a fairly mundane activity during which Angela could cogitate about the questions posed on the map... the brain was immersed and processing whilst decorating...

Interesting to see, and will drive my own initial mind-map on from simple lists of influences into something more enveloping and evolving... certainly in the mind-mapping stage I'm going through at the moment. It will be interesting to see who it affects the finished item, which I doubt will remain in the mind-mapping software (mindmaple on the Mac platform). I suppose I'd better get on with it...

T3 : Mapping - an early attempt

Just starting to go through the mind mapping process, an hour spent with a piece of software and there will be bound to be people and things left off (this is far from complete). The way I’ve broken it up will be far from ideal, people might argue that things are in the wrong place, but this is just an attempt to get moving on this…

Parking a project

I've come to a decision to put the war film project on hold, maybe permanently, maybe not. One of the reasons for deciding to do this is the recent Tuymans case whereby he has been found "guilty" of a copyright violation for making a painting of a photograph of a politician. Looking deeper (as I have recently), those "famous" appropriation artists (Koons, Warhol and Levine, etc.) are known to get permission for using the works they appropriate. Where they don't, the work is sometimes withdrawn from circulation, such as Sherrie Levine's After Walker Evans which now belongs to Evans' estate.

As things stand now, I don't have permission to use the films as my source material, and so the next step will be to seek out that permission so that the work can be used. If there's a large cost involved, then the images won't be used other than for "educational purposes" as part of this MA. Whether that will hold any water, well, we'll see if anyone notices. I do have doubts whether permission will be granted by the film distributers.

So, what next?

+++an update+++

This update isn't about what I m right end up doing next, I haven't a clue. Rather, it's some further thinking about the Tuymans case highlighted above, and others including Fairey, Prince and whoever might fit the bill. The people litigating in these instances appears just to be the photographers, and there might be a purely economical reason for this as their own market diminishes, this is in terms of the fact that the end-users pay less - micro-stock being something that's encroaching here, diminishing the returns available and also the amount that users are willing to pay. There's also the fact that any muppet with a camera can often think themselves a photographer, which then can mean that some end-users turn to "citizen photography", or even just ripping images off from the Internet (notably social media) as being fair game. So, with less money available, if someone uses an image without authorisation, especially if that someone is a corporation or otherwise has money, then the legal battle ensues.

Having said that, there are instances whereby the big corporates go after "the little man" - Paramount and @555uhz with Top Gun being a particularly pertinent example, and U2's record label with Negativeland. I'm not really willing to go down that route just at the moment, so as I said, I'm parked whilst I find the time to write to all these film companies and ask them nicely...

She'd sigh like Twig the wonder kid...

...and turn her face away.

Ok, that’s got nothing to do with anything, other than it’s from a song, which is the idea that probably what got the most mentions from the PK presentation. Not everyone provided feedback, but yeah, the music slant was the main thing. That and listing some interesting photographers.

And yes, that was indeed me on the first photograph, some 20-odd years ago in a Photo Booth in sunny Blackpool.

Not sure what else to add at the moment.

Pecha Kucha

A Pecha Kucha video about influences... What drives me? What makes me work? What makes me tick?

Here it is, from storyboard to the final video - 20 slides, 20 seconds each and a live voice over...


I’ll add what I’ve prepared as the voiceover text later, whether it ends up being what I actually say remains to be seen.

Slide 1 - Rob, some time ago...
Slide 2 - Concert photograph, 2010
Slide 3 -
Heinz Hajek Halke, The Home of Sailors, 1930
Slide 4 -
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brussels, 1932 (MoMA)
Slide 5 - Daido at Polka, 2011
Slide 6 -
Shomei Tomatsu, Kadena-cho, Okinawa, 1969
Slide 7 -
William Klein, Torn Cine Poster, 1961
Slide 8 -
Tony Ray-Jones, Glyndebourne, 1967
Slide 9 -
Christopher Petit, Radio On, 1979
Slide 10 - Untitled, from
Speak My Language, 2013
Slide 11 -
Petra Wunderlich, NYC Kingdom Hall, 2009
Slide 12 -
John Darwell, Legacy: Inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, 1998
Slide 13 -
William Eggleston, Untitled (Peaches), 1973
Slide 14 -
Stephen Shore, US 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, 21 July 1973.
Slide 15 -
Ridley Scott, Blade Runner, 1982
Slide 16 - Books 1, 2015
Slide 17 - Menu, 2012
Slide 18 - Books 2, 2014
Slide 19 -
Barbara Kruger, Belief + Doubt, 2012
Slide 20 - Pop Art Rob

Here’s what I
intended to say, but it didn’t quite work out that way:

1. Hi, my name is Rob and I’m addicted to photography
I’m going to talk about some of the things that I’ve liked and have influenced me over the years. The first thing I have to mention is music; it’s affected the way I looked, the way I feel and the work I produce. As you know, I’ve used lyrics in my images, but I’ve also used music as the image itself.

2. Here’s a photo I took at a gig, the photograph shows the audience and the effect music can have. Elsewhere it might be less overt but it’s there if you know where to look for the signs. All of my recent projects are also named after songs too. Might be a bit cheesy, but there we go.

3. Surrealism was the first “ism” I became aware of at school, and it’s stayed with me to some degree ever since. Not just in terms of photographers either, but Dali, Magritte and so on too. It probably comes from reading too much science fiction when I was younger.

4. Another surrealist was Henri Cartier-Bresson, but he will be better known for his photographs of the “decisive moment”, like his famous St Lazare photograph. I really got into black and white photography from these old images from Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau and Atget, etc.

5. From France, my interests moved over to Japan and the Vivo and Provoke groups from the 60s and 70s – photographers such as Tomatsu, Hosoe, Moriyama and Takanashi were producing images in the “are bure boke” style - grainy, blurry and out of focus.

6. The images were politically charged, and even though they were influenced by the West, and new wave filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, they pushed against the American occupation of Japan and reacted to the experience of the atomic bomb.

7. William Klein was an influence on Moriyama, and I thought their exhibition at the Tate a couple of years ago was brilliant. What draws me is the way he layers different elements – photo with photo as with this one, or with text or graphic design.

8. Coming closer to home, I have to say I’m English, and I do like the more contemporary style of English photography – after the Picture Post era like this one from Tony Ray-Jones, it became a little edgier and… eccentric. I find this really interesting.

9. Cinema is another big influence, as you may have noticed from the work I’ve been doing. This still is from Christopher Petit’s Radio On, which was a direct influence on the work I exhibited in Bank Street last year with Speak My Language – a mosaic of images viewed in a large grid to form a non-linear narrative.

10. This is one of the images from that work, it’s of Wong Kar-Wai’s “Fallen Angels”, which also gave me the title of the project – Laurie Anderson’s “Speak my Language” was on the soundtrack to the film, and this frame and the lyrics were included in the mosaic.

11. I’ve also got to mention Objectivity and the Dusseldorf School – people like the Bechers, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky. I find this relatively recently but it appeals to the engineer in me, with everything neat and ordered and logical.

12. Quite a few years ago, I attended a talk by John Darwell. During that talk, he spoke about his transition to colour photography, saying “This is now”. It really struck a chord with me and I’ve generally worked in colour since, but not always…

13. William Eggleston was one of the early colour pioneers, who helped make colour photography acceptable on the art scene. I really do like his eye for mundane details, the way he picks up on all the little things we might overlook and makes you look at them as if they now meant something. They become important somehow.

14. Stephen Shore was another of the early colour art photographers. This particular image illustrates postmodernist ideas for me, the simulacra of the mountain in front of the real thing, not quite a map so big it covers the country, but still…

15. This brings me back to film and Blade Runner – an all time favourite of mine, and a perfect postmodern film, with its themes of simulation, what is real and all that. Looking at something like this starts to make sense of some of the pomo theory.

16. I’ve done a reasonable amount of reading on visual culture, and I do subscribe to some of it, but not all – it gets a bit… aloof in places, and it assumes a lot. Some times I just like to appreciate things for what they are to me (itself part of the theory), rather than what they might mean or not.

17. My favourite kind of book is the photobook though. This is one I produced with Daido Moriyama at an event at the Tate. My methodology was much different to his, I was much more considered, and he was very random, more spontaneous. His juxtapositions can be down to luck rather than planning.

18. I like the physicality of the photobook, the image becomes an object that you can “own” rather than something just seen on a computer screen. Whilst books might be thought of as a limited media, you can do so much with it if you want to. And we all know about bookness now.

19. I’ve mentioned text before, but then I don’t like direct captions. I like to think about what I’m seeing, rather than being told what it is. Ok, sometimes I’ll admit to needing a clue, but if the caption is reductive, I’d rather not read it.

20. And that’s it, back to music, me and popular culture… I probably should have been born 20 years earlier.

I’m waiting for feedback from some of the cohort, but I think things went well enough. And it was quite interesting that the Barbara Kruger text came up in the lecture beforehand (as did Warhol’s Marilyn).


Something a little different

A few weeks in France should be relaxing, but with a pile of books packed for the Christmas break this wasn't going to be feet up in front of the fire with a glass of beer and taking it easy. Well, ok there was a fire (and I was throwing logs on there like nobody's business, it almost felt like K-foundation's burning of £1m...). There was also some reading: there was Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction (Christopher Butler), War isn't Hell, it's Entertainment (Schubart, Virchow, White-Stanley and Thomas) and Appropriation (David Evans). I've got various post-it notes and highlighted sections and scribbled annotations to make sense of before I begin to write anything to show what it meant to me.

Anyway, I also managed a walk, and I took my camera. Doing something different from the war films has been a little bit like therapy. I've not had to try and work out why I was taking the photographs, I just did it. They're not even particularly in a style I'm accustomed to, but there we go - something different. Something to step back from the other work and allow it to develop at the back of my mind, sub-consciously if you like.

untitled (63 of 77)-Edit
Col du Trédudon

I did come home and write up my notes on the Neo Avant-Garde though...


Discussing the gallery context

The hangout following the third video lecture started off with a discussion on the relationship between the curator and the artist, and how the curator appears to have the upper hand in that particular relationship. At least, that certainly appears to be the case with artists on the lower end of the pecking order (the stellar names out there will have a different view on this, I'm sure). It is the curator who chooses what the public need to see, pulling together topical themes and artists in a way that serves their own purpose, perhaps with the curator being paid by the venue and the artist paying for the opportunity to be looked at and chosen to further pay for their prints (or work, I'm thinking photographically here) to be made and framed, transported to the venue and hung... The balance certainly appears to be against the artist, but then with so many artists out there, this will be the case.

We split into groups to discuss various questions. It was down to me, Emma and Alison to discuss audience and destination. The notes from the various groups are provided below, as they were recorded (by Caroline I think) during the hangout. The orange within our section is to provide a little more context into what we were actually talking about.

The art gallery as destination
Different forms of galleries, open house, etc, different ways of interacting with audience,

Trad - gallery.
There's also the smaller and non-traditional galleries beyond the "big names", such as the Tate, that are available. Some are dedicated art places (like Bank Street Arts I exhibited in during July), others are places that art can be seen, such as "arty" cafes, libraries, temporarily repurposed empty shops, outdoor spaces or generally anywhere with a level of footfall.

Open house - more social.
I've never been to, or taken part in, an "open house", when the artist invites people into their working space, often in conjunction with other artists in the area. Personally, I wouldn't like strangers coming into my personal space, but then my "studio" is an upstairs room in my house, and this might be different if I had another space for working in. With such an event, there isa greater level of interaction with the viewer, over a cup of coffee (or glass of wine!); a discussing of the work so that there is certainly something to be gained in terms of feedback.

Diff audience, more interactive.
Some venues provide a wider variety of ways of reaching the works, through the use of technology or just by being otherwise inventive; it's not just about the work hanging on the walls anymore [I discussed something along these lines with the photographer Jim Mortram a little while ago, as there was a level of context thathad been lost when just viewing his portraits in a show - we talked about things like QR codes with links to videos or background stories, etc.]

Education - schools, get young to look at it.
This was something particularly close to Emma's area of interest as a teacher; she was surprised that some people get to their teens without seeing the inside of a gallery. Looking back, this was also the case form me too - there weren't many galleries in Blackpool (The Grundy, next to the library is the one I can remember, maybe there were others. It wasn't really somewhere you would go for a day out though - no cafe or anything! I did take the arts trip to Paris as a thirteen-year old though. And as my parents had friends living in Oxford, I'd been to Pitt Rivers, but remember that more as a museum than a gallery (was there a dinosaur there...)

Gallery may be new experience.

myriad forms of galleries - find what’s right for artist - presents in right way, and connects.
Refer to the above. In addition, Emma spoke of some work with St Clements hospital's psychiatric ward, where the work had a tactile nature and was printed on carpet before hanging on the walls.

What do we mean by audience?
Work with hospital makes audience more of a curator, as they do the work.
This was the work I mentioned above. I'm not sure what was being picked up on with "as they do the work", but the work has to be appropriate and chosen for the patient, so it in that respect the comment was made.

A lot of art seen on the internet, so that changes the audience.
The Internet audience is many things. It is the widest audience we can possibly imagine, pretty much everyone is a possible viewer, and they will make decisions to move on, to engage, to reblog, or "like" something within very short timescales. If this is the desired audience, then you have to be "socially aware" to make the most of it.

The ‘aura’ disappears too. Or is different. Not the same presence online.
The "aura" being referred to is that which Walter Benjamin wrote about ("...age of mechanical reproduction." essay), and that John Berge further disucssed in his "Ways of Seeing" series of essays and TV programmes. Benjamin talks of "The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition,", however we now have very different traditions, and are now producing work in a "Post Internet" age, there is a new tradition starting... What we were talking about though is how a photograph on an iPad is not the same as a photograph on a wall, or a sculpture or a painting. You lose certain subtleties, such as brush strokes, the makers movements on the material or even something in the difference between a back-lit media and printed media.

Attention span of audience on internet. Short.
The nature of the modern audience, especially on the Internet, is that we are becoming used to "now". We no longer have to visit a reference library for information, all information is on the Internet (well, all information you would find in a reference library anyway, and lots more beside). Similarly, if we want to see an image by so-and-so, we Google it and it's instant gratification. How many times have we given up looking for something if it's not on the first page or two of search results? Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Well, I actually think it's just a "thing" and to be more successful we will need to adapt - survival of the "fittest" is not a new phenomenon.

Limited by small site. erm...

Most artists leave the work to the viewers to interpret
This comment will have been made in response to some discussion on the death of the author I guess. As an artist, we put our work "out there", together with maybe an artists statement for context and people will make of it what they will. Short of using strong clichés and heavy signifiers, we can not force the viewer to buy into our intentions. We can guide, but that's about it...

The art has a life of its own

Is the viewer seen as an interactor that completes the exchange of ideas between the artist, the art and the public space or do they perform a different role?
interactor as a receiver. sometimes they are ask to finish the piece (move things, move around an installation, etc) and sometimes they are just viewers of an image.
receiver of the idea of the artist, sometimes they will finish the piece... as they walk around.
most artists leave their work to the viewers to make their own interpretations an artists perspective can be v different from the viewers
Some artists create work for viewer and some galleries direct artists to
make work in a way that sells - to survive
A painting can be an object with its own reality however viewer can also
make a connection with the work/me - artwork can also take on a whole new sequence, artist and viewer unified emotionally and intellectually

What about contextual requirements for a work, what control do we have as artists over our work in the public domain?
you have no control once a work is out, unless you are in the gallery next to your piece of work otherwise we are all from different cultures so there will be different perspectives - maybe this is a positive thing, learning from others, others seeing your pieces
Once artwork is out there and displayed we, as artists have very little control, the art has a life of its own
We have very little control and If I were doing something I would make detailed notes how something was to be hung/displayed - and with links to my website so a curator could see the rationale
Good that different curators can take works and do interesting things with it and artists might get more out of it than less
artist has no control over artwork once it is displayed
Space in which the art is viewed is v important, a context, interpretation can be altered by context, don’t show work is space is unsuitable

Is it necessary to make a career out of our art practice and if so why?
A lot of artists might have a day job and a career as an artist might need to be supplemented, earnings wise
Celebrities - eg Bono, Annie Lennox, sometimes make visual art as a sideline, using celebrity status to inflate selling prices
In Germany there is a career path that is very bureaucratic, you need to have a paper from the academy to enable you to get insurance. you are taught by a master artist at the academy - you can be a tandem (?) in the south so you are accompanied by an artist as a mentor, to support you and help you to develop - a typical German way.
We have chance in most countries - in Germany you have a system
Selection for the academy then gives you a stamp of authority if you are chosen to be taught by a Master. For foreigners in Germany if you are well known on the art world then curators will select your work, e.g. juried shows. No prizes after 50 years of age !
Artist world is like a shark pool

What does success look like for an artist?
depends on where you are in your career Doing it for yourself
selling a painting
To gain respect as an artist
To have a name that is recognised
To have a network
Having a job as a photographer means I have success but for me personally it is different
Living the dream - to support yourself doing what you want to do
Being thankful and grateful for an exhibition and for selling a painting Grateful for someone looking at your work?
Grateful for someone liking your work?
You are doing your work for yourself... There is no ‘audience of one’
How do we manage knock backs?
a real artist is not successful in his lifetime
Is it for a journalist to say what success is anyway?

VL 3 : Exposition and Context (iv)

The final section of the lecture is focused on periodic exhibition venues and prizes:

Venice Biennale

Started in 1895 and takes place (as the name suggests) every other year.
Features avant-garde art.

Frieze Art Fair
Takes place in October every year.
Sponsored event, currently by Deutsche Bank (which begs the question why is a German bank sponsoring a London event?)
Features talks, education, curated elements.
Also many galleries in attendance; this is a commercial snapshot of contemporary art, so there is a focus on selling artworks.

Turner Prize
Awarded to an artist presenting an outstanding body of work during the previous year.
Provokes a lot of debate - the winning art is usually "challenging" in some way.
The prize is sponsored, attracts TV coverage and can promote a "celebrity" image for the artist.

John Moores Painting Prize
Biennial prize coinciding with the Liverpool Biennial.

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)

VL 3 : Exposition and Context (iii)

Beyond the gallery
The video lecture also explored opportunities outside the traditional gallery context:

Guerrilla Girls
Used newspaper, the Internet, site specific and viral campaigns.

Guerrilla Girls, 1985-90

Marc Quinn
Work displayed on the 4th Plinth
Seen as controversial, questioning "what is art?"
Provides political and social comment on motherhood and disability.

Marc Quinn, Alison Lapper, 2005,_Trafalgar_Square,

Maggi Hambling
Public work "Scallop" on display on Aldeburgh beach.
Was it wanted? The use of public space was not completely accepted, but has tempered over time and is now seen as a landmark.

Maggi Hambling, Scallop, 2003,_Maggi_Hambling,_Aldeburgh.jpg

Robert Smithson
His large scale earthworks "Spiral Jetty" can't really be seen from the ground.
If it can only really be seen in full from the air, what is the intended audience?
What is the intention with the work?

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970

Andy Goldsworthy

Temporary work such as "Icicles" is photographed before it melts.
Is then the work the original sculpture or the photographs of the sculpture, or are the photographs purely a record? (noting, he produces a lot of books...)

Andy Goldsworthy, Ice Star, 1987

Franko B

Uses the body as the medium for his art.
By looking on as he makes his "performance", bleeding from his arms as in "O Lover Boy", are we complicit in the self-harm?
How does something affect the viewer as voyeur?

Franko B, Oh Lover Boy, 2001

Antony Gormley
Angel of the North has become a landmark and is much loved by the locals.

Antony Gormley, Angel of the North, 1994-98

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)
Franko B's website - (accessed 22/12/14)
Government Art Collection website - (accessed 22/12/14)
Guerrilla Girls website - (accessed 22/12/14)
Wikipedia - (accessed 22/12/14)


VL 3 : Exposition and Context (ii)

Beyond the questions posed and responded to in the previous posting, the lecture also delved into the nature of the gallery. I'm going to put this forward as a series of bullets at the moment as there's a lot of ground to cover and I feel like I'm slipping behind - maybe I'll come back later and look at specific points in more detail, but at least writing it down here is a start.
  • What purpose does the gallery serve in this day and age? Is it for entertainment or education? Edutainment? Does it have to be one or the other? Will one mans entertainment be another’s education?
  • It was stated that the gallery will mediate art from within its original context, narrative and frame (as opposed to something like the Internet, where these things will, in all likelihood, become divorced from the work).

The video went on to look at specific institutions...

National Gallery (London)
  • A temple to the arts.
  • An impressive building that states the value placed on the arts - a national symbol of culture, wealth and status.

Tate Modern (London)
  • Reflects the considerable status of modern art.
  • A symbol of commercial (rather than national) wealth, with the Tate family and their sugar fortune being the benefactors.
  • It can be both a personal and collective experience.
  • Features everything you need for a "day out" experience - cafe, dining, members room, gift shop, books, etc. And of course there's the galleries...
  • Attending the venue shows we give ourselves a certain status.

  • Again, another status symbol, this time from a much earlier time (1939), which wasn't a period associated with the artistic "day out", so can be considered a social instigator.

Guggenheim (NY)
  • A purpose built centre to draw people in from the outside.
  • Space designed for the presentation of the arts.

Guggenheim (Bilbao)
  • Reflects Bilbao's industrial heritage whilst still following in the footsteps of the New York gallery.
  • very much a symbol of wealth and prestige (something of a trend emerging...)

Louvre (Paris)

  • A building full of history, grandeur and opulence.
  • The hanging style is very different from other places, a lot of art hung in very close proximity to each other, whilst also competing with the building itself.

Musée d'Orsay (Paris)
  • A converted railway station.
  • Holds mainly French art from the Impressionist collection of the Louvre. (Note - wikipedia states they're from the Jeu de Paume prior to 1986)

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (Norwich)
  • Purpose built for the display of visual arts.
  • Attached to the University of East Anglia, whose courses reflect this.
  • Features curated pathways through the displayed Sainsbury's collection, rather than specifically curated exhibitions.

Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford)

  • The work comes from a somewhat random personal collection.
  • Arranged to reflect the locality, rather than other connections between the artefacts on show.

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)

VL 3 : Exposition and Context (i)

The third video lecture sees Caroline come in for in for a change, talking about the context for our work. She asks a number of questions, which I will try to address below, before going on to talk about places to see work, from the gallery to site specific work (part ii of this post).

The questions were as follows:

Why do I want to make this (being an artist) a career?
Well, a career might actually be a little on the strong side. I personally doubt that it would become my career as I seem to be doing alright as an engineer. However, I don't get a huge amount of creative satisfaction from that line of work (more on this later), but it pays the bills, which means I can do what I want to do with my photography without having to worry about pleasing a client or producing something to fill a market need.

Having said all that, if it were to become something that could fulfil that role, then great!! How it would do that, I've no idea really.

What are my reasons for doing it?
Well, creative satisfaction is the main reason. Working outside of the strict rules and procedures of engineering is hugely liberating, it allows me to think differently, not having to worry about whether a particular option is "safe", or whether something might be provable, whether evidence can be found to support a particular route of action. There is something to be said for having an idea about something and working through it, seeing if it works or not, using the camera to ask questions of myself and of others. Admittedly, it doesn't always come off, but sometimes I do produce things I'm happy with.

What are my needs?
As might be gathered from the above, on the first level I want to produce something that gives me satisfaction, that helps me work out things in my head in a visual way. It might be argued then that photography is a form of tool for me, a visual "calculator".

It's also feeding my desire to make images. Long ago I decided in my own mind I wasn't really good enough to create images using paint or pencils ("decidedly average" comes to mind), so photography provides the means that I can use to explore things visually. Yes, it's a different language that is used, but that 's ok... I've liked photography for a long time anyway, even if the style of what I have liked has changed over the years (once, it had to be black and white...)

In terms of fame and fortune (part of the original question), it's not a huge driver for me. I'd be foolish to say that I would not like either, who wouldn't like an extra source of income and some level of recognition? However, it's not what I specifically do it for - aside from a few hundred quid here and there, I've never really made anything, and it certainly doesn't cover my costs! And as for the recognition, I tend to do everything under a pseudonym anyway... The limelight makes me feel uncomfortable, although that's not to say I don't have an ego that needs feeding occasionally. What will come, will come, but essentially I would see that as a bonus.

What does my practice constitute?
Photography... although not what the layman might identify with in that I don't look to do portraits, or chocolate box landscapes, etc. Mostly I suppose the work will be in series, that the images juxtapose with each other (or something else in some cases) to create something "extra".

Where am I currently positioned?
Hmmm... aside from on a sofa in France... seriously though, I'm not sure I really know. I'm a photographer, and I photograph what I want. Part of the reason for doing this MA (and not a photography MA) is to se if I can find out where I'm positioned in the wider art context.

What would I like to be in a few years time?
Still doing what I want to be doing, and if other people like that too it will be a bonus. I'd also like to be more aware of what I'm doing, where I'm going with my work (and why). I do sometimes wonder why all my work varies so much, so I'd either like to be in a position that I'm relaxed with that, or I've sorted myself out so that I'm more consistent.

What is a "professional context" for an artist?
The professional artist works in some way. If you look at the so-called art photographer, as opposed to the more commercial types, then in addition to print sales, there will be books, residencies, working with communities and teaching. Even some of the bigger names teach and take on other jobs - I'm thinking those like Stephen Shore here too, who is a director of photography at Bard College. There are many who supplement their direct art income in this way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's whatever "fits".

I said earlier that I don't have to work at being an artist in order to survive, so does that take me away from being a "professional"? In terms of money flow, everything seems to be an outwards flow - I pay to exhibit, pay to have my work seen, pay to receive feedback. Not many people are paying me for my art (one or two only).

What is success?
A wide ranging question, with answers ranging from being recognised by peers, to a wider audience, to making sales of existing work of one type or another, to having people wanting to commission the work or the worker for something.

Or it could simply be making the work. For me, this is where I am I suppose as not many people really see my work. The next step would be to widen my audience.

What it the right setting for my work
The main setting for my work is currently the Internet. Whether this is the "right" setting is another matter, but I suppose in some ways it does play to the sort of work I'm currently producing (the appropriation work that is
Some Unholy War). I do like to think it will move on from there though, and I'll see more of my work seen in a more physical form, whether on a gallery wall or in a book. A gallery would not really need to be some national institution such as the Tate Modern or MoMA, a smaller local gallery would be more than acceptable. The same with books; I'd be perfectly happy to see work on a small scale such as those produced by Cafe Royal Books or The Velvet Cell, or even a bespoke personally produced piece (which I've already done) rather than a mass produced one by Steidl or Dewis Lewis.

Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)

Task 2 : F3 feedback notes

Too much time has passed between the group crit and me writing this, too much has happened outside of the course and things are beginning to get a bit hazy. Others have said it before, but it’s really difficult to talk about the work, answer verbal questions, answer written questions, think, respond, talk some more and write down any sort of note to serve as an aide memoire for writing something meaningful at the end. Luckily, I got a grab of the comments, and I’ve also had some feedback via e-mail.

I’ve already posted the chatbox notes, but here I will respond to those that I think need to be responded to in some way.

It’s interesting how you extend the narrative of the photo sequences with text. Have you considered making the prints unique and more intimate with handwriting – just like Duane Michals does with his photo sequences?

Have I thought about handwriting? Not at all!!

At the time the comment was made, the name didn’t really register with me, but on checking on Google I have seen the work before somewhere. There’s a number of others that come to mind when I think of this sort of thing, not least is Robert Heineken who hand annotated some of his Polaroid sequences (I saw his work in Liverpool recently). Does it make a big difference if the lyrics are handwritten? My first thought is that it would be very difficult for me to come up with something that I was truly happy with. I’d struggle to make it centred, would the characters be the same height, would the line droop near the end…? I would probably try to make the handwriting so “precise” that it would lose the purpose of being handwritten.

I also see these. as being quite large images when printed (which is the reason for one of my questions), so how does this then relate to handwriting? Would it be brush painted? Sprayed? I feel like I would lose control a bit – I guess I’m a photographer working digitally for a reason… Which, with reflection, is a strange thing to say as these images are entirely down to chance!

Rob, I’d like to see more experimentation -maybe hadn 
[HAND] colour the photos in some way – over print them? Add sound?

I  suppose this is then also related to the last point too. To working digitally and degrees of control. The images are all manipulated in some way digitally, and years of not using my hands artistically is maybe crippling my confidence somewhat. There’s also an issue of space; I live in a small two bedroomed cottage, and until that lottery win comes in, there’s no space for a studio to have these things printed and then made available to layer in some way by hand. Perhaps interesting, once I’d gotten over the trepidation, but impractical and not really me either. I mentioned in the talker to the slides that this was a big deviation for me, and that my work is normally much “straighter” (as below), this is perhaps an interesting diversion for me, but I suspect I will return to my normal photography at some point.

Sword Beach

As for sound? Maybe it would be an option, but then what? If I think about video, then there’s maybe a need for sound. It might also be included in a gallery context too. Would it be songs? Would it be war? Would including the sound push something too far one way or the other? Something to think about, but…

be really interesting to exhibit these on 48 sheets
or printed and posted on walls/boards in cities

I didn’t know what this meant (48 sheets), but a quick Google and I believe it refers to billboards… Yes, I was thinking large scale prints anyway (over a metre) so maybe… Yes, I think it would actually work like that. I’d like to see it…However… It’s not cheap to get it done in – a billboard is about £700/m and about £200 for the printing. A single board wouldn’t really work either. My pockets aren’t that deep!! Something a bit smaller then – back to my 1m gallery prints perhaps?

slide 3 has horizontal lines that seem to refer to the TV screen…seems important???

This image includes a screen within the feel – the superimposed face of a drone controller and the targeting screen he was looking at (with reticule). Yes, it’s hard to miss the relationship between the controller (actor) looking and the viewer looking. There’s a degree of appellation going on I suppose, or is it just that by watching we become complicit in the actions, or at least accepting of it? Of course, each viewer will have their own take on this.

Transfer letters….old school, rubbed onto the photographs?

I’d thought about Letraset on the glass of the framed print, so that the lettering floats above the image, even if only slightly.

or those stencil lettering
look great in the street

Related to the Letraset – I suppose it depends on scale… (so see above!)

as a comic book type of presentation

The previous work for Task 1 was loosely comic based, but not necessarily formatted that way. I wanted to move away from it with this main thrust of the project…

Looking at the e-mail comments I’ve received:

had a brief thought about some of your lyrics- knowing most of the songs(!) they began to run through my head and some felt more ‘right’ with the images that others- meaning that i thought the music went with them or not.Bauhaus – yes- Blondie – no! I don’t know whether this could be another layer, maybe a hidden one- except for those who know the music- maybe even using weirdly inappropriate music that has a great lyric- (if there is such a thing) to set up a confusing dynamic between words, music and image.

I agree with the Blondie one, but it was something I thought I needed to try to get the idea of what I thought was appropriate. Weirdly inappropriate music – would that include Kylie? The strangeness perhaps comes here only once you realise the source.

Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Can’t get you out of my head, by Kylie Minogue

What about lines from army songs- marching songs or battle hymns?

I think this would then deviate from my thoughts of “entertainment”, so whilst “this is for fighting, this is for fun” (from Full Metal Jacket) might fit in thematically, it’s too far removed from my idea.

back to lyrics- the longer words like this one  All and Everyone, by PJ Harvey give  a different feel – more like an explanation I don’t really have a preference either way- tossing it back to you Rob!

I’m favouring the single lines at the moment…

What do you like- a little ambiguity? something more related to the scene? Is the actual music important or just the words? Do you want to expand beyond song lyrics to poetry or news reports or other words or is it important that it’s lyrics – and especially ones that you like  a lot (and show your age!!!!) What about that – lots of 40 somethings will know these lyrics is it better to stick to that generation or do you want to mix it up- what about different music genres- you got any  rap/hip hop in there?

At the moment it’s about the “entertainment” element. I had thought about leaving the films and into news footage or even promo video for military hardware, this would then blur the real/fake element which is part of what my initial thoughts were, but takes a step away from the entertainment element, but then it’s all part of “spectacle” so maybe I should? I might try it and see how things slot in together…

As for music style… no rap/hip hop at the moment (I don’t think), but there’s differing styles of music, from dance (The Prodigy), to industrial (NIN and KMFDM) and goth (Sisters of Mercy) to pop (Kylie). Lots of British indie stuff too, with The Smiths, PJ and The Wedding Present. Sixties music from The Beatles, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. Elton John, The Sex Pistols, Queen and Bowie… Should it be a more select list? I don’t know.

My view on rap/hip hop is that it’s all about “Get out, cock the hammer, then kick down the door” (Cypress Hill, A to the K). OK, ok, I know I’m not familiar with the scene, but that makes it harder to work with… and I’m already confused.

For me the outstanding image was the haunting green soldier with the powerful Cohen lyrics.  I preferred the independent, rather than blocked writing, which I found distracting, and feel that  the presentation of the words is key to how you move forward.

There is a connection with the words of Cohen (from The Partisan, a song about war) and the image, so the two reinforce each other. I’m still slightly torn, but coming to think that this is the right way to go… Not overtly about conflict, but not obviously trivially not about it either (like the use of Blondie Tanya mentioned).

The presentation of the words is fairly key,and I need to sort this out before the work can be resolved in any way. The intention with the blocking was to remove distraction (from the background), so it interesting to hear that it causes distraction in itself. I’m coming back around to not having the blocking (white or black) in there and just sticking with the text, although there are still a large number of variables to think about.

Having sat thru the various videos and slide presentations for the Turner Prize, I felt FFF could easily have been another contender.

It’s really good to hear that the work is being positively received as I do have my doubts about it…

I was comforted by your confusion, it helped put mine in perspective.

Similarly it helps to hear others are also confused. None of us are alone in our confusion…

“If you could let me know which of the lyric styles you prefer (and why?) on mine I’d much appreciate”Its hard to say Rob!  I was asking a few questions of you as for me that is the way I’d start to decide on how I wanted things…do I want the viewer to know its from films, does it matter its filmic representations, or is it more important its conflict representations.  What does having the lyrics add to the images, is it important people may recognise the lyrics, or is it more important that they don’t.  Do the lyrics mean to veil or conceal the conflict or are they there to elucidate on some aspect of it etc, if only the senselessness.   So if it was me I’d decide conceptually based on what I thought I was doing with them

Is it important that they’re films…? At the moment I think it’s not really important the viewer realises that they’re films, but it is important that they are. The way I think the work is seen by the wider audience (accepting that it’s not being widely seen by anyone – it’s on a few sites but with limited audience), the images will be thought of as a form of entertainment in themselves – almost comic book art which in itself almost promotes the entertainment value of conflict. We are looking at them and not with a documentary eye. The lyrics are adding to that “pop culture” element of the work. I guess I want people to “enjoy” the work, and then almost to feel guilty for doing so as a realisation dawns…

They will then question what it is they have enjoyed. To think about what the war film represents – a celebration of killing each other for what are often strange ideals on behalf of what is usually the aggressor (politics, religion, whatever…) I think the purpose of the lyrics is to add to what is being thought about. Add to the confusion that might ensue, and it’s probably this in itself that is causing me so much confusion as I create the work.

Stuart Whipps – I suddenly thought of him, he’s a local photographer working quite internationally it seems these days, I went to one of his exhibitions on Wales and the picturesque versus reality, in which his images were accompanied by a recording of people making enunciations (of not particularly relevant things) in Welsh.  Which was deliberately that no-one could understand as we were in Birmingham!  It was partly about the way that non-local people have no understanding of a local context I think.  There was a translation available and it talked of historic events, welshness vs English overlordness….etc etc

But it reminded me of your work in the way there is not necessarily a feeling of ‘sense’ for a viewer but there is an underlying conceptual reason for the presence of the words.

I’ll look into this – not had a chance yet.

So for me if I was you (and this is just me and I think its possible I am just very very weird about this stuff) I would be asking myself why I was doing the lyrics, over and above the juxtaposition and fracture.  And I would decide in the end on how I felt in my gut about it regardless of anyone elses view!For me overall there is something about film, something about how conflict is portrayed on film, and that we watch it as entertainment.  So the lyrics might draw our attention to what we are doing in some way.  Another way I guess is to have a musical soundtrack that makes no ‘sense’ with the images.  Maybe there’s something about how film is immersive that might need to be there, and a soundtrack would also have an immersive quality that is not there so much with stills which are more contemplative.

Things to think about… (too many things to think about, although maybe now I have the realisation the confusion is self induced….)

I like the words: there´s a club if you´d like to go” most – there is a connection between these words and the soldier – for me. What do think about writting yourself a Haiku. Links to your loved Asian photographers…

A haiku would indeed relate to my other interests, and would be appropriate to the intention of the juxtaposition, but it then moves away from my original ideas. Is it too great a leap sideways? Can haiku be written in English? How does the flow of on relate? Is it to syllables? To words? Would it be in some way similar to using a verse from a song? Perhaps it should form something of a future project.

You could present the photos as well in addition with spoken words….. wirtten, without the white blog behind…..or present them as a projection onto the walls going around and sounds – words coming from anywhere – this would be a deep impact to the viewer.

Hmmm…. The images started off without words (which have always been added afterwards – never as an intended pairing from the start). Maybe the images could be just that and somehow work out a way for projecting words around the gallery… Something more to think about. Actually, there is so much to think about….

Have seen such an installation  in Stuttgart: artist Peter Kogler

As well Rebecca Horn did this in Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau, with words…


Task 2 : F3 feedback

Here’s the discussion from F3. Still need to get my thoughts in order, and I’ve had a few e-mails as well, but this is a starter for 10…

It’s interesting how you extend the narrative of the photo sequences with text.Have you considered making the prints unique and more intimate with handwriting – just like Duane Michals does with his photo sequences?

Rob, I’d like to see more experimentation -maybe hadn
[HAND] colour the photos in some way – over print them? Add sound?

be really interesting to exhibit these on 48 sheets

i agree to emma

or printed and posted on walls/boards in cities





Slide 9 (green) really works for me, and as suggested perhaps hand writing.

slide 3 has horizontal lines that seem to refer to the TV screen…seems important???

Transfer letters….old school, rubbed onto the photographs?

or those stencil lettering
look great in the street

as a comic book type of presentation

Your work felt like a Turner prize entry to me.

Rob – suuuuch dramatic images – truly moving…..

I love the energy in them Rob!

Thank you

Very emotional images

its very strong work Rob

Les Bicknell

The visiting lecturer, Les Bicknell, brought a monster slide presentation. 146 slides in total. Professionally speaking (and I mean as an engineer) this is dangerous; in the investigation into the death of the crew of a Nimrod aircraft over Afghanistan, powerpoint overload was listed as a contributing factor. Show people too many slides and they will drift off and not pay the right level of attention. They will miss things. Now, I know there is a world of difference between aircraft safety and the arts - people don't usually die if you drift off during a presentation about art. I'll hold my hand up and admit that, on occasion during the 2 hours of Les' presentation, I did begin to drift off, thinking about how earlier slides might apply to me, reactions to this, that and the other. Les did keep bringing me back in though, so not too much of a problem I think.

The thrust of the presentation was twofold, both being related to research within your practice. On the one hand he gave some clues as to the nature of research: asking yourself questions such as "what do you like doing?" or "who is your audience?", your contextual framework, relationships to practice and the iterative ways of working that we will all go through, consciously or sub-consciously. On the other hand (the other "thrust") he also spoke about "bookness" and how that has worked itself into his practice.

Because I treat my art as a way of escaping from the regimental side of my work life, I do get deflated when I see art reduced to a process. Yes, I know that in reality we go through these processes, these iterations of the work before coming to the end product, seeing it described as a process is disheartening. Still, Les had some good ideas about working out what it is you do, and this is something I will have a go at these things soon (something for the Christmas break perhaps?).

Bookness is something else altogether.

Bookness (From Les' slides)

This sounds fairly straightforward, there's hardbacks, paperbacks and even e-books... made of paper pages or similar, bound together in some way so that they are read sequentially. Actually, bookness doesn't really have much to do with that, well, it does as an absolute starting point, but it keeps on going beyond the logical and into the... realms of fantasy? The roof of a house has "bookness" in that the shape looks like the cover of a half open book

Roof (from Les' slides)

If the roof is the book cover, then the walls, the bricks, the rooms are the pages, and yes, all will tell a story of some sort. Calling this "fantasy" is a bit harsh, there is some form of fantastical logic about his train of thought though, with ploughed fields displaying bookness (the furrows being like the pages of the book), or anything displaying text being akin to a book, or... or... or...... There were times when this was reigned in though, when comparing a sculpture to a book, he was told by it's creator it was a sculpture, not a book. You can't win them all...

Personally, this sort of thing isn't for me, although I do understand the nature of interconnectedness and relationships, etc. Of how one thing can lead to another. Having said that (and I do believe I'm too logical for it), I do like surrealism - am I actually to logical for that too? Whatever. I'm afraid I haven't taken a great deal from this one as for as bookness goes, although maybe the research section might prove to be of use once I get around to working through some of his questions to ask ourselves.


Task 2 : F3 - just some more...

Image: Enemy at the Gates
Lyric: I bet you look good on the dance floor, by Arctic Monkeys

Image: A Bridge Too Far
Lyric: How soon is now? by The Smiths

Image: Our World War
Lyric: The passion of lovers, by Bauhaus

Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: Psycho Killer, by Talking Heads

Image: Full Metal Jacket
Lyric: Hanging on the telephone, by Blondie

Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: A forest, by The Cure

(images used for educational purposes)


Task 2 : F3 - more versions, some thoughts and stuff

I’ve been posting various images and trials (but not all of them) within the OCA Flickr group forum in order to get some feedback. There’s been some things said that have helped, some that have made me think some more and others just pointing things out.

Firstly, here are some more versions, back to “testing” I suppose, or maybe it’s “sampling”… I’m not really sure.

Image: A Bridge Too Far
Lyric: All and Everyone, by PJ Harvey

Lyric: Ribbons, by The Sisters of Mercy

Lyric: Some Kind of Stranger, by The Sisters of Mercy

Lyric: Miserable Lie, by The Smiths

Lyric: Birds, by Electrelane

Lyric: In the Dark Places, by PJ Harvey

Lyric: Ziggy Stardust, by David Bowie

Lyric: The Partisan, by Leonard Cohen

Lyric: The Charge, by New Model Army

Lyric: White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane

(images used for educational purposes)

OK, so here I’ve been playing a little with the length of the snippet and font size, therefore the size of the white box, even trying that white box as a black box, the opacity and again flitting back to red text. Some of the lyrics are more obviously war-centric whilst others aren’t. Some are deliberately love oriented, others simply obscure.

So, for me, what works? Well, without referring to any sort of idea of what I was hopping to achieve, on a visual level, I think a single line of text is better. I also prefer the idea of the lyrics not being directly related to conflict, those that are read a little bit more like a caption and less thought is required to process the coupling. Black text on white is possibly better too, I think the white background, semi-transparent though it is, helps with legibility as in earlier trials I’ve had to choose lyric length to suit the image elements in terms of light and dark, rather than content (I know here the specific content has not been particularly considered).

From various comments that have come back from Flickr – the first one relates to the last image, above. “remember what the door mouse said” was the copied from the Metro Lyrics website, whereas Anne pointed out it’s a “dormouse”, which is indeed what it was called on another website (AZlyrics). Oldie Lyrics claimed the line was “remember what the
doorknob said”. Now that really doesn’t make sense, even in the drug fuelled world of Jefferson Airplane or Alice’s Wonderland. Care needs to be taken to ensure the lyrics are correct, otherwise it all begins to fall down.

Film: The Battle of Warsaw
Lyric: Peace Frog, by The Doors


(images used for educational purposes)

With these two images there was some interesting thoughts posted. The mix of black and white image with red text was thought to be visually interesting, but without recourse to any intentions (Dewald). Another thought from Anne, especially with the lyrical reference to “the streets” was that this began to be more like a police drama than a war film – the hint of khaki was needed to be sure that it felt like conflict rather than crime.

Image: Saving Private Ryan
Lyric: Ribbons, by The Sisters of Mercy

(images used for educational purposes)

Stephanie gave the following comment about the above image from Saving Private Ryan.

I really like the contrast between the images and the world here.

It is difficult to read, on purpose?

Just a thought: the text works here for me, strangely, as the projection of the viewer’s thoughts thinking about something else while watching a movie – rather than illustrating the thoughts of the character in the movie. You know, how your thoughts are drifting away from what your eyes are looking at sometimes. One thing growing with this set, from my perspective, is that with the number of images you are taking, you are more and more present in the set. I imagine you watching hours of movie with your camera, looking for something and these lyrics on these images are one more screen distancing you from the subject represented. 

Image: Brotherhood
Lyrics: Firestarter, by Prodigy

And again, Stephanie on the above:

I really like the lyrics you used in relation with the last 3 images, there is a difference with the previous one, they are angry, and they sound like music. They are more raw than the previous, more poetic ones, closer to the frustration one can have in front of war images. 

It makes me want to scream the lyrics, I feel restless now rather than contemplative. You triggered something.
So, some food for thought – more trials to undoubtedly follow.


Task 2 : F3 - More... thoughts... and more photographs

I’ve created a few more image/word combinations for Form, Frame, Fracture, building on something that was posted the other day. These trials are within what Les Bicknell would have termed the “sampling” phase (something from his lecture, more on which will follow once I’ve put T2 to bed, but see below). I’m still trying to work out what I want from this, so I’m still some distance from the “designing” phase, and I actually may need to go back around the buoy to the “research” and “testing” phases, but we will see.

Les’ phases of making

This time, I’m working with the images I have rather than going and finding new images (I will do more of this as we work through the year), and I’m just trying to work out how they feel together, unified in style of text, even though I’m not fully sure as to what that text should be. Should they be short snippets? Should they be obscure? (acknowledging that unless you recognise them for what they are, they will be regardless) Should they be more didactic and drive home a point? Should they be somehow violent in themselves, to mirror the violence of the war they are “covering”? Should they be completely opposite, softer and perhaps more feminine to offset a perceived masculinity of war? (and yes, I do appreciate it is not a purely male-oriented pursuit)

I suppose what I am trying to work out is what I am trying to say. What is the reason for creating these images? What is it for? And what do I want from it? (more questions from Les’ lecture)

Whilst I’ve thought long and hard about these questions over the last few months (well, the first three anyway), I’ve not thought about this particular version of the answer; whilst it will be informed by that thinking, what I will write below is somewhat off the cuff. I feel I need to do this as if I (over)think, I end up tying myself in knots. I might still do…

I’m not actually sure I’m trying to 
say anything, not in a direct sense. I’m asking myself questions though, and also putting those questions “out there” for others to contemplate, or not. The catalyst for starting the work was a combination of seeing media coverage of actual conflict on the television, my own relationship to that conflict, and how that conflict gets turned around, rehashed and presented as entertainment. War films are hugely popular and I will hold my hand up to admitting enjoying them myself. I’m part of the conundrum I’m trying to resolve in more ways than one.

I’m also interested in how both film and documentary come together as spectacle, sometimes even blurring, with films sometimes shot docu-style, with handicams and whatnot, I suppose this is related to using Hipsta-style apps for shooting
documentary photographs of war but working in a contra-direction. War is sometimes being packaged into something… easy to digest. Familiar. Acceptable. Sure, there’s the so called “War Porn” of Christoph Bangert and the likes, with work far more visceral and subject to censorship, and which is also presented for consideration by the viewer as documentary, not art (although, how is the current Tate exhibition to be considered?). And yes, this brutality and carnage will spill over into the more hardcore cinematic realms. Where do the real and un-real crossover? Where does it all become entertaining? Is it fetishised? Commoditised? (a slightly different direction, but one that might be worthwhile taking a look at – see adverts for the RAF here or BAE Systems here, and there will be others to consider too). I suppose it’s about our attitude more than anything else.

I could just leave the images as they were, blurred time slices that can have a really poetic feel in some cases, or be quite jarring in others, haunting too at times. Left alone, they feel too much like they’re promoting the concept of war, almost making it exciting, entertaining and reinforcing the idea of war as spectacle in the age of hyper-reality. Maybe that’s something I should push, but then I think this removes something of the onus on the viewer to question. The lyrics, for me at least, do two things. Firstly, it brings in another vein of the entertainment industry. More importantly though, I think it makes you stop in your tracks and consider how the two things go together. Why are the words and image juxtaposed? It’s here that I think the question of war and entertainment become stronger, although I’m undecided if they’re stronger with a more… surreal combination, or something more direct. Is it better to let people think about something for longer, accepting you will lose people along the way? Or should I look to hammer home the point using connected or related combinations. There are songs about war, some pro, others anti/protest. There are songs that have become associated through use in s film soundtrack – I’m thinking more about the late 80s Vietnam films here (
Good Morning Vietnam or Full Metal Jacket), and the music they used and even the pop songs they spawned; Camouflage or N-n-n-n-n-nineteen anyone?

I need to consider the theoretical underpinnings too. I’m reading
War isn’t hell, it’s entertainment at the moment, whilst simultaneously dipping into Memory of Fire too. There’s Baudrillard’s The Gulf War did not take place and other things as well. So many things that can be considered, war is obviously a popular subject in many ways – art, film, songs, books and of course, actually fighting them. It leaves me conflicted (pun intended).
Anyway, back to the latest “samples”. They’re here.

Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: Sumerland, by Fields of the Nephilim

Image: Apocalypse Now
Lyric: Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen

Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: Kill Your Television, by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Image: Battle of Warsaw 1920
Lyric: The Love Song, by Marilyn Manson

Image: Battle of Warsaw 1920
Lyric: Can’t get you out of my head, by Kylie Minogue

Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane

Image: Saving Private Ryan
Lyric: Ribbons, by The Sisters of Mercy

Image: Our World War
Lyric: The Partisan, by Leonard Cohen
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Firestarter, by The Prodigy

Image: Enemy at the Gates
Lyric: God Save the Queen, by The Sex Pistols

(images used for educational purposes)

I need time to think about them, but time is not what I have for F3. All that means is that before the end of the year they will change.


Task 2 : F3 - further playing, fracturing, reforming and reframing

During the making day discussions, a couple of things were said. One was about the font and positioning of the text and the other was about a stated preference for the black and white image. Well, I’ve done some playing with one of the images from Battle of Warsaw 1920, mixing it with a line from Peace Frog by The Doors. The actual lyric is fairly inconsequential as I have approached this as a simple exercise in comparing a few options.

The baseline image, keeping in with my previous layout decisions would be this:

Film: The Battle of Warsaw
Lyric: Peace Frog, by The Doors

The following are a few alternatives:


And then the same with a grainy black and white film preset applied:


(images used for educational purposes)

I really don’t like those with the offset text, it begins to feel like an advertising slogan. Whilst this might have some relevance (I’m looking at commodification of war/war as entertainment ideas), it just doesn’t feel right for me at this moment. Maybe it will begin to sit easier, but I can’t help but think it’s “wrong”. I’ll not dismiss it for the moment – maybe it would be a good question to through into the group when we have to present the images? I’m not so keen on the text that changes tone either (the last one in both the colour and mono sequences). Again, it might grow on me, and the colour one seems better of the two for some reason. The central text (large or small) is ok. It still feels reasonably balanced and to be honest, I don’t have any strong disliking for it, but I do prefer the lower one as it feels more balanced, or maybe that should be better balanced. The boxed text versions may be something to pursue further, there’s something I like about them. I don’t feel strongly in favour of the red or black text at the moment though.

The fonts I’ve used are Helvetica, Courier and Andale Mono. I know there are many more to choose from, and that Courier and Andale Mono are similar (Courier allows a bold option though and is a bit more typewriter-y). My mind can flit around on fonts from one day to the next, so whilst Andale Mono was the one I was using, this will undoubtedly change at some point before everything is finalised.

Colour or black & white is a bigger question. It’s probably not one I can answer fully either. I have a strong attraction to grainy black and white, to the Provoke type aesthetic that it suggests, but I can’t help but feel that I should be working in colour. Or rather, why 
should I work in black & white – it’s not down to the film stock because this is digital work. It does offer an additional level of abstraction from the original (fracture?), and certainly this particular image feels “darker”, and I mean this in terms of mood rather than palette. But is it “right”? I really don’t know for the moment.


200 words in response to...

… Jonathan Jones.
On the 13th of November, the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones published a blog post about photography that provoked something of a reaction within the photography community. His article (which is
here) takes offence to the fact that at this moment in time, photography appears to have gained in popularity and is being exhibited in galleries. After viewing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the Taylor-Wessing Prize and some scientific images taken by a robot, his assertion is that only painting is good enough to be framed and exhibited, and that all photography should only be seen on an iPad or some journal. I’ve already posted something about this, but as part of the writing workshop, this had to be pared down to 200 words, so that is what I have done below:

I have a problem with Jonathan Jones’ comparison between photography and painting, with his assertion that photography cannot be art but merely “flat, soulless and stupid”. One second he talks about photography on the gallery walls, the next about some robot beaming images from a comet thousands of miles away. They’re different products for different purposes. I can make a similar comparison between his beloved Caravaggio and my lounge; both are painted, so by these (clearly flawed) guidelines, the same.

For a so-called critic, his observations are incredibly short-sighted, generic and, let’s face it, wrong. Art is not simply about the craft of a painter, but the communication forged with his audience, his “art” aspirations and the manner in which it is intended to be viewed. It would appear that Jones fails to appreciate the evolution from the Baroque, through an age of mechanical reproduction and the “flatness” of the Modernists painters and Post-Post-Modernism, etc. Photography is currently in ascendancy, perhaps at painting’s expense, and will no doubt fall away too, replaced by something else. At the moment though, photography is where it is, and there’s not a lot Jones can do to take it from those gallery walls.
To be fair to Jones, if you look at the fact that he mentions the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, then here we have a more “scientific” form of photography. Many of the photographs will not have been intended to have been viewed on the gallery wall as “art”, but then is that what they’re being touted as? It will be a photography exhibition, not an art exhibition. Where he does overstep the mark, at least in my reading of the piece, is the broad brush approach he takes to all photography. He would be outraged if someone was to do the same with all painting, to lump Caravaggio in with Pollock or Reinhardt’s black squares that were mentioned in another recent post of mine. They’re not the same, so similarly Philae’s photographs from the far side of the galaxy are not the same as a Hockney joiner or one of Crewdson’s composite images, or any number of other photographs intended to be viewed as art. A huge oversight in my view. So yes, I will agree to disagree with him.

Critical Reading/Writing Workshop II

I missed the first reading and writing workshop, and whilst I did get to see the material that was discussed in the hangout, it wasn't really a great help without the context of the discussions. This time, I took part.

The first thing discussed was a piece of writing by Christopher French about Ad Reinhardt's proposition that "Art is Art and Everything Else is Everything Else". He starts of in his introduction that he is against the proposition: "As much as I admire him, I am here to argue against one of Reinhardt's more famous pronouncements...". A clear statement of intent, but one I didn't feel was followed up in what came next. He spoke about Reinhardt's work, about a catalogue of black canvases that would work as a flip book, albeit one that needs to be seen only through first hand experience (contradictory?), and some work presented as a series of 2000 slides so boring that parts of the audience left. There's no direct talk about art being art, or not.

The language being used is sometimes self indulgent, featuring long sentences of long words, or at least a complex vocabulary not normally constituting an inherent component of the common parlance, and arranged within a convoluted syntax (see, I can do it too, and it doesn't make it "good"). His sentence "I think his image bank provided the evidentiary underpinnings that allowed him the freedom to generate the cruciform geometries that infuse and enliven the otherwise too-severe reductiveness of his black paintings." is an example of this. Yes, it makes sense once you've worked you way around the mental gymnastics involved in deciphering it, but is it really necessary to write in that way?

I guess the answer to that will depend largely on your audience. French was writing for 
The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture, so there may actually be an expectance for this sort of writing. His audience will also be a reason for not including any direct reference/illustrations to Reinhardt's work. Personally I don't know it. I've never heard of the artist, and I can't say I'm particularly "aware" of a large number of painters. Actually, I may have seen one of these black paintings - I recall a visit to MoMA in New York about 6 years ago when I spent some time trying to work out if there was anything specifically within a solid black square painting. I don't believe there was, but I've no idea who painted it either, so this little anecdote carries no weight. The point I was trying to make before it was that I didn't connect with his writing at all, I felt nothing. I suppose I could've gone and researched Reinhardt, but I didn't feel a burning desire to. Plain black images that need to be seen first hand and a series of photographs that are so boring, his audience left. No, I'm not hooked into further looking.

And after all this, he finally returns to his point, to the raison d'être for the piece, and his objection to the proposition. Rather than anything else, he "argues" (or should that be "simply states"?) that the proposition "was a provocative act of misdirection ... what continues to make Ad Reinhardt such an able role model for navigating the ever-more complicated waters of art and life." Personally, I don't see it, but then I don't really know what he's talking about...

Post from
The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture January 16th 2014 (located at by Christopher French, painter and writer, and President of AICA-USA.

The second part of the session was somewhat thrown upon us with no preparation or warning - we had to write 100 words about an experience with a piece of art, writing in the present tense. I chose to write about the first time I saw some Daido Moriyama prints on a gallery wall, at Polka in Paris a few years ago.

“Seeing Daido Moriyama's photographs first hand for the fist time, I am surprised. The print is so large (about 1.5m across) and very different to anything I've seen of him before in books or the computer screen. There is still the grain and the movement - the 
are, bure, boke - but now there is a previously unknown sense of size. I'm conflicted. The images used to be intimate but now that has changed irrevocably. Here is something that can also be immersive, something bigger. But is it better?”

89 words written in less than 10 minutes with no preparation, slightly under the target but ok. It was a tough ask, especially as we had to read it out to the rest of the group. I think it's ok though. If we hadn't run out of time, the next part of the task would've been to pare it down by about 30%, to 66 words. I'll try that now:

“Seeing Moriyama's photographs first hand for the fist time, I'm surprised. The print is large (about 1.5m across) and different to anything I've seen before. There is still the 
are, bure, boke, but now there is a sense of size. I'm conflicted. The images used to be intimate but now that has changed. Now it can also be immersive, it's bigger. But is it better?”

I've managed to remove 25 words, but added a couple too, so it still makes sense. Which is better? I'm not sure there's a great difference at this point, other than making it fit in a 66 word limit, something that might be useful when it comes to filling in submissions for exhibitions, awards and whatnot... (and the academic essay that will no doubt be coming soon)

Lisa Barnard

Today’s visiting lecturer was Lisa Barnard, a photographic artist who deals with subjects such as politics and war.

Unfortunately, I missed the introductions and the preamble, turning up as she was discussing some photographs taken with a large format, first exploring the psychological aesthetics of the relationship between mother and daughter (
Ps<>D) then those of children engrossed in theatre (the Unicorn Theatre). Whilst these images are shot on a 5×4 camera, they’re not overloaded with the minute of detail that some make use of the format to produce, rather they’re so much more suggestive rather than purely representative, either through the use of tilt/shift or due to the low light conditions that they were shot under. Nice, but portraits aren’t really my “thing”…

Having said that, I did like the presentation from 
Polska by the Sea, with the front/back portrait pairing in the train station in Eastbourne. Maybe not the way I would have done it, I’d have gone down the obvious route and done 180° rotations. Actually, no, I wouldn’t have done it at all, but I may have done something like postcards that formed a kind of juxtaposition with the portraits, being iconography of the idea of Polish-ness and in some ways of life in Britain (Union Flag toilet seats and Lady Di). These postcards featured poems written by a collaborator (I didn’t catch a name) who wrote whilst the photographs were being taken, an interesting MO although maybe not one I’d be comfortable adopting (the idea of collaboration scares me).

Blue Star Moms was another project intertwining portraiture with an element of typology (and indeed, the portraits are also typology of a sort). Again, it was the non-portraiture that I found more interesting – the duality of the Care Packages only really becoming apparent when you are “in the know”. Many of the items seem mundane (and indeed are), however they have added value in a war zone, with cotton buds being used for cleaning equipment rather than ears (which they shouldn’t be used for anyway!!), or sanitary towels used to absorb sweat when added to a helmet lining. These items also serve their normal use as well; a little bit of normality in an un-normal situation. In many ways, this reminded me of Olivia Hollamby (or Robinson – she’s now married and I don’t know which is correct) who worked with her husband in making images from the Gulf (he is a British soldier), but she concentrated on some of the domestic elements, although not in a typographic manner.

Another project with a decidedly blue theme was 
32 Smiths Square, the one time home of the Conservative Party. During the time the photographs were taken, the offices were closed and had been (virtually) emptied, with anything of any value having been auctioned off. All that remained was things with no perceived financial worth, but with interest, notably the series of photographs of Margaret Thatcher that had been affected by the passage of time. Blown up and exhibited in a poll booth type of installation, there was an added depth to the images, all different but so similar – as if the iron lady had an iron façade, unchanging.

The remainder of the work was again centred about the US Army, although no more directly than with the 
Blue Star Moms. Drones form one part of the projects, as is the use of virtual reality. In some ways, it’s quite closely tied into some of my own current work, with the blend of the military, gaming and such. Lisa spoke of Baudrilliard, and his Gulf War trilogy is something I’ve been reading recently, together with other pieces on war as entertainment and the military sublime (Stallabrass). I’ve written a few notes about this, but I’ve also ordered Lisa’s book Hyenas of the Battlefield, so before adding much more I think I will wait for the book to arrive and look in further detail at the work.

All in all, an enjoyable, interesting and informative lecture about a highly relevant subject- Lisa was an interesting talker and put up with me chipping in with typed comments and questions as the session progressed. Yes, thoroughly enjoyed.

"Making Day"

Today is officially a "making day". A group of us get together to make "something" and share the process and products as the day progresses. This entry is intended to be a potted account of the day, typed up as it is happening.

First Hangout - 9am
Brief discussion about the format of the day, and an introduction to what we were all planning to be doing. There will be painting, working with paper and twine, and of course some form of photography. My plan is to photograph a film (
Overlord - a slight deviation from my normal approach in that it's a mix of fictional and archive footage, and produced by the Imperial War Museum), downselect some images, process them and then add lyrics so that there will be something approaching "finished" come 4pm. I've got a backup option too, just in case Overlord  doesn't cut the mustard for me (I've not actually watched the film). Anyway - camera's rolling and... ACTION!

As it happens,
Overlord didn't really bring the results I wanted. To be fair, I suspected it might not as it was a black and white film, so was inevitably going to be "different", although as I'd edited one of the shots from the recent Warsaw film into something of a journalistic image (below), I thought it might be worth a try. From the several hundred images recorded in the first session, there were 2 that I pulled out for further consideration, and only one of those that I've so far done anything with.

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920

Operation Overlord
Image: Overlord
Lyric: God Save The Queen, by The Sex Pistols

(images used for educational purposes)

As I was going through the image cache, I had set another film in motion, 
Apocalypse Now (my process is to set the camera up to take a photograph every 5 or 6 seconds during the film whilst I tend to listen to music and work on earlier images). Unfortunately, whilst I was working away my Playstation froze and lost all Internet connectivity (I stream the films) so I had to reorganise myself, popping a blu-ray of Zero Dark Thirty in instead, but only looking towards the end of the film, rather than all the office based sections. Again, not really anything from these two films in the morning. Well, actually a few nice images from ZDT but not really in keeping with the rest of the images recorded thus far. I'm not sure they can be used, although we will see.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

(images used for educational purposes)

Second Hangout - 12:30pm

The second hangout gave us the opportunity to present what we had been up to in the morning, each of us with varying amounts of progress or perceived success so far, but it had only been 3 hours, so that was to be expected; they were all "in-progress". It did give the opportunity to comment, throw ideas or suggestions into the mix which could be incorporated or not as the day went on. As it happens, Angela stated a preference for the Overlord image over the other images I uploaded from an earlier session. As a standalone I can understand why that might be the case, but I'm working with a series in mind so it does appear to be a bit of a "sore thumb".

Korean War
Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: A Drug Against War, by KMFDM

Korean War
Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: Kill Your Television, By Ned's Atomic Dustbin

Korean War
Image: Brotherhood
Lyric: Firestarter, by Prodigy

(images used for educational purposes)


As for the others, Tanya was working with portraits over time, Anne was experimenting with still life, Máire was working with twine and sugan chairs, Sharon with tissue paper and Alison with painting on small canvases.
Back into the second period of activity, I managed to sort the Playstation out again and resumed the process with 
Apocalypse Now. This time, everything went to plan, although again the fruit of the session was limited. This way of working is very much reliant on chance and the source material. Depending on the way the movie is filmed, the locations, the time of day being represented, the results can come out very different. Some of the results are completely unrecognisable as anything and therefore unusable to my mind, although that's not to say they're not interesting in their own right. Anyway, with Apocalypse Now safely in Lightroom, another film started, this time it was 1939: The Battle of Westerplatte, a Polish film which I recounted the first battle of WWII.

A reject from Zero Dark Thirty

(images used for educational purposes)

Looking through 
Apocalypse Now and listening to more music (a shuffled mix of punk, rock, rap and goth), I plucked a small handful of frames out, but found myself looking back over films that I'd been working with over the previous weeks, trying to pair them lyrics that came to me from the random assortment of songs. Again, really quite hit and miss.

Operation Market Garden
Image: A Bridge Too Far
Lyric: Head Like A Hole, by NIN

Vietnam War
Image: Apocalypse Now
Lyric: Peace Frog, by The Doors

The Battle of Warsaw
Image: The Battle of Warsaw, 1920
Lyric: The Love Song, by Marilyn Manson

(images used for educational purposes)

Final Hangout - 4pm
As Weserplatte was still recording as the final hangout started, I presented the three preceding images. Discussions revolved around the final presentation, which is still up in the air; my initial thoughts have always been that these should be large prints on a gallery wall so as to reflect their projected nature and also make the DLP pattern more a part of the work (see below). However, now I'm wondering how they might work as a video, with pretty quick-fire image sequences, with some duplication and perhaps longer on some images to allow the text to be read. I'm never too sure about the music for things like this though, and licensing a major piece of "pop" will more than likely be expensive... As for a book? I've no idea. Does the format and the subject lend itself to a book?

DLP pattern detail

Another topic that was discussed was placement and font for the text. Centrally justified and slightly below the centre "feels" right to me - it affords the text a sense of importance, it's consistent and visually I guess, yes, it just feels right. The font is a simple one (Andale Mono if memory serves me correctly). I don't really feel the need to play with this any more, and if I did I would probably simply revert back to Helvetica or one of its derivatives. Maybe it's worth a go though, and the same will apply with the size of the text. Something to do before the end of Task 2 I suppose...

The others work had also developed in the afternoon, with Tanya's developing a "mug" theme (nice 80's hair btw!! - I will dig out one of mine from the late 80's/early 90's for a laugh sometime), Anne moving from manufactured still life to something more in a "found" style (like Richard Wentworth), Máire moving out into the garden with the twine (which then reminded me of Riitta Päiväläinen), Sharon making her tissue paper into tubes and lighting them in different ways (tree bark came to mind) and Alison grouping the small canvases onto a wall, with the relationship between them sketched in on the background, which certainly showed promise.
All in all, a worthwhile day and actually better than I had anticipated, although if this was to take place whilst I was working in a more"normal" method, it might cause problems; there's certainly not enough time to go out, shoot, come back, edit, present to the group. Maybe it would have to be a case of shoot one day and then spend the making day as an editing day. Whatever, I'm sure I'll find a way of doing things when the time comes.


Task 2 : something a little "angrier"

The last few trials with Task 2 have been a little… obscure perhaps. Deliberately so to be fair, but I’m not 100% sure it works, so I’ve tried a little something else that maybe brings the words together without being didactic. These are instead something a bit “angrier”, and can actually be read as fuelling the images, a reaction to the images or something else I guess. Exactly what will depend on the viewer, and I’m yet to really get any feedback on this. Here are a few images:

Image: Brotherhood
Lyrics: Firestarter, by Prodigy

Image: Brotherhood
Lyrics: Kill Your Television, By Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Image: Brotherhood
Lyrics: A Drug Against War, by KMFDM

I’ll explore a little further in this direction and see what happens, whether or not it says anything to me in the way I want it to.


Flat, Soulless and Stupid - time to give up on photography?

Jonathan Jones at the Guardian may well have just upset an awful lot of people with his latest article (here), but to be fair he is entitled to his opinion, even if it's... maybe "wrong" is going too far, but I think clearly misguided, prejudiced and somewhat blinkered. The implication is that " It gives us instant visual information from all over the planet and far beyond." and is good for nothing much more than looking on an iPad or phone screen. "Who can fail to be entranced by the first-ever pictures from the surface of a comet that were taken this week?" he asks... Well, lets be straight to the point, that's not art photography. It's remote images taken with a 1MP camera by a robot that's, what, 10 years old? It's like saying that the doodles I do whilst in the hangouts (invariably colouring in the squares of my pad) is to be considered akin to a Piet Mondrian piece!

Mondrian's unseen work?

"It just looks stupid when a photograph is framed or backlit and displayed vertically in an exhibition." The man is, in my opinion, an idiot. and just as I defended his right (albeit briefly and in limited fashion) to his opinion, then I am entitled to this opinion too. I'll not be convinced that I'm wrong either.

"A photograph in a gallery is a flat, soulless, superficial substitute for painting." And I suppose there is no room for Bowie to sit alongside Beethoven, or pie and chips with haute cuisine? Horses for courses might be one argument, but then so is the fact that they're completely different mediums! So is sculpture, or textiles or... well, pretty much anything else you can mention! And wasn't the whole point of modernist painting (granted, not Baroque painting) to focus on the form of the work, so that would've been "flat" too in that particular form: 

"The limitations that constitute the medium of painting -- the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment -- were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly." (Clement Greenberg, Modernist Painting, page 2 - see here)

And yes, painting has considerably more history than photography; cavemen didn't have access to cameras, so that's a given, but just because it's older doesn't give it a greater right to be on a wall, in a gallery or anywhere. And let's not forget that just as painting has informed photography (and yes, the Pictorialists tried to do things to emulate painting, even those like Caravaggio), so has photography informed painting, in terms of composition (as in Degas' Ballerina), and in terms of style; photorealistic painting didn't exist before photography... Ok, maybe it did but I've no idea about that fact. It wouldn't have been called photorealistic though. So many painters use photography in their process. If you're that way inclined, they become intertwined.

I also can't help but wonder what his precious Caravaggio would have been doing if he had access to a camera? Certainly I'd like to think it would've been something Leonardo da Vinci would have embraced one. And I mean beyond the simple drafting assistance that a camera obscura might have offered. Maybe "we are encouraged to give it the same, or more, attention. Today’s glib culture endlessly flatters photography’s arty pretensions." Maybe painting is confined to the history books (ok, I doubt this), but the truth is that things do come and go and this will mean photography too. We're living in the Post-Post Modern era, the Post-Internet era, the Post-Painting era too? Possibly not, but certainly it's a Post-Baroque era and Jones needs to wake up to the modern (if ever so slightly glib) reality.

David with the Head of Goliath, c. 1607
Oil on wood
Dimensions 90.5 cm × 116.5 cm (35.6 in × 45.9 in)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Located at,_Vienna#mediaviewer/File:Michelangelo_Caravaggio_071.jpg

Clement Greenberg, 
Modernist Painting. Located at, accessed 13/11/2014


A chat with Máire

As part of working through Task 2, we're having small group hangouts; a chance to chat about what we're up to in a little more details than we perhaps would in the normal hangouts. There's only 3 people's work to discuss, so it's more focussed. I say 3, but this first hangout was only 2, me and Máire as Ines had lost Internet connectivity. So, we had plenty of opportunity to talk around what we were doing. We opened up a shared document and simply dropped images into it so we could see what we had been up to - a simple and effective way of looking at the work. We also briefly chatted about the previous Monday's hangout as Máire had missed it, specifically about the autobiographical nature of our work, Louise Bourgeois and how too much information might close off a way of reading the work from the viewer.

Looking at my work, I posted a few images of the work in progress so far, and I gave a brief description of what I was doing, in terms of both physical and thought processes. The response came back that I was being "brave" due to the nature of the appropriation. I'll worry about that when the time comes I think, otherwise I will freeze...

The images I posted were:

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920
Image: The Battle of Warsaw
Lyric: Saturday Night's Alright, by Elton John

Haditha Massacre, 2005
Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: Books from Boxes, by Maximo Park

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920

(images used for educational purposes)

The last image was just intended as something a little different, perhaps a bit closer to being "traditional" reportage type photography. Something for another day though.

Máire also spoke briefly of the start of her own work, which incorporated a sugan chair as the basis for the work. Things were still in the early days of the process she would be carrying out, so we talked more about the idea and the background. There will be more to discuss next week when hopefully Ines will join us too...


Task 2 : further tinkering and some feedback

After creating the first two images as part of Task 2, and the early doubts I had, I posted one of them onto Flickr and invited the OCA photography group to comment. The comments received by the time I’m writing this are copied below:

Haditha Massacre -2005 : 2007
Image: Battle for Haditha
Lyric: Russian Literature, by Maximo Park

From Flickr –

Rob™ says
I’m trying something with some images that you may have seen before, and working on ideas I’ve touched on before, but I’d like to know how you guys react to them. I’ve uploaded one into my stream, but I’ve marked it private – it’s in the pool though, so hopefully that means you’ll be able to see it.
If not, it’s on my blog anyway at…
Basically, I want to hear what the combination of image and text does for you. I expect it to be confusing, but how do you work your thoughts around? Can you get your thoughts around what they mean to you, or do they actually simply not register?
Thanks in advance…

Semiotic says
one of the things you might think about is subverting both the images you make and the original images and intentions. This is on the spirit of photo-realist painting, neither the one nor the other to accentuate both. Also it is worth thinking about post-internet or post-facebook ideas, given the way that images pass round and are used, the ephemeral nature of all images, what is the purpose? What is the status? What is the value?

Anned003 says
Its funny that at the last mixed exhibition I saw there were photographs that were easily confused with paintings (manipulated, overlayered, blurry) and drawings (overlaid b&w) and also paintings (airbrushed I think) that I did confuse with photographs. The only sure way to know what was what was to look at the label!
Anyway on Rob’s picture, the words for me do seem to set up a resonance with the image in that the lock of hair that won’t sit still suggests a kind of movement in amongst stillness, that repeated thing that bugs you as you’re focussed elsewhere, but makes you return to it. Which suggests a mode of awareness…..and I wonder if that might fit with the image – that kind of juddering motion that is suggested which is like a kind of a double take feeling of slowed down reality you can get when in a state of heightened awareness/shock response.
But at the same time the pixilation is reminding me of screening of printed images and makes me think of blown up newspapers and then the text doesn’t fit in that context so well.
Not sure how much help that is! I don’t know the song or the film btw so aren’t using their content or the linkage to inform how I see it.

Southliving says
Seen, but haven’t got anything to add at this moment, got to get to school.
First reaction though, I want to see the whole body of work, and statement, to try and make sense, but I like being questioned.
I’m really not that into music, so the year of the song would be a stretch (for me) to know, and we’ve talked about the culture distance to war, although that was the British / French locations, here it is different, I know… my mind wants to link it to media (tangent: film industry / social / TV / commercialism / romanticism / patriotism / propaganda) (Pete also mentioned media).
Will be back… interested to hear what others say.

Eileen R says
I’ve commented separately on the pictures as I wanted to give my own initial response before reading those here.
I think Peter’s suggestions sound like very interesting options for further exploration that could resonate with this particular body of work.
Like others the songs you reference are unknown to me as are the films so I am judging just on the images and words without any directly relevant cultural references – though of course we all bring a myriad of such references more generally to things we look at and read. I had wondered in passing about states of consciousness for the first picture, though Anne has expressed that much better. Overall I am not sure these resonate as single images at this point in their development.

Richard Brown 56 says
The first image and its text put me in mind of a Skype like video conversation where the viewer is reminded of something about the subject that resonates/reminds him/her of the subject.
The second image made me think of betrayal maybe with the text alluding to a Judas kiss?
Like how the text opens up possibilities that the image on its own may not suggest. Hope this helps.

CliveDoubleU says
Textual punctum. As the maker it’s useful to set some rules but it doesn’t matter if those are opaque to the audience. I would use the text sparingly so a viewer doesn’t become over familiar with the mechanism.

Rob™ says
Thanks for the comments everyone – all grist for the mill as they say. I’ve got another three weeks before this needs to be in, so I’ll undoubtedly change things as I go. And please feel free to continue to comment…
Off to look at some stuff on t’Interweb now.

StanDickinson says
Because I’m already aware that the image is cinematic (and I have a feeling that it may look that way, even without the prior knowledge), the combination with text makes me think ‘trailer’. But it doesn’t flash up and disappear, like a trailer, it stays there, with the juddering image, and I look for connections – probably imagine them, actually. I would never make it to the ‘formal’ connections that you’ve devised, without some significant prompting, but I don’t think that’s what you’re after, is it? Agree with Clive – don’t overdo it. And something cinematic persists, for me.

TheBaronCooney says
I find I try to fit the two together, to try and understand how one relates to the other. The first image I keep focusing on what looks like a grin, I’d say an eery grin, and my first take was this is like a thought. The second image is more menacing to me and again I kind of wonder if this is a thought in a characters head. I find I bounce back and forth between the image and the text trying to resolve the contrast between the two. I find work like this stays with me longer than work that I can see or understand the meaning of. I come back again and again and each time I see something else. Hope that helps.

Rob™ says
Another one added…
whilst unrelated, does the text now seem more relevant?

KarenGregory101 says
I’ve had a look at all 66 images and I find the ones that I’ve seen with text immediately more engaging – they stop me and make me think.
Further to that, because the meaning of the text isn’t obvious (I wouldn’t have known song/verse unless you’d said) the image takes on greater depth – it’s no longer just an image of the war or the soldier, but is more about the mental anguish the individual is going through.
On a different note (and I know you didn’t ask) I find the colours are also influential, they tell me that you’ve crossed over between wars, yet the theme continues – guilt, regret, disbelief.

TheBaronCooney says
I would say it seems easier to resolve the difference with this one, it’s not that it’s more relevant, perhaps it’s neutral?

Rob™ says
Not as obviously obscure….

Thanks Karen – you’ve given me something to think about there.

Taking this into account, I’ve created further versions, at least one of which is probably a little too direct, but I thought it was worth throwing out there to gauge the reaction (which was it was too direct). It was also interesting to see Semiotic (Peter Haveland, an OCA tutor) make reference to Post-Internet as I’ve just been reading an article in Garage magazine about that (more on which later I guess). Anyway, here’s some more of the images:

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Some Kind of Stranger, by The Sisters of Mercy

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Ziggy Stardust, by David Bowie

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: This Boy Can Wait, by The Wedding Present

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Go With the Flow, by QOTSA

Day of the Rangers, 1993
Image: Black Hawk Down
Lyric: Can’t Get You Out of My Head, by Kylie Minogue

(images used for educational purposes)


Task 2 : early tinkering

This is a couple of early musings within the bounds of the second task (Take a series of frames from a donor piece and re-form them as a single image. Then I will look to add a textual element from songs to fracture the original material by taking it out of the original context, one of the entertainment song / war film and make it something else). The boundaries I’ve set myself is to combine the film with lyrics from songs from the same year, in this way there is a cultural relationship between the two, with some level of distance from the events through the passage of time between the two. This distance will vary, with films ‘reporting’ more recent conflicts having a closer relationship than something from an older historical event. This will probably also create some level of discord between the visual and the textual – whether it does or not remains to be seen and is part of the point of doing this.

The first couple of images come from the film
Battle for Haditha which gives some level of approximation of the Haditha Massacre in November 2005. The film was made in 2007, so there is little passage of time between the actual events and the dramatisation of them and indeed, the proceedings against the participants had not been resolved by the time the film was released (although some charges had already been dropped). There are therefore obvious questions as to whether the film should have been made at all, never mind so close to the actual events. Whilst it might be showing something of the “apparent” war crimes being committed, it might not be glamourising conflict, it is still serving to provide a level of normalisation of such things. Does the interplay between the visual and the music work to question things? A thought that comes is that it might trivialise things, and this would be a cause for concern.

Haditha Massacre – 2005 : 2007
Battle for Haditha / Russian Literature

Haditha Massacre – 2005 : 2007
Battle for Haditha / Books from Boxes

(images used for educational purposes)

I’ll work with similar images some more, but it’s clear that some careful consideration is needed so that I don’t do exactly what I wanted to highlight.
Battle for Haditha. 2007. [Video Streaming] Nick Broomfield. Channel Four Films.
Maximo Park –
Russian Literature and Books from Boxes from the album Our Earthly Pleasures (2007)


Task 2 : F3

Form, frame and fracture. Or frame, fracture and form. Or Fracture, frame, form... or whatever.

3 words to somehow influence what I'll be doing for a little while. What do they mean, and more importantly what will they mean to me and my work? I think I'm going to have to be conceptual with this, I'm a photographer and therefore not going to do anything clever with the media - the media is photography, end of discussion. Or is it? Is the "media" a discussion about what I make or the subject that I make from? Is "form" something to do with shape, or being a criminal with a rap sheet? Has that criminal been framed, or is their image in a frame? Or whatever. Words are but signifiers of a signified, and they aren't always too precise. Words have many meanings, so do images. And sounds, smells or pretty much anything. So what "concept" do the signifiers
form for us (there's that word again)?

I'm not going to list all the different meanings of the words, there's online dictionaries to do that. I've already decided what I'm going to set off doing in terms of this task, continuing along the same rough vein of enquiry as with Task 1, but with a small difference. I'm going to:

Take a series of 
frames from a donor piece and re-form them as a single image. Then I will look to add a textual element from songs to fracture the original material by taking it out of the original context, one of the entertainment song / war film and make it something else.

Will it work? I've absolutely no idea, but I'll be spending some time to find out over the coming weeks...

Standing on a Beach...

When I was in France I managed to get a single day on the Normandy beaches to do a sort of dry run on what I was planning for my next major project; English battlefields. The beaches are all so much more "obvious" in their history - beaches in Normandy normally only mean one thing when being discussed (especially this year, being the 70th anniversary), but they shouldn't, and to be fair, having visited them, they don't. Yes, there are signs of the landings, from monuments to museums to the occasional decaying bunker and the remains of the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches. But there's also signs of normality, and that's what I really want to be looking at - signs that life continues, that maybe the land forgets over time.

Anyway, without too much more to say at this moment (I want to think about them for longer), here's a selection of images. The only selections that have been done are for the individual image - they've not been curated in any way so they might work together.

Juno Beach

Omaha Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Gold Beach

Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Omaha Beach

Gold Beach

Gold Beach

Juno Beach

Omaha Beach

Gold Beach

Sword Beach

Juno Beach

Gold Beach

Sword Beach

Gold Beach

Sword Beach

Gold Beach


VL 2 : A footnote about Internet searches

In VL2, Angela spoke briefly about using generic Google searches for artists or artwork, and how this can lead to lack of context or even errors if you’re unaware (related artists will also appear). Well, I’ve just read an interesting article on the PetaPixel site that describes exactly this problem in relation to the work of Andreas Gursky.

Screen grab from PetaPixel site

OK, the article starts off with a similar photograph posted on Flickr and cries of image theft, but then quickly dissolves into a list of instances where the wrong image has been used, or potentially used. Lyza Danger’s photograph has been used by “Art Intelligence”, which then might appear to be something of an oxymoron but when you look into it, it’s just some chap writing a blog rather than something with any degree of provenance or authority. And there are others…

Screen grab from Art Intelligence

There’s also something about the versions, and how there might be different ones out there.
Wikipedia states “There were 6 sets made and mounted on acrylic glass”, but it’s not clear if this means it was an edition of 6 of a single diptych, or if there are 6 different diptychs. I would tend to expect the latter, but this isn’t confirmed by a quick search. The fact the expensive one is called 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001) leads me to expect at least one more (which is what the article says, with the first not being labelled and not a diptych), but there’s possibly 6. Confusing…
To be fair on the people writing these things, they will simply have used Google as a tool without knowing how to use it, and it’s dangerous. A bit like sparking up that chainsaw without reading the instructions. Ok, maybe you won’t lose an arm with Google, but it can probably get you into other sorts of trouble. Better to stick with reliable sources I guess, although of course, sometimes they don’t cover the people you want to research!



OK, so I've to pull something together for an archive that I find interesting... there's a number I dip into occasionally, for different reasons, some I've not dipped into for a little while, some I just follow via Feedly or whatever. They're all pretty much centred around photography but there are a few crossovers, especially into visual culture. Is there anything I follow more than the others? I'm not so sure there is - I simply dip in when I need to. As I'm writing this, I'm not 100% sure which I will actually choose for my presentation, but in going through this process of writing and reviewing a few of my favourites, hopefully I will come to a decision! So, where to start?

Aperture Foundation
The Aperture Foundation in New York (originally San Fransisco) has been going for a while now, since 1952 according to the website, although of course this wasn't as an online resource, but as a "serious" quarterly journal on creative photography. I've subscribed to the magazine on and off over the years although to be fair, I don't often get the chance to read it in any depth at the moment (I really do need to improve my schedule to allow for these things). The website itself now has a number of interesting elements, video interviews with photographic artists, reviews, bits from the magazine and whatnot on their blog. It's a reputable journal, both online and in magazine form, with plenty of stuff in the archive although it isn't all-encompassing by any stretch of the imagination.

Screen grab of Aperture website (Source:
Aperture Foundation -

Tate Shots
Tate Shots is part of the Tate museum online offering featuring videos of interviews with artists, exhibitions and the like. There's quite a number on there (178 as of today), are generally around 5 minutes long (more or less) and give a brief and interesting insight into whatever the subject is, which will probably be something to do with what's happening at the museum at the time. A lot of this is not photography based, so it's a way for me to become involved with other media without getting too in depth - I don't always have the time to look at sculpture or painting, etc. Alongside these Tate Shots, there's also loads of other stuff on the Blogs and Channel section of the site, but it's generally the videos I head on over for - less reading sometimes means a quicker dose of information (media, media, media!!!)

Screen grab of The Tate website (Source:
The Tate -

American Suburb X
Doug Rickard's American Suburb X (ASX) is an interesting resource that has a reasonable collection of stuff (videos, interviews and galleries, etc.) about Japanese photography, something I can obsess about from time to time, and plenty of non-Japanese photography too. It also includes some of the perhaps edgier subjects that can sometimes be missed by others (although, it would seem that this is less and less the case as the years roll by), and photographers that perhaps polarise opinions more than others; I'm thinking maybe Nobuyoshi Araki, Dash Snow and Diane Arbus here, as opposed to, I don't know, Mario Testing or John Davies. There will be others too, American photographers who don't really polarise opinion (although maybe I'm just looking from the inside of the art - what is the layman view on Stephen Shore or William Eggleston?).

Screen grab from ASX (Source:
American Suburb X -

One Year of Books
Actually, before I start to write about this collection, I know it won't be one I choose to feature in the presentation; there's no depth to the content, no text, no insight, nothing really. Just photographs of photobooks from the collection of another collector in Paris. It's simply something I follow as it gives a few images from the books, many of which I might not necessarily know about... I'll leave this one at that.

Screen grab from One Year of Books (Source:
One Year of Books -

Visual Culture Blog
Marco Bohr is a lecturer in visual communication at Loughborough University and wrote his PhD thesis on Japanese photography, so as might be imagined I'm interested in what he has to say. In looking at the blog again, I've just realised its been a while since I checked in on there and there's a lot of new stuff I haven't read. As might be expected, the posts are well written and insightful, but rather than tell you what to think, they tend to lead a course of thought, or at least that's how I read them. They highlight visual memes that appear throughout a range of work, notably photography (including adverts) and film but covering a range of subjects such as gender, politics and consumerism. I really do need to find more time for this resource...

Screen grab from the Visual Culture Blog (Source:
Visual Culture Blog -


There's a number of others that I look at too, including:

1000 Word Photography (Source:

Hotshoe International (Source:

British Journal of Photography (Source:


VL2 : Questions

Video Lecture 2 signed off with 3 questions to ponder:

1. In what way do artists' biographies inform of detract from the viewers experience of the work?

2. What are the implications [of] Ward's assertion that "That all art is a form of proposition and anything's possible."?

3. If you could only read or hear one view on an exhibition, would you choose to hear the artist's view to that of a critic or reviewer and why?

With question 1, I suppose I touched on that in the previous post with Dorment and Bourgeois in that his view is that the biography is the work, or the work is the biography... This then precludes any other reading of the work, limits the possibilities and in that respect limits the communication, the dialogue that takes place between the artist an the viewer. Maybe the artist is no longer "dead" as Barthes and Foucault proposed. However, without any knowledge of the artist, their biography and other works, viewing their works is also a less fulfilling experience. Yes, you can enjoy the craftsmanship and the skill the artist brings to the table, but the artist must be quite dead - there is a void that is only filled by the reaction of the viewer to the signifiers in the piece. The artist's biography will bring some level of insight to the work, richen the viewers experience. With someone like Bourgeois, knowing the family business was weaving, there is something that can be derived from the various signs of weaving within the work and there is then some level of association. With my own work, looking through it there can often be seen a lack of people, space, distance and horizontal "barriers"; these might be interpreted as being a sign that I'm shy, often shunning the company of others and certainly avoid the limelight. As an artist, you have to draw upon what you are aware of, and that is often something quite biographical - Bourgeois and Emin may make (have made) this as plain as the nose on their faces, but even for others it will still be their, even if veiled to some degree.

It might be argued that whether "anything's possible" will depend on the sort of art that you practice, and the often self-imposed constraints that you put on the creation of the work. A "straight" photographer can only photograph what is visible before the lens of the camera as realistically as possible (and then it's governed by the laws of physics), whereas anything can be drawn that can be imagined. Of course, it is possible to manipulate and post-process the cameras recording, to add or subtract in Photoshop (or even to the analogue image), but then it will be argued this is not straight photography. And of course, photography was long considered a craft or a science, not an art, but this is not the understanding that a contemporary commentator like Ward is coming from. No, I don't actually believe that is what he was meaning. Duchamp proposed that an upturned urinal was art, and whilst not initially accepted as such it has taken its place in history. The implications are wide reaching, and to be honest I've only really started scratching the surface of this in my more recent explorations into a more general art (as opposed to what was fairly strictly only photography, in terms of medium).

The third question is a tricky one. I suppose the best result might be to read the review of a critic who has an understanding of what the artist was intending. In this way, there will be a duality of the commentary in that it will be cognisant of the artist's intentions, his thoughts on the juxtaposition of images (or whatever) with their neighbours, with their surroundings and why the images were pulled together in the way that they have been. Why the images were made, the intent. You also get another view from a different perspective, perhaps bringing in a different context and playing them off against the work of another. The view will also (generally) be more objective - certainly a problem I often have myself is that I become too close to the work, wrapped in the idea rather than the execution or relying too heavily on connotations that may be too personal for the viewer to grasp (unless you really spell it out for them).

If time permits, I often find myself going around a (one-man) show twice; once to simply look at the images and see if anything talks to me, pulls me in without being spoon-fed the artist's statement. This also allows me to make my own little narrative too. The second time will be after reading the statement so that the context becomes apparent if it wasn't before. Of course, there is a danger that the artist's statement can be a bit on the obscure side and confound that understanding, but there we go. I often find myself going around an exhibition counter-clockwise, and looking at books from the back. I'm not sure what that says about me...

VL2 : From Archive to Interview

Angela’s second video lecture looks at online resources and the commentary provided on the work of a small handful of artists, and how they can differ whilst also perhaps agreeing…

The first thing to be said was a word of caution when looking online, highlighting the lack of context and basic information (scale, material, etc.) that can be seen on doing a simple Google search and the possible confusions and misinformation that can result from taking your information from a website with little or no provenance. The Internet is a wonderful tool but, as with many things, has to be used thoughtfully and appropriately. Take Wikipedia for example – this can be a good source of basic information and a springboard to further reading, but it is indeed error strewn and has nothing in the way of reliability of information or authority. It was also highlighted that Googling for something or someone might bring up unexpected results, featuring the art of a contemporary instead of the desired artist for example. All fairly basic stuff I suppose, but worth mentioning for the less savvy out there.

The lecture really got underway looking at the work of
Thomas Schütte, the German artist who studied under Gerhard Richter. Principally, it was one work that was the focus of the lecture, his Model for a Hotel (2007) that was on display on the 4th plinth of Trafalgar Square in 2007 and later in the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn as part of his solo show, Big Buildings – Models and Views in 2010.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 06.31.25
(screen grab from Schütte’s website)

The lecture featured three different reviews for Model for a Hotel, one from the Guardian’s Adrian Searle, one from Time Out’s Ossian Ward and a third from Richard Dorment from the Telegraph. Searle’s review is an audio piece (that can be found on the Guardian’s website
here), he speaks in hushed but excited tones, he’s clearly a fan but does not seem to fall into obscure prosaic ramblings about the work, his is a descriptive style, interspersed with exclamations of what I can only think of as being delight: “groovy!” he says. He goes further than simply Model for a Hotel though, also describing the other pieces in the Bonn show – the plywood and scrim Ferienhaus für Terroristen for example, and some silver angels that look like “brand new kitchen instruments”. He’s full of little pieces of back story, and it wasn’t really a huge surprise to see he has co-authored a book on Schütte’s work.

The other two reviewers only spoke of Model for a Hotel within the context of the 4th plinth installation, so there is no relationship to be had with Schütte’s other works, only with the surroundings. Ward was clearly unimpressed in his review (
here) – “a similar shrug went round those assembled at the unveiling of Thomas Schütte’s new sculpture for Trafalgar Square’s empty fourth plinth.” and that it mocked monumental art. It’s merely a model and not the finished article. Dorment is, as the Telegraph review states, “blown away by Thomas Schütte’s delicate sculpture on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square”. He’s clearly impressed by the juxtaposition of the lightness brought by the colourful glass structure and the heavy and inert monumental monochromatic surroundings. Searle also referred to the piece in its Trafalgar Square location, but found the installation within a building to be “glorious”. What would the others have thought of it in Bonn I wonder?

(Thomas Schütte: Model for a Hotel, 2007, glass, aluminium, steel, installation view, Bundeskunsthalle 2010, Photo: David Ertl)

Moving on from Schütte, the next artist to be discussed was
Kiki Smith, another artist I’d never heard of (this is becoming quite shameful!). Again, three different reviewers of her oeuvre and three different views, this time it’s Elizabeth Brown, the Mary Ryan Gallery and Christine Kuan. Elizabeth Brown’s review dated from 1994 and spoke about sculpture and the body, the unusual effects that she achieved such as “evoking solid bodies in fragile silk tissue” or “transitory visual effects in bronze”. Brown is another who has gone on to write a book about the artist in question, so clearly has a level of interest in her. The Mary Ryan Gallery commentary was from a biography on their website circa 2001 where the work was described as feminist and that it was “BODY ART imbued with political significance” and “undermined traditional erotic representation”; an agenda has been identified that was not apparent 7 or so years earlier (the website currently states that “Her work addresses feminist, philosophical, social, sexual, and political aspects of human nature, employing non-traditional materials. Her early work, transgressive in nature, dealt with mortality and decay, while her more recent work explores the natural world, portraiture, fairy tales, and myths.” so may well have changed again). Kuan’s piece on Oxford Art Online provides a much more balanced view, talking about the craft, the processes, her influences. It’s an interview rather than a direct critique.

Whilst some of this might be contradictory, it is more likely representing a shift in ideas and ideals, it probably also has something to do with how we bring something of ourselves to the work, so we interpret things as we see fit. A feminist will draw more upon the feminist elements of the work, bringing them to the fore, making them the dominant aspect of the review or biography, whereas someone without such feminist ideals would probably play them down a little. There’s also a certain amount of writing for the audience, and the nature of the intent of the writing (interview, promotional biography, critical review for an exhibition, etc.).

The next artist, I did know. Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculpture (Maman) was present in the Louvre gardens a number of years ago (in 2008) – the photograph below isn’t a particularly successful one, but it’s the only one I’ve been able to locate from the day.

Paris_03_08 298
Bourgeois’ work has been described as biographical, as the journal of her life although I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not sure what the giant spider has to do with that; I don’t know anything about her life, certainly not enough to make an informed reading of it and certainly not without reading someone else’s thoughts on the matter*. In looking at the three sources of writing on her, the first was an obituary (she died in 2010) and Angela described it as “nice”, as you might expect in that type of writing but without any thoughtful critique or commentary. In it, the one thing that seemed significant enough to be written down was “culture is the body, my body is my sculpture”. What has this to do with a giant spider?

Dorment has also
written about Bourgeois, and he has said that once you know the symbolism of the work it makes sense, and is nothing without it (tapestries represent the family business, cages to imprisonment, houses to security of her childhood and guillotines to the end of that security). With this knowledge, it all become subject to obvious indexical symbolism and that this has fed the academic “feeding frenzy” that came relatively late to her work. As such, the work is more famous for this academic interest rather than for any particular aesthetic qualities and may not stand the test of time…

Siri Hustvedt has a slightly counter argument in her piece for the Guardian (
here), she argues that “The story of Louise Bourgeois’s early life has become so enmeshed with her work that many critics have been seduced into biographical or psychoanalytic readings of the art, punctuated with pithy pronouncements from the artist”. From this is can be deduced that there are other ways to read the work, but we’ve been conditioned to read the biographical and psychoanalytical signifiers that repeatedly appear. Does this then mean that Dorment’s view is not his own? That it’s lazy? Well, of course there’s the fact that he might not like the work and therefore feels less inclined to come to his own interpretation and is indeed swept up with what has been already said about it, particularly by Bourgeois herself (he virtually says this in his article anyway – “Bourgeois’s work often fails because she gives us too much information”). I’m not implying this is the truth of the matter, Dorment is clearly more switched on that I am. I guess I’m just asking the question because I know it’s what would happen to me…

* Bourgeois has said, “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother. “ (from

The final artist was the performance artist
Bobby Baker who deals with subjects motherhood and cooking,routines, daily lives and such. She uses comedy and food, drawings and stuff and is influenced by world affairs… Rather than a particular critique on the work, this was used as a way of introducing online collections as a resource, with Baker’s Diary Drawings featured on the Wellcome Collection site.

There was also the Turner Prize and the Stuckists, perhaps here as a means to illustrate that we should look at different views as there might be something of interest hidden within the rants or the negativity.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 21.16.10
(from From Archive to Interview, video lecture 2)

The Stuckists (and others) will be against “an empty gallery with a three-part recording”, they were also against Tomma Abts receiving the prize – a German winning a prize for a British visual artist under the age of 50? How does that work? But they seemed to be a bit more concerned with the abstract nature of the work, which is counter to their figurative painting manifesto, as is the giving of prizes in for art… or galleries in general for that matter.

The final part of the video is about online reference sources, such as the UCA website, or major galleries such as MoMA and Tate. I’ll not bother repeating these resources here, but below there are the ones used in this entry. All references used are also repeated in the Resources section of the site (although only the parent URL in the case of web pages). And from this we are then presented with three questions:

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 21.28.59
(from From Archive to Interview, video lecture 2)

I’ll answer this in a later post.

Web references – all accessed 29/10/2014


Meet the Students

Today was meant to be a “Meet the Students” session but the second year cohort were otherwise engaged doing something else, so there was a short Q&A session with Caroline before being virtually introduced to our second year “buddy”.

The main thing raise for me was by Mathew, in that he questioned the essay writing and requirements for assessment. There’s an essay writing session next week so that will hopefully cover the lions share of that, but the requirements for assessment were interesting. They are:
  • the practical work
  • a piece of academic writing “the essay”
  • 8x A4 pages pulled from the journal

The first two I knew about, but not the latter (although I probably should’ve) - these entries can be anything: a gallery visit, a review of some work, some reflection, etc. It does all need to be pretty central to the development of the work and the course though. No point worrying about that now, but it is something to try and remember going forward (8 A4 pages isn’t really a lot!)

The other thing from the night was being told which of the second years we would pair up with for a discussion, and that would be Mark Daniels. He uses iPhonography amongst other things in his work. I’ll be getting an e-mail in the next few days, so will take it from there as I don’t really know what this is about at the moment, perhaps just a chance for a chat as you might have in a normal B&M? It might be worth having a browse through his blog though.

Take 2 Influences : Group Crit

I’m trying to think back to whether I’ve ever done anything like this before. I thought not, but maybe I have at the Leeds tutorial Penny (a BA Photography student with the OCA) organised. It was very casual, but there was discussion about the work, albeit mostly by the tutor (Peter Haveland). I’ve also done a portfolio review, and that was very different again.

On the work of others, I’m not intending to dwell too much here (they will all be blogging their own thoughts anyway) but there were a few things I did find really quite interesting, Emma’s sculpture being one, Anne’s re-photography being another (I do like photographing images within their context, even if sometimes slightly abstractly). Bits of other things too - crows, swirls of colour, hidden identities, text and ‘loose’ painting of various kinds. In fact, I think it was all really interesting, especially with the finite time given to the task. Some people were more adventurous, trying something new, others saw the opportunity to explore. Still others just saw the chance to move an idea along a little. I think I fall into that category.

So, we basically had 12 minutes to describe then discuss. My approach was different to the others in that I used the 5 images to create a narrative rather than to try different things, different versions or develop an idea. This wasn’t my original intention, and I was worried that the approach, aping to a certain degree the Commando war comics of my youth, might glorify conflict too much, whereas my intention was to question the way that conflict is “normalised” by media - films and computer games. I don’t really remember all that I said about my work, and for future crit sessions it may be worth planning more - time goes ever so quickly and I’ve no record of how I described the work, which is a shame - I may have said something insightful on the spur of the moment! I wish I had made a recording! Talking about the work, reading the comments in the chat box and listening to people ask questions and formulate your answers is incredibly hard work. There’s certainly no time for making notes! Luckily, Angela made a copy of the chat box comments, so this has served as something of an aide memoire.

These comments and questions were:

Is this a celebration of boys' comics, a comment on their glorification of war?

They are ambiguous, but that is more interesting to me

Have you seen Willie Dohery
Will Doherty's use of text I mean!

I feel like the images conflict so much with the glib words, which makes a really interesting awkward balance between them - the pop culture words definitely make us question what we're looking at!!!!

Yes, it does glorify it, for me, but I'm coming from a very personal position of being anti-war

I feel it glorifies and partitcularly the words used.

You are doing with photography/computer games what Roy Lichenstein did with oil paint - I like it.

As in, if you give us information, statistics etc, you are trying to make us feel a certain way, whereas this challenges us to see how kids learn about violence, and organised violence etc.... really exciting work!

I'm a bit caught as to whether to read the text as irony ... not sure, there's some ambiguity of whether glorifying or not
slide 4 looks like a child ..


Thank you for your personal story - that really informs the images for me.

I find the photos disturbing and scary, so maybe in a way that means it's not glorified. I'm conflicted about them! (pun intended)

Do you know Idris Khan's photography? I'm sure you do. There's a lot of similar movement

It's a brave place to go.

the images are full of threat and full of tension so very successful in terms of what you are trying to do I feel

EMMA how did you get to Idris Khan from these?

Movement - blurring! 

Some of the questions were answered, I spoke with Sharon about how my intention was to question, not glorify or romanticise conflict. I suppose it’s more about our (collective) attitude and how conflict is very much normalised. There’s was a question of perhaps needing to show “pain” in the images for there to be less of a glorification effect - not mentioned but relevant is how we are bombarded with more and more extreme images of real events, through the news etc. and that, even though these are censored, we can find more and more gruesome images if we want - this is normalising us too, in conjunction with Hollywood and the computer games industry. How much pain do we actually need to witness? Does it need to be absolutely everywhere?

Willie Doherty I now know, and I’m still not sure if I knew of him before, but he was mentioned in my tutorial the other day. I’ve not had much of a chance to dig into his work this time around, so his work has not been particularly influential in any way. It is certainly something to look into though.

I can sort of see where Emma was coming from with Idris Khan, with the blur, although the process is very different (more akin to the Mishka Henner video I
posted), and to my mind more appropriate to Ines’ work on identity.

Tanya mentioned that the photographs were “equipment heavy” or something like that. True, two of the five photographs featured planes and that was intended to carry the Commando comic theme, and was also the only real way of getting the computer game element on board. I don’t play computer games (although I did when younger), and this one was bought specifically for this project. Maybe with further exploration of the game there might be a way of adjusting the various views to make it more appropriate-able (is that a word?), more flexible in the way it could be used. The time didn’t really allow for this exploration from the starting point of a “noob” - there was a couple of hours with the film, a hour or so with the game, then the rest was going through the images, working in post and sequencing them and trying different things. I probably went over the 8 hours to be honest, but not by a great deal (post takes very little time as I tend to just work the same things). Back to Tanya’s comment, to be honest, there’s far more people involved than I normally would have, although this current series (
Some Unholy War) is mostly people, but it’s quite a deviation from my normal MO.

On the whole though, it seems that there has been a successful outcome, although perhaps the glorification aspect is a little strong. Would this be better if printed large scale? If compared to Lichtenstein (who Mathew mentioned), that I feel does more closely reflect the comic book action, which is of course what it is supposed to do. I’ve never thought as to whether it has any particular stance though...

Take 2 Influences : Image sequence

These are the images as presented for the group crit. They’re intended to be viewed as a short 5 frame narrative which hopefully questions our approach to the way war is often portrayed, and the conditioning to it that we get through varying media - films and video games are used as source material, with the narrative being loosely based on boys war comics. As a finished piece of work, I’d probably envisage these images being quite large.

(images used for educational purposes)

I’ll add some thoughts on the crit later.


Take 2 Influences : Going around the buoy

After playing with the images (small printed versions) to come up with a single pairing that I was reasonably happy with (below), applied the text and came up with what I put in the previous posting, an e-mail came reminding us to submit our 5 images and 2 questions as a slide presentation for group crit. In deciding which images to include with the diptych, further thoughts came to mind of an alternative take on the images as the individual slides started to work like a more traditional narrative and I was reminded of a comic book collection from my youth. One by one, the images looked like frames from the book, albeit as photographs instead of black and white line drawings.

Game On
(images used for educational purposes)

So, with the diptych discarded for the time being, a second round of activity started, playing with the order of the images, pulling more options from the library of images made when viewing the film Battle of Britain (by Guy Hamilton) and the Ubisoft game Blazing Angels, organising them in a longer sequence, a narrative of five instead of two. Adding more images allows for different options (obviously), so things were definitely changing - back to the drawing board and around the buoy... not reworking the images but what they mean and how they interact with each other.

IMG_3094-2IMG_3093-1 IMG_3095-3

The “influences” for this piece originally came from appropriation and mixing text and photography in a way that goes beyond mere captioning (the text is part of the work). Barbara Kruger is one source of inspiration, although she is very recognisable by her graphic delivery (I still haven’t listened to the radio programme mentioned by Angela - on my list of things to do over the weekend). I like it, it’s a throwback to my own short-lived graphic design training. Maybe it can be argued that this is a third influence, but I would prefer to think it’s a continuation of the text and art form, whilst also feeding the realms of the appropriation and the position that could have in the postmodern arena, I’m thinking Roy Lichtenstein and positioning low culture as high culture - I have mentioned these might be developed as large scale artworks for the gallery wall, not small images on a computer screen or pages in an A5 booklet, although this could actually be an alternative resolution of the piece - back to being similar to the war stories, referential to its roots.

With this idea of a more narrative driven piece, still mixing video film and video game source material, the mood perhaps changes a little. Does this continue a theme of glorification of war driven by the media, is it romanticising a period of our history? Or does it actually question what we see, what we do with that media? This is where I want to be coming from, questioning the raison d’être of the source material, that conditions us to be more accepting of conflict, maybe even more aggressive in our outlook - certainly as a male anyway. Perhaps this questioning stance would have to be supported by the statement that accompanies the work, otherwise people will simply take what they see and not be nudged into thinking about things (it’s the same with pretty much anything I’ve produced).

The work submitted for the crit is not truly “finished”, not by a long way; it’s been bound by the constraints placed in terms of time and the number of images. I’m not even truly sure if it’s actually worth pursuing further, but I’m sure the feedback due on Monday will give some guidance with regards to this. Maybe it will be worth playing a little more with styles of text, or working with the underlying DLP mesh that is a feature of this way of working to square everything up in order that it is suitable for printing large...

I’ll post the image sequence and some further notes on the outcome of the critique session later next week.
(images used for educational purposes)


Tutorial - AR 29 Sep 14

Ok, I’m going to state all this in the opposite order as to what happened because the tutorial ended with a discussion about my being on the brink of dropping out of the MA. The reasons are all hard to voice, not because I think they’re personal and I want to keep them private, but because I’m not 100% sure of the reasons. One will I guess come from the fact that I’d much rather be dong a Photography MA, not Fine Art. Whilst I do consider myself to be an “artist”, that’s more because I don’t consider myself to be a social documentary photographer, or a fashion photographer, or a portrait photographer. “Artist” feels like it’s all that’s left. I’ll be honest, the Interactive Design Institute Photography MA doesn’t appeal (anyone from education that promotes colour popping on their website should be banned from any form of education, or even photography for that matter). Yes there are perhaps other options... but I am where I am at the moment. I’ve voiced concerns in the past, and I still have those concerns. Is this the right vehicle for me in terms of attaining an MA? It’s different from things I’ve done before in distance learning, something that I’m not unfamiliar with (I have a distance learning BA with OCA, and a distance learning BSc with OU, I even studied it as a subject in itself at one point). I’m not necessarily saying that these differences are good or bad, just that they’re differences and not what I was expecting. Maybe it’s my expectations that are part of the problem? I expected to give a proposal on what I would do and then go off and do it, but that’s not really happened yet. I expected to be able to be creative in my choice of presentation styles, but this is being questioned (I will say now that I will resist Wordpress for as long as I continue to blog). Some of the course elements are not what I would expect. I don’t expect to be able to contribute much in terms of the “making days”, not if I were to go out on a shoot anyway - a medium format camera and mobile internet are not good bedfellows. I don’t really expect to be making random things if they’re not on my “agenda” either - time and my capacity will collude to prevent this anyway. Yes, there’s a mix of things going on that have me in turmoil, which is strange, because whenever I speak to Angela or Caroline, the doubts fade to an extent, but only to return a little later. The fact that I’m even writing this now is indeed positive and would indicate that the doubts have receded a small distance. I have however contacted Lee in the OCA office (although still waiting for a response) and drafted a couple of notification e-mails. Nothing can be taken for granted yet.

This conversation took place at the end of the tutorial time as I did not want it to take up the lions share of the discussion, which it undoubtedly would have done if mentioned first.

Back to the first section of the tutorial then...

Well, that went ok, there was some comment on not being able to see all the detail of the
A Forest image in the Google presentation, which is kind of understandable. I suppose some of it depends on what you’re viewing it on. I could see it, but I also knew it was there.

In discussing the current work, WIllie Doherty was mentioned. I’m not sure if I’ve seen his work before, it sort of rings a bell, but....

Other than that, I suppose I will have to fill in my tutorial report form. If I can actually make head or tail of the scribbled notes I made.

Take 2 Influences : Game On

Screen Shot

On September 26th, the British government voted to join in the airstrikes against ISIS, the immediate response from one twitter user (who will remain anonymous - image and name has been intentionally blurred above) was “Game-on”, a timely dose of inspiration for a useable piece of text for my Take 2. I’ve tried a number of simple diptych type layouts with pairs of images from those available and the following are possible options for discussion:
GameOn2GameOn3_ROB0664-Edit copyGameOn5GameOn1GameOn6
(images used for educational purposes)

OK, there’s an obvious danger here that the images start to look like some form of advertising campaign for a game, and part of me actually likes this idea but only if the images were to be seen blown up to huge dimensions and on the white walls of a gallery where I believe they would have the desired impact. Here though, viewed as small jpgs a few hundred pixels across, they do not have that aura. Low culture posing as low culture does not make a post-modern masterpiece, I suspect.

Different juxtapositions of images give me different reactions. It might be that the colours don’t feel as... complimentary or coherent, or just don’t “feel” right to me. Pilot on the top, or on the bottom has different impacts, perhaps depending on the way he is looking, perhaps because of the plane he has been juxtaposed with. Another example, with more images together, is shown below, this time with an excerpt from Churchill’s “Never in the field of human conflict” speech. This feels contrived, and a form of the propaganda I really want to avoid, the sort of thing that
Some Unholy War is questioning - it’s not the truth, but is being presented as being such, backed up with the historical fact of the words of the famous speech.
(images used for educational purposes)

I suppose my favoured image as things stand right at this point would probably be the first of them, partially because of the fresh, young looking face of the pilot perhaps having some resemblance of the target audience of the game, boys and young adults. Some of the others really don’t work for me, the text struggles to add much when presented in that way, or at least doesn’t lend itself to being what I wanted. And yes, some of these feel like a graphic design exercise. The same might be true of that first image too; I’m certainly not saying this should be considered the finished image, but it’s a stake in the ground. Something to invite discussion about. I do however feel that this is moving away from something I would have necessarily sought to do, although I can also argue that it does feature elements of what I have indeed been doing recently. Perhaps It just lacks some of the thought that I might want to put into things, partially because this was a necessarily time limited exercise, partially because it is a construct to answer an outside brief when I prefer to work to my own. It’s possibly more to do with a general state of unease in my head about a number of things to do with the MA at the moment. Things that have left what is normally a quite logical mind in a state of turmoil.


Images for tutorial - AR

OK, some of these are the same as for Caroline’s tutorial, but for the sake of completeness, they’re here again. Others are the same as what I put in the post about Task 1 the other day, but again, for the sake of completeness... And as Angela hasn’t seen any of my other work, there’s a few from last year too.

Speak My Language:

There’s also a video of a rough of the book version below

A Forest:

Shotgun Cartridge

Some Unholy War:

(images used for educational purposes)

Task 1:
(images used for educational purposes)


Take 2 Influences : Single Image Lyrics

Not really much to say at this juncture, other than a brief explanation - in an earlier post I included some images from Some Unholy War with a full set of lyrics from a couple of songs. The images were wrong, and the lyrics were too much so here’s a few others with a shorter set - a line or a verse, all on the same image (in reality I would use others, but this is just a trial).
Harmonic Generator, by The Datsuns

harmonic generator
Hurricane Fighter Plane, by Alien Sex Fiend
hurricane fighter plane
Little Fluffy Clouds, by The Orb
little fluffy clouds

White text tends to work better for me, personal choice really - more could be read into the use of the red text (blood for example). Use of lyrics... I don’t know. All these can have some relevance extrapolated from them, rather than being completely random - push the button could be the trigger, Hurricane is obvious (a British WWII fighter plane if you don’t know) and then the skies.

Maybe, we will see...

(images used for educational purposes)


Take 2 Influences : Work in Progress

OK, this is a work in progress, I have to stress that...! My idea is working with two sets of images, one of pilots taken from a war film (Battle of Britain), the other from a computer game about the dogfights of World War 2. Whilst neither of these in any way depict the true nature of the loss on both sides of the war, they are both “celebrating” the act of war, with the film turning it into a spectacle and the game turning it into play. My aim is to question both these stances.

I’ve been playing with image interactions and juxtapositions using small (A6) prints on paper - nothing special in terms of quality, just something to make it easier to move things around as physical objects, the order below is my current preferred layout, although things will in all likelihood change when I work out my text and how it is applied. What the text is will be of great importance, and I’ve hit a bit of a wall in terms of this - I did think about pulling in some quotes from that other contemporary “Battle of Britain” and the Scottish referendum, but it would then fail to tie in with the game element. - this is meant to be an 8 hours making, 2 hours thinking project, but I’m going to say that it’s 2 hours contextualisation instead, as the taking of photographs is not (normally) like the production of a painting, therefore thinking of text comes under “making”. I’m still not sure if it will “work” though.


Film credit:
Battle of Britain. 1969. [Blu-Ray] Guy Hamilton. Spitfire Productions.
Game credit:
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII. 2006. [PS3] Ubisoft.
(used for educational purposes)


Tutorial - CW 22 Sep 14

Luckily, my Internet connection had recovered sufficiently to allow the tutorial with Caroline to take place, although the received video quality was pretty fuzzy. Still, we managed to communicate, which is the main thing.

Half an hour isn’t a long time, although it is sufficient. We managed to talk briefly about Task 1, but in more detail about
Some Unholy War and the work I have planned going forward, all of which is related to representations of conflict. A few names came up - David Cotterrell was the first, who was allowed to go out to Iraq/Afghanistan, although his view of what was there will have been very sanitised - the days of the “wild” war journos has been and gone as the government/military have recognised the power of the media, with reporters now embedded in units rather than free to go where they want. I mentioned Broomberg and Chenerin in return, with their piece The Day Nobody Died which is a very alternative take! Steve McQueen may be better known for films such as 12 Years a Slave, but he has also received the Turner Prize (1999) and produced a body of work called Queen and Country commemorating soldiers killed in the war in Iraq.

Steve McQueen,
Queen and Country (2007-2010)

The report has been posted, and now there’s reading to do, photographs to take and preparations to be made for next week’s tutorial with Angela...


Take 2 Influences : pre-trial

OK, this isn’t really what I had in mind, but it’s something I tried with something I’d already photographed. A couple of trials if you like. I don’t think either particularly work very well for what I’m thinking.

(images used for educational purposes)

The first photograph, from Saving Private Ryan, features the lyrics of the song Birds by Electralene. It has no relevance to war at all, but there is a narrative of someone left behind, maybe even widowed that can be construed - “Still I can’t stop thinking about you”. The second photograph is from the BBC series of mini-docudramas called Our World War, with this one being about the Pals regiments. Again, the words are the lyrics from a song, this time by PJ Harvey and called Let England Shake. The song is about war, as are all the songs on the album (with the same name). Whilst this one cannot easily be placed, others refer to the Anzac landings in Turkey; Battleship Hill and Bolton’s Ridge, so time-wise it is appropriate, although... does that make it a bit clichéd?

I actually think there’s too much text on these, and then there’s the danger that they’re directing the viewer too much in a certain direction, which is not necessarily what I was thinking for the series in the first place, but then these are just a quick “play” to see if it does anything for me. I’m not so sure if there is mileage just yet, but then I have a few hours to sit down with some work when I have found something relevant for the task. Less text is appropriate though.

I have started with the task in anger, working on the first portion of a possible idea. Hopefully I can add to that in the next few days and have something coming together in time for a chat with the others before it has to be submitted. I feel like I’m walking a bit of a high-wire with this one, so we will see.


Take 2 Influences : second thoughts

So, a couple of days have gone by and I’m not really gelling with this. I need to identify these influences and move on to making something. I mentioned Daido the other day, and to be honest, I can’t figure out how his work inspires me. My thoughts are refusing to crystallise about him at the moment, much as they are with my doubts about whether the MA is for me in general. That’s a blip I need to get over, otherwise it will consume me. I need to clear my thoughts and start making something for this first task, this first hurdle.

So, now I’m going to just put some thoughts down. It might not be pretty, but it’s necessary, even if this task isn’t to be overthought. If I think about where I am in terms of the work I’ve been producing recently, the images from
Some Unholy War, the obvious overarching influence is one of appropriation; I’m taking the visual material from the cinematic representation of war. I’ve being doing this as a way of questioning how the cinematic is becoming visually more historically accurate yet still with an unhealthy level of make-believe. It’s propaganda on many levels. If the script goes too far from the ideals of the military agenda of the relevant power, then there will be no backing, in terms of use of military hardware, troops on the ground as extras and the provision of advisors. There’s also the fact that the film is made for an audience; Hollywood produces films for a (predominantly) American audience, so the film will not paint the use of American military power in a bad light - there might be a “bad egg” in the film, but the protagonist will be an American, with the antagonist being “the enemy” (and there’s all sorts of ways to read any subtext). Even if the film is depicting an American invasion of another country, the given fact of the matter is that this is the right and proper thing to do. I’m not going to get into any heavy politics here, but merely want to question the truth of the events we are being presented with. There’s other stuff too...

Anyway, back to appropriation. There are a number of appropriation artists that I am aware of, with Richard Prince being the first I became aware of, even if I didn’t fully comprehend what he was doing at the time when I saw

Art & Today, by Eleanor Heartney (p26)

These rephotographs were purportedly to undermine the images and what they represented. It’s what I’m looking at doing with my own appropriation - make people look at a subject again, question what they think the image represents, what is real, what is make believe... There are others - Sherrie Levine is really quite audacious with After Walker Evans, and then the follow-on by Michael Mandiberg (After Sherrie Levine), there’s also those that move away from just photography such as Mike Bidlo (Prince does when he paints on images too).

There’s some mileage that can be had here, I just have to find a subject that I find relevant (I’m not thinking of using
Some Unholy War for this), and to bring in another influence. Since I’ve produced Speak My Language, I have a growing interest in words and pictures working together. I don’t mean this in terms of captions, which I often find somewhat restrictive - if I use captions they will generally be quite open. I actually mean as something that will work together with the artwork, that exist within the same frame as the artwork. With Speak My Language, the snippets of song lyrics occupied an empty space within the image mosaic, and were not tied with the adjacent images in any obvious way, much as the images were not tied to each other. Other uses of words have been seen in the work of Barbara Kruger, William Klein or Martin Stobich.

Art & Today, by Eleanor Heartney (p42)

William Klein, Foam #37 2013 (p106)

As I’ve written this, I have no Internet (an “incident” in the local area requires a repair which will be done by the 23rd at the earliest), so I will not be able to upload this until I have at least started to work on something. I won’t change this before it’s uploaded, although I might well come back and add some more...

[note - since the Internet recovered from the incident, I’ve added links to better versions of the images]


Take 2 Influences : first thoughts

We’ve not to overthink this exercise, so these first thoughts are necessarily brief. They are necessary though.

Inspirations... we have to take 2 of them. I’ve been thinking about this, and whilst I have many influences, I’m not 100% sure what I would consider to be a major one, an obvious one to choose. I’m probably a little schizophrenic, picking little bits from everything and mixing them together. I have decided to take something from
Daido though, use him as an influence. Not necessarily in terms of his are, bure, boke aesthetic from the late ’60’s, but more from his freewheeling approach, his surrealism.

© Daido Moriyama (from
Menu, curated by Rob™)

The other one... I’m thinking of being vague in a grand way, picking on modern culture. I have an idea, something that has echoes from Langlands and Bell.
Pasted Graphic
© Langlands & Bell

Yeah, all very vague but I have the beginnings of a cadre to work with. I’ll see how it goes as I play...

Oh, who am I trying to kid - I’ve got no idea what I’ll be doing yet.


Images for tutorial - CW

In preparation for the upcoming tutorial with Caroline, we’ve been requested to upload 5 images onto our G Drive and share. Well, that’s done and these are the 5 images I’ve selected, all of which are from a current project called Some Unholy War.

In order of appearance, they’re from Battle for Haditha, We Were Soldiers, Our World War, and 2 from Black Hawk Down - used for educational purposes)

Why these ones? Specifically, I’m not sure. I guess they appeal to me on some level.

As a series, what I want to explore is on several layers. There’s the romanticisation and glorification of war, certainly in earlier films although perhaps this is changing more and more as audiences evolve - many films are becoming far “grittier”, showing more of the horror. Then there’s something about representations of truth; it would appear that some take these fictional pieces as being historical documents - almost an eyewitness account of the situation, especially as we are now see historical reproductions of vehicles, etc. (in the
Battle of the Bulge from 1965 American post war tanks - the M47 - were used as German Tigers, and the M24 Chaffee as the American M4 Sherman - they look nothing like what they were meant to!). The increasing amount of news or even civilian footage available also has an impact, everything blurs together if we do not pay it enough heed, the blurring then being represented physically within the image. This has been borne from something that I think Paul Graham said about HCB’s “decisive moment”, and it being followed by another (I will have to find this quote again). Whether these images as shown here will be the final object, I’m not sure yet. Sometimes I think there needs to be something, other times I think that there would be a danger of them becoming either contrived, convoluted or reduced somehow. We will see.

I guess there are still some issues regarding the copyright of these, their source material is obviously copyrighted, but then the work is transformative from the original, in terms of media (video > still), they focus the viewer on a finite moment that is perhaps not particularly telling during the film, it reframes the image, sometimes within a different format, but always cropping something away from the original. I don’t see these as entertainment, but as questions... Is this enough? I don’t know, so will they continue...? I don’t know. Ultimately, I don’t know if they’re interesting enough to continue either.

I did see this on twitter though. Does it make a difference?
Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 21.50.35BxsbCLJCUAEQQSt.jpg-large

I will be sure to post something after the tutorial, I believe doing so will be mandated.

VL1 : Seminar

I think I’m coming to terms with a sort of crisis of confidence, of awareness of whatever it was that was filling my head with doubt about the MA. A brief chat with Angela before Monday’s hangout has straightened a few things too. I’m now sitting here looking at the short page of notes I scribbled during the hangout and I’m wondering if I was actually in attendance though? I’ll blame a cold for this, and also for the fact I’m not sleeping and writing this up at 3am, having been awake for the past 2 hours...

Anyway, based on the notes I have made what I have learned/thought pertinant would appear to be:
  • Presentations need to be sent to Paul/Alice on the Thursday before they’re required.
  • Alison appropriates photographs of people in her work.
  • Ryan Gander is showing in Manchester (actually, was showing - it finished last Sunday)
  • Jeff Koons is at the Whitney (NYC)
  • I was in a group with Monika and Emma to discuss the questionnaire.
  • Anne Hamilton.
  • One shot video.
  • Characteristics to respond to - abstract concepts not helpful.
  • Powers of 10
  • Questions to ask others about the work - “I think this does... what do you think?”

And there we have it, the sum total of 3 hours worth of note taking during a lecture.

There is context to all this, I know that “one shot video” was something Angela said when talking about the first task. I think she actually meant a single take, but “one shot video” seems somehow relevant to the work I’ve been exploring with
Some Unholy War - a project that might be getting its first appearance in print soon, if they’re happy with the appropriation element (an interest has been expressed, but I have explained the work so we will see).

The small group hangout with Monika and Emma was really enjoyable. We didn’t manage to discuss the lion’s share of the questionnaire, but the discussion around the first section got me buzzing. I found it really useful to speak to people about how they get going, where ideas come from. OK, whilst the generalities are not so different to my own way of going about things, just talking to people from other disciplines has been good, and further quelled any worries I have. I’ll be talking with them during task one too, as they will be my task buddies to start with.

Task one has been launched, with a few weeks to produce something - 10 hours work, with a rough 4:1 split between work and thinking. I have an inkling of where to head with this, actually drawing something from Langlands and Bell, but not really... I’ll have to try and not be abstract.

Questionnaire - Studio Use

During VL1, there were some slides about studio use that posed questions about how we use that space, how it can be improved.

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 08.00.16
This is followed up by another questionnaire, which is as follows. I’m not quite sure these answers are “correct” (if there is such a thing) as I don’t consider that I actually have a studio at all...

What do you do in your studio or the place where you usually make work?
Write down everything you do in your studio or the place where you usually work. Include drinking cups of tea, dreaming, reading the paper, phoning friends etc.

  • Photographic workflow control (Aperture/Lightroom type activities)
  • Post processing with Photoshop
  • Printing (sizes up to A3+)
  • Sequencing images, arranging juxtapositions, etc. normally with something like InDesign if a book is the end product
  • Answering open calls, trying to get some exposure
  • Looking at photobooks, reading theory books, etc.
  • Looking at photography/art related material on the Internet
  • Flickr/Tumblr/Twitter, etc.
  • Writing my blog, updating websites, etc.
  • Writing in my paper journal
  • Thinking, contemplating, procrastinating... call it what you will
  • Drinking coffee or whatever
  • Eating my breakfast (whilst reading the news online)
  • Company accounts, business correspondence, etc.
  • E-mail, or writing snail mail, etc.
  • MA hangouts, skype, telephone
  • Online shopping
  • Browsing the Internet for non-photographic things, reading the news, watching the odd game of football, etc.
  • Listening to music
  • Anything else to do with a computer...

This room that I’m calling my studio is the smaller bedroom (the office) in a small two bedroomed cottage, it’s shared with my wife although we do have our own ends to the room, our own desks and computers, etc.

Which of these things do you want to be doing and which do you not?
I could probably do with spending a little less time browsing the web for other stuff, but sometimes it’s that other stuff that keeps me sane. You could probably argue that I shouldn’t eat my breakfast here either, but time is a premium and if I can catch up with the news before heading off to work... Other than that, it’s a room with my computer in it, so everything has to be done there.

What else do you want to do that you don’t? Why aren’t you doing these things?
Yeah, it would be nice to have a space that people could come to if they wanted to discuss my work, but it’s not that sort of space. I could probably do with tidying it from time to time...

Is your studio set up for you to do what things you want to do?
I don’t photograph in this room, most of that is done elsewhere - out on location normally, but in the lounge for the current set of images I’m working on. So other than the odd photobook snap I take, then it’s fine. I do have a garage that I can hang a roll of white paper from if I wanted to do that sort of thing, but to be honest, I don’t do that sort of thing very often. So yeah, I think so.

What stimulates ideas and your imagination?
Some ideas come when I’m driving and my mind can do whatever it is that it does. 12 months ago, it was a 90 minute commute to work so there was plenty of time for thinking, with the problem being that sometimes I’d forgotten what I was thinking about by the time I got off the motorway. Now it’s only 30 minutes each way, not as much time for ideas to come, but more chance I will actually remember them. Other than that, my “studio” houses my bookshelves, so there is inspiration sitting there, waiting to be looked at.

How do you keep track of projects?
I blog about things, I have folders full of links and other stuff that relates to the project, organise photographs in Aperture/Lightroom (Aperture will no longer be supported by Apple, so making a painful transition to Lightroom at the moment). Things get dropped on to my computer desktop, notes get written on a whiteboard. Probably too much sits in my head (which might be why some things get forgotten - I need to upgrade my internal memory store, but I’m not too sure the technology is with us yet).

Is it too messy and chaotic or too neat and tidy?
Of course, it’s spotless...
Ok, ok. The latter is nearer the usual truth.

Do you feel at home and relaxed?
Yeah, normally - it is home, and I’m often relaxed.

Can you play there?
Depends what the game is...

Can you refine and finish work there?
To a point, yes - quite often the finished print will be produced externally, but the files they need are produced here.

Is there enough storage?
There’s never enough - it’s a small 2 bedroomed cottage in the countryside, but I make the most of it.

Do you have a comfortable chair to sit in to contemplate work?

Is the light adequate?
Unless I’m really inspecting a print closely, the light is fine. I often prefer things on the dingier side if I’m working anyway, it keeps the reflections down.

Are there enough electrical sockets?
Everything is plugged in (to a spaghetti network of extension sockets), so I guess so (although I can still only charge one camera battery at a time!)

Is there a good enough internet connection?
Define “good enough”... We have countryside broadband, which is significantly inferior to that available on the moon. It’s enough for the hangouts, and enough for most other things except streaming HD video, etc. Some things just take longer, such as uploading high res files. Now we’ve gone to Powerline networking, we have wifi throughout the house except the bathroom - it might be a small cottage, but it’s a small stone cottage and wifi doesn’t like that.

Where else do you make work or think about work or carry out research?
Much of my work is normally “en plein air”, although I am doing stuff in my lounge at the moment (photographing the telly). I mentioned the garage which gets used once in a while. I might do “research” in a gallery. We also have a house in the countryside of Brittany, so several times a year we get away from it all there. Not that I do much work there except maybe reading the odd book or magazine...

What do you do in these places?
Take photographs, read, look at the work of others... (and drink coffee, yada yada yada...)

Do you need to make any changes?
It would be wonderful to have more space, a dedicated space, a designed space. The truth is though that this is my home, and it needs to meet the demands put on it as a home in the first instance. I’ll sort out a better space when that lottery win comes in. That said, I believe it does what it needs to do.


VL1 : The Reflexive Practitioner

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 09.10.29
Video Lecture 1 : The Reflexive Practitioner

What’s it all about, being a “reflexive practitioner”? It’s all about thinking, with reflection being about looking at what you do, reviewing, pondering, etc. However, it’s also about forward thinking and the impact of that thinking on future thinking and how you do things. In essence I guess it’s about stepping back so that you can learn from thinking about what you do. There’s a quote in the video from Donald Schön stating that reflexivity is essential for independent learning. Some key elements coming from the lecture are:

  • being aware of how you make work
  • being aware of your influences
  • knowing where to position yourself and your work amongst others
  • being conscious of yourself as an artist within the broader discipline
Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 07.35.26

There is also talk of bringing other outside areas of interest into the artwork, things that influence you in a greater sense. James Aldridge and Tracy Emin are mentioned, Aldridge from the course required reading book Interviews-Artists. In the book, Aldridge talks of how he was influenced by his father, but also by where he lives (in Sweden), his taste in music (metal) and how elements of his work come from other artists; Audubon, Schongauer and Munch. Recognising this is part of what is mentioned above (and something I refer to in my questionnaire answers). It’s all part of how everything comes together in the work we produce, just as it comes together in how the work is interpreted by the viewer as discussed by the semiotician, Roland Barthes.

The House of Osama Bin Laden, by (Ben) Langlands and (Nikki) Bell, is something different. I suppose some of my reaction to it is reminiscent to how I first responded to Man in the Dark during the introductory hangout. It’s fairly dated, in a way that anything that has a dependency on technology will become. It is however related to some degree with something I’m considering going forward, a spin off from my Some Unholy War. Whether this happens or not is still open, but I will come back to Langlands and Bell when the time comes to think about it some more. I will leave the politics out of it as well for the moment, although it will undoubtedly come back at some point during my current work - questioning the influence of the establishment on the making of work for example. There is an awful lot of propaganda in conflict related imagery. Indeed, my own situation will be called into question with the work, which is part of the reason I want to do it. Like has been stated in the lecture, I will need to be objective, introduce that critical distance spoken about during the lecture when Angela spoke of Shaun McNiff.

Christiane Baumgartner’s work is heavily about process, making the work look like a contemporary photograph/video still whilst being firmly rooted in an old technique, such that it only becomes obvious on closer look. I’ve not yet had the chance to look more closely at her work, but there is something interesting there, something to return to at a later date.

“How do we prevent ourselves from becoming slick?” I’m not so sure I am slick... But the question in relationship to Rose Wylie’s work is more about how we look at the work of others as a way of critiquing our own. How to reflect on whether we are just going through the motions of making work. The section moves on to making transcriptions, or studies of the work of others which will lead into the first assignment (“Take Two Influences”).

The rest of the video then looks into ideas of the studio (I’ll be doing the studio questionnaire later), work flow and reflection upon how an artwork is progressing, the iterations.
Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 08.01.29
Whilst this might indeed be the way that we are encouraged to process our work, and probably even the way it actually happens, my heart sank as I now had “a process diagram” to follow, enact this process and I will get my ISO9001 accreditation for being an artist. You see, part of my reasoning for following this path is a desire to get away from rigid rules, from processes and from logic and to do something more organic, chaotic perhaps. It seems this may not actually be possible. Realisation of this leaves me at a bit of a low point, even if I should have been aware of the fact already (it is pretty obvious when you sit and think about it). This low point coincides with general doubts too, so... There are some closing thoughts that should be considered with the theory and practice questionnaire too, and are actually good points for when thinking and talking to others about your work.
Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 22.12.51
I watched the video a few days ago, this is written up from my hastily scribbled notes, I’ll try and watch it again before the seminar tomorrow.

Screenshots from the OCA Lecture
VL1 : The Reflexive Practitioner , © Open College of the Arts

Rose Wylie, whose work was featured in the video,
has won the John Moore’s Painting Prize...


Questionnaire - Theory and Practice

As part of the preparation for the first seminar on The Reflexive Practitioner, there’s a questionnaire to focus our attention on how we think about our work, how we make decisions, influences, that sort of thing - something to also come back to when physically working, to question what we’re doing. Some of these questions are quite “tricky”, and not things I’ve particularly thought about before, well, not in an overtly conscious way at least. Some of these are quite personal questions too - what is unsuccessful in my current work is something that can be hao come to terms with, to be open about, but I will try and be as unguarded as possible about these things.

So, with no more ado, here we go... (bear in mind I will be adding to this along the way)
Week 37 2014: Initial thoughts in “
Aqua” (thanks to the Apple crayon colour scheme...)

Generating and selecting ideas
  • How do you go about selecting and developing your initial images/ideas?
It depends... (yeah?). Normally something will trigger a concept, be it something someone has said in conversation, something I’ve read or heard or seen, then I will go out and photograph whatever I think might fit in with that rough straw man idea - make some visual “ranging photographs”, then sit in from of my computer, see what seems right or interesting. Things will develop from there (or not). I don’t make “one off” photographs, everything is in series of images so this may go on for a while. This is what’s happening now with Some Unholy War; I’m gathering lots of images and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but will soon sit with them a while... (see later)

  • What criteria do you use to select or reject them?
In the first instance, it’s purely an aesthetic choice, but when I know how things are panning out, that choice may well change... It also depends on the project. Images that might be weak in isolation, might sit well with another image. There are so many things that play their part, but I suppose it’s mostly down to how they “feel”.

  • Are your ideas usually substantial enough to sustain a piece of work? If not how do you modify them?
That’s a tricky one, some do, some don’t. Sometimes the idea and the work transforms along the way, other times it only really gets refined. My last finished piece (A Forest) ended pretty much as it started, as a juxtaposition between the forest and the litter found there. Yes, the post-processing changed slightly (I wanted much cooler images originally) and it became a 1:1 juxtaposition, so much more direct, but it was sustained. Other work will change organically, it will lead its own course and get to where it gets to with or without my help. Some will not know what it’s going to be until very close to the end when I look at the body of photographs and I have a little conversation with them. Other times, a comment will be made and it will be like a firework going off! I guess at the end of the day it’s trial and error.

  • What do you do when you get stuck?

Give up? Seriously, I might let it sit there unworked for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes at a later date. Sometimes it soon becomes apparent that an idea isn’t as good as I thought it was, or maybe the timing is wrong (it’s not unusual to realised I’ve simply missed the boat). Other times, I use Flickr to post an image and have a chat with some friends that I trust. Maybe I’ll flick through a photography book or two, or watch a film... soak up visual ephemera or just take a break.

  • Are there ideas you would like to explore but don’t know how to start?

I have a couple of ideas that are sitting on the back burner at the moment, not so much not knowing how to start, but maybe not knowing when to start or just suffering from apathy, over-procrastination or whatever... Maybe there have been in the past, but not right now.

Contextual research
  • What are your influences?
I draw a huge amount from photobooks and the way they are sequenced, how images interplay with their partners or predecessors/successors. I’m a particular fan of Japanese ones, perhaps a bit of a cliché but I like the Provoke era. But not just that, I like a range of different things... From Parr-esque social documentary to the deadpan of Düsseldorf, to the poetic and maudlin images of Hido and Engström’s whatever it is he does... and... and... it goes on and on. I like a lot of different stuff really. I’m also a big fan of cinema, and not just the Hollywood blockbuster - I’ve got a reasonable collection of world cinema films. And music has always been an influence of a sort. Does it alter the way I photograph? No, I don’t really think so (but maybe I’m too close), but I do like the interplay between words and images (and I don’t mean captions). As for other art, other media... Does it influence me? I guess I like what I like and will draw something from some areas, but I’m not 100% sure what that might be at this point in time. Lets be honest, life is the big influence on everything though.

  • How does your work draw on these?
I used to work a lot with a black and white aesthetic, introducing a degree of are, bure, boke into the images in post, not really now though (although I will if the mood takes me). Is it influenced or is it “informed”...? How does film influence me? I’ll ignore the Some Unholy War here as that’s the subject matter, not the influence... There was one film, Christopher Petit’s Radio On that was a significant influence on both Into the Valley and Speak My Language, in terms of how I sequenced the images, and in terms of Speak My Language what I actually photographed, or rather what I chose not to not photograph (i.e. I photographed anything). Maybe that is more the exception than the rule though.

  • How do you choose the resources to research and to support your work, where do you find them?
Sometimes I will stumble across something and it will lead to something else - I recently read an essay about the military sublime that I found via Twitter, which mentioned a number of artists, some of which I knew, others I didn’t which will then lead me off at tangents. Other times, I will find out about something from a friend, or hear something at a talk, or catch something in the news, or a gallery show... There’s a certain serendipity to it.

  • How do you position your practice in a contemporary context?
I hate this question... I suppose it highlights a lack of awareness on my part, and a fear of talking about my work in a certain way. Part of the difficulty comes because I can work in quite different ways - one minute it seems like landscape work, the next minute it’s more of a documentary style. I guess I like to think of it all as being a form of social commentary, even if that social element is just me, there’s a message of some form. I’m a “northern thinker”, does that mean anything? How does that fit in with the contemporary context? I’m still trying to find that out.

  • What difficulties do you having in accessing resources?
My biggest difficulty is that I live in a rural location, so access to galleries, etc. is harder than it might be for others. It has to be said that they’re only ever a car journey away, but finding time for that car journey can often be quite difficult. I have reasonable access to the Internet (not the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, but reasonable), so online research is possible, as long as you know what you’re looking for...

  • What is your framework for making judgments about the work of others?
Often, it will be purely based on a gut feeling in the first instance. Does it speak to me in some way, does it elicit a reaction? Does it appeal to my aesthetic tastes? Does it provoke me in some way? After that, if I’m still interested, I suppose I dig a little further, consciously relating it to my experiences and outlook. If I’m not hooked though, there’s too much stuff to look at to take any time to make a measured judgement; there’s a room full of photographs uploaded to Flickr everyday - we can’t look at them in isolation. Something has to give, and that gut feeling is my first level filter.

  • How can you tell if images or objects, yours and others are successful or not?
Very much like the previous question - for something to be successful I need to be hooked in the first instance and then have the piece communicate to me at some level.

  • How do you compare your work in relation to the work of others?
Obviously it’s far superior... Seriously though, I don’t know. Not on a serious level at least. This needs far more thought to be able to answer.

  • What is successful and not successful about your current work?
About my “current” work... well Some Unholy War is still unresolved - I don’t yet know what the finished “product” will be. I have a number of possible images that are sitting on my computer, unprinted (apart from a small sample print to check something out), unfinished, un-sequenced... There’s still some way to go with it. However, I do believe they’re exploring the subject that I want them to, they’re aesthetically interesting (pleasing might be the wrong term to use) and there is potential there.

Materials and techniques etc.
  • How do you decide whether a material or technique is appropriate or not?
I’m a photographer, so I work with photography. I can work with film and digital, but I think it’s fair to say that I’m a digital photographer first and foremost. However, is that with an iPhone, a compact, DSLR or medium format? It will depend on the desired aesthetic - fluidity will be with the iPhone or a compact, possibly with the DSLR, whereas if it’s something more considered and will benefit from the MF cameras, well then that will be it. The different formats do have a different feel, and even different cameras within the same format. Sometimes, it’s just what is close to hand though, or which have a particular feature that will be useful.

As for presentation, again it’s often just a gut feeling and then try it. It will either work or it won’t. When I produced a book on newspaper, there was a certain amount of trial and error to get something that felt right, was in tune with the idea that was lurking at the back of my head. Not everyone thought newspaper was an appropriate material though, but I liked it.

  • What limits your choice of materials and or techniques?
In terms of camera choice, much is down to what I have. I don’t have large format, so won’t choose that. I don’t have pinhole, so won’t choose that. I’m not really set-up for wet film, well, not really. I can do it, but I prefer the immediacy of the digital. In terms of printing, I have physical limits to what I can personally print to, although there is a local printer who I have used to go larger. Starting to paint or sculpt is not really on the cards either!

  • Are there any materials or techniques you would like to explore?
Not that I can think of...

Communication and intention
  • What messages do you intend your work to convey? How do you do that?
This varies… most, if not all will have some social element, but perhaps not within a traditional social (documentary) context. The work is quite personal – perhaps a little too self-referential sometimes - but hopefully also relevant to others, that people can relate to it, that it speaks to them in some way. How do I do that…? Well, I hope it’s by creating something interesting from the everyday things we can all experience in some form or another, infusing it with a multi-layered element. An allegory of a metaphor! Ha!! I guess I try to give the viewer something to think about.

  • What is the intention of your work? How is that manifest in the work?
I aim to involve the viewer in some way, to provoke thought rather than provide vacuous “eye candy”. As a result of this, the photographs are rarely traditionally “pretty” even when photographing something more accessible such as a landscape – there is often an element of the sublime and melancholy. There’s repeated themes – it might be the mundane and the overlooked, or barriers for example. Some of these things may only really come across when viewing a number of images together.

  • Who is the audience for your work?
I see the work as existing in multiple forms, from printed and hung on the gallery wall to printed and displayed in book form. It will also displayed online, through my own website, through other galleries (such as IRIS, or simply Tumblr or Flickr), etc. Who will the audience be for each of those? Different I guess, but I would hope that my work will be seen by contemporaries, both in terms of photographers and the wider art world. I don’t really see what I do as having mass appeal – they’re not “pretty photos” that you would necessarily find on biscuit tins and postcards. More for the thinker than the layman, but hopefully there will be something for the interested layman too.

  • Who will critique your work?
Anyone who sees it will have an opinion, but is that the intended question? If we’re talking about critique by contemporaries, by the intended audience, well I suppose my intention is to get the work seen and commented upon by curators and magazine publishers, etc. that sort of thing. Certainly, things can be quiet on the social media side of things, but then I don’t push it excessively at the moment.

  • What might their criticism be?
An open question – everyone will bring something of themselves (and their life’s experience – I’m thinking Barthes’ stance here) to the viewing of the image, so I find this difficult to answer. Hopefully they will appreciate the questioning nature of the work and the fact that they have to think. Will it be too obscure? Will it be too convoluted? I don’t know. Will they like it, will they loathe it? It’s like Bovril.

Critical thinking
  • What have been the most and least valuable resources so far?
The Internet can be incredibly useful in general terms, but then it can be a huge waste of time too. Gallery visits, books and discussions have all triggered critical thinking in the past too. Last year’s visit to Arles with OCA was a great experience – lots of photography and lots of discussions with like-minded people to trigger the thinking process, thinking about works, analysing them – I came back buzzing, both in terms of renewed creativity and how I thought.

  • What changes has your research made to your work?
This is difficult to put a finger on. Sometimes it will be a dash of inspiration in juxtaposing images, other times it might just be a particular colour scheme. Some things are subliminal, others overt. The surreal narrative of Speak My Language is a direct result of watching Avant Garde cinema. I’m not really sure of anything else at the moment, but there’s bound to be examples.

  • What

  • Have there been any been any negative effects of your contextual research?
Nothing that immediately springs to mind – maybe a project has not gotten off the ground because of a piece of research…? It’s more of an annoyance than anything when I realise that my groundbreaking original idea has been done before, but then, is anything truly original anymore? Build on the shoulders of those that have gone before...

  • What specific influences and ideas have made the most positive impact on your work?
Perhaps the one that sticks in my mind most is a comment made by Dr John Darwell at a talk he gave at Lancaster University. His early work is all black and white, but if I remember the back story correctly, he was asked to work in colour for a commission and as a result he moved over to working all in colour. He said that “this is now” – something that stuck with me and has largely closed off black and white work to me. Yes, I will still use it if it is appropriate for some reason, but not as a purely aesthetic choice or because that’s what is expected. I don’t see the point in aping a bygone age for the sake of it. I see my work as being improved because I made this transition. But to be honest, everything I see will influence me to a greater or lesser degree.

Introduction to MA1 Visual Enquiry

So, the first “official” hangout on the road to having an MA has passed. Well, ok, it’s the first if we assume that the kickoff hangout on 2nd September was a case of getting to meet each other, getting to know the IT and just basically introducing the course. So, this week’s “introduction to MA1 Visual Enquiry” was... fraught with IT issues with some of the users (a number of people were dropping in and out for some reason). I’m really not so sure it achieved a huge amount more than reading through the timetable wouldn’t have done. The VL is better, that’s for sure... more on this later. But anyway, the timetable roughly pans out as:

Time table 1

My initial thoughts is that this really isn’t for me. I’ve become too used to the freewheeling independence experienced in the photography degree, whereas this “suffers” from too much structure and not moving at a pace that I want to. There’s also a fear that in doing the exercises planned I won’t be doing the work I want to do. I know this is a failing with my mindset though, and that it’s just a case of adjusting to a different way of learning, of operating. That in time, when the IT is behaving and the course has started in anger and people are engaging with each other, things will be much better. Maybe I’m just missing Clive’s peculiar way of providing feedback, together with a degree of uncertainty about the mixed media cohort and the way things are phrased (“studio” for example). It’s certainly a worry though, but with luck I’ll make it past the end of the month.


Introductory Workshop

So that’s it, the MA has officially started (well, sort of) and I’ve met my fellow artists at the inaugural Google hangout. I say “sort of” because the actual introduction to Year 1 is next week’s hangout topic. This was more of a “how to Google+” session, hosted by Caroline Wright, (Dr) Angela Rogers and Paul Vincent, introducing the IT that we will be using, so I must confess that, at times, my mind was drifting off elsewhere and I started colouring squares on my gridded note pad. Eventually though, we introduced ourselves to the cohort (Alison, Anne, Emma, Ines, Maire, Mwamba, Monika, Shaz and Tanya). Accompanying this introduction, we were asked to upload a photograph (this more to prove we could I suspect), but here’s mine:


Something from
Speak My Language although this wasn’t mentioned. It’s relevant to me as it shows my Union Flag cup (now sadly faded by the dishwasher) which represents my nationality within a multi-national relationship (I have a French wife) and a love of coffee, my computer keyboard (I’m a semi-geek) and a photobook which is perhaps my preferred method of absorbing photography... It also made a background appearance in the photograph Caroline uploaded, although I’m not going to suggest anything can be read into that!

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 17.26.44
© Caroline Wright

Pleasantries over, there was a brief breakaway into smaller groups to discuss three different links - two videos and a flash website:

© Nina Paley

© Miltos Manetas/Aaron Russ Clinger

The first of these, the video embedded above from Alexa // Sheila, was something I really enjoyed. The visuals were really striking, and reminded me of the rotoscoping technique employed in the making of A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater. The transient nature of the images was also interesting, the interplay with milk going off, the milk affecting the paint, the chalky nature of the photographs. There’s only a few finished images in there, but they do make me want to go and look at more. Ok, it’s photography so up my “street”, but it’s not my type of photography, but regardless, I liked it. I don’t know what it “meant”, but I liked it (and actually, does it need to “mean” anything?)

Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley) was intriguing... the contrast between cultures and the layers it created, between Indian religion/customs and the roaring twenties (of Annette Hanshaw’s vocals), this historical element with the computer game “platform-ness” and with the superhero kitsch of the “Chop!” that resonates with both the modern resurgence of the genre in the movies and the Batman series of the 60s. I’m not sure what I thought of it as “art”, but it was an enjoyable animation, a catchy tune... perhaps more entertaining than I was expecting.

And then there is the Flash (I assume) website of Man in the Dark by Miltos Manetas and Aaron Russ Clinger... I saw this an inwardly groaned. I’m not a fan of this sort of thing, I feel it’s very dated and not at all innovative nowadays. If I’d seen it a number of years ago (maybe in 2004 when it was created), yes it would have been quite something, but I can’t help but feel blasé about it, that it’s dated and outlived its appeal. I get more of a kick from simple animations on the iPhone now. Maybe that’s significant, and maybe it ties in with what I envisage my MA will be about; the representations of conflict in art/photography, and the saturation we may well have reached in what we see and then how we have to break from that tradition... Art has to innovate, adapt and re-innovate in order to keep fresh and interesting.

After that brief sojourn, Caroline gave an introduction into the MA-ness of the course. An interesting briefing that sparked something within me that we beginning to feel flat, feel nervous and doubtful. She touched on the research (process, looking, context), skill attainment, criticality, awareness, communication and independence. All buzz words I guess, but that’s not meant to be cynical, merely an observation. Whilst I still have some doubts, they’re more to do with the structure of where the course will take me and how that will impose itself on where I want it to take me (I have my ideas already). It’s something to discuss in my first one-on-one, unless it is relevant to the group discussion beforehand.


Theme - conflict photography

I’ve not paid my fees yet, and the course is yet to start, but I thought that I would take the time to lay out some general thoughts for the overarching theme for my MA work. This might seem odd, but current events are playing on my mind a little and so it felt like the right thing to do.

The theme will be conflict photography. It’s a fairly wide ranging subject, and I will say right now that I have absolutely no intentions of visiting any of the current theatres of conflict, in the Ukraine or Gaza for example. Instead I will be intending to look much closer to home with notions of how it has affected the landscape here in the UK for what I envisage being the major part of the body of work. I also intend to look at other aspects of conflict photography and art, both in terms of its history from the likes of Fenton, through to recent Deutsche Börse prizewinners such as Luc Delahaye and Richard Mosse, taking in others along the way that touch on the subject (Jon Tonks’
Empire and Melanie Friend’s The Home Front, for example). There’s more too, from conflict photographers such as Tim Page and Don McCullin, the latter of whom especially seems to have his photography accepted more and more within an art context, rather than a purely reportage one as it had been originally intended. I’ll leave it at that for a list of subjects for now - it will grow, both organically and specifically as I piece together pieces of this particular jigsaw.

I’m also looking at a number of related but dissimilar projects to keep me moving throughout the three years duration of the MA, and will be looking at bringing
Some Unholy War onboard (a project I have been kicking around since I finished the BA), exploring the theory behind what I’m trying to work out in my head and through the lens and making the work grow into something more meaningful. Perhaps with a more political kick, perhaps playing with how it might interact with other aspects of work, be it work that has been appropriated in some way, be it wartime quotes, song lyrics again, or whatever. I do feel that it needs something more than just the images at the moment, some of which are included below (and will no doubt be featured in other blog posts along the way).



Battle for Haditha:

Full Metal Jacket:

This body of work though has gotten me in something of a muddle in my head at the moment. I watch films, which generally glorify the fantasy of conflict in some way or another, and take these strange motion blurred photographs which, in some ways reinforce that fantasy. However, in the background I am very aware of the footage coming out of places like Gaza, and the awful things happening there. It would be hard not to. Seeing what is happening is also playing somewhat on my professional choices outside of the art world. I’m an engineer working in the defence industry, what does this all mean to me? How are my politics changing? Are my politics changing, and if so, will it come out in the body of work I will produce? And does the passage of time affect how I see each conflict? After working with Battle for Haditha, based on events that took place during the Gulf War, my next mini-project was with Centurion and the battles in the north of England between the Romans and Picts. Perhaps that is an extreme, but what of differences to how I react to the Gulf War and the Vietnam War, or WWII, both of which are “before my time” (I know, strictly speaking, Vietnam wasn’t, but I was 5 when the Americans withdrew and do not have personal, contemporary memories of the dispute - everything has come later through history books and cinema).

So, that’s it in a somewhat untidy nutshell - what I’m currently thinking. Of course, once the MA actually starts and things begin to happen, it might all change. I’m sort of used to that happening. But yeah, this is my stake in the ground that I will currently be measuring myself from.

Credit information for
Battle for Haditha, Full Metal Jacket and Centurion can be found here. (images used for educational purposes)