This is the latest ‘construct’ in my ‘Textbook’ series, which I have been developing over the last week or so. This image is its latest, and probably final form. The post, with the aid of some illustrations from my notebook, chronicles the process of its development – from a line drawn diagrammatical illustration in “A Textbook of Photographic Chemistry” to this colourful image, of which more later. My (badly!) handwritten notes, together with the notebook illustrations, set out the way it has emerged and so I am only going to support them with brief words in this log.
The original diagram illustrating development time variation with temperature is top left above. Like everything else in the Textbook, I have started out by photographing it; then stripped it down (in Photoshop) to some basic lines and worked it into a simple ‘module’ for my pattern. The first version, bottom left above, was too complex and so I cleaned it further, to the one bottom right, above. That simple module is then overlapped on itself and repeated (as in the complicated grid, top right above) and coloured (in Photoshop) to produce the pattern shown top left in the image below.
As I was producing the pattern, and particularly when I started with the blue coloured shapes, I was reminded of some patterns and colours that I’d seen six years ago, in the Moorish architecture/interiors of Andalucia. Some of my photographs of tile patterns and stained glass are shown above, bottom left. I didn’t try and copy the colours but did take a cue from the combination of hues. As with all these constructs, I printed the basic pattern onto fabric and the image below repeats the one top right above, combining paper print, fabric print and original diagram into a ‘still-life’ that matches the style used for previous constructs. (I also experimented with a different method for getting an image of the fabric print back into the PC. Bottom right, above, is a scan of the piece of fabric – though I didn’t end up using that version.)
When producing previous fabric prints and constructs, I have wanted to try ‘hanging’ the fabrics and photographing them hanging. I haven’t worked out an effective way to hang them together (imagine a series of rugs hanging in a market …), though I may get there at some stage. However, I did come up with a ‘sort of’ version of hanging, which is on the left in the illustration below.
The fabric isn’t very visible here, but it is hanging in the back of this light tent – and it is being back-lit with a studio light low down behind the table. The paper print from the ‘still life’ is standing, vertical, on a makeshift cardboard frame inside the light tent, and has had some of its blue and yellow ‘diamonds’ cut out of it with a craft knife, so that the camera (placed in front of the tent, but not shown here) can ‘look’ through onto the fabric hanging behind. Overall light is supplied from another studio light directed from above onto the top of the tent. Actually, I experimented with different combinations and positions for the lighting, some of the results being shown on the right, above.
With some basic images to work from, I moved on in the same way as with other constructs, experimenting with layers and combinations in Photoshop, deleting and blending different images and parts of images. My first version is illustrated on the left, below. I got carried away and created something so complex that it just looked a mess. The large printed version looks like something from a Comic Book!
That led me to go back to my light tent set-up and produce a new, tighter framed version, working with the back-lighting and a shallower depth of field (focus on the fabric at the back) to produce something that would form the basis for my final image. That photograph has had just two further process performed on it in Photoshop. Firstly, I have ‘digitally cut’ a sharp-focus version of the ‘central motif’ from another image and placed it ‘in front of’ the out-of-focus centre of the photograph – bringing it right forward in the image and giving the feel of stained glass (or that’s the intention, at least!). Then I have used a broad but not very dense brush to make a crude brush stroke mark around the outside of the image – producing something vaguely resembling a shadow. It has (I think!) given a slight impression that the foreground might be a translucent screen.
There is, of course, no meaning, no content; the image is another empty signifier constructed from ‘dead’ symbols whose significance – to me – is lost and of no consequence. It is (I think) visually interesting and has the potential to intrigue a viewer, maybe even to tempt some reading of its significance. Visually, it gives (especially in a large printed version, but also in the screen version at the top of this post) a sense of depth, that we are looking through layers at something lit up at the back of the frame. It is, though, a flat surface and its meaning is just as flat – there is no depth! It says, only, that I have constructed it and presented it here. The process of making these images still intrigues me and I like the outcomes – but after that they are outside my control …!
Fascinating in that mix of artistic and technical. A patchwork quilt came to mind and I also recollect an artist or photographer (can’t remember his name – I know it was a male) who had his work turned into a tapestry.
Thanks, Catherine; actually, my printing onto fabric started with my wife, Jayne, incorporating some photographs into a patchwork quilt a couple of years ago. Probably the best-known artist to work with tapestry is Grayson Perry, of course; don’t know if that’s who you had in mind. I saw his ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ in Manchester about a year ago.