Monthly Archives: April 2015

Textbook–the endgame continues

Solarization 05

Solarization 05

I’ve found that there is potential to be creative as well as destructive with the burning power of the sun.  I experimented with some printed pages from another old book and found that, page in one hand & magnifying glass in the other, I could ‘draw’.  That had potential to be re-photographed and combined with other images to produced another type of interesting image – on the way to the books eventual Armageddon!  These are two examples of the work, so far.  The one below is very ‘controlled’, worked at bit by bit to create the effect, whereas the sun got (appropriately, given the title) quite powerful in the one above and the whole was about to ‘go up’ in my hand – as can be seen on the right of the image.  But that element of risk in the process is quite attractive to me.  And I take ‘control’ again, by photographing and layering with a previous ‘Solarization’ image.  People seem to see an insect in the one below; certainly wasn’t intentional.


Typical Characteristic Curve 02

Typical Characteristic Curve 02

It was a real benefit to share some of these Textbook images, including these two new ones, with some fellow students in an informal ‘hangout’ session earlier in the week.  The feedback was pretty positive, which is pleasing.  Everyone seems to have found the images visually interesting and attractive, which is one of my first objectives – to seduce the eye and attract the viewer to look further.  There was a sense of puzzlement about what was going on in the complex constructs, which again is something I want the viewer to experience.  But there was also a sense that the group wanted some guidance on context.  I had kept that deliberately brief – chiefly because I was interested in their immediate responses at this stage, but also because the background is very complex and explaining in full is both time-consuming (for the viewer to read) and directive (in the sense that I prefer the images to ask puzzling questions and be open to all sorts of potential interpretations – something that did also emerge in the discussion).  What this does tell me is that writing an effective ‘Artist’s Statement’ for this project is not going to be easy – especially one that can work in a variety of contexts.  That’s likely to mean more than one, perhaps.  It was really good to have the chance to discuss my work, though – very grateful to those who were present and gave me such helpful feedback.

Textbook–working on the ‘endgame’

Fire Ex01-1Fire Ex01-2Fire Ex01-3Fire Ex01-4Fire Ex01-5Fire Ex01-6

Ever since I started on the process of ‘deconstructing’ the Textbook, I’ve had the idea that I might, in the end, destroy it by burning.  The project is well-advanced now, and I have been considering if and how I might bring the ‘story’ towards a conclusion.  I did some background research a couple of weeks ago on the use of fire in art – partly to see what contextual work there might be, partly looking for inspiration, and partly to see whether there might be any technical and practical help for the creation of images of burning paper/books.  I asked fellow students in the Flickr group, too – as discussed here: Flickr ‘Fire’ Thread.  My overall conclusion is that there isn’t a lot out there.

Some references from the various sources include – Andy Goldsworthy’s use of fire in Land Art; Richard Gingras’ burning obelisks (; David Nash’s charred sculptures; Juan Miro burning some of his canvasses and then exhibiting the result; various performance artists either ‘eating’ fire or setting themselves alight; and then perhaps the closest of all, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, especially the stills from the film (I wasn’t familiar with the works, so ‘thanks’ to fellow student, Richard, for pointing me in that direction).  See below:


The burning of books is a central theme, of course, and the title refers to the temperature at which book print will turn into flames.  This image, and others like it, comes close to the vision I had for the project.

I have been mulling over how I might achieve it, technically and safely.  Indoors is preferable in order to control light, but clearly has some serious dangers attached; so I’ve been wary of that.  Outdoors is safer but harder to set up from an aesthetic point of view.  Another factor that I’ve been reflecting on is what exactly is going to trigger this fire.  Obviously, it could just be a match or gas-lighter, but it would be preferable for there to be some relation to the whole process.  (I had, for example, wondered whether dissolving in photographic chemicals might be an alternative outcome – except that, for reasons that should have been obvious but wasn’t – photographic chemicals are not strong enough to impact on paper!)

A casual conversation with a friend, over the weekend, may just have set me off on the right course.  He wondered whether I could use the sun!  So I’ve been experimenting with a magnifying glass and some pages from an old paperback book from the sixties and the images at the top of this post are the result.  The sun isn’t really powerful enough yet, I fear; or present for long enough at a time!  Whilst I could easily get the paper to smoulder and smoke, getting it to set on fire (at 451 degrees Fahrenheit!) was difficult.  I’ve succeeded twice today, one of which I photographed above.  These image aren’t going to win any prizes, I realise, but I’ve demonstrated the principle, I think.  It will need a lot more work before A Textbook of Photographic Chemistry goes up in flames, ignited by the power of the sun’s light, but there seems every reason to think that it could be done.  Of course, I also need to make sure the camera is present, too!  It could ultimately be best to shoot an HD video and extract stills; hopefully more will become clear over the next few weeks – so long as the sun shines!!