Author Archives: standickinson

This Blog is Closed

I have noted a few new followers for this blog in recent weeks and I thought it worth pointing out that it was the Learning Log for one of my BA Photography modules, which was completed in 2017. As such, the blog has ‘closed’ i.e. there will be no new posts.

I am currently studying an OCA Drawing Skills module and the Learning Log for that is here: stanocadrawing

A very satisfying outcome–now back to work!

_DSF2240

The results were released last week and I’m very pleased with the outcome on both this and the Contextual Studies module. I’m especially pleased that the ‘Textbook’ project has been very well-received and that the resulting artefact (the new, reconstructed textbook, returned to its original covers) is described in the feedback as having “gravitas”, being “engaging, compelling and challenging” but also as “very beautiful in its own right”.  Those words feel at least as satisfying as the mark I got, if not more so. As this blog has recorded, I’ve been aware that I’ve been doing something that felt significantly different, and you’re never sure where that might lead or whether others will appreciate the work. It’s a risk. I’m delighted that the assessors seem to have ‘got it’ and to have appreciated what I was doing. It’s very satisfying.

However, that’s enough trumpet-blowing!! There’s work to do and a standard to maintain. I’ve been busy extending the work within ‘Sustaining Your Practice’, for which I have a separate blog, here; and I need to find a route to take this work to an audience.  This will be the final post to this blog – ‘many thanks’ to those who have followed and supported; ‘thanks’ also to my tutors.

Assessment Submission

Assessment Submission

Doesn’t look like a lot! Two years work and a concern that I’m submitting too much – but it doesn’t look like it in this image!

It’s ready to go, apart from the box for travel and some final labelling.  There’s more than it looks, actually – about 30 prints in the black portfolio box, across the two projects, some supporting material for ‘Portraits’ in there too, and of course, all the content of the ‘Textbook’ project in that ‘old’ book that’s barely visible.  It’s poking out of its ‘slip case’ – a new soft construction made from four pieces of fabric printed with my own patterns from the project and some padding material (kindly constructed and sewn by my wife). I reflected in a previous post that the re-formed book looked a little bit underwhelming on its own.  I did experiment with another form of case – re-using some Amazon packaging and re-labelling it to look like a second hand book that had turned up in the post. Nice idea, but it ended up even more underwhelming, unfortunately. I’d been wondering whether there was a way to bring the fabric prints into the submission and came up with this idea – my design/print & Jayne’s final implementation (Thanks!).

My only real concern is that the assessors are going to either feel that I’ve sent too much or are simply not going to have the time to consider it all in depth.  But it was discussed and agreed with my tutor and the ‘booklet’ will hopefully provide a guide through the submission.

Contextual Studies is packed and ready to got, too – so this may well be my last post in the blog; certainly for some time.  Maybe come back and reflect on the results outcome in a few weeks!

‘Textbook’–reformed

Textbook - reformed

Spot the difference!

I finally brought this project to what has felt like a logical ‘conclusion’ last week. (Not sure ‘conclusion is entirely the right word because this can go on developing and will be my main focus for Sustaining Your Practice – to be blogged here.) After much trial and error (plus some tense final moments involving the ‘no return’ use of much glue with the need for accurate positioning of wet curling paper!), my ‘Textbook Project’ images are printed, re-bound and brought into the original cover of the original book that I bought getting on for two years ago!  There is a video available here ‘Textbook’ Book.

Besides a sense of relief that I’ve managed to do it, the overwhelming sensation when looking at it is one of strangeness, a weird surreal sort of uncertainty – almost as though I’ve managed to perform some sort of trompe l’oeil on myself. As it sits here on the desk beside me, it could, apart from the edges of the pages being a bit cleaner and less aged, be the original book, which almost makes me feel as if I haven’t done anything, almost a sense of disappointment.  I hadn’t expected to have that sensation, but then that is the ‘magic’ of art, I guess. It will go for assessment in this form and it remains to be seen what sort of reaction an assessor will have when picking it up and opening it.

Perhaps one source for the strangeness is that it is a unique piece of art that cannot be reproduced. Short of getting my hands on more copies of the original work, I cannot produce more versions of it in this form. I don’t think the video does it justice but it’s the only means of sharing it widely (as I will need to do to get feedback in SYP) in its ‘completed’ form – and one of the questions to be resolved in SYP will be how best to develop this project for wider distribution and exposure.

Tutor Feedback on Assignment Five–and what remains …

I was pleased to get positive feedback, last Friday, on my final assignment submission of the module.  The work was described as a “progressive journey”, as “contributing to contemporary cultural discourses around the challenges and implications of digital identity”, and also as having “interrogated the transformation of the medium itself as a result of digital technology” – all good to read, and satisfying after nearly two years work.  He also feels that it has a lot of potential for further exploration – which is great, but also makes me reflect on whether, by pursuing two projects, I have been in danger of never quite drilling down into either.  Should I have done more contextual work on identity, for example, in support of the ‘Portraits’ project?  Too late now, anyway, and the feedback is good all round on both this module and CS, so I’m probably just fretting!

I submitted some A4 prints of the ‘Portraits’ and various examples from ‘Textbook’ – the first time I’ve sent prints throughout the module.  These were my own prints, so I was pleased to get positive feedback on those, too.  Interesting to look back two years, when I was about to submit the last of my L2 modules for assessment.  I had been producing my own prints but began ‘fretting’ then, too; about whether I should be getting professional prints done.  I did, in the end, but never felt quite as happy with them as I’d been with my own.  I thought I was playing safe, in a way; that by sending in professionally produced and mounted (at my then tutors suggestion) prints, I must be on solid ground.  I reflected in my last post here on the development of ‘confidence’ through BoW.  With the confirmation of this recent feedback, I feel confident that I know what I’m doing with my own prints of my own work – so that’s the plan for assessment.

Which brings me to ‘what remains …’ – lots still to be done, actually, to get everything ready for assessment in the next two and half months:

  • ‘Textbook will be submitted in book form, with some selected, supporting, large prints, representative of what might be used for an exhibition.  I have sourced what I hope will be an appropriate paper (less heavy) for the final  version (due for delivery today), but I may still have to alter the way I structure the ‘signatures’ to enable it to be bound properly.  I didn’t get any detailed feedback on the sequencing and editing I had presented.  I could take that as a positive, but I’m wondering whether to ask the ‘hangout’ group to also take a look at it for me in the next couple of weeks.  Then there’s the little matter of producing it!! [Some inspiration from a gallery visit on Saturday, though – Bank Street, Sheffield has had a show of 200 artists’ books, selected from 450+ entries for their bi-annual book competition.  Saturday was the last day, but just managed to get to see it.  There was some truly wonderful work – all of which one was permitted to pick and browse, a very special experience.]
  • The presentation of ‘Portraits’ is still a little uncertain, a view for which I got tutor support in the feedback.  Prints at A3 or A3+ will be the main form of presentation, but I do need to direct the assessor towards the wider context in which the images are presented.  One suggestion from my tutor was to get the assessor to do a Google Images search and see some of them online at first hand.  Then I also have the ‘Stanley Quest’ website and ‘The Stan’ tabloid.  It needs some reflection – how to get across the breadth of what I’ve done without overwhelming the assessor!
  • My Introductory Notes and Evaluation both got a ‘thumbs up’, too.  They’ll need a little bit of refinement, but more or less done.

So, still a fair bit to do, but I’m genuinely into the final straight!

Assignment Five Submitted

My final assignment submission has gone off to Clive today!  A draft set of Introductory Notes for Assessment, covering the two BoW projects; PDF/video versions of the Textbook book; the ‘Stanley Quest’ website; A4 prints of all the ‘Portraits’ and some of the ‘Textbook’ images; and an ‘Evaluation’ for my Body of Work module – there’s plenty for him to get his teeth into!!  The ‘Evaluation’ is a normal experience at this stage in most OCA modules, but it feels particularly significant for this module and we’re required to write 1500-2000 words.  I did wonder whether to make mine ‘public’ here, but perhaps a more appropriate approach would be to draw out some of the main points from it.

  • There is no question about my overall response – ‘positive’.  The module has worked well for me and I have made significant progress, gaining a great deal of confidence.  That’s confidence in the work and confidence in presenting or talking about it; something that comes as much from Contextual Studies as the development within this module, I must add.  There was one stage where I was struggling to articulate the link between the two, but I got there, and the experience made me more confident in what I was doing.
  • I came out of L2 feeling that a creative ‘voice’ was developing, based around constructed, largely studio-based image-making, and that is the way things have continued.  I originally expressed some concerns about being wholly ‘studio-based’; and also about a tendency to get into ‘over-intellectualising’ the work.  In the end, like it or not, I have produced two projects which, although certainly able to be appreciated in all sorts of ways, are essentially conceptual and highly constructed. C’est la vie!
  • There is a slight regret/concern that the work lacks what I can best describe as emotional resonance!  I set off on a mini ‘personal journey’ early in the module and found no inspiration.  I played around a little with constructing images that ‘responded to events’, but took it no further.  My projects could be interpreted as somewhat cold, detached, at times light-hearted.  So much of what my fellow students produce is about personal responses – mine is not.  I’m not sure whether that matters or is of significance in assessing what I’ve done, but it is worth noting!
  • One question that I reflected in early in this blog has certainly been resolved.  I am not; possible never have been; and maybe never will be ‘a photographer’!  Well, that depends on definition, of course (and tongue is in cheek as I write); but I would describe myself as a contemporary artist who works with photographic images.  And if I am going to make anything of my work in Sustaining Your Practice, that is the cloak I will put on.
  • The ‘Evaluation’ covers influences, which are well enough covered previously in here, so I won’t repeat; and also asks about plans for the work.  ‘Textbook’ is emerging as a book, as expected, and I can see the potential to self-publish within SYP, maybe.  ‘Portraits’ is a little more complicated, as I’ve also discussed in here before – and may end up side-lined after assessment.  By far the most important ‘plan’ must be to find ways for a lot more people to see the work.  I’ll never know whether the confidence expressed earlier is well-founded until the work has been exposed to more ‘criticism’ and I’ve had significantly more feedback.  Which, conveniently, is the whole point of SYP – so, onwards and upwards with that!

… and on that note; I have just set up a Blog for SYP.  There is nothing there as yet, but if anyone reading this is interested (and patient – nothing much may happen for a while), it is here stansocasyp!

‘Textbook’–the book!

Textbook Book

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about the planning of a ‘dummy book’ for Assignment Five.  This is the outcome.  I’m not going to record all the process of planning, printing, binding etc here; it’s all in a notebook that I’ve kept.  But this is an entirely hand-made, home-printed/bound/backed ‘dummy’.  You can see a video of me turning through the pages here ‘Textbook’ Book on YouTube or a PDF slideshow that shows off the images rather better here ‘Textbook’ Book Slideshow.

It isn’t perfect, by any means.  I used a paper that I like but which is way too heavy.  That has meant a compromise in the way I’ve done the binding and results in some ‘gaps’ here and there where the signatures meet (see below).  It may look quite charming, in a hand-made sort of way, but I’d prefer to avoid it in a final version.

Textbook Book-10

There is one print misalignment across a double-spread that I didn’t spot until it was bound (damn!).  The backing is a bit piecemeal, just to get something presentable for the assignment submission – and I might still bind the final version into the original cover of the book itself, who knows.

However, overall, I’m actually quite pleased with it as an ‘outcome’ for the project.  I haven’t edited out many images in the end because, as I’ve said in this blog before, I feel that all of them have been created to contribute to the project and, I think, the book stands up as a lengthy format that gives the viewer plenty to look at and think about. I sense that, if I was browsing photo-books and picked this up, it would intrigue and interest me; I would want to spend some time looking through it.  It is certainly possible to drop into it at any point and find something that may seduce the viewer to want more.  But the overall sequencing is something that I’ve thought about and planned – as discussed in the previous post about planning.  I hope that there are rises and falls; calms and crescendos; occasional surprises; and enough to interest the viewer as well as making them think. Deliberately late in the book – around image 62 in the slideshow – there is a sort of artists statement (see below).  I prefer that the viewer sees most of the images before reading this but I think some form of statement is required.  It isn’t right at the end, but is followed by a kind of postscript of further images that might add another twist.

Textbook Book-62

So – broadly happy with the outcome and the pdf slideshow will form part of my Assignment Five submission.  I’m hoping I might get the opportunity to show the actual book to a few people for feedback as well.

Les Rencontres d’Arles 2015–some reflections

Arles Rencontres 01

Interior – Parc des Ateliers, Arles

I spent last week in Arles, during the latter stages of the annual photographic festival.  Some of the exhibitions closed at the end of August; others on 6th September; but the majority remain open until the coming weekend.  Outside of the holiday season and in the context of these reductions, one might assume it would be quiet.  Broadly speaking, it was, but since the schools are back, there were occasional tides of young people, one of which beached itself for some time across the floor of the Lisa Barnard exhibition in the Prix Découverte, having a full class conducted by their teacher!  The peace was also disturbed later in the week by the Feria du Riz which, despite the name, has more to do with bull-fighting than rice.  Bulls being driven through the streets by Les Guardians (Camargue cowboys) and stunningly loud music across the town centre until the early hours – but, actually, a wonderful little old city, with some serious (and expanding) cultural activities.  It was a marvellous week.

… and so to some highlights from the exhibitions; and a few critical views as well.  Looking for highlights, it’s hard to get past the two big US photographers on show – Walker Evans and Stephen Shore.  The former was a slightly different take on Evans, partly curated by David Campany, and focusing principally on his magazine work.  Many of the classic Evans images/series were for magazines, of course, and here they were displayed in the original magazines, also in many cases as prints, but most interestingly, also as ‘blown-up’ versions of the magazine pages, unframed, in high-contrast, pasted on the walls.  It worked really well – for me anyway – the full-bleed, high-contrast, pasted presentation made for a poster-like temporariness that linked well to their original purpose; but it also gave them an added presence (aura?) and had the practical benefit that lots of people could look/read at the same time.  One was reminded that Evans did just about everything, photographically, that there is to do.  The accompanying text in the articles, often his own, was ‘of its time’, the great modernist American vision, but I detected occasional signs that his tongue might have been in his cheek, at times.  Not when he was railing against modern design it wasn’t, though.

The Stephen Shore was a major retrospective that is touring the world over the next eighteen months to two years.  A wide-ranging show, it included work from his early teens to a recent series in Winslow Arizona, from 2013, incorporating (I think) all of American Surfaces and Uncommon Places (and some workbooks from the latter).  Just seeing the whole range was interesting in itself, but the show was well-presented, with supporting curatorial notes that were informative but not over-bearing or excessively prescriptive.  The movement from black and white to colour, to black and white, then back to colour (digital) was neatly explained – largely, Shore feeling he’d done that and wanted to do something else, which makes good sense.  Seeing all the work together emphatically brings home his sensitivity to, and experimentation with, the camera’s particular ways of ‘seeing’.  I liked the last two sentences of the note below, which accompanied the most recent Winslow series.  Shore has been working extensively with digital cameras and these notes seem to strongly refute the idea that this has to mean the photographer must automatically be working quickly and not in the thoughtful and contemplative manner some think is only achievable with film!

Arles Rencontres 02

Whatever the camera/process, the artist/photographer is the one determining how the image is made. Speaking of which, here is another artist who works slowly and painstakingly with digital processes.

Arles Rencontres 03

Facades, Markus Brunetti, Arles 2015

Markus Brunetti has been working exclusively, for ten years, on a series of huge images of the facades of prominent European religious buildings.  Clearly influenced by the Bechers, Gursky etc, he (with his partner) has carefully photographed and re-photographed, piece by piece, compiling monumentally-sized digital images, which have been ‘cleaned’ of all traces of wear and tear, bird droppings, graffiti, and whatever else might get in the way of a hyper-real outcome that presents the buildings with a perspective and a presence that no one has ever actually seen except in these images.  It’s a superb demonstration of the photographic images ability to play on the unconscious eye, so that there is a sense in which this is what the buildings ‘really’ look like – yet they never have and never will!  I really enjoyed them.  They are very seductive, beautifully printed, so that the viewer is drawn into the detail, all of which is there, as if the stones and carvings had just been placed there yesterday.  Yet at another level, they are utterly meaningless!  They only really tell us that Brunetti (and his team) have spent days and days making them; they have no other purpose than the spectacle of their own ‘madeness’!  Now, where have I made those kind of comments before? Here, of course, when I was looking at the work of Thomas Demand.  There is a video about the work here.

Moving on to something that left a less positive impression but could be interpreted as comment on the effectiveness of the photographic image – Heavens, by Paulo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti.

Arles Rencontres 05 Arles Rencontres 04

This is about tax havens and their significance in the global economy.  There is a good video of Woods talking about the show here.  Before I launch into my ‘critique’, let me stress that I am no fan of tax havens, global capitalism, or the blatant exploitation of the ‘have-nots’ by the ‘haves’.  Nor do I have any problem with the extensive piece of investigative journalism that these two have undertaken.  I do have reservations, though, about its effectiveness as a photographic/art exhibition and, to an extent, with its presence in this important international festival – in the form it takes.  Is it a piece of good documentary photography?  I would say ‘possibly not’!  These are – as Woods says in the video – glossy, large-scale images, making use of the aesthetic of the global corporation, often featuring prominent bankers, government officials etc.  And if you just look at the images, that’s what you see (again, as Woods says).  It’s only when you read the detailed captions at the side of the image that you understand what’s going on.  So, one might argue, what is the point of the images?  What do they add to the message?  So one might interpret the show as a critique of the documentary image and it’s effectiveness in the 21st century.  Though I don’t think that was the intention!  I’m tempted to copy their caption style with something along the lines of:

Two contemporary documentary photographers travel the world, visiting remote tax havens where the wealthy and the corporate deposit and structure their finances so as to avoid or minimise the tax they pay.  They create large-scale glossy portraits of some of the key ‘players’ in their playgrounds, print them very big, and present them at an international photography festival in the South of France.  They are on show there for two months, seen by thousands, and in the meantime, nothing changes!

OK, not entirely fair, perhaps, but that was my reaction to the show.  Without the text, it was meaningless; without the images, it might still have worked!

I saw much more – interesting ‘emerging’ artists and the ‘dummy’ books, too.  But this will suffice for a main post on the subject.  I’ll return to the books later, in the context of the Textbook project.

‘Textbook’–early book planning

Book Planning-2

At present, I am expecting a book to form some part of the submission of the ‘Textbook Project’ for Assignment 5/Assessment.  One possibility is that I do a hand-made book, bound into the original cover of the old Textbook of Photographic Chemistry, where it all began.  I still have the cover, as illustrated below, though I probably wouldn’t use the paper outer sheet.  My idea would be to print one of the ‘patterns’ onto a man-made/nonwoven fabric that I have sourced and create a jacket from that – but, not to get ahead of myself!

Textbook Project JPEG Slideshow-82

I have been doing a bit of research on design and on bookbinding.  Regarding the former, it isn’t something I’ve ever studied and I don’t propose to turn myself into a graphic designer overnight, but, just to get a feel for the ‘basics, I have been reading Graphic Design School.  It covers a lot of ground, in a clear, readable and (as you would hope!) visually well-presented format.  It isn’t that I expect to use that much of what I’ve read, just that I wanted to have some general idea of what a designer would be thinking about.  On the bookbinding side, I came across some excellent video tutorials on YouTube, here Crafty Loops Tutorials.  I haven’t tried to put any of it into practice yet, but it doesn’t seem beyond ones capabilities, with a bit of care and planning.  I had already figured out that these book sections, called ‘signatures’ are formed from eight folded sheets, creating 16 page faces in total.  The original book had 20 of them, printed on thin book paper, of course.  I’ve tried making 8 of the right size using drawing paper and I reckon that, with printed images attached, that won’t be far off filling the book – and it broadly fits with the number of images I have from the project.  A final version might have photographic paper bound into it – but my plan, at this stage, is to maybe produce a mock-up that will form part of the Assignment 5 submission.

The graphic design book encourages the preparation of a planned layout of pages for brochures, booklets etc, which makes good sense.  As illustrated at the top of the post, I’ve made a start.  The image shows one of three A2 sheets that I’ve divided up with the correct number of properly-proportioned pages.  The images stuck onto them are not in proportion to each other or the proposed book – it’s just a way of working on the sequencing.  The larger images do, however, represent the points at which I would plan to insert a double page spread.  Eagle eyes might spot the occasional pink ‘x’ – that’s where the signatures would join together.

That is a far as I’ve got with it at the moment – a principle to work to and a rough ‘first shot’ at a sequence.  I’m going to be at the Rencontres d’Arles next week, at which there has been a competition/exhibition for mock-up books; so a good opportunity for some further research.

Portraits–‘The Stanley Quest’

Stanley Quest Page

I have done some work on another method of ‘presenting’ the Portraits Project; another potential way of bringing these images ‘into the real’.  I discussed the issue a few weeks ago – here.  I mentioned in another post that I had some thoughts for another ‘virtual’, web-based way to present the work and I have had a shot at it.  It’s here – The Stanley Quest.

I shared an earlier version with some of my fellow students on an L3 Hangout, and made some minor changes following their feedback.  It isn’t the ‘finished article’ by any means.  Some of the concerns expressed were 1) too wordy for a visual arts degree (which I understand, though it has to work in its own context as well); 2) is the ‘voice’ quite right for the supposed, fictional author (I’ve made a few changes, but it could take more work, should I choose to pursue it further); 3)in a similar vein, who is this author and why is she doing it (again, understood and partially but not entirely addressed in this version).

My feeling is that the concept – a ‘third party’ who has found and is writing about the fictional images I’ve created – works OK.  Making it web-based, in as ‘natural’ and realistic a way as possible, might almost take it into the (highly topical!) realms of post-internet art – art created in the context of, but certainly not about, the internet.  I’m still not quite sure … might it be better as a ‘blog’ for example?  Would I need to really strengthen the context? I can think of plenty of questions and plenty of ways that it could be further developed – but 1)does the work warrant it? 2)would I actually be any closer to resolving the presentation issue for this project? 3)do I have the time to do that and develop the Textbook Project (which has also been coming under my scrutiny as well – and which is, seemingly, much liked by my new tutor for SYP)?

Not seeking to resolve those questions for the time being – primarily, I’m just recording another step in the progress of this module.