PHO705: Christmas Reflection

The last week of Christmas Reflection before the University three week Assessment Period and course resumption next month on 20 January.

Portfolio Image Processing

The intention during the break has been to build a large enough catalogue of images for the current stage – transition to making.

The plan is to generate enough work to feed the planned public outcomes. This building activity is designed to generate the larger numbers of images required and serve to gather feedback and critique prior to a final edit for the assignments.

Work continued on processing images in light of the outcomes following the Imaging Science with the following developments.

Side by side image comparison

This refers to the outcomes of digital darkroom processing before and after imaging science symposium.

This is a side by side comparison of Method A (original image compression/decompression method) versus Method B (filter).

The reason for this was that whilst outcomes were easier to obtain were they flatter as in looking as a greyscale monochrome effect? The results are in the now-classic red developed for the summer exhibition.

Colour Outcomes

With so much focus on the above, the investigation of colour outcomes had taken a minor role in project development in the making aspect and so this has begun to be righted.

Colour Abstract Images by Michael Turner

The use of colour became important and was then dropped during an edit. Primarily, this use of colour became a signature style and appeared to have an indication of having greater commercial potential. What could be better, a signature style with commercial potential? One assessment is that we are living in a political age in which austerity is seen to be coming to a gradual close. Perhaps viewers want something with a sense of bright optimism or perhaps simply a distraction from their day.

The use of colour has to remain true to the project intent and colour was introduced because of this, as a way of remaining independently connected with the past and while living our lives find a sense of celebration.

Would those. making the greatest sacrifice have wished us to live our lives with sombre memory. Recognition, yes, if freely given and more nowadays with a reminder given the decline of living memory. The celebration of freedom is something that does not have to be justified but in doing so celebration represents our natural response to being free.

Celebration ought not to be a constant. Just as a grin tires and even begins to appear foolish we ought to as an intent of the Motherline provide the opportunity for the viewer to look upon the work and be given the opportunity to feel more uplifted. This intent has to be more grounded than consequences otherwise: a heavy heart: or even confusion as to why ponder over that which is dark.

Without consideration, the work could become irrelevant too soon.

There again a mixed visual message could be an outcome of mixing the sombre with the celebratory. It could easily make resolved work look unresolved.

To date, the use of colour has stubbornly remained as monochrome plus red (as in the blood spilt). The bright vibrant colours were dropped. However, it is a strong sign that colour was never let go of completely meaning that is an important element for the author.

It is not necessary or always beneficial to have a fixed signature style and yet realising this, it is a stronger motive to have vibrant saturated colour as an uplifting portfolio intent but that has to remain rooted to the past.

A previous line of the study led to Art as an Experience as a way forward but with a final outcome or realisation that Rothko who created work in this style ended his own life. This created a flash response, a rejection of this kind of art due to the association of an act seen as cowardly in some senses and it is linked to themes of bravery. This seemed like a form of ‘contamination’. The wrong word but a countertheme perhaps.

There is also the important consideration of self-preservation when deeply involved in the emotional response to the past events that consumed relatives. Normally, there would be moments of feeling but as an ongoing photography project, the intensity of feeling was heightened time and again through the authorship task. In a sense, this turned the theme away from colour but the themes remained in sombre mood. Something has changed in the six months or so that have passed.

It has to be the taking up again of Family Constellations. Realising that they (ancestors) had their lives, and lived the consequences, there is no need for us (or the author) to allow ourselves to become consumed. We can avoid entanglement with those we loved or would have loved and realise that we can simply live our own lives to the best we can reasonably do so.

What does this mean? Simply that the seeming barrier to using bright vibrant and saturated colour can be removed and colour brought back.

Looking back, is this the whole story? Two modules ago a colour image went for critique and was deemed undeniably to be DECORATIVE. The colour palette was pastel in the image, and not in harmony with the sombre.

Around this time Art as Experience as in Rothko’s large scale paintings in colour fell from favour in learning of Rothko’s demise. Circumstances further combined around the quasi-spiritual way in which an element of randomness in image data, resulted in stronger black and white images tied to emergent themes (of biology and of ghosts). And in such ways the argument swings between colour and black and white.

There is an element of being guided by the quasi-spiritual as this links to the soul of the author. This can be an intense experience. Whether this translates to the viewer is another matter.

What did connect at the practice exhibition was the availability of contextualising material and an artist talk. Beyond this was a strong engagement with activity in the presence of the author. Being able to pick up the prints and the exhibition in a box that was present meant visitors engaged over these. Whether this would stand in the absence of the author is probably a key point. Is the work meant to be a performance, is a key question? In fact, performance is the natural element the author prefers to work with as the socialising element of photography is a key motivator.

As an exhibition, this can be managed and through the author’s nature, it would be difficult to resist engagement. Again though, how would the work stand in the author’s absence. There are more occasions possible without the presence of the author, thus it becomes necessary to convey somehow that presence by some other means such as recording and prepared materials (for exhibition activity).

The strongest implementation is the exhibition in a box as it encompasses many if not all of the characteristics thought desireable. The presentation of the exhibition in a box at critique at Unseen Amsterdam was the embodiment. The way that critique ran, was as a result of having had the practice exhibition as a primer.

Public outreach becomes the challenge, So although the performative elements are satisfied would there be little or no residual message for the public, a curator or compared to prize entry.

A book, and it was thought that a book would be a strong approach, could resolve some of the performative and outreach elements. It would have to be more than a picture book and border on an activity book.

At the summer exhibition, it was good to have a book dummy to show the scope of the course, over which there was interest. This time it would be necessary to contain the subject to the Motherline project, where before it was the outcome of the so-called Rothko challenge.

An exhibition pamphlet was also created and was dark printed. Even the red colour was printed in black. This was a very uniform pamphlet in the current trend of the black paper noted at Arles Recontres. It was simple, lightweight in production demands (other than ink) and carried off well in dark mood. The actual pamphlet contained the full 23 image selection rather than the slightly later 18 image edit of the final exhibition. There was also a solution to cover printing.

Another pamphlet has to be made. This is in the final project plan. It could carry off colour printing but perhaps not with the same consistency as the black and white pamphlet. There is an accomplishment in hand binding even for the saddle-stitched example.

After a recent visit to The Photographers Gallery examples were purchased of sheet books similar to the pamphlet. One is unstitched and a plastic cover (Klien, 2019) with a long edge fold to keep the sheets stacked. The other is a small-sized monograph (Atkinson, 2017) with stapled binding.

Also in the portrayal of molecular biology, visuals e.g. DNA authors use colour for visual elements as an artistic choice. Vibrant, saturated colour fits well with this established theme.

Further Image Development

Image abstractions had so far resulted from healing wound photographs as this is the powerful tie between the living and those ancestors from the past. In the current period of reflection, the reading around the Unheimlich or Phantasmagoria, the Weird and the Eerie has had an impact on visual perception. Once triggered the appearance of abstract ghost or landscapes became unavoidable. As a consequence not 100% of abstract ghost images or eerie landscapes have been derived from healing wounds.

Once the mind’s eye became attuned, a few potential photographs began to be gathered and processed. Although only a few such images have resulted, the principle of authenticity has to be considered. Would these images pollute, or even dilute the work? Perhaps it is no different to using archive photographs?

FMP Guest Lectures

It was decided early on to engage in the (optional) guest lecture series provided as FMP resources. Ahead of deadline which if there is one is during resumption in late January.

In looking ahead the following lectures have been watched ahead of updating a blog post for each.


Guest Lecture (Publication) – Christiane Monarchi Part 1

Guest Lecture (Publication) – Christiane Monarchi Part 2

Guest Lecture (Publication) – Jim Mortram

Guest Lecture (Publication) – David Moore

Guest Lecture (Publication) – Guy Martin

Work is being piled up in the break. It will be important to keep the balance of progress right. As a consequence, Guest Lecture consumption has been placed outside of “office hours”. Watching the GLs encourages focus on them and while it would be good to complete the related blog posts this would detract from other key activities.

A video/moving still has yet to be made. The approaches considered for making have two options at present 1) a moving landscape – a file has been processed to enable this to be done. 2) a remake of the video made in the previous module and used in the Summer Exhibition – the materials could bring onboard archive stills, the historic family album and war scene images extracted from video footage.

This serves to expand the related theme possibilities and has been an investment in time. It may be that the time has arrived to begin looking for the most plausible way forward that strengthens the project Motherline.

The examples of other work that comes to mind when resolving this are:

War Primer 2 (Broomberg, 2018) – here pages are media collages of different sources of still including from television or video in one example a tv broadcast is visible. This is the most comprehensive use of materials but likely a challenge to manage as a solo presentation. Is it necessary to use all of the sources gathered for the FMP Module,? Probably no, if the result looks scruffy and the public materials have increased scope of errant decision making by incorrectly pairing when there is a vast amount of images not to mention the appearance of several texts per collage. Broomberg worked with Chanarin and so together they were able to take stock and check more readily for potential flaws. It is not known how long the authors spent creating the edit for War Primer 2 but this could easily exceed the FMP three months work remaining on this MA Photography course.

What is most likely is that War Primer 2 provides a structure to test against in making Motherline. Then beyond the MA there are materials already researched for potential further development. One possibility is to separate some of the picture sources into supporting work products, as in an extra book dummy which could be useful in further practising bookbinding. or as a video or moving still resource.

It will be advisable to avoid being drawn into this too far before considering the mark. In the previous module, in addition to the three assignments that were handed in, a lot of hard work was done and at the last, there were unmarked items: book dummies (book and catalogue), an eight-day (so-called practice) exhibition with an artist talk and other supporting work; portable exhibition in a box, video, music selection, side exhibition of colour abstract work and extra prints.

Reminders

Trial PDF making.

Return to video / moving stills making.

Bibliography

Atkinson, C. (2017) London Barbican. 2017 Open. Cafe Royal Books CRB. Available at: www.caferoyalbooks.com.

Broomberg, A. and Chanarin, O. (2018) War Primer 2. London, [England]: MACK.

Klein, W. (2019) Photographique. 1st edn. Edited by K. Stevens and P.-L. Denis. ethos.ink. Available at: http://www.ethos.ink.

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