PHO705: Guest Lecture – Jon Tonks

This was another video in the initial backlog of lectures that had gone unmentioned/undiscovered for reason(s) unknown.

Introduction

Jon Tonks is a British photographer based in the UK. His work focuses on telling stories about people’s lives shaped by history and geography. With an MA in Documentary Photography & Photojournalism from London College of Communication, his work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Sunday Times, Telegraph and FT Weekend Magazines, the British Journal of Photography and more. He has been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing National Portrait Prize three times, twice for the Terry O’Neill Award, and in 2014, Tonks was presented with the Vic Odden Award by the Royal Photographic Society for his first book Empire – a journey across the South Atlantic exploring life on four remote British Overseas Territories. The book was hailed by Martin Parr as one of his best books of the year. His work is now in a number of private collections, both in the UK and abroad, including The Hyman Collection of British photography, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Texas. https://www.jontonks.com/

Projects discussed:

  • Empire – this was based around Ascension, Saint Helena then Tristan de Cuna, 2007-2014.
  • Falklands for which a book was published
  • South Pacific 2014-2020
  • Multi-story arts-based charity commissions Magnum photographers. Took part in a project about the Black Country around Sandwell and the Polish and Eastern European migrants.
  • Vanuatu – a South Pacific island where colonial and missionary influences were rejected. Its people instead identified with the economic strength of the US and awaited the arrival of a white man as US citizen who would bring change.

#Advice

Jon’s work followed on from his photojournalism. He worked for a local newspaper for a while but it was very limiting. At this point, he turned to his study of the lesser-known Empire. Following portfolio review was asked to do something more exciting so went back to revisit. He showed the book dummy at University.

The experience in Jon’s case was he didn’t know what the outcomes might be for his work. Work just snowballed.

It can help to go to Photo Fairs and Portfolio Reviews, but these can be harsh and will reduce some people to tears.

Jon started with simple portraits. One a group of boys and a bicycle was put forward as a Taylor Wessing entry.

Tonks’ Falklands book was published by Dewe Lewis. The layout was of simple two page spreads with a photo on one page with the text opposite. A specialist was used to do the map artwork. Almost by surprise, the Falklands book sold out. A second edition was created, of which there are some left.

Doing the projects again, they’d be done in a slightly different manner.

Projects can take 6 years, 7 years and evolve.

Release forms were used with the Ascension project but this evolved to asking permission and taking contact details if the work was to be used in a commercial sense. What the work does is represent things as what are. Everyone knew why the photographer was there and what he was doing.

Self-funded projects were possible through weddings and some documentary work for the Nokia brand. Tonks relocated from London to cheaper areas. He felt he missed some openings and events.

There is the idea of pitching to a newspaper and building up a relationship. It is difficult to do it with full-time commissions.

The new location in Bath it quite centrally placed. Being local you get to pick up work there.

It is important to realise the kind of photographer you aren’t. Realise what you’re good at and not so good at. Try to remain focussed like an arrow.

Working with an agency can be very very interesting in bringing support https://www.togetherassociates.com/artist/jon-tonks/stills/

Bibliography

Photographs – Jon Tonks from Falmouth Guest Lecture

PHO705: Guest Lecture Paula Gortazar

This guest lecture took place on 2 October 2019.

Paula is from Spain, studied Law while being mentored in street and documentary photography. She travelled to London to study for a certificate at Central Saint Martins, then she studied her MA at the University of Westminster. She now lectures and is researching for her PhD.

Until taking up academic studies, her work did not have a subject specialism, but it does now.

She described her projects and these have found success.

Free Hope

Homes of political activists in Cuba. The spaces were photographed and pictures published alongside an outtake from the associated interview.

Common Space

When Europe was going through a massive recession, day to day decisions were being made in the European Parliament buildings by faceless people. The work photographs the office spaces where these people operate.

As the furniture of a futuristic style was featured the aluminium prints were made at different sizes to keep the furniture to scale in the photographs. creating a kind of typology.

The work was also published in a newspaper format. This made sense as most people would only be aware of the European Parliament from the newspapers or television.

The newspaper added context around the location of the buildings photographed. Installation shots were made that show the newspaper being read.

Winter Holidays 2011-2013

In Andora in the Pyrenees, there is a transformation being made to a winter holiday resort. The project photographs the human intrusions built into the natural landscape. These are sometimes brutal and generally, look out of place and especially so in the summer.

Alto al Miedo (Ceasefear)

A project photographed in the aftermath of the ETA ceasefire in the Basque region. A thousand people died and there was extortion of small businesses.

The project photographed graphic still life scenes of seafood brutalised in different ways as a metaphor for what had gone on.

Helena 2013

Helena is a muse from Greek literature. She was written about by a man and desired by men who would go crazy over her. The project gave voice to Helena and alls here to respond in an evocative conceptual work.

The Rope 2014

This was the most personal project and most poetic. It is of fragile family memories and the photographs which hide identity, are left unexplained.

Followers Work in Progress 2017

The Followers project uses archive photographs from the Czech secret police archives detailing who a person met, where and what time. There was a style of photography where the camera was not put to the eye. There is a striking similarity to social media profiles where we now give away the information for free so it can be used by the authorities as and when they need to. The work uses 35mm film photography with pictures taken in the secret service style, in the same places but of people photographing themselves on smartphone or tablet.

#Advice

Think about aluminium prints as a publication method.

After the MA the photographer became very busy making numerous projects but has had to slow down during her PhD.

Make interview recordings and include excerpts alongside an exhibition.

When making is Work in Progress, the photographer had already gone public and had the completed work lined up for a group exhibition in May 2020. Being active so is a way of taking an idea to completion.

The following statements are recorded as thinking points rather than being prescriptive advice.

There is a consistent visual language, for work made across a range of different subjects.

For Caterina (our host), during her studies, there was a need to create a consistent visual language as if that was important.

The work evolved organically from Pure Documentary to Conceptual, to Pure Conceptual,

PHO705: Guest Lecture Victoria Forrest

Pre-amble

Watch back on the video and comment.

Nigel Ready CRJ here worked on a book on his FMP worked with Victoria.

Introduction

We’re now into the new year 2020 and a good time to have looked back at this video of the making of a book on the landscapes of Seamus Heaney, for now, MA graduate Nigel Ready.

There is more activity with Victoria who is returning to give another talk in her series followed shortly afterwards with a review session which has been ‘booked’.

Addressed during the break has been the limited numbers of pictures available to publish and so this has been worked on. Still not satisfied, there are now more images where each theme has a limited to draw upon. Making a book is going to be a big challenge notwithstanding having hand bound a book already for the course.

Challenges also are cover embossing / cover image as that craft has not been tried out.

Victoria’s Guest Lecture

What follows are some key points and a few images that serve to remind.

Apart from the introductory slide showing some of the scope of Victoria’s work, the others cover: the brief, reply, embossing of cover, the outake with shovel that determined something of the cover design.

Production steps

This outlines some of the points when working with a book designer.

The brief in the slide above was accompanied by a tight edit. The reply slide content widens what the book designer gets to see for the edit.

At the early stage the photographer has cropped in to images and they have a significance that can be lost on the viewer. The scope was quickly reduced to poet Seamus Heaney. Victoria twice used web resources to get a feel of the poet speaking/reading his poetry and of the styles of cover others had used before taking inspiration from Nigel’s photos.

Resolve what you are saying.

Determine emotional response and voice.

Allow wider selection to depict the subtleties of a complex subject. This used 150 photographs. It was only 64 at the start.

Get a feel (YouTube readings).

Work always starts with the photography and cases of two images saying the same thing reduced to one image.

Choose top images in editing down.

Made pairings and made a run (narrative).

Narrative shouldn’t be forced.

Go by the run of the images. Outcomes could be adjust, re-create or reshoot. Probably best is to stick to the run where possible?

Title VERSO inspired by listening to the poet. Digging the earth and turning the soil, turning words and in bookmaking verso is the left had turned page. So a name and a narrative.

Developments led to borders and lines and visual themes.

Some photographs remain personal to the photographer yet fall outside the narrative e.g. being not moody enough. These are separated out.

With a PDF and printed pages, many hours are spent re-arranging pages and tweaking.

Next were design features. The photography informs the design, Accompanied by the Google search of visual language others have used.

Decide on graphics and type to create a mood and tone. The cover design was embossed as ploughed fields with typography inspired by the poet’s gravestone.

Summary in relation to the Motherline project.

The starting position was alluded to at the top of this blog. Book experience has included being published in a group photographic project, and having learned how images are laid out and paired up, along with an awareness of typography being important as well as transitions etc. Finally, rudimentary making has been done by way of a practice book, a dummy and an exhibition pamphlet. A number of other books have been witnessed being reviewed.

In essence, the subject matter of design has many varied parts and practice is neat but fairly elementary, especially compared to what is on the shelves of the bookshop.

An attempt will be made at preparing a piece of work needed for the meeting with Victoria. The base question is whether there is enough image content to fill a book in a consistent manner.

Related activity around a module end and the lead in to a book and an exhibition was an experience gained. The challenge is over what can be done in the available time and being ready.

PHO705: Pecha Kucha

I’d given a public talk on Photography in the past, around 2016, where I talked mainly about my focus on Abstract Art. I mention this not just because of the consistency in the practice choice but because more to the point I’d used an automatic slide advance approach to time my talk to an allotted time period.

That was very much like a Pecha Kucha, which differs in having a defined 20-second slide duration, but given I’d practised my talk, it turned out on the evening that apart from fairly blinding lights there was no lighting for my notes and so I proceeded to talk off the cuff. It went surprisingly well and the overall presentation was second perfect.

For the Falmouth FMP, preparation was somewhat different as for a start I’d been overseas, well to Amsterdam at least and with the many distractions of the Unseen exhibition, other exhibitions and travel.

Well, of course, I’d planned ahead and had set about an initial structuring alongside several goes at scripting from various angles to see what might work.

It only needed to be assembled and polished but for a bout of influenza that laid me low for a week, so there against all my plans I found myself cobbling the presentation together at the last moment. What with several confusions over my booking, I ended up with an earlier slot than anticipated. No time to record over audio and file on YouTube but made it in the end for another off the cuff presentation.

The PK did it’s job.

Slide deck only

PHO705: Contextualisation: Hiller, Roth and Fathi

From discussion in a one to one meeting (1);

Artist 1 Susan Hiller – Auras

Artist Susan Hiller’s work Auras: Homage to Marcel Duchamp 2008 features found portraits of individuals surrounded by clouds of light: ‘metaphors for our selves in the digital age.’ Hiller is alluding to the 1910 Portrait of Dr. Dumouchel by Duchamp (1887–1968), a historical aura portrait in the clairvoyant tradition. (Tate, 2019)

I wouldn’t want clairvoyance to be the dominant visual reading of my project. What I do is create intergenerational identification by gene transmission.

So, the question. Will my intent be taken the wrong way?

Hiller’s colour work Aura’s flows from this portrait of Dr Dumouchel:

Dr Dumouchel – Marcel Duchamp

Auras – Susan Hiller (Homage 2019)

Emanations – Michael Turner

My work could possibly be made to go in this direction as I now have archive portraits as well as a colour abstract. The abstract immediately above is similar to Aura’s.

A summary of Hiller’s career and work exhibited/installed at the Lisson Gallery is presented by the BBC in their Introducing Arts website (BBC 2015). An artist talk is provided on the site.

Sadly Hiller died and her obituary can be found on the BBC website. This contains the heading “Connection, empathy, identification” from which I sense a parallel with my practice as Identification is an underlying theme.

From the obituary (BBC, 2019) there is mention of ghosts, “Ghosts are invisible to most people, but visible to a few.”. There has to be some concern as this year, ghosts began to appear in my abstract work.

Artist 2 Evan Roth – Red Lines

The work of Roth is described at the Artangel website (Roth, 2020).

Connecting you to the landscape of the internet.

Evan Roth: red lines – from the ArtAngel website (Roth, 2019)

A network of mesmerising video landscapes is streamed free to your home or workplace in this pioneering new project by Evan Roth.

Roth has travelled to coastal sites around the world where the cables that make the internet possible emerge from the sea. Filmed in infrared, the same spectrum in which data is transmitted online, the videos reveal another side of the internet, one that moves at the speed of weather, wind, and tide.

Evan Roth – infrared from the ArtAngel website (Roth, 2019)

Red Lines can be experienced by anyone in the world. To join the network, all you need is a device like a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and an internet connection. Devices should ideally be plugged into power and connected to an internet connection with no data limits (check with your service provider) with the browser set to http://p2p.redlines.network. 

In summary, the connection to my practice appears to be infrared, computers and landscape through internet transmission. The images are at places where internet cables emerge into the open at the end of a “red line” or connection to another geographic location.

A sentiment behind the work is given by this quote:

(In Maori culture) … your connection to the land you walk on helps shape your very identity. You are who you are because of who came before you; the earth and waters that supported them, now support you. – Janina Matthewson

Artist 3 David Fathi

David Fathi presents his work within the FMP module here. The interest for my work is the crossover between science and art. A blog post expands the research. The connected blog post from Week 5 can be found here.

Discussion as a reminder was about three projects, the first two books then the installation.

  • Book: Anecdotal … nuclear bomb testing on own lands e,g US Nevada
  • Book: Wolfgang … Pauli Quantum physics, anecdotes of things going wrong, CERN archive
  • Installation: The Last Road .. Henrietta Lacks archive HeLa cells

The migration to installations fell out from presenting Wolfgang creatively in numerous settings. Don’t let the form of archives seduce you. Maintain control.

The talk highlighted ideas of balanced pairs:

Bibliography

BBC (2015) Are you experienced? Visionary art from Susan Hiller. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4Tdy4ML2xms1FRp5RZTkjky/are-you-experienced-visionary-art-from-susan-hiller.

BBC (2019) Obituary: Susan Hiller, the artist of neglected memoriesBBC website. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47069583.

Tate (2019) Hiller Tate Britain. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/susan-hiller/susan-hiller-room-guide/susan-hiller-homage-works

Roth, E. (2019) Living with Red Lines. Available at: https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/red-lines/

Images

Marcel Duchamp (1910) Dr Dumouchel. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Dr._Dumouchel#/media/File:Marcel_Duchamp_Portrait_of_Dr.Dumouchel_220x340.jpg.

Susan Hiller’s Homage to Marcel Duchamp (2019) moremilkyvette blogpost. Available at: http://moremilkyvette.blogspot.com/2008/11/pirates-gallery-susan-hillers-homage-to.html.

PHO705: Guest Lecture (Research) – Sarah Pickering

I went back to watch this Guest Lecture video and make observations.

#Advice

Sarah’s many projects are formed though collaboration in the making. The work is very much out in the public domain. This was true of the Pickpocket performance work that used a professional pickpocket to set-up a reverse pickpocket as a means to training artists who are always being asked to contribute their work without a fee.

The many other works were also collaborations, mainly with the emergency services, regarding training for riots or fire, gunfire and explosions. These are dynamic interactions in the real world and end up in print.

An observation Sarah makes is around social coding and stereotyping in the scenes used for practice. Whether this is the type of furniture in a room or being briefed that a mother went to the shops and left her children in the flat where the fire is (an intention being to help stop fire fighters from identifying personally with the circumstances).

Advice included a point about get your work out there and show your work or it will never take off. It will remain under your bed.

The art business is very hierarchical in Britain when it comes to accepting photographic art. You don’t want to fall into the trap of making painterly work. Presumably, this relates to the photographer adapting to the gallery market instead of staying true to the foundations of their work.

The session ends with a call to making physical prints, Even small prints rather than exhibition size. Make them and move them around. This is especially important in an online environment such as our MA course.

Bibliography

Photographs – Sarah Pickering from Falmouth video lecture

PHO705: Publishing your FMP – Case Study 2 (Gideon Mendel)

Here is the link to the video for this case study.

#Advice

This case study contextualises Gideon’s work which like Lixenburg’s is published over several platforms Exhibition, Film, Publication and Web once public interest had been established. Their work evolved over the longer timeframe.

This gives us the idea that our own work might gain traction and so we have been forewarned. There is also the reality of what we can achieve in 6 months and how we should involve others early to go public with more than one route.

There is quite a lot of useful advice on FMP production given by relating to Gideon Mendels project Djangal (jungle camp in Calais).

His work presented a problem of camp interns being offended by photographers. Instead Gideon decided like in an earlier project on flooding to gather the artefacts left over and rephotograph as well as create an installation.

He made several visits over a few months to do the photography which is consistent with our available time on our FMP.

This sets a standard for Falmouth FMP students, I imagine is the idea. In a sense, the previous module led us to practice and Landings 2019 organising experience also helped. In spite of having not known about this case study at the outset, it was stumbled upon, I was naturally set to propose several publication routes. Had I known of the Case studies in time, I could have watched them before making my proposal as it would have reinforced my ideas.

Interestingly Mendel settled on a floating style with objects photographed in the studio on black or white backgrounds. This is very similar to my newly developed approach in photographing Fauna here.

Bibliography

Photographs – Gideon Mendel from the Falmouth FMP video lecture