PHO705: DNA Art Portraits

With an eye on commercialising art, the following is from AffinityDNA (AffinityDNA, 2020). This blog post demonstrates the contemporary and growing economic aspect of this genre allied to my photography. Perhaps by marketing photography, it could pay for the cost of the studies. Currently, there is communication taking place with another major DNA testing supplier on an introductory and more mundane level perhaps.

DNA Art Portraits

Display your DNA fingerprint as a unique personalised piece of genetic artwork! DNA art portraits from only £179

In terms of context this offering is available amongst other tests:

This demonstrates the contemporary and growing economic aspect of this (my) genre of photography.

Bibliography

AffiinityDNA (2020) Affinity DNA. Available at: https://www.affinitydna.co.uk.

PHO705: Group Critique with Module Leader

While the focus of late has been on writing the Critical Review of Practice and on ‘plussing’ the visuals, this post relates to a switch back to the public presentation of the work.

Switching tasks like this may be less efficient than running each task to completion. Professional development of photographic work might call on multiple resources, but here for the MA Photography, the author becomes or has become the sole resource for all of the work.

Collaboration practised as a professional specialism has yet to flow into the making process, so it has become quite a busy time. Considering research turned to image-making only a month ago then a lot of ground has been covered.

The making in the digital darkroom had been akin to the process of creating a painting. Now with the change of methodology and processing, the mental task of visualising and the way time is consumed is closer to photographic sculpture.

A National Portrait Gallery Friday evening drawing session attended last year, was conducted with white pencil on black paper, the process of observation and drawing likened to making sculpture.

Guest Group Critique

In presenting the work it was noted how exciting the development of the project has become and how this easily extends the work beyond the time available to us on this MA Photography course. With practice development, the project is likely to undergo further extension and presentation beyond May 2020. It is very exciting at this stage

A minor comment was the all-important selection of the sans serif Granville light font for use in the book and in the PDFs – the Critical Review of Practice assignment PDF and the book PDF hand-in.

As for the work shown in the critique an original InDesign file was shown having evolved through a one to one session, to the recent book designer session, to the subsequent splitting out of themes into individual files and finally and importantly the addition of more new work.

The project had all along used but now re-presented as having a trace of author’s DNA both as glow and as a graphic sequence.

There was a call to make a model in order to experiment with the layout of images. This would be more of a demonstration or proof exercise. In practice, the author has ongoing access to the studio/exhibition space and so does not require the intermediate step of modelling layouts. In an earlier module, a summer exhibition was held in the same space over a period of 8 days, it will be four days this time.

What is different this time is that access has been gained to the material for constructing exhibition walls from a stand kit. In a one, to one review the author was advised to set this aside, for an unexplained reason. It would be easy advice to take as it makes life easier. It is felt that there was a misunderstanding in communication via the online medium used.

Style, Paper and Framing

The critique was missing much in the way of content as the reviewer needed to see actual prints in front of them. The previous comment was of the look of charcoal on antique paper and was an accurate description of the aesthetic. This is produced both as an adjusted filter and is reproduced as a homemade PS action.

The vignetted borders were said to act against normal framing methods and would require consideration.

A test print was made a little while ago, was on matte paper and set out on the surface of the stock off white mount board used in the Summer exhibition. It all went together well.

There was a call to make a pile of prints as the quality can be more readily viewed and prints allow the order and sequencing to be done. This is an imminent action.

The project is the same one from the start of the course and has recently taken on more of the surreal. As image making began little more than one month ago the thrust has been towards image-making to gain images in sufficient numbers, higher than in the past with quality and with enough spares to support an 18 image exhibition and a book.

Recombinant Rhymes

From recombinant DNA and an artsci process of creating poetry. A decision was made to discover all or as many dictionary words as possible containing base pair letters A, C, G and T together. In order to form two or three-word crossword sections, words were gathered into themes.

There are sufficient range and sophistication of meanings linked to the work as photographic, biological and socio-political. The book would be expanded with facing blank pages set to contain word pairs or triples. No rhymes are intended.

Word Cloud

A simpler approach is the word cloud.

A variation might be to take advantage of scale in order to emphasise selected words. Chosen words correspond with a facing image. The method can be used with my DNA results in two cases; autosomal and mtDNA

Author’s Autosomal DNA and error rate

The Autosomal DNA chromosomes 1-22 are over 99% identical to all other human beings. Above are the mismatch errors in a 600,000 sample from 1.3 trillion base pairs in each DNA strand.

Author’s mtDNA

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) samples for the author scaled by position in the DNA chain. mtDNA exists within the female line, is passed on to offspring female and male offspring and is very very stable. By remaining constant for thousands of years it easily spans the century of ancestors to whom the author identifies with. The Past Present.

Vision 2020

The forthcoming Vision 2020 Symposium and gathering at Falmouth University would have been a great opportunity to unveil the prints. However, the finite risk from the current virus spread and attending an international conference, combined with having caught a virus three times last year, making attendance undesirable.

Campaign

A social media campaign is planned and the first post made on social media using Instagram account foto_graphical. An Easter exhibition has been announced with the title: Past-Present.

Strands are coming together in consistent form.

Practitioner Comment

The advice given to another student was not to go overboard in obtaining practitioner input. A note I’d sent in earlier indicated that one remote critique was booked in, while a contemporary journal editor had responded as a potential attendee. A multi-genre, multi-award-winning professional had also volunteered to comment. Three others are on the back burner, so perhaps this is what was meant as going overboard – two of the three are recognised, art photographers.

PHO705: Group Guest Critique 10 Dec 2019

Theme sets

Themes occur in several sets subdivided. First, are the now consistent outputs of the work, and second, the themes of visual narrative explored and third the set of the subject matter placed before the camera.

In turn, we have:

Out of abstraction, the theme set subdivided into

  • place as landscape/seascape/mountains of heritage and theatre of war;
  • ghosts ever more recurring;
  • depictions of inner/outer space.

Out of the physical and psychoanalytical, the theme sets are around language/communication and intent:

  • science mitochondrial DNA,
  • war,
  • the phenomenological – the weird/eerie/uncanny

Examples of the above can be found in this portfolio:

Portfolio by Michael Turner

There is the theme set of the subject and photography:

  • healing wounds,
  • museum (military and medicine),
  • family archive,
  • video (gaming and broadcast)
  • Generative art.

Examples of some of the above are also in this portfolio.

Portfolio by Michael Turner

In retrospect, this presents the analytical. To think in deconstructivist terms as in Derrida, it would make sense to home in on that which conveys the main feelings. There again Art Science (Artsci) as described by Arthur Millar brings scientific method back into scope. The latter demands more resolution by the artist. Millar points to the history of the avant-garde. The art world and gallery system had rejected impressionism and the likes of Picasso as surrealist. Artists then built alliances later their work being more established it became more widely accepted. Millar might argue the case for art-science as the new avant-garde.

In the case of accepting Millar, then the project proceeds as

Family Constellations

Family Constellations have allowed freedom from entanglement with ancestors and their narratives of loss in a war.

FMP Experimental

View the following as experimental imagery that is work in progress. This is not the end product of publishable standard at this early point.

PHO705: Week 9 Reflection

Bases and Ghost by Michael Turner

Position and Intent

The work is intended to be positioned within Modernism PHO705: Modernism. As abstract it may fit into the Art-Science avant-garde as a branch of Modernism.

The implementation is still open at an early stage. Developments in one direction are towards overlapping archive ancestry images of motherline and mtDNA glow images.

Motherline – Glow by Michael Turner

This is in the direction of Susan Hiller Aura and Falmouth painter Jake Wood Evans. PHO705: Artist Jake Wood Evans

To go ahead, work needs to be resolved. As these firm, vestiges are present in other approaches.

War imagery, either from Museum exhibits or from video archives footage. There is the style of Natalia Goncherova with angels and flying machines compressed into the frame in a very claustrophobic way (as in her lithographs).

Science, as molecular biology, animation and Generative Art.

Further influences begin with Albert Steiglitz and images similar to cloud formations. This is closest to my type of work of any of the above approaches.

by Steiglitz

There persists influence from Picasso, in breaking bounds then Rachel Howard in terms of the hidden brush of gravity abstract style.

Thoughts about Resolution

More wayward approaches need to be set aside where project intent risks being diluted i.e avoid any negative impact.

The strong influence going into the Final Major Project FMP has been to resolve the visual language to make the abstract accessible to the viewer. This was achieved in a summer exhibition although the martial narrative need not be enforced was a consideration.

Having just stated that though, the war theme is necessary otherwise we lose the linkage and orphan the themes of place foreign and theme of ghosts recurrent.

PHO705: Wellcome Museum

Following my 1-2-1 Final Proposal Review, I planned to visit the Wellcome Library and Museum. There are regular Insights Sessions held.

There is a useful Blog that has an older item from 2018 from the Broadcasting Health and Disease Conference.

A successful visit was made during the Being Human exhibition.

Wellcome Library Reading Rooms

“Glass Microbiology” Luke Jerram, 2014

l-r “Ebola”, “Giardia”, “MRSA”

photographs Michael Turner

These glass sculptures “challenge the virulent artificially-coloured depictions of bacteria and viruses seen in the media and popular culture.” Examples of the media representations with colour can be found in (Salter, 2017)

There is an ongoing tendency to fall into engaging conversations with artists and others. On this occasion, it was a certain Patricia who engaged in conversation around arts, whilst setting out easels for a class as I photographed the above. Subject matter ranged widely across subjects such as contextualisation, the so-called, death of the author, and Portrait Gallery open sketching sessions (my first ever portrait black paper white pencil):

Sketch from National Portrait Gallery (Patricia asked to see a photo of this (if anyone wondered why it is reproduced here))

The Being Human Permanent Exhibition – Genetics

Here on display was a CRISPR gene-editing kit. CRISPR allows cost-effective gene editing or even biohacking. Alongside is a portable gene sequencer as a smartphone app and attachment. Since the human genome was sequenced at the turn of the millennium, gene editing and sequencing has become portable and cost-effective. Devices have come out of the specialist laboratory and are entering the public consciousness. Such images lend to the genetic contextualisation of the abstract photo project.

A number of references were identified.

  • Trauma (in relation to close relatives, of victims of war, who withdrew emotionally) (Kolk, 2015)
  • Art in Science (in relation to the photo project visual contextualisation) (Salter, 2017)

Bibliography

Kolk, B. Van Der (2015) The Body Keeps the Score Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. Penguin. Great Britain: Penguin Random House UK. Available at: http://www.greenpenguin.co.uk.

Salter, C. (2017) science is beautiful disease and medicine under the microscope. London, [England]: Batsford. Available at: http://www.pavilionbooks.com.

Photographs Michael Turner 2019 unless work is otherwise attributed

PHO705: Module Leader Group Critique

The Forth cohort attended a group critique, our first. 

So to take forward something of the way of telling a story by a compositional layout of three parts or by layering an archive portrait with a glow picture. What feedback would the Module Leader and the audience give? 

The PDF attached can be downloaded. It contains two frames, one for each method of interest.

Group-Leader-Critique

This file displays correctly as two pages: View – Page Display – Two Page View for side by side comparison and to show a two-page spread. 

Making a PDF was practice for the 1 May hand-in but at a small scale. 

The intention is to obtain a PDF with the best resolution images saved as an Interactive PDF format. InDesign frames also ensured even sizing of the pages which of different dimensions from Word and Photoshop were made consistent.

(TBD Here is the work of the previous module:)

#Advice

Here is the update promised following today’s critique. The idea is to obtain greater clarity and something actionable. 

We learned from each other’s presentations as much as our own. Five presentations were made:

  • Skye rushes
  • Balloon metaphor
  • Mitochondria 
  • Book diptychs
  • Urban regeneration

Reaction to presentation – mitochondria

Preparation for the presentation was done well in advance and meantime it may have answered its questions on the layout options.

There were no audience comments. Module Leader comment went beyond layout, drawing attention to the importance of mitochondria as a theme. Agreed this is the foundation and deserves elevating.

The work could be helped along by adding a family tree. Privacy issues prevent this. However, a generic chart is something I would entertain.

David Fathi did some work concerning the impact on moral actions of using a genetic sample for modelling disease.

The family mitochondria theme does have a historical element as that is what stirs a feeling of identification with family. It is more of a driver or motivator than the actual purpose of the work which is forward-looking in terms of light reemerging as a means of detecting disease. It may be infeasible in the time to go too far with this science as the interest is really in creating art. The art is from the digital sensor capturing glow in a way the eye tends to ignore which given a style of processing can emphasise the hidden.

General learning points

The advice given related to the current point we are at on the course. Our work needs to be research-driven. So back to the books.

Also, no work is ever complete until we present it to the public as the audience. It is then we start to gain feedback.

Practical learning point

The student from the group, three months ahead of us was very informative in terms of their planning. They have already had their exhibition with six weeks to the end of their studies. They had 30 images and proposed editing them down to 20 for their portfolio but add in more for a book. They received interest in their work, and a videographer had even filmed their work.

PHO705: Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi

Early mention was made of this guest lecture in a 121 session blogged here.

David is a scientist breaking free into a world in which he makes art.

As always an important element of these resources is to identify with practice in the Final photo project.

David summarised three projects using these bullets which served as a useful summary:

Project summary – David Fathi

David’s art allows him to take up his interest in the areas of knowledge, politics and science.

Three works are presented: Of these the first two projects, Anecdotal and Wolfgang are books. The next project, The Last Road …” moved on to become an 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

In presenting Wolfgang in different contexts, David began to explore the installation as a way of publicly showing “The Last Road …”. 

David felt he could have continued on in the vein he started (in some respects poking fun) but he was driven to do more serious work. Whilst earlier did poke fun it was also factual. 

The work relating to Henretta Lacks, controlled the viewer experience as the installation layout meant the viewer walked between Dark landscapes with Hela cells opposite Intimidating text. A video played at the exit end in this liminal space. The video comprised film stills with an audio track that played louder closer up.

The migration to installations fell out from presenting Wolfgang creatively in numerous settings. Don’t let the form of archives seduce you. It is a danger. Maintain control. Control also by viewer walking between Dark landscape/Hela cells opposite Intimidating text. Video at the end shows film stills. The music gets louder with proximity.

Examples of stills given included the Film Godzilla as metaphor for the atomic bomb.

The talk highlighted ideas of balanced pairs:

  • mortality – immortality
  • personal – political
  • science – art

#Advice

Some take-away advice was “Don’t let the form of archives seduce you. It is a danger. Maintain control of your work”.

On the subject of abstraction, David quoted an observation by Stanley Kubrick:

Be self-aware of one’s art and the impact it may have. Stay true to one’s intent.

It is important to remain aware that work can transition from a book publication to an installation

Major Update to Blog

A major update has been completed including a retrospective change to posts from the earlier modules that impact on my FMP.

#Advice

A video resource made available showed how the staff of Falmouth University approach a Critical Review Journal and especially during assessment, so it became clearer how I might adapt some details of my own blog.

Step by step guidance is provided in the document MA Photography CRJ Guidelines (September 2019).pdf is designed to help new starters as well as more advanced users.

A second video resource provides an example of one students work.

A result of using the above resources, videos and guidance document is that the FMP blog has now been restructured and is more professional. It should be easier to research as work continues.

At Week 5 the restructuring is basically complete:

  • tag cloud search is introduced
  • category filtering is introduced
  • FMP posts structured and scheduled (use tags and categories)
  • backup is automatic (security)
  • language selection included (quick win)

PHO705: Guest Lecture Judy Harrison

This video was returned to on 16 October. This lecture tunes in to the representation of people through community collaborative practice.

I then relate Judy Harrison’s work to my practice to find out what I can take from it.

Studying at college with what were to become famous names such as Martin Parr and others, Judy was in good company. Judy’s work showed a great deal of social concern around the topic of identity, migration and racism. Her work also featured themes of strong women in farming and in the pottery industry.

Judy’s work showed genuine concern for people as she spent time talking with them. Examples here were the women working on farms. Judy noted the importance of engaging with the women who were her subjects. This was part of slowing down. She did not want to take advantage of her subjects.

An element of rephotography existed as Judy often returned to the original places and so was aware of changes that had occurred.

Judy instigated the setting up of workshops in migrant communities and by lending cameras, and by showing how to use them her subjects were able to document their own identities. This was a lengthy venture in which Judy was involved for 15 years.

The collaborative work toured and exhibited nationally.

Work began to locate in a third space, between shooting indoors and outdoors. Her collaborators were able to bring gestures of performance and create images of self-expression. People were given a voice. She would often go back over the years. The children had grown into adults and now had their own children.

Judy then became concerned to document place, people and school. Her concern was to mend a cultural divide, through a literacy project.

Her work changed to that of the decline in the potteries and she became deeply ingrained in the remaining industry and alludes to the sensory experience in that working environment with the smell of clay and dust.

Judy is an advocate of making work on photographic film as a means of slowing down. This compares with the Final photo project. As a photographer, 35mm film use has been readopted. However, its use is infrequent. The digital practice is unavoidable in the Final photo project where unseen data on the digital sensor is key. Slowing down still occurs but this occurs at the post-processing of image art in the digital darkroom.

#Advice

The work is not about Nostalgia. Is nostalgia a negative?

Obtain a balance between others’ interests and the photographer’s interests.

Collaboration is encouraged by the University. A challenge is knowing how to mark the work. Family archive prints are a newly introduced part of my project as I seek direction in mixing art with photographs others can identify with. If seen as collaboration it is in the context of using historical records.

Bibliography

Photographs – courtesy Judy Harrison from Falmouth University Guest Lecture

PHO705: Theme, People and Place

A direction change is to the revived interest in using the family archive of film prints. Again this is to do with developing my visual language. Initial indications are quite revealing:

Experience in scanning film negatives revived after my visit to the Falmouth University, Institute of Photography IoP. Prior to this, I’d done some archive film scanning of a reasonably low resolution using a portable scanner. This was enough to satisfy my interest at the time. At the IoP some current films were developed: three 35mm films and two 4 by 5 negatives. The film was processed both by hand and on a developing machine. A drum scanner was used to digitize the results.

Based on earlier experience using a portable scanner to create digital versions of a real archive, it seemed that a couple of years elapsed time might be involved in making a comprehensive capture. This had coloured my view on starting to scan another 5 or 6 generations of the family archive.

The estimate, making it infeasible for a full scan during an FMP, unless another approach was considered. What unfolded was a quick look through the archive, and a mass of images was captured on a smartphone in rapid time. This has different effects: it made selecting and using specific photos possible. These were printed photographs as opposed to film. What was clear was the content of pictures I was interested in making the process more focussed. I was looking at specific places: landscape, farms, buildings but also people in the maternal line or closely connected. 

The downside of the initial session is to do with a consistent and controlled capture set-up that could be improved. As a first pass, this was highly successful, though. There are options: I can invest time in cleaning up the photographs in digital. My usual preference is digital retouching. I could revisit the archive and make new scans, either in a more controlled fashion or using expensive scanning equipment. A constraint I placed on the activity was the need to engage and have a discussion. It wasn’t a grab but a sensitively handled meeting.

I decided not to separate any of the prints of special interest from the archive for controlled scanning. The thing is that so much can be read from the grouping of prints and their order as it aids discussion when identifying people and places.

In the event, there was an engaging discussion during the inspection of prints and some good scanned results were obtained. Images of specific interest had been picked out and rephotographed. This was a collaborative effort and was quite swift. Another session may be arranged to reconfirm a few identities.

Categories were decided, and these fall into headings related to people and place:

  • Menfolk,
  • Women especially mothers,
  • Children,
  • Farming, Landscape, and Activities.

My project so far has been portrayed as connecting with the 1900s as I collapse time through an unchanging aspect of Biology, mitochondria.

Further suggestions arising from the Tuesday P2P meetings is to record an oral history. This suggestion related to another revival. From recent experience, it would introduce an atmosphere around any Exhibition and supplement information in taking it to the public as a Project book.

Part of this is the centenary commemoration 2014-2018.

Recent experience has underlined viewer interest in photographs containing people, exactly what these archive images contain. What must not be lost is the role these photographs play in providing supporting context to my main abstract work.

The archive turned up other gems such as a wartime identity card and a really old photograph envelope with markings that urge making extra prints.

I have to date maintained a close focus on a specific branch of the family but am now ready to spread a little wider during my FMP project.

There are several maternal lines. In a sense this makes the work more interesting to make and hopefully to view.

I have a cooling off period as I think through how all this affects my project.

A constraint I address is having enough images to proceed with an edit for an exhibition and for a book. A consequence is this early activity in gathering and taking pictures. I hope to have learned from my previous study module.

Having said this, I have already met distraction especially in restructuring this blog. The cost of doing so should be repaid later as it becomes easier to research from my CRJ.

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