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 week saw another Guest Lecture take place this time with Paul Clements Photojournalist.
GCC – Module Leader
There was also a Group Guest Critique GCC with the Module Leader and for some reason, probably to do with timing and project evolution the meeting was very much appreciated. A welcome relief.
I was able to announce the intended exhibition visit of a Contemporary Photographic Editor who I am pleased to have volunteered to take a new job with that is waiting until June. This is as a proofreader for a Contemporary Photography Journal. My earlier offer of managing a related ISSUU electronic magazine was something the photographic group couldn’t wait 8 months for and one of my colleagues from a group photographic project took it on. What this says is that the chosen attendee is someone I’d hope to work with.
The course remains the top priority above all else other than the mortal deeds and close relationships. The reason for reflecting on this is to demonstrate to anyone thinking of doing a course such as the Falmouth MA Photography that even at 10-hour study plus 10 hours photographic practice per week, it requires a high level of commitment. My admiration goes to those able to deliver at this level such as is likely of the really talented artist of whom there are many examples on our course. For me, I hail from STEM education and associated career and often worked from a blank sheet of paper through to architected solutions and adapt my experience to the MA.
During the week attention turned to the facsimile / portable exhibition and a small sense of pride resulted from taking printable cardboard and making a dummy box. Printing the guides at A4 resulted in a miniature of only 2’x3′
An estimated card stock size of between A3 and A2 would be required. The 2″x3″ dimensions are only external for the pictured dummy box. The final box needs to be double the size to accommodate side-by-side mounted miniatures.
Size didn’t matter for the dummy as the intent was to work out the printed surfaces, the orientation of the print surfaces, the glue points and the folding sequence. An overall feel for how sturdy the box would be for the given card stock was also confirmed.
There is the other matter of now the box construction is would be feasible, how is it to be decorated? The theme of own DNA or historic archive? Design decisions need to be made.
Recombinant Rhymes was an ArtSci feature on the radio that I’ve adapted to my project to aid context building.
A revisit was made to the literary element of adding contextualising text, specifically a list of dictionary entries for words that contain the base pair letters A, C, G and T.
Perhaps there is scope for extending individual words by concordance perhaps using SketchEngine (SketchEngine, 2020) to expand the text.
On the one hand, this can be categorised as being overly smart which detracts from communication but then again it does allow context to be built and we (I certainly do) know how important context building can be to a visual project especially in the surreal abstract.
Video (and Music)
Music was composed for a Ghost theme feature after a visit to a store that demonstrated the GarageBand music composition software.
A further video has been storyboarded as a follow on to a successful showing at the Summer Exhibition.
Two recent GLs were attended. The first related to online dating and second-hand wedding dresses the second GL looked at life in an eastern European country under what was effectively martial law.
One to One – Critical Review of Practice
There was also a Supervisor session that turned activity on its head in changing direction from project development to one of the main deliverables, the Critical Review of Practice. It mattered not that anticipatory work had begun as nothing of a deliverable standard was yet available. A previous mention was made about having to make a late start this task due to circumstances beyond normal control.
The CRoP task has a dependency on the planned exhibition as that is where the behind the scenes shots are to be obtained and practitioner critical comment received.
The work that was progressed was made to the drumbeat of “No work – no exhibition – no book” etc.
A session was conducted to split the overall InDesign file into themes:
ghost images of people
narratives of biology around cell division
This is not to mention subdivision into individual Surreal images, and Animals. There are also Ancestral Family Archive images to restore and reprocess as own DNA (base pairs) and glow image.
A lot of this is still in the melting pot as it is a natural development stage as an image set forms, plus there are influences from the book designer session.
There has been some reaching out to practitioners in advance of the Exhibition.
Print is becoming a more imminent activity. A preliminary decision is required over further tests of print making using the matte paper stock.
To create atmosphere, work on a video storyboard was started but somewhat frustratingly dropped, for now, to give precedence to the Critical Review of Practice.
Two items have been held up pending 10 weeks of illness then need to create portfolio work.
These are the Video that should have been made over the break and the Critical Review of Practice CRoP.
These have been taken together, but oddly manage to support the work. The following PDF is the mind map. A CRoP is a CRoP but it has to be about something so the overview of working practice and methodology is given as a mind map. The CRoP requirement (or part of) has been mapped onto it and requires further development like issuing a draft. However, there is some referencing to other practitioners still in research. Despite having this for earlier incarnations of the work (in earlier study Modules) the work has progressed on so time for the update.
To an extent I can argue about originality and a need to mask off external influences as the work is quite unique in its standing as a branch of Art based on Science. As blogged previously I’m never surprised anymore to find original thought crop up in other places of which two examples could be cited.
Top left hand in the mind map is the Critical Review of Practice from an earlier module assignment.
The bottom left hand is a storyboard outline for a useful video resource that is being created. (This proved very helpful to visitors to the summer exhibition).
Above this is the connection to the CRoP linked to Ghost Abstract Figurative Themes. While Ghosts per se have been dropped since the review with a book designer, the landscapes remain ghost images.
Practice location top right is the piece being updated for this dynamic project. It does need to settle down urgently prints, book, portable exhibition and talk to be worked on.
There is quite a challenge here as none of the work has been subcontracted to printers or anyone else so all of the skills from the photography through to all branches of making have been absorbed and this alongside all of the marked assignment work. For anyone wishing to embark on an MA Photography Course they may wish to consider how much work to outsource to specialists. Personally, outsourcing the Book making to an online offering is not preferred over an artists book dummy and hiring a book designer would lose some of the original intent to someone else’s view of what the market would stand. The work is still too dynamic for this.
Bottom right is the remainder of the CRoP assignment requirement, which pertains to the public showing.
In terms of evidencing the work as mentioned here in an FMP lecture video then on the subject of gaining public feedback, there is a need to reach out to practitioners to elicit attendance or somehow provide comment on the work.
I now have a date of the Easter Weekend for showing the work over four days at Amersham Studios tradesecrets.live Only now can approaches be made by reaching out.
As image-making is fundamental and has been a major focus, work has been flooding forward and is now starting to receive critique (two critiques were missed through technology issues).
There is scope for an earlier pop-up exhibition at the same location. No promises yet. Details will be published and a campaign run via Instagram account foto_graphical and Facebook.
Now that was what is called busy. The connection with the University has re-established big time. There was a gap over November, December and January. To be fair there was the end of year “holiday” and the so-named 3 week assessment period – needed for the other Modules.
Thinking about this in reflection then, several group lectures were attended and there was the follow up from the previous week’s module leader one2one meeting that led to running a consistent aesthetic right across image set.
We also briefly held a peer to peer meeting, the first known of in several months. We’re a small cohort with 10 of 13 starters still around. Only 8 signed up for these meetings. A connection has also been made with a student from another cohort who was passed in my direction by a tutor.
There were also the preparations for a meeting with a book designer Victoria Forrest. All good as the work is interrelated and the key to the public showing. No images, no public showing. The research was toned down and research-led practice had been in full flow again this week.
So how did the book design session go? (rhetorical question). That’s in a separate post.
It was good and has focussed on incorporating one’s own genome. My DNA has been sequenced and has now been downloaded and is being analysed for transcription errors and an academic publication read on the topic. Although specific to kidney disease and with some reference to mice it was nevertheless useful to learn of the error rates, non-base insertion and the weird folding that results. In the mind’s eye the DNA spiral has an idealised representation. This reading gave the truth.
Anyway, the knowledge gives the photographer some deeper information to back up any talk that might follow?
Scanning became a big thing and a whole weekend was spent learning software SilverFast and i1 colour calibration. The reason for this is/was to up the level of professionalism in reusing family archive photographs. The current set I accessed needs to be rescanned. A hidden agenda exists too. The acquisition of a film scanner and darkroom gear means work can go back to film photography. This will now be after the FMP but it is an exciting development in photography. The Studio where I’m based (less so with these studies) is starting to run combined workshops on Landscape and Street film photography. I’m really pleased with this revival.
With so much digital practice and digital darkroom processing, it will be a relief to turn back to film.
Thinking ahead of the week there is the catch-up to be made on Video making and drafting of the Critical Review of Practice CRoP.
Such is the life that this blog post will need to be cut back as some of the activity reported falls into the Week 16 reflection, due in the next day or two.
So, all in all, a very rewarding and active time on the project with work changing rapidly at this point. Lots of connection with the University has been helpful while consuming more of that rare resource called time. Can’t win.
Having published a PDF with an extended payload of hi-res photographs last week, in preparation for the one to one meeting with the Module Leader, it was time to keep to plan and size the file. There is a 10MB file limit for the assessment. Success! Over 50 images, which should be over that needed to submit the Assessment PDF and filesize which was whopping has dropped to 5.5MB with no appreciable loss of quality on-screen.
In contemplating the book publication, a second PDF is required and this would need to be produced at high resolution.
There are some known niggles in the content of the following but here is the ‘same’ or equivalent PDF from last time but in its new reduced size. The PDF has been created using industry-leading page layout software Adobe InDesign:
This was an important trial and it has worked. The picture content can be refined as one image went missing during the day and will be tracked down. Three images processed with marginally incorrect height – width was fine.
The experience improved with some practice. Images untreated, or taken as they were at multiple size, needed to be standardised and this took place using Adobe Bridge – Photoshop to run some automation to fix dots per inch and pixel WxH to fit the page and the adjusted 3mm page margins created.
The more work done in preparation the easier it was to manage InDesign. Not just easier, the experience went from impractical to smooth operation.
Some bells and whistles will be added at the next iteration using available image files – many new items are being lined up to go into work, although the exhibition is expected to repeat the 18 number of prints created at a summer run of the exhibition. A greater number of images would be required of a book. The book number will be limited by shadowing standard commercial offerings in view of the potential cost impact in later in taking the hand bound book dummy to a designer.
Returning to the immediate needs, sections have to be added for
text (make an appropriate selection fo text),
attribution list for images,
interactive elements, next/prev buttons, section buttons and so on.
Paper and printing considerations and mounting without frames become necessary to investigate for the charcoal style sepia images with the given light vignette border style. A lesser paper choice last time, was Epson double-sided matte for the handbound book and laser paper for the exhibition guide.
Hahnemuhle art paper has been suggested, whereas until now gloss was chosen for its handling of deep blacks.
Board mounting needs consideration as well as the method of hanging. A professional exhibition stand lined up for the exhibition – not used during the summer, is not recommended at this stage.
It is recommended to print as early as possible to anticipate the time need for adjustments. A first print was made! The available paper stock was Epson double-sided matte, used in making the book for an earlier Ed Ruscha challenge.
There are numerous actions required in the making process to be visited. ISSUU has been revisited as it is used as a means of simulating the book to aid the design, printing and binding. It also makes an electronic version publicly available.
The https://turnerphoto.art website was trialled in the previous module as a commercial selling site and unexpectedly went offline and has since been restored. At present, the marked assessment items take priority over website building and the selling of photographs is something for beyond the course.
These technical matters are always tempting to get involved in but for now, a reasonably good PortfolioBox portfolio site has been maintained and although there are layout limitations each use, there are get around and the company is meant to be quite responsive, although it has not been witnessed personally.
The website had a different purpose earlier in the course, where now, like during the Summer exhibition practice run, it is intended as a support to the exhibition in terms of proving multimedia in promoting it and in generating atmosphere.
In the same vein, social media is being lined up for promoting going public. Instagram has been quiescent for a while ready to roll once the exhibition date is decided (third week of March or first week of April) depending on making more work of publishable standard and whether or not to attend the Falmouth 2020 Face to Face ‘week’.
The outbreak of coronavirus and its spread through international travel could be a risk with this year’s event. A watching brief is being made at present. This is particularly sensitive personally having contracted a bug several times last year in spite of being vaccinated.
Not considered yet is a video recording of an artist talk and the remaking of the moving slides video with better images. An artist talk was run several times during the Summer exhibition.
The making of the portable exhibition in a box continues to be important in moving beyond the studio confines to take the discussion wider to allow it to continue. An unexpected benefit last time was it generated an invitation to attend an art sale. The commercial element whilst welcomed was a little ahead of practice development at that stage.
a scene-setting image of current theme is on page 1
sepia ‘Landscape’ prints at the start on pages 2-13
a transition from cellular to landscape is at pages 14 and 15
the earlier ‘landscape’ style variations are at pages 16-19
a venture into the surreal is at various points starting at pages 20-22
a family archive crossed with ancestral biology on page 23
a theme of ghosts is explored at pages 24-28
a non-human variation is on page 29
a montage series with newsreel extracted stills begins pages 30-32
a lesson learned is on page 33
the pan cellular ex cellular series runs over pages 34-40
running on to rather surreal examples of work on pages 41-42
the cellular continues on pages 43-47
the re-use of earlier work is broached at page 47
an emergent theme example ‘animal life’ in b&W and colour pages 47-49
random elements end the series pages 50-52 with page 52 a caricature
*Learnings at this point prior to the meeting concern the first collection as a PDF and files size being 8x over the allowance. It is the first collection and the solution is to use Adobe InDesign and the save to animated PDF format. This was taught at the university and the subject of an FMP video.
in the transition to professional quality (a lot of the earlier work has been experimental) standardised sizing has been arrived at and needs to be worked retrospectively across the whole image set for display consistency.
Overall, an exciting period of practice development.
Concluding, is the intense period of reading and learning putting substance behind research based practice. Going are the days of creating themes in support of project narratives.
For visual language development samples of themes have been created.
Father mitochondria layered on mother image (mitochondria as transmitter). Biological markers ready to be layered in next stage.
Stills dropped out of newsreel of 100 years ago montaged into project examples
Family archive motherline photograph layered with glow image (mitochondria)
graphic development of DNA and cellular imagery and text
A rather busy and very worthwhile period indeed.
Three months of work to finish off a professional portfolio of high quality to be taken public Reacquainting with the MA Photography requirements caused a close look at example work created so far.
There were then many ups and downs hinging on the practice of being fully digital in the making. With much time spent in the digital darkroom the methodology was fully re-examined and especially following the digital imaging Symposium at Westminster University.
The Symposium was good and gave access to several key scientists in skincare and medical forensics. For those that know about the project the relevance should be clear. Much was confirmed around the artist’s assumptions of biological science as applied here.
The quality of the work then came under deep scrutiny anticipating cramming a lifework into a meagre 10MB PDF file without undue loss of image quality. The answer is InDesign and the methods documented in the FMP block.
However, any signs of a borderline quality entering the process and the situation will only worsen. Were there signs in current work?
Previous bad experience of transferring to mobile working and lack of connectivity in the Scottish Highlands led to a deliverable quality issue. It was never planned to be like that – the cohort will remember those events.
In an attempt to avoid technical issues deep scrutiny was performed on the work. A solarisation filter is quick to pick up on banding faults and pixelation (not in the original but from processing).
How to resolve this? Some very detailed analysis and comparison trials showed how and where different algorithms broke down affecting an unacceptable number of images.
During the last week of the “break” or so called University Assessment Period, and to which this blog post pertains work continued urgently to sort out technical issues. A number of workshops and external resources were called upon and a growing amount of time was soaked up.
This continued into Week 13. The current blog post is a retrospective. That is how important it was to resolve quality, instigate testing and build a professional approach to practice. Time normally spent learning and researching art and photography began to make way to working the critical methodology during the FMP blocks.
It would be great to have visual examples accompanying this post but for now it is important to continue making and delivering images elsewhere. Return later when priorities resolve.
There has been much catching up to do. After 10 weeks of being slain by the aftereffects of two bouts of flu, it is sad to note the passing of two more family members in the run-up to year-end.
In a way, the losses underline the importance of the project being made complete to pass on to others. The pay-off would be in gathering the technique that others may wish to use with their own, alongside forever unfolding events on a world stage, whether that be a 9/11 or something else.
The research period moved into the making phase within the digital darkroom.
Many up and downswings have been encountered in the making, from renewed optimism to unexpected problems arising that needed to be resolved.
More structured recording of image statuses has now been established on Evernote as a wider body of work has emerged, none of which is entirely satisfactory at present.
Direction around abstract outcomes such as landscapes for some images fell foul of image banding as well as encountering more editing suite false images on the screen versus print.
Being guarded and mindful of this resulted in changes. A solar checking layer is used to detect banding where it might not be immediately visible to the eye followed by a step by step expansion method and 100% viewing (or do and undo merge layers).
And so too, subject matter bias changed in moving to the biology theme with the development of skill in making cellular images alongside associated graphic elements. Maybe too this was an avoidance strategy as avoidance of quality issues which and it led to switching the major theme to and fro ghost/landscape/biology
The methodology has changed through this as methodology currently biases towards forms as Surrealist imagery.
Another branch in the period in between these stages meant conducting a series of trials of merging stills dropped out of newsreel video. That presents challenges with the mixed resolution, edge problems and differential lighting when integrating. Time out was taken to practice overcoming these challenges but as a major wartime theme production has stopped for now. The problems can be tackled with more confidence having gained more practice on different methods. Whether to return to this or not is the question. There are probably too many themes for a book or exhibition and so something has to go. If the biology theme of cellular imagery went ahead then maybe too many similar images result. There is no obvious solution at this stage and so work continues with the numerous themes,
Reading the course requirement for quality scanning and professional making at this level on top of evidencing this does lead towards a situation of panic in these matters.
Thinking through the image merging the experience from the Summer exhibition weighed. Separate archives (of the author in this case) and abstract expressionistic images led to triptych layouts that worked in exhibition but not as a book (the weight of paper in a signature with not enough strength in the stitching. Signatures are complicated, always looking wrong at the earlier printing stage but turn out right, where triptych became unmanageable in the handling and ended up being complex or not practicable as a dummy.
This reflection is made during the break otherwise timetabled as the first of three weeks of a University assessment period. No work on the Final Major Project FMP module is under assessment at this time. It is simply a break during which work is able to be progressed.
The activities conducted have been:
Guest Lectures and
The (optional) lectures watched back are:
Christiane Monarchi Part 1
Christiane Monarchi Part 2
The guest lecture by Jim Mottram was viewed last year. These lectures have been very useful and represent a blogging task that competes for a limited resource (time) when working on the priority task of making work. It will be necessary for completeness to return and write up the blog posts. It is interesting blogging this point of view when it is still the break.
The methodology employed is to post-process photographs of healing wounds into surreal/abstract style. Subsequent to this is a choice of theme that is essential to building a narrative.
There needs to be an oversupply of candidate images for various outcomes:
Exhibition images (for subsequent edit/reduction for the assessment PDF)
Book dummy in particular for a group meeting with a Book Designer.
Progress in post-processing
From the outset, time was taken to make the project a research-based project. This has matured and could go on longer than the permitted time for the course but now is coming together as a whole and so making has resumed.
A mixture of figurative images or images with other referents can be seen here. In these images above the referent relates to themes of ghost, inner/outer space, landscape/seascape/mountainscape.
With research ideas in place, making by intuition took take-off once more. As this progressed, that state of flow that is spoken of returned and a variety of outcomes were generated.
Variations sprang forward as in the case of the mind interpreting the outcomes as weird and eerie then finding this feel worked its way into non-healing as you recognise the characteristics in source photographs that likely produce an aesthetic. In particular, there has been an emphasis on synthesising a project theme of inner/outer spaces.
Also, by expanding reading into the Surreal it quickly becomes apparent how geometric manipulations used appropriately can expand the scope of work produced. There is a personal appeal and education bias here. At present, more general acceptance and a decision to proceed will be down to making more geometric manipulations. The purpose is to stimulate structural interest in the original glow images from the trace of healing and life energy.
Module activity has firmly progressed from ArtSci into digital imaging, and from outcomes into how they arise in the conscious mind supported by a reading of the weird and eerie and of the unheimlich and of place.
Another branch being touched upon is a return to further artist research to aid the positioning of practice amongst contemporary photographers.
In the digital post action, it is necessary to limit change if the image becomes overprocessed. For example, banding can occur. In a project that encompasses the real and the imaginary, there is the analogous of realistic depiction and an imaginary version of the image found to be displayed sometimes on screen.
Artefacts first noticed in some processed images in an earlier module returned to haunt a number of edit in FMP. The previous observation was of fringing, now it was of banding.
Eventually, this was traced to image zoom level affecting how the software adapts. The software creates in effect, fleeting visual outcomes that do not exist in reality when saving a file or printing and image. This seemed quite ‘haunting’ until an explanation was found on a technical forum.
The software maker in its attempt to reduce the processing load for a displayed image that is zoomed interpolates the pixel data and injects impermanent changes. Surreal/abstract imagery developed for the FMP Project can be prone to showing the desired finish but it is not possible to save or print.
It is not just the camera that sees differently to the eye, but now the editing software which is deemed an integral part sees differently to the author The camera never lies can be extended to the editor software never lies?
In defence of the software manufacturer, the product is intended for general purpose use within particular specialisms. The type of processing used for the FMP project is susceptible to showing up the problem discussed. It is especially true where there is an openness towards challenging the computing limits.
Integrity checks are now performed on new images during the making. An integrity check would be defined as confirming what is intended is what you see on screen and what you get as a result. We are used to JPEG saves adding artefacts in performing destructive processing when reducing file size. We are already aware of this. It is more of a surprise to see transitional effects that exist completely within the editing software and then vanishes.
If the effect is desirable and needs to be made permanent, then this involves using a camera to photograph the screen. This may or may not be successful by individual image.
Two checks have been routinely incorporated.
First is to add a curves layer with solarisation characteristic. High contrast shows up transitions and identifies banding. Fringing, by comparison, is already directly obvious to the eye.
Second, as an alternative is to merge layers – the difference is immediately obvious. If editing layers have to be retained then unmerge once the check has been performed.
Finally, try to work at 100% zoom for the true image or switch zoom to check the render. Full zoom at 100%, however, is usually less desirable than fit-to-screen that allows the overall image to be viewed.
Depending on the aesthetic and theme, some forms of banding are referent of DNA testing and so may be desirable in a print.
Some photographs taken before FMP have been reprocessed to use more refined techniques that have been developed.
This increases the variety of source material and is consistent with good ethics given the nature of the subject, healing wounds.
More reprocessing is in progress and as the number of outcomes increases a decision can be made.
The decision is pending at present around the visual theme. Adding archive to the mix is felt to really strengthen the presentation making it more accessible to the viewer. One processed image has had a second processed image layer added where the still was dropped out of video footage. The combination works well. There is a judgement needed in such pairings and whilst a second paring was found it still remains at present to increase the stock of surreal/abstract images.