PHO705: Museum and Library Research

In pursuing a World War 1 theme, or having done so, it would make sense to expand on the photo projects context by building a stock of images and other research. This was done earlier at IWM Duxford (IWM, 2019) and The Black Watch Castle and Museum Perth. These visits proved useful in contextualising abstract work.

Options have recently been generated to expand themes in new directions in other words, other than military. In the interests of keeping shooting, it would be useful to visit a number of sites.

  • Imperial War Museum London
  • The Museum of Military Medicine, Aldershot
  • Wellcome Library

Bibliography

Black_Watch_Museum_Trust (2018) The Black Watch Castle and Museum Perth. Available at: https://theblackwatch.co.uk/about/.

IWM (2019) Imperial War Museum Duxford. Available at: https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-duxford.

IWM (2019) Imperial War Museum London. Available at: https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london.

Museum_of_Military_Medicine_Trust (2019) Museum of Military Medicine. Available at: https://museumofmilitarymedicine.org.uk/.

Wellcome_Trust (2019) Wellcome Library. Available at: https://wellcomelibrary.org/.

PHO705: Video Documentary and Video Gamification – WW1

Gamification

The topic is an odd strand of research concerning how if at all, images from a gaming platform could be considered for use within an MA project. A look-see reveals a YouTube review. (Zommin, 2016)

  • Take-away points from this research are:
  • The most brutal war didn’t get much attention in gaming.
  • When it is represented, there is an element of caricature borrowed from gaming
  • Of the few games, there are rendering WW 1; the tendency is towards flying and air combat.
  • An early technology implementation of one flying game was put forward for crowdfunding but failed to raise sufficient funds

One game stands out as a modern technology representation, and that is The Battle of Verdun France, in the video game Verdun. (Blackmill Games, 2017) Pursuing Verdun as a game on XBox video console is likely to be unfruitful. Rather than be critical and halt the further investigation of video gaming, it would make sense to at least experience the game and see what can be found in the visuals. Already found is a reminder of the quote “You will be home by Christmas”.

Verdun as a video game proved relatively unpopular and can be taken as an indicator of the dying interest at least amongst the game-playing public.

Perhaps implied is an only minor public interest in the theme of WW 1. The observation is reflected in comments received during a review and again at an external presentation. For many current generations, there is no personal experience or recollection of WW1. It is a play on memory loss that caused the project to be taken up. Dry data records are transformed into tangible memories of people, of the remote family, before living contact is lost, and all that remains is data, certificates, files and the like with nothing to connect the these into a story.

The emphasis on flying for a publicly accessible game probably says something about a lower interest in land warfare.
Thinking this through also expands the idea to other more standard forms of broadcast video as evidenced by various series of documentary programmes.

Video Documentary

Reference broadcast television.

  • World at War
  • They Shall Not Grow Old (Jackson, 2018)

The latter has helped address a problem of why close relatives did not mention their loss.

An assumption is challenged as to the cause being an immense sense of loss and need to protect well being and that of others. From the quotations below, the light is shone on the demobbed soldiers reports on the attitudes of civilians:

  • People never talked about the war. It was the thing that had no conversational value at all. 
  • Most people were absolutely disinterested. 
  • When I got home my mother and father didn’t seem the least interested in what had happened. They hadn’t any conception of what it was like. 
  • There was no reason anyone of a million of us should get a thank you for getting a little bit muddy and having lost touch with good manners. 
  • On occasions when I did talk about it, my father would argue points of fact that he couldn’t possibly have known about because he wasn’t there. 
  • Every soldier I’ve spoken to has experienced the same thing. We were a race apart from these civilians and you could speak to your comrades and they understood but with civilians, it was just a waste of time. 
  • However nice and sympathetic they were. The attempts of well-meaning people simply reflected the fact they didn’t really understand at all. 
  • I thin the magnitude was just beyond there comprehension. 
  • They didn’t understand that people you’d known and played football with were just killed beside you. 
  • My friend who enlisted with me just lay there like a sack of rags until he went black before anyone thought to bury him. 
  • They knew that people came back covered in mud and live. But they didn’t know the strain of sitting in a trench waiting for something to drop on one’s head. 
  • You couldn’t convey the awful state of things where you lived like animals and behaved like animals. 
  • People didn’t seem to realise what a terrible thing that war was. I think they felt that the war was one continual cavalry charge. They hadn’t any conception, and how could they? 
  • It started off in a reasonable manner but with horseback with swords but they didn’t know it developed into something ghastly. People don’t realise the potential of military equipment. 
  • A man’s life wasn’t worth anything at the end of the war. 
  • None of us were heroes you know. We didn’t like this business of being killed at all. 
  • We were talking amongst ourselves. We used to say Christ we won’t have any more wars like this. 
  • How did we endure it? The answer must be partly the fear of fear. The fear of being found afraid. Another is a belief in human beings and colleagues and of not letting him down. 
  • There may be right on both sides, but I think war is horrible. Everything should be done to avoid war. 
  • I still can’t see the justification for it. It was all really rather horrible. 
  • I think history will decide in the end it was not worthwhile. 
  • The only thing that really did annoy me was when I went back to work after I got demobilised. I went down the stores and the bloke behind the counter was a bloke who I knew. He said where have you been? On nights?

From: They Shall Not Grow Old (Jackson, 2018)

Summary

The issues and the ethics of incorporating other work within a photographic project come to the fore. Balancing this is:

  • Acceptance that family archive material may be incorporated
  • A work such as War Primer 2 (Broomberg, 2018)

Bibliography

Blackmill Games (2017) ‘Verdun’. Netherlands: M2H Blackmill Games. Available at: https://www.ww1gameseries.com/verdun/.

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

Jackson, P. (2018) They Shall Not Grow Old. United Kingdom: BBC TWO. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0brzkzx/they-shall-not-grow-old.

Zoomin, G. (2016) Top 5 – World War 1 gamesYouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgw7WEHAock.

PHO705: Visual Language Development

This strand of research has lost out in the competition for resource during the course catch-up phase.

There is a theme that emerges from showing work. If the abstract images within the project that are the core of the work, are not understood by viewers, then there arises a need for the abstract images to be carried by archive figurative images.

Strands of research interest break down into:

  • The public visual perception around commercial DNA testing including branding and illustration
  • Metaphors around stability running parallel to mitochondria: flora and landscape.
  • Laboratory visual characterisation of chromosomes. Some of the work being done in Brazil by a researcher who has been contacted and given outline permission to use scientific imagery around the photographic project.

Visual language development from the laboratory or from science expands to the chemical expression of genes through epigenetics. This week, Week 5, inspiration was taken from the sourcing of visuals seen in War Primer 2 which uses archive material. It was decided to experiment as follows:

Epigenesis A C G T

Bibliography

Cowell, I. D. (2019) Epigenetics – It’s not just genes that make us. Available at: https://bscb.org/learning-resources/softcell-e-learning/epigenetics-its-not-just-genes-that-make-us/.

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: Publication Research

What are the options I feel might work in presenting my processed images?

From my research (Colberg, 2017) page 46 consideration is given to different groups having different degrees of visual sophistication, and this should shape the concept. As a book publication with the intent of avoiding small edition size, it is appropriate to make a photobook accessible. I should avoid making it overly complicated. I ought to add text that helps the viewer understand it.

This is my first obvious challenge as to date I’ve been aiming at multilayered meaning and have preferred by analogy Shakespeare prose rather than Daily Mirror. What is to be gained by trying to be too clever (and potentially failing at it too)?

(Colberg, 2017) page 47 also draws attention to the “zine form often looking like a sloppily made photobook.” I may have made the point elsewhere that I use the zine as part of my workflow when creating a hand-bound book. It is not a deliverable item in its own right.

Narrative

(Colberg, 2017) page 47 discusses narrative and how it both means “story” (as in what is the story being told here?) and the process or technique of telling a story (as in: how is the story being told?)

I have learned that “it is important to keep these two aspects of a photobook apart: what is the story? How is the story being told?”

Then does there have to be a story. No. Bit most photography os about something so there is probably some sort of story.

I’m going to try and keep these points in mind as I look at some options.

I have these ideas to take into the review this week, Week 6:

  • Use mixed images where archives and abstracts are somehow layered. Until I try it out I won’t really know how effective this will be.
  • Take each abstract as the main image and have around it two small related pictures; a family archive photo in one position, a narrative picture of a person or a newspaper quote of them.

The latter translates through the form of a timeline and should be comprehensible. A complication to this is the idea of time collapsed alluded to here. I now explore the metaphor of a ladder where there is the transmission of the gene as an information carrier. In fact the DNA double helix is visually like a ladder. At each rung, of my ladder there is a photographic archive print relating to relatives who share in common biology.

Still running for a book publication:

  • Use a template approach such as discussed previously by adapting the layout from Rachel Howard’s Repetition is Truth exhibition book. 

The structure is:

  • Interview (including contextualising photos in miniature)
  • Prose (also the same with contextualising photos in miniature)
  • The main body of abstract paintings created using the hidden brush of gravity.
  • A collection of abstract miniatures giving a kind of contact sheet view accompanied by minor captions.

Adopting Howard’s method for me overcomes a problem of wanting to be like this artist and major in abstract imagery. I’m aware of personal significance I had gained from Howard’s exhibition that is not transferable to my audience. Then it is probably too early in the FMP module to bar more considered options.

Bibliography

Colberg, J. (2017) Understanding Photo Books the Form and Content of the Photographic Book. Edited by Taylor and Francis. New York: Focal Press.

PHO705: Guest Lecture (Research) – Caroline Molloy

This is the link to the Guest Lecture video.

Caroline studied Visual Anthropology for her MA. She now teaches (third-year student photographers) and is researching for her PhD.

Two main projects were discussed:

  • The Untouched Copy and
  • The Deportment Guide – photographs from a flea market but with identity hidden by hard cropping tops of heads)

The first project shown was about studios based initially in India. On a personal note as a Studio worker, it remains true that the MA Project is conducted outside of the studio environment.

By re-visiting India, to re-photograph what was revealed were the numbers of studios impacted by digital, and how this led to closures. Backgrounds had been traditional Victorian (photography had been a Victorian export to the colony).

The project themes were; studios, the owners, and the transition eventually from photographic film. Some research objectives firmed up during the project. In order to get permission to photograph the studio owner Caroline needed to agree to being photographed. This made the genre Autoethnographic. There were many norms to be learned in making the work. Communication and cultural norms had to be learned.

The work moved from studio to studio, following recommendations. Interviews were to be had with owners, their families. The work spread wider as the story and structure were forming.

Studio owners made a living but may have had to also sell gems or even slippers. There is a clear commercial side to photography in addition to the academic.

Caroline was very open about her work. The work went through a transitional phase and entered a liminal space. She adopted socially engaged conversations.

Cultural aspects mentioned:

  • Sending a business card with a model’s photo (not her own)
  • Mother Teresa played down by the official photographer
  • Owner not wanting to be photographed with flowers
  • Photograph me I’ll photograph you
  • A backdrop of English garden scene

Each point involved an unexpected re-interpretation or potential misunderstanding.

While the work was being made and interviews were obtained a notebook was kept that became part of the published work.

As an autoethnographer, it took time to learn. Knowing the kinds of questions to ask is important.

The work went public and was exhibited in Jaipur. Initially, there was a book made on Blurb with a page layout of; photo, photo, notebook, notebook.

After a series of annual trips, it became clear that Autoethnographic communities needed to be more accessible i.e. within walking distance. Carolin’s work turned to the Turkish community in London. This project examines Turkish studio practice, English studio practice and the emerging mix of the two.

Access to the subject is key to our MA students. The work still has to be true to the students’ ambitions and be authentic.

Bibliography

All photographs courtesy Caroline Molloy Autoenthnographer from Falmouth University guest lecture (research).

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

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