4: Sustainable Prospects
This module has been particularly challenging, but in terms of my practise this has been a good thing. Within this module, I started out contextualising my work towards an art market and placing it in a gallery or in a photobook. With the images of my grandmothers family album, this seemed like it made sense and felt well placed.
As the module has gone on and as I have been thinking about my portfolio alongside my MA work rather than it being one thing, I have realised that this isn't really the kind of work I want to be making. Yes I have an interest in the family album and I think the ideas surrounding memory, imagination and the aesthetic of the family album will be something that continues to influence my work moving forward. However I feel like I need to move in the direction of editorial work, so as to be able to make money out of my practise which at the moment is a high priority.
I don't feel like I am satisfied by using what you might want to call found imagery (although I know the people these images belong to). Whilst arranging some of the work I am to submit, as my work in progress portfolio, I feel very much that this is a work in progress and don't have the same satisfaction that I had submitting my last work in progress body of work.
I need to look back through my notes and in some ways revisit the influences I have had and try and look in a new direction for the next module.
Last module worked well online but I have really struggled the last few days with how to present these work in progress images online. They are Prints on white paper but when the files are uploaded they look like they are floating in the window as my website background is white to work with other galleries. Unfortunately Squarespace doesn't allow different colours for different pages on a site. I have decided I think to apply a subtle colour to the pages for this work in progress submission. I have chosen a very pale creamy yellow colour as I thought it actually gave it a reference to something that may appear in a magazine layout although without text that doesn't really come across. Below are three examples and the various possibilities I toyed with.
After going with the pale yellow background the frame eventually arrived which I had planned to use for some of the images. I like the idea of each set of images from each collaborator to be shown in al slightly different way to comment on the fact these images are not all from the same source. Here are some of the final images from my grandmother which I have rephotographed within a frame as they would have been displayed in the gallery setting. For me, this contrasts with the images above on the yellow background which are aimed at more of the magazine type environment. I think the mixture shows where I am sitting in terms of contextualising my practise as I feel my work will sit in a gallery but equally in a journal or art photography publication. I'm not sure the images I have made to go along side the collaborator family album images are quite ready for the standard needed for an editorial piece but I think I am getting nearer to having developed my style for that market.
I came across Yashna Caul who has made some work in a similar way to me using layers of both archived and new images. I thought it was interesting and I am intrigued to see where her work goes next.
Screenshot of Yashna Caul's Instagram account (@manicsummers)
Screenshot of Yashna Caul's Instagram account (@manicsummers)
As I come to the end of this module, I am at the point of looking through what I have made and deciding on how and what to present for submission. I've spent a lot of time thinking about my practise in general, within the bigger picture, rather than just this MA. Currently I am really inspired by the work of Daniel Shea, who I have mentioned in my Oral Presentation with regards to his presentation methods. But whilst I was looking at the way he shows his images I became obsessed with his style of image making. His images are soft and relaxed yet have hard shadows and sometimes out of kilter. On further reflection, I guess these are all descriptions of the snapshot aesthetic known mainly through the family album.
Shea's work, along with seeing a mockup of his new book at Unseen Amsterdam, has given me a real drive to record stories. The relationships of people and place. I've decided over the xmas break to make as much work as I can but without thinking about an end result. I spend too much time thinking about the end result that my work never moves forward. I need to experiment to grow in my practise. I think that the next module, although heavily theory based, will give me the space to make some new work in the direction I really want to work towards.
To broaden my reach with this project I asked a good friend of mine whether he had any family photographs he could show me. He only had this one image which was a rephotographed image from a phone. This interested me in itself as it was a combination of the analog work I have been talking about but also using the modern day tool for the snapshot - the mobile phone camera. He had made this copy of the image as he didn't know where the original was so took the picture to preserve the image and the memory of his childhood.
Whilst we were sitting chatting about the photograph and his family album I made a series of images but this time with more of an editorial story in mind. After getting some feedback on my portfolio and how I can have multiple images to a page rather than singular large images, I thought I could apply this technique to my portrait story of Steve. Using a small point and shoot camera with harsh flash ( taking influence from the description of a snapshot from Charlotte Cottons ) I made the following series of images. I have recently become very attached to the idea of mixing black and white with colour images. I don't think this will be something that I should continue in terms of portfolio development as some feedback from MAYN agency was that very few photographers shooting in black and white get commissioned as a result of that work. However, I think for this project they work well.
We were asked to approach an agent or gallery to arrange a meeting. As I had already decided I would like to show an agent my portfolio, to see where they thought my work sits, I emailed Anna, owner of Kiosk Agency and module leader for the Sustainable Prospects module. I already had a Portfolio folder but previous portfolio reviews had taught me that agents really dont like looking at images within plastic wallets as the light glares on the pages. For this reason I bought a punch and score kit from Plastic Sandwich, who made my portfolio, and printed mine myself on double sided paper.
Plastic Sandwich had recommended that I use Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Duo as it scores well and sits nicely in the book. I found the whole process of looking at my work and deciding what to put in my book quite a stress full process. I realised that I actually hadn't got that much work that I was happy to put in and show. I think the whole thought process that this module has encouraged me to have, about where my work sits in the industry and where I should go, next really hindered my opinion of my work. I wanted to include my current Work In Progress Portfolio but at the same time I didn't want to put it in as it is very different from my already pretty broad range of work.
Portfolio View - London Fashion Week Personal Porject
Portfolio View - Sustainable Prospects WIP work, I wanted to put this in there as I think it shows a more complex side to my research methodologies. However, it was suggested that this work shouldn't go in the portfolio as its too different. I may just put it at the back along with my commissions instead of taking it out altogether.
Portfolio View - The start of a personal Project that never went anywhere. It was supposed to be the Guardians in the Tintagel building on the Southbank which was the old MI5 building. The day after my first visit where I made these images the Guardians were asked to move as it had been sold. Its one of my favourite spreads in my portfolio.
Going back to the ideas we have discussed throughout this module, about the importance of personal and commercial work, I got this commission for a Roman Baths ad campaign. They had looked at my website and liked the way that people I had photographed looked at ease in front of the camera. Its interesting to hear why someone has commissioned you because I think the end results are very different to anything else I shoot. This will also stay in my portfolio but will go at the back. After Amy Simmons talk I think it is important for me to keep it in as it shows I can work to a brief, communicate with the client as well as working along side a creative agency.
More commissioned work but far more in line with what I shoot regularly. Documentary/ Lifestyle/ Fashion seems to be what I want to focus on I think. Perhaps I just want to tell little stories of people and place which can actually fit into many different areas of the industry.
This is my actual portfolio along with a slip case and courier bag for sending to potential clients. I'm very happy with the product just need to shoot more work I'm pleased with to go in it now.
...the combination of camera phones and social networking makes photographic production more oriented towards an individual — camera phones are owned by individuals rather than families... Daniel Palmer makes an interesting point about the reason behind the snapshot. Nowadays people are spending a great deal of time creating these images for no other purpose than "to put on Instagram". I've talked about my thoughts about instagram in previous posts and as a photographer, Instagram does have a role to play in self promotion. However, this idea of taking photographs "for" instagram is something I really don't understand, yet is where a large percentage of images made are put and for the sole reason of putting them there.
Whilst on the topic of Instagram, I have actually noticed a fall in my follow count which seems interesting. Firstly, I had a bit of a cull of the people I am following as my interest in photography had moved on and so I thought a fresh approach to my feed would supply new ideas or methodologies. Since removing people they have also remove me. This proves the point I have made previously; that your 'followers' is just a number and I don't think the vast makority are following for the right reasons. There are so many posts out there about to gain followers through Instabot, through the 3 likes, 2 comments, 1 share method which is supposed to work if you do it everyday and various other things. I find it quite draining that not the majority aren't just following you because they like what your doing.
Thinking a few weeks ahead to when I want to start printing my Work in Progress Images ready for Submission, I ordered a few different papers to try out. I really liked the idea of the canvas fine art type paper but really feel that it is far too gimmicky and takes away from the actual image.
It was suggested that I look at some of the photo rag options by Hahnemuhle. This paper comes in single sided and duo depending on what your putting in your portfolio or in a frame. I think the only differences are the thickness so it can take two sides of ink as the surface on the single sided paper is the same on both sides. It is a really sophisticated paper and I think of all the paper I've used, this is my favourite. There is a slight texture to it but not enough to take anything away from the image and the whole colour spectrum comes across really well. Although the first few prints I had to increase the brightness by 10% before printing as the paper does soak up a lot of the ink and particularly with browns, can look a little muddy. Now I have set this to auto, the prints now come out perfectly.
Literally bumping into the sign at The Tate Modern pointing to this work was great. I didn't know this exhibition was on and was a pleasure to see these images from American Surfaces up close. A real inspiration and interesting that these were so pivotal in the acceptance of colour photography into the art world. The scale of the exhibition but how small the images are was something that really caught my eye. I have always been interested in how the viewer looks at work and these really made you go up close to see them. They reminded me of the machine printed snap most commonly seen through the family album. However, these are far more superior and have a much more constructed feel to them despite the fact they are snapshots of the American road trips that Shore is associated with. Incidentally American Surfaces was the first photobook I bought and definately had an influence on my love of this aesthetic.
I met up with Sam again to go to a show and also to continue with the conversation about memory and to plan the possibility of a joint show next year as his paintings have elements of memory and imagination involved within it.
This is another portrait I made of him sat in the window of the Tate Modern. I think its a much more relaxed portrait and is the image I will use combined with his family album photographs for submission.
A very interesting concept and one that in most ways backs up my recent ideas on collaboration and the idea that the works is actually the process and the thing you see at the end is there as a record of the art being made. Further reading can be found in my post about Emanuel Almborg's collaborative approach.
After looking at my grandmothers family album I thought the next place would be my own to research. I have kept an album with any photographs that my mum and grandmother had given me, mainly as somewhere to put them so I didn't lose them. Particularly special to me is the photograph of my Aunt Sarah who died and is a photograph I revisit quite frequently. As soon as I thought of including myself in this project, I knew this was the image I was going to use along with a self portrait.
Once I had started to experiment with the layouts of these images I chose to use a different portrait of myself to sit alongside the photograph of my Auntie.
The final layout is below
Because the family album is so important to me I wanted to capture an element of that within this project. I was looking through my album and came across another view of one of my favourite memories as a child. The boating park when I went to stay with my Dad. I like the way the spine of the album is included in the image as I think it gives a modern feel to the series.
I found this beautiful layout for a phonebook again, on Instagram, which since the start of this module seems to be my first port of call for reference imagery. Made in a far more graphic fashion than I would think about doing but the idea of the ghostly looking images fading away, reference to the fact of remembering and how our memories do fade. A really interesting idea and something to bank for future work.
I have spent some time looking at other peoples family photographs and trying to work out how I can combine them into my project. Schmid uses found images but these images I have, aren't found. I know the owner of them and have had conversations about these images and the memories attached to them.
I have looked at some other practitioners who have combined new with old photographs and I find this a really interesting idea. Emmanuel Almborg's exhibition in the Whitechapel was a set of images to show that the conversation between him and the children took place, my portraits could be the image that was made whilst the conversation took place about my collaborators family photographs. I also really like the contrast between the new and the old, in comment of my small amount of research into the contrast between the snapshot aesthetic and the modern day snapshot on instagram. I guess you could say that this then feeds into the current module topic of marketing as a photographer and the use of social media.
This was one of my first experiments into this combining the old and the new. The cookbook was the signifier of the conversation between my grandmother and I about her memories as a child and then later on starting this cookbook for me to have when she died. My grandmother didn't want to be photographed so the idea of making a portrait at the time of the conversation was out of the window but I asked if she had any old photographs of her I could look at. Again the conversation led in all kinds of directions and stories about different family members, it linked back to stories she had told me about items in the cabinet of curiosities from my previous project and also about the photographer who took the portrait I used to sit alongside the cookbook image.
I like the way the photograph sits on the empty page as if it had always been there, but when you look closely you can almost tell that it is a digital manipulation and wasn't on the paper at all.
I think this combination of the family photographs satisfies my research into the family album but the portraits of the collaborator will equally satisfy my portfolio development. I feel this project in some ways has helped me gather my thoughts about where my practise is going and I think the next project I work on will be something solely new and won't be using these found or family photographs. This doesn't however mean that my inspiration won't have come from this type of photography, I just think I need to move forward with my own areas of research now.
I met up with Artist Sam Heath to talk about his family album, to look at his images and to make a portrait or two as part of my work in progress. We had spoken before about our memories and the family album and I thought that recording this conversation would be another starting point for a piece of work but the conversation didn't really flow in the same way that it had done previously and the questions seemed to be forced. I decided to abandon that idea as it wasn't what I had hoped it would be. If you want to have a listen feel free.... Its un edited and has some talk of coffee, the weirdness of having a microphone on and also some thoughts about family albums and the digital archive along with some pan crashing and general coffee shop sound. I have never interviewed someone before and its a lot harder than I thought it would be! We did talk about the tangibility of the image, the sense of ownership you get with a photo lab printed snap rather than the digital image and why our generation always looks at memory as a starting point for artistic expression.
Despite the sound work not really going the way I wanted it to, the idea was originally that it would be the conversation that was the work and the sound and image would be the record of that happening. Much like Emanuel Almborg's work I have talked about before (and was a strong influence at the start of this module) the making of the conversation was what I wanted to get out of the project rather than the images or sound recordings.
Here is a portrait I made of Sam but he doesn't look very comfortable infront of the camera and this is something I need to work on for my own development.
You can see Sam's work on his website here.
After an introduction to my work, as Krishna and I had not met until today, we spoke about my constant thoughts about the "end point" and what kind of photographer I am going to be. This module in particular has focused on the professional and business side of photography so I have naturally been thinking about this.
In some ways this has been counter productive as I have spent a great deal of time thinking about what I should be making in the way of work and so being afraid of experimentation in different areas. My work has the potential to span across fashion, portraiture and still life but I have been so focused on "putting myself in a box" or labelling the kind of photographer I am I haven't really made as much progress as I would have liked to.
Below is an example of a photographer Stefan Ruiz who's practise spans across multiple genres of photography from Portraits of the Colombianos Cartel members, to landscapes in Marfa, Texas and then a documentary project on NASA which when you look at them could be postcards taken in the 70's or 80's and have a real snapshot aesthetic to them.
You can see more of Stefan Ruiz work on his website.
"Archival Photographs provide an insight into family History" - Harriet Ensor
I saw work by Harriet Ensor, a Falmouth Photography Student, on instagram around the same time that I had started to think about old and new images and how I could merge the idea of the archive with modern snapshots together. Its interesting to see how people respond to old imagery especially images belonging to their own family.
This approach of using shadows perhaps relates to the memory of the grandfather? or it maybe just that these images worked together on a purely aesthetic level. This has very much influenced my thought process moving forward working with both the found and the new photographs.
After this weeks presentations on photographers agents I had a little look through Production paradise at some of the photographers agents that were on there, just to see where I feel I would fit in when the time comes to start approaching agents.
As I haven't yet developed my work to a point where I would be happy taking on commissioned work based on my existing style, it makes it very difficult to place myself in between other photographers on a roster.
Angela Woods agency looks like the kind of agency I would like to approach. After Christmas I am going to spend some time developing my printed book and website so I would be happy to show it to an agency.
Now that I have started to shoot some current portraits to go with my collaborators family albums I wanted to look at various papers to print them on. I have always found that printing photographs is important and try not to just store them on a HD somewhere. I made this photograph then immediately printed it on a couple of different papers to show Hannah who had kindly offered to sit for a portrait and to share with me some of her Family Photographs.