Reflection on Practise

Book - Reflections

Design - The design of the book was outsourced to design company Honest Studio in Bath. They are a company I have worked with in the past on commercial commissions and wanted to work with someone I knew and had worked on projects with in the past. The brief for the design of the book was to create a small publication that captured the essence of my investigation. It had to have the feel of the archive with it which in the end is why I decided to use the archival envelopes. You can see a post about the various stages of the design process here, but considering the time and that I had not yet finished the investigation process, the book is an adequate output.

In terms of the project management, I struggled with this considerably. Balancing cost with content and design is a really difficult thing to do especially being so close to a project. The design agency did the project probono so I felt as if I had to take on this role, which I would have preferred to outsource. The first few versions that came back were out of my price range which put considerable pressure eon the project. This meant that I decided to run the indiegogo campaign o raise the extra funds needed for the book. On reflection, I still think the book came out over budget, as I would have liked o have been able to sell them for around the £20 price bracket which in the end was the price I set for the resale price on the crowdfunding page. Trying to work out how much to sell them for along with trying to work out the quality of the paper etc for such a short run of books (Edition of 100) meant that there were some things that needed to be disregarded from the original design. This was mainly to do with the quality of the paper and the colours of the card cover. A few different options were delivered to me with some samples from various paper sellers to look at and I fell in love with he Orange called Plike which ended up being a very expensive option.

To round up a project management garble above, This has been an incredible learning curve for me in terms of production experience. I will still continue to look at book options as I do love the printed page and I think especially with work dealing with albums and family history I think its important to keep the printed book alive.

Moving forward - Future Plans

Coming to the end of the MA programme leaves with a certain level of panic due tot he wide range of options of what to do next and in what order to do them. I have certainly engaged more with the idea of further education which really wasn’t the plan when I started out on this MA in Photography. I think a large part of it is being a part of an academic setting. The face to face events we have been to, working with other students in a real life situation rather than online has made me realise that I really do thrive in that setting so want to do something moving forward that feeds that.

A PGCHE is another option so that I am able to teach in higher education which I would love to do in the future. This would mean going straight into another online course for a year which has its down falls. A part of me wants a break first.

The other option is working towards a PHD. I have sen a very interesting paid PHD studentship through Brighton University and the Kodak archive which would be absolutely perfect for me. With further research into eh archive of the iconic photography business, I would gain valuable experience in handling archives and working in the setting of the museum.

In terms of where my practise is going, I have some ideas for further projects involving the archives. One being a project in search of someone in a photograph I have found in a sea cadet manual. I think I shall always now be informed by the archive, and the physicality of the photograph both old and new. I would like to show that in my work and possibly use this in new ways moving forward with project exhibitions.

I would also like to show Ipseity in a few more settings in some kind of tour. I have plans to show it later on in the year in bath in the chapel I had hoped to use for my FMP show. I also have the graduate show where I need to work out a way of showing the project within the constraints of an A2 page, which is going to be a challenging project.

I also now feel like I have the tie to read some of the books I was only able to skim through in the past few months. I have recently bought a couple of new books to look at and I will see what I take from them with my work moving forward.

Exhibition - Reflections

You can view a gallery of images showing the exhibition installation here.

A more succinct response to the project as a whole can be seen in my Critical Review of Practise where there is critical reflection and notes on specific inspirations. This is more of an overview of how I thought it went and what was achieved.

Planning, Installing and executing a photograph exhibition is a much harder task than I had first thought. Firstly having to create the work, print, frame and then hang a show alongside designing a book has been rather difficult. Not having the project finished to then work on designs for both the exhibition and the book delayed some aspects of the process. I initially met with design Studio Honest to talk about the book design. they asked immediately if I could send over the images for them to work on, and it was at this point I realised this was going to be a rather different workflow than we had all been used to. I was juggling the actual photographic investigation as well as the book design and then the website design all at once, and I think the actual project suffered for this reason in some ways.

I have always called this investigation one that is ongoing, but I think there are always going to be natural pauses to theses kind of works, and I’m still not sure I reached the place that I had wanted to in this particular area of the investigation. I would have like to have more sound recordings of conversations, perhaps delving into different areas of my grandmother’s past. An area I think I had wanted to touch on but didn’t was Sarah and her death in 9/11. This might be something that I come back to in another project moving forward.

I think my practise has moved on quite considerably from working on this project. My consideration into other elements of the archive apart from photographs has become an interest to me. I never realised before working on Ipseity that I would be excited about sound recordings and artefacts from archives. This leads me to think that the PHD route I have mentioned in another post might be the correct route for me to gain some museum experience. I also reached a critical point in my actual photograph making. The series of silverware objects (as talked about in my CRoP) were made at a point of wanting to record rather than to make photographs which I feel is two different practises. However, my natural photographic style has always leaned towards hard flash and snapshot style images since reading about the intimate life work in Charlotte Cottons Photography as Contemporary Art book. I think I have now reached comfortable point in my work where I know where I sit aesthetically and can just make work now without worrying about whether its being made in my style or not. I think this worry and constant comparison to other makers through Instagram and the internet in general is really unhealthy as it changes the natural way one developed in themselves, which I think is a problem with the constant stream of images we are subjected to.

Moving back to the exhibition, I think there are some key points that I have learnt from this exercise. Firstly the key to a strong installation is to have a team of people helping you. I had a good friend of mine Rachel help me with my installation and I really couldn’t have done it without her. As I had been working on my book design and the website I think I failed to spend the item necessary to plan the layout thoroughly enough. I had made a model of the exhibitions pace but the foamed I made it on started to warp and so I spent so much tie re gluing it together I gave up in the end. It was whilst it lasted a good tool for showing people my plans at the face to face event in Falmouth.

As this is an ongoing investigation I struggled at times to work out how I was to curate this show. The last minute addition of the cabinet image really helped with he flow of the room. I think without it the show would have been a little ‘flat’. It gavotte viewer an immediate aspect to peer into and then read the description of the show behind. This image I feel to now be one of the strongest in the series, but I don’t think however it fits aesthetically with he remainder father set, so for my hand in it may not be present.

Future Dementia workshop ideas

Only last week when I was rounding up the module in my head and thinking about what to do next, I realised that this FMP has been a sort of Phototherapy for my grandmother. I had previously been asked to write a workshop of this project and so I think moving forward I am going to seek some help form someone in the arts and health field an write a workshop based around family albums and the power of the photograph for dementia patients. I think this could be a really nice tool to sit and talk about old images or perhaps make new ones as well. Something to think about for the future…

I’m going to start by contacting dementia Partnerships for some guidance on what would be appropriate to include /exclude from such a workshop. https://dementiapartnerships.com

Ipseity Exhibition Review - Veronica Viacava

‘Ipseity’ (from Latin: ‘ipse’ self) is the title of Anthony Prothero’s exhibition that recently took place at the Four Corners Gallery as a culmination of his master’s studies.

It is an intimate exploration of the family photograph and its fascinating connection with memory, time and the personal archive. The human need of preserving - and understanding - the past is highlighted here with a curated selection of family snapshots, photographs, a moving image piece and a recorded conversation between the photographer and his grandmother whose memories are at the core of his investigation.

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Following the ancient technique of the ‘arts of memories’, he traces the roots of his identity by recollecting his grandmother’s memoirs, interlinking them to the geographical map of the ‘Holy Land’ where his family went on pilgrimage every year. Gathering different sources, he reconstructs a past he has never lived but that has undoubtedly shaped his present.

While walking around the room, it is almost impossible to not think that - independently from its referent - a photograph always reminds us of death; images depicting Anthony’s family are framed and curated through-out the room and I naturally relate to each single frame: my grandmother used to wear a similar dress while picking flowers in the garden, my grandfather used to take pictures on vacation. I am then reminded of Fiona Tan’s installation ‘Vox Populi’, a set of framed vernacular images taken from various families and curated according to their content. ‘Vox Populi’ enhances the similarities of the family photo album by grouping the images in common subsets.

I indulge on a portrait of three women on the beach, the horizon almost equally splits the image in two halves. I am intrigued by the girl turning her back to the photographer, she seems bored by the camera. As I wonder who she is, I am also aware the photograph itself will never fully disclose this information, it is a message without a code1.

'The cabinet of curiosities’ piece that is carefully positioned in the middle of the main room consists of an enlarged photograph of the peculiar collection of objects that sparked Prothero’s fascination. Objects of any nature can be found under the thin glass such as binoculars, hair brushes and odd silverware. Not casually, ‘the cabinet of curiosities’ image is placed inside a glass cabinet reminding us the material quality of the photograph and resembling the way the objects were originally curated and displayed by the collector.

A framed portrait lies in the left corner of the gallery echoing the materiality of the image once again while in the opposite corner we find an inviting pink armchair and a pair of headphones. The recorded audio piece is a conversation between the artist and his grandmother about a found photograph of Father John Hooper, an Anglo-Catholic priest who played a key role in Prothero’s grandparents lives.

The following still life photographs portray a set of silverware conserved by Sue - Anthony’s grandmother - with the intent of passing it on to him after her death. This photographs aesthetically differ from the rest of the exhibition as the use of the flash and the conscious choice of a consistent white background disclose the photographer’s identity. Prothero’s immediacy in photographing these objects is driven by a need of preserving the present that is instantly becoming past.

The video piece entitled ‘Sue & David’s Wedding Video, 1966/2019’ is projected in a separate darker room. The VHS cassette has been digitally edited by the artist according to his grandmother’s reactions while watching the original video: every frame she admitted she had forgotten has been taken out and replaced with a single white frame emphasising the use of the personal archive as a prothesis of memory.

The limited edition book comes in a archival envelope recalling the key themes of the exhibition and it includes personal reflections of the artist, a transcript of the audio piece and a postcard of the map of Israel as seen by Prothero in his grandfather’s diary.

Despite the intimate nature of the work, the viewer is guided by the nostalgic aura of the vernacular photographs presented; as the resemblances of the Western photo album come to the surface,Ipseity has the power to engage any spectator.

1 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Reflection on this project as it comes to a pause.

Being a photographer, someone working with visual material, I have always communicated my emotions through my presentation of the image. I was recently asked by a critic to explain what this project was about, and I struggled to put it into words.

Something happened recently, which put this journey into perspective. I was given a large generous donation to support the creation of this project into book form. The donation was from the daughter of my childhood babysitter, who I was very fond of and have many happy memories as a child and a young adult. I visited her in hospital around 3 years ago. This had been the first time in 20 years I had seen Beatie, and was to be the last. Although visually aimed at my grandmothers archive, I suppose it is the connection I had with this elderly lady is what my project is about. It's the connections we make with people and place, and the memories that are created. It is these components of our history that creates the people we are today. The memories created and maintained through photographs give us context.

Techniques adopted by this investigation

Making

This final major project has involved a series of stages that have brought together various aspects of my identity. Firstly, the active processes of preservation and reworking of images was a significant  part of the process to demonstrate how memory and postmemory works. Through working with old physical photographs, I came to realise that an important part of my process was to preserve the image. I did this through creating visual copies which were then digitally archived. In addition to this archival process, I felt the inclination to leave my own stamp on the image through digital editing. Delaying the deterioration and changing the course of the narrative to a new direction.


Editing

What images go with each other and why?

During the conversations with Sue, an element of editing took place whilst talking and looking at various objects. Some were picked up and looked at briefly then moved to one side to make way for something that had triggered a story or a stronger memory. This was the first edition that took place. Next once I had gathered all the material I wished to use in this investigation there was another edit as to what I should print. This was quite a tight edit as the financial factor also took place then. I shall talk about the finances of the project in another post later on.

Display

Arts of Memory technique in the gallery (Map on the wall). I’m thinking about using the map from the back of my grandfathers bible as a vinyl wall graphic at the exhibition. I want to adopt more of a contemporary feel tot he show where there are layers and different levels of work to consume. One thing I have really learnt about so far is talking to various printers about possible outcomes is about print sizes and pixels etc which I never realised was different to that of photography sizes and dimensions.


Themes of this investigation

Themes

A key theme in my investigation is the actual act of conversation with my grandmother as a means to conserving memories (develop) In creating the final visual outcome for this project I was influenced by the ancient Chinese ‘arts of memory’ techniques where objects of memory are laced along a familiar path. This approach was adopted in my work through placing family photographs in a visual timeline to new displayed both on the wall and in a printed publication. (Develop) 

The Family Archive

“The record looks to a future time when things will be different” Annette Kuhn

Here Anette Kuhn talkes about the family photograph album and how it is represented in the present. Like Kuhn, I look at how the images are presented, but through other areas of my research and reflection, I make my own mark on them and try to in some ways change the direction of the narrative.


Memory -

I remember Annette Kuhn talking about the family photograph which perfectly describes, although with my work it was her possession, my reasoning for starting to this investigation:  “…On the surface, the family photograph functions primarily as a record..”

“The record looks towards a future time when things will be different, anticipating a need to remember what will soon be past.” (Kuhn 1995, 2002)At this point I was photographing to remember both her possessions ( memeories) as well as the moment. 


Postmemory -

Marianne Hirsch - Inheriting other peoples memories. In my work this inheritance is through memories of pilgrimage to Israel that I have never been on nor was alive to have experienced. Through images and stories that I have been told these ‘post memories’ are recalled/created.


Time & Duration -

Damien Sutton - Duration of time is an important element of my current practise. Memories from the past are dragged tot he present along a kind of timeline in which the duration of these memories is extended. The single image snapshot of time is extended. Does this mean that it is a moving image?




The motivations that drive my practise.

In thinking about how to move forward with this investigative process, I thought it time to think about whats driving this project, my motivations, what makes me want to dig deeper and what it is that I am trying to find, or perhaps understand?

Some initial ideas that have come to mind....

Defining my family through the photographic image- What is the benefit of definition? Growing up with my grandparents adds a slightly different narrative than to a dare I say it ‘conventional’ family dynamic. Whilst thinking about the reason for investigating my family, I wanted to also think about when my interest in this subject started. It was Jo Spence and Anette Khun that started out my interest in this notion of “Family” within photography.

Family - It changes and develops over time. The images produced as well as the methods of image making also change with them. In my case, as I was entering into my photographic journey aged just 15 years old, 9/11 happened which took my teen years in a very different direction which I wouldn’t want to have records of nor did I record through the lens of my camera at the time. In some ways this idea of recording or re-recording my familial space is a way of making up for almost 10 years of non-making.

The constructed visual family world - This idea that the ‘family’ you see in the photographs on the wall and on the mantle piece are the family that everyone aspires to be. I have realised through this investigation that I don’t appear in a classical family photograph as do my mum and auntie when they were young. The photo I am thinking of in particular is the family photograph I found on the wall of my grandfathers study. It shows him and Sue my grandmother and then Sarah my Auntie and my mum. Whilst having conversations about the photographs with my mum I learnt that her and my sister really didn’t get along at that time yet in the image they looked like the best of friends. This shows that the image we see is in someways a facade for the perfect family look.

Sahika Erkonan posits that Photography reshapes the family? - Does it? How? This is something I am going to think about further int he coming weeks.

The cabinet of Curiosities it was later called is in fact my starting point fo this investigation 2 years ago.

Is this act of photographing in fact to preserve the already preserved? My grandmother placed and arranged these items under the glass cabinet lid as a personal exhibition. Each item being placed and arranged and then moved and rearranged over time. But what am I adding to this ‘exhibition’?

Is Photography a silent medium?

The photographs aid communication, so to answer the above question, Photography maybe a silent medium in its mechanical process, however the aftermath of photography is communication, Dialogue, Opinion and debate.


Two further ideas to think about…


Stories of a shared past (Anette Khun, 1999) -

Reworking the narrative in my own visual language?


Initial Test shoot

Some initial still life studies shot a few weeks back of some of my grandmothers objects from her cabinet of curiosities. They feel almost fetishised in some way here. Out of context and a little non descriptive. I feel like they are void of anything to do with my grandmother which is what this whole investigation I suppose is all about - MyGrandmother, and me, my identity?

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Module Review

This module has been far tougher than I had expected although very much more rewarding in terms of how I can now position myself and my practise in a wider photographic conversation. 

There are areas I feel very content with and others I feel with more time I would have been able to develop further to where I wanted to be. Whilst on the topic of time, this is the first module where I have felt that it was more of a full time course than part time. The various surfaces and strategies seem to take up more time than activities on other modules and for this I was very disappointed that I wasn't able to complete my physical exhibition due to not having enough time. 

Thinking about where I have got to in the way of critical thinking, my biggest floor is still my inability to retain information that I read. This has been having a big impact on where I can position myself critically and with few hours left with my DA to help with my processing I feel I have struggled a great deal. 

As I mentioned in my Oral Presentation, reading 'in conversations with' has been far more beneficial as has writing up ideas and reflections as if in conversation format. This is a working strategy I shall continue to develop for my FMP and for future research and project work. 

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Thinking now about my WIP portfolio. I new I wanted to make a news paper since early in the module although I had never thought of using it as my WIP Portfolio submission. The feeling of only handing in a video has left me in quite an anxious state, as I had planned on submitting the pages form the newspaper design as individual images. On reflection however, the video gives the newspaper a little context, as well as skirting around re photography in the intro scene. I wanted the newspaper to be a numbered edition to give it a little more weight than a newspaper that is read and then discarded, in the hopes that people will send me some feedback using the email address I set up. As far as the content of the newspaper goes, I am pleased with the results, although again due to time constraints I feel that working from a wider edit would have been far more beneficial for me. Experimenting with memories and imagination as a combination has been interesting, but I don't feel I really delved deep enough into either sphere, and that perhaps both ideas suffered in the publication because of that. The newspaper would have been a far stronger piece of work had it sat beside the reward of the physical exhibition which sadly I didn't have time to conduct, not did I complete the workshop. 

The physical exhibition ideas can be read about here, but with a few notes to follow on the public viewer and on feedback of work. With peer feedback it is very hard to know whether it is genuine or whether people are either being polite or not giving you their full thoughts on the work.  Tutor feedback is there to push you forwards but I am always left with more questions than answers which when trying to resolve a piece of work isn't always as helpful as it could be. I have been left now with lots of ways I could have improved the resolution of this module work but also with a relatively large amount of doubt as to the wight of my work and whether I have reached the objectives I wished for. I think for these reasons I would have really benefited from doing toe public exhibition in my home. This would have brought in people who firstly I didn't know and who would make their own genuine assumptions on my project but also that I may have then received some different ideas of feedback or even other ideas of where to take my work next. 

The workshop sadly didn't happen either, which I am less disappointed about at this stage as I hadn't realised the full schedule for it nor actually what it was I wanted to take away from it. I had originally planned a zine making workshop, which for the participants would have been a fun activity in which they would have learnt about shooting, editing and making something and would have had a tangible object to take away form it. I however wouldn't really have learnt much from it other than for the experience of workshopping. Having secured a space for the workshop through Four Corners, an EU funded Photography centre, I didn't want to waste that space on a workshop that wouldn't give me a bigger outcome in my work progression. This is on hold for now and I shall use the space offered to me and the support of Four Corners as part of my final Major Project Idea when I can properly research and think about the workshop and how best to weave it into my practise. 

The main areas I have developed this module are my digital skills. Being nominated as one fo the exhibition designers meant I had to very quickly learn the basics of InDesign which I have found incredibly rewarding and something I now use in my daily photography workflow for work. I now look at text in a different way through he introduction of 'tracking' and 'kerning'.

The other piece of software I have now started to get to grips with is Adobe Premier the moving image editing software. I only really touched the surfaces of what it can do whilst putting together my newspaper video, but with the basics now I want to learn more about how I can use it in my FMP and would like to experiment with the use of sound and moving image together. This could be in the form of interviews or my own 'in conversations' with other practitioners. 

LANDINGS 2018 Exhibition design:

I was luck enough to be selected as one of the LANDINGS:2018 exhibition designers.

We first met to discuss a course of action and to divide jobs between the three of us. 

I offered to create three varying posters for the exhibition. On a practical level I have now learnt the basics of InDesign which is new to me, as well as how to output files in various formats. These skills will help me to design my newspaper later in this module. 

LANDINGS:2018 Poster designs - Anthony Prothero

LANDINGS:2018 Poster designs - Anthony Prothero

We also had the task of designing a webpage for the website. To start with we wanted to come up with a colour palette for the design of the exhibition. Andrew showed us this fantastic video of Wes Anderson colour palettes from his films titled "Wes Andersons Color". 

We each watched this a few times and decides on a particular colour palette from one of the scenes. The below was to be the colour theme for LANDINGS:2018. 

Colour swatch selected for the LANDINGS:2018 exhibition.

Colour swatch selected for the LANDINGS:2018 exhibition.

I have certainly gained valuable experience around the topic of collaboration and working in a design team. From the start of this design/curatorial task we made decisions quickly and efficiently throughout the process. 

I have started to understand the positives and negatives of collaborative practise and when certain collaborations should and shouldn't take place. We all as artists have very different methodologies which sometimes work well in unison and sometimes I feel will clash or prevent each other from fulfilling their potential creative output. 

The Design element I took on as part of the exhibition team has benefited my own practise far more than I would have expected, and has added a graphic and design element to my own practise looking at ways to incorporate and explore the relationship between text and image. 

 

Thomas Albdorf

"Looking at Austria and how it is constructed and constituted within a common image space, the concept of mountains, of an alpine landscape that functions as surface for multiple projections is prevalent; be it within the classic 1960s Heimatfilm, advertising, or political propaganda.

I Know I Will See What I Have Seen Before aims towards reconstructing and abstracting this mountainous visual space via various methods of image production, ranging from appropriated scanned material, digitally altered photographic images, studio settings etc., whilst also discussing the images’ productional circumstances. The works depart from their indexical referents, creating possibilities to become different images. One mountain can signify a different mountain, clouds can be petrified, water can become dust."

The main way I have been informed by this work is for future projects really rather than for this current output. Albdorf is a commercial photography who has blurred the lines between commercial and personal work. This is something I have been striving to succeed in since the start of the course but up to now because of thievery nature of the family album and memory work has taken a very different aesthetic path to that of my commercial work. i think for this reason my final major project work is going to be something that will bridge my current ideas and practises with my commercial work. Perhaps through engaging with modern techniques or by moving away form the analog. I'd like to start looking at the family album and the archive through different and more contemporary glasses.