A short review: FORMAT Festival 2019

I felt it was quite ambitious aiming to see 10 venues in less than 6 hours, but it is true what the website says – Derby is a compact city and we found it relatively easy to make our way round in that time even with a few hiccups on the way. Annoyingly, we decided quite late to visit Format so travelling by train wasn’t a financially viable option. We parked in nearby Siddals Road car park and walked to the Quad to find our bearings. I didn’t visit Format 2017 as I had a very teeny tiny baby at the time but remembered from 2015 that the Quad was one of the largest and, in my opinion, the most interesting work, so I was really looking forward to it. Bear was first on our hitlist though as it promised avocado on toast and good coffee. The ‘Forever Elvis’ exhibition was held at Bear. I tried to look at the work and what I did see was good, but social anxiety always sets in a little when having to lean over people eating their eggs to admire the photography. The variation of venues is great at Format but I did leave earlier than if this work were in a traditional gallery space. Back to Quad, I was really pleased to finally see Max Pincker’s work in the flesh after reading so many rave reviews. I immediately ordered Margins of Excess, paying over the odds for delivery as it is pretty much out of stock everywhere. His work reminds of me of Stephen Shore and Alec Soth bundled into one; contemporary narrative documentary photography at its best. The work in the Quad was refreshing and seemed really well curated. It felt like the cornerstone of Forever/Now with the right mix of unusual and safe pieces, a familiarity that was comforting as well as an excitement of the new. We continued our whistle-stop tour onto Derby Market Hall to see Sixteen, a brainchild of Craig Eason but a collaboration of many photographers. Sixteen was definitely my highlight (and also my husband’s). The space complimented the work brilliantly. The rawness of the market hall and the honesty of the work gelled. I am rarely emotionally moved by photography, despite my interest in the subject, but Sixteen made me sad and a little bit nervous. These are children born in 2002/3 and resided all over the country, from all different walks of life. Their stories were melancholy and so many talked of fear and poor mental health. I teach this age group, and it really brought home the differences in their lives to mine as a 16 year old. You see from the work that they were given questions to answer which focussed on their future and current lives. Not a lot of this focussed on happiness and things they enjoyed, although some did touch upon it. Uncertainty was a key theme throughout most of the Sixteen work with teenagers not really knowing what to expect from their futures. It felt close to home being in a market hall, some of the pieces were opposite an alternative clothing and gaming shop. When I was 16, emo was all the rage and I had really bought into it. I thought being an extreme sports photographer was well in my grasp and pink hair would never be out of fashion. But what I don’t remember is sharing this fear of my future, the unknown. It may just be the way the work was put together but the melancholy was clear. We could have spent a lot longer pondering at the work of Sixteen, but we knew we had to get on in order to get round so off we went. Tramshed was a beautiful space with some excellent painted signage from its original usage. Individual exhibitions are easy to view as you know the thread that holds the work together. Seeing so many group exhibitions is quite hard as you are constantly having to change your mindset and be alert for what the work is going to be about. This has its pitfalls, as I find I skip work I haven’t got the brain power to concentrate on for too long. I found this in Tramshed, especially as some interactive work wasn’t available.

St.Werburghs Chapel was being filmed when we arrived so we had to take a detour and leave them to it for 45 minutes – quite disappointing but easily solved. Pickford House in Derby is a real hidden gem, even without any photography exhibitions. When we visited, there was a kids play room, an excellent fashion and textiles exhibition as well as Edwardian bathrooms ready for public use! A highlight for me was the 19th century toy theatres on the top floor. We only planned to ‘nip’ into Pickford House, but ended up staying half an hour. University of Derby felt similar to Quad in its choosing of work and content. Unfortunately for us, we had chosen an applicant day to visit the Uni so was (flatteringly) mistook for undergraduate students. This was fine in itself but meant the work we had gone to see was partly covered by free tea and coffee as well as signposts for the applicants. We persevered however and saw most of the pieces – Jonny Briggs’ photographed collage work stood out to me. The grotesqueness of fingers  coming through torn imagery worked well harmony, and the scale of the pieces suited the overexaggerated nature of the subject matter. On the way back to the chapel we stopped off at Bank Mills Studio and Deda. At Deda, Peng Ke’s Salt Ponds drew me in. Echoing Rinko Kawachi’s luminosity and an air of innocence and naivety, I felt Ke’s work was much stronger than the space it had been allowed. It felt unappreciated, but that might just because I liked it so much! We worked our way to the chapel to thumb the photobook dummies (always a treat!) Being able to do this feels like a privilege, I feel much more connected to the artists by being able to handle the work rather than looking at it behind glass frames. The choice of paper, scale and little additions to pages makes the narratives and stories come alive, the passion of the maker seep through the pages.

With our time almost up, we headed back towards the car – Gregg’s vegan sausage roll in hand and topped up with inspiration. Since I last visited Format in 2015, the festival has grown in maturity and confidence and is doing such great things for the medium. Thank you Format and see you in 2021!  

No Longer Enough

Feeling like I am spinning many a plate at the moment (new house, wedding to plan, birthday, work, imminent arrival of dog from overseas etc etc) has meant I have somewhat been delayed in writing a blog post about my visit to Format Festival in Derby last month. This week however, I have been spurred on to put fingers to keys after visiting the Deutsche Borse Prize at the ‘mecca’ that is the Photographer’s Gallery and spotting a few things that has made my mind tick over.

Firstly, I absolutely loved Format Festival. I thought it contained some brilliantly printed, curated and displayed work and brought together some really unique pieces with people who showed a real interest and passion for what was going on around them there. Everyone I met had a positive comment to say; a smile on their face and in most cases a story to share. Beginning in the Quad, I was met with some big names- Cristina de Middel, Larry Sultan to name only two. The theme of ‘Evidence’ was subtle and obvious in equal amounts. Some work couldn’t have been shown under any other theme whereas some fitted it subtly enough for you to have to search a little deeper for the connections. Andrea Botto is a good example of the former, with his project KA-BOOM. Displayed in large frames and surrounded by documents and smaller photographs, the work is a snapshot of time, contemporary demolition of places around the world and in turn, evidence of these places ever existing and their exits from many a skyline. The work was beautifully printed, even when viewed up close- a rarity now as a lot of photography shows seem to be getting seemingly lazy or complacent with their print quality. The work was intriguing and I was in awe of the colours gained from using medium/large format equipment.

Miti Ruangkritya’s Thai Politics had an air of both humour and darkness surrounding it. The work that was displayed at Format was Where’s Wally-esque making use of the huge available image bank that is the Internet and social media before pulling the imagery together using Photoshop, addressing the Thai protests happening in Bangkok since 2006. My personal favourite work in this very first room belongs to Sara-Lena Maierhafer, contained in a pristine and precise book that I was hugely disappointed to find was only printed in an edition of 20 but understood why when I looked at the detail that went into each copy. Maierhafer addresses fact and fiction in photography which is not only an interest of mine, but it was thoughtfully displayed with collage, image and text making the work a multi dimensional piece. This isn’t unusual I know, but as the work was book first and exhibition after, I felt the multimedia aspect of the curating was essential to the experience of the viewer. Providing these different platforms ensured that I didn’t glance over the framed imagery and instantly forget, I was forced to consider what was in front of me, take in all aspects of the piece, just as you would open a front cover of a book and look inside. It was this particular pattern that I have spotted throughout these exhibitions and then at Deutsche Borse. Photographs are no longer alone in galleries. Yes, there are your simple framed print exhibitions (Nikolai Bakharev is a perfect example) and this will carry on for as long as the photograph lives, but as a regular visitor to many exhibitions I can’t help but notice this surge in trend.

Whether it be further images displayed at different heights with different hanging methods such as pins or shelves, or additions of handwritten notes and found imagery, it seems that the photograph’s (and photographer’s) intentions are now safer when accompanied. Without bringing up the aging discourse of ‘is photography art?’ (which I seemed to have just done regardless) it appears that now photography is well and truly embedded in artistic fields as well as its own, it is time to bend the rules a little. The British Journal of Photography dedicated a whole issue recently to photographers using the medium in a much freer, abstract way than say, the documentary heavy 1980s and 90s concentrating less on subject and more on process, output and materials. This, coupled with the growing love (one I share on a huge scale) for photo books as a vehicle of distribution and dissemination it seems the print alone is no longer a valid way of getting your point across. Photo books are beautiful crafted items that often warrant exhibition themselves. Recently whilst in New York I visited the Chinese Photobook exhibition and then again whilst in London. A whole exhibition (and by no means the first) dedicated to photo books of a nation. Some of which you couldn’t touch, and some you couldn’t even see in person. Videos of other people leafing through these books displayed as proudly as artworks themselves, small crowds gathering to catch a glimpse. Once upon a photography time, these images would be forced out of these books and hung blown-up on the walls, alone. Now more than ever it seems, it is important to cherish the way the photographs are displayed, the original curating within the book and keep this as intended to support the photograph’s journey as a process.

Many exhibitions I visit (including both the aforementioned) accompany their exhibits with plinths and a few copies of the supporting work in book form as well as carefully selected objects and documents. For me as both photographer and viewer, these additions come as a welcome element. I understand more about the photographer as a person but also more about the project. I admire the project in full, sometimes with the inspirations displayed right next to the ‘finished’ item itself just as I did with Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s Ponte City at The Photographer’s Gallery two weeks back. Their work was a visual delight in comparison to some of the sparse rooms (sorry Bakharev) contained in the prize. Not only were there huge light boxes displaying hundreds of images, but also around them were archival materials, maps, found imagery and architectural plans. The materials together told a story, placed more narrative on some already very powerful photographs. It may just be me as a collector that gets truly excited at these additions to exhibitions but I do not believe I am the only one who has walked away from some exhibits feeling underwhelmed at the lack of information that seeps from a collection of documents that are meant, at the simplest level, to be replicating reality.

The additional materials add to a particular photographer’s style and subject too. When viewing Sputnik’s work back at Format, their ‘adult’ images were contained behind velour curtains. A necessity perhaps with a young audience, but the sleazy choice of cheap materials gave a further nod to what was underneath the curtain, making the audience take a leap and look behind it rather than catching a sneaky glance. Photography is becoming a performance, rather than a 2D hobby. Photographers have never had more scope with a medium that has suffered its battles throughout history, a medium that has forced its users to break rules, follow rules, make rules, and then now it seems- to break them again. To me (again, probably biased as a photographer and photo book enthusiast) the growth of photography at the moment is defying prediction, with self-publishing and online distribution providing more amateurs than ever a platform and a voice to show off their work that deserves to be seen. Coupled with a new age of a mash up of art/photography mixed media/multi platform exhibitions it is hard to envisage what is next for the field, but I can’t help but be excited for what lies ahead. For me, as someone who has fallen in and out of love with photography at various points in its turbulent timeline (Fujifilm discontinuing Provia 400x was a particularly low point) noticing trends such as this one fills me with confidence about the medium’s future and its ability to constantly twist and astonish with new and exciting exhibitions, photo books and projects.Andrea Botto

The Beginning of the End

Studio Crit

I have included some photos of the latest studio critique that took place. I curated my space to display some of my latest work and reference points.

Practice as Research

Photographer as observer- Research Questions

I have many questions (below) that I would like to answer or even get chance to consider through conducting my practice, and some reoccurring themes seem to occur Here are a few things that I have added to an ever growing list with a file name of ‘ideas’

 

History of the found image in photography- its use, popularity and meaning

Found imagery and hidden memory- forever looking for sentiment that doesn’t exist

Invention into visual culture- trend of collage within fine art in a time of change

Photograph as an object

The family snapshot- an insight into a previous time and its trend in today’s photographic practice

Digital archives- are we going to lose a generation of images because of social media and digital technology?

 

Intervention into existing visual culture: Collage, found imagery and the digital era

–       Has the rise of digital technologies caused a recent trend in the popularity of collage and found imagery based work? As it has with film photography? Links with economics/ nostalgia

–       Will the rise of digital technologies eventually break this trend and found imagery will be only existing online such as google images

–       Review into the history of collage/found imagery/digital found imagery

–       An in depth analysis/review into the work of collage artists such as John Stezaker and Broomberg and Chanarin/Mishka Henner (exhibition?)

–       Will a future generation understand the sentiment of the found image having never been brought up around them? The link that we find fascinating?

–       Predictions for the future

Can the photo book replace the exhibition for photographers?

Most of these questions hang in the balance, as at present I am currently considering my practice (developing) as research at the moment: I put the developing in brackets because I am in the process of forming a practice as research, and I do not think it is there yet. I feel it is important to present the questions that I have considered throughout practice as it does in some way demonstrate a methodology to which I work, actively engaging with current contemporary discourse in photographic practiceI have highlighted the questions my practice is currently addressing, and through my independent project I hop

ideas: Using the photo book as a vehicle to deliver photographic based work, making photographs (or collections of) an object.

Underlying related questions

–       Can a photograph be considered an art object?

–       Will a future generation understand the sentiment of the found image if their main photographic archives are online?

–       Will the found image ever solely be just online?

–       Can the hierarchy of digital documentation by undone by effective use of the photobook?

 

HOW IS MY PRACTICE AN ENQUIRY THAT HELPS YOU THINK ABOUT THESE ISSUES?

As a photographic artist, my practice is constantly questioning these ideas and broad statements. I have made several photo books to deliver projects, as well as exhibitions. By doing this I have able to compare the two elements, and monitor how they are received by an audience. This is quite hard with photo books as the audience’s reaction is not always available once the photo book is taken away by the audience. Using found imagery constantly continues the sentiment of it by begging for interpretation or questions of origin to be asked. The theoretical practice that I am undertaking is helping exploring the use of the found image and digital archiving in the future, and research into artists such as John Stezaker and Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin help me understand the contemporary use of collage, photography and found imagery.

There are lots of areas that I could go into detail to explore this topic further such things I have mentioned such as the methodology I work by, the situation of my practice in relation to this issue, or the knowledge that the practice creates. However, I am going to concentrate on the area of document/documentation as I feel this is applicable to many of the areas that I am exploring and reveals much more about my practice developing as research at this present time. It is also the area that I can relate to comfortably and confidently most at this time in my growing academic practice as research.

Document/Documentation/Archive

Photographer as collector

 

Documents of Practice

I keep constant scrapbooks of receipts, gallery leaflets, tickets, film canisters, any mementos, and photographs from trips/outings when making work and not making work. Essentially, my work develops from photographs that I take as documents, and from the things I pick up from day to day. Do they bear any relevance on my work as research? Yes. I keep these things to continue the cycle of visual culture that exists in the world, hoping that one day the things I collect can inform others in the same way that existing visual culture has influenced my practice. These documents also help to influence projects, inspire ideas, as well as settling my constant fear of forgetting. Childhood memories that I hold have many elements of collecting, whether it is flower pressing or scrapbooking tickets from trips. Continuing this practice is natural and possesses a huge element of nostalgia and physically holds memory, so I don’t have to, the same way in which I photograph/document the everyday in order to preserve moments as they are at that particular time.

Problem: There is a pragmatic requirement as a photographer to make work available and fight the definition of photography by its use. This can be difficult for any photographer or artist, as a hierarchy exists where any form of documentation of an existing work (whether it be print or exhibition) can be seen as inferior to the work itself.

‘archive documentation creates the circumstances by which the practice”itself” will be forgotten” Piccini and Rye (2002) 41

It is particularly difficult for me as an analogue photographer, as the work is carefully shot on specific film, developed in a way to produce a particular aesthetic, to be then digitally scanned (usually badly) and flattened into pixels on the internet grouped with the thousands of millions of images beside them, with no real sense of scale, authorship or context. What are the limits to these technologies? I am at risk of succumbing to temptation to consider all technological forms of documentation as transparent.

 

Mishka Henner’s work identifies with this head on through his practice using the digital documents of Google earth taken directly from streetview in the project No Man’s Land, portraying prostitutes around the world performing banal and everyday tasks. Grigoletto (2011) discussed Henner’s work, and spoke of it moving further and further away from taking an image, but rather as using the recording and archiving tool of photography to present new ideas about existing material and art.

Printing and distributing physical prints to the same audience the internet/digital forms reach would be time consuming, not cost effective, and most of all- impossible. There is also then the question that crops up in photography often, which is the actual work, the print hung in a gallery, or the documentation seen online? Exhibition catalogues are often seen as documentation of an event, not as the event itself. However, the work is only seen hung in a gallery by a very small percentage of an audience, thus posing the former question. Hughes (2005) looked at the need for non-gallery spaces for exhibiting contemporary art, stating that white cube spaces were not being used well to transport and distribute work to a wider audience, and exhibition catalogues and photo books can be seen as a solution to this.

I do not want quick and careless documentation to represent my practice; therefore it has to be a big part of the work and form the work itself.

So how do I embed this big part of my practice INTO my practice as research rather than it being an outside issue?

This issue has been an elephant in the room throughout my entire artistic career, however I am only just starting to tackle and solve it. Rather than documenting work solely through digital means, producing a photo book as the work means I can create a vehicle for the photographic imagery keeping full control of the documentation of the works during the process providing an art object with a particular aesthetic, documentation of the project as a whole that is easily distributed to a wider audience, and a collectable, archive material to store.

Here are three projects I have recently been involved in that focused directly on the work being documented and exhibited through the means of a book.

Relation to practice: Index- Café Royal Books 2014

Glasgow residency 2012

Garden Book Club 2014

Café Royal Books combined the two elements of book and exhibition by launching their book in an empty gallery space, keeping the focus entirely on the work, but bringing the audience together in a traditional gallery sense, invoking conversation around the work but allowing the audience to take the documentation/memory and work itself home with them. (Atkinson, 2014)

Most contemporary photographers use both exhibition and photo book (of some description, whether it be catalogue, zine, magazine or artist book) to disseminate their work and ideas. At some point in the making of a project, they will ask the question of book or wall, when considering the execution of it overall. In a field where there are countless outputs for work, the final outcome will affect the making of the work to some degree, with photographers gearing their style and project towards huge mural style prints, or using lo-fi technologies with the intention of photocopying their prints into a limited run zine, Daido Moriyama style (Tate, 2012). By deciding these factors, practitioners are also affecting what type of work it will be, whether it will be geared towards a high end commercial gallery or unlimited fertility through production of a book.

The collage work I am producing at the moment begs the question of display. Printed too big, the work becomes advertising. Printed too small, the technical aspects of the pieces are sometimes lost. I have always enjoyed the transferability of a book: between people, between places and making people talk. Presenting my photographic practice as exhibition has always posed issues, as I feel the actual outcome never really meets the expectation of desired outcome in my mind, whether it is due to financial or space restrictions, or time restraints imposed by deadlines. As aforementioned, photos can often be lost as singular images (although sometimes their effect is more powerful alone) and by presenting my current practice as a photo book; it becomes a much more strong and constructed project as a whole. In previous blog posts I have discussed my work being more concerned with the process than the outcome, and by producing a photo book I have managed to encompass both elements by being entirely in control throughout, and being satisfied with the outcome at last. In my eyes, documentation of photographic practice can be the work itself. I store my work is series’ of prints anyway, and the book is just a creative extension of this. By doing this you are exploring the photograph as document but redefining the document’s use by recontextualising it into the work itself. (Soutter, 2013). For example,Dusseldorf’s own Bernd and Hilla Becher’s bland seemingly record photographs were then recontextualised, encouraging viewers to project their own subjective meanings.

Reflecting on documentation and the photo book, reflection as documentation

It exists beside documentation, not instead of. There is still a need for digital presence through scanning etc. Plus the photo book is made in this way. Using various models of reflection for my teaching practice such as Gibbs’, Schon, Brookfield and Rolfe, I have been reflecting on my practice in different ways to examine the impact it would have on any future decisions I made. In all honesty, none of them really stuck.

I reflect on my photographic work through my WordPress site and it seems to work well to cast my mind back to a certain point in my practice, as well as inviting peer and outside feedback and evaluation from others. Keeping a website updated regularly is a new thing for my practice, and one that has helped keep my ideas structured and at the same time is forming an important digital presence and archive.

Relation to the institution

A firm believer in education as power, and even more so knowledge as power, I have strong research interests and belief that increasing the amount of knowledge around my specialist area will impact on the field as a whole. This wouldn’t have happened without my educational path into doing so, teaching me the ways and means of research and its importance. However, this being said, the research with a big r is a daunting prospect and a term that I do not feel my practice is nearly enough developed yet to be applied to. During my MA I have become more confident in confirming my practice and research interests, and hopefully this will, in the future, generate some brand new knowledge to the field of photography research. I have summarized the future for me through a chronological order and based around the reflection that I have undertaken. Slide 22 Independent project- slide 23 continuing my photographic practice whilst working in slide 24 arts education, slide 25 expanding my own knowledge, slide 26 perhaps studying towards a PhD, and then finally, slide 27 contributing original research to the photographic field and the institution.

Atkinson, C. (2014) Index Cafe Royal Books: Preston

Badger, G., Parr., M. (2004). The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Borgdorff, H. (2011). The production of knowledge in artistic research. The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. Oxon: Routledge.

Brookfield, Stephan (1998). “Critically Reflective Practice”. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Profession 18 (4): 197–205.

Daichendt, J. (2012) ‘Artists and Scholarship.’ In Artist Scholar. Reflections on writing and research. Intellect: Bristol. PP xiii-xxiii

Derrida, J. cited in Nelson, R. (2009). ‘Practice-as Research Knowledge and their place in the academy.’ In Allegue, Jones, Kershaw and Piccini Eds Practice as research in performance and screen. Palgrave: Basingstoke. Pp.112-30

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Polytechnic. London: Further Education Unit.

Gossage, J. (2002). As cited in Parr, M., Badger, G., (2004) The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Grigoletto, L. 2012, “WORK THROUGH THE LENS”, Afterimage, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 2.

Hughes, L. 2005, “Do we need new spaces for exhibiting contemporary art? A critique of curatorial practice in relation to the viewer’s engagement with contemporary art”, Journal of Visual Art Practice, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 29-38.

Piccini, A. (2002). ‘An historiographic perspective on Practice as Research’. PARIP: University of Bristol.

Prins, R. (1969) In conversation with Cas Oorthuys, quoted in Bloom, M.,

Suermondt, R., (2002) Photography Between the Covers: The Dutch Documentary Photo Book After 1945. Fragment Uitgeverij: Amsterdam

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) (eds.) Critical Reflection for Nursing and the Helping Professions. Basingstoke, U.K: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-77795-6. pp. 26 et seq., p. 35

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books

Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography? Routledge: London

Tate Gallery (2012) Daido Moriyama Printing Show. [online] http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/music-and-live-performance/daido-moriyama-printing-show accessed 6th May 2014

 

Book or Wall? Exhibiting Photography and Collage

Dutch photography critic Ralph Prins (1969) describes the photo book as

‘An autonomous art form, comparable with a piece of sculpture, a play or a film.’

The photo book has been a fundamental means of expression and dissemination since some of the earliest practitioners pasted their images into books where sketches would have once sat. 19th century photography’s place was the library or the archive, as it was seen as a tool for making and recording rather than an art form in its own right. In this archive would sit many prints and contact sheets, as well as photo books. When photography was seemingly accepted into the mainstream art world, these photo books were then pulled apart and separated into gallery worthy prints. Photo books have the potential to be much more far-reaching than exhibitions, and can continue long after an exhibition has closed.

I am interested in exploring the value that a photo book holds as an object, as an art piece, or how it can form a vehicle for exhibition or transporting work to a more general audience. An avid collector and admirer of the photo (and artist) books, I am very much inclined to agree with Prins’ grand statement placing the photo book’s value up there with much loved and well established art forms. When presented on their own, photographs may not work as the creator intended. Many photographers shoot work imagined as a series, rather than a singular image. Photographs may lose character as things alone, but can become the words, sentences or paragraphs forming this ‘dramatic event’ called a book, where their message can be translated in a strong and bold manner (Badger, 2004).

 From a pragmatic viewpoint, photo books need a number of elements in order to make them work as an object in their own right, or indeed give succinct reason to why they are presented in such a way. The work inside the book should be able to work as a ‘concise world’ (Gossage, 2002) as well as be complimented by intricate and detailed design decisions to encourage an ongoing interest. After beginning my research into this area, I began to think about what it was about photo books that I loved and why I was insistent on presenting both my photography and collage work (Ducks Nanny, Paradise, Garden Book Club) in such a way, right from the making stages.

Photography viewed in galleries excites me, but at the same time is a little daunting. It seems almost too serious to have your work framed and placed in an empty white space. When visiting shows, I more often than not get annoyed with my own reflection in the frame glass whilst attempting to press my nose up to seek out detail. Photo books do not fill me with this annoyance or feeling of daunt. More often than not the extra detail (or no detail, in some cases) presents me with new information about the ideas of the photographer and how they really want to show off their work. Colour choices, images, text all play an extra part in the photos that are offered up in a photo book. Photography is a mass medium, and one that is exploited each and every day. Photo books manage to carry this mass medium at the same time as embracing both technical and aesthetical aspects of the character. They are tactile objects designed for handling, for owning, for putting on your shelf and reading for reference whenever you see fit. This separates exhibition and publication for me- as nice as seeing shows is, I always want to take them home and remember them forever. Ask me about a show I didn’t manage to get the catalogue for… I won’t be able to tell you much about it. You are encouraged to handle photo books (how else would you read them?) something highly frowned upon in the gallery setting, where barriers or glass often set you apart from the work.

Through my exploration of the history of the photo book as an object, I found that artists in the 20th century embraced cheaply made, easily distributed photo books as a way to free themselves from the ‘deadening of museum culture’, a trend that has continued on and has become an option for replacement of the standard photography show. Photo books can be seen to bridge the gap between the aesthetic and the contextual, linking art directly with the mass medium.

Most contemporary photographers use both exhibition and photo book (of some description, whether it be catalogue, zine, magazine or artist book) to disseminate their work and ideas. At some point in the making of a project, they will ask the question of book or wall, when considering the execution of it overall. In a field where there are countless outputs for work, the final outcome will affect the making of the work to some degree, with photographers gearing their style and project towards huge mural style prints, or using lo-fi technologies with the intention of photocopying their prints into a limited run zine, Daido Moriyama style (Tate, 2012). By deciding these factors, practitioners are also affecting what type of work it will be, whether it will be geared towards a high end commercial gallery or unlimited fertility through production of a book.

The collage work I am producing at the moment begs the question of display. Printed too big, the work becomes advertising. Printed too small, the technical aspects of the pieces are sometimes lost. I have always enjoyed the transferability of a book: between people, between places and making people talk. Presenting my photographic practice as exhibition has always posed issues, as I feel the actual outcome never really meets the expectation of desired outcome in my mind, whether it is due to financial or space restrictions, or time restraints imposed by deadlines. As aforementioned, photos can often be lost as singular images (although sometimes their effect is more powerful alone) and by presenting my current practice as a photo book; it becomes a much more strong and constructed project as a whole. In previous blog posts I have discussed my work being more concerned with the process than the outcome, and by producing a photo book I have managed to encompass both elements by being entirely in control throughout, and being satisfied with the outcome at last.

Badger, G., Parr., M. (2004). The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Gossage, J. (2002). As cited in Parr, M., Badger, G., (2004) The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Prins, R. (1969) In conversation with Cas Oorthuys, quoted in Bloom, M., Suermondt, R., (2002) Photography Between the Covers: The Dutch Documentary Photo Book After 1945. Fragment Uitgeverij: Amsterdam

Tate Gallery (2012) Daido Moriyama Printing Show. [online] http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/music-and-live-performance/daido-moriyama-printing-show accessed 6th May

Index-Cafe Royal Books

 

148_index-flyer-logo1_v2photoindex space

 

I am pleased to say I have one of my photographs has been selected as part of Cafe Royal Book’s Index project. Launching on Tuesday 1st April at Hanover Project at UCLAN if anyone is nearby! Info can be found here: http://www.caferoyalbooks.com/index.php/project/index/index-flyer-logo1_v2.gif

Index began as an online open submission project. Criteria being, ‘submissions must have already been used to communicate, or be communicative in their own right’. All submissions have been removed from their original context, breaking the messages or ideas for which they were created.
Using Index as a container, exhibition space and story telling device, the pages that follow have been edited to create pairs or combinations of images that can be read as new narratives. The book is an experimental exchange of out-of-context, repurposed text and image.

 

Climbing Plants

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This is a recent work in progress, using collage and found imagery with embroidery. Having a strong interest in photobooks and their recent surge in trend, I was inspired to work into my collection of found books. Continuing with the themes of horticulture, monochrome and sexuality, I am interested to see where this book will go once filled or finished with. I am pleased with the effect so far and will update on its future progress. I have taken inspiration from Chanarin and Broomberg’s recent collage pieces, one being ‘Holy Bible’.