Assignment 5 – MAKING

I originally had several ideas for Assignment 5, the first of which was a series of cracking plants but on relfecction this was too dodgy, in the sense that I could easily travel to a distance site, only to find that I could not get near enough for what I wanted. The final idea came form the work done in a previous part of the course where I documented the work my sister put into making an art quilt. This was done over a period of three weeks.

So my idea was to create a series of sections, each on a different craft, documenting the process in photos. This then morphed into creating a poster for each craft. If I was to hold a real exhibition, it would matter about layout, uniformity across all posters, e.g. font sizes, background colour, uniform layout. I inquired of the curator of the National Needlework  Archive if they ever had photographic exhibitions. When I explained the background to my question, I was taken to the café and told, ‘ have this’. At the time, I was still trying to decide if this was a good idea or not, but I left having agreed to hang the exhibition on June 5th and it would stay up for a month.

This focussed the mind wonderfully. I had already created a trial poster from the quilting work but realised it would not do and examined the final version, taking careful notes re background colour and font et cetera to ensure uniformity.  This I then had printed (Whitewall) as A1 and A2 to judge which size would be best and decided on A1.

I started with a list of 15 crafts which was reduced to 11 after I completed the first two photographic sessions. These were ‘furniture’ and ‘lace making’. The lace making was such that I managed a complete set of photos starting with the choice of design, show the process and finishing with some completed examples. The other one was furniture. There is a small furniture maker a few miles away and they were very helpful but the problem remains that they cannot complete anything meaningful in an hour so it is such a series of snapshots. I reconsidered the list and removed other crafts were this would also hold. I wanted to keep my presence down to one hour. Most of these people are earning their living by their craft and I did not want to get in the way. I made it plain at the start that they should just get on with the work and ignore me. I did have to interrupt as I wanted one portrait of the maker. Everyone was asked for permission and told the background to the request. To my astonishment, no-one said no! (I did promise an A1 poster when finished and took a box of biscuits to each craftsperson.)

The final list was

  • book binding
  • braids
  • ceramics
  • dyed cotton
  • felting
  • furniture
  • glass
  • lace
  • quilting
  • spinning
  • weaving

Some of these were personal friends but several were total strangers.

In taking photographs, I took far more than I could use. The minimum count was 70 and maximum over 100. For each craft, 6 to 9 were extracted, processed (cropped, colour balance corrected, et cetera) and a poster created. The first figure shows the announcement of the exhibition followed by some photos of the exhibition venue and then 11 figures showing the posters themselves. The posters were all created as 60 by 80 cm at 300 dpi in photoshop. The final printing was not done by Whitewall – too expensive but by a local printer whom I know. He made a very good  job of the printing particularly the colour. I draw to your attention, the one of Dyed Cotton. The real colours were as rich as shown.


Photos of Venue


The 11 posters follow











Assignment 5 – Not Quite Yet

The silence from me is because this assignment has been very ponerous. However one more photography session next Sunday and I will be done, apart from hanging the actual exhibition. Some of it is okay and some of it could be done better – if I have a year to spend on it.  In the meantime —-


Assignment 5 Preparation

I have got past the planning stage and into execution for Assignment 5. It is going to take me at least another 3 weeks to finish. I have posted once on the idea below but it is fully fledged now.

My tutor was very unkeen on my idea of going round the country searching for good views of cracking plants and said that I could find good material close to home. By the time he said that, I was going off the idea because of the trouble I had with the photos of the wind turbine. It seemed to me that two thirds of my journeys were likely to be non-productive. So I have decided on an exhibition called MAKING which involves takes a load of photos of a craftsman or woman doing something. When I stopped to think about what craftspeople I knew, I found I had a list of more than 14 possibilities. I have done four. I am going to a furniture maker today, I have a spinner lined up for next week as well as a glassblower and a braider. Others are lined up for later. What has surprised me is that no one said No!!

Each craft will have its own A1 poster. I had an A1 and an A2 poster printed professionally and the A1 is better. What is taking time is creating the poster – in Photoshop of course. But ensuring that they all have the same format has been hard work. I have masses of notes of exactly what colour the background is and what the dimensions are. Each poster is taking 5 to 6 hours solid work on Photoshop.

The most important bit is that the exhibition at the National Needlework Archive which  will hang in their café for a month from June 5th. And I can have a maximum of 12 A1 posters.  The fact that there is going to be a real exhibition has concentrated the mind and makes me take a great deal more care about the layout. Taking the photos is less than half the work. I took 69 photos last Saturday of a feltmaker of which I have used 9. And that is about the ratio of used to unused. So far I have completed a quilter, a lacemaker, a feltmaker and a weaver is well under way. The poster for Lace is below.


Other Photographers

In the report on Assignment 3, my tutor recommended I look at several photographers and Section 5 wants responses to Sophie Calle. These are covered below

Sophie Calle

She is a French conceptual artist. The project most talked on the internet about is  about her following (shadowing?) a male stranger to Venice and she produced a book about it. He did not know that she was acting in this way. There are other projects, one on hotel rooms where she got a job as a chambermaid which gave her access to the hotel bedrooms and she took photos of each room, then published these as a book. She does seem keen on producing books which are 50:50 text and photographs. The handbook asks various questions. Before answering those questions, I should say that I think her methods are intrusive. It is said that she is very open about her life but that does not mean that other people want their possessions photographed.

So I have answered the first two questions. Horrified to both. As to an adventure I could go on that would put me in a different position than I am accustomed to when making photographs. And the next question is there a job I could do. At my age, no one is going to employ me. So about the only possibility is to become a volunteer at a National Trust property and use that as a  place to take photos but not of the visitors. Of the other volunteers and the objects in the house. And would the National Trust like that?

John Baldessari

A Californian conceptual artist, now in his eighties. I think everyone of his photographs has been seriously manipulated. For example, a photo of an opening ceremony has the faces of the stage party obliterated by plain white disks. No doubt he had a lot of fun but it is not photography, it is art.

Rene Burri

He is a Swiss photographer, now dead but has been a Magnum photographer. Mostly he does portraits – and very good they are. Picasso, Che Guevara and the like as well as ordinary folk. They are posed but not formally and I suspect he composed the background. As far as I am concerned *****.

Paul Graham

Progressively more on social comment as the decades pass. A series of shots of the interiors of dole offices commissioned by London when Ken Livingston was Mayor are raw with really good portraits of the people waiting. One does wonder where those photos are now. Anyway they were published as a book. Definitely one to look for in Tate Modern bookshop.

That has not covered the suggestion in the report on Assignment 4 which will be dealt with in another blog.


Tutor on Assignments 3 and 4

I had a’’ session with my tutor last week and today (Monday 16/04/18) and can quote some of the comments. Assignment 3 was photos of my sister diagnosing problems with a sick poinsettia. It correlated well with the ideas of a staged photograph and he thought it was an interesting portrait. He gave me the websites of three photographers to investigate, John Baldessari, Rene Burri and Paul Graham.

Assignment 4 was based on the theme of Death. He argued that the photomontage of the concertina book was not in keeping with the others and at least, the grey background should have been dried blood colour. He thought the theme could be developed further and that it would be best in an exhibition with the concertina presented as a live object rather than a photograph. Also the portrait of the dead camellia is not in focus but because of the theme a certain softness was acceptable.

I was a bit startled when he said I was a conceptual artist, one who planned everything out. Yes I do but I am not sure regard the phrase ‘conceptual artist’ as a compliment. Anyway he had been looking at the exercises and noted that I talked of going to Avonmouth for Assignment 5. He thought I ought not to do that and I could easily find a good topic nearer home. But then I have abandoned that topic. Interesting though.

More thinking about Assignment 5

Things have really caught up with me. Following from my last blog where I was very undecided about topic for Assignment 5, now everything is just about cast in concrete. It goes like this. The big advantages of the MAKING exhibition, is that I know who to ask. I started by trying to create a poster using the quilting photos I did earlier in the course and that was interesting – but an intensive effort in Photo shop layers. I ended up with five different versions of the final poster which are shown below. The last one is IT.

But some queries remain. The background and border colours will have to be set according to the content colour of the photos. I think the colour has to be mid-tone and not red. I did try a lot of different colours before settling on green. It all takes time.  Other queries: should the dimensions of the photos be changed. I printed all five versions out as A3 and A1 will look quite different. So I have sent the file off to be printed in A2 and A1. This is not going to be a cheap exercise.

What has clinched the choice was that I was at the National Needlework Archive outside Newbury a few days ago and casually asked the curator if she would consider a small exhibition of photos and explained the situation. Before I could say ‘Just asking’, we were in the café, working out how many posters it would hold. And the answer is enough. So I am committed to an exhibition in the café started June 2nd. Panic has set in. The curator seemed quite pleased. One thing is clear, I need to do two sets per week. And people could refuse. So I started with a lace maker – and yes, I am going there next Tuesday. !!!!

The trouble is that the organisation is so complicated that I keep forgetting that there is the small matter of taking rather a lot of photos. Progress will be reported. And the posters take 5 working days so I have 5 weeks.

Thinking about Assignment 5

I have not yet  determined the topic/theme of Assignment 5. I was going to write a WORD document, then thought I might as well as write it as a Learning log.

So here goes.

I am treating this assignment as a potential exhibition. I can think of two places I could put up an exhibition. So it is for real people. Considering what topics they might be interested in, I ask the question what would they go away from the exhibition thinking. The last thing I want is ‘Well, that was a waste of time’.  So it must be worth their journey and their time. But the audience is mostly middle aged women with a few men. Maybe the two locations are not ideal? Think of another one?

Such an exhibition has to have a number of photographs. The audience will not like it if there are only four pictures. Nor will they like it if there are 1000. So somewhere between 15 and 40, say. It does depend on the content of the photos and how big each is. My ideal for an exhibition are those run by TPA. The photos are enormous and shown well spaced out (10-15 ft between each and arranged so that each is free standing.

To satisfy OCA and the tutor, a number of photographic techniques must be included.

Topics I have considered  are

  1. Mobile  masts masquerading as trees. I know where 3 are. 2 are several hours drive away. I have worked on the web and failed to find a specific list for the sites. So write this off.
  2. Industrial sites. I have a list of about 14 which are reasonably reachable. The furtherest is Avonmouth. I was extremely keen on this until I started out on what ended up as an exercise with a wind turbine and failed to get anywhere near two sites. I could easily get to Avonmouth and find there were no suitable viewpoints. This is not a topic which would go down well with a large collection of middle aged women. Expensive as a lot of travelling. Put on the list but low down.
  3. Trees. Yes I like trees and I could do portraits of trees. Lots of places to go to within easy reach, say, within 50 miles. But I have little enthusiasm for the topic – a bit boring.
  4. Plants and flowers as No 3. Could be done near to home
  5. Craft. It just so happens that I know a lot of craftsmen of all sorts of different techniques. Suppose I called the exhibition ‘MAKING’ and created an A1 poster for each technique. The background could be a still life of lots of objects created in that craft and closeups of the making could be put on top. Some would be macros and some of people as well as still-lifes. This would give me 12 to 15 A1 posters each full of detail. It might work. Expensive. I would have to have the posters printed whereas I can print on photographic paper easily – and if not cheap, at least not expensive. Typical costs for an A1 poster got from web Vistaprint £14.39, Whitewall £17.8, Solopress >£13, Colourgraphs £5.
  6. Thomas Keating Ltd. I know a small high tech company who describe themselves as instrument makers.  I could just spend a day taking photos of the workers and the engineering projects they are working on. They owe me so permission would be no problem BUT – I can hardly go around putting labels on each photo (which they would need) because of confidentiality. I would not want to get across NASA or whoever they working for at the moment. They would not mind having an exhibition in their entrance hall. One for the back burner.

So the list order has to be

5, 3 or 4, 6, 2

I feel slightly more enthusiastic about trees now but it would not involve a lot of different techniques whereas MAKING would.

I can think of topics which would be good fun. For instance taking photos every few days of a plant from sowing the seeds to flowering. Trouble is seeds sown now will not be in flower until June/July. Actually I am quite taken with this idea and will do it for me not OCA.

Things to do

  1. Ask Lorna, an artist friend, if she knows any suitable galleries.

Not enthusiastic about any of them at the moment (written 8th April 2018).