Week 4 of FMP: Proposal and preparation (13-19th Oct. 2018)

The proposal has gone forward for review and will hear feedback on this assignment at the end of the month in my next 1 to 1 with my FMP tutor. Apart from belated recognition that I’d confused myself in a reference as to which book an interview I’d quoted belonged, it seemed to go ok, I will soon find out.

Otherwise it has been a relatively quiet week. Unfortunateely there were several photogprahic events I’d have liked to have gone to on the same two evenings. In the end I decided to go to the opening of an exhibition opening entitled ‘Human Factors’ at the Watermans Gallery, Brentford. It was a small exhibition of just five exhibits, but was I felt worth going to as it was an opportunity to speak to artists who’s work touched on self-identity.

Hanna Haaslati, the Finnish artist/organizer who led the exhibition hosted a participatory installation ‘Captured’ that consisted of taking a rapid facial scan of a participant and then mapping their features to a digital creation involving several avatars in bullying scenes. At the same time the sex of the person being bullied was female, regardless of the sex of the face mapped to that avatar.

Hannah Haaslahti , taken by Graham Land, 17th October, 2018

Hannah Haaslahti, taken by Graham Land, 17th October, 2018

I was able to speak to Hannah and found the installation had been done in collaboration with five others, two of which were present at the opening. Hannah introduced me to her key collaborator, the American creative technologist Tyler Henry, who coded the scene and assisted in the technology applied. Quite an involved and time-consuming process.

A participant in from of the scanning unit, Graham Land, 17th October, 2018

The image opposite shows one of the participant taking their photograph just after they had been scanned. There is one strong light above the scanning unit and a second below. This is done deliberately to produce strong shadows that are easier to visualise using the limited resolution of the coded-mapped face. The eyes and nose are used as reference points to ensure that the image of the participants face is appropriately mapped correctly on to the head f the 3-D avatar. This is done very quickly so there is little risk of movement spoiling the capture.

As more participants are scanned the several figures involved in the bullying and subjugation scenario populated in turn.

I understand the scenario was created from old photographs of actual scenes from Fascist Austria. The main change was changing all the avatar bodies to obviously female ones. This is of course a form of self-portrayal, at least as far as the face is concerned. However, once you’ve taken part you realise to have more impact some sort of a strong expression needs to be made. So quite quickly the participants themselves are becoming actors within the portrayed scenario.

Interesting, it did make me wonder a little further what I might do as a self-portraiture booth at my proposed exhibition. At the same time clearly many hours of quite expert labour and thought had gone into creating this exhibit. It would be very brave/foolish to attempt anything on these lines without significant external support.

The other exhibit that interested me was one called ‘Monitor Man by the Visual Artist Yassine Khaled, a Moroccan living in Helsinki. His exhibit was a helmet that he has designed and used to stimulate live conversation in across countries and cultures. Here’s a link to some examples on his website. Not really linked to my self-portraiture project but nonetheless stimulating. It didn’’t happen overnight of course and in fact his project is still evolving.

Kazuma Obara giving a presentation on the 18th October, 2018 . Taken by Graham Land

Kazuma Obara giving a presentation on the 18th October, 2018. Taken by Graham Land

The next evening, of the three talks I could have gone to I picked one recommended by a previous tutor, Kazuma Obara. His talk was entitled ‘Beyond Fukushima: capturing untold stories of nuclear disasters’. and covered three separate projects. The first was in 2011 where Kazuma had been the first photographer to gain access to the Fukushima nuclear power facility after it suffered catastrophic damage after the 2011 tsunami took out it’s electricity supply. The fascinating project centred on the staff working to repair the dame inside the plant and resulted in a book; ‘Reset Beyond Fukushima’.

Graham’s copy of ‘Exposure’ ‘signed’ by the author, Kazuma Obara

Kazuma didn’t say very much on his next project on World War II bombing survivors, which resulted in his ‘Silent Histories’ book, but he did describe his next nuclear project, a 2016 visit to the town of Pripyat. Pripyat is of course the ghost town where the workers and families of the Chernobyl power plant used to live. He was able to buy 10 unused rolls of 120 Russian film that had been made at about the same time or before the Chernobyl disaster and he used these for a number of his shots. Unfortunately he’d had poor advice on what exposure to use on such old film which resulted in many shots being drastically overexposed. However, he was able to make use of a number of images by simply digitally scanning the negative.

Kazuma has included a number of inclusions in his latest book ‘Exposure’, quite a complex form of presentation. I bought a copy. Like the 120 film it has a paper binding that has to be cut to access the cardboard bound book.

Kazuma has continued his study into what he describes as nuclear labour issues and has an ongoing project documenting a number of Bikini Atol islanders who’s lives have been blighted by the extensively use of their island for atomic bomb tests in the 1950’s. Kazuma also mentioned his successful one year of study for an MA at London College of Communication in 2015.

Otherwise my main photographic activity has been reading up on the use of 5x4 camera’s, in particular the vitally important loading the use aspect. Not too difficult to get it disastrously wrong.