Week 1 Final Major Project (FMP): Forward with the self-portraiture project (22-28th Sep)

The first week of the final period of my MA studies, culminating in a final critical review of practice assignment submission on the 10th April next year.

We’d been given notice in an informal 1 to 1 meeting with our FMP tutor that we would need to prepare a ‘PechaKucha’ presentation to outline the nature of the topic that we would like to go forward with as out Final Major Project and our reasoning behind this choice. Sure enough, our first activity was to prepare a twenty-slide PechaKucha’ style20 seconds a slide presentation with an audio track of our presentation, showing this to our module peers for comment. This to be presented to the Course Tutor on the Tuesday of week 1 or week 2.

However, as is typical of me I had confined my preparation to looking up more background on what a PechaKucha presentation was and thinking of a few images that could be included. Partly due to some IT glitches it wasn’t possible to book until the Tuesday. In inquiring about the IT difficulty I’d inadvertently given the impression that I was ready to present. So when the course Tutor expedited things along I found myself waking up Tuesday morning to find I had my PechaKucha booked for 10am.

I decided to go ahead anyway, I was quite clear on what I wanted to do. The original concept of the PechaKucha (Katakana; ぺちゃくちゃ), as implemented in Tokyo by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham to to attract people to an event for the exchange of creative ideas, was to give simply speak over whatever was presented. So whilst I ran out of time preparing a video with an unscripted voice-over I decided, with the assent of my course tutor, to proceed with just a live audio presentation of the powerpoint video.

So I simply spoke directly to the tutor. I did record this live and shortly afterwards spliced the audio recording with the existing Powerpoint mp4. Posting this a little belatedly on to the general discussion board for peer comment. Here is that video with unedited ‘live’ audio:

Although I’d set up the powerpoint to show each slide for twenty seconds, the actual time was a tad less. Otherwise all seemed to go well. I’d mentioned that I planned to use my more mature project on certain Croydon Shopkeepers, that was the subject of my ‘Distinctively Different’ exhibition, as a potential back-up. My tutor thought this was a sensible strategy, and felt that i should carry on further progressing this project at the same time as my Self-Portraiture series. She did also suggest that I did not confine myself as I’m currently doing to images of myself reflected on some suitable surface but broadened out in both location and means.

So the next step is the preparation of the formal FMP proposal, to be submitted by the 15th October. To support this I booked myself later this week into the library at Central Saint Martins. The visit proved useful,coming back with three borrowed books and the copies of a number of pages from several other useful books. From this and previous searching it was also very clear it was a much bigger genre in painting, drawing and sculpture than it was in photography, where it is often used in support of training budding artists representational technique. Much to read, a lot to think about.

__________________________

To broaden my experience a little after my library visit I also went to the opening reception for the new Institute of asian Performing Arts. The exhibition accompanying it covered works from 1960s and 1970s Japan and Korea, including a number of images by Murai Tokuji and Minoru Hirata. There was also a live re-creation of a 1974 performance event by the Korean performance artist, Kim Ku Lim. Although there was a photographer taking still shots I decided out of curiosity to record the live performance with video, stopping a couple of time to take still shots. the latter was an error because I missed the unexpected conclusion. Here is that video, slightly edited with a couple of my still shots added.

I posted a link via his daughter Jessica, who’s a Goldsmith’s art student, to Kim Ku Lim. I understand he was pleased.

______________________

The week had began with participation at a Royal Photographic Society (RPS) South East group special day long event at Tonbridge, a 30 minute drive from where I live. My primary reason was to make touch with on of the presenters; Harry Borden, a renowned portrait photographer who kindly let me interview him for a weekly task in the Spring of this year. vent. In fact there were several presentations that were of interest.

Catherine Trojano, Assistant Curator of Photographs, Word & Image at the V&A (London) gave an interesting insight into the creation of a new exhibition space for the RPS photographic archive that is now held by the V&A. Utilising an area that was in fact previously used in the 1900s to present photographic imagery it will be opened om the 12th October this year as the ‘Photographic Centre’. This will double the space that is currently used at the V&A to present photography. A short video clip is shown below.

The V&A has been collecting photographs since 1856, the year the Museum was founded, and it was one of the first museums to present photography exhibitions. Since then the collection has grown to be one of the largest and most important in the world, comprising around 500,000 images.

Interestingly a shot was shown of the new exhibtion space in the same hall as used in the 1900s. The very obvious difference was the density of imagery shown. It looked as though 3-4 times the number of images were shown in it’s 1900 guise as a presentation space for photographs compared to the single line of photographic prints to be shown in the new gallery areas.

Another member of the audience made the same observation. The answer was that all of the pictures held can be viewed at the V&A relatively easily upon request. In my mind it questions whether the current fashion for showing images in no more than a single line along a wall is truly the best way of communicating a large collection of work. Whilst it gives maximum exposure to those images shown, it also excludes different imagery that the visiting public may well be totally unaware of the existence of. I doubt that many will be delving into the collection to see the alternative approaches not displayed.

Of course presentation of scanned photographic images can offset this. There was a quite impressive demonstration of a way of viewing such an archive earlier in the year at PhotoLondon in the West wing of Somerset House. The International Center of Photography presented an immersive multimedia installation called ‘Unwavering Vision’. Below is a short demonstration video. The way you could quickly roam through a large collection of images was very impressive.

Using the specially created interactive touchscreen interface shown large scale images were projected onto the installation screen. More than 5,000 images spanning the history of photography were available; included audio segments, film clips, and biographies.

There was also a really interesting stereoscopic presentation by Denis Pellerin called ‘The Historian and the Stereoscope’. The distributed glasses were tailored to the exact two wavelengths used to present the stereoscopic material and was very effective. Denis described the huge fashion in stereoscopy in Victorian times and how there has been repeated waves of interest in odd periods since. His description of how Victorian ‘carte de visit’ machines that produced a number of photographs for cards using a bank of cameras. Where multiple copies of such cards still exist it has been possible to create a seteroscopic image of the viewer from appropriately spaced cards, Quite fascinating.

Some of the most impressive examples were ones created of first world war trenches.

Whether this type of image will regain popularity isn’t clear. I think the greatest hurdle is the need to wear glasses. Maybe the use of virtual reality headsets to play games and watch movies will encourage it’s return? However, I forked out £20 for a viewer that would enable me to present suitable taken paired images on my mobile phone stereoscopically. When I get round to trying it out.

________________________

I almost forgot to mention in this hectic first week an interesting presentation given via the Falmouth photography hub by Max Ferguson; founding editor of Splash & Grab Magazine, the Director of Photography of Port Magazine and Port Creative and a freelance photo editor at the Financial Times Weekend Magazine. Hosted by Anna-Maria Pfab.

Max Ferguson talking via a web-cam, screen grab of live talk on the 25th September, 2018

Max Ferguson talking via a web-cam, screen grab of live talk on the 25th September, 2018

Max began with pointing out that he does not earn income from ‘Spash and Grab’. His paid work is has a freelance. In the case of his FT work he large initiates commissions work from other photographers on the basis of their personal projects. Much more so than examples from their commercial work.

He quoted as a case-study how he came to commission the Irish-Nigerian photographer Cian Oba-Smith for a magazine piece. He thought the most important means was content, as shown in your website and communicated in social media. In Cian’s case he was particularly impressed by the ‘Bike life’ project that Cian had done at college. He said he likes the intimacy of ‘close projects’.

He thought the fundamental issue for a working photographer was that day rates are generally insufficient to live on. The reason for this he put down to the now overwhelming use of transnational e-media such as Facebook and Google for advertising. On the plus side he thought magazines are adapting and they are beginning to offer higher base rates in order to gain better output. Later Anna-Maria stressed how important instagram was in gaining the attention of commissioning editors and galleries.

He also gave a little insight into one of his own photographic projects; Burning the caterpillars’, a project on images obtained during travel, showing stasis more than movement. He likes photographing people ‘really close-up’.

In the Q&A that followed he mentioned photo-meet as a useful means of networking and that giving low-resolution pdf’s to communicate portfolios can be useful. He also felt it was worth looking at his own publishers, Antenne Books as a means to publish work.

He was not so positive about agencies, saying that generally they will take 60% of the income that they find for you. Only top photographers could negotiate lower commissions with the likes of Getty Images, otherwise best avoided. He didn’t feel the use of print was likely to diminish anytime soon.

When approached by a new photographer he wants initially to see a small number of very good images, then with their shoot expects to see much more, but all should be of good quality.

He also mentioned that in the case of ‘Splash and grab’ they would normally use anything from 3-10 images from one photographer, but it would be they who decided which images, not the photographer. They expected to work with a much larger number and then pick those they felt most suitable. He felt that whilst instagram was initially important in attracting attention. It was the website that cemented that contact. The more interesting things should be there.

He felt definitions of what sort of photographer you are were getting less and less important, now much more blurred. On the other hand only a few publications, such as the British Journal of Photography, show all types of photography, the trend current is towards niche.

__________________________

The final activity of the week was printing and arranging the mounting of an image that had been accepted for the annual exhibition of the London Independent Photography (LIP) group. More of that in my next blog. .