Week 5 of FMP: Unexpected feedback and a very photographic week (20-26th Oct. 2018)

The week began mainly occupied on non-photographic matters. However on the Monday I received notice of the assessed mark given for my FMP submission. It was quite a bit lower than I’d been hoping.

However, ‘onwards and upwards’. The next day I conducted a number of photoshoots in my home. Two were using reflective surfaces in my lounge, the last was a more simple direct photograph. All were taken via a tripod and the assistance of either LED or speedlight lighting.

Here are some samples of the three situations shot:

Research Proposal-wise my depression wasn’t lifted on Wednesday morning when I logged on to my PC to find a request for a 1-2-1 meeting with the FMP module leader for later that same morning. I did already have a 1-2-1 scheduled for Tuesday specifically for FMP proposal feedback, but thought best to get it over with. Whether that was a wise decision I later queried to myself.

The meeting went reasonably. I’d clearly misunderstood the marking scheme and had put far too much emphasis on describing other’s work and not enough on what I intended and the description of my rationale/supporting narrative was possibly too weak or woolly.

 I was encouraged to consider going back to my earlier project on ‘Croydon Shopkeepers of Distinction’. This troubled me a lot as while there was more that I could add to my approach; add video interviews, written narrative, different means of showing the images and use of 5x4 field camera for larger prints, it was my new,more challenging self-portrait project that I felt i was getting the greater personal reward from.

Afterwards I decided I’d been focussing too much on the background to my project and had not gone at all forward on new imagery until this week. This may also have lessened my research proposal. A lot to think about.

On the Friday, the end of week 5, I attempted some self-portraiture out of doors. First I found myself a realtively empty ‘stopping’ train from my local station in Croydon to London Bridge Station, via a number of stations in-between. This gave me time to set up a tripod on a facing seat and experiment with the settings. In was a cold and sunny day and proved to be quite tricky. Here are a few of the images that resulted. I resolved to try again at a similarly quiet time of day during the next week, probably making greater use of a speedlight to lighten my face a tad..

At the London Bridge Terminus I made my way the short distance to the river where I first tried taking some reflective images in the dark marble of a couple of large egg-ish shaped statues near London’s City Hall. The results were interesting, but the lack of face illumination tended to produce more of a silhouette with limited facial detail.

Moving to City Hall itelf I made use of some overlapping glass windows to try and capture myself. The camera was held in my hand, closer to the technique of Vivian Maier and Lee Friedlander.

Finally I tried to use an electronic public information board as a surface. This was probably the least effective. The text, as well as being distractive, has no pertinence to any aspect of myself. weakening any attempt at portraying a narrative.

Here are some examples from the different settings:

The  same evening I went to the opening of the ‘London Photo Show’ at the building, part of the Oxo Tower development. Covering three floors there were a number of rooms being used for the presentation of photographs, including a small one that hosted a recent Falmouth University graduate MA’s work; ‘Chicken Shack’ by Simon Fremont. The video projected in HD format was one of the most effective uses of video I’ve seen in an exhibition this year, excepting the wonderful videos in Alex Prager’s exhibition at The Photographers Gallery that is, the quality of which are in a league of their own.

My tutor had suggested that it would be good to do some slef-portraiture in environments outside my home. So

The final photographic event was on the same day as my first venture into taking self-portraits out of doors. Before returning I popped into the ‘Pic-up prints event in Shoreditch, partly to see the images presented, partly because I’d noticed that one of the participating artists was my tutor in the previous module, Stella Baraklianou. As well as seeing the three prints of Stella I was fortunate to meet the good lady herself and get some interesting background on the three images she was presenting.

Graham Land; Early evening of the first day of Photo Pic 2018, Shoreditch (2018)

Graham Land; Suraya Peart, 2018

I must have been a bit trigger happy from my photography earlier that day as I finished with a small impromptu shoot with a BA photography student, Suraya Peart, who had been chosen to present one of her pieces as part of the ‘Camberwell Photography’ group.

To the right is one of my images of Suraya, in pretty much the pose she had when I first noticed her, the lighting was very tricky.

Below is a copy of Suraya’s presented work, a form of self-portraiture. The image is of a chair, shot with and without Suraya sat upon it. The detail of her presence removed via Photoshop. Taken in an hotel environment it is unlikely to reflect the Suraya’s personality, but it is certainly a way of showing an anonymous presence.

Suraya Peart; There is (was) somebody here, 2018

Finally I was able to get back to Croydon just in time to receive feedback from a submission I’d made to my local camera club, the first of their print competitions this season. Two of my three submitted prints received comments much as I’d expected. However, I was a bit depressingly surprised at the negative view of what I’d thought was one of my best portraits taken during London Fashion Week. The view was that it was not engaged, I had recognized the eyes weren’t pointing at me, but had thought it conveyed a moment of wistfulness. So much is in the eye of the viewer.

During the week I was fortunate to be a participant in an extremely open presentation by a lunchtime guest lecture, Laura Hynd. I’ve  written below much more from my notes than I normally write as little of her pre-2009 biography seems to be documented elsewhere and to me it’s a story worth hearing.

Laura Hynd  Screen grab from 24th October, 2018 presentation

Laura Hynd Screen grab from 24th October, 2018 presentation

Laura began with a description of how after graduating in Graphic Design from Leeds Metropolitan University she’d began work as a creative designer. Out of the blue she’d had a call from a London picture desk asking if she’d be interested in working with them, she’d been recommended by one of her Leeds tutor’s.

She upped sticks (my words) and moved to join her sister already working in London and started, initially in a very menial role , but went on to become a full-time picture researcher. It is in this period that Laura describes rekindling an early interest in photography. Whilst she finds some photographer’s ‘too brash’ she became aware of photographers with what Laura describes as a ‘true voice’ who’s work she found aesthetically pleasing. In this period she built up a ‘Foundation of Knowledge’ that has become the basis of her photographic education. Due to certain issues and the development of RSI she took up voluntary redundancy in 2005 and bought a 6x6cm film format Hasselblad as she wanted to move away from her previous SLR camera as she found the images taken with these ‘snaps’ and ‘too surface’.

Initially her favourite work was plant images and was very influenced by the work of Sarah Moons and generally in the representation of texture. She gained access to Kew Gardens ‘Spirit Collection’ on the preservation of plants in formalin (a noxious but potent preservative).

Her photographic career really took off in 2007 when she was funded to photograph a small farm in Massachusetts that gave it’s produce to the homeless. Taking lots of photographs she found it much cheaper to process her film in New York and stayed there to process and edit her work. Presenting it as 15 sheets of A4 contact sheets (60 images?) to NY magazines before moving back to the UK and doing the same in London where Cheryl Newman at the Daily Telegraph commissioned her to take  photographs in Tuscany on a biodynamics theme. As part of this commission she photographed a man on a balcony as an add-on. Whilst this commission didn’t make her much money it did lead to lots of portraiture commissions.  

However, this was not what she’d planned or wanted to do. She  feels part of the reason her portraiture work took off was her calmness when working with what others found ‘difficult’ people. Though she was taking pictures of top celebrities, like Tom Stoppard, she knew little about lighting at that time. She took a number of images of naked women for a colour magazine feature and found working with these subjects interesting, questioning why they all had such low self-esteem.

She felt too much of her time was being spent on someone else’s brief and this led her to start her own projects. Laure described herself as creatively frustrated and coupled with some unsettling events in her personal life this led to her being diagnosed with clinical depression.

She felt a fraud due to her only having studied photography as A level and attended a number of workshops, one with Antoine d’Agata, a Magnum photographer, was particularly helpful. Her first project she entitled ‘Letting Go’, a project that she doesn’t feel has really ended. As well as wanting to push herself photographically Laura felt she needed to build up new relationships. So she started collaborating, swapping images with other photographers, leading to a joint exhibition with three others in a space called oblong 2010 and her first solo exhibition in 2011.

 We were then given a private link to her short video piece from this exhibition; ‘The Letting Go’.

 A compilation of a number of her images, possibly her creative portfolio of that time, with quite an intriguing choice of film track that fitted really well. Not a lot of times since it was uploaded in 2011. I understand the Portishead music was chosen as it was a group she often listened to as she worked.

Laura’s next project was ‘Lady into Hut’ came almost immediately afterwards. Her Grandfather was a film maker and had met the woman who’d become his wife and Laura’s Grandmother when he filmed her when she was only 16 for an early project in 1947, Laura still has this  film and used it, combined with her childhood experience of family holidays in a hut built by her Grandfather.  Again, Laura had created a fascinating video-collage with an equally appropriate sound track. See

Finally we were privileged to see her 2017 video piece ‘Hynd_blip’, a documentation of ‘a broken camera and a broken relationship’ (private link, so not posting). 

2017 brought Laura her biggest commission to-date, filming behind the scenes of a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Originally 10 days of well-paid work with restricted access her early output was very well received and led to an additional 5 days with access to both the actors and the Director. In face she ended up featuring in the film herself taking a photograph with her Hasselblad on it’s trip.

She has recently moved  away from just using her trusty Hasselblad, buying a 5x4 field camera for a new project. Otherwise almost all Laura’s output has been via the Hasselblad, though it sometimes suffers it is easily repaired.

Along the way Laura gave us a view of several photobooks she’s created for herself of her different projects, all in the same square Hasselblad take format with a facing blank page.

Laura now has a child and her current conundrum is to balance financially rewarding but unfulfilling commissions with more fulfilling artistic work. She’s now thinking more long-term and is teaching two days a week, which may increase.