Surfaces & Strategies - Week 5

Started the week with a web presentation (organised by our module leader) by Nhung Walsh, a Vietnamese curator and art professional. She is currently working on a project to represent how Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City has changed, with a particular focus on the loss of old buildings and the effect of the last war of independence against the US. Mentioning the importance given to the annual 'Black April' remembrance activities and the 'day of hatreds' (20th April, 1974). 

Hugh Van Es, 29th April, 1974; An Air America helicopter crew member helps evacuate people from the roof of the American Embassy, Saigon. Part of operation 'Frequent Wind', the helicopter evacuation of over 1,000 Americans and 5,000 Vietnamese from the city.

Hugh Van Es, 29th April, 1974; An Air America helicopter crew member helps evacuate people from the roof of the American Embassy, Saigon. Part of operation 'Frequent Wind', the helicopter evacuation of over 1,000 Americans and 5,000 Vietnamese from the city.

Nhung-apartment show.jpg

 

 

Nhung gave some interesting insights on working with groups of artists, including the domestic concerns that can arise when you invite artistic friends to use your own apartment for a six weeks exhibition.

I was left with  the impression that a key to effectiveof curation is making the event happen, assessing who to invite, working with them, acting as their interpreter to the audience. Nhung quoted the phrase " Spheres of environment"; forming a path to understanding.

It did seem that the actual hanging might be the easy bit.

 

 

This week we were provided with extensive guidance on a number of activities that will need respectable planning and a high degree of commitment to be successful. These were: a group exhibition (held in the last week of the module), a publication and a workshop. The latter two to be carried out at a time of our choosing.

My reaction is a bit mixed.

On one hand I’m excited at the opportunity to present my work in multiple forms, on the other I’m all too aware this is not something I’ve done before. While some of my work has been accepted and presented in exhibition form my participation in this process has been limited to the odd bit of assistance in the hanging and taking down. Similarly with my various collaborations on photobooks. Others have looked after the curation and presentation aspects.

Generally I’m creating imagery that is of particular interest to me but with increasingly commissioned work and the likelihood of various project works having an external viewing the nature of this audience has certainly affected my choice of shot, though probably not the style in which it’s captured.

After some considerable thought I’ve decided to utilise my existing Croydon shopkeepers sub-project for my exhibition piece. I did consider a utilising a totally novel project, but given the need to present some work immediately and the likely time pressures that would result I decided the more sensible course was to stay with a path I’d already set myself.

However, I’ve been considering including a video element in my practice. This is not something I’ve done in the past but it’s increasingly attractive to me, albeit almost certainly requiring a number of new skills and a host of additional considerations.

 

To help the Landings 2018 curation team of three of my peers we were asked to give five key words describing our practice/project. After considerable deliberation I chose to describe my project as: Retailing, Different, humanity, distinctive, quirky, shopkeeper.

We were also asked to prove a statement, two example images and our initial ideas on how the final choice of images might be exhibited:

STATEMENT: To illustrate why I found these shopkeepers and their customer presentation distinctive and worthy of record.

One sentence describing roughly where and what your display COULD look like: A simple wall presentation coupled with a screen showing short snippets of video of entry to their shop with a short introduction.

I picked two images, a photograph of Reg Roach, the 88 year old proprietor of a very old fashioned photography shop in Croydon who’s shop gave me the idea for the project and that of an audio/repair engineer Alfonso Camisotti. Taken with my medium format Haseelblad film camera this is probably one of my best images to-date.

 

Reg Roach of High Street Radio & Photographic, Croydon Photo Centre

Reg Roach of High Street Radio & Photographic, Croydon Photo Centre

Alfonso Camisotti of The Audio Centre (Croydon

Alfonso Camisotti of The Audio Centre (Croydon

The initial reaction to my peers to this was pretty quiet. One person did spot I'd been using an ld film camera. Early days.

I'm hoping that this experience will assist in taking more connecting factors into consideration when I capture images, as  well as providing much greater insight into what's involved in staging an exhibition. I've had some experience in photobook projects but this will be my first as an individual effort. Graphic composition has never been a strongpoint but I hope this experience will to some degree mediate this weakness. 

the biggest change to my current practice will be the inclusion of video and how I integrate this with the prints of my imagery. My initial concept will be to take a short clip from outside street and shoot an entry to the inside of their shop. I've done a little research into this and it would seem a stabilised/gimbal mounting would greatly avoid the shakiness seen when I've attempted to do video as part of my street fashion collaborations. 

 

My budget doesn't range to the acquisition of a video camera so I plan to make use of one of my existing cameras video mode, my light half-frame Fuji X-T20. This week I've ordered a 'Zhiyun Crane V2', a handheld gimbal stabilizer that has had a number of good reviews working with Fuji mirrorless cameras. If it proves worthwhile I might later consider more significant investment in support of videographic capture with my full-frame kit.

Whilst I know a number my contemporary photographers are both videographers and still-photogrpahers my impression is there's not so many that do it at all equally. On the other hand it's only with recent digital innovation that the two can be reasonably accommodated alongside. This week I did attend the opening of an exhibition 'Against the Grain', profiling the photographic and movie film capture of skateboarding's early years in the 1970's. to the present day. My impression was that whilst movie coverage gave a better feel of the surroundings, and to a degree the moves, it was the still frames that captured the 'moment'. However, I didn't think contemporary practice use of such robust and powerful devices such as the Go-Pro 'Action Camera' was presented and felt the exhibition focus was on the past rather than the present. The recent phenomenon of 'cool dudes' skating down major thoroughfares seemed to be missed.  

More research to do however..

 

Image Sources (where not by the author)

1) Image of the evacuation of Saigon from a Newsweek article, see

https://www.newsweek.com/last-helicopter-evacuating-saigon-321254 (accessed July, 2018)

2) 'Image of an exhibition; a crop taken from a screenshot capture of a web presentation by Nhung Walsh, 2nd July, 2018