On Workshops

Starting Photography 2

C. Morris et al, 2017. Starting Photography

Exhibitions and publications share something in common – they both introduce work authored by the artist to an audience in a potentially remote manner.

Workshops, on the other hand, bring the artist and his or her work into direct contact with an audience.

Furthermore, exhibitions and publications both introduce an audience to an outcome – a resolved body of work. Workshops, however, involve the audience in the creative process – the audience is essentially participatory – to the mutual benefit of both the artist and the participants.

I am in the process of producing a workshop which covers the basics of food photography.

In the interim, I was presented with the opportunity to deliver a workshop covering the basic concepts of the photographic process.

My daughter has shown a passing interest in photography over the years. She asked if I would show her, together with a small number of her friends, how to use a camera.

The requirements of this group would clearly be very different to the needs of a group of adults taking part in a workshop introducing the basics of food photography on a fee-paying basis.

In terms of duration, the workshop was scheduled to cover a four-hour timeslot: sufficient to cover all the necessary concepts, but not so long that it would become boring or fatiguing.

The age range of the group was 11 to 12 and consequently content was delivered through a combination of verbal presentation supported by handouts which were designed to be heavily illustrated with minimum written content allowing the intended message to be accessed quickly and easily and without the need to read large chunks of text impeding the flow of the workshop.

A group size of four allowed me to spend time with each participant on an individual basis and to answer any individual questions, whilst being a good size to generate lively discussion with each participant able to contribute equally. The small group size was easily accommodated in a home studio. Equipment was a problem for this group initially, in a way that it might not be for fee-paying adults bringing their own cameras, but it was relatively easy to borrow three cameras from other family members.

Group focus was established by defining and communicating the objectives for the workshop at an early stage.

Lunch was taken together as a group, this time provided an additional period for reflection, and discussion of workshop content and ideas for the hands-on activity.

Each participant was presented with a small pack which contained the handouts previously described. The images which were generated by the hands on practical towards the end of the workshop are being printed out and framed as a keepsake.

Black Stone

C. Morris, 2017. Black Stone

Black Stone was an image taken by my daughter during the practical part of the workshop. In addition to setting up the camera and the still life, she experimented with basic composition and in the creative use of the camera settings to produce a particular aesthetic. She also understood the relevance of using visual imaging to tell a story – the stones she used in this image are quite special to her, having been collected whilst on a nature trail with one of her friends during the summer holiday. Finally, the option of producing images in black and white was made available to the group. My daughter chose to do this because she felt that this made the black stone appear a deeper and richer black.

She is quite rightly pleased with this image.

Aside from the images, what did everyone take away?

Each participant made excellent use of the opportunity to practice the theory presented during the earlier art of the workshop by setting up a small table top still life using objects of their own choosing. Additionally, they felt that the workshop was a fun activity, something different.

The image Starting Photography was developed as a group project, with all group members making a valued contribution – my involvement being limited to operating the shutter.

From a personal point of view, the workshop was an ideal dummy run to test how well my preparations for a workshop involving fee-paying participants have been made to date.

Clearly some aspects of the two workshops differ considerably, for example, the group weren’t interested in an overview of photographic equipment in the way that an adult audience of aspiring food photographers might be. But, in reality, I think there will always be an element of a workshop which will need some degree of tailoring to suit the needs of the participants if the workshop is to be effective.

I think workshops are an extremely valuable addition to my repertoire as a professional photographer, enabling me to engage with an audience, to test out ideas and receive immediate feedback with real-time team-orientated problem-solving.

Photobooks and Other Publications

My Books

Morris, 2017. Pilebrary

I am, most certainly, one to embrace technology. Having said that, I feel that nothing can even begin to approach the wonderful experience of reading from a printed book. For me selecting a book, touching it, even smelling it, are as important as the visual interaction of seeing, looking, reading.

Ebooks and the devices which enable them to be read have their place, several textbooks can be loaded on to a reader and make the act of studying on the move, for example, much easier – not least of all because of the reduction in weight which results from not having to transport heavy texts. But still, nothing can replace a physical text.

Books are a thing of beauty. Libraries are palaces of knowledge and mind-expanding entertainment. If printed books should ever come to be totally replaced by electronic forms of media, I think it would be a very sad day for humanity.

The same can be said for printed photographs. Digital images are marvellous things in their own right, and digital media allows for an extended range of expression, the digital artistry facilitated by Photoshop for example.

But what happens when the world of books meets that of the printed photographic image?

I would suggest that under such circumstances, a most popular notion is that of the photobook.

I have previously stated that the intention is for my final project to be in the form of an online gallery. Numerous reasons continue to justify that statement. However, various other ‘surfaces’, or modes of presentation, exist to enable the publishing of photographic anthologies, for making authored photographic work available, to the public, through printed or electronic media. These are referred to in figure 1, which is the output from a brainstorming session.

Publications Brainstorm II_10Aug2017

Figure 1. Publications Brainstorm Output

Consequently, the chosen format for my publication, a means by which I theoretically and practically explore producing a publication, is a photobook.

I feel it is important at this stage to try to determine what it is that distinguishes between a photograph album and a photobook.

What model was used in order to organise the images in a photo album? Were images simply placed into an album in the order in which they were taken? In which case a chronological frame of reference was used, perhaps unwittingly. Can this help us differentiate between the two formats?

Tate.org.uk (2017) defines a photobook accordingly: ‘the photobook is a book of photographs by a photographer that has an overarching theme or follows a storyline’.

Is it really the presence of a narrative in a photobook, and the absence of the same from a photo album, which determines exactly which entity we are looking at?

Whilst it is a good working definition, I don’t think that the situation is so clear cut. Take, for example, our photographs placed into a photo album in the order in which they are taken. These images still tell a story, possibly the story of the photographer’s journey through life, or perhaps the development over time of the subject of the photographs. Such images still provide a trace of something having existed, and it is progressive.

This is currently an exercise to identify questions relating to the process of publishing a photobook.

Some issues are common to all forms of presentation, for example, identifying target audiences, and the sequencing of images.

Again, figure 1 outlines the issues associated with publishing a photobook.

Project work has been subject to a hiatus recently, in practical terms. As a result, a series of images taken during the earlier part of module three have been sequenced in order to produce the dummy publication.

A key task, and a major consumer of time, has been sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’. The platforms for the creation of photobooks are numerous but not equal.

But rather a discourse in what hasn’t worked, focus on what has …

Blurb.co.uk offers an interface which is user friendly, and provides a number of options in terms of output, for example, orientation, type of cover, and paper type. ‘Blurb’ has proven to be a positive experience for me, so far at least.

Currently on order, then, is 1 x landscape 25 x 20 cm, soft cover prototype with 22 pages, to be printed on premium lustre paper of weight 148 g/m2.

I think that the quality of a photobook reflects more on the photographer, who may have only supplied the images and had very little to do with the physical aspect of producing the book, than it does the printer who a major role in this activity.

In terms of photobooks, the printer, who physically makes the book, with images supplied by the photographer, is viewed as remote, almost distant from the process – if given any regard at all, by the viewer.

With regard to outsourced, printed photobooks, price is a reasonable indicator of quality, but it is no cast iron guarantee of a product’s finish – there isn’t a clear correlation between cost and quality.

So, this is a starting point, a point at which to begin the process of photobook publishing. I see it as a dummy run, establishing a formula which can be repeated if successful, but which has parameters which if necessary can be incrementally, individually adjusted in order to reach an acceptable output.

I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product, and determining where we move to next, dependent upon the quality, and how.

Additionally, I am very interested to see how the photobook translates from electronic to printed media? Will any artefacts be created as a result of the conversion process?

What am I taking away from this experience?

Well, I’m starting to ask more probing questions.

Is one format of photobook more popular than any other, for example? If so, what? And upon what is this dependent?

How does format add to or subtract from the narrative? Or the overall viewing experience? What about the other physical characteristics of the book?

What will make my photobook appealing? What will make people ‘reach out’ to my work? I think people want to engage for a few reasons – sharing an interest, which may already be established or which may be new, or sharing knowledge, or both?

How do I want the audience to interact with the book? Do I want them to spend time looking at each image, before moving to the next? Or do I want them to move through the items in sequence before starting the process again? How will reading ahead affect the narrative?

What level of intimacy do I want with the audience? Do I want to tell them everything in images which leave little to be discovered? Or do I use complex, layered images which require the viewer to spend time studying and searching in order to decode?

Photobooks are something which I believe I can successfully incorporate into my offering. A significant amount of information will be gleaned from analysing my prototype publication. Moving forward, this is a body of knowledge I wish to extend.

 

Reference:

Tate.org ca. 2017. Glossary entry: ‘photobook’ [Online]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/p/the-photobook (Accessed: Friday 14 July 2017)

 

 

On Exhibitions … (Some Practical Considerations)

Staging an exhibition for the first time, a daunting prospect.

The more you look into it, the more complexity the task takes on. The aim of this post is to pull together advice from a number of areas including friends and colleagues with exhibition experience: highlighting potential problem areas (and possible solutions), and suggesting areas for further investigation. Some of the points raised may seem to be obvious, even common sense – arguably that makes such points even easier to overlook.

Clarifying the reasons for wanting to stage an exhibition is fundamental.

Consequently, the first question I asked myself is ‘why do I want to exhibit my images?’

The obvious but superficial answer would be that I want people to see my images. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to jump in terms of setting up an exhibition is convincing someone to hand over part of their real estate for a period of time. So, a more persuasive set of answers are needed.

More robust reasons include the following:

Sharing my work is mutually beneficial, providing positive publicity for me as a photographer as well as for the venue owner

Anyone who agrees to lend space for my work to be exhibited is supporting both the local community in general and, more specifically, the local art community

Hopefully, my work will help decorate – perhaps even beautify – a space, even if only for a short period of time.

Establishing a goal is essential – not least of all because a benchmark by which the success of the exhibition can be gauged is needed. Is the purpose of the exhibition to generate revenue? Or for CV development? Perhaps to raise public awareness regarding a particular cause? Or to create networking opportunities?

There are a number of different types of venue in which a physical exhibition of artwork can be set up, for example, some offices have a reception area where wall space is given over to exhibitions of artwork on a rotating basis. Having first convinced myself of the validity for an exhibition of my work makes it so much easier to convince someone else to grant me access to their exhibition area.

Portraying a professional image is key in establishing a successful relationship between an artist and an exhibition venue owner. Images, mounted to a professional standard and carried in a dedicated print transportation box, demonstrate that you have both the professional attitude as well as the craft skills needed if they are going to hang your work on their walls.

Make it easy for venue owners to contact you – a business card is an absolute minimum, but ways for the venue to contact you can include a brochure which features examples of work.

Once a space for an exhibition has been secured, final decisions on which images to show can be made. A number of images may have already been identified prior to securing the venue. However, some changes may be required depending on the venue, for example, will images be needed, or fewer? Are the images appropriate for the venue?

Crucially, the images need to have cohesion – a theme helps images work well together as a body of work.

Due to layout, some exhibition spaces don’t allow all the images on display to be seen at the same time – images which can stand alone work well in such areas and can be linked together by themes such as geometry, texture, and colour.

An exhibition space which allows images to be seen together, for example in row along one wall, favours images which work together strongly as a series.

Colour needs to be consistent throughout all the images, as does printing style in general. This is especially true if you are planning to sell work, unless that artwork is a one-off piece, the printing needs to be reproducible and repeatable irrespective of whether it is in-house or outsourced printing.

Image size can be determined by two things: cost of printing, mounting and framing an image – obviously larger images cost more to prepare, and available space in the viewing area – larger images requiring more space to both hang and view, and vice versa.

Something which is quite often overlooked, and yet is as important as the image itself – being almost art of the image, is the mounting.

The purpose of the mounting is several-fold: it provides a means of securing the artwork in the frame, it helps protect the artwork by preventing direct contact between the artwork and the protective glass, and it helps guide the viewer’s attention towards the image.

White, or slightly off-white, tends to be favoured by museums and galleries. Most people find white or off-white agreeable and a simple, but classic mounting avoids the potential loss of a sale which can arise if coloured mounts are used. White or off-white is complimentary to the majority of images.

Standard (plain, not ornate) black frames work well for the same reasons.

Simple titles help a viewer engage with an image, whereas ambiguous titles can help lose a viewer’s interest.

A discrete label featuring the image title, together with details of size and type of print, should accompany each image. Again, consistency and professional finish are paramount.

This label can also be used to carry information relating to the cost of the artwork (pricing is beyond the scope of this post).

In terms of sequencing the images, there are certain psychological responses associated with the viewing of art.

A light area at or near to the edge of the image will usually be an entry point for a viewer to access an image. Subsequently, the viewer’s eyes will move through the image until a focal point is found and typically this is the area of greatest contrast – the point where the darkest blacks meet the lightest whites.

Other features of the image – colours, textures, tonal range, lines and patterns – will determine the viewer’s response: either holding the viewer’s gaze, or leading it out of the image.

This information can be used to provide a flow, or transition, from one image to the next with, say, an image with lines which lead towards the right edge, creating a sense of motion, being placed to direct the viewer’s attention towards the next image, placed to its right.

A statement of intent, in keeping with the title label for each image, should be placed in close proximity to the introductory image, giving the audience some context regarding the artist and the art.

An exhibition is clearly a sales opportunity. But it is also an opportunity to grow, to develop as a photographer. Collecting audience feedback is a key part of this development process. This can take several forms, for example, a recent combined exhibition of work by GCSE and ‘A’ Level photography students at my daughter’s school provided a guest book for those who wished to comment on their viewing experience.

Equally important is setting up a means of dealing with any leads which result from the exhibition? Will an incentive, financial or otherwise, be offered to those who view the exhibition in order to generate leads?

In reality, most exhibitions will have to work with the environmental conditions of the venue. Only large-scale, high-profile exhibitions will find that environmental conditions, for example, décor and lighting, will be changed to suit the exhibition.

Consideration should be given to the level of photo literacy expected from the audience. Too much or too little will both cause an audience to disengage with the art. If the chosen theme itself requires some specialist knowledge, it is worthwhile considering an appropriate publication to accompany the exhibition.

How should the artist engage with the audience, other than though the exhibition per se? Perhaps workshops are one way to do this?

What of the audience itself? Will there be one audience? Or will there be different audiences, each with differing needs?

And where would an exhibition be without an audience? Which leads us to marketing the exhibition. Advise the local press regarding the exhibition at the earliest opportunity. Preparing a press pack will help (invitation to the exhibition, exhibition announcement and other promotional literature, CV, offer of an interview, photographs).

With regard to promotional literature, care needs to be taken in identifying and then reaching a target audience. Trying to ‘tailor’ promotional literature to reach all the identified target audiences results in failing to reach any. This is purely because no group feels you are addressing them, you are not speaking in terms that they, as a group, understand.

Of course, this advice makes a large assumption, that those agreeing to provide exhibition space will allow the exhibitor to set up the exhibition themselves. But what about the venue which only allows an exhibitor to hang artwork using existing fixtures? Or insists on the artwork being handed over to them for hanging?

It then becomes a question of integrity on the part of the photographer as to whether they wish to hand over authorship of their exhibition to that extent?

As mentioned, pricing of artwork is beyond the scope of this post. Other subjects which can be deemed to be beyond the scope of this post, but are nevertheless worthy of a mention, are: the copyright and other legal issues associated with exhibiting; funding, sponsorship and the legal obligations associated with sponsorship; and contracts between the exhibitor and the venue.

See also: On Reflection: Week 6, Module Three

On Curation and Curating

‘Where once the curator needed only to be a specialist in their field, now they have to be communicators, computer and IT operators, fundraisers, outreach officers, research specialists, conservators, strategic planners, financially adept, project managers and on top of this…underpaid’ (Museums Association 2004: 3 in Edwards 2007).

… … …

‘People think curating just means choosing nice things’ (Worsley, 2016).

I tend to agree with this headline, believing that most people have very little knowledge of what curation involves. I include myself amongst those with a lack of knowledge regarding this profession.

What is involved in curating?

What are the skills essential to the role of curation, and what makes a good curator?

Interviewed by The Guardian in 2016, Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, informs us that curation not only involves being a custodian of artefacts, but also a custodian of the knowledge associated with those artefacts – their history:

‘Curating isn’t just a matter of taste. It involves building up a real knowledge of the items in your care. As the world gets quicker, and shallower, and bite-sized, retaining our ability to take a deep dive into history is more and more important’.

Conversely, Harriet Loffler (Curator of Modern & Contemporary Arts, Norfolk Museums Service) highlights that objects are not preserved or conserved in perpetuity – describing decisions regarding the disposal of items as ‘difficult’.

Ana Debenedetti, Curator of Paintings at the V & A, describes the role of a curator as that of facilitator and promoter of public access to collections held within museums.

This connection to people is echoed by Lucy Bamford, Curator of Art, Derby Museums: ‘working in a museum has given me a connection to people – to the rest of humanity – that I never had before’.

A postgraduate taking an MA in Museums Studies, Maja Michaliszyn, suggests that whilst the work of a curator is multi-faceted, the biggest challenge she has encountered has been dealing with time constraints, pointing out that ‘coming up with the theme and then building the narrative around the display was time-consuming, but at the same time a fascinating experience’.

Chandler (2009) describes curatorship as something which ‘typically involves structuring relationships and imposing organizational frameworks on works displayed within an exhibition’. She goes on to describe such ‘forms of classification’ as being ‘monographic, chronological, geographic, cultural, material or medium and thematic groupings.’

This immediately causes me to pose a question: if a curator’s role is to safeguard a repository of artefacts and history whilst acting as an intermediary, bringing such artefacts and knowledge into the public realm, to what extent do their decisions reflect an ideology? And is that ideology their own?

Bourdieu (1993, pp. 74 – 141) suggests that curators in distinguished institutions are able to exercise significant power with regard to promoting some artists to the detriment of others.

Claire Warrior (Senior Exhibitions Interpretation Curator, National Maritime Museum) suggests, however, that: ‘museums are sites of negotiated authority, in which curators remain responsible for the objective documentation of their collections, shaping credible narratives around artefacts through research and exhibitions’.

Times have changed and Warrior points out that ‘most curators have exited their ivory towers and firmly shut the door behind them, entering into dialogues with their audiences that are much more fruitful for both parties‘.

The profession of curation exists within a changing landscape.

The opportunity for individuals to curate has undoubtedly increased as a result of technological advances (e.g. the internet). But is everyone who becomes a custodian of something a curator? Or is that term best left to describe those with appropriate qualifications who undertake such work on a professional basis?

Lucilla Burn (Keeper of Antiquities, Fitzwilliam Museum) shares her thoughts on this issue, writing accordingly:

‘It seems you can curate anything, from a flower show to a weekend or even a shopping list. As a classicist I don’t in principle object to this revival of the etymological origin of the word curator, which literally means caretaker. But I’m not sure I want to go along with the growing feeling that the activities of museum curators aren’t any different from those of people who collect shells and lay them out in patterns on their windowsills. I’m as likely to pick up shells from the beach as the next person, but I do have two problems with classifying this activity as ‘curating’.

The first is: where do we draw the line? Am I curating the laundry when I sort out the odd socks and hang them in a neat row on the line? Are nursery nurses ‘child curators’? Are supermarket shelf-stackers ‘curators of retail display space’? If not, given that these all exemplify ‘taking care of’, why not? Where is the boundary line beyond which the term turns (really) silly?

And secondly: how helpful is it for ‘people who have specialist knowledge of, and work in and with museum and gallery collections, safeguarding and sometimes increasing them for future generations, studying them to extend knowledge and understanding, and helping numerous different audiences to appreciate them through a variety of methods and media’ to have lost their right to use the rather convenient, shortish word formerly used to describe their profession? What are we supposed to say at parties? My suggestion is that rather than meekly accepting that no, we aren’t a profession, that we have no special skills or abilities, and that everyone is a curator now, we need to ‘re-brand’ ourselves. Suggestions, please, on a postcard…..’

 

The purpose of this investigation was not to establish all the answers, instead it was to provide me with sufficient knowledge to be able to ask questions which are more meaningful.

Whose work will be featured in the exhibition? How many artists will contribute? And why?

How will work by different artists be linked? What will be the theme for the exhibition?

How will work be displayed? What display model will be used?

What is the intended length of time for the exhibition? Will there be different dates and times for groups (opening, private views, talks, workshops, closing? What will the opening hours of the exhibition?

How will viewers be expected to move through the exhibition? Will there be a specific flow?

Additionally, environmental factors such as lighting, and décor need to be considered as they contribute to the overall ambience of the exhibition and influence the viewing experience.

Whilst these questions are, arguably, common sense, I can now search for answers from a vantage point which is much more informed – interrogating issues much more incisively.

… … …

In conclusion, curation is a highly specialised role. I think a greater understanding of the curating role, the factors which act to influence it, and (at least some of) the theoretical models used within the profession will enable us as photographers to stage more meaningful presentations of our work – especially given that many of us will, at some stage in our career, be called upon to curate our own exhibitions.

 

References:

Bourdieu, P. (1993) The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, In Randal

Johnson (ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Burn, Lucilla. (n.d.). ‘What is a curator?’. Artandscienceofcuration.org.uk [online]. Available at: http://www.artandscienceofcuration.org.uk/what-is-a-curator-lucilla-burn/ [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Chandler, Lisa. (2009) ‘’Journey without maps’: unsettling curatorship in cross-cultural contexts’. Museum & Society Vol 7, No. 2 [online]. Available at: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/museumsociety/documents/volumes/chandler.pdf [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Edwards, E.C., (2007). ‘The Future for Curators’. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 18(S1), pp. 98–114 [online]. Available at: http://doi.org/10.5334/pia.290 [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Loffler, Harriet. (n.d.) ‘What is it that curators do?’. Artandscienceofcuration.org.uk [online]. Available at: http://www.artandscienceofcuration.org.uk/curators/ [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Michaliszyn, Maja. (n.d.) ‘What is curating?’. Artandscienceofcuration.org.uk [online]. Available at: http://www.artandscienceofcuration.org.uk/what-is-curating/ [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Museums Association, 2004. Pay in Museums. London: Museums Association.

The Guardian. (2016) ‘’People think curating just means choosing nice things’ – secrets of the museum curators’. The Guardian [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/2016/jan/22/museum-curator-job-secrets-culture-arts [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Warrior, Claire. (n.d.). ‘What is a curator?’. Artandscienceofcuration.org.uk [online]. Available at: http://www.artandscienceofcuration.org.uk/what-is-a-curator-claire-warrior/ [accessed: Monday 26 June 2017]

Cameraless Photography

PhotoScan-web

Morris, 2017. Untitled #1

PhotoScan-2-web

Morris, 2017. Untitled #2

PhotoScan-3-web

Morris, 2017. Untitled #3

PhotoScan-4-web

Morris, 2017. Untitled #4

PhotoScan-5-web

Morris, 2017. Untitled #5

Playtime!

Five images showing an eclectic array of objects: pens, a pair of compasses, an ammonite, and a handful of star anise – all of which were to hand on my desk on Wednesday 21 June 2017 and photographed using a scanner.

Whilst the objects don’t relate to my project I wanted to experiment with an alternative technique and make a timely submission despite being in a state of upheaval due to an impending house move.

A very interesting activity to complete, generating several ideas for ongoing experimentation.

See also: ‘Scanography

 

‘Pillars of Creation’: Nonhuman Photography

Pillars_of_creation_2014_HST_WFC3-UVIS_full-res_denoised

Nasa, 2014. Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation’ is an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

It shows columns, or ‘cold molecular pillars’ (informally ‘elephant trunks’) of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula – 6,500 to 7,000 from Earth. The name derives from the fact that stars are being created from the gas and dust whilst also being eroded by the scorching ultraviolet light emitted by other recently formed stars.

The image was photographed by the Hubble Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009, and produced using near-infrared and visible light exposure.

Pillars of Creation’ was an image originally produced in 1995. This higher resolution image was produced in 2014 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the telescope’s launch.

 

References

Garner, Rob. (2015). ‘Hubble Goes High-Definition to Revisit Iconic ‘Pillars of Creation’’. Nasa.gov [Online]. Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-goes-high-definition-to-revisit-iconic-pillars-of-creation [accessed 18 June 2017].

Walk in My Shoes

Walk in My Shoes

 

The task, to produce a crowdsourced Zine …

We were asked to form groups and then to choose a subject or theme for our zine.

Very quickly we were able to identify a small number of potential topics and from that list we chose ‘Shoes’ and the idea of walking a mile in someone’s shoes.

A deadline for contributions was set at 1800hrs on Wednesday 14 June, and this would allow us time to compile images and edit the zine before publishing.

There are a small number of companies which offer a platform for the publication of zines and these were evaluated and potential runners were added to a shortlist.

Background to this activity is the study of photographic projects involving input from people additional to the photographer: collaborative, collective, participatory and cooperative projects, and the ways in which these are unique or overlap with the terminology being interchangeable.

Quite clearly a crowdsourced zine is dependent upon contributions, we as photographers found ourselves in new territory, assuming a project management and editing role. OK, project management is a big part of photography so that isn’t so new, but I think it fair to say that the editing role most certainly is.

The response from family, friends and friends of friends has been immense – truly fantastic. It represents the great things that we can achieve when we all work together. We are extremely thankful, and humbled, by the response.

Part of the brief was to maintain an element of surprise by keeping the themes for our zines secret from other groups. Consequently, we set up a secret Facebook group through which we could request and then receive contributions for footwear related images. Once this was established and proved successful we extended the opportunities to contribute to include quotes and poems related to shoes and walking.

This has been an interesting area of research, it has also been a fun activity which was made exciting by the enthusiasm of those taking part and the diversity of their contributions.

Not in Isolation

Participatory, collective, cooperative and collaboration – all terms used to describe projects which involve the creative talents of at least two persons, quite often more. These terms are used quite interchangeably.

Photovoice, for example, is described as “community-based participatory research” which aims to document reality by combining photography with grassroots campaigning.

Emphasis is placed on inclusion, with participation from community members irrespective of age, social status, language, gender, race or disability.

Photographic projects raise awareness of social issues which affect the community, and which would otherwise be hidden or overlooked, by bringing new insights and perspectives.

Constructive criticism is a further example of collaboration in which the photographer and a viewer approaching images from different directions, nevertheless, the aims of both parties is to facilitate both better photography and more informed criticism.

Relating this to my photographic practice, collaboration for me is rare. Working on food photography projects is a solitary exercise. However, collaboration is highly relevant to food photography, especially for high-end photoshoots where cooks and food stylists might be involved.

Opportunities for collaborative work may not be commonplace in relation to smaller food photography projects. A greater number of opportunities present themselves with regard to the actual operation of the business, marketing for example, where expertise could be drawn upon for the design and production of promotional videos, graphic design skills for development of promotional literature, and copywriting skills.

Away from my main photographic practice, producing a zine has been an interesting, informative and fun task. For me, what we achieved represents the effectiveness of both collaboration – in the form of project related input from colleagues, and participation – in the form of crowdsourced contributions.

A key factor, of course, in all cooperative artistic scenarios is maintaining individual creative identity whilst harnessing the team’s abilities to create a synergistic outcome.

Appropriation and Misappropriation

Susan_Meiselas_-_Molotov_Man

Meiselas, 1981. Molotov Man

“Appropriation in art and art history refers to the practice of artists using pre-existing objects or images in their art with little transformation of the original” (Tate.org, ca. 2017).

Nicaragua, 16 July 1979 and photographer Susan Meiselas captures an image that will become an icon representing a pivotal point in the country’s political history.

A petrol bomb is about to be thrown at a Somoza national guard garrison shortly before the Sandinistas take control, holding it for the next ten years.

Fast forward to spring 2003 when artist Joy Garnett begins a project – a series of paintings based solely on images taken by other photographers. Her use of Meiselas’ image prompted a letter from lawyer’s representing the author, asserting her right of ownership, citing copyright infringement and requesting that she seek written permission prior to using any further images.

Garnett’s response? To seek opinion from fellow members of an artist’s forum to which she belonged, thereby triggering a reactionary avalanche of appropriation of the ‘Molotov Man’.

‘Joywar’ seems to assume a certain arrogance on the part of the participants – a “this is our image and we can do what we want with it” antagonistic type of response.

Fundamentally, Garnett failed to acknowledge both authorship and context relating to Meiselas’ image. The consternation felt by Meiselas could have been avoided by Garnett simply crediting and referencing the work.

Garnett appears to have failed to consider the consequences of appropriating images – this is suggested by her response to a letter from Meiselas’ lawyer, a response which saw her turn to members of a forum to which she belonged to for advice and opinion. Giving thought to the potential consequences of appropriation prior to use would have enabled Garnett to do two things: firstly, to understand the need for the best practice of giving credit for the work of others, and secondly, to be able to justify her reasons for the appropriation.

The fact that Garnett had to solicit opinions regarding her appropriation and the author’s response to that appropriation, for me, brings in to question the legitimacy of her appropriation.

Meiselas’ response asserts her inalienable right to be identified as the author of the image. However, once an image is placed in the public domain it immediately becomes a legitimate object for comment and criticism. That is not, though, a licence for uncredited use of the image.

Meiselas’ consternation at the uncredited appropriation of her image which, because it was also unreferenced by Garnett was also stripped of its context, is understandable.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to question why, when her image had been used many times out of context, it was Garnett’s decontextualized use of the image which attracted Meiselas’ attention in such a negative way.

Issues relating to the potential appropriation of my work are difficult to predict. I would expect that any use of my images be credited and acknowledge me as the author. Where appropriate, I would also expect the source to be referenced.

If my images were used without credit, the response would be to request that, as far as possible, credit be attached retrospectively to any work already created in addition to credit be given in any future works. In terms of litigation, I think this would depend very much on whether my work had been appropriated for financial gain by the artist.

 

Reference

Garnett, J. and Meiselas, S. 2007. [Online]. Available at: http://fdm.ucsc.edu/~landrews/film171aw09/readings_files/OnTheRightsOfTheMolotovMan.pdf (Accessed 10 June 2007).

Tate.Org ca. 2017. Art Terms entry: ‘appropriation’ [Online]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/appropriation (Accessed: Saturday 10 June 2017)