What’s Been Happening

There’s been a bit of a gap…

I started photography at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) in September. Studying photography with the OCA made such a difference to me that I wanted the opportunity to study full time and to spend time with other photography students; as Bournemouth is within reasonable travelling distance (about an hour) I decided to take a place when it was offered to me. 

However, I managed two weeks before I got ill (freshers flu I suppose) and then I had an allergy to ibuprofen which has led to a run of horrible symptoms and caused no end of problems as I am also allergic to paracetamol.

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Part of a series of images I took before I started AUB

Last night I realised I had been absent for four out of six weeks and I know that I am likely to need more time off as I need to try prescription painkillers that may or may not cause me problems. That will involve going to hospital to sit in accident and emergency while I take the tablets so I’m in the right place if I have a problem. Add to that a spiral of pain I have now got into and a run of problems caused by lack of ibuprofen, like issues with an ongoing achilles injury. Under any circumstances it makes it difficult to do two hours driving and a forty minute walk five days a week, but when I cannot take ibuprofen to deal with the symptoms it makes it impossible. Last time I went into the university I had to keep stopping on the walk back to the car which isn’t great when you’re walking back through a wood alone with a weird guy hanging around that you know you won’t be able to run from. I then had an hour of driving ahead of me on an ankle that was too weak to walk on. I don’t usually need to take painkillers very often, but I’m now acutely aware that if I get a headache I can’t do anything to ease it, if I get backache I’m stuck with it, if I get a cold (inevitable in the context of the university) there is nothing I can take to help with the symptoms.

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I am at university full time I can’t get myself back to my normal healthy self; I keep hoping and convincing myself I can, but then I come down with something else. I’ve been more ill in the past six weeks than I have in the past six years. I normally keep healthy by going to the gym four times a week; I’ve been twice in the past month. Despite having a long list of photographic work I want to do I’ve not managed to take more than a couple of rolls of film and I haven’t even got those developed yet. I have other artwork I want to make too, but I’m just not getting time. I thought I would be involved in music at the university, but I’ve hardly picked up my violin for a month and there is no way I can get my cello there and so that is not happening either. I’ve put so much effort into violin in the past few years I am really reluctant to give it all up, but as each 1 1/2hr workshop takes nearly five hours of my time I just don’t get enough hours in the day to fit in everything I thought I would. I have to be realistic that AUB just isn’t working for me at the moment.

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My work is on two of these

I can’t let this go on indefinitely and so I have decided that I will leave AUB and continue studying with the OCA. I have nearly finished EYV; I’ve completed all the assignments and I know how to approach the updates that I need to make. I need to make more of an effort to spend time with other students on OCA courses and I have to think about how to do that as I don’t feel that I’ve been a fully engaged part of the OCA community so far. If you’re reading this and you’re an OCA student on any course I would really appreciate your thoughts on this – how do you stay in contact with the community? Do you get to meet other students in the flesh? I think this is something I would really benefit from and so input and fresh ideas would be very much appreciated. 

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My new camera; a Canon AE-1 Program

 

Self Portraits

At the moment I’m finishing up EYV while simultaneously preparing to start full time study at Arts University Bournemouth in September. My summer project for AUB is ‘self portrait with wig’, but it strikes me as a continuation of where I was getting to and wanted to get to with ideas that had been coming up on EYV.

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I really wanted to create some kind of tableau type image, particularly for something I had in mind called ‘The Oracular Brendan Fraser Dream‘. For the ongoing ideas with AUB it’s now turning into some kind of comment on identity and the power of photography, in the form of a detective / film noir type of story summed up in a single image or perhaps in a comic book style set of images.

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I think I’m being influenced by the painting ‘The Ambassadors’ by Hans Holbein the Younger; I’m not sure how, but I have it on my wall and I can’t stop looking at it, like it’s some kind of puzzle that I need to solve. But for now I’ve been playing with simple character ideas using Photo Booth on my mac to see if I can create a set of characters which all have some reflection on parts of me. The idea is to put these characters onto a ‘detective board’ along with snippets of information about me and possessions that reveal things about me. I suppose that asking for a self portrait is asking me to reveal. The wig is asking me to conceal. So I want to include both of those elements.

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I asked my son to mock up a comic book page for me – this is his work

When I typed ‘self portrait with wig’ into Google the first thing I saw was by Andy Warhol. So that got me thinking about this Warhol type of idea that I experimented with.

 

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I have a purple wig and so I took a few shots with that too. I have to say that I really enjoyed wearing a purple wig. I felt a bit like a mermaid or magical creature of some description, like I really should be riding a unicorn and wearing a dress with flounced sleeves. It made me genuinely happy, I was a child dressing up and playing pretend.

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“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves”. Francois de La Rochefoucauld

So this is what I usually look like. I have this mad curly hair that resists all attempts to do anything with it, so honestly I now just look on like an outside observer to see what it will do with itself on a day-to-day basis. I really have relinquished any control I may have thought I had; I just don’t have the time or patience to deal with such a wilful part of me. It means since the age of about 8 I’ve never really had hair any different from this; this has been it. It’s been really surprising for me that having different hair makes you feel so different, although that’s possibly not a revelation for most people! But it really does raise fundamental questions for me, because all of a sudden I’m not who I thought I was in a lot of different ways. These images look like different people; my children are actually finding it quite disturbing to see me differently. But I’m enjoying it; I feel like I’ve been given permission to have fun with the way I look.

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‘Real’ me?

 

 

Image manipulation in Glitche

I am looking more and more at moving image and I got Glitche to add interesting effects to short clips. However, I spent some time playing with it on a photograph, so here are some screen shots from that. I find it easy to manipulate the images but complex to save. It’s really hard to work out why; sometimes an image will save but most of the time there doesn’t seem to be an option to do that so I had to resort to screenshots.

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Final Assignment with OCA Done

Okay, despite a crap weekend with emergency visits to hospital for one of my family and nausea for me (pretty sure it was the heat- I’m not used to it and I don’t like it), I think I’ve nearly finished my final assignment. At last. I feel a huge need to finish asap now so I get a proper break before I start studying photography full-time at Arts University Bournemouth in September.

A5 Final Images

A5 Potential Images

Assignment 5 Planning and Research

A5 Contact Sheets & Further Images

I also have the beginnings of an Instagram site for this one as I used video too. It will take several days before it’s up and running though.

Now to finish all the missing exercises, complete the updates including what could be a total rework of A4 and prepare to send everything to the university.

 

Dead. The Joy of Cats (and Dick Pics)

A story on Steller

https://steller.co/s/8RjTzSyBbky

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#thejoyofcats #deadbird #threshold #gift

 

Someone told me this Steller story was inappropriate. I don’t think so. I will admit, I was in a strange mood when I published this. My neighbour had just died; I didn’t even know she was ill.

The day she died a man who followed me on Instagram sent me a dick pic. Several days before he’d asked me if he could send me a drawing of him that someone had done. “Yeah, of course”, I said. Then came the ‘dick pic’ which, on reflection, I should have been expecting. I had been about to leave the house when it arrived and so I left my phone at home and resolved to block him as soon as I got back.

When I got home there were several ambulances outside my house, a helicopter overhead and then the police arrived. I was using what I shall refer to as ‘the studio’ that day to coat some paper in cyanotype chemicals. Studio is a bit much really; it’s a shed with some black out blinds and lights in it. It’s at the end of my garden, and several neighbouring houses face it as they run along the length of my garden which is currently missing a fence. I was in the studio when a ‘private ambulance’ came to one of those houses. Men dressed in black suits and sunglasses got out and went into one of the houses. Twenty minutes later they drove away. And it was like nothing had happened. Someone is dead (I wasn’t sure which member of their family at that point). Let’s not mention it.

Obviously, I forgot all about the offending Instagram image until I got more messages, the first with a sad face 😦 and then another asking me if I was shocked. That pissed me off.

I have seen a penis before. And it’s not the first time I’ve been sent a photo of one. So no, I said, I’m not shocked by the sight of a penis. My neighbour just died, I’m shocked about that. I feel sad, I need some sleep. Why did I even bother to discuss this? Because there is a feeling that people must, surely, be capable of being reasoned with at some level. But clearly not. I Googled ‘how to block on Instagram’ so I was just in time for the messages asking me if I liked what he’d sent. I certainly didn’t like being hassled to explain my feelings about being sent an unrequested and unwanted photo of a penis when I’d just explained what happened that day.

What’s it got to do with cats? I don’t know really, but there was certainly a link beyond the obvious theme of death, one that I am trying to work out. Whatever it is I think it’s partly expressed in this ‘story’ on Steller. I suppose there is something about the hidden and the revealed. There is no-one to hide the cat kills from me. No men in black suits to collect them and pretend like this never happened. Yesterday they left another large dead bird in the middle of the dining room, very much like the one in the photograph. I picked it up and it was heavier than I thought it would be. I felt sad about it. There is something particularly sad about a dead bird. Perhaps it is Dr Newby’s (my old maths lecturer) seagull photographs; they remind me of him and I still miss him sometimes. I don’t want to hide all this crap stuff because at some level I feel it takes away the power we all have. I am uncomfortable with covering up all of these unpleasant aspects of everyday life, fed up with the perfect people and their perfect lives and their perfect clothes and their clean cars and cute (killer) kittens that aren’t black because they won’t photograph well and all of that. It’s all so depressing and boring and false that I quite appreciate the honesty of my cats now, even if I don’t like clearing up after them.

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Exploring the Medium; Lumen Prints & Other Experiments

Lumen Prints

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to explore the medium of photography as part of the work I am producing for A5. I don’t want to limit myself to a digital camera with perfect lenses and a very predictable outcome. I just don’t like it; I want a sense of playfulness and experimentation I suppose. I want to try things and see what happens.

The last few days have been really sunny, so I’ve been taking advantage of the weather to produce some lumen prints and to experiment a bit more with cyanotypes.

I found the lumen prints really interesting; the first three in this series were exposed for 6 hours, between 12 noon and 6pm.

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This second set were exposed between about 7pm and 8am, so overnight on a (nearly) full moon. I have no idea if the light from the moon has made any difference at all. I wasn’t being very scientific about the process. Although both sets were exposed in my garden, they are from different parts of the garden.  This pinker set that was exposed overnight may have been in a more shady spot. The top three were in bright, direct sunlight for 6 hours.

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Experimental Cyanotypes

This was an interesting cyanotype experiment. The (flawed) thinking went like this; cyanotype works when the chemicals are exposed to UV light. Suncream blocks UV light. What happens if I use suncream to mask an area of the cyanotype before I expose it?

I’d placed ferns on top of a prepared sheet of paper that had been coated with cyanotype chemicals and left to dry for several days. I used a spray factor 30 sunscreen to spray the paper and then removed the ferns. I immediately saw the outline of the ferns, and they were clear during exposure.

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but as soon as the paper was rinsed this happened…

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You can see some ghostly imprints on the top right and bottom left, but that’s it. Thinking about it, that result makes sense. However…

this is what I am left with on the back of the print. I quite like it.

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I have also tried the same process with photographic paper, but I used too much sunblock spray so I’ve lost the outline of the ferns.

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The next experiment went reasonably well though. I’ve used a fern to produce a mono print, and used the glass that I inked up as a glass negative.

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Mono print

This is from a house plant – it’s a different type of fern, but I wanted to try out the process without having to go and collect more ferns as my plant material had dried out. I’m reasonably pleased with the result from this.

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I’ve also been experimenting digitally, mainly using various apps. I shall put those in a separate post in a few days.

Photos from a Bike Ride: North Dorset Trailway

I usually go to the gym three times a week. I only started going in June 2016 because I was training for a charity cycle ride. I knew that hayfever season was approaching, that it would stop me cycling for several months, and I needed to keep up a schedule. Braving the gym, an unknown environment for me, was my only option. I’ve been going ever since.

For various reasons I couldn’t fit it in today and so for the first time in a long time I got out on my bike and took my iPhone with me.

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Theresa May won’t be running around here; it’s a bit too close to Jacob Rees-Mogg for comfort.

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I’m updating A1, Square Mile and might use some of these images.

I had been thinking about the idea of ambivalence for A1 and had taken several images where the image was split in half. I’ve chatted the idea over with several people and they all ‘get it’ and like it in terms of it communicating that idea.

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I suppose what really attracts me here is the colours, but also the slightly damp, cool feeling of being underneath this bridge. The air feels fresher here and there is a sense of nature, very gradually, taking over.

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I also really quite like the graffiti. I know some people think it’s ugly, and sometimes it is, but in the context I find it refreshing. I know there are young people here too; they have left their mark and I like that.

Things I’d Do Differently on EYV

I feel like I’m coming to the end of this course now, but it feels like a slog because I seem to have so much to catch up on. I’m really pleased I started it, I’m looking forward to completing it and it has changed the way I think about photography and the way I look at  and make images. I really cannot begin to explain how impactful it has been both personally and professionally. But there are things I wish I had done and approached differently.

I should have been more diligent in terms of completing exercises and updating assignments quickly from the beginning because now I can see that I have gaps that I need to fill which is frustrating when I’m approaching the end of the course and would like to finish so I can start something new. The frustrating thing is that I know I have taken lots of images for all of these exercises; I just always thought I would like to do something better (or used film) and so there are gaps now. I should have uploaded what I had and then updated later on.

If you’ve read much of this site you’ll know I’ve studied distance learning before, and to be honest I find it really tough. I’ve also been to a ‘bricks and mortar’ university, and it was easier. Distance learning courses try to provide a social area, often message boards and online groups, but I find it so difficult to keep up with all of the offshoots that I end up just giving up on the entire idea. I want to take photographs, not sit in front of my screen catching up all day long. And I really need to interact with other students more; just one single study visit confirmed the value of that for me. So if I were starting EYV again, I’d certainly look for more study visits and make more effort to get to them.

I started to take weekly photographs and added them to the blog. I think that was a really good discipline for me and worked well. However, on reflection I should have made the posts more individual. There are a lot of posts that have really varied images – from London to gardens to vortographs and discussions about various ideas. I should have separated them to posts on sets of images rather than images from a specific week. But that’s more about ease for readers of the blog rather than the course per se.

Originally I thought that looking at the work of other photographers would somehow be cheating. I actively avoided it for a while. But it really is essential. And as long as you make notes of where your ideas are coming from and what is inspiring you then it’s not a problem. I’ve been inspired by lots of people; so many that I’ve really had problems keeping exercise 5.2 down to just a few specific mentions.

I used the course template for this site. The problem is that the course text often asks you to add things to your learning log, but the learning log comes up as the blog and the exercises and assignments are in different areas again. So when it comes to assessment I am now concerned about how assessors will find their way around through the posts I’ve thought of and added myself to find and pick out the various elements that they specifically asked for in the text. I think I would structure that differently.

I’ve learnt a lot about how I work, especially when it comes to feedback. One of the issues working like this is that feedback can take a really long time and until you actually hand in an assignment it’s virtually non-existent. I need time before I can make proper use of it; by then I have usually been working on something else. I should have aimed to complete assignments a lot earlier so that I had more time for feedback to make the impact it should have had.

I have a Skype tutorial a few days after submitting each assignment. They have all been really helpful, but I wish that they were shorter and more frequent. I do take notes during them, but it’s difficult to retain all that information. I should have asked to record them.

For photography I use an iPhone, a Fujifilm XT-2, a Polaroid (that takes 600 film), an old Canon EOS film camera, an old Kodak Brownie, and an Olympus EM10 Mark II.  I also like to use alternative processes like cyanotypes and emulsion lifts. I use a lot of apps and create images in them that I go on to use. It is a nightmare to keep on top of all this, because some weeks I will produce hundreds of images. And these go along with other art I produce; various prints, paintings, drawings etc. Keeping track is really difficult.  I have used Photos on my mac so far; I upload everything to it and then transfer it to Lightroom. Today I have been stressing because I could not get photos taken on my iPhone into Lightroom; it turns out Apple have helpfully saved them in a new format for me – HEIC – and Lightroom will not open it. I also have issues with photos from my Fuji  that are ‘unable to upload to iCloud’. Some will work, some will not. This is a real problem for me and is the only problem I have ever, ever had with my iMac. It usually ends up being the images I most want to use, and I cannot get them to Lightroom despite hours of sodding about trying to fool my machine into uploading them. So if I were starting this again, I would try and work out some kind of reasonable system for keeping track of these files from the start. And I wouldn’t use Photos on a mac, especially since I cannot seem to upload images from Photos to WordPress; I have to run them through Lightroom first. I look at the photographic prints and files everywhere and I know I wouldn’t start from here.

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Cyanotype Workshop; Teaching Teens Photography

Thanks to Pauline at Artisan Studio, I had my first taste of teaching teens photography yesterday (other than my own children of course). I was invited to the home educated teens art class to teach them how to make cyanotypes so that they could learn a new technique, have a chilled final session for the summer, and we could investigate the possibility of running future workshops at the studio.

It’s really nice to be working with such an experienced art teacher; we worked out a lesson plan and what needed to be covered and thankfully Pauline was there for prompting me too! It’s really easy to forget what you already know and take certain knowledge for granted so although as an ex-home educator myself I hate the idea of hand-outs, maybe it would be useful for me to produce one for the factual information in future. I know I personally find names and dates and names of chemicals hard to recall and often just irrelevant, it’s the technique and result that excite me. If the result captures my imagination then I get into the details when I need them.

The main technique used was photograms. One student used a combination of two negatives, but they were not printed with enough contrast to work on anything other than sun print paper which was unfortunate because the idea was lovely.

Despite my initial worries about the weather it ended up being sunny and dry so that was a relief. I really enjoyed the afternoon, the students were good fun and I even got a chance to produce some more cyanotypes myself.

 

Here’s a selection of the work that was produced:

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