New Blog site

My blog for Body of Work is here https://umneybow.wordpress.com

 

 

Advertisements

Pick a card, any card

Exhibitions and OCASA

Exhibitions and OCASA

Tickets, that I use for book marks, from 2013 and so far this year that I’ve collected from exhibition and OCASA meetings. (not counting the ones that are in books!).

Portraits

This series has been a long time coming. In the end it was a close thing whether I asked for their participation, but these portraits come quite close to what I wanted to achieve. None of the photographs are named, they are all users – though not all the users who attended on this day agreed to be photographed, but all those who did were happy to agree to pose. I had two portraits in mind, the one above that I have chosen and another square on to the camera. I felt I needed to keep the image creation time short, the sensitivity of the process was apparent in my mind, though I am quite prepared to be told that I have overplayed that sensitivity, had these not been users of the Group, then I would have encroached on more of their time. This portrait had the subject looking out of a large window that provided soft light, even in summer this window has that property, so I had envisioned the space. I wanted them to be looking to the light, I wanted them to not be smiling, a couple of the subjects had difficulty in not smiling, and this was to do with them providing a contemplative pose in an attempt to equalise them, to bring them to a similar place before the lens – to not differentiate them as either clinically needy or otherwise. The alternate pose had too much variety in the poses and the sense of artificiality seemed to me to be too evident. The users all work on ‘art’ projects and this portrait session was slotted as and when they/we completed the final piece of the current project, a large communal print:

The final print

The final print

I have been working at the centre now for most of this year. I have had some ups and downs, but mostly ups. I usually have a sense of inspiration after attending these sessions, and whilst I have a strong feeling that I am benefitting significantly from working with this group, the various artists that attend – which is allowing me to build a new network – I am very mindful that I don’t want to appear to be using them. I hope I am now trusted within the group, that I contribute from more than just another pair of hands perspective, that I bring to the group something that benefits both parties and that this final print is a signifier of that spirit of the group; all the users, including me, contributed a piece to the print and we all worked on bringing the piece to a conclusion.

The final print is likely to be included in the exhibition of the project that I have documented to date, the exhibition will be a ‘Group’ show. I will make a lot of prints and perhaps a book and we will include work from the users (both prints, and text). The next few weeks will decide on whether the show will go ahead; the exhibition will probably take three months to put together and it might be a project for the group early next year, or a joint project between Helen and myself to be hosted at Fusion Arts, who appear to be positive about the idea.

Assignment 4, The Calendar

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

I have to be honest, the prospect of creating a calendar using photographs that might be considered as a vehicle for presenting by a company as a means to promote itself didn’t fill me with any enthusiasm. I wrestled for some time to try and work out ways in which I might subvert the whole process and perhaps myself in the process. I have created, and had printed, calendars before; they sold quite well and had lots of pretty pictures in them, in fact six more than the requirement for this assignment!

From session two

From session two

After some considerable thought, which included a web based face to face conversation with my tutor who thought my idea was potentially sound, I have come up with an idea to use the current project with the Echoes Group as a vehicle for both the calendar and the ‘Oral Presentation’.

At the museum

At the museum

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

Leaving aside the ‘Oral Presentation’ for assignment six, I shall try and develop a set of images that describe some of my feelings that have now rooted from my work in Artscape, and in particular the ‘Echoes Group’ that I volunteer for as part of the contract I have with the NHS.

At the museum

At the museum

The brief for the calendar images require seven images, one for the cover and another six that would be set against two monthly periods in the year. I have discussed this with my tutor and have agreed that I won’t be printing the days/dates on my artwork – though I will try and use the Artscape logo which I feel will be very straightforward to obtain and include, though what it will add to the series I’m not sure.

From session one

From session one

At the museum

At the museum

The current project I am working on at the Group is called ‘The Measurers’ and involves three inner city schools as well as the ‘users’ of the Group. The participants have had talks from one of the University museums – The Museum of the history of Science and have visited the museum to gain some inspiration before developing some artwork. The participants were asked to make a piece that illustrates an invention they would like see. I have been asked to ‘document’ the project with an aim to either put on an exhibition sometime in the New Year (the project has been running since early September and will run until the end of the current academic term) or develop a book – and maybe both. So I’m making lots of images, printing them and showing and discussing them with the users and the artist lead who is running the project.

From session one

From session one

A little while after deciding on the subject matter for the calendar it occurred to me that underlying the narrative of ‘The Measurers’ document was another thread about ‘time’. That a calendar is a measure of time seemed to chime very nicely which gave me a renewed confidence that the current project at the Group was an appropriate subject.

My concept at this stage is to place not one, but two images per page as diptychs. The twin images will be contrived to open a dialogue for the viewer to try and maybe interrogate their comprehension of the juxtapositioning of those images. Each diptych will have a ‘user’ and either a piece that has been used as an inspiration (from the Museum or otherwise) or an artwork that has been created in the project. My aim would be for a dialogue to opened by the slight disjuncture of the image, or perhaps by the inclusion of some text. Text was a suggestion from my tutor as I had concerns over the formatting of the twin images – there maybe instance where the coupling might contain a landscape and a portrait pairing which would leave some white space and so, by adding some text (which I think is a real opportunity for me) I can perhaps compensate graphically over the whole of the work.

I am now looking forward to this assignment in a way that I hadn’t expected to.

Thoughts and reflections from Rencontres Des Arles 2013

I went expecting an extensive set of imagery and was slightly taken aback by the scale of the event. Just under fifty exhibitions covering a diverse range of photographic genres. The quality of the work was high, if not excellent and whilst the theme of Arles in Black was to do with black and white photography there was a lot of colour work on display. There were various sub-themes; Me, Them, There as well as associated shows, however I didn’t follow any particular theme through my visit, I had only six days and wanted to cover as much as I could, so I visited exhibition by exhibition serially. It might be interesting to look again at the work, as I have described it later, as ‘grouped’ in their sub-genres. I have written a longer set of notes on the Festival here.
Part of the large Parks show. Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Part of the large Parks show.
Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

I found myself a number of times questioning my own perceptions about different works, most notably documentary. I was, by a curious circumstance, staying in a property owned by the author and reporter Isabelle Wesselingh, who has done a great deal of work reporting from the Balkans, but who now works from Romania. I met Isabelle both at the property and again at the Rencontres as she was showing her friend, also a journalist who is married to Jerome, a photojournalist, who has been working in Darfor but who are the process of transferring to Nairobi. I have asked them about the effect of ‘Documentary’ photography/photojournalism as a number of approaches were exhibited – Robin Hammond and Alfredo Jaar. I have had a response to say that I will receive a response and will add this to my thoughts as and when I arrive. My mind is tending to the perspective that I felt Jaar was proposing and that Sontag espoused some decades ago, that the world is now tired of these issues, suggesting that photography isn’t ever going to get anything done – like McCullin said in a recent documentary. But if nothing changes by the use of documentary, that if the life of a photojournalist is a waste, then why do some many risk so much to bring to the world images that are designed to hurt, to illuminate, to inform, to embarrass; all for nothing – Kevin Carter paid a big price for the work he did, was it worth it?

Another aspect that struck home was the use of text, more and more I am being attracted to the use/provision of text. From what seems a relatively short time ago when I thought any text, especially titles, would detract from the image; to now when I think that not only are words a very real part of the work, they can in certain circumstances subjugate the image into a secondary role. I have been thinking of how to accommodate text into my work, and when I saw Courtinant’s work which firmly put the image as a support to the text (in this viewer’s mind at any rate) I think I may have turned a corner; something I will return to later in this text!

Part of the South African section. Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Part of the South African section.
Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

An area I have become somewhat fascinated by recently is fiction, the nature of which was in a lot of a lot of the work in Arles ( perhaps all? – but that is another question). From Minkkenin’s use of his ‘self’ to provide allegorical narratives that seem to explore his relationship with “Land and perhaps more especially Water” to Stezaker’s very deliberate use of collage and presentation styles to develop stories in the minds of viewers. I particularly enjoyed the latter’s use of stage or film set pieces that are from the outset already fictive narratives; overlayed/cut-up and worked in order to other stories to develop. I was also particularly impressed with Paniak’s work, similar in process to Stezaker’s but with a more mythological edge to them, fairy stories, and perhaps surprisingly nothing dark – no bad witches or goblins, but light and tender. Fiction though is a catholic house and there were works where the narrative purposefully merged the fact with fiction. I knew it was purposeful because the title of the work, in one piece, carried the words ‘Possible  and Imaginary’ by two photographers;  Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh and Rozenn Quere. Through the use of found family photographs and taped interviews they generate a part fiction/part documentary drama of four women:

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

And these are some of the images that I took whilst there:

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

But it wasn’t until after my visit that I remembered that this work had been suggested by my tutor – via this link – and whilst I really enjoyed the work, the big difference was the way in which the work is received when in the gallery. In the gallery space the work is, of course, physical’ it is three dimensional, the photographs are mounted into frames and set out so that as you walk around the images overlap; seemingly moving around each-other and forming relationships that cannot happen in a wall or on the screen. And whilst I hadn’t entertained fictive narratives before using images, I think there maybe something there for me to key into.

Another lesson learned from this is that after one leaves an exhibition you cannot go back unless you pay again. I wanted to go back to this exhibit and study further but decided against it, not really because of the cost – I think another €8 – but because I thought I could get more from the web-site and further research, which I don’t think I’ll get fully.

I am minded to engage with fiction in the course. I have yet to understand how I would do so, as well as convince my tutor that it might be a good thing to do at the moment! I’ve always held the view that with fiction the most important issues of life can be engaged with – I’m not suggesting that I want to understand life, it’s meaning within the universe; rather my targets to investigate would have lower profiles, and probably, much more personal. I have largely stopped reading fiction, something that has been a life long companion. The notion of verity, of the truth being held within the frame has been another companion on my travels with photography, and I now comprehend that when I took a landscape with my monochrome film, or a portrait I constructed a fiction for myself. The work that I did in the darkroom and subsequently on the computer screen developed that lie still further. When I ‘painted light’ into the image – or applied darkness – I had somehow convinced myself that because it was only about the addition of natural light that would probably occur if I stayed around long enough, is of course a myth of my own construction, that compounded my self delusion.

Working to tell a story using photography and text was an area in the festival that seemed to occur most often, the only photographer who seemed to work against the idea of a series of images to narrate an idea was Garcin, whose work comprised a lot of single image stories – but stories nevertheless.

This post will appear in both Gesture and Meaning and Documentary blogs

The power of art

The author

The author

The 16:40 ‘Express’ from Barnsley to Nottingham via Meadowhall and Sheffield isn’t a place where one might experience a revelatory moment that exemplifies the power of art, but yesterday’s journey turned out to be one.

As I walked along the Huddersfield Road with two fellow students, with whom and three others I had spent the afternoon at OCA HQ, I realised that if I didn’t offer my apologies and leave them and hurry to the station I would miss the connection to Sheffield. This late afternoon commuter train I have found in the past to often be full of excitable young students returning home from Barnsley college and this journey was no exception. It was with some with some relief, and about a minute to spare, that I found one of a very few vacant seats for the short journey to Sheffield. That the “Cross Country’ main line express that was to take me home was going to be delayed by half an hour meant that I had some time on platform 6 in Sheffield to reflect on the experience I had just witnessed just a short time before.

Sitting opposite me in the Northern Train’s compartment leaving Barnsley was a young man, I would estimate at around seventeen, avidly reading an old beaten up copy of “East of Eden”. I casually wondered perhaps if it was a “set” text, but if it was so, then it had certainly captured the imagination of this man of tomorrow. I suppose it was his focus on the words that I noticed first as they sped across the page; he was nearing the end of the book, maybe five or so pages to go. As I continued to watch I started to notice how entranced he had become in this book, that the author reckoned to be his best work. The reader’s expression turned at once from a deep frown to a smile, back to a frown and then a full, teeth bearing smile, as he raced to the end. By a curious coincidence the traveller in the next seat to me pulled out a “Kindle”, and I noticed the portrait of Steinbeck on the screen, almost as if the author had also come to witness the scene that was about to unfold opposite me.

The train takes about twenty minutes to make its journey from Barnsley to Sheffield, stopping at Meadowhall after about two-thirds of the distance. The book was just about complete by the time we left to make the second leg of that journey. The reader had turned to the last page and revealed what I think most readers sometimes dread, that realization that the writing is going to finish, the story will end with that final full stop. The intensity of his eyes seemed not to diminish as he held the book after clearly finishing the final sentence. Holding the book in the same position his eyes very slowly rose from that final punctuation mark to the top of the page, looking stunned at the ending. I wondered at first whether it was the realization the story had finished that engendered the change that overcame him, but I soon became to understand that it was the story. His eyes started to well-up, his chin started to tremble and I could sense a real battle commencing to control his emotions and to not to burst out into a full blown sob. While still holding the book in one hand his other slowly closed the book and he covered the back cover page, seemingly to hide any more words connected with the story, as if, in his present state of near emotional collapse he wanted to distance himself from the power of Steinbeck’s words.

After a short while he sat up and fixed his attention to that of the passing Yorkshire scenery, again his eyes twitched left and right trying to fix on objects, though his eyes were still filled with tears ready to flow. I watched as he turned his head toward the centre aisle mouthing the word ‘bastard’. I wondered if this charge was aimed at the author for upsetting him so in such a public way, or perhaps towards a character in the novel. He turned back to the book and read once more, I presumed, the back cover before slowly opening the book at the last page and re-reading that again; almost as if the re-telling of it might hopefully reveal something he had missed. But no, he very slowly, almost imperceptibly, shook his head, realizing that he had read what he thought he had read. That the ending was what he had understood and the reason for his expletive was warranted. And so, as his eyes once again started to risk a loss of control he again fought this turmoil for another time; sometimes frowning as he sought to comprehend, sometimes smiling, seemingly at himself for his foolishness at being so emotionally involved in what are, in the end, just words.

Steinbeck could never have imagined the intensity of emotion that his novel, set in California at the turn of the previous century could possibly have on an English teenager in the twenty first century, but I suspect he would have relished the thought that his words, his craft, his art might have the power to move so eloquently, and provide me, this moment of exquisite beauty.

That I was half an hour late home was a price worth paying for witnessing these few minutes on a bustling noisy, student filled train, and one that I would have made had I been offered it at the beginning of the journey.

Another Course – Documentary

I have started another level two course Documentary. This is the updated course, from Social Documentary, and whilst I had enrolled in both Gesture and Meaning and this one at the same time it was thought prudent to get most, if not all of section one of G&M completed before starting this course.