Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Feeling strangely and unnaturally deflated today.  I ran out of road with the draft of the essay and had to leave a large section of 'untreated' notes at the heart of it - not that this matters especially at this stage.  But somehow I feel I'm falling short with the project as a whole with the text in such a state.  I am also keen to pull in at least four more sittings before finally deciding on the selection and sequence of prints.  At present there are eleven subjects - if I can make that 15 I can discard around a third in making the final group.  So all's well then except it seemed as if others had achieved clarity over the project as a whole and could in consequence have a near completed text...hence my discomfort...pitiful really!

I need to be a little more bullish about the pictures maybe.  Maybe, they arn't as incoherent as I suspect.  Only time will tell.  What I have discovered is that there is a reason that portraiture hasn't been on my radar previously...I simply don't have the passion for it.  My interests are in landscapes, increasingly local landscapes as well as more exotic ones (as in the accompanying picture to this entry), and our relationship to it.  In the past I'd thought this was simply because it informed my painting activity but I now feel it may be deeper than that.

Anyway - Cake File: this week a cornucopia of delights...cakes (lemon and chocolate), a lemon pie, apple pie and - although they were all nice - the highlight - scones and clotted cream with homemade jam - it must have been Daisy's doing!

Crunch Time

This morning is a real pinch point in my MA.  Today a draft of the essay to contextualize the practice project has to be submitted.  There is a collection of random thoughts and observations sitting on the very computer I'm typing this into but turning that into a coherent and meaningful commentary is really tough going.  I've advised quite a few of my PhD candidates to do this stuff but actually putting it into practice oneself!  The biggest bugbear is that the creative process doesn't lend itself to a conventional narrative nor to extensive textual analysis insofar as visual work is concerned.  This is I believe doubly the case in photography rather than painting, for example, because the actual moments of production, the point at which the shutter is clicked or the printer button pushed, i.e. the moment of decision taken is instantaneous.  Of course digitisation has drawn these practices closer together again...the use of photoshop alone, much less the technical advantages of RAW file manipulation, suggest something more akin to 'traditional' studio painting practice, but the decisions taken in the complex interaction between photographer, sitter and situation - constituting a deal of the 'content' are so critical to outcomes.

Of course this ought to be finding its way into the text I'm writing (it probably will as I'm using these posts as an aide memoire) but only if I get on with the job rather than using this as a diversion tactic!  Oh to be back in Athens on a fine spring evening with a cold glass of Retzina...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Out and about

Yesterday saw the opening of a clutch of new shows and Derby Museum & Art Gallery.  We went along and were particularly keen to see a selection of the Museum's landscapes mixed in with a small selection of work by local artists who focus on this subject matter.  Amongst the works were two pictures of Peak District landmarks by Nick Lockett who came along to talk to us last semester.  They looked extremely good - not least contrasted with some eighteen century topographical sketches (with annotations) of the Derbyshire Peak - in their own way both artists with a strong, almost obsessive, desire  to capture the detail in the peak albeit through very different means.  The whole show reminded me that, when push comes to shove, this is where my own passion in making art (be it paintings or photographs) lies and where I'm sure my major project will rest.

Nonetheless I'm now working with over twelve subjects in my current portrait project and have had my first request from someone to be added into the equation!  This chuffed me to bits!  I still lack any confidence in the photographs but feel I have to see it through as the project now...I've a text and a dozen pictures after all and there simply isn't time to change tack again.  So there it rests.  The picture today is of one of the most recent of the portrait shots.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Nose to the Stone

Today I have completely focussed on my project for hand in at the end of this semester.  A substantive rewrite of the text accompanied by a first stab at printing out seven of the 'final' images.  'Final' in that the prints always reveal certain small issues that simply never appeared on screen (even allowing for the arcane mysteries of the printing process itself) and suggest tweaks and changes, especially the more of the chosen images you have in front of you.  

Another aspect of the process that infuriates is the requirement to write the accompanying text in the third person, one understands the need for 'critical distance' in the writing up of commentary and the importance of not simply saying "i did this and that' etc., but inevitably the journey travelled is a (the?) vital part of any body of work and is easier for being a first person narrative.

Nonetheless the reflection on the conceptual, formal and procedural aspects of producing a coherent body of work is exactly what will give it coherence in the end.  Though this too requires a curious discipline in that the creative journey continues of course well beyond the point of the writing process that in any event is taking place right now whilst the production of images, much less prints, is inevitably on-going.  No way round it of course, but slightly unreal!  Meanwhile another image from the  series that I now think I may call (though it be everso corny) 'Masters Of Arts'...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

A Week in the Sun - and some reflection

It's amazing what a week in sunshine does for the spirits!  I returned yesterday with a crazy schedule of new portraits to complete - five sessions in a single day...exhausting for someone who nowadays shies away from hard work...  

However I now have, for better or worse, a clear methodology and a clearer concept to work with and a very finite timescale in which to complete.  By next Wednesday evening I will have a complete set of pictures and the broad outline for the text.  Putting me hopefully in the right place for the following Wednesday when we return to the programme (with a draft essay in hand).

I've not yet studied yesterday's images but at least the project now 'feels' right - my gut instinct is that the images look stronger and more coherent when I look down the lens.  And a bonus is that the niggling details...positioning, edges, sitters movements and gestures, expressions and so on can be concentrated upon because the basic compositional format has been resolved.

In addition my strongest impulse, to formalize the composition and unclutter the frame, fits with my natural inclinations as an artist.  Despite the indexical nature of the photograph, inspite of it, I'm making the pictures bend to my way of seeing.  So at least I'm happier with the outcomes...though whether the markers will remains to be seen.

And as an illustration - a holiday landscape, 'them thar hills', Apuane Alps, to be exact...with a few drops of rain amongst glorious sunshine!

Monday, 6 April 2009


I pushed a week or so back for the group to start thinking about what we might do by way of a show etc. to mark the end of our course.  Given my background in the 'art business' I felt I owed it to everyone to impart at least one sensible recommendation - that we start sorting out our thoughts now given the necessary lead in times to successful shows, websites, publications  etc.

As the erudite will know Pandora opened a large clay pot rather than a 'box' out of which poured all the world's ills etc!  I seem to have done much the same...the email traffic has been voluminous and the range of ideas matter as hopefully like Pandora, we may find hope at the very bottom of the jar....

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Settling the Matter

Yesterday and very early this morning I have been wrestling with the project and exactly how it will turn out.  This past week's crit was useful even though it confirmed how far off the mark what I'd done to date was.  Of course there were divergent opinions and ideas but it gave me an opportunity to distance myself from the pictures and the underlying impulses behind them.  When I came back to considering the outcomes on Friday I was still troubled.  However with a deal of cogitation over the day, a night sleeping on it and some conversation with my number one 'critical friend' (NOCF) early today I'm settled (for better or worse) on it.

I shall contrast desk bound shots with contextual images within the 'arena' that the subjects operate.  This will follow on from the Dance Centre Director images - those I feel best about to date.  I think that pushing the subject back into the context (wherever possible a 'clean' environment) gives me a clearer sense of articulation of the individual and their ambit and - importantly - my relation to it.  In some ways (and as two people have pointed out) this pushes the pictures formally back into a place I'm emphathetic to, they even look a little like some of Edgar Martins photographs!  

So I'm pushing on now with new subjects (more of those people who work in arts contexts) and with a defined idea of what the images must look like.  Hopefully I can assemble enough to fulfill the project brief now in the time left.  Whether it will totally hold together, conceptually or visually, will be for others to decide - at least I'll be prepared to stand behind the finished brief.

In the spirit of looking forward NOCF and I discussed the 'major' project as part stimulated by reflection on the current process, in part by remarks of Nick Lockett's in his talk last semester that one should be planning now.  I have an idea now of what it will be...more of that to come but the image here is a clue to the thinking.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Veering away from the Script

The most recent shoot I did coupled with the prep for the upcoming crit later today has given me pause for thought.  I'm also writing up the critical commentary that has to accompany the body of work we submit.  This too has provoked some fresh thinking around the subject and whether I'm getting it right at present.

My thoughts are that my subject group is actually too diverse, what does it say about me? and is that at all interesting or significant.  One of my colleagues pointed this out a week or two ago and its been at  the back of my mind since.  My impulse in taking these pictures is nowhere near as clearcut as I have been thinking...

So it's a period of reflection today and tomorrow before throwing myself back into whatever it is that is going to constitute the final submission!  Kidnapped by my own ruminations!