Thursday, 28 January 2010


One aspect of doing an MA that hadn't crossed my mind until now is results. I don't remember ever receiving any back in 1973/4 when I was last undertaking this form of study! In fact apart from a rather fine gold embossed A2 certificate at the end I doubt we were ever given any (ah the days before modularity) marks or anything much at all. Tony would occasionally wander through your (generous by today's standards) studio space and offer an encouraging word or two...usually backed up with a "coming down the pub then".

But now it's all different. A continuous stream of paperwork accompanies every semester and your progress is measured each time. Of course it doesn't matter except that - unless you are very strong willed indeed - you can't help but get caught up in it. It even infects the way in which you engage with the programme if - as it happened this time - you don't know the upshot of the last submission before you have to kick off the next (and of course) final project.

What a desperate ring that phrase has to it! The Final Project. And though the course is structured in such a way that the last project is intended to lead seamlessly into this that's only really ok if what you were working on was - well - working. For me, and I suspect from what they said yesterday, for several others that definitely isn't the case. A great deal of revisionism is going to be required in what is around twelve weeks to make something - anything - that satisfactorily stacks up as a decent submission.

I'm back to the drawing board - with a simple but effective piece of advice ringing in my ears. One thing that has struck me on this programme is that - as a friend of mine once said "average people give average advice" - and conversely exceptional people cut through the crap and give short sharp excellent advice. Fortunately we have had both staff and fellow students who fall into the latter category. For me I got to very pithy pieces of sound good sense if I'm too make something out of what I have done to date. One was to stop over-intellectualising and go with what feels right and the other was to get out of the Woods and get my filter stick into other locations. So that's it really. Of course easier said than done but...maybe the way to move forward.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


One of the joys of undertaking study is meeting a group of interesting people, students and staff, with whom, and from whom, you learn a great deal. Until the course got underway I'd never heard of Michel Tournier, much less read any of his novels. I'm now slowly working my way through part of his canon having had the recommendation that La Goutte d'or (The Golden Droplet) was worth reading with regard to it's approach to the photograph. He is a terrific writer and I'm very pleased to have made his acquaintance. As I am W.G. Sebald, someone whose name I'd heard but of whom I knew nothing. I am currently reading The Rings of Saturn that is one of the most fascinating travelling stories I've ever come across.

Besides these and several other author recommendations my knowledge of photographers (that rather arrogantly I'd assumed {never assume} was rather good) has expanded exponentially. Far too many to record here but for example (and I know some of my female peers will be appalled, though perhaps not surprised) I'd never come across the work of Claude Cahun until she was name checked early on in the course. Shame on me!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Taking A Break...

for a few days now that the last submission is in. Reflecting on it I realise that it could and should have been much better than it was. Not least as the very act of putting it together makes you realise more of what it might be. However the good thing about it is that this is but a staging post towards the final project for May. So I have had a couple days off from it and turned my attention back to my painting activity and its associated matters. There's a proposal to put together, a show to organise and prepare for, an event in Sweden (now only six or so weeks away!) and actually getting back to the canvasses on the go in the studio... so plenty to be going on with as well as thinking ahead to the first session of the final semester in a week or so's time.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


At last...I've re-glued the edges of my presentation box, decided on a final 'coda' image and printed and mounted it. Yesterday afternoon I went and got the essay bound. So the interim project is completed. Look at doesn't look much does it! And yet I've laboured hard and long on it, made two Blurb books on the way, am having several images printed up to A2 (to exhibit in Stockholm in a few weeks (though looking out the window now it looks like Stockholm may have come to me..) and feel as if I've just reached the first base camp on Everest. Because it is becoming apparent that one of the key issues with this kind of lengthy and in depth study is simply dogged determination to keep on applying the emotional, creative and intellectual rigour that - just possibly - may result in something worthwhile.

On another tack entirely, though not completely unconnected news reaches me that our Prof - the inestimable Paul Hill - is re-opening the fabled Photographer's Place this coming April. If you don't know of the Place then it's either because you are still fairly young, or have no real knowledge of landscape photography in the UK because just about anybody serious about image making in the great outdoors over the past thirty years either taught, visited or wished to be there at some time. It is great news that Paul is starting it up again, you should check it out.

Friday, 8 January 2010


is, of course, the thief of time...and today, rather than focussing on my text I've been finding plenty of other things to do... including tidying up the hard drive and deleting those images that will never make it out of their pixels. I really wonder how many of the images we all take nowadays will last beyond a few years as the technology moves on and the files get my friend Simon is doing it is probably wise to turn the best of what one does into paper form - either as books or print archives though this does of course create its own issues in terms of time, costs and commitment. Amongst the images you take you do occasionally get ones that capture a moment - this one is rather ominous I think...shades of air disasters?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Almost There

I have mounted all the images, prepared the book and the box into which it is going, and have the title sheet sorted. It's taken from Monday am till now but given that I've had a really bad cold and a hacking cough that has kept me from getting a decent night's sleep since Xmas I'm not too displeased with the results. Whether or not the sequencing is really sorted (or even that I've made the right selection) I'm not so sure but it's that time when you simply have to decide and get it done.

Now it's onto the text...even this is marginally less daunting given that the word count can only be's not so much what to say but how to say what you want with such economy. Even my initial notes amount to over 700 words and if I add some reflected text drawn from this blog then I'll quickly run out of road.

For a change here's a different picture one drawn from another project (unrelated to the MA) called Linae.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Onwards Robots

is the title of the MA group's account, set up for funding our end of year seeming to be only a few months off as we race through January 2010! It also sums up pretty accurately what I'm now doing with the work. Selecting the 15 final images to make up the project is really taxing - as in truth I still don't have a crystal clear rationale behind them. I am attempting a metaphorical 'journey' through the site, with the images captioned by verbal descriptions using the 'ing' form. But this does of course admit a massive variety of options. Some considerable time ago I settled, fairly obviously!, on 'entering' and 'leaving' as the first and last...though maybe 'reflecting' could follow 'leaving' and there are others too that could come after the act. However choosing the right verb forms for the sequence is hard work especially when the selection of images is still's a slow laborious process of reviewing the pictures one by one, reflecting on the verb forms and their applicability or otherwise to the images, settling on initial conjunctions, printing the photographs and then beginning to position them within the sequence.

As regards the overall form I am, for this part of the project, presenting the selection within a book format where each image is mounted into the chosen sketchbook - itself chosen as a kind of Gazetteer.

Along the way I am also trying to spend a little time working on the text component so that there is, in some part, a natural relationship between the also breaks up the working practice in a way that keeps each activity from becoming a chore! Looking back over the ten or so sessions I've spent on site and the many images taken one can't help finding images that whilst in no way fitting the brief are, nonetheless, ones you want to use in some other way. Here's one such.