PHEW …!!!


All packed up and ready to deliver, at last; it’s been a hectic few weeks, partly accentuated by a family hospitalisation that has required some time, energy and commitment. The pressure is self-inflicted, to an extent. It was only in early December that I decided, with my tutor’s agreement, that taking my submission beyond the basics and into a new, further manifestation of the New Photographic Chemistry project, was a good idea. Making that happen in just a few weeks, with Christmas intervening and the aforementioned personal commitments arising unexpectedly, has been a challenge. And, truthfully, I have ended up cutting a few corners and progressing without the level of planning, preparation and attention to detail that I normally expect to apply. The concept of what I’ve done is good; and I have brought it to a decent outcome; but there aspects of the quality, in the detail, that I might have done differently, with more time.

So, what’s in the plastic box in the foreground, above? Assignments and Tutor Reports, of course, and a small handwritten ‘occasional journal’ that has run alongside this blog; but there are two other ‘items’ that it’s worth illustrating. Let’s start with the ‘Exhibition in a Box’.


Lifting the lid reveals this, a 1:33 scale model of the micro-exhibition at Bank Street Arts – a micro-micro-exhibition!


It isn’t the one I produced when planning the event but a newly-made, more accurate representation of the exhibition, just as it was laid out back in September/October at Bank Street. It was my main publication and the key outcome of the work and the module, so the model is a way of sharing that, in three dimensional form, with the Assessors (and the big black plastic folder in the first illustration, at the beginning of this post, has a selection of large prints from the event, too). Here are a few more illustrations of the Exhibition in a Box:




The second new element of the submission is the Assessors’ Book, which incorporates a section called Exhibition in a Book. The book is hand-made, bound, and constructed by ‘yours truly’. The cover pattern is one of mine – Acutance – and is printed onto a new material I’ve just managed to source – self-adhesive, inkjet printable canvas (A3 size). I’m pleased with the way it looks from the outside.


The paper I used for most of it feels good but hasn’t printed as well as I would have liked; and I haven’t had the time to mess around and resolve that situation. It’s ‘OK’, but only ‘OK’!  And my bookbinding skills were tested somewhat when combining cover and inserts – again, just about ‘OK’. Some of the pages are illustrated below.


But I have sought to build some visual elements into it. For example, I’ve created a fold-out timeline/flowchart, which presents my progress through the module visually.


And then, I have tried to bring some elements from the exhibition at Bank Street into the book.

_DSF2460_DSF2459Printed fabrics from the project


Sample, burned, page from the old textbook; the derived image, as it was presented in the exhibition; and a scrap of fabric that appears in the image


_DSF2461_DSF2464Pop-up pages



A fold-out, A2-size, version of ‘Useful Exposure Range


The book also includes reference to some new work from another old book that I purchased back in 2014. It’s early days with this work and I haven’t made any of it public yet but it’s useful to refer to it in the submission.



Shades of Duchamp in all this, of course, which I fully acknowledge. His ghost seems to have stalked my progress through L3 – and I thank him for that!

And that is probably it on this blog, for a while. Might be back in April to reflect on the outcome!


Artist Presentation–Castlefield Gallery

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(Image courtesy of Castlefield Gallery)

On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity present my practice, and specifically ‘New Photographic Chemistry’, alongside three other artists, at a meeting of the Castlefield Gallery Associates group, in Manchester. It took the form of a 10 minute presentation followed by five minutes of questions. The meeting was attended by around 16 members of the group.

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(Images courtesy of Castlefield Gallery)

These are some of my reflections following the event:

  • Once again, the value of time spent in planning and preparation was evident. I had a slideshow (under my control rather than running independently) and a ‘script’ that I had rehearsed – so it was no surprise that the timing worked out more or less exactly. It took the form of a slightly extended version of the video from my website – here – covering the grounding of my practice; the origins and development of ‘New Photographic Chemistry’; and the various forms in which it has, to date, been brought to an audience. So, I covered a lot of ground in a short time but that didn’t seem to be a problem.
  • Everything seemed to be well-received by the audience, in terms of attention and body language during the talk, questions that followed, and responses during the tea interval and at the end of the evening. Most of those in the audience (and all of the other three presenters) were practicing artists with multiple exhibitions, commissions, residencies etc; so there was the potential for a ‘credibility gap’. But I didn’t sense it, and the interest seemed to go at least a little way beyond the merely polite.
  • Questions/comments immediately post-talk covered – printing onto fabric; choice of colours; time to produce; size of output (with a suggestion that I might go bigger … a lot bigger!); and praise for the way I managed to create a sense of depth and dimension in the images. I was pleased when, after the talk, one audience member compared the images of text manipulation (below) to the work of David Batchelor (which had been part of the original inspiration, as blogged here. It was also good to find some connection with the presenter who preceded me – Roger Bygott – who was talking about a recent residency during which he produced some work that physically deconstructed and subverted Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida.

Sulphur Sensitizers

Sulphur Sensitizers (2015)

Perhaps most importantly, I enjoyed doing it and felt confident in the work and my ability to talk about it. Artists tend to be supportive of each other and to have genuine interest in what others are doing; and the CG Associates scheme offers plenty of opportunities to develop and maintain contacts. As I have observed before in various contexts, the basis for a sustainable practice is there and its future is entirely dependent on how much I want it and how much I am prepared to commit.

Oh – and my image featured in the e-mail to all associates about the evening …

Castlefield Presentation e-mail-1

‘New Photographic Chemistry’ – video launched

Following the feedback from Assignment Two, I have produced a new, short video about the ‘New Photographic Chemistry’ project. It serves a number of purposes – a general introduction to the project and its origins; background about my creative process (and therefore my practice in general); and illustration of the two ‘returns’ that are key features of the outcomes from the project so far, the return of my images to the original binding of the book that provided the inspiration, and the return of the project to the ‘space’ from which it came, the second-hand bookshop, Daisy Lane Books.

The video is viewable here – ‘New Photographic Chemistry’ – and is also now featured on my website – wherenothingisreal.

I’ve produced the video from stills of the images, stills of the Daisy Lane Books installation, and a few new video sequences shot for the purpose – all supported with a soundtrack of me speaking about the project. I’ve subsequently sought feedback from my fellow students in our hangout group, and from my tutor, incorporating one or two small changes as a result. Thanks to those involved for their support. I’m actually quite pleased with the outcome and see it as a really useful addition to the project that I can confidently link to when promoting the project or otherwise informing interested parties.

And, in the context of further developments, much more planning and preparation is coming up because it has now been confirmed that the work will go on show in its own ‘micro-exhibition’ at Bank Street Arts, Sheffield, 30/09/16-01/10/16. There’ll be more on that in this blog in the not too distant future.

‘Daisy Lane Books’–reflection

Daisy Lane Exhibition-2

Just over a week ago, I ‘took down’ the ‘exhibition’ at Daisy Lane Books, which had been up for a fortnight (as blogged here (Planning) and here (Installation)) – time for some reflection.

  • In some ways, this was more of an idea, a concept, than an exhibition – a circular ‘completion’ of the project. It was something I felt compelled to do, regardless of the outcome – not unlike some other parts of the process such as dismantling and burning the old book. Sometimes, in the creative process, one feels a need, the ‘rightness’ of something, and so you do it. So my tutor was right to encourage me to see it that way – in some ways, more a performance than an exhibition, something that could be said of other parts, such as the aforementioned dismantling and burning.
  • Continuing that theme, what I put into the bookshop was more like an installation than an exhibition (in the gallery sense, whatever that might be!) – infiltrating the outcome of my creativity into a related space, exposing it to an audience, yes, but chiefly installing it into a space.
  • Those aspects increase the need to ‘record’ – photography’s postmodern role as a record of performance art, as in Crimp’s essay ‘The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism’ read way back in the early days of Contextual Studies). I have begun some work on a video about the project, in which the bookshop, the taking from and returning to, will play a part.
  • Some practical reflections:
      • I’ve had the experience of the planning/producing and it broadly seemed to work (for me), as reflected after the installation.
      • The few other visitors who I know, and from whom I’ve been able to get feedback, were positive (though also polite, of course!).
      • I sold one print!
      • At a very practical level, only one ‘Command Strip’ failed (on a decidedly flaky wall – the print fell down and sustained minor damage) and just a couple of prints sustained ‘fly damage’ (!!), otherwise intact.
      • More detailed planning of what to put where might have offered some minor improvements, but not sure it would have made a huge difference.
      • With a bit more notice and preparation, I could have arranged an ‘event’ – opening/preview/whatever – and that would have helped gain some audience interaction.
  • This is a complex project to ‘explain’, with many layers that are more or less impossible to fully communicate (not that this is so unusual or a major problem). It is work that can be presented in several ways, exploiting several different layers. It would have been asking too much of a bookshop installation for its visitors to have been able to take on board much of that complexity. A larger, more ‘formally-housed’ exhibition has more potential – but I nonetheless need to be wary of trying to do too much.

On the latter point, I am getting closer, painful step by painful step, to finalising date/location for such an exhibition – more to come on that, and the video, when I can.

Exhibition opens

Daisy Lane Exhibition-3

So, everything set up yesterday afternoon (apart from forgetting to put the price labels on my prints for sale – Doh!) and the exhibition officially opened this morning. Fortunately I managed to fight my way through the queues to take a few installation shots!

Daisy Lane Exhibition-12   Daisy Lane Exhibition-7

Daisy Lane Exhibition-16

Daisy Lane Exhibition-13

And we took advantage of every nook and cranny to display the images …

Daisy Lane Exhibition-5  Daisy Lane Exhibition-9

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… and the poster is on display outside, too.

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A step taken …!

Planning & Preparation for ‘Daisy Lane Books’

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Have spent a lot of time over the last 2-3 weeks getting everything ready for the return of ‘New Photographic Chemistry’ to its origins – Daisy Lane Books shop. This colourful piece of ‘artwork’ that I have designed myself is now being displayed as posters in a couple of locations in town and as A5 ‘flyers’ at three suitable premises. It will also, by Friday, be outside the bookshop, at around A1 size on a display board (printed in four parts). My idea was to produce something that encapsulates something of the ‘story’, displays some of the colourful images in a way that might intrigue, hopefully catches the eye, and provides the essential information (including the new website). I’ve also publicised it on the OCA Student website and a version of it on Facebook. Clearly, the location of the show is somewhat off the beaten track, so I’m not expecting the bookshop to be flooded with visitors wanting to see the exhibition, but I have wanted to take a reasonably thorough and professional approach – well, why would I want to do anything other – and it serves as useful practice for any future events.

The printing and mounting of the images has been time-consuming too, of course. I have around 10-12 A3 prints, and have concentrated on the most colourful of the digital constructs. Then there is a similar number of A4 prints, and I have gone with the ‘burned’ images and a small selection of those where I cut up the book. Finally, I have four much smaller images, more like ‘page-size’, of those where I produced, digitally, something resembling a highlighted/doodled page. This is likely to be more than I need in the shop but, without an opportunity to do some sort of careful measuring and planning, I figured that it would allow some flexibility when I come to ‘hang’. And on that point, I have arranged to be at the shop in the late afternoon of Thursday 30th to do just that.

I want to provide some information on-site for the viewer and have dealt with that in two ways. Firstly, I will have two identical, A3-size, laminated boards on display, featuring a modified but hopefully still valid version of my artist’s statement for the project – intended to be suitable for a more general audience. It’s viewable here PDF of display board. It may be a little ‘wordy’ but I’m hoping that visitors to a second-hand bookshop will be reasonably literate and engaged. With that in mind, I have also produced some printed A4 information sheets that can be given to visitors, and which they can take away, if they wish. These have the same ‘statement’ on them, but also a background piece about the ‘making of’ on of the images. The info sheet can be viewed here Info sheet PDF.

So, in theory, everything is in place ready for the hanging on Thursday evening.

A diversion–planning for ‘Art Week’



In passing, I’m having something of a ‘down’, with plans not working out as it had seemed they would & a certain amount of frustration & uncertainty about how to move things forward. I’m not going to reflect on that negativity as I’m not sure it would achieve much. Instead, this is a diversionary post about some work that is (more or less, anyway) unconnected with these studies. I’ve been invited to exhibit something in a small ‘Fringe’ event at the local ‘Art Week’ in early July. Since it is, essentially, a charity event, I’ve no intention of trying to do something with my main Body of Work but decided to produce some new work, with a slight hint of a ‘local’ flavour.

This set of nine images (designed to be exhibited/sold as square prints) has a title ‘H.O.L.M.F.I.R.T.H. – literally digitally transformed’. It’s a bit of simplistic fun, I guess – fabric design/print & photography by yours truly. There’s a sort of unsophisticated puzzle in there but the images look visually attractive as prints &, who knows, we might manage to sell some. I quite like it, anyway, and I could even launch into some contextual comments about the transformative powers of photography … but maybe not!

I attended the ‘FOAM – Talent’ exhibition last Wednesday, which was really excellent with plenty of inspirational work/presentation. Yesterday, I was at the OCA’s ‘Photography Matters’ symposium, which also had much content worthy of reflection and comment. I’ll save them up until I can approach in a more positive frame of mind! (Which will happen, as it always does!)