Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Art and Authenticity

I was just sitting down to write a piece for this blog to help me formulate an artists statement when I came across this article in the Times and had to post a link.

This morning I met with Julia Simpson in the Town Hall Regeneration Department she was very kind and showed an interest in my pictures and told me about the town centre regeneration plans.

The orbital road is not yet complete and will not be complete by the time of the degree exhibition. The final link road is to be built from the Freckleton Street bridge which is planned to open late May or early June and run through the area around Byrom Street to join on to Montague Street. This will involve the demolition of a number of existing buildings and businesses. The image above is the artists impression showing the proposed routing.

Further and more complete details of the road are available from the local authority website


Lacking anything else in my garden the fish had to stand in as models. I will put up the Sinar shot assuming it comes out.

Getting going

fish-1, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

I have used a number of large format cameras. However this afternoon was the beginning of my acquaintance with the Sinar. For such a simple device it does have a fiendish number of knobs and levers and I can see lots of different ways of making an idiot of myself. Method 1 discovered whilst trying the camera out in the garden is that the bag bellows unlike ordinary bellows can sag into the camera and if you're not aware of that you can spend ages trying to figure out why part of the image is black.

I have exposed three sheets of film as a trial. These were taken in and around my house and involved one image focused at infinity, a second image with significant front rise and a third image focused at an intermediate point. Having said that all the images were made with the 65 mm lens which is phenominally wide angle. Achieving absolutely critical focus might be difficult but this may not be catastrophic because the problem is that the lens seems to be in focus everywhere most of the time or else completely out of focus. I suspect that with this lens a Sinar becomes something of a point and shoot.

The film chosen is Ilford FP4+ and for the test exposures taken in decent sunshine the film was rated at 80 ASA. This overexposed image and will be compensated for by underdevelopment which if I get the sums right will result in a negative with good density but flat contrast which in turn should scan and print well.

My developer arrived this morning so I will find out soon.

Going West

Montague St-6, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

This morning I continued my walk around the orbital road this time heading West from Sudell Cross rather than East. I have now completed the preliminary scouting expedition and intend to commence the real shoot in the next few days. The Montague Street area produced several exciting locations which will let me elaborate on a number of themes. There are two possibly three interesting religious buildings close enough to the road to form subjects and there is a further variety of tree planting including some sad saplings outside Netto which add to the collection from other areas. A selection of the images have been added to the location Flickr stream.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of this photographer before Richard mentioned her today and having viewed the archive here I cannot recall seeing the images either. Anyway it has opened a fresh area of research especially since it has reminded me about the Side Gallery which has a wealth of stuff for me to delve into over the next couple of weeks.

Paul Graham

From his project "Troubled Land" more information is available in his archive here

Monday, April 28, 2008

Connections 2 - Cobbles & Traces

Connections 1 - Places of worship

Dan Graham

Dan Graham, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

The issue of redevelopment and the changing the character of urban space is not restricted to Blackburn or indeed England and a number of conceptual artists have addressed the matter. One worthy of note in connection with this particular project is Dan Graham an American whose project "Homes in America" was exhibited a number of years ago.

It is pertinent to quote here because when interviewed he discussed the changes in character using parts of Manhattan to illustration his points and I find this particularly easy to relate to since I have only recently returned from Manhattan and seen the development on 7th Ave and at South Street Seaport he refers to. The following is an extract from the interview.

Doroshenko: Do you feel there is a right or wrong way to understand your recent works?

Graham: Yes. The newest projects deal with architecture, urban space and power.

Doroshenko: Power?

Graham: The way corporations are changing the urban landscape of New York and the continued suburbanization of high traffic pedestrian locations.

Doroshenko: So, does the suburbanization of New York continue with the construction of shopping malls such as Pier 17, Trump Tower and Winter Garden over the last ten years?

Graham: Originally, the mall concept was tied into luxury housing, offering suburban convenience in the city. The first mall was South Street Sea Port and later the addition of Pier 17. This project was built as a fake market space, an early 1980s concept of historical restoration. Buildings were rehabed and then leased out to national retail chains and upscale restaurants. It proved to be a financial disaster because our historical curiosity with this fabricated past came to an end. The problem with the South Street area is that it was set up as a major tourist attraction and the community in and around the development suffered in the long run — overcrowding, lack of services and higher real estate costs. What people living in that area want is less tourism and more of a real neighborhood. The same could be said for the other mall projects.

Doroshenko: Whether it's a small strip mall on 7th Avenue or a gigantic multilevel mall at Herald Square, they seem to be changing the urban landscape. Even the airports are mimicking the mall idea.

The idea or perhaps more properly acceptance that there is a homogenisation of the urban landscape and that our high streets are becoming indistinguishable from each other because of the commonality of architectural styles and the predominance of chain retailers and restaurants is something that I must try to bring into my own project. The development in Audley of a retail entertainment/park is an illustration of this point incorporating as it does fake Italian and Mexican restaurants.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Route map

orbital, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

The red line shows the route of the orbital road.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Location Location

orbital-1, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

One of the trial shots from Wednesday. I'm not too keen on digital B&W but I am trying to get a feel for what this may look like if I shot it on film.

Some quotes to ponder

Making a distinction between, or opposing artists and photographers is,
it strikes me, like making a distinction between, or opposing, food and
sausages-surely odd

Keith Arnott

Do not call yourself an "artist photographer" and make "artist painters"
and "artist sculptors" laugh call yourself a photographer and wait for
artists to call you brother


Street photographers .... have historically shot an awful lot of images,
and probably a lot of awful images to get what they want.

David Champany

Edward Ruscha

ruscha, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

Now here is a man you can't ignore. Like so many of the other photographers I am considering I have very mixed feelings about his work, on an intellectual level I understand and even quite approve of some of the concepts he brings to his project but as a practising photographer I am not sure that I can accept his somewhat mechanical view of the process to the extent that he is quite happy to include photographs taken by other people or sourced from libraries in his output.

Location Scouting

Wednesday afternoon proved to have better weather and I took the
opportunity to walk halfway around the orbital road starting from Sudell
Cross and making my way as far as the retail park at Staples.

I took my digital camera with me and spent some time shooting potential
locations and generally scouting out the area. Before making the walk I
had considered some general themes for the project. A search of
national statistics suggested that a large part of the route I took
yesterday runs through areas that are considered to be the most deprived
in the country. However yesterday's walk shores little evidence of
that. It would seem that the worst deprivation lies further out on the
town centre than the route of the road. On the contrary I was quite
surprised by the number of new properties and green areas I encountered
along the way. It goes to show that you see far more and in much more
detail when you walk around with a camera than when you drive around in
the car.

The multicultural nature of the town became evident from the various
places of worship encountered en route. The Mosques to the north of the
town are not adjacent to the road but they can be clearly seen. Closer
to the route is the Buddhist Centre, a Sikh temple and a variety of
Christian churches of various denominations as some which have become
de-consecrated and now have other uses. Another factor I had not been
so aware of before the walk was the number of restaurants which appear
to have closed down quite recently on and around the route.

I now have a significant editing job ahead to work through the images
and to see what themes and forms can be teased out.

I've posted the results of the shoot to the flickr stream and the link
is in the sidebar

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blees Luxemburg

Thin Cities, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

Unfortunately I have a terrible memory for names and as a result I often come across photographer's names that I think of as new only to review the images are discover that I was least partly familiar with their work. That has happened today when reading "Art and Photography" and came across a lengthy interview with Blees Luxemburg.

The images from London a Modern Project and perhaps more strongly from her subsequent work “Thin Cities”on the Piccadilly line have the feel I am looking for. Unfortunately as with Paul Seawright I am seduced by the use of colour and this is causing me some concern and I will have to experiment with both approaches. Whats more the post I submitted earlier today including an image from New York which was shot on black-and-white film and digitally toned is also worth investigating. However if I choose to go down the line of colour whether by digital toning or shooting colour transparency it will mean that the final prints will have to be made in a lab.

The Bechers

For some reason this morning Blogger seems to be having a problem and I am not able to edit these posts. It is therefore difficult for me to include relevant links.

I had intended to go out this morning to continue my pre-shoot survey but unfortunately this was stopped by poor weather. I have therefore reacquainted myself with David Campany's book Art and Photography and carried out some further research into photographers who have engaged in urban and topographic projects.

Any such survey must begin with Bernhard & Hilla Becher and I have been looking at some of their work and trying to come to a clear understanding in my own mind as to what makes the work so fascinating. In a way it must be that by the repetition of photographs, in a similar style of a variety of buildings which differ only slightly in detail, your attention is attracted to those differences which would otherwise go unnoticed.

Their most famous images are of water towers, timbered houses and steelworks but I recall visiting the “Liverpool Centre of the Avant-Garde” exhibition at the Tate Liverpool last year and saw a number of images they took in Liverpool around the Albert Dock. Obviously only a small number of images were shown in that exhibition and because of that there was not the element of repetition. There was however still that deadpan or objective style at work.

Empire State

Empire State-1, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

One of the joys of film is the moment of uncertainty. You have pressed the shutter and you hope. This evening I have been continuing the task of processing all the film I shot in New York last week (10 down 6 to go) and scanning the negatives. The first roll made it to the darkroom today and I have been revising my printing skills, it is looking promising and I might have some usable images after all. Its not really until the image comes up in the dev that you really know.

Today's tutorial added to the to do list and left me with a lot to ponder. This had started as a simple survey but I am seeing the potential for something deeper, I think a walk with the Blad is called for tomorrow weather permitting to explore the possibilities while I wait for the film to arrive.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New York-25

New York-25, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

I've been away for a few days "conducting research" now it's back to reality and a stack of film to develop.

Once I've waded through my e-mails I need to order film and paper to get the shooting stage under way next week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Off Topic

This is from Jeffrey Friedl - the guy who supplies the plugin to post straight from Lightroom to Flikr hence to here. It's to remind me if needed what it is I want to be doing this time next year. Walking in Kyoto.

John Davies

Since I reference John Davies in the last post I have included an image of his from from Metropoli / Urban Dreams UK 2000 - 2003 for illustration

Making a Start

Round the Houses-2, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

This is the first of two images taken yesterday morning and there are light leaks affecting both images due to a defect in an antique wooden dark slide I was using. While light leaks and artefacts from antique equipment can be quite interesting and in a way provide confirmation that a traditional process was used I think that they detract from the ethos of this particular project and for the majority of the images in future I will be using some new dark slides I purchased recently.

The experiment with Pyro is inconclusive. The grain does not appear significantly different to the ID11. On the other hand this image was taken on a very overcast morning following heavy rain and the original scene was not therefore very high contrast and it is high contrast scenes which often benefit from Pyro's staining abilities. The jury is therefore still out on this one.

This image is perhaps more John Davies than Paul Seawright but I did see some other likely targets on my trip and will make them a priority for the next expedition.

I have added a link in the sidebar to my Flickr stream and will be posting all the images made to the Orbital Route set

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mark Power

This is an image from Mark Powers exhibition "A System of Edges" and sourced from the Magnum site

I first became aware of Mark Power some time ago when I saw pictures from his book The Shipping Forecast. I visited the System of Edges exhibition and must admit that at the time it left me completely unmoved. However since their I have seen more of his work and I'm coming to like the stark compositions.

At times I have a tendency towards the picturesque and the obvious and there is something about Power's choice of subject matter that repays study.

It is obvious that there are certain similarities in concept between The Blackburn Project and A System of Edges. I hope that this will inform the Blackburn Project without it ending up as a lame pastiche of Mark's work.

Sunday Morning

The bridge-1, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

I had intended to carry out a reconnaissance and trail shoot this morning. Unfortunately I was discouraged by the early-morning rain and by the time it stopped the morning traffic was beginning.

This picture is not strictly of the ring road and does not meet the rules I laid out earlier. It is also digital and therefore not part of the project. However I did mannage to make 2 images both of Freckleton Street Bridge to try out a few things before starting the project properly when I return from New York.

I used my 135 mm lens which use slightly wide angle on the format and tried to experiment with the drop on the front element. Unfortunately the focal length is too short and the lens will not focus to infinity at full drop, I will have to use my 8 inch lens if I need front movements.

The two images were shot on FP4 a return to my traditional methods and I have dish processed them for eight minutes in pyro at 21° the negatives are still wet but I intend to compare the scans of these tests negatives with the images I made of windmills and which were also shot on FP4 but processed in ID11 at stock strength to see if there are any apparent benefits to either system. In principle Pyro should produce a lower grain negative.

I made a circumnavigation of the ring road and see that the town council have chosen to name it the Blackburn orbital route. It is a little over 3 miles round. I identified a number of likely targets and will return to them in a couple of weeks after the New York trip.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Rule Book

I do tend to lose track and go off at tangents and therefore while exploration and experiment is essential to the success of the project it is equally essential that some ground rules be laid down to keep the project on track so that I can deliver the planned exhibition in June.

I have toyed with a variety of formats and have concluded that the work will be made using black and white sheet film and displayed as large-scale images and an associated print portfolio.

So that the project does not end up as random snapshots I am laying down a number of ground rules that I plan to follow. Unfortunately I am also allowing myself the freedom to change these rules if the project does not seem to be working out.

Rule one all images will be taken in close proximity to the route of the road or will show a feature of the road

Rule two the work will include some night and longer exposure photography

Rule three the work is intended to look at geography, architecture and signs of human habitation not at people themselves

Rule for I reserve the right to make additional rules as and when I feel fit

Paul Seawright

I am not sure what it is that I like about Paul Seawright's photography. In many cases the subject matter is quite banal or obscure but I cannot help staring at the images and they seem to be in some way quite profound. I must keep looking at these and see if some of that influence can make its way into my work.

I suspect that colour is quite important to the impact the images make and I will see how that affects my own project which is intended to be completed in black-and-white

Friday, April 11, 2008

Going Round the Houses

on the bridge-8, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

This is the first post proper to this blog. I am in the very initial stages of documenting the Blackburn inner ring road part of which is Barbara Castle Way. This is my final project for my BA.

Over the last few months I have shot some construction work at Freckleton Street bridge which will when finished will form part of the route. The project is conceptual at the moment in that I haven't even bought the film yet but over the next few weeks I will post the rushes here