Thursday, May 29, 2008

Contact prints

Contact prints, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

This afternoon I finally blacked out my garage and made contact prints of all the negatives.

Yesterday I had a go at selenium toning the main prints and they all seem to have dried ok with the exception of 2 which slipped on the line overnight and stuck together. I resoaked them today and since FB paper is porous they seemed to separate without damage. They are back on the line I'll know more once they are dry.

If everything survives I may well have all the prints for the exhibition. Now they only need laminating/mounting.

A trip to the frozen North

On Wednesday I made a trip up to the Borders to see two touring exhibitions. They are both from the Hayward Gallery at the South Bank. I do not know what I really expected to see. The first exhibition "No such thing as society" is hosted at the Tully House art gallery in Carlisle which comprises just two or three rooms in a larger museum. The second is that the Queen's Hall in Hexham and again occupies just two small rooms and part of the foyer. There is always a danger when visiting provincial centres that the exhibition you travel to will turn out to be some token gesture with just two or three pictures of interest. That was emphatically not the case with these.

Going in reverse order my second gallery visit of the day was to the Queen's Hall in Hexham. There they are showing a collection of Walker Evans prints. These are not vintage prints in that they were not produced by Evans in his lifetime but are recent silver gelatin prints made directly from the original negatives which are kept in the Smithsonian. Unfortunately there are copyright issues with the images and the Hayward have not been able to issue a catalogue.

All in all there are some 50 prints on show all displayed in a simple manner. They are printed at a nominal 10 x 8 and framed approximately 16 x 20 with a cream coloured mount matted directly to the edge of the image and in a dark natural wood frame. The images shown include most of the images I was familiar with from the FSA and Now let us praise famous men.

The images which get the most reproduction are probably the portraits of sharecroppers but I was particularly taken by the sets of images of shop fronts, town scenes and vernacular churches. The lack of a catalogue was disappointing because despite making notes it is certain that my memory of the prints will fade over time but I am came away knowing that or feeling that I had seen something important.

It is perhaps unfortunate that I made the trip in the direction I did because my first port of call was in Carlisle for the "No such thing as society" exhibition. This is a huge display and with an impeccable catalogue. The images vary in size depending on their age and author and as for as I am aware the majority of images are vintage prints. A catalogue of people shown is a Who's Who of British documentary photography with so many names a lfull list would be tiresome: but includes Brian Griffin, Martin Parr, Paul Graham,Tony Ray-Jones,David Meadows, Chris Killip etc. etc...

What is more each photographer was given a reasonable amount of space. Brian Griffin had two images in the exhibition but most of the others at between six and ten each. In such an embarrassment of riches it is difficult to pick out any for special mention. However in no particular order there was some stunning work from Tony Ray-Jones including some of his seaside work. One picture which stood out was part of a series by Homer Sykes documenting village customs. It is sobering to realise that the customs depicted were still around albeit dying out when I was at university the first time, one image which made a special impression was "Tar barrel parade" at Allendale from his exhibition "Once a year". With my interest in landscape and topography I was drawn to Ron McCormack's images made in the late 70s and to some of Chris Killip's work.

I have seen reproductions of "Tyne Pride" which shows a back alley between terraced houses leading down to a shipyard and a large ship being built. That image was made in 1976 and it seems strange to recall that there was still a thriving shipbuilding industry in the North-East at that time. The reproductions have all looked pale and grey but to see the real thing printed approximately 24" as a silver gelatin black and white print is another thing entirely.

This half term has been very good for visits. The Open Eye exhibition left me confused but the "Art in the age of steam" at the Walker the Walker Evans at the Queens Hall and especially "No such thing as society" are some of the best exhibitions I've seen during this course.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Progress Report

Last week saw the end of the main batch of printing. I had intended to complete the work by making contact prints last Thursday but unfortunately there was a problem with the water supply and it proved impossible.

This morning I set up a bench in my garage and connected up the enlarger. The new bulb fitted ok and everything seems in order. There are some serious light leaks around the up and over door and I will need some black polythene to fix those. I should be able get that and to make the contact prints towards the end of the week.

Today I went hunting for frames. I have visited a number of outlets now and ended up at Hobbycraft. The frame kits there seemed to be nicely jointed and well finished and I was able to find six matching 16 x 20 frames. I also bought some mount board but remain unsure as to whether I am going to cut the mounts myself.

Jane and Pat suggested that the dragging problems which caused the rough edges on the last mat might be caused by the cutting mat and suggested using paper under the mat instead I will try that and see if I can get clean edges.

I intend to visit Britannia Gallery on Wednesday to talk to them about mounts and mats and I will see make a decision after that.

Wednesday is pencilled in as selenium day and I'm hoping to tone the 16th candidate prints and am planning to feature in just six of those in the exhibition with perhaps 20 or so laminated contact prints.

Tomorrow I'm having a day out.

It is perhaps a little late in the day but when I suggested this project Richard said that it would be a good idea to look at Paul Graham and Chris Killip and by chance they and several other documentary photographers are featured in the "No such thing as society" exhibition which is touring from the Hayward and his presently in Carlisle. By chance there is another touring exhibition from the South bank featuring Walker Evans and it is in Hexham until next weekend I should therefore be able to visit both exhibitions in the day and weather permitting also get to visit Vindolana on Hadrian's Wall and perhaps even take some photographs. I am planning to load eight sheets of FP4 for the MPP and keep my fingers crossed for the rain.

Art in the age of steam

This post is a little late coming. A week ago I visited the exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. I went along largely because I heard that they had some prints by O Winston Lock in the exhibition and expected that the photography element would be quite restricted and indeed that the entire exhibition might not be so good. How wrong can you be the exhibition was in fact one of the better shows I have seen this year with a variety of photographic images included not to mention the quality of the remaining artworks. I had thought that the exhibition might be about the general industrial revolution but I suppose I ought to have guessed from the title, it is about the railways.

The exhibition opens with some video showing various Turners which were apparently to fragile or valuable to transport but on entering the first room you are confronted with photography from the various earliest days of the medium. There is a sumptuous albumen print dating from 1860 by Auguste Hippolyte Collard showing a newly built roundhouse for 32 locomotives and loaned to the exhibition from the L.A. Getty. (reproduced above) Having recently become fascinated by contact printing and having a long-standing interest in alternative processes I was amazed at the detail and the tonal range in that print. It is even more amazing bearing in mind that it is now 150 years old.

The roll call of photographers goes on to include Kertesz, Bill Brandt, Stieglitz & the O Winston Locks I had planned to see.

A special treat were the early American railway photographers. I wrote about these in my dissertation but had done so on the strength of images in books and on the internet. One man who had fascinated me was Carlton Watkins who in 1867 had photographed the westward passage of the railways using a 20 x 24 wet collodion camera. Two of his contact prints are in the exhibition and they are of amazing quality. There are also prints by William H Jackson and Samuel Bourne.

The O Winston Lock was the famous Hotshot Eastbound 1956 which shows a couple in an open top car at a drive-in with the locomotive steaming past on a viaduct. The image is well known and the quality of the print outstanding. Less well-known and something I had not anticipated from my reading about him was an action sequence presumably taken on a plate camera showing the uncoupling of two moving locomotives. The sequence consists of a series of six images taken in rapid succession from a moving train.

Aside from the photography the exhibition is worth a visit for some of the other art on show. There is a series of posters including Futurist and communist posters and some Art Deco French railway posters. There are also a number of Impressionist canvases including Monet, Manet and Degas and also some American works including two by Edward Hopper.

All in all it is an excellent exhibition I had expected to spend perhaps half an hour there but in the end I was there when the gallery closed having spent some two hours inside and not even looked at the permanent collection. Obviously as City of Culture Liverpool is able to attract some of the best works this year.

Schrödinger's Cat, slow food and other stories

I know this is a long post but I have included it here because it represents the current state of play in rationalising why anyone would want to do this. I have to write a "Rationale" but only 500 words. Those words may be included here but in the words of Eric Morcambe " Not necessarily in the right order."

The issues of subject, authenticity and technological development are central to photography.

No matter how sophisticated the viewer the first thing you notice when you look at a picture is the subject matter, technique and interpretation may be noticed soon afterwards but they are always secondary. Furthermore it is hard not to be influenced by recognition. A photograph of your child, the Taj Mahal, a landscape in the Lake District is more arrestingly immediate than a similar photograph were the motif is unknown. Photography also has the effect of stopping time, it provides you with an opportunity and an excuse to stare. In life you would never peer closely at the face of a stranger but when invited by photography you can look deep into their eyes.

Presented on the wall the photograph invites you to look and perhaps to see for the first time things you would pass by in your busy life. That is the point of this survey. The entire project has been photographed within 1 mile of the exhibition room and almost everyone who sees the work will be familiar with the locations but this may well be the first time they have had the opportunity or inclination to look.

There is a Chinese proverb/curse "may you live in interesting times" and the current fluorescence of digital media makes these the most interesting photographic times since the invention of film. However I fear that advanced technology now masks the actual photographic process. This is not to raise a question about image quality, or to suggest a mythic nature for film or anything else you could call “geeky” but more that camera automation can give cause an interruption in the process of seeing.

An advanced camera - whether digital or film is very fast, the computers and sensors make sure that the exposure and focus are always correct (although not always where you wanted them) and in principle this leaves you free to interact with the subject and concentrate on image making, but oft-times that freedom is wasted because you forget to think. You are seduced by the technology and end up shooting like a hyperactive child. For this exercise I wanted to take my time.

I am not anti automation - Freckleton Street bridge was a digital project but for this endeavour I wanted to strip away that technical assistance and interact more directly with my motif. To that end I chose to use what may be thought of as an archaic system, something as simple as possible leaving me free to make every decision. In other words a box of indeterminate size and shape with a lens at one end and film at the other: a view camera.

So much for the equipment what about the Cat.

Scientists might have explained the paradox long ago but the underlying contention that the act of observation alters reality remains. In a documentary survey we seek the objective or authentic truth and in doing so we run up against that paradox in that by seeking out authenticity we essentially stage-manage reality and in consequence the results are subjective rather than objective and the staging renders them inauthentic.

This then is an endeavour which is beset by self-imposed rules and conditions.

  • Firstly this is a topographic survey and must therefore seek to document the various types and styles of landscape existing within the very small geographical space encompassed by the orbital route.
  • Secondly whilst this is an urban landscape and hence populated by people and vehicles and the marks of civilisation these are not central to the project and where present in images are there only as part of the scenery.

Then there is the photographic process itself perhaps akin to the slow food movement this is slow photography the camera is large and cumbersome mounted on a tripod and since it is not equipped with a viewfinder its point of view is assessed by looking directly through the instrument and composing the image in that curious upside down and laterally reversed way. The lens is fixed focal length and so the only way to alter the viewpoint is to physically carry the camera around. Once the camera is set up it is possible to adjust its size and shape and thus alter how it “sees” the world that distortion of reality generates images which are in some small ways hyperreal. Tilting the standards results in images which are sharp from the closest to the furthest point and the swing and shifts ensure that the vertical and horizontal remain so. This hyperreality does not make its presence immediately felt. It is only by reference to snapshots and our memory of other photographs that we begin to notice these subtle distortions.

This slow food analogy carries on through the rest of the process. Pressing the shutter after spending time considering the viewpoint, assessing the geometry, monitoring the light and all the other decisions is only the first stage. One of the joys or horrors of film is the dread that something can still go wrong. The film is a physical and delicate object sensitive not only to light but also to the risks of damage by dust and scratching and then subject to the uncertain outcome of chemical development, subsequent drying and physical handling. The risks can be minimised by experience and care but remain omnipresent and several camera exposures did not survive the process and were ruined by various faults.

Whenever you visit a craft fair you always see notices to the effect that faults and flaws are part of the character of handmade items. This is therefore a second conundrum. One of the reasons for the choice of archaic equipment is to achieve the sublime quality it is capable of. However the slight marks and stains caused by uneven development or the traces left of the dust which settled inside the camera at the moment of exposure are all signifiers of the nature of the process and intrinsic to it. An aesthetic/ethical conundrum therefore arises to what extent are those imperfections which demonstrate the authenticity of the process to be permitted to remain in the final image.

The basic nature of the image was determined by the choice of camera equipment. However the exposed film requires further processing. In approaching the project I decided that this was to be an exercise in photographic purity. The only automatic device on the camera is a clockwork shutter which ensures that the exposures are reliable. Similarly I chose a simple type of film Ilford FP4 which comprises solely a transparent plastic sheet coated with a single layer of light-sensitive emulsion. Advances in chemistry mean that the film is more consistent than those used by the pioneers but it remains a material they would have been familiar with. Over the years there have been countless formulations of chemistry for developing film but one of the earliest and one used to such great effect by Paul Strand and Edward Weston was a material known as Pyro.

Pyro is quite a toxic chemical and is not available over the counter of your local camera shop but there are specialist suppliers who can provide the raw materials from which it can be formulated. Taking a small shortcut I purchased a kit containing the various powders and chemicals necessary to mix up the stock solutions.

With proprietary developers the manufacturers have tested them on various types of film and there are tables and charts to tell you what concentration to use,what temperature it should be used at, for how long and in what manner. None of that applies to historical materials such as Pyro. The instructions with the kit simply say that film will develop in something between 4 and 10 minutes at between 20 and 25°C and that the actual time can be determined by experimentation. In other words suck it and see.

Testing just means wasting film so a number of sheets of film were shot at various exposure settings and processed for various times until a result was achieved. In the end the film was exposed for approximately twice the manufacturer's recommendation and then processed for 5 mins at 21oC. This is not fixed however and after each shoot the first sheet of film was processed and examined before the remainder were processed so that any adjustments in time necessary as a result of the shooting conditions could be accommodated.

The final process is the production of printed output. The pyro development process was chosen to produce negatives containing exceptional amounts of detail such that features can be made out in both the whitest parts of the scene and the deepest shadows. This is a range of perception perhaps foreign to natural human vision, a viewer not used to the format will first of all be drawn to the resolution but then notice the second characteristic of the materials chosen and that is their ability to reproduce very fine tonal graduation. The printing process was therefore chosen and adjusted to maximise those two factors.

A lot of very recent black and white photography whether from digital originals or film shows a grainy high contrast aesthetic which owes much to newspaper reproduction of press images. Similarly there is a landscape photography trend to ape the style of Ansell Adams in the 40s and 50s and seek to create false contrast and tonal representations in the interest of drama.

These approaches are at odds with the aims of this project which demands a simple style to allow the viewer to examine and contemplate the landscape and buildings un-moderated by artificial treatment.

The prints were therefore made on fibre-based silver gelatin paper which is renowned for its archival qualities, its hand feel, the nature of the surface and its ability to reproduce delicate tonal changes. Once made the prints were then gently selenium toned to maximise micro-contrast and also to aid archival stability.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Today is my Birthday

So what? Well I finally got to open a parcel from Amazon and get my hands on Cape Light and Aftermath. Not had long to look at them yet they are very
different, quiet seascapes, muted colour v outright chaos.

I've looked through both before and as well as liking Joel Meyerowitz (even if he did go on a bit in the "genius of photography") they have a personal meaning since I have been to both places.

In September 2000 we went to New York for our silver wedding and had lunch in a little deli run by the Amish community right at the foot of the south tower. The people who ran it were some of the first I thought about a year later when the planes hit.

On a happier note the first time I went to New York we went on to Boston and hired a car and drove down to Provincetown and Mystic.

Also had the e-mail from Amazon that they have finally dispatched The Americans. So no work is getting done for a few days.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Anne Collier at Open Eye

I will admit to being confused by the Anne Collier exhibition at Open Eye. Anne is quite a famous photographer and has exhibited widely including at the Whitney biennial. Her work must therefore be taken seriously.

In a lot of ways the work is totally divorced from my own project but in a somewhat roundabout way it is also central to it. Some 2 years ago I visited Mark Power's exhibition “A System of Edges” when it was displayed at the National Media Museum in Bradford. At the time I was unimpressed and the work was completely closed to me. However I believe that it is only by examining work which you find difficult that you begin to form a wider understanding of photography, and since then I have come to appreciate Mark’s work although I still find “A System of Edges” higher in concept than realisation – none the less his exploration of London’s A-Z informs “The Blackburn Project”

Returning to Anne I hope that by reading more about her and trying to come to terms with the apparant pointless appropriation of others work and its mere reproduction I will learn something new about the nature of photography. Anne is not alone in this field I have similar problems with Richard Prince and the following is a Quote from the Guggenheim

Prince's work has been among the most innovative art produced in the United States during the past 30 years. His deceptively simple act in 1977 of rephotographing advertising images and presenting them as his own ushered in an entirely new, critical approach to art-making—one that questioned notions of originality and the privileged status of the unique aesthetic object. Prince's technique involves appropriation; he pilfers freely from the vast image bank of popular culture to create works that simultaneously embrace and critique a quintessentially American sensibility: the Marlboro Man ...

The work displayed at Open Eye consisted entirely of photographs of other photographers or artist's work. In her artist's notes Anne makes reference to the work being autobiographical and exploring the concept of the returned gaze. In most but not all of the photographs she has chosen to photograph the subject’s eyes are important. However I am finding it difficult to differentiate between Anne’s work reproducing film posters and those same posters being reproduced in a photocopy or in a book.

Since I Anne has no difficulty in copying other people's work and exhibiting it in a gallery I have few qualms about quoting the following paragraphs from an interview she gave:-

Bob Nickas: Your recent show in London, although it's a gallery show of new or recent pictures, can be seen as a summation of your work to date. There are photographs of book reproductions and of eyes; photographs of magazine covers-German photo publications, obviously from the '70s, with images of sexualized women, each holding cameras, one of them naked; pictures that refer both to California and to the pop psychology of self-help and positive thinking we associate with a certain period, late '60s/early '70s, and place, the West coast; unspooled self-help tapes; and the representation of celebrity/publicity-posters of Madonna, and Jack Nicholson, as he appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. In short, pictures of pictures and a psychological rendering of images and objects. While I see this as a summary of your examination of both picture-making and picture-reading, for you it may not mark a particular turning point; it could simply be where you are now in relation to the pictorial probing that has come before. Still, I'm wondering if this isn't a juncture of sorts, and where you might go from here.

AC: I'm interested in how these distinct groups of related images operate in relation to one another. As we've discussed, there is often a biographical narrative that informs a number of the decisions or choices I make, and that narrative is in a continual flux. Consequently, I don't see the convergence of these recent images as a juncture as such-rather I see them as being part of an ongoing and continually unraveling investigation. Certainly I feel that one of the work's central concerns, which you described as the "psychological rendering of images and objects," will persist, as I would imagine my somewhat reductive approach to making images. I'm still interested in further exploring the notion of deflected self-portraiture, and feel in many ways that I've only begun to consider the potentiality of photography's role in such an idea. In terms of where the work might be heading, I'm not so sure. Despite the formal or even calculated appearance of my pictures, I actually work very intuitively.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


After todays chat in class I went to the Range and Ikea looking at frames before going on to Liverpool to visit the shows at the Walker and Open Eye. So many ways to display photographs.

Its too late to blog about the shows tonight I will write them up tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008


It seems ages since we were in New York. I've shot this entire project since then but at the same time there has been an exiting photo festival there - it's just a shame we missed it. Anyway many more erudite people than me have blogged about the shows and I have already posted a couple of videos from it. There is a fairly complete round up here

Another day in the dark

Prints, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

After a slow start trying to write a statement for the exhibition I made my way into the dark room. I think that today was fairly successful. Last week I made a preliminary edit of 16 negatives and last week I made the first 4 prints.

When I arrived at the darkroom today the prints had all survived but were somewhat twisted. Today I made a further six prints and decided that the best course of action was to take them home to dry.

I put them in a plastic bag still wet and transferred them to my garage where I soaked them for a while in a tray of water before hanging them from a line. The Silverprint website suggests that if the prints are removed from the water back to back and then secured by clothes pegs at each corner they dry flat.

The acid test will be tomorrow morning when they should be dry. After a few hours they are not looking all that flat to me but I will reserve judgement until tomorrow morning.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Simon Norfolk

Half term gallery visits

No Such Thing As Society

10 May – 13 July
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle

No Such Thing as Society focuses on photography produced in Britain during the period 1967 – 1987, an era when British society and culture was in a state of ferment and transition. In the early 1970s, the Arts Council of England began to commission photographers to document these changing times in black and white, while the British Council took the adventurous decision to collect the new colour photography of the social scene at the beginning of the 1980s. This exhibition – a unique collaboration between the Arts Council and the British Council – draws upon both collections to give a radically new picture of two turbulent decades.

More typologies

This one on music fans who dress like their heroes is from Saturdays Guardian

Photograph: James Mollison who had an exhibition in Liverpool (face to face) a few years ago

Mollison’s impressive portraits stand at over 2 metres tall. The pictures have been shot on medium format rather than telephoto lens, to create a sense of closeness akin to a passport photograph. Viewing this magnificent display is a humbling experience and forces us to reflect on our relationship with our distant cousins.

The apes portrayed in Face to Face are mainly orphans, victims of the illicit trades in ‘bushmeat’ and live animals. Many were suffering physical and emotional trauma when they were rescued.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Martin Parr

Making a living

This is all a quote from Photopreneur

If you wanted to name the biggest complaint of professional photographers in the digital age, you’d have a lot to choose from. Demand is falling. Prices are dropping. Photography schools are growing just as jobs are disappearing. If it was always difficult to make a living taking pictures, it’s safe to say that times are particularly hard now.

All of those are good reasons to grumble but there’s one complaint that stands out above all the others:

Everyone thinks they’re a photographer now.

It’s the inevitable result of cameras that are cleverer than the people who sell them and editing software that was once only found on the desks of professional graphic designers now available for free online.

Give anyone a decent digital camera and a good view, and after an hour or two, almost inevitably, you’ll end up with a selection of attractive images and someone who thinks they’re Annie Leibovitz.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t though.

Talent is spread unevenly and not everyone discovers their abilities early. There are plenty of amateurs who could have made successful professionals had they picked up a camera earlier, chosen a different career path or who weren’t enjoying what they’re doing full-time now.

But there’s a difference between an attractive image and an exceptional one, and the wrong person to ask about the quality of an image is always the person who took it. So how can you tell if your photography really is as good as you think it is?

“Nice capture”… not!
What you shouldn’t do is trust what you read under your photos on Flickr. The photo-sharing site has no shortage of mediocre images with long pages of positive comments. That’s because offering a compliment is a good way of receiving one, and contributing is a powerful form of Flickr marketing.

Better then to join a group and ask for constructive criticism. That might be harder to take – it’s likely to be less complimentary – but it should show you how close you came to shooting a perfect picture, and the advice will help you to get even closer next time.

Better still, because group members are selective there’s a greater chance that the people offering the comments will actually understand what they’re looking at. Choose a group used by both professionals and amateurs, and your viewers will be able to see where you want wrong, understand how you made the mistake, tell you how to put it right… and appreciate all things that you did so well.

A compliment is always worth more when it comes from someone who really can tell a bad image from a good one.

Take a Prize
You could also try submitting one of your images to a competition. There are plenty of these on the Internet these days, so you have to choose carefully. A weekly contest held by a site with 30 users a month might not be worth winning. Getting your pictures shown on the BBC’s website might not deliver any prizes but it is free to enter, highly competitive and a good sign that you’re better than average.

You could also try submitting your photos to a peer-reviewed photography publication like JPG Magazine. Although the final choice won’t be solely down to other photography lovers – the editors have the last word – being chosen is still a good sign that you have something that most people don’t.

Return to the Stone Age
A tougher test of your talent though would be to strip down. Ditch all the hi-tech wizardry that makes shooting easy, turn off the camera’s automatic features, deny yourself the benefits of post-production and see how you do with nothing but the bare camera essentials.

It’s how photographers used to learn their trade, and it would be a good test of how much you know as well how much you can do. You don’t have to go analog – do photographers still need darkroom skills? – but photography talent isn’t just about framing and composition. It also involves an understanding of light, shadow, focus and depth. How much do your images owe to your talent and how much to your camera’s features?

Ultimately though, the biggest test of your talent is also the most satisfying. When someone is prepared to pay for one of your pictures, you know you’ve got something valuable.

The Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography for 2008 has been made to Graciela Iturbide from Mexico City.

The Foundation’s citation:

Graciela Iturbide is considered one of the most important and influential Latin American photographers of the past four decades. Her photography is of the highest visual strength and beauty. Graciela Iturbide has developed a photographic style based on her strong interest in culture, ritual and everyday life in her native Mexico and other countries. Iturbide has extended the concept of documentary photography, to explore the relationships between man and nature, the individual and the cultural, the real and the psychological. She continues to inspire a younger generation of photographers in Latin America and beyond.

More here

Martin Parr - New Typologies

From the unlikely sounding Tarantino-meets-Disney venues Smack Mellon and Dumbo Arts Center, Magnum photographer and curator of New Typologies Martin Parr lays out his stall for the Future of Photography. In employing the word ‘typology’, Parr is evoking a tradition in which the best-known exponents are Bernd and Hilda Becher. “Yes, it’s been around for a long time, but people are using it to great effect at the moment,” says Parr. “Photographing something over and over again can bring an extra level of rigour to certain subject matters. It’s not new, but no-one has isolated it as a specific trend.”
Read more here

Friday, May 16, 2008

Printing at last

Got a chance to go into college today and start printing in earnest. As always things did not go smoothly. I spent a fruitless morning unable even to make a test strip. Every time I settled on a general exposure then made a finer strip between the candidate values none of the resultant steps were any good. After a lot of hair pulling I got to the bottom of it. The paper I was using for the test strips was fogged. Not much, more like flashed so the speed and contrast was all over the place. I think I found the problem in a fluorescent light. The safe light filter was partly dislodged and giving out white/blue/green light more or less above where I was cutting the paper to make the test strips,

After lunch with the offending unsafe light turned off I finally got some results and when I left had a number of versions of 4 prints hanging on the line. I hope they make it through the weekend and survive till I can go in on Monday.

I have a provisional edit of 16 negatives to weed down once prints are made. (Probably just hang the survivors if my usual luck prevails)

For the time being I am working on quite soft (as in low contrast) 11" prints. I will see what everyone thinks when they get peer reviewed on Tuesday.

Cara Phillips

I love Cara's blog Ground Glass and the article see wrote the other day on Typology gells really well with this project

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Production and decisions

Freck Bridge-13, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

Had quite a good day today. Started off at the bridge and shot a bit more stuff and had a chat with the people building it. Several of them have been to the web site and commented.

The bridge is looking quite finished now if you don't count there being no road up to it on one side and the pedestrian decks not being there but you can get a good idea of how it will look.

Then went into college and spent some time in the darkroom pondering. It's the old size matters thing again. On the way back from the bridge I popped into Wilkinsons and bought some 5x7 RC paper on a bit of a whim and I spent some time making contact prints on it. I have been thinking about contact prints on and off since I started this project. At the concept stage I even thought about an album of gum bicarb contacts or even platinum but I don't have time - sounds like post grad extension.

Anyway I really like the contacts. I will show them to the class on Tuesday and get a feeler. I may re-jig the exhibition plan and have a smaller number of big prints and contact a good selection of the remainder. That way I can show more of the survey which is in part at least the point of the exercise.

Having made a few RC prints I succumbed to a fibre one as well, I will wait while they are all dry and try to make my mind up if the fibre is worth the extra hassle on the small prints. RC could be spay mounted in rows but fibre has both production and display issues.

Knowing me I'll just pick the one that is most hassle.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Edgar Martin


A definition

1.the detailed mapping or charting of the features of a relatively small area, district, or locality.
2.the detailed description, esp. by means of surveying, of particular localities, as cities, towns, or estates.
3.the relief features or surface configuration of an area.
4.the features, relations, or configuration of a structural entity.
5.a schema of a structural entity, as of the mind, a field of study, or society, reflecting a division into distinct areas having a specific relation or a specific position relative to one another.

A tentative selection


Orbit-11, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

When I began this project less than a month ago I was worried that there would be insufficient material to sustain it. In the event I am ceasing to shoot because of the approach of the deadline rather than a lack of suitable material. The flickr stream now contains some 50 images or so which are all the processed sheets of 5x4 film. I am now in the process of the final edit with a view to reducing the shoot to around 15 images to be printed before the final edit is made and the exhibition hung.

The image above therefore is perhaps symbolic as the last disaster of the shooting phase of the project. In an earlier post I made reference to a double exposure and the image above is the offending sheet.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The long arm of the law

I suppose I have been acting suspiciously for a couple of weeks now, hanging around the town centre and hiding under a red cape but up to today I have not attracted the law. This morning I was in a disused car park photographing a burned out industrial stairwell when a very nice police lady (officer) came up to investigate. I think I confused her even once she had put the cloak over her head and figured out that the image was up side down she still couldn't understand why I would want to be taking the photo. I am probably the laughing stock of the local nick by now.

Sunday 11 May The end of the Film

This morning I wasted the last of the film. I hope Silverprint manage to get some more to me soon.

I haven't developed any yet but have the usual forebodings. I know I made one C*** Up I have never managed before. I put a dark slide in back to front ie. exposed side to the lens - inverted the cover as usual put it back in the bag. Then looked in for the next sheet and saw there were no exposed slides. I realised I had double exposed one but had no idea which holder. So I have played Russian roulette with dark slides. Some shots are obviously going to be ruined but which ones? Watch this space...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Yet another shoot

Orbit-7, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

This was last Wednesday. I was able to develop the film on Thursday and this is one of the shots that I printed yesterday in the darkroom


The Museum of Science and Industry
A photographic exploration of Ancoats
Whitworth Art Gallery
The deterioration and Regeneration of The Victoria Baths

Open Eye
Anne Collier Pop Culture
How the 20C looked and felt
Maritime Museum
Hello Sailor! Gay Life on the Ocean Wave
National Conservation Centre
Capturing Modern Liverpool
Walker Art Gallery
Art in the age of steam

Harris Art Gallery
Visions of Preston & District
Static: Contemporary still life

Step into the 70s

Friday, May 09, 2008

More archaic processes

I have come across a lab offering colour carbon printing. It sounds expensive but their
web site has a good explanation of the process and a history lesson.

Art & Soul Gallery

In the dark

Today I have at last ventured into the darkroom to start the process of making work prints. I have started on 12"x16" RC multigrade.

My efforts to produce "flat" negs has not been all that successful because although they look really nice on the light box they are printing at G1 1/2.

Anyway after a full day I have 16 prints and should have the full set after Tuesday.

The forecast for Sunday is good so with a bit of luck the primary shoot should be complete by then and it will just be a question of re shooting and filling in the gaps. 

Taryn Simon

Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility Cherenkov Radiation
Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy
Southeastern Washington State

Location envy

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Liz Kuball

This project has a concept behind it. It grows from something that I came to realise as I wrote my thesis. I have tended to look at photographers work and like the "gear envy" to which some succumb, I have envied the location or the chance to photograph the subject. A sort of well Ansel Adams was great but of course he had Yosemite. It's the same as when people come up to you in the street and say "nice camera I bet it takes great pictures" you are left with a dilemma it is and it does and it cost a mint but where does that leave the person behind the camera. If photography is about vision then subject, location and equipment are not crucial - it must be possible to make images here within a mile of the place they will be exhibited and still reveal something which is new/fresh at least to me.

On the other hand I am victim of Orwell's "Double Think" I like the idea of conceptual art - its intellectual rigour- but - I also feel the emperor's new clothes and wonder if I am being had.

Liz Kuball is better with words than I am but sums up my uncertainty.

The academics seem to have a stronger hold on artists than they do on writers. Artists think and talk in terms of critical constructs that you just don’t hear writers using. It’s not just about the artist creating; the artist has to have a concept for her work. Concept, schmoncept. It’s as though the scholars and critics have gotten into artists’ minds, and the artists have bought in to what the critics are saying. Don’t get me wrong—I think there’s a place for the kind of intellectualizing that academics groove on. I just wonder whether it has any place in the realm of creativity. How much can you possibly produce when you have all that theory—all that stuff that should come after you’re finished with your work—floating around in your mind?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tueday Evening

Orbital Route-8, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

I had a reasonably productive shoot. Every thing that went into the dev tank survived the experience for once.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The little black book

I struggle to write about myself. I can ramble on about a lot of stuff but choosing images and blurb for the book is hard. This is my first shot at an image sequence. It will probably change.

Cultural Identity

My project has its roots in an investigation I carried out into Documentary Photography and its role in forming Cultural Identity. The document above is a copy of my BA thesis on the subject.

Yet another Tuesday

Tuesday again, a college day and a meeting re the exhibition. We now have a diary to work to and I am beginning to realise how little time there is. I had planned to use the morning making some test print from the negs made so far but that came to nothing in the end. I did make one and am reasonably confident that the rest will print ok.

I had a go at reprising split grade printing since I will need to get that up and running for the final prints. It went so so I made a presentable work print of Larkhill. Theres no real point in scanning prints - it looks much like the neg scan already on line.

This evening I shot some more film. One thing about a ring road its sort of circular which means some of it faces north and the sun never shines. Blackburn is at the base of a bowl in the hills and I had never given that much thought other than when it snows and its difficult to get out. But what it means so far as the project goes is that the sun rises much later in the town centre and I will have to shoot some parts of the route in the middle of the day when the light is not so forgiving.

This evening I tried some new ways to waste film. No 1 when I photographed a Catholic church on Montague Street the shutter didn't seem to make the right noise so I fired it again - double exposure! but at least I knew it was probably a c*** up so I shot another as well. No 2 I made 7 exposure so there was one blank in a dark slide. Went in the dark to load the tanks - no idea which side was which so I ended up processing an unexposed sheet. Who was it said film is cheap.

Anyway as I write all 8 sheets are in the wash and seem ok. I will scan them once they dry tomorrow.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Edward Ruscha

On Friday I photographed a petrol station on what I suspect is technically Tontine Street. Anyway it borders Barbara Castle Way. As I was making the photograph I could not help but think of Edward Ruscha and those thoughts return when I contemplate the technical problems I have experienced with this project. As well as the 26 gasoline stations Ruscha undertook a number of photographic surveys in the late 1960s and one which could perhaps be analogous to my own modest endeavour is the photography of Sunset Boulevard. However the methodology could not be more different. With the Sinar it is going to take me two or three weeks to make perhaps 50 images around the orbital route which is only 3 miles in extent. Ruscha took a more pragmatic approach and mounted on a motorised Nikon on the back of his pickup truck and shot the entire length of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles in a single afternoon the resulting endeavour is interesting in that it is complete but many of the images are technically quite flawed but nonetheless valuable.

A more modern interpretation of Rushca's work could perhaps be the video of the orbital route I posted a couple of days ago

The original book is to say the least rare and expensive

Saturday 3 May

Orbital 5x4 bw-12, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

My second shooting expedition took place this Saturday. Rather than clog up this post with a lot of images I have re-jigged the links to the right and all the shoot can now be viewed in a Flickr stream.

I have resolved a few issues. Firstly 64ASA seems about right with 5mins @ 21C in the Pyro.

There were no darkslide malfunctions but I had an accident drying the film when a rod slipped dropping 3 sheets 2 are damaged as a result. I am coping with shooting and deving the film ok but it is awkward to wash and dry. I have only shot small amounts before and 12 or so at a time is stretching my facilities.

The shoot was late afternoon and I visited 2 locations Larkhill and Byron Street.

The darkslide incident on the last shoot spoiled the Montague street set. That needs repeating and due to its orientation has to be done in the morning. There is a good forecast for Wednesday so I plan to do it then.

I then need to get to Audley and shoot Traces & Cobbles on film.

One disappointment at Larkhill was the absence of the cross I photographed in my survey. It must have been there just for Easter and they have taken it away.

Art in the age of steam

This is one for the "To do" list. I must have a trip to Liverpool soon to the Walker. Certainly before I reach the stage of making prints.

The painting is " 'Speeding Train', Ivo Pannaggi, Cassa di Risparmio, Macerata" but the exhibition also includes O Winston Lock.

Open Eye might also be worth a visit. Its another topic I have trouble with - photographs of photographs. There is something that seems very right about photographing a Warhol and making multiple copies- but is it worth doing?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

So what is art

Cultural Identity

Now I have to say this is nothing like the approach I am taking. However the theme is the same and there is nothing like a completely contrary view to make you focus.

The image is by Rory Donaldson and is from his show at the Winkleman Gallery

Saturday, May 03, 2008

My first real shoot

Yesterday morning I set out to begin shooting in earnest I had previously loaded the film and went to two separate locations one Barbara Castle Way and the second on Montague Street. It was early morning and the sun was providing side illumination on Barbara Castle Way but was more direct on Montague Street. I used both the 65 mm and 90mm lenses but found that with low sunlight the 65 mm lens does give some unexpected problems with shadows. It is very difficult to find an angle of view which does not include the camera's shadow or alternatively suffer from serious problems of flare.

I have ended up with seven images which is perhaps not bad from 10 sheets but unfortunately I have lost one of the images I had great hopes for. The images were lost for the usual 5x4 reason of leaking dark sides. Two of the images were completely fogged one to the extent that there was no actual photographic image on the film at all.

I have adjusted the processing having reduced the ASA to 64 and am now processing for five minutes the negatives have a little higher density than the first tests and I think that they will prove straightforward to print. However I suspect that they will not meet the requirements for printing on the Forte and I will have to use multigrade.

This morning I was in Manchester and called on to Calumet and they have almost completely given up on traditional photography. They had two bottles of developer no black and white sheet film and only resin coated paper.

These were the seven survivors: