Saturday, June 28, 2008

A New Blog

The degree show is now complete. I will continue to shoot more material and explore print making with both traditional and digital media and intend to continue to document my efforts. To that end I have begun a fresh blog - " Developing" (Title subject to change when I decide on a better one)

The new blog is here Negative Thoughts

Friday, June 20, 2008

What next ?

The Blackburn project is not complete so I will be continuing with it. However this Blog was created specifically for my FIA and I am therefore planning to mothball it. However whilst I am probably only writing to myself I have come to enjoy keeping this journal and am planning a "moving into the wide world" blog.

The template is not yet completed but I will post a link here once the new site is ready to be seen.

Private View

Its now Friday and I have had quite a bit of feedback from the private view. Everyone says they enjoyed it ( they have to say that don't they) and were impressed by all the work on show.

I see from the course blog that the marks should be out week beginning 7 July so sit tight and cross fingers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Recently emerged technologies of image-making, image manipulation, and vision depend on digital computers. All of them, as a whole, allow photographs to perform new, unprecedented, and still poorly understood functions. All of them radically change what a photograph is.

Lev Manovich

I had not intended to keep posting development articles, if for no other reason than that I have handed the project in for marking, but I have just come across the above quote which comes from:-

Photography After Photography.Exhibition catalog.
Germany, 1995.

The full article repays reading

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Last(ish) Post

Well the deadline has passed . The prints are on the walls and the portfolio boxes set out. Now we just wait to see what the examiners think and of course what family, friends and guests make of it all.

Over in the department there was a hive of activity with everyone putting final touches to their own displays.

Of course I had a last minute panic as always. I was given a plan of the orbital route by the Town Hall but had been loath to display it. The designer who made it had a different purpose to me and the colour scheme was to say the least bright and it clashed with my muted blacks creams and whites.

However this afternoon I had a final go at it with Photoshop and re-coloured it and while I was at it illustrated it with photos of the various landmarks. I have decided at the last minute to include it so I stuck it to the wall next to the rationale at about 3:45. 15mins to spare.

In a way the panic paid off further because one of the captions had fallen off the wall so I got to re-fix it.

The static web site for the exhibition is complete and runs on my desk top and from an external drive attached to my laptop (both different flavours of windows). The Macs were still locked today so I might not get a chance to test it before it goes live - and I think all Macs hate me so there is probably some Mac specific gremlin lying in wait...

I will make a final post after the opening night then this blog will be complete.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Making progress

The prints are on the wall. I have a few details to complete and a video to organise but other than that it's ready to go.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Technical details

“Silver printing has been often doomed, but it still survives”

Henry Peach Robinson & William Abney, Preface to The Art & Practice of Silver Printing, 1881

The fundamental precept of this project was to shoot in the simplest possible way. That does not mean the easiest way, that would almost certainly have been to utilise an automatic digital camera. In this context simple means with least technical intervention between the subject and the final print.

A second imperative was the nature of the final output. I believe that making prints is an important part of the photographic process; it is essential to me that the print has not only good tonal values but also possesses tactile qualities with a certain weight, feel and look.

These two factors taken together determine the photographic techniques employed.

Firstly this means that the project was shot using film. Furthermore I decided to use black and white film and not only that but use a simple single layer emulsion FP4 rather than one of the more modern formulations created largely to aid mechanical processing and printing.

Secondly I chose a developing method. The system chosen involves developing the film in a covered dish using the developer Pyro. This is quite an old-fashioned developer in that fell out of general use over 80 years ago. However although it has been superseded by metol based developers this is largely because their better keeping qualities suited commercial darkrooms rather than for any intrinsic photographic benefits. On the contrary the slow staining action of the Pyro gives a fine grained negative with a unique look and colour, it provides the lovely smooth graduation of tones required for this style of photography. Unfortunately these historic processes do not come with instruction manuals and a certain amount of trial and error was required to get the system to work.

The mantra of simplicity requires that the camera chosen offer the minimum amount of automation. The equipment used was a large format Sinar view camera which produces a 5" x 4" negative. The Sinar permits the lens and film planes to be moved independently making it possible to produce images which are in focus from close the camera to infinity and to ensure that vertical edges remain vertical in the image. The drawback is that the camera is quite bulky and can only be used when mounted on a tripod. It is also extremely heavy.

The film is loaded into the camera as individual sheets, one image per sheet, using a carrier known as a dark slide.

Focusing is achieved by looking at a ground glass screen at the rear of the camera where the image can be viewed laterally reversed and upside down. These factors, which could initially be thought of as drawbacks, in fact turn into benefits by slowing down the photographic process so that the shutter is released only once everything is ready. It is the complete antidote to the snapshot.

Finally the developed negative was printed in a traditional darkroom onto fibre-based silver gelatin paper. The resulting print was selenium toned which should ensure that the print is archival and will last for a very long time indeed. The prints themselves were then carefully pressed flat and have been archivally mounted to acid free board using linen tape. This system maximises the longevity of the prints. The prints are not dry mounted and can therefore be removed from the mount without damage should the need arise.

The Hanging

The painters finally finished and the room was released a 3pm. Took my prints along and finally put them on the wall. Well I like them - now wait for the audience.

I think the narrow black wooden "cushion" frames and the antique white black core mount boards have the right retro/minimalist look and I have gone for quite small signage on black core foamboard.

There are always snags so I need to think up a way to mount the light-box to show a negative and sort out a shelf or table to display the computer and my boxes of prints. Still there are almost 2 whole days left.

I still have to sort out a website/slideshow and need to write a technical details spiel. The website is also needed because Capita have shown some interest in the "Crossing the Line" book and some of the other bridge stuff so I need to get something ready for them.

Chris was hanging his work and I must say it looks really good. I have great hopes for the show.

I've finally added Chris' web site to the Blogroll

Where is the Exhibition?

I hope that this map will help you find us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Customer Service

Credit were it is due. Not only am I happy with the Photobooks from Photobox they have been very helpful following the website issues. They offered to place the order at their end and when I told them that I had gone ahead without the discount they have credited my account.

I always think, you only find out what a company is like when you have problems and Photobox came through.

Monday, June 09, 2008


I am not sure if I have blogged about Photobox before. I have ordered photobooks from them in the past and been quite happy with them bearing in mind the price. They've recently changed the offering and you can now buy books with full colour hardbacks instead of them having the rather silly hole in the front cover through which an image pokes. They sent me an e-mail voucher offering a 50% discount and I ordered two books. Unfortunately once I had made the books and got to the checkout area their website hung. It hung for several days and by the time I could complete the order the discount had expired. Were it not for the fact that I rather wanted the books for my exhibition I think I would have cancelled the order on principle.

I am in correspondence with customer services concerning a refund but more to the point the books have now arrived and I've got to say that they seem much better than the original offering. The black-and-white images have printed as neutral colours if a little flat. The colour book is pretty much as good as you would expect given quality of the paper and the cost. Those books will therefore be the final bit of my exhibition.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Delmonte Moment

Its been a busy day. First off I spent ages trying to find 20 or so presentable images for the group slide show and if truth be known probably spent longer writing an action to size and name them than it would have done to fix them by hand. Anyway they are done and given to Chris.

Started some work on a web site to showcase my none orbital stuff but its very conceptual at this stage and I don't see much time being available to get it sorted this weekend due to other commitments.

Like everyone else I am emailing people and pressing invitations on anyone unable to run away also emailed the Guardian to see if we can get included in The Guide. Other BA shows are in it so why not.

This PM went into college to witness the mayhem. Some of the foundation degree stuff was going onto the wall and it looks good. Obviously some of them have spent a packet on post production. No hobbycraft and Ikea frames there. It should be a good show I will look forward to seeing it once it is finished.

The point of the trip was to show my rationale to John and Richard and to show my final edit. Both more or less got the nod a few minor tweaks - Richard pointing out my dyslexia again - spell checks only work if the spelling is rubbish - if its a real word but not the right one ...

The final production decision concerns the contacts. I like the little prints, support from John and fellow students but nagging doubts about the small size hence they have not been cut up yet and are still sheets of 4. Anyway the decision is now made they will be cut up and put back into film boxes for the show.

So I am now clear about the show for the first time.

6 Framed prints
1 or 2 boxes of prints - 10 images
1 or 2 boxes contacts - 40ish images
1 framed contact - Fiber base matted etc
1 mounted pyro neg on light box - neg to match contact

Ancillary work

I've had the email from photobox the books are finally on their way and provided they pass QC. I plan to show 3 books. Bowland Brewery - Freckleton Street Bridge - Orbital Route

So this weekend - cut the last 5 mats and finish the framing
Still to buy a frame for the contact.

Next week sort out notices statements bio and captions and the dreaded web site.

Exhibition Preparations

I have been busy cutting cardboard and sorting prints. Unfortunately the call of cash came and I ended up like Jane shooting a kitchen but mine had water pouring through the ceiling.

Anyway I have made an edit - hope John agrees I am seeing him this afternoon.

16 prints made it as not too horrible to show and I have selected 6 of those to frame. Only one is behind glass as I write. I have window mounted the rest and put them in acetate sleeves so that I can display them in a portfolio box. You can just about get 10 print in a box and shut the lid.

I dare not risk scratching the dining table so my work bench has to be the landing carpet which is tough on the back when you are old like me. I had bought 3 A1 sheets of snow white ( who thinks of these names it's decidedly off white ) from hobby craft and since Pat got me some nicer black core for the frames I thought why not mount the portfolio prints so I cut 12 window mounts and fixed the prints but had to discard 2 because there is no room in the box and anyway 10 loose prints is probably plenty.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Quote of the week

Silver printing has been often doomed,
but it still survives.

--Henry Peach Robinson & William Abney, Preface to The Art & Practice of Silver Printing, 1881

Colin Dixon

I came across this site today, rather late in the day to influence the project but I like Collin's work and his detailed accounts of his darkroom practices would have helped. They will for the next project...

Collin's site is here

Thoughts on the hand made

I came across a post on Tovis Bratsburg's blog which echos up some of my thoughts on the importance of photographs as physical objects.

The following is an abstract.

These days to get furniture a person just drives to Art Van. The consumer has no knowledge of who build the work or where it even came from. While this is easy for the consumer and costs less, what happened to the person that poured pride into making a cabinet for somebody? Now, this is mostly done in a factory and since the work is produced in so many stages few even get to see the end product. Karl Marx dubbed this “the alienation of labor”. What is also interesting is how the factory that creates it not only pays workers low wages but is in a constant state of trying to manufacture it cheaper.

In photography, photographers use to have to buy paper, sensitize it and do everything mainly from scratch. They took pride in what they did and not everybody could do it. Over time photography has become easier for people to work with and more alien to the photographer. Even Albumen paper was produced in large factories so that people could sensitize it. Then cames the silver gelatin papers which made it so people did not have to sensitize paper. The darkroom was replaced by people sending in negatives made by the Brownies. In color photography the die transfer process was wiped out by PhotoShop and replaced with ink spitters that we call printers. Now some Kmart stores are abandoning photo processing because they can not profit with large internet digital photo producers. How alien is that? You do not even see who produces your photographs!

The full post can be found here

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire.”

Susan Sontag

The Blackburn Orbital Route

This exhibition is about time. Frozen by the act of photography, the subject, an event, a person, a structure remains forever trapped within the frame, unchanging, and this is the fascination of photography, not the colour, not the patterns, not the delicate graduation of tone but the fact that something once existed and now is no more.

Old photographs intrigue us, we search them for hints, clues to who we were and where we came from. They provide an opportunity and an excuse to stare. In life you would never peer closely at the face of a stranger but when invited by a photograph you can look deep into their eyes, count the wrinkles. Presented on the wall or in the hand, the photograph invites you to look, to contemplate 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 this 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.

When you are trapped by the traffic at the bottom of Montague Street do you notice the dappled shadows cast by the street trees, the delicate tones in the decayed masonry, the old signage and traces of the past in the derelict buildings – or do you just want to get home.

The images on the wall were made quite recently and already time has moved on – the trees have come into leaf, Freckleton Street bridge is about to open ... but this is how things were those days in the spring of 2008.

And these are the simplest of photographs. Made with a traditional view camera with no automatic features , just a box of variable dimensions with a lens at one end and a sheet of film at the other, no computerised gadgetry to impose its whim upon the photographer and the resulting images made chemically in the darkroom with no room for digital manipulation. These images therefore come as close as is humanly possible to photographic truth.

The picture themselves are silver gelatine prints made on fibre based paper, archivally toned with selenium and with care and good storage conditions should survive for a hundred years or more, and with them a memory of how Blackburn's orbital route looked as the final stretch of tarmac was laid.

Bob Singleton

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Artist's Statement

Like everyone I am searching for words and looking how others more illustrious than I do it. Dominic Rouse makes fiber based silver prints but there the similarity ends. He does make some interesting work though. Here his his take on "The Statement"

Black core mount board

Well I've cut the first mat. The board is entirely black with a white front so marking it up on the back is tricky. Anyway the main thing is that the black line looks ok cut onto the image. I undersized 2mm all round on the test mat. Now we wait to see what everyone thinks about it in the morning.

Final Exhibition

Today was the first exhibition meeting. We had the chance to have a look at the room and try to sort out a spot. There is quite a lot of work to do. The room is not ideal but once the fittings are taken down off the walls and we have had a chance to tidy up and paint it, it should be fine.

However it does leave me pondering the physical form of the exhibition. In my mind as I made the work I was thinking of something linear. Obviously with only about 12 foot of wall there is not room for every image shot, not even for the 15 or so fine prints. I also need to make some space for explanation and maps to help people see what this is all about.

The frames I bought are 20" x 16" so I think I will only be able to display 4 or 5 of them in a row. I could put them up 2 deep but I am not keen on that idea. My present plan is to put the framed prints in a line and to display small contact prints beneath them and thereby be able to describe the full extent of the route.

The small prints are very detailed and it would be nice if I could find a way to display them which also let people pick them up and look at them close up. I will have to get thinking.

I ran into yet another snag - one of the joys of traditional processes. The blades of the enlarging easel are not at perfect right angles. This doesn't show up at first glance but when I matted the prints I thought that the mat was not square and it looked untidy. When I checked I found it was the print not the mat that was out. This can be cured by matting onto the image to hide the edge. Pat got me some black core mount board so I will cut some test mats this evening to see if they look ok cut onto the image or if I need to spend a day reprinting. I had wanted a small white border between the image and the line of the mat but... unless I double mat ... more thoughts.