Friday, 13 June 2008

Pictures at an Exhibition

Well, not too much damage done to those that fell off the wall, and they're now up there with "belt and braces". But another problem - where we dabbed white paint to cover marks on the wall, the paint has dried a horrid colour and looks awful. Am just going to try to contact estates dept direct and see if they have a drop of paint so I can go over the marks with a sponge. If I can't get the actual paint they used, there's no point trying to cover it up - i've already tried that.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Project Rationale - final

The association of kitchen sinks and drama emerges from the British Social Realist movement which thrived in the 1950s and 60s. This movement spotlighted working class culture, even glamorised it. The legacy of plays like “Look Back in Anger”, films such as “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and iconic documentaries like “Cathy come Home” can be detected today in our favourite “soaps”. Such cultural products, set in the ordinary domestic environment, explore the compelling moral issues of the day and in so doing, catalogue the changing nature of society.

I had hoped that my kitchen photographs would evoke some of this drama through capturing an environment busy with tell-tale evidence about the people who lived there and how they ran their lives. What I discovered when I neared the end of my shooting schedule was that very few of the kitchens I had photographed did convey this ongoing drama of people’s daily lives. The kitchens were very much under control and not giving much away. My first inclination was to go in search of more kitchens that fitted the original concept, but encouraged by my tutors, I looked again at the documentary evidence I had produced and thought about what it had to say about contemporary living.

The ten photographs here are of kitchen sinks which are all contained in the same terraced row in Padiham (photograph below). One of them is my own sink - nearly all of them are very tidy. The order and control of the environment is in stark contrast to the chaotic “workshop” of the kitchens featured in kitchen sink dramas from post war up until the 1970s. Somewhere along the way, the function of the kitchen has been hidden away as home owners, perhaps inspired by makeover TV shows and glossy magazines, have become increasingly conscious of style and form.
Further, these photographs might be seen as evidence of a cultural shift that is manifest not only at a domestic level, but also nationally. Just as we have stopped making things in the kitchen, Britain has ceased to be a great manufacturing nation and much of our industry is clean and conceptual. So too our kitchens have veered towards the conceptual - an upmarket kitchen website spells out the core ethos behind its products; modern purism:

“a powerful, poetic dialogue between presentation and concealment” (

This sounds more like a dubious moral code than a selling point for a kitchen. What is being concealed and what presented I wonder? I’m not suggesting that the kitchens featured in this exhibition haven’t seen the dramas and tensions of preparing the occasional ‘Sunday roast’ for the in-laws, but there is evidence of these kitchens being less a “workshop” and more of a lifestyle indicator.

There is the underlying feeling in these photographs that presentation is at least as important as production.

Over and Out (Nearly)

This is pretty much the last installment of my final integrated project blog, apart from posting my revised and final Rationale. This doesn't mean the project won't continue - it just won't be subject to a college deadline!

Went in to college this morning to fix the ten kitchen sinks to the wall and put up the shelf for the lightbox. I thought all had gone well until I received an e-mail from Bob to say there was a problem with the adhesive where I had stuck foamboard to foamboard. This is strange as I had tested the system on my own walls for a nearly a week, but I remember I had to reposition 2 or 3 of the tiles this morning and maybe pulling them off the walls weakened that part of the structure. Won't know until tomorrow.

Intend to go in early in the morning, fix the adhesive problem, hang my titles and rationale and install the lightbox. Then, hand in my supporting material to Richard.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Pracitcal Matters - 2

Having obtained the paper that Kaylynn uses, I find that Ilford don't produce a profile for this paper and my printer. Undeterred, I played about with a few settings with horrid results - very flat and colour miles off. Because of this, I have decided to use the paper I bought at Focus - Tecco digital photo inkjet. The results I had with this paper were good, I was just excited about them being even better on the fibre silk. The advantage of sticking with Tecco is that it is not as heavy as the Ilford paper which is 310 gsm, making it easier to spraymount to foamboard and then cut.

So, printed out yesterday, sprayed (outside), left the photographs to "set" overnight and have cut them out this morning. They look quite neat.

I painted the shelf for the lightbox yesterday, it needs another coat today. I still have to sort out what I'm displaying on the box.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Re thinking my exhibition plans

Following a meeting with John which helped me to consolidate my thoughts and see my work in perspective, I've had a rethink about my exhibition. I had already decided that I was throwing two ideas into the pot when I wrote my rationale, I'm now rationalising the presentation by concentrating on my original idea of the kitchen sinks. There's enough material there, it's just having the confidence to do that, if I can present the concept and my findings clearly enough. So need to do a bit more thinking and research and do a re-write.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Plan for layout of exhibition

Not the nicest photo, but it gives an idea of how I plan to arrange my images (subject to measurement of the wall). The scale is roughly correct, each centimeter = 1 inch. (I know you shouldn't mix them but it seemed convenient at the time!).

The ten rectangles are for the kitchen sinks, the six squares are for details of other kitchen objects/vistas. The first largish rectangle on the left represents an A3 sheet for my Rationale. I plan that the lightbox will go under the Rationale, but can't confirm that until I have had a closer look at the wall.

Project Rationale - 2nd draft

I haven't posted the first draft up here, it was too unwieldy but am posting this version which may be subject to change if John or Richard see it tomorrow.

My interest in the domestic interior arises from my curiosity about people and the everyday objects with which we choose to surround ourselves.
The ten photographs of kitchen sinks exhibited here are all contained in the same terraced row, one of those sinks is mine. What I find interesting about juxtaposing them is that superficially, they are all equal – same sized and shaped house, same location but each is subtly different and this is down to choices exercised by the occupants of the house. By looking at the photographs I would hope to stimulate people’s curiosity about these absent occupants, and more broadly, about the nature of human relationships both with and within the domestic setting.
The Kitchen is the symbolic heart of the house. It’s where we get on with the everyday business of living; we relate the events of the day, we eat, clean up, argue, laugh, and cry (imagine this soundtrack as you look at the empty kitchens). The sinks are in a state of waiting, like a stage waiting for the play to begin, they wait for ‘their’ people to come home from work or school. The sinks are an impartial witness to the dramas of people’s lives. I don’t necessarily mean ‘life and death’ scale dramas, even a seemingly minute event might affect someone’s equilibrium and becomes the drama for that day.
The association of kitchen sinks and drama emerges from the British Social Realist movement which has its roots in the 1950s and blossomed in the 60s. This movement spotlighted working class culture, even glamorised it. The legacy of plays like Look Back in Anger, films like Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, and famous documentaries like Cathy come Home can be detected now in our favourite ‘soaps’. Such cultural ‘products’ explore the compelling moral issues of the day and in so doing, catalogue the changing nature of society.
Our emotional response to art often arises from personal identification with some aspect of the subject and with regard to the second piece of work on display, these are photographs of kitchen objects or vistas that drew my “emotional” attention. Apart from opening a window on the “domesticity of strangers” there are particular objects that prompt contemplation in their own right.
“Objects gain a new aura merely because they are selected and isolated, and looked at again with new eyes. The act of choosing to focus attention on them changes what they are, or how you perceive them.”
What unites both pieces of work, apart from the obvious kitchen theme, is that they are both about people without actually featuring them.
There is a selection of digital and medium format work on display. I used ambient light hoping for a more atmospheric representation of the interiors.

(quotes are referenced as footnotes) both from Ideal Home - A detached look at modern living

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Presentation of Work

I have managed to get the paper that Kaylynn Deveney recommeded and whilst she uses gator board, I'm using foamboard which should give a similar effect. Above are two pictures of exhibtion layouts from Kaylynn's website.

On the lightbox front, I've spoken to Pat's husband and now have a clearer idea of how to "install" the lightbox! He is even going to get the required hardware for me which is wonderful!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Foamboard & Lightbox Thoughts

I have been surfing the net for tips on mounting photographs to foamboard. There is no shortage of advice and most people recommend fixing the image with spraymount and then cutting to the required size.

Tried this but got traces of the sticky spraymount on my metal ruler and the blade started to stagger a bit towards the end. Have now fixed another image on the foamboard and am going to leave it overnight, clean by ruler with spirit or similar and see if it goes any better tomorrow. Although I can't imagine that spraymount actually dries, it might be better cut later rather than immediately after appliation. I hope so. The smell gives me a headache too, if I'm going ahead and mounting all my images, I'm going to do the spraying outside so I'll need a decent day.

Got the lightbox off Richard which is great. Now have to figure out how to make it part of the exhibition. Fix to the wall (no fixings and quite heavy - though everything to do with DIY seems impossible to me so I'll ask Paul, Pat's hubby, if he has any ideas - he's the handiest man I know) or perhaps have a small table or shelf fixed to the wall??? All needs to be carefully considered.

Had a good look at my transparencies - I think I'll only be able to get 12 onto the lightbox - 2 A4 sheets of six 6 x 6 cm.


Have popped invitations for the exhibition through the doors of my neighbours (all kitchen volunteers) and posted some out to friends.

Did have the idea of giving each person a picture of their own kitchen with the invite but time is running short and I've been busy experimenting with cutting foamboard, of which, more above.

A2 paper & list of things to do

Having heard from Kaylynn that she likes to use Ilford Gold Fibre Silk paper, I have ordered some today from Process Supplies Ltd ( considering I've order A2 I thought £34.00 was pretty good for 10 sheets. I have agreed in advance to use Pat's large format printer (see link to Pat's blog on Energy & Environment above).

Also ordered, from the same place some 6 x 6 masks in A4 sheet form. This is so I can mount some trannies and display them on the light box for the exhibition. Richards suggested attaching a loop so that people can examine them too - so need to follow that up.

Need to scan a few more trannies so it gives me the option of using them in the exhibtion.

I have a page of ideas to organise and make coherent for my rationale.

Again on the practical side, I also need to see how I find fixing a photo to foamboard and then cutting it to size. Then I'll know whether I'm framing or foamboarding!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Prompt response from Kaylynn Deveny

At the start of this blog I posted a eulogy in praise of the work of KayLynn Deveny whose work I really admire. I decided to e-mail her and ask a few questions regarding her MO and how she presents her work. She was kind enough to reply straight back:

 How do you go about your work from a technical point of view – camera, lenses, printing processes?
I photographed Bert with one medium format camera and a single standard lens. I first used an old Bronica. When I dropped that and crunched it, I got a Hasselblad. I used only available light, no strobe. I usually shot Fuji 400 or 800 ASA color neg film. I scanned the negatives on an Imacon. My prints are pigmented ink jet prints made on an Epson 11880 using Ilford Gold Fiber Silk paper.

2. How important to you is the technical aspect of photography (vis a vis the creative result – or are the two hand in hand?)

Well, you can make a great a photograph but if you expose it poorly or print it poorly, that's all anyone will see. I think mastery of technical aspects of photography is mandatory. 3.
How do you like to display work for exhibition (this is topical for us at the moment, we are about to put on our end of year show!) One of the pictures on your website seems to show unframed photographs, annotated below – how is this effect achieved, what are the photos mounted onto?
I usually show the prints in two sizes. There are 10 -15 prints that are 17" x 17". These prints are accompanied by 5" x 2.75" handwritten captions by Bert. These larger prints are typically presented in a linear fashion.
There are also smaller pieces that incorporate both my photograph and Bert's annotation into one piece - as they are in the book. Those pieces measure 6" x 8.75". There are usually about 40 of the small pieces and they are arranged in large clusters of images rather than in a straight line.
Both the large and small prints are mounted onto aluminum with a Gator board backing that makes them appear as if there are floating about an inch away from the wall. The prints are put onto the aluminum with pressure sensitive adhesive and then they are laminated. This has proven to be a good presentation for traveling the prints and it works well within the cluster configurations.
Among those clusters - sprinkled in like memories - are a few of Bert's poems, drawings, lists and old family photographs. Those pieces are reproduced as facsimiles of the originals and each one sits on a tiny white shelf that is made to fit the piece.
I have a show at Blue Sky Gallery opening on June 5th. Sometime shortly after I will have updated installation shots on my website. Seeing a photo of the clusters might be helpful to you.

Hope that helps. All the best,


Friday, 30 May 2008

Frances's Kitchen

Went to shoot my final kitchen today, one that I'd thought wouldn't be up to much, only to find that it's my best shoot of the whole project (I think so anyway, will have to see what the group and Richard/John think). This is the kitchen of my friends mother-in-law. Whilst I was shooting, Frances, whose kitchen it is, was ill in bed upstairs. I have met her in the past and she is a lovely lady, but it still felt strange and a bit intrusive to be photographing around downstairs when she was upstairs, even though my friend was with me. If I'd been all alone, I could have stayed there for hours, as it was I tried to be as quick as I could to get out of people's hair.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Practical Matters

Am now in the thick of printing out some of my work and beginning to think about what I want in the exhibition.
My Terrace - kitchens consists of exactly ten shots and I think I'd like to put them close together and fairly small, looking at IKEA's frames, they have some that would be really suitable (so do Heals but they cost four times as much as IKEA's!)I've pasted one of the frames above and two of these placed side by side would take all ten kitchens. The frame dimensions are 30 x 88 cm.

I would then like to do three or four 50 x 50 cm with my hasselblad shots of Margaret's kitchen. Before I consider this however, I'll have to speak to Richard and/or John and show them the trannies I'm thinking of having printed. I suppose to some extent I've been influenced by the Marjolaine Ryley exhibition and I like the idea of big square prints from a medium format camera. Will discuss with Richard, can't paste the photographs in question on this blog yet as they are with the printer - just having test prints done (8x8") - collecting them tomorrow. Will post them over the weekend.

Margaret's Kitchen - the hasselblad shots

Just got back some of the hasselblad shots of Magaret's kitchen and there are one or two I want to see printed so have dropped them with a local printer to do me 3 8x8 shots. Depending on how they look, I might think of including them in the exhibition (printed larger) although one of them would have to be called "Beyond the kitchen" as it's a view down the corridor with the edge of the kitchen just visible. This would mean that I print much smaller versions of the My Terrace Kitchens so needs thinking about - depends on what they look like. Would need to discuss with Richard and John.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Marjolaine Ryley - Impressions Gallery

Went to the Impressions Gallery in Bradford yesterday and saw an exhibition, "Residence Astral" by Marjolaine Ryley. I really liked it and certainly idenified with her subject matter - domestic details.
From the exhibition flyer: Over the last twelve years Marjolaine Ryley has been photographing her grandmother’s apartment in Brussels, the setting for many family get-togethers. Her images explore the mixed feelings that many of us have towards the family home, such as comfort and claustrophobia..”
Ryley speaks about her work being concerned with the unreliability of memory and with a sense of loss. I certainly concur with the memory bit, not exlusively the unreliability of it but something akin to TS Eliots line - “mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain..”Take the curtain shot above. Really simple, but by giving us those curtains to contemplate, for me, the curtains take on, if it were possible, a sort of “self possession”, they are no longer inanimate – they are holding back the sun, they are stirring in the breeze, they are making patterns on the floor – the “are”. The other side of the photograph arises from knowing the context – a shot from one of Ryley’s relatives homes. Someone chose those curtains, liked the colour, hung them, looks after them, enjoys them.... who is she?
A simple photo that gives the viewer plenty to think about. Indeed, there isn’t one of Ryley’s photographs that doesn’t fascinate me. I find it magnetic and resonant. It has also given me the bud of an idea for a project I might like to pursue in the future.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Earlier Work - foundations of my fip

Whilst I'm thinking about how I came to be so interested in the domestic setting in all its guises, I remember that although I referred to some of my previous work in this area, I haven't posted any photographs, so here are some.

Cinematic Influences

Whilst Gregory Crewdson's images are full of narrative and cinematic lighting, some film directors are moving towards "stills" in their movies.
By this I mean that the function of a lingering camera shot on a detail which doesn't directly contribute to the narrative of the film, gives it some of the qualities of a still. For instance, in one of my favourite films, Junebug, there are several of these pause for thought camera shots: one shot zooms into the wind rustling through a tree in the suburban garden of the family (reminiscent of similar shot in Antonioni's Blow Up)which puts you standing right there in the drive - it's the kind of detail you notice in real life but don't expect directors to have time to put in because they are busy with pace and plot. The other memorable lingering shot is of the family's empty dining room when everyone is out of the house. This is the image I have had in mind for some time in relation to my own project - empty interiors which still suggest the lingering presence of the occupier(s). This is the somewhat intangible effect I hope to suggest in my empty kitchens.

Someone has described the pauses in Junebug more eloquently than I and I'm posting a cut of the review -
Empty rooms punctuate Junebug (2005, Phil Morrison). Madelaine’s empty gallery after an auction, the strangely lifeless dining room in the Johnsten’s home, the Johnsten’s kitchen after a storm of words, the front lawn, green and well-watered. These empty rooms are presented just as they are, in longish single shots, from a fixed camera position. A shot of the Johnsten’s dining room shows a gleaming table and a bit of a sideboard. The room is too neat, the few knick knacks placed awkwardly. Although the room is not cluttered, it is claustrophobic, and Peg’s controlling presence seems to suck any warmth out of the room - even the sun struggles to get through the sheer curtain

There is another film I saw recently, Tokyo Story which again isn't about anything dramatic or hollywoody but is gentle, very slow, very realistic, one might even say "mundane" which again links in with the subject of my project but which doesn't preclude being called drama - small human dramas are played out everyday - people dying, people's relationships drifting apart, people losing heart, people being discouraged and often we don't notice. To have films made about these instances explores what it is to be human. Again, here is a quote about the film (made in 1953)which sums up well the enjoyable slowness of it all:
Like all of Ozu's sound films, Tokyo Story is not melodramatic or structured around Hollywood plot points; its pacing is slow (or, as David Bordwell prefers to describe it, "calm"). Important events are often not shown on screen, only being revealed later through dialogue; for example, Ozu does not depict the mother and father's journey to Tokyo at all.

I feel this links to my project because of the "quietness" of the subject - nothing wow or exciting, but something about truth and real life.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Progress Check (2)

I have been reviewing my project and have focussed on a few things I need to do this week. I'm making a nice, concise list for myself to encourage me to work through it systematically.

1. Another Shoot - My project, as far as "my terrace" goes, is complete but I haven't stopped shooting to try to capture more kitchens. This week I'm down to visit a friend of a friend in Salford to shoot her kitchen.

2. Display options & Artist's Statement - need to think carefully about this and possibly consult other artists. I have got hold of some mountboard, just in case I decide to frame conventionally and I've got spare inks in for my A3 printer as I'll need to print my own images to hand in for the assignment generally. I need to think about the text that will accompany my images, as discussed earlier in the blog it's crucial to explain the project well and in a way that will "get people on board".

3. More research - there is an exhibition in Bradford at the Image Gallery - Bob (Blackburn Project - see link) told me about it and it appears very relevant to my work. I have a photography job to do in Bradford on Tuesday so will call in the gallery on my way back. Also saw a film last night "The Savages" and lots of the lingering shots on highways or incidental domestic details reminded me of Stephen Shore. I refer to him in my disseration and realise I have really looked at him in detail after mentioning him as an influence at the start of the blog. Same with Martin Parr and others so there's some desk work to be done here. Also under research, I probably need to mention some of the films that feed into my interest in the more subtle and mundane shots that arise from domestic interiors. (loaded with resonance, personal memories, pathos, - June Bug, The Return, et al.

Off for a bike ride whilst the weather is okay - will get on with the above whilst forecast rain falls!

Am posting this picture I took a couple of days ago - not a kitchen but a cafe with the reflection of a Quay in the window. I like the domestic details though - picture, decorative plastic/paper flowers, table decorations, all mixed in with the hull of a yacht - the interior with sky for a ceiling.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

How to take "No" for an answer

Yesterday I had one of those experiences where events seemed to be lived in slow motion, and every action/reaction is of critical import. You think I'm exaggerating.

For various reasons, I was in the Fylde yesterday. I don't know it well but am now better acquainted with it and very impressed. I've never been keen on flatness, landscape-wise, but perhaps because of the time of year, the lack of undulation in the land was more than made up for by the general fecundity of the fields and hedgerows and the beautiful, mature trees in full flower. The different shades of green of the fields were sharply defined by the hedges, lime greens, yellow greens, emerald greens, all decorated with weddingy mayblossom. Bliss to be alive.

I know this scene-setting is over the top but I have to convey the general magic of the day. At around 3pm I fell upon a house, modest but fine. It was delapidated and the garden was overgrown and I thought what an atmospheric shot it might make so I began to set up the tripod. As I was doing this, a man in a nice car stopped and enquired whether I was bird watching.
"No, I just like the look of the front of this house."
"You like the look of the front, you should see the inside, it's 'as was', amazing stuff, the kichen in particular is like a time warp, old crockery and cutlery covered in dust, the servants bells still on the wall" etc etc etc
Now fellow photographers will understand the surge of adrenaline I experienced at this point. The idea that the shoot of your dreams is right under your nose, heaven sent as it were. I could hardly get the words out of my mouth as I asked him if he knew who owned it.
'Yes, you see that red brick house on the left, 'she' owns it" He pointed to a house about 400 yards down the country lane.
I told the man the reason for my excitment, ie, that I was doing a photographic project on kitchens and this would be an unbelievable opportunity.
He drove off and I took a couple of quick shots with the digital of the front of the house (one for you to see above). Then I dashed back to the place I was visiting, dragged a comb through my hair, flashed some lipstick at my lips, grabbed my student card and a business card from my handbag and set off to that great citadel, The Red Brick House.

I know it sounds cliched but it's true, I opened a squeaky wrought iron gate and walked up the overgrown garden path to the last frontier, the front door. The house was a large one and there were several outbuildings and greenhouses to the side. A farm it was really, I suppose. No one answered the door and I hadn't heard the bell ring. I knocked firmly on the door. Nothing. I walked around the back of the house to see if someone was in the back garden. Nothing. I shouted "Hello" (strange to hear you own voice break the silence on someone's private property). Again, nothing. I got back into my car and as I was using the side entrance to turn around, Lo and Behold, the front door opened.....

A merry, grey haired lady of about 70 trotted down the path smiling at me.
"Did you want me love?"
Needless to say, this light and airy greeting boded well for my quest and I became my pleasantest self (a rare event).

I apologised for troubling her, explained my reasons for calling, produced my student card, smiling all the while only for her to smile in return and say -
"ooh, no love, it's not suitable for photographing really, it's been let go, it's covered in dust, a ruin really, in fact it's due to be demolished.

Needless to say, all this increased, rather than dampened my ardour. I explained to her quite why it was important to record what was there for social historical reasons and how I would give her a full set of prints etc etc etc.

She repeated that "no, it really wasn't suitable"

Now I am known generally for being the opposite of pushy, but in the face of such a prize, I perservered. I tried again. "No".

What more can you do in these situations? she was a really nice lady, I was a really nice lady, but we were destined not to see eye to eye. I felt that a complete retreat was better than any further requests, so thanked her for her time and left, smiling sadly.

I am going to write to her though, just in case she changes her mind in the next few months. Too late for my project but worth a try anyway.