In Conversation With: Shona Waldron

Shona Waldron

Shona Waldron is an interdisciplinary artist based between East Sussex and Cornwall, UK. Working across a diverse range of media including photography, painting, moving image and installation, she articulates a world of uncertainty, frequently using a combination of digital and analogue techniques to manipulate the periphery of fact and fiction. The blurring of these demarcations plays a crucial role in exploring ideas centred around time, space and the nature of existence, presenting life as a source of wonder and infinite possibility. Investigating states of change or metamorphosis is also a recurrent theme as she uses her work to illustrate the transition into a future which is impossible to predict or control. 

Follow Shona Waldron on instagram

Primordial Loop from Shona Waldron on Vimeo.

Shona Waldron Sensorium

24th – 28th June 2021

The Fish Factory, Penryn, Cornwall

Private View: 24th June 2021: 6pm – 9pm 

BtL: Your upcoming exhibition Sensorium opens on the 24th June 2021. It brings together works from several of your recent projects. Can you sum up any overall themes in your practice?

SW: Sensorium is a collection of work that encompasses moving image, photography, painting and installation. The title draws inspiration from the sensory apparatus of the human body which is responsible for receiving and interpreting external stimuli. Intended to be viewed as part of an immersive experience, each exhibited piece explores themes surrounding the intersection of art, science and technology, evoking the idea of new realities that are activated by our perceptual encounters with the space.

Although my work often makes reference to scientific language and taxonomical systems, there is equally a free-flowing element that induces feelings of fluidity and life in a constant cycle of evolution. There are also parallels made between the organic and the technical, with a blending together of analogue and digital media to allow the subject matter to exist in a transformed state that surpasses the limits of its original definition.

BtL: You seem to be interested in visually exploring the relationship between the technological world and the natural world. Why is it important for you to incorporate a range of media into your practice?

SW: The incorporation of a variety of media and processes is definitely very important. I find that moving beyond the boundaries of a purely photographic practice allows the work to function in a universal context which is useful when dealing with these expansive and broad themes. This mixed media approach makes it easier for my work to emphasise connections on multiple levels, whether it be visual, auditory or as an entire sensorial experience. I think this way of working is helpful in creating a sense of dynamism, something that is of particular interest in light of my ideas surrounding the mutable relationship between technological and biological forms.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Merge / Melt

BtL: The title of your video work Primordial Loop seems to both juxtapose and connect the idea of new possibilities / the inter-connectedness of man and machine; the technical and the organic…

SW: Primordial Loop is an experimental video piece that incorporates 3D modelling and animation. Its title draws inspiration from ‘primordial soup’, a term often used to refer to the blend of biological conditions that first enabled life on our planet. In addition to looking back towards these early beginnings, the work explores our immersion in the digital world by reinterpreting natural environments through the screen-based society we inhabit. The study of evolutionary processes is also of great importance as this ultimately evokes a transcendental journey through the past, present and future as well as a fusion of the organic and the technical.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Primordial Loop

Emphasis is placed upon these themes from the very onset of the piece which opens with an animation of cells dividing, a sequence that delineates a point of origin and the genesis of new life. The cells then fade out of view to be replaced by jellyfish that float across the scene, gelatinous in form with iridescent hues of purple and blue. Although included due to their    their correspondence with the cells, the jellyfish are notable in presence since they are one of the oldest species to exist on our planet, residing in our oceans for more than 500 million years. This remarkable timescale predates the dinosaurs and is fascinating in light of my ideas surrounding primal states.

 

Shona Waldron (2021) from Primordial Loop

Following this, the video transitions into a haze of violet light which dissipates to reveal the shapes and structures of tree branches, rocks and mountains as scenes of a digital jungle emerge. Moving deeper into the landscape and through the undergrowth, circular patterns begin to appear with organic matter converging into the centre point where the panels of the video meet, creating a hypnotic effect that is reminiscent of a kaleidoscope.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Primordial Loop

BtL: Do you think your process of digitally constructing the work is important as a way of situating these primitive visual landscapes within the conditions of the 21st Century?

SW: Absolutely. The digital process allows nature to exist in a computational form and suggests that it is not estranged from technology in the way that we might initially imagine. In the text Novacene – The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, (2019) the scientist James Lovelock reiterates this view. He proposes that ‘computers work purely in zeros and ones; from   that they can construct entire worlds … information may indeed be the basis of the cosmos’ (2019: 88). It is this description of the cosmos being made up of information, that is referenced in a literal sense within my work.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Primordial Loop

This environment visually resembles many of teamLab’s installations such as The Infinite Crystal Universe. Presented as immersive experiences, teamLab encourages us to reach infinity and oneness by seeking to ‘transcend boundaries in the relationship between the self and the world, and of the continuity of time’ (Pace Gallery 2014). Computer programmes and algorithms are widely used in the creation of these works, engendering the belief in a computational universe in the same way that my work intends to.

teamLab (2015-2018) The Infinite Crystal Universe

BtL: You seems to situate your visual practice across a variety of thresholds. Can you give us a few examples?

SW: Further influential research includes the concept of the technological singularity, a term first popularised in 1993 with Vernor Vinge’s essay The Coming Technological Singularity. In physics, a singularity is defined as a point of infinity, such as the centre of a black hole, where matter becomes endlessly dense and physical  laws break down, resulting in the merging of space and time. In relation to this scientific definition, the theory of the technological singularity hypothesises that we will soon cross a threshold where machine intelligence will surpass biological intelligence, an advancement that will lead to irreversible changes to civilisation.

Ray Kurzweil, futurist and author of The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, suggests that ‘machine intelligence could become indistinguishable from that of its human progenitors within the first half of the twenty-first century’ (2005: 3). What this will look like for humanity is unclear as both a dystopian and utopian scenario would be possible. Either way, it is the notion of transcending current limitations that is most intriguing. It is also speculated that the universe began by such an event, meaning that there was a singularity in our past as well as one potentially in our future, demonstrating the way history repeats itself in a loop.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Primordial Loop

This notion of the singularity manifests in Primordial Loop when the screen becomes increasingly pixelated and the motion accelerates, referencing the exponential rate that we are approaching what is often referred to as the ‘event horizon’ (Kurzweil 2005: 7). Once this is reached, the centre of the screen unfolds to reveal a passage into a new space-time dimension.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Primordial Loop

The final scene reveals the culmination of this journey into a post-singularity state. The video fragments, breaking apart from its original structure and transforming into multiple screens floating within a dark void. The plurality of the work opens up new ways for it to exist, with the panels constantly moving across the X, Y and Z axes. The music also shifts from its electronic sound to something choral and celestial. At this point in the video, space is perceived in a more fluid way, it bends and stretches, becoming something that we develop a heightened awareness of.

Yayoi Kusama (2019) Infinity Mirrored Room: Dancing Lights that Flew Up to the Universe

This exploration of a boundless existence relates strongly to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, another key inspiration for my practice. The installation, Dancing Lights that Flew Up to the Universe, is described as a perceptual experience that functions as ‘a harmonious and quiet place for visitors to contemplate their existence, reflect on the passage of time, and think about their relationship to the outer world’ (Hirshhorn 2017). The title of Kusama’s piece acts as an expression of hope and resonates with my own feelings of reverence for the infinite. A sense of spirituality is embodied within the ending of my work, suggesting that it has indeed transcended in the same way that it is predicted that we, as humans, will one day transcend our own experience of reality.

BtL: The photographic strand of your practice, titled Merge/Melt, seems to explore similar notions to Primordial Loop through amalgamating technological and natural elements to create something that exists in a transformed state.

SW: Merge/Melt experiments with the use of digital tools to build new forms and structures, revealing warped patterns and textures that suggest  the physical world is melting into an electronic one. During the production of the series, photographs of jungles and cityscapes were fed into an algorithm and then merged together to generate new entities.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Merge / Melt

The Deep Dream algorithm was used specifically for this purpose as it was able to draw out interesting shapes within the depths of the images. Deep Dream is described as a convolutional neural network and was originally developed in 2015 as a means of providing AI researchers with an insight into what an algorithm sees when it analyses an image. Since its inception, however, it has primarily been used as an artistic tool with results that are psychedelic in appearance. The artist Mario Klingemann is one of the pioneers of working with neural networks in this way. The works Archimedes Principle and Parting From You Now, draw attention to the pareidolic details that can emerge from an image, in the same way that humans are able to observe random shapes in passing clouds. The ability of Deep Dream to provide an algorithmic vision of our environments relates to the computational form of nature seen in Primordial Loop, epitomising the suggestion that ‘computation is existence’ (Lloyd and Ng cited in Kurzweil 2005: 342).

Mario Klingemann (2016) Archimedes’ Principle
Mario Klingemann (2016) Parting From You Now

BtL: There is appears both a visual and conceptual fluidity to your practice, yet also a sense of chaos and the unexpected.

Artist and theorist Joanna Zylinska’s text AI Art: Machine Visions and Warped Dreams also feels especially relevant. Zylinska refers to algorithmic art as ‘an ouroboros-like circle of random variations’ (2020: 72), a description that encapsulates the chaotic nature of my work but equally observes the connectivity that is so integral to its construction. The effect of this merging process is the predominant feature.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Merge / Melt
Shona Waldron (2021) from Merge / Melt

In some images, it becomes difficult to distinguish city lights from stars as the sky dissolves into the architecture and structures blend together like coloured inks, a liquid yet luminous appearance that could almost be the result of street lights reflected in a pool of water. Due to the alteration and enhancement of certain hues, some of the images look more industrial and synthetic whilst others, with jewel bright shades of green and blue, are more jungle-like, allowing each composition to exist on a continuum between metropolis and nature. It is this fluctuation that I find most inspiring as it underscores my interest in the creation of multiplicities.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Merge / Melt

To clearly communicate a sense of things evolving, I present my images as animated video sequences on screens and opted for a circular format in order to create a stronger comparison to the concepts explored in Primordial Loop. These circular shaped pieces embody a more pronounced mutability and link back to Zylinska’s reference to the loop of the ‘ouroboros’, reflecting wholeness and infinity. They additionally have the look of portals, perhaps acting in a similar way to black holes. This creates a further parallel with my video piece which also leads us through into a new dimension.

Shona Waldron (2021) from Merge / Melt

BtL: You are a graduate of the BA Photography course at Falmouth University. Any tips or advice for current / prospective students?

SW: My advice would be to view university as a time to experiment with photography, to try out new ways of working and push the boundaries of the medium. Over the course of my three years at Falmouth, I feel fortunate to have been able to expand my practical image making skills, both with analogue and digital processes. Although it can be strange to do something unfamiliar, I would completely recommend it as it will enable you to develop new areas of interest and gain a broader experience of the arts. And, it goes without saying, to make the most of the university facilities and technical workshops in addition to opportunities for collaborative working whilst you are a student as this provides invaluable support.

BtL: What can we expect from you next?

SW: I am planning to develop more work that expands upon the themes seen Sensorium and incorporates a variety of techniques, I will be continuing to practice in other visual disciplines alongside my photography. In addition to lens-based media, i will be continuing to branch out into other areas such as painting, sculpture and installation – and continuing to experiment. Who knows?

Showcase Portfolio: Shona Waldron

Shona waldron

Strangers (2019) The term ‘stranger’ conveys a sense of distance, anonymity and perhaps even a slight uneasiness. These images explore the way we construct internal barriers to shield ourselves from others, a physical separation which is epitomised by the blurred areas of the work. The notion that ‘photography only depicts the surface of things’ (Ruff cited in Rehberg 2017) encapsulates the way we might perceive a conversation from an outsider’s perspective, blind to the personalities of the subjects as well as the original context of the exchange. Although concealment is the primary intention, some images paradoxically reveal pieces of faces as each stranger was asked to hold and position the rips and scratches in any way they felt inspired to do so. This idea of enabling the subject to be an active participant in their own depiction reflects the way we constantly adjust which facets of ourselves we reveal to others.

  • Shona Waldron (2018) from Light of the Mind

 

Light of the Mind (2018) turns to nature to externalise inner psychologies, creating a world where warped patterns and textures begin to emerge. This intends to replicate the landscape of an unsettled mind, capturing strange resonances which exist somewhere on the margin of our everyday reality. Through burning the negatives, the construction of each image is a two-fold process as, even though the original print is destroyed, it is reconfigured into something entirely new. This transformative effect relates to the power of the human subconscious to build a place home to both material and immaterial forms.

Organic Body (2019) Through the use of bold combinations of colour and shape,Organic Body conveys anthropomorphic presence within the natural world in an abstract, less defined way, blurring the definition of what we are able to identify as human. The physical manipulation and transformative quality of the work encapsulates the notion of life in an ‘alien everyday reality’ (Debord 1994: 153) as the subject matter becomes estranged from its original context. By creating something unfamiliar and alien-like, the images intend to evoke a futuristic vision – a contemporary renaissance in a sense – which questions what it means to live in a world on the constant brink of evolution.

Follow Shona Waldron on instagram

Rockin’ Robin

for full session see: All I want for Christmas…

session overview:
  • Participants will brainstorm and list typical Christmas scenes and objects *use Christmas cards etc for ideas
  • Identify objects that could be ‘transformed’ into the scene though drawing / painting / placing cut outs on the image *Image manipulation software would also work here
  • Print to size and make into small Christmas decorations (using cardboard / wood slices / cup coasters and string)
suggested output: Chrismas decorations
Additional activity ideas:
  • A Christmas Scene: Using christmas cards, cut out the shapes of different objects and make a ‘new’ photogram / lumen Christmas story
  • Pinhole Christmas: Make a Pinhole camera. Use the resulting images to think of Christmas scenes you could ‘make’ from them by painting / drawing on them.
THESE Sessions could be adapted from:
György Kepes (1939-40) Lily and Egg

 

Picturesque Perfect?

a MYTHOlogical Arcadia (or not?)

‘Does landscape photography remain encoded within the language of academic painting and the traditions of landscape art which developed during the 18th and 19th Centuries’? (Clarke, 1997, p.55)
Karen Knorr (1986) Pleasures of the Imagination: Connoisseurs

In this session, participants are encouraged to consider a historical relationship between painting and photography in the context of thier own landscape environment. They will consider ideas of the Picturesque and considerations are made as to how such visual mofifs may be culturally / visually reproduced to create a myth of the constructed land as a rural arcadia – as it is transformed into a land-scape.

Participants are encouraged to independently research the Pictorialist movement in photography and the work of Peter Henry Emerson

‘A ‘landscape’, whether cultivated or wild, is already artifice before it becomes the subject of a work of art. Even when we simply look, we are already shaping and interpreting…Landscape pictures will breed landscape pictures.’ (Andrews, 1999, p.1)
Claude Lorrain (1629-1632) Landscape with a Piping Shepherd

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

‘Whether noble, picturesque, sublime or mundane, the landscape image bears the imprint of its cultural pedigree. It is a selected and constructed text’ (Bright, 1985)
Roger Fenton (1859) Mill at Hurst Green

Aims & Outcomes:

  • To consider vernacular / stereotypical representations of the local environment / landscape
  • To investigate the relationship between painting and photography as it applies to representations of the land
  • To understand the nature of the picturesque as it applies to photographs of the land / a ‘tamed’ land
  • Participant Outcome: 1 10×8 digital print
Ingrid Pollard (1988) from Pastoral Interludes
‘The picturesque is enlisted in the definition of what the country means: it becomes a patriotic term, a touchstone of national characteristics’ (Taylor, 1994, p.25)

You will need:

  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • Tripods
  • Flashguns if you plan to practice lighting techniques
  • An Introductory Brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
Uta Kogelsberger (2007) from Picturing Paradise
‘The act of naming is an act of taming. From its inception photography has been involved in investigating and detailing environments, helping culture to appropriate nature’ (Wells, 2011, p.3)

Research: Pictorialism & work of Peter Henry Emerson

Preparation Work:

  • Ask participants to read Fergus Heron (2018) ‘Built Worlds: Photography, Landscape &. Different Natures’ from Photography & Landscape / The Photographers Gallery available here
  • Ask participants to watch Jem Southam in Conversation (2014) from the onLandscape Conference / Green Room available here
  • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
  • Make sure you have access to computers / image editing software
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
  • If you are printing it make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
  • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors
Takashi Yasumura (2003) from Nature Tracing
‘It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real’ (Baudrillard, 1994, p.2)

Presentation Ideas: A mythologicAL Arcadia (or not?)

suggested Session Outline:

 

Into the Deep Blue Yonder

The Light (and Delight) of the cyanotype

In her preface to Photographs of British Algae, Atkins argued that the ‘beautiful process of cyanotype’ did away with the difficulties involved in making accurate drawings of natural objects, particularly objects as ‘minute as […] the algae and conferva’. However skilled, no draughtsman could hope to match the unprecedented reality-effects produced when images derived from ‘impressions of the plants themselves’ (Castle, 2015)
Anna Atkins (1843) Cyanotypes of British Algae

In this session participants will make cyanotype images from photograms and from acetate negatives in order to consolidate learning of the basics of analogue processes. It also serves as an introduction to the idea of constructed images, the dependence of the photographic process on light and time, as well as basic analogue development principles.

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Barbara Kasten (1974) Photogenic Painting
‘My work often begins with an exploration of materials, and my initial attraction to photography stemmed from an interest in how the photographic process could provide innovative means to create paintings. The photogram, free from technical restraints and training, offered a direct way to merge a painterly technique with light-sensitive emulsions…The interdependency of shadow and light is the essence of photographic exploration and an inescapable part of the photographic process. I see the play between these two phenomena as basic components of photographic abstraction, with their exchanging roles of solidity and transparency. In my work, shadow transforms the three-dimensional space of my constructions into the two-dimensional surface of the photograph’ (Kasten in tate, 2018)

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to discuss and visually explore the nature of photographic seeing
  • For participants to experience and understand the nature of cyanotype processing
  • Participant Take Away Outcome: At least 3 cyanotypes
Barnaby Irish (2019) from Light Senstitive
‘I find these forms both beautiful and disturbing; they resonate as something familiar, but closer inspection makes them feel false – the depth and shade created by software instead of photons…My work imagines realities and dimensions we can’t yet sense, or only get glimpses of through meditation or psychedelics. I’m aiming for the resonance of something you recognise with the mystery of not knowing what it is.’ (Irish in Elliott Halls, 2019)

You will need:

  • A selection of small objects / materials to make cyanotypes with (participants can also bring / find objects / materials)
  • Some watercolour paper
  • If you are using the sun to expose your cyanotype – a normal photo frame (mask off the glass with electricians tape) / perspex, cardboard, elephant clips will suffice.
  • A Foam brush / measuring materials / trays / gloves / glasses / aprons *re Health & Safety requirements
  • Cyanotype chemicals *available from Silverprint
  • An Introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
  • See also the BBC GSCE Revision Guide here

Preparation Work:

  • Make sure you have all of the required materials (including some objects / acetate negatives)
  • Make sure you have booked the darkrooms if you are working on campus / have chemicals, lights, trays, perspex, etc if off campus and are adhering to Health and Safety requirements
  • Are you going to prepare your cyanotype mix / coated watercolour paper in advance?
  • If you are working with Primary School participants you could ask them to make a montage with some / the objects you have chosen on A4 paper and draw or photograph it. In the sesison / in advance, younger children can also cut out shapes and images from magazines (and mount onto card) as ‘objects’ to make storytelling photograms with.
  • Are you going to produce / ask participants for a negative scan to invert and print onto acetate in advance? *More contrast works better in an acetate negative

Cyanotypes: ideas for Photograms

Angela Chalmers (2018) The Kiss of Peace

Cyanotypes: ideas for making Acetate Negatives

Boris Mikhailov (2006) from At Dusk
How accurate can a picture of the world be, one’s inner village-idiot wonders, if everything we see in it — not just yellowy-greeny-goldy-maroonish-brown seawrack — is recast in alchemical shades of blue? From one angle, the all-blue world of cyanotype is as hallucinatory a domain as the one Alice encounters when she wanders through the looking glass…So, whose algae is more realistic: the photographer’s or the painter’s? (Castle, 2015)

Suggested Session Outline: see josie purcell’s website here

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Sculpted by Light

The Light (and Delight) of the Photogram

‘I am doing Photograms! I am having such fun. They reveal the most beautiful new world of light & form’ (Hepworth in Bowness, 2013)
Barbara Hepworth (1932-33) Self Portrait Photogram

 

This is a fun session in which participants will make photograms, as well as learn the basics of analogue processes. It also serves as an introduction to the constructed image, the dependence of the photographic process on light and time, as well as basic darkroom development principles.

 

 

 

 

‘A photogram is not a photograph, not really. Sure, it is usually discussed as a subset of photography, and it was born around the same time, from similar chemistry, but is practically and conceptually only remotely related. A photogram is a 1:1 scale negative record of a shadow. It is unique and unpredictable. Photographs tell sweeping, barefaced lies; photograms tell the truth, but only a thin slice of it. the ocean of images that surges and swells around us is mainly photographic; we are awash with manipulated half-truths and shameless fictions’ (Griffin, 2019)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Lloyd Godman (1993-94) from Evidence from the Religion of Technology
‘An automatic reproduction by the action of light’ (Niepce (1839) in Trachtenberg, 1980, p.5)
‘It is not an instrument which serves to draw nature but a chemical and physical process which gives her the power to reproduce herself’ (Daguerre (1839) in Trachtenberg, 1980, p.13)
‘By optical and chemical means alone [the image is] impressed by Nature’s hand’ (Talbot (1839) in Wood, 2001, p.192)

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to discuss and visually explore the nature of photographic seeing
  • For participants to experience and understand the nature of darkroom processing
  • Participant Take Away Outcome: At least 3 photograms
Dan Peyton (2015) Forsythia Elegy

You will need:

  • A selection of small objects / materials to make photograms with (participants can also bring / find objects / materials)
  • 10 x 8 inch Ilford Multigrade Paper
  • A Darkroom / Darkroom chemicals
  • *if you are working off-campus you will need a light tight room, chemicals, trays and red lights
  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • * Access to Photocopiers with a scan function / Scanners, Printers etc if you are planning on making digital photograms
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
‘Photography can lie as to the meaning of a thing but never to its existence’ (Barthes, 1980, p.89)
Jochen Lempert (2010) Glow-worm

presentation ideas: The Light (and Delight) of the photogram

Preparation Work:

  • Make sure you have all of the required materials (including some objects)
  • Make sure you have booked the darkrooms if you are working on campus / have chemicals, lights, trays etc if off campus.
  • Set up the enlargers (with carriers / lenses) and easels (9×6) in advance of the session
  • Introduce participants / teachers to darkroom processes / photograms by asking them to watch ‘Making a Photogram’ (2017) for Ilford available here
  • If you are working with Secondary School / College participants to read Jonathan Griffin (2019) ‘Out of the Light / Into the Shadow’ for Tate available here
  • If you are working with Primary School participants you could ask them to make a montage with some / the objects you have chosen on A4 paper and draw or photograph it. In the sesison / in advance, younger children can also cut out shapes and images from magazines (and mount onto card) as ‘objects’ to make storytelling photograms with.
  • You might encourage participants to make digital photograms using a photocopier / scanner. Some useful ideas are available here
‘For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically without the creative intervention of man. The personality of the photographer enters into proceedings only in his selection of the object to be photographed and by way of the purpose he has in mind. Although the final result may reflect something of his personality, this does not play the same role as that of the painter’ (Bazin (1967) in Trachtenberg, 1980, p.241)

Constructing Photograms: objects & Visual ideas

Suggested Session Outline:

Down the Rabbit (Pin)Hole

Looking Through The Pinhole

Gina Glover (2010) from Liminal World

This is a fun session in which participants will make thier own pinhole cameras to take away, as well as learn the basics of pinhole photography. It also serves as an introduction to apertures, shutterspeeds and basic darkroom development principles.

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to discuss and visually explore the nature of seeing like a camera
  • For participants to conduct in depth research on the work of Justin Quinnell and apply these ideas to thier practice.
  • For participants to expereince the nature of darkroom processing
  • For participants to understand how to scan and inverse images using Photoshop
  • Participant Take Away Outcome: A pinhole camera and least 4 pinhole photographs

Research: The work of Justin Quinnell:

You will need:

  • 1 x 500ml Aluminium can per participant
  • A Can Opener
  • Black Duct Tape
  • Black Card
  • Black insulation / Electricians Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • 5 x 7 inch Ilford Multigrade Paper
  • A Darkroom / Darkroom chemicals
  • *if you are working off-campus you will need a light tight room, chemicals, trays and red lights
  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • * Access to Scanners, Printers etc if you are planning on inversing and printing the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments

presentation ideas: Down the Rabbit (pin)hole:

Preparation Work:

  • Make sure you have all of the required materials.
  • Make sure you have booked the darkrooms if you are working on campus.
  • Have some 5×7 Pinhole work ready in a box to demonstrate development
  • If you are printing digitally in the Photo Lab – make sure they know when these images will be sent and when you need them back by.

Suggested Session Outline:

  • Ask participants what they think the characteristics of photography are. (e.g. light, time, fixed, reproduction) Are these specific to certain ‘types’ of photograph? Is the word ‘photographies’ more appropriate?
  • Deliver presentation / brief and encourage discussion and debate
  • Show Pinhole camera
  • In small groups – make Pinhole Camera
  • Break
  • Have some 5×7 Pinhole sheets ready to demonstrate development
  • Darkroom Induction
  • Explore Pinhole cameras / develop
  • *Scan and inverse Pinhole work into positives. Print analogue or digital.
  • Critique and give feedback with the group

What is a Photograph?

John Szarkowski & the Characteristics of the Photograph

‘This book is an investigation of what photographs look like, and why they look that way’ (Szarkowski, 1966, p.6).
John Szarkowski (1966) The Photographers Eye, New York: Museum of Modern Art

John Szarkowski was the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York from 1962 – 1991. In 1966 he produced a book called The Photographers Eye in which he attempted to identify and specifically define the characteristics by which the photograph transforms the world in front of the lens. It was based on the 1964 MOMA exhibition of the same name, and placed great emphasis on the photographer’s process of selection from the real world. The Introduction to The Photographers Eye (1966) can be accessed here

 

related POSTS:

The 5 characteristics of photography for John Szarkowski (1966) were:

  • The Thing Itself
  • The Detail
  • The Frame
  • Time
  • Vantage Point
The Thing Itself: ‘The first thing that the photographer learned was that photography dealt with the actual; he had not only to accept this fact, but to treasure it; unless he did, photography would defeat him’ (Szarkowski, 1966, p.8)
The Thing Itself: Unknown (c.1850) Couple with Daguerrotype in Szarkowski (1966) The Photographer’s Eye
The Detail: ‘The photographer was tied to the facts of things, and it was his problem to force the facts to tell the truth’ (Szarkowski, 1966, p.8)
The Detail: Peter Fraser (2005) Untitled
The Frame: ‘Since the photographer’s picture was not conceived but selected, his subject was never truly discrete, never wholly self-contained. The edges of his film demarcated what he thought most important, but the subject he shot was something else, it had extended in 4 directions’ (Szarkowski, 1966, p.9)
The Frame: Guy Bourdin (1978) for Charles Jourdan
Time: ‘There is in fact no such thing as an instantaneous photograph. All photographs are time exposures of shorter or longer duration, and each describes a discrete parcel of time. This time is always the present’ (Szarkowski, 1966, p.10)
Time: Elliott Erwiit (1989) Paris, France from Dogs
Vantage Point: ‘Much has been said about the clarity of photography, but little has been said about its obscurity. And yet it is photography that has taught us to see from the unexpected vantage point’ (Szarkowski, 1966, p.10)
Vantage Point: Alexander Rodchenko (1925) Fire Escape
Aims & Outcomes:
  • For participants to discuss and visually explore Szarkowski’s 5 characteristics of the photograph
  • For participants to produce at least 3 10×8 analogue (edited) images which explore these 5 characteristics
  • Participant Take Away Outcome: At least 3 10×8 exhibition quality black and white photographs
You will need:
  • 35mm Cameras for all participants
  • lford HP5 35 film (24 exposure) for all participants
  • Ilford Multigrade Paper 10×8 size (Lustre)
  • An introductory presentation for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
Preparation Work:
  • Ask participants to read The Introduction to The Photographers Eye (1966) which can be accessed here
  • Make sure you have booked the cameras and darkrooms from the Photography Stores
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Set up the darkroom, enlargers and easels in advance.
Suggested Session Outline:
  • Ask participants what they think the characteristics of photography are. (e.g. light, time, fixed, reproduction) Are these specific to certain ‘types’ of photograph? Is the word ‘photographies’ more appropriate?
  • Deliver presentation / brief and encourage discussion and debate
  • 35mm camera Induction
  • In small groups investigate the local area and encourage visual exploration of each of Szarkowski’s 5 characteristics
  • Break (whilst the negatives are put through the film processor)
  • Darkroom Induction
  • Identify negatives to print
  • Black and White Printing session
  • Critique and give feedback with the group