Telling Stories

I have nearly finished all the testing and selection of the different papers I will be using to create my photo-books, the design of the page templates has also been done so I have now started to refine the projects that I have been working on for the past couple of years that will form the basis of three books that I will make. The three books will be based on two major projects and a collection of smaller side projects. The working titles for the books for the major projects will be ‘Three Rivers - a journey from the midlands to the sea’ and ‘Melancholia’- a journey through the flat lands of the Fens’ and the smaller projects will be compiled under the working title ‘Uncompleted Stories’ as these may develop into major projects in the future and are open ended.

The ‘Three Rivers’ project is based on my journeys along the rivers Soar and Trent as they lead into the Hull Estuary and then onto the North Sea, a journey from the landlocked shires of midlands to the North Sea, from the inner to the outer parts of England. There is still additional work to be done on this project with some vital locations that need photographing so the book making will not start until later spring. The three main locations that I need to work in are where the different bodies of water meet each other, these locations are the most difficult to work in due lack of access, flooding and the lay of the land but nevertheless I will try to find a meaningful vantage point where I can take photographs of the River Soar flowing into the River Trent, the River Trent merging into the Hull Estuary and finally the Hull Estuary as it enters into the North Sea.

The collection of ‘Uncompleted Stories’ is based around smaller projects I did whilst doing the major projects that gave me the chance to look at other subjects in short but intense busts of creativity, this kept me visually alert and fresh, one can become blinded looking at the same thing to long. The collection of short stories are the A46, The Field, Absence, Winter Garden, Encroachment, Obsolescence, The Reformation and Shit and Straw.

The ‘Melancholia’ project has enough work for me to warrant start making the book and editing the project into some kind of narrative that reflects my journey through the flat lands of eastern England. Initially this was a small self contained project based on four trips I made through the Fens last autumn and winter on clear still blue sky days but I decided to add additional work that I have done in the Fens to give the passage through the land greater depth and show the passing of time in the land in a more complex narrative.

All of the books will feature some work in the six months leading up to the start of the MA, it will be clearly identified for my supervisor and marking but the inclusion of the work is to give the projects getter context and sense of time and place. The work I do is based in the landscape and a recurring theme in the work is where I revisit a location again and again over a period time, the reason is not in the hope of making a better photograph of a particular subject but to gain and better understanding of it, its place and how it changes over a period time and my response to it. Sometimes human interaction changes the subject, the subject is altered and sometimes removed all together, nature exposes or covers the subject as the seasons of the year past and on other times the weather can change the mood and sense of things, these changes and traces in time and space are at the heart of my ‘observational’ photography and I feel using the archive give it a more richer story. At first I was unsure about using some of my pre MA archived work but after going to an excellent lecture by Cristina De Middle who recently published ‘The Afronauts’ and she spoke of how she used her archive in current projects to flesh out and add to a story and the reasoning behind this mode of working.

To fully explore the passage of time in relation to a subject which in my case is landscape photography within the timescale of a two year part time MA course of study is near impossible so it was lucky I have continually growing photographic archive that I can reference. Thinking now about the time needed to do a MA properly I would say you need two years full time, I could just do it part time due to experience and complete sacrifice all my free time and I do feel those who try to do it full time in a year have no time for reflection and lack the time to undertake the true depth of study required at masters level. Most MA’s internationally are two years but in England one year is the most common length of study and perhaps a MPhil by Practice may offer a better and more rigorous route for post graduate study instead of a MA. Most photography MA courses are much of the sameness which might be due to the shortness of study, they do not allow time for true experimentation of process and technology and a reflection period to gain a true understanding of subject and the making of photographs.

I am currently using Adobe’s Lightroom and PhotoShop to tighten up the photographs and get the best out of the digital raw files and film scans that although they contain all the tonal and dynamic range information can look rather flat and sullen in their unadjusted format. After the clean up using Lightroom really comes into its own when using the Library module to archive all the different versions of the photographs, a non-destructive workflow is critical in the editing stage as often you need start again with the original raw file as too much polish and image adjustment can kill a photograph, I always try to veer to less is more approach. The next most useful element in Lightroom’s library besides the archive function is the ability to make new collections from the image archive, in these collections images can be added and removed with ease and then rearranged into new narratives and edits, this facility has prove a god send for a wandering mind like mine. Once you start developing your collection you can jump between the Develop and Print modules that allows for interactive juxtapositions of photographs in bespoke layouts that you can create in the Print module. The layout templates that you can create in the Print module are only for single page spreads which is all I need for my own hand made books, double page spreads can only be done in the Book module which cannot be customised as they are only fixed options for Blurb Books which is a big shame so therefore bespoke double page spreads are best done InDesign. Working in Lightroom connected to my printer using the correct colour management the workflow has been incredibly productive allowing me to make changes on the fly and be open other possibilities that might not have been possible or made apparent in traditional analogue or digital printing methods.

Below are some initial layout page spreads for ‘Melancholia’ based on the panoramic format that was discussed in depth in my last post, in all they will be about 50-70 page spreads depending how on vigorous I am in the image editing. Over the next month all page spreads will be printed off and then I will set about making the first book using the inter-screw binding system.