Week 1 – From Here to There
This week we were looking at our place as photographers and our experiences and specialisms.
Our activity is one from The Photographers Playbook inspired by photographer Michael Christopher Brown.
“An interesting exercise that anyone can do is to take one photograph per day for a week. The idea is to be focused enough to only photograph what is absolutely necessary. What are the seven pictures that not only define the week, but yourself? What if you were to die next week and these were to be the last seven pictures of your life? This exercise can be an important analysis of the self in relation to life and photography.”
I found this task extremely insightful. As I knew we had a busy weekend planned with my son I selected the use of my iPhone to shoot the task as I knew I would have it on me at all times so I wouldn’t miss any shots which occurred naturally.
Another exhausting week as a mother, an educator and a student.
It can be extremely hard fitting it all in, sometimes I’m not sure how it all comes together but as a family we make it work. We are having great difficulties with my son at school. The weekend and home shots show a real contrast in his moods. Monday was one of the worst days we have had and I just had to capture the mess he was in when I picked him up from school. I am currently battling with SENCO support (or lack of) and Nate’s father. His face really sums up how this week has left me feeling.
A particularly draining week I just had to also capture the five minutes myself and my partner had to hold hands, have a chat and relax before we face another hectic day.
I find the concept of ones last images rather interesting. It is one thing about our mortality which we do not ordinarily consider. It really made me think about, particularly with my phone, what images I have and their relevance to my life. Looking at the contents of my phone I feel like there are a lot of memories contained on the device, family snapshots and personal moments not seen on social media. This is in great contrast to my memory cards which contain more of other people’s treasured memories than my own due to being paid jobs or work subjects/tasks set by my employer.
It has certainly made me think more about my life as a photographer and the importance of the medium on a personal as well as commercial-scale.
Week 2 – You Are a Business
This week we have been looking at business models and where our professions currently lie and where we would like to be. Although I know I am unlikely to set up as an independent photographer it has been interesting considering my place in education and where I expect my career to progress within the next few years.
One of our tasks was to write a mission statement for our current practice. I found this quite challenging at first as I had to consider where my current position is. As my day job is very mixed in terms of skills and practice it can be hard to narrow down my position in terms of skill value and overall product. My band photography external to my work at the Institute however is closely connected to the stylings of my research project but is not something I would consider setting up as a business as there would not be enough demand locally to maintain a regular income and due to being a single mother I am unable to travel regularly to make a touring business with it.
Being mindful that this statement could read quite differently in a few weeks/months time here is my submission for the task;
To photograph, document and explore the visual culture of music. Using creative photography methods, I will investigate various subcultures associated with music. My aim is to connect the visual, auditory and aesthetic vibrancy of these cultures and the fashions that compliment them.
Working as a photographic technician my aim is to provide high quality technical support to creative arts staff and learners. Covering all aspects of digital and darkroom printing, finishing, mounting and framing I support our in-house print suite. The shooting, editing and finishing of high quality digital images for the arts department is another aspect of my role where I work at the highest standards at the best of my professional ability.
- High quality photographic images for bands/musicians for use online and for professional artwork.
- To produce visually exciting and stimulation works around the subjects of subculture, fashion and music.
- Provide quality technical support in both digital and traditional formats.
- To support, produce and install exhibitions from a variety of mediums and creative subjects.
My work external to the education sector is predominantly aimed at musicians and music culture. My work within the education sector is aimed at schools, young learners, the creative arts, the general public, and the corporate structure.
I have always struggled with the self promotion, hence the reason I found this task more challenging than I originally thought it would be. Thinking about my MA practice as a product itself it could be worth rethinking and rewriting this piece at a later point in my studies to show just how much I have developed during this process.
Week 3 – The Digital New Possibilities
This week we have been considering how the digital revolution has effected photographic practice and how social media can be beneficial to photographers in current contemporary photographic practice.
The first of this weeks tasks was to utilise the social media platform of Instagram.
I have had an Instagram account for some time now. That being said I have only recently (since the start of the MA in May) been using it for more professional purposes. Since June I deleted some of the more mundane content from my account and set my account from private to public and started using hashtags. Since doing that I have gained double the amount of followers I had previously, the majority of which are musicians, bands and record labels. As this is part of my target market I am happy with the outcome.
The only downside for me is the fact that people from work and those who I had originally kept my account private can now see my content and follow me, but as with any social media there are always negatives. I do mix content and there are some family/social bits on there. I have considered opening an account to feature only my photographic work but at present it is hard to keep on top of all the accounts I have as we have all been pushed into using Twitter and various other forums for work for learners to follow us so I already have multiple accounts.
I have spent some time this week exploring the use of hashtags and checking the content under the hashtags I have been using, for example #punk rock #punkrockconfidential #musicphotography. Using more hashtags on my images has definitely worked as can be seen by the image below. I have been receiving messages from bands regards my work, they send me links to their music and I send them links to my photographic site, raising the networking opportunities for my research project in the future.
Watching this weeks presentations on digital’s influence in the production of photography have been very inspiring. As I am working with audio material to support my visual material I have been thinking of ways in which they can be incorporated to support the narrative.
During the last module (positions and practice) I had considered the use of QR codes within a book so the audio material (music or interviews) can be heard whilst viewing the images. Seeing the use of VR and visuals for apps such as New York Times has really opened up another avenue to explore for my final major project. I can really see the benefit to incorporating my Polaroids, the band’s music, interviews and digital technology to enhance the experience for the viewer/consumer. These avenues are something I look forward to exploring further in my contextual and project research blogs.
Research notes following this weeks presentations.
Week 4 – Show and Tell
Thanks to work and sadly some personal issues the last few weeks have been extremely hard, with the last week in particular being extremely stressful. Falling behind in my studies is something I hoped I would be able to avoid but I find myself frantically playing catch up. I have done a lot of contextual research yet finding the time to upload my notes and the images I have shot so far has seemed impossible. I feel completely lost at the moment. I am trying not to let these feelings get the better of me and to keep my head in the game but it is very hard, especially when facing a half term break struggling for childcare and a full week of work.
I am hoping I will feel better after my 1-1 tutorial this week. Due to connectivity issues and my own illness I have only had one webinar so far which I think could be contributing to the stress factor. Fingers crossed I can turn it around this week.
Week fours presentations were about our photographic DNA and what defines us as photographers. This is something I haven’t considered for some time so I did take some time to reflect on my own photographic practices.
I certainly classify myself as a music photographer with experience in both live and artwork/studio photography. I love shooting this kind of work as it combines my two passions and interests, photography and music. Incorporating lyrics and some visual art techniques to my work during the MA is also enabling me to explore my other passion, art and design. I am definitely drawn to more artistic photography than say journalistic works. I want my photography to say something, to convey a mood, a feeling, an event, a story. I want my photography to be something more than just a candid shot or a piece for news.
I would love to have my own exhibition and to one day release my own book of images. I hope to achieve both of these things during or following my MA and my research project of subcultures. In the long-term I would love to progress further with my skills and possibly work on some pieces of a more artistic creative styling like those of Floria Sigismondi and perhaps work on the production of some music video pieces for musicians alongside my stills.
Task 1 – Begin at the Beginning.
Kill Yourself playing at The Matrix Club Grimsby – 2002
My interest in photography started at a very young age. I couldn’t explain why but I always wanted to have a camera with me. I was that kid on the school trip who aways had a point and shoot film camera (110/120) and then begged my Mum for weeks afterwards to take the film in and get it processed. I was always in awe of the magic behind the process. Send away your film and pick up a pack of super glossy, mostly out of focus images and the squeal of delight if you had one or two shots you didn’t remember taking if the film had been in there some time.
Having come from a family of very humble origins we were always a few steps behind the times. Everything was second-hand or passed down. In a photographic sense this was never an issue. I didn’t care about the technology as long as I had a camera. I never desired a digital camera when they were released on the market. Even now I am more excited/enamoured by a film eBay bargain than the prospect of shiny new digital. I guess this partly comes from my traditional roots and partly because my job as technician really takes the glamour out of new kit. Well it did before huge educational funding cuts anyway. Having a plethora of digital kit at my disposal s probably the reason my Pentax K1000 is still my pride and joy at home and why the only digital camera I have is my Nikon D7000 (which I have no desire to upgrade) and my iPhone of course. This may well change if my career takes a different path of course.
Rather than pick one of the out of focus original first images I decided to pick one of the images off my first roll of film as I moved toward becoming a musical photographer. I remember being mocked even in the year 2002 for still carrying around my Pentax and a clumpy old Vivitar flash (which I also still use). People may have mocked and although this image doesn’t really show it, it really did get some results.
This was clearly taken before anyone had given me an education on directional flash and bounce flash techniques. It is however one I always come back to. I’m not sure if it the smiling faces on the audience, those who are clearly enjoying the band’s music or the fact that the musicians are performing in their pants but it all definitely stands out. One of the beauties for me of photographing live performances is the fact that each show is different. You could photograph a band on tour playing a few nights in one week and the image from each nigh can be different. The venue, the crowd, the atmosphere, it all adds to the experience and therefore the visual quality of the event.
I think this type of photography resonates with me because my passion in photography began by documenting family events. I was very aware from a young age that photographs are documents of time, screen shots we refer back to, connecting us to memories of a past time. One of the reasons I have been shooting my current work in instax/Polaroid format is to connect that essence of memory and tradition in visual form. I wanted to convey that musicians and fans of music look fondly at images such as these as a reminder of their youth, of the glory/hey day of the scenes they are a part of and to see how they have transitioned over time.
Looking back I think every shoot has influenced future shoots/projects on some way. I am always trying to learn new skills and methods, I am always looking for new inspiration and talent. One of the reasons I decided to embark upon my journey through this course was to rediscover my passion and go back to my roots, avoiding any material I produced during my degree and to embark on something close to my passion of music and art. Having worked predominantly in black and white in my early projects I really want to work more in colour now as I believe it really supports the edgy punk rock styling I am trying to capture and adds an extra element and vibrancy/energy to the images.
I thoroughly enjoyed the WIP I completed for my first module (positions in practice). This work really sparked my passion and enthusiasm for photography once again.
I hope this week I can re-spark this passion once again. I am shooting on Wednesday and completing more interviews throughout this week so watch this space and fingers crossed I can produce something I am as happy with.
Sadly I didn’t get time to get these tasks on to the forum but please see my notes below containing the information for the marketing plan task.
Week 5 – Stronger Together
I genuinely cannot believe how fast these weeks are disappearing. This week I have entered the panic stages after losing shoots and having to rearrange my whole assignment, combined with the most stressful period at work I have ever experienced this week has been a particular challenge to say the least.
This weeks content was surrounding networking and how to make the most of the opportunities around us as photographers.
As I am already a part of the RPS and the AOP this week I have been working on my social media game, to sound like one of the hip kids that is!
I have been exploring the use of hashtags on Instagram and how they can help get my work seen by a wider audience and also following hashtags I use regularly so I can see what others post under the same umbrella.
It has been really interesting and I have seen some extremely compelling pieces, particularly following the #lomography #lomoinstaxwide pages. The most exiting result for me was the being followed by some of my musical heroes such as UK Subs and Death By Stereo. Bands have sent me links to their music and a nice new networking chain has opened up within the music community. Now I just need to find a way to LA so I can photograph all these Californian punk bands!
We had a visiting speaker on Friday at work on street photography. It was very insightful and I found it very interesting listening to the debates and discussions which arose during Dan’s presentation. Dan Baker is a local street photographer who is currently working on a body of work within the seaside environment to create a book and exhibition.
Dan gave some great advice to people working on long-term projects and the importance of shooting constantly and carrying your camera with you at all times to capture those stolen moments. He also discussed the construction of his images and how he purposefully frames his images and their content to avoid post production which can alter the mood or tone of the image.
Although street photography is not my particular area of interest I did find his talk extremely interesting and it has reminded me of the importance of trying things outside of your comfort zone in order to learn best practice. I really resonated with what he was saying about shooting in the way that best suits you as a photographer and to not be bogged down too much with ‘purist’ opinion on camera settings and format. Just be true to yourself and your style.
I feel this is imperative in order to raise your confidence as a photographer. You have to have a strong belief and conviction in what you are doing, particularly in a long-term project in order to ensure its sustainability.
After watching the interview video with staff from Metro Imaging I have considered the resources available to me in terms of networking and professional practice. Through work and our gallery I am fortunate enough to work with a huge team of people who have a great body of connections in the creative and digital industries. It has certainly made me realise that I have the information and the support available I just need consider these elements moving forward and start making the most of social media and the contacts I already have available.
Week 6 – Draft presentations and feedback
This week we had time to work on our oral presentation brief to put together a draft for submission in a webinar for review by our tutor and our peers.
Although I fully understand the brief and what is required I still feel a bit all over the shop with my research project and where it is heading. Unfortunately this semester at work has been awful. The demands for working extra hours and being sent away on trips with a huge increase in paperwork and throwing teaching into the mix has left me a bit overwhelmed and exhausted to say the least. It is really effecting the amount I am having to cram in after hours and once my son is in bed. It has certainly left me feeling unhappy and it is hard to prioritise MA work, childcare and handling the situation. That being said I will not give in and everything will get done, I just feel disappointed that it might not always be to the best of my ability.
I put together a small PDF slide show documenting where I am so far. This was as much for me as it was for my tutor as I needed to map my progress in order to put together a full presentation. Although I have not had time as of yet to refine my script and put together the slideshow it was a start and something I could work with to build on dependent on feedback.
Sadly attendance on the webinar was just myself and tutor initially. This was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a variety of opinion but as my tutor hadn’t really seen my work or my research project so far it was a good opportunity to go through what I have.
Here you can see my notes/script for this session;
Here are the PDF slides of my most recent work which I submitted for review;
After my ten minutes of showing the slides and going through my script I also conversed that I was aware that this was not a draft of my oral presentation per se, more a reflection and an action plan moving forward.
My feedback was quite surprising as my tutor found the family life work more interesting than the work/music life and raised a consideration that the family life should be a point of focus. She also mentioned that although I was looking at using quotes from the interviews I have been conducting she thinks the use of the bands lyrics would make a better connection if used in reference to their family/home lives.
Upon later reflection I feel there is definitely something there in this idea and I would love to progress further with this however, when considering the struggles and set backs I have had in this module and the fact that I have a significant amount of material to use already, with time running out fast and me being away with no internet access for a week soon I need to really carry forward my original ideas.
We chatted about the idea of my title and the idea that punk rock has become so safe. This is something I still wish to build on and I still see as relevant as we all have safe jobs to provide for our families and our lifestyle and I feel this is still an important part of the process to document. We also discussed audiences and the ideas of using this material to introduce the concepts of punk rock in family life to younger audiences who have not been exposed to the older styles of live music and music culture in the same way. I love this idea and I think I need to consider presenting some of my pieces and my ideas to our learners at work to gain some feedback on their culture and their opinions on music and subculture today.
I have a lot of work to do and need to pin this down. I intend to spend the next few weeks putting pieces together, testing my portfolio layout, digitising my audio feeds and transcripts which will help with the visuals for my presentation. I have also set up feedback sessions with some of my cohort who are now in another group so we can present, feedback and support each other which I think will really help.
Week 7 – The Current Commercial Environment
This weeks presentations were all about commercial markets and the commercial environment. I find the subjects interesting and useful from a teaching and learning standpoint, however, as I am not a commercial photographer and have no real intentions of becoming one (due to my career in education and technical development) I find it hard to apply some of this to my experiences.
After viewing the material I definitely consider myself as an art photographer/artist. For me photography is about personal expression and the creation of an aesthetically pleasing piece of work to share with the world and like-minded individuals and not about commercial gain. Because I have a career which gives me experience in a variety of photographic styles and genres I have the ability to do this without it affecting my paid employment, for which I feel very fortunate.
As this weeks task was to sell an image I did consider how I would do this. However, a few days ago I was contacted by Joe, singer of the band The Atoms with whom I shot my positions and practice portfolio. He was asking for permission to use copied of my work for their upcoming album artwork. This album is being recorded in Chicago by the legendary Joe Queer of US punk rock band ‘The Queers’. As this will be hugely beneficial to my audience coverage and possibly open doors for future commissions this is an opportunity not to be missed.
This is however not the only reason I agreed. I found it an honour to be considered and felt proud that they were happy with the work I produced. For me, the sense of joy I gained from this outweighs the monetary gain. I guess the punk rock side of me is still in there somewhere.
When I asked Joe what he thought about the pieces he said;
“Well I think they look ace. Not that I know anything about photography but I love the way they look really old. I’ll definitely be using some on our artwork and will definitely recommend you to other bands.
Atom, Joe 2018
The second task covered distribution of our images and suggested we look at other means of getting our work out there. The idea behind it being not to rely on the internet approach and to look for something different as a means to capture a new audience.
Although I have not had time to complete this it does link to my ideas for the progression of my research project. As I have discussed previously the use of my audio material for a Podcast and the use of QR codes to take people to my portfolio website would be a great way to use new media in order to gain new audiences. I hope to soon have some tests of these so I can begin placing around town/shows as a test to see if I gain a new following, hopefully with younger music/art based audiences.
Watch this space….
This weeks notes.
Week 8 and Week 9 – Who Buys Photography?
The last two weeks have been particularly busy to say the least. Not only have I been sent away with work to Birmingham for the World Skills showcase but I have also been going through the process of trying for a new job.
Although a stressful time, both activities have been quite relevant to this module when taking the time to reflect on my current position as a photographer and my place in photographic education. As I have been working for the last 11 years in education in a variety of roles I have decided to focus on the development of my teaching career as opposed to my career as a professional photographer. Due to the lack of positions with my current employer I have been feeling a little stuck so I decided to branch out and apply with another local college for the position of photography teacher.
The interview and tasks were a great experience. Although I sadly did not get the position I feel it has helped me plan my future and prepared me for future interviews and applications. My feedback was very positive regards my skills and experience it all just came down to the fact that my post is currently as a technician and despite the amount of cover teaching I do I can not officially describe myself as a teacher. It is always good to take feedback and take the time to reflect on it. I now know what I need to do to make a success of my current post and it feels good to know that progression is possible with the right employer.
The world skills showcase was particularly interesting as our roles there as staff and learners was to communicate the role of commercial professional photographer and the opportunities in employment for those with photographic experience or education.
As I have not worked at an event like for this for some time it really surprised me the negativity held by some parents and viewers regards subjects within the creative arts. With my patter I thankfully managed to convert the opinions of many once we conversed about the huge range of opportunities for individuals within the subject of photography. at first it made me sad that so many negative opinions were held but by the end of the week I felt glad that we had successfully demonstrated photography’s place in commercial employment and what it means to be a successful photographer and I was glad I had the knowledge and experience acquired within this module to reinforce our opinion.
I have also been working on my social media presence and utilising my Instagram feed with the use of hashtags and new images. this has really helped increase my following and aided me to capture a new audience. I have been receiving requests and messages from bands asking questions about my images and my availability to shoot which is wonderful and a real confidence boost.
I was disappointed I did not get chance to undertake this weeks photography task.
“Imagine you are being commissioned by a newspaper to tell a story in five to seven images. It can be about anything – ideally something local – but it must have a beginning, middle and end. It can be about a person, a place or a thing. Keep your focus narrow. What matters in this exercise is to make sure each photograph gets to the essence of what the narrative wants to express.
Share the five to seven images of your story below, and comment on the stories of your peers – tell them what you see. Did they understand what your story is about?”
My instant response to this was to photograph the decline of the Freeman Street area of Grimsby. Once the bustling centre of Grimsby’s fishing industry the area has fallen into immense decline. All buildings are boarded up, covered in barbed wire. The streets are full of drunk/drug fuelled individuals and the only busy outlets are the bars which open from 9am to serve the local alcoholics.
It is incredibly sad to see this decline. As the daughter of an incredibly proud Grimbarian I now have distant memories of a brighter time of these streets and feel saddened that I never got to see the Freeman Street my parents courted in as youngsters.
I would love to document this as a news story as I feel that there needs to be some regeneration and promotion of this area to support our future generations. This has given me some great ideas for a future project which I will hopefully one day get to embark on.
Please see the above article for an example of the streets character. Also please excuse the terrible website. One part of the towns decline has definitely been the closure of the local newspaper offcies housed on this street. The quality of reporting, the news and the website is yet another part of Grimsby which could do with regeneration and a spark of creativity.
This weeks notes and webinar notes.
Week 10 – Photography and its Fine Art Markets.
This week we looked at the fine art commercial markets and watched an interview with gallery manager Francesca Genovese to find out more about showing work in galleries and how galleries run.
Although our gallery at work is run for the primary purpose of showing learner works and projects we actually do showcases for local artists and art projects. This is one of the favourite aspects of my job and I love being part of the show and seeing it all come together.
Working behind the scenes and finding out more about how shows are put together is one of the reasons I became a technician. I had always wanted to work within the school of art in Grimsby and to learn more about how artists produce work and get their work out there. I feel extremely lucky to be in a position where I have resources and contacts available to me at any time.
I haven’t really had a show since my degree exhibition but taking part in the art school staff exhibition last year is what inspired me to return to education for my masters as it left me wanting to do it all over again. My photography work had taken a back seat due to various other commitments and now I have a solid project in progress I cannot wait to get my work out there and produce a book, supported by an exhibition so I can show my Instax prints in their raw, original form.
Looking at book styles and from the advice picked up in the Genovese interview I really need to start thinking about the narrative I want to included within my book. What is it I am trying to say? What am I going to explore? I feel my work approaching family life is definitely something I need to continue exploring as it will make interesting content for a photographic book, particularly if there is some diversity in what I am showing between different families and scenarios.
Having done some extra reading this week (as can be seen here in my notes) I think I also need to explore my book ideas further in regards to the use of text and annotation. As I have explained previously I do not want to marginalise my audience however, I do feel for my book content the use of lyrics and writings are vital to reinforce the context of music and its message.
This weeks notes.
Week 11 and Week 12 – Art and Commerce and Ready For Business.
As expected due to the looming deadlines of the 10th December, I have spent the last few weeks really concentrating on my oral presentation and my work in progress portfolio. After spending quite some time in a dither over the use of lyrics etc I have finally pinned down what I am doing and where I need to go.
WordPress have also decided to change their format which I have found slightly stressful and somewhat inconvenient as now everything is taking me twice as long to upload/input because all of the tools have moved or some just aren’t available anymore….thanks wordpress!!! It still bothers me that I have not yet achieved the sectioned layout I desired (hence the reason my contextual research and project research are on individual pages on the main menu) but I will get there eventually.
This weeks interview was with photographer Felicity McCabe. I found it interesting hearing about her work experience with Nadav Kander as he was one of the photographers I have been researching for my project. To say I was jealous would be an understatement. It makes me realise that I have to make as much as I can out of any opportunities that come my way whilst working on my MA as being in the north east of nowhere has its limitations when it comes to working with professionals.
We already have a webinar booked in for the next module briefing – informing contexts on the 12th December so although there will be a couple of days respite I know I must not take my eye off the ball and stay on track. I have been upset at points during this module as work has impeded greatly on my development of this project and the time I have had to dedicate to my studies. My intention for the new year and the next module is to prioritise my studies over everything event wise as I know things will be getting harder as we go along. I just hope I manage to pass this module with the work I have produced.
This module has been completely different to my first module, positions and practice in every aspect. I was unsure what to expect knowing that other cohorts are merged once you enter the second module. I have found it very refreshing speaking to different people within the webinars and inspiring seeing some great new work and approaches to study on the course. At first I will admit I did miss members of my cohort as we were placed into separate groups but I am glad we kept in touch and kept feeding back to each other, reviewing work and chatting in general about where we were at and what we needed to do. The camaraderie has been great and I hope to keep in touch, particularly with Tobias and Craig as we work really well together.
In terms of the subject matter I think I have coped well with the material. I won’t lie my interest did wain a little towards the last few weeks as I have never coped very well with professional practice modules or content. I definitely prefer the more practical and creative side to photographic learning.
It is difficult when motivating learners every day with what they need to do in order to be a sucessful photographer, it is rare that I consider my position in photography and what I want to achieve. I am happy knowing that although I have no interest in setting up my own commercial business I do want to gain experience where possible and develop contacts and juts see how things naturally evolve for me.
With a family and a small child to look after I need the security of a regular salaried income, so, my aim for the next few years is to progress with my photographic work and my individual shooting style, to make contacts and gain some more experience with other photographers from a networking perspective. Although niche, I definitely see myself sticking with the music market or the fine art world. I feel music is in my blood and art is a part of my conscious, to continue collaborating with material in this field is definitely where I want to go. I am excited to see where this journey takes me further in the MA course.