Tomorrow morning, I commence the final semester of my degree in photography. I enter the last leg of this long 4-year process of learning and practice, of development and progress, of self-reflection and realisation of limitation and ability over a naive yet enthusiastic ambition.
The execution of the coming work will eventually take the form of a polished and self-published photobook for submission 12 weeks from now. The work is already underway, with many negatives still to scan and many rolls of film yet to shoot. The narrative is conceptual and yet to take shape but is getting there, while the work + life + study balance is more constricted than at any point in my studies thus far. Balanced with my major degree essay also commencing tomorrow, a certain level of stress is currently being felt at time of writing. But I shall get there, and my project will be awesome.
One week or thereabouts into the final 12 of this degree and I discover my job situation has evolved, again, causing all sorts of as yet unknown turmoil. A further commute, an unknown boss, an unknown project, but hopefully less
half-witted incompetence being mucked about ... time will tell tomorrow when I meet the new team to understand their project and ways of working better. To paraphrase what my 35mm film development guy said recently - in a year from now, I'll have forgotten the old ways. Wise words.
On a more positive note, I've begun to eating into the backlog of developed negatives over the last week, scanning, organising and retouching (some) as I go. There are still quite a few to get through and also quite a few undeveloped medium format rolls that need processing. I recently began to label the negative sheets 'tourists' when I sleeve and file the negatives away which has made it easier to select the correct ones from the unscanned sheets. I have a lot more unrelated negatives sleeved that are as yet unscanned and very likely won't be for some time, given the priority with this work.
To keep the creatives juices going and yet give myself a break from 'the tourist landscape', I went out on Saturday morning to shoot Aldgate in the style of straight photography in medium format and using a tripod, something I haven't done for a while. It slows me down and I enjoy it.
Over the last couple of days, as I've been scanning my backlog of film in the evenings after work. I find my hit-rate of 'good' shots is dissapointingly low - maybe 1-2 frames per roll.
As mentioned on the 24th June, my medium format negatives are yet to be developed, so I'm hoping there are some gems in those. I recently bought fresh C-41 chemistry to get these going (I recently fell out with my go to lab for medium format *cough* shit customer service *cough* puncture holes through frames in the film *cough cough*... So I must get that going soon ...
All 35mm negatives shot to date have now been scanned. As with yesterday, perhaps there are a couple of shots that might be OK, but I'll take my time to print out and review them soon. I'm going to head out tomorrow and also on Saturday morning to get some more shooting in. Not sure if I will shoot 6x6/6x7 medium format or more 35mm.
I will crack on with my essay in the meantime.
With a job lot of around 30-40 medium format rolls (at a guess, for now) currently sitting in the fridge and awaiting development, I have collated my scanned negatives in Lightroom to date. I have an initial broad selection of 107 photographs that make the initial cut and these are mostly 35mm frames (though some 6x7 medium format ones too). I still plan to shoot much more, as if I'd ever stop.
Here I present just two of those photographs ...
It only just occurred to me yesterday, I also have a small number of instant-film photographs that I shot some time back that require scanning. I intend to use them in the book if they come through OK.
The following is my major degree project concept and rational, backed up with methods and methodology of execution, as well as processes, techniques, presentation and audience.
Concept and context:
I intend to observe and document interactions and behaviours of contemporary tourists in London, using readily available colour film. The project references and pays homage to the 'Golden Age' of street photography, mass tourism, and the ubiquitous nature of cheap colour film and film processing from the mid-to-late-twentieth century. A time when film bore witness to holiday 'snaps' captured on sightseeing trips around the world, where recognisable patterns and interchangeable tourist behaviour occurred, regardless of the location.
Mass tourism to London equates to large numbers of visitors, all of them eager to see London's famous sights as they 'lumber' along well-trodden 'tourist thoroughfares' rarely venturing off them. The 'tourist' comes to see the uniqueness of London, yet unwittingly recreates the altogether 'same-ness' of massed tourists everywhere. Who are these people, what are their motives, what do they do while here? Can photography expose the behavioural juxtapositions of the city's visitors?
The work is intended to sit alongside historical and contemporary street photographers, adopting humour, irony and subversion similar to: Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Martin Parr; the juxtapositions of Tony Ray-Jones; direct observations by Simon Roberts, Vivian Maier, Joel Meyerowitz, Tod Papageorge and Sam Gregg; and the close-proximity of Bruce Davidson's work; the straight documentation of the landscape similar to Stephen Shore or Eirik Johnson, and the overlapping styles of Fred Herzog, Alec Soth and Harry Gruyaert.
Methods and Methodology, Processes and Techniques:
I will seek to photograph tourists as well as the wider tourist industry, in London, and the observed interactions between these subjects in the context of their wider London surroundings. The narrative focus will be on a satirical observation of the ‘tourist’. I hope to convey a sense of humour through these observations, from the point-of-view of a ‘local’ who inhabits the city and otherwise must contend with the ‘tourist’. The work will also convey a direct observation of the wider tourist landscape.
I will shoot in colour on 135 and 120 film which will be processed in a lab.
The work will be captured using zone focusing in the street photography style and shot candidly in close-proximity to its subjects, with broader scenes of the tourist landscape incorporating more considered framing and composition.
An analogue and digital workflow will be used with negatives scanned into a computer for digital production.
To develop the ability to conceptualise and execute a body of work.
To develop the skillset of the street photographer.
It is also important for me as a photographer to build a portfolio that builds upon who I am, taking on the tone of my personality, helping to define me and my work, situating it amongst the many other works by the many other documentary photographers. If successful, the experience gained in formulating and executing this body of work will define my place in photography as a graduate and artist photographer.
Presentation and audience:
The work is intended as a standalone photobook, with an eventual attempted launch through Kickstarter, and concurrently published on my online portfolio in a smaller select sequence, and selectively on Instagram. The audience will be Photobook, Art and Magazine collectors, Galleries and Curators, online publications and London subject matter enthusiasts.
Most of my as-yet developed 120 film is now scanned and I'm nearly through developing the rolls I shot in May, with maybe five rolls to go. However, the rolls from June are still to be developed (and then scanned). So far in July I haven't managed to get out and shoot, so hopefully this coming Saturday 13th will happen.
I recently purchased a larger Paterson tank that fits two 120 reels, so I've doubled my productivity, or halved the time it takes to develop in my current workflow, whichever way you want to look at it. Doing so has allowed me to make this progress.
Sometimes I have doubts about the work, or more accurately, about my ability. As I've been scanning my work, reviewing images and so on, I've recently become frustrated at (some) of the output.
The most enduring triumph of photography has been its aptitude for discovering beauty in the humble, the inane, the decrepit.— Sontag, 1977 p.102
This morning I finished developing the last of my medium format films, I think that was 16 rolls in total. I'm in the office tomorrow, and then we're off on holiday on Saturday for the week, so not much progress between now and the following week on this. However, I'll spend some time on my essay during this downtime.
- - Sontag, S. (1977) ‘The Heroism of Vision’ In: On Photography. London: Penguin Books Ltd, pp.85-112.
List of Illustrations
- List of Illustrations