MA Graphic Arts
Extended Practice Blog
Looking through Regine Peterson’s ‘Find A Fallen Star’ has given me something to think about with regards to what I do with the work once I have completed the MA and exhibited the work.
It has occurred to me that the monumentality of the work is significant for the photographs showing Anning’s hand, the tool marks, the handwriting etc etc. It is possible that when shown in a book or document that I could consider telling the story in a different way because of the change in size. I could focus more on the story, using the since abandoned documentary work.
I like her slightly loose way of telling the story of these fallen meteorites, the places, the news story, the impact on people and places. I could work the Anning story around this sort of narrative structure and this would give me a coherent way of using the texts I have extracted from the various pieces of correspondence.
‘It is a configuration of archive press cuttings, eye witness reports, interview transcripts, genealogy and found images, fleshed out with quiet, contemplative photographs taken in the field.’
Where Peterson’s work succeeds is in how it transcends the story she set out to tell and raises issues such as race and religion in American culture, and the way in which it weaves its story. I would suggest that the project I am working on, where it started looking at the story of a particular person, has started to talk about institutionalism, historical sexism and the beginnings of the collapse of religion having its’ hold on society.
Can I go wider, for the sake of a book?
I”ve been playing around with potential exhibition layouts for the Centrespace show in February. Lots of thoughts, feel like I’m possibly showing too much. If I go with some of the earlier layouts and include the long ichthyosaur head in the bottom corner (her first find, held at NHM) I will probabl have to re-shoot it, achievable though as I’m going back there just after xmas.
Also played around with merging texts ‘presented by... the tide’ correcting Sedgwick’s claim on the Cambridge Icht using Anning’s handwriting crediting the sea.
I have included (experimentally, should get some feedback on this) a section of the famous Anning portrait held at the NHM. there is enough there for anyone who knows anything about the subject to recognise her, without being too obvious. This project has really become about her ‘hand’ by this stage, lookig at the marks she made with her tools on the specimens, the areas she cleaned to highlight and the more literal marks from her handwritten notes; it seemed pertinent to show her hands, particularly as I’ve always been interested in what it is she is pointing at in the original painting. It could either be the landscape, the floor, or her dog. curious nonetheless.
I’ve recently processed the films from Oxford and have mixed feeling about the results. It is clear tht the biggest problem that I have is the indecisiveness I’ve shown choosing kit to use to make photographs. Whilst there are some factors that are out of my control, particularly having to use kit that is available to me rather than being able to buy what is needed, these have really cost me in the production of some photographs. For instance, the photograph shown to the right of the detail of the sqaualroje tail, is soft. I needed to use a macro lens to photograph the way that I wanted to, and used a cheap old vivitar lens for the K1000. Knowing that this would limit the size of photograph I could make enlarging from 35mm, I hoped that I would be able to make a strong image. Whilst making the photographs with this unfamiliar lens borrowed from work, it became clear that the focusing dial was incredibly unstable, which meant that the focus was often lost. This was compounded by the difficult way the photographs had to be made, with tripod at full extension on a table top looking down at the specimens (which couldn’t be removed from the table due to their fragility).
Trying to hold focus with a broken lens on top of a stepladder looking down was very difficult. In some cases I got away with it, and for this piece, I should be able to show it printed small.
I am quite pleased with a few other aspects of the images however, there is certainly something in the close up photographs of the texts written by mary, and although their content is quite boring, i’m quite fond of two particular areas which I will go into more detail about later on once scanned and further examined.
Scientific illustration of Anning's Plesiousaur paddle
Productive couple of weeks. Managed to get films made so can now make a plate one evening this week. I visited Oxford University Museum of Natural History on Thursday and was well looked after by staff. I was allowed to photograph numerous specimens they hold there; the plesiosaur paddle I knew about, a few belemnites and the surviving tail of ‘ Squaloraia’ the fish that anning discovered. The tail frsagment I photographed was quite large, perhaps 8-10 inches, so the full specimen must have been pretty big. the body of the fish was destroyed when Bristol Museum was bombed in 1940. There were a couple of books with drawings by De La Beche of Anning specimens that i photographed too, , the archives showed me some letters (though there content wasn’t particularly interesting) and Annings pencil drawing of Squaloraia, and a further drawing of a turtle, which is attributed to Anning (though I don’t recall reading about this one anywhere else, but the similarities could be seen).
Finally, there was a young ichthyosaur on display in the main hall, which I was able to photograph with the glass removed.
I have complained previously about the difficulties in photographing some of these specimens, particularly in the manner I have come to look at them of late. Getting close in to these objects is difficult for a few reasons. The are very delicate, and not able to be moved much or removed from cases, and the specimens that are not on display can only really be photographed flat on a table. This causes problems because of the cameras i’ve been using causing real inconsistency with the negative sizes produced. My large format camera doesn’t allow me to focus close enough, and I cannot afford to buy a macro lens, so I have some negatives that I have cropped. The Mamiya RB67 is good, and with the 180mm lens I can get close enough in (though can still only focus 1.2 meters away) but the bulk and weight of the camera isn’t conducive to being tripod mounted and photographing objects laying flat on a table. This time around, to photograph the specimens at Oxford I took a 35mm camera with a 200mm Macro lens which allowed me to get closer in to the specimens, though could still only focus at a distance of 1m. I think I got what I needed, but cannot account for the quality of the Vivitar glass, and the way the focus drops from it is incredibly tedious.
In short, this project would have been a lot more straightforward had I been able to afford to invest in a couple of lenses for my Wista. I do have the kind offer of a free 2 week loan of the Fuji medium format digital camera through Fuji’s sponsorship program, but I don’t want to switch to shooting this project digitally.
Enough moaning. I’ll be processing the film at work tomorrow, will make a couple of contact sheets and get scanning on thursday. I don’t anticipate making any more photographs in museums for this project now, but will return one last time to Lyme Regis to re-photograph the cliffs. After a tutorial last week I think I can now see why the rock photographs I have may not work, despite liking them. I’m not writing them off, but I am going to have another good look at Jem Southam’s rockfalls and go back with these in mind.