Habitus Exhibition

As many may know, I've recently completed my Masters degree in Photography and Urban Cultures in the Sociology department at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Whilst the formal submission took the form of a 10,000 word dissertation and a visual portfolio, it's tradition for the graduating year to hold an exhibition celebrating the work developed during the programme.

This year the exhibition manifested as Habitus - held at the Menier Gallery from Oct 20th - 25th, and part of the Urban Photo Fest 2014. The exhibition is planned, funded, curated, installed and executed by the graduating class themselves, and is testament to the skills and collective vision of a very supportive group of individuals. 

My work took the form of 4 lightbox installations, each comprised of Lamda C-type Duratrans prints from the fabulous Genesis Imaging, led lighting, edge-lit moveable laser-etched acrylic and bespoke framing. You can read about the initial concept of the work here, and I'll post more about the construction and theory in the coming weeks.

Unsurprisingly, I made something (once again) that translates much better in the real world than in photographs, but some rough shots of the installation are below.   

S. Hart - Unprotected Views - 'Thames Barrier from Information Centre'

S. Hart - Unprotected Views - 'City of London from Aldgate'

S. Hart - Unprotected Views - 'London Panorama - One Tree Hill'

S. Hart - Unprotected Views - 'Canary Wharf from Blue Bridge'

The gallery itself was a fantastic space in which to exhibit, and the work of the collective as a whole was both conceptually strong and very professionally presented. 

From the exhibition description 'The approach and focus of the research varies from in-depth exploration of familial histories to the impact of major regeneration projects, subculture studies to techno-waste in Ghana, visual contrast in the city to the fringes of tactile perception and memory.
As urban sociologists, the group is brought together by a keen interest in the narratives that underlie the city and our existence within it. The artists adopt multidisciplinary attitudes in their works and draw influences from art practice, philosophy, journalism, sociology, geography and architecture. They bring a diverse point of view and critical eye, through their discovery of everyday life within the urban realm. 
Through the connection of theory, practice and discussion the participants have engaged in core themes of urban cultures and this exhibition is visual manifestation of the collective dialogue.'

It was a pleasure to work with the group and I'd encourage you all to explore their work further in the Artists section on the Habitus site.

You can find some installation shots of the whole exhibition below.

Though there's a huge range of work and talents featured in the exhibition, 3 of the artists whose work I connect with, and who I'd strongly encourage you to explore, are Stefano Carnelli, Pablo Conejo and Mattias Malk.

I'd also like to offer a huge thanks to everyone who supported me in getting to this point, in particular Simon Saint (more of that when we talk of the joys and frustrations of lightbox construction...), my family and friends, colleagues at the Bartlett and Picfair and everyone involved in the Photography and Urban Cultures programme.

Coffee and quilting

Did you know our little sewing bee club took commissions? No, neither did we until until a chance meeting in Mothers Milk (a bustling hive of networking activity with seating for 3 and standing room for 4) Anyway, it turns out that a mutual appreciation for good coffee, witty banter and a good line in self-deprecation makes an excellent base for creative collaborations.

After some initial discussions (may not be exact transcript);

Amy: "So do you guys take commission? I'd like to get a quilt made"
Me: "Well, we haven't so far but it sounds really interesting, let me ask Katie"
Me: <texts Katie> "A lovely woman called Amy has asked if we take sewing commissions, I've never made a quilt but I'm saying we'll do it and everything will be fine"
Katie: <texts me> "I'm in, my Mum quilts so can give us advice over the phone"
Me: (breathes massive sigh of relief)
Me and Katie: (frantically start googling 'quilt sandwich' 'wadding' 'stitch-in-the-ditch')

The arrival of a shiny new niece had provided Amy with an opportunity to use some of the amazing vintage t-shirts she'd kept from her father's life around cars in the US. Being a designer at heart, Amy already had a good sense of the design and the contrasting fabrics, so after some complex yardage calculations and some Rubik's Cube type shuffling to finalise the layout we began to put it all together.

After 4 marathon sessions, many a Skype call to Katie's mum and lots of unpicking we had our first quilt. I'll spare you the rollercoaster of emotions during the process (and the shambolic nature of the US Postal System compared to the stoic reliability of Royal Mail) and instead just show you the finished quilt prior to it heading stateside.

We're very proud of it.

Huge thanks to Amy for the opportunity and to Katie for moral support and letting us take over her house on regular occasions.   

UPDATE: In adorable news, images of the quilt 'in-situ' are just in, including the delightful Annabella QA testing.

East London in colour

The D700 isn't really much of a walk-around camera, but with a 50mm 1.8 it's as light as it's going to get and it's nice to remind myself to look at the world in colour rather than light and texture every now and then... (yes, yes, I know light is just colour as perceived by etc etc... you know what I mean, stop being pedantic) So:

East London Garages are excellent for unintentional pop art collages (and dreadful for trying to get horizontals horizontal and verticals vertical),

faceless corporate monoliths are good for minimalist geometric composition,

and hidden entrances to music venues are good for the film-set-modern-art-installation vibe...

The general loveliness of Tri-X film

In August of next year I'll be required to submit my dissertation and final visual project as part of my Masters in Photography and Urban Cultures. I'll be looking at how strategic urban planning decisions can fundamentally shape the topography of the city through use of protected views and vistas

As I'm still in the very preliminary research stage, this means lots of walking combined with the testing of different cameras and films. This set is a selection from a session on a Yashica Mat 124g with my new favourite 120mm film, Kodak Tri-X.

One of the shots below forms part of the catchily titled 'Management Views-Townscape Views' from the 'London View Management Framework', but most are end-of-roll shots that act as a chance for me to play around with tone and texture.  

As previously, processing done by Gary at Isis, negs scanned at Goldsmiths and processed through Lightroom

A year of making

A few weeks ago we made it to #5 in LDNIA's excellent series of talks at Albion.
As well as Matthew Sheret talking content, communication and the importance of not all websites wanting to be your best friend, we also had a chance to hear Matthew De Abaitua talk about 'The age of the hand'.

Resonates doesn't it? Maker-culture, the re-emergence of 'traditional' crafts and practices, knitting, arduinos, you know the rest... Anyway, while I continue to ponder the why, I'm getting in a month early on my self imposed 'year of making'.

First up, an actual, for-real, wearable item of clothing (it's even got a proper waistband and hem and doesn't employ staples or stickytape anywhere). Crafty props to sewing bee buddy and Goldhawk Rd with it's glorious £3.50/m fabrics 

Pics below, excuse the fluff and lack of ironing.

Film and the taking of time

A new project is beginning, and I've made the incredibly satisfying decision to take some time to test different cameras and films. 

First roll is Ilford HP5 on a Yashica Mat 124g and features the majestic delights of Richmond Park and the gothy vines of Tower Hamlet Cemetery.

Processing done by Gary at Isis, negs scanned at Goldsmiths and processed through Lightroom

A million seasons - Shinseungback Kimyonghun

White cherry blossoms in the street, a lady in pink skirts, yellow leaves on sprouts...
Spring is experienced and recorded differently in different time and space.
What is the ‘image of Spring’?
— Shinseungback Kimyonghun

Shinseungback Kimyonghun's project 'A million seasons' elegantly combines a number of interest for me; the identification and collation of significant volumes of visual data, a process of translation and interpretation, and then a re-presentation allowing a different way of seeing.  

A glimpse of their process (described in more detail here) and resulting images from the project are shown below but  their wider body of work deals with equally fascinating concepts about the ways we see and are seen. 

Spring, A Million Seasons (Color averaging process), 2013. Shinseungback Kimyonghun

Spring, A Million Seasons (Color averaging process), 2013.

Shinseungback Kimyonghun

Summer, A Million Seasons, 2013, Pigment Inkjet Print, 130 cm x 130 cm. Shinseungback Kimyonghun

Summer, A Million Seasons, 2013, Pigment Inkjet Print, 130 cm x 130 cm.

Shinseungback Kimyonghun

'Computer vision and machine learning'

To make computers do the hard work for you, we’ve also begun using computer vision and machine learning to help recognize more general concepts in your photos such as sunsets, food and flowers.
— http://insidesearch.blogspot.mx/2013/05/finding-your-photos-more-easily-with.html

Googlology - Sam Bland

I don't know if it's the impending arrival of Google Glass, or the growing awareness of just how much of our visual world is presented to us by digital eyes, but it's creating an environment in which some really interesting work is happening.

This is Sam Bland's Googlology project

Sam Bland. Googlology 3 A Coat

Sam Bland. Googlology 3 A Coat

Sam Bland has spent a lot of time with Google Goggles. He’s learned how it sees the world and how it communicates — they play games together.

Goggles is the image search feature in the Google mobile app, and by layering the app’s best attempts to match his photos, Bland has created an artistic view of the world as seen through Google’s eyes.
— http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2013/05/sam-bland-google-goggles/#slideid-19926

Aside from creating beautiful images, what interests me most about the work is how apparent it makes the smart / dumb dichotomy of computer vision. It's an area that I need to start thinking about, but the idea that a program can identify an individual in a crowd with a huge degree of accuracy, yet not be able to differentiate between a bunny and a kitten feels like it might have something worth exploring.

Original links to Bland's work via WIRED and The New Aesthetic

Blossfeldt

The Whitechapel Galley is currently showing the work of Karl Blossfeldt

The work is exquisite. Graphic and sculptural, they feel metallic. Cast and carved forms, scale-less, alien, beautiful.

There were taken at the end of the 19thC. With a home-made camera.

Sigh.

The exhibition is showing until June 14th.

Blossfeldt's photo of Haarfarn (Maidenhair fern) from "Urformen der Kunst" (The original art)

Blossfeldt's photo of Haarfarn (Maidenhair fern) from "Urformen der Kunst" (The original art)

Karl Blossfeldt - Passion Flower

Karl Blossfeldt - Passion Flower

Simple/Difficult things

There's a thing. A taking-apart-and-putting-back-together thing. It's been hovering at the edges for a few years, but it feels like it's getting closer, more present.

I can't decide whether it's a positive 'all things are the sum of their parts' thing, or a negative 'we are all fragmenting' thing... Either way, there are a number of people making  work that seems to live in this space. It's a style of work I really enjoy, a kind of simple/difficult thing; you get it, it's accessible, but it also has a heft to it, a weight at the bottom of it that spins it off onto a slightly less familiar trajectory.

There's two projects I want to flag up, firstly Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg (HintFM) with Art of Reproduction from 2011 and secondly Pep Ventosa's work in a number of different projects, including The Collective Snapshot.

I'm including a few images from the Art of Reproduction project and extracts from their methodology below, but please explore both their and Pep Ventosa's work further on their sites. 

26 Danaes Danaë Klimt - by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg

26 Danaes Danaë Klimt - by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg

The web can seem like the perfect museum, holding all the world’s art. Type “Danae Klimt” into your favorite search engine, and you conjure up a high-resolution image of Gustav Klimt’s Danaë: tan limbs, a shower of gold, red hair.

Or did you find pink limbs? Or were they gray or even green? There’s the rub: the seemingly perfect museum holds dozens of Danaës—with dozens of different palettes. Even the shape changes as reproductions are subtly cropped.

Curious just how far reproductions stray from each other, we began an investigation. (Go directly to the results if you like.) For a set of famous artworks, we downloaded all the plausible copies we could find. Then we wrote software to reconstruct each artwork as a mosaic, a patchwork quilt where each patch comes from an individual copy. By juxtaposing the fragments of the reproductions we visualize their discrepancies
— http://hint.fm/projects/reproduction/

The Poetic Image in the Digital Age

On Monday night we were at the Royal Academy for a talk entitled The Poetic Image in the Digital Age. Helmed by David Ward and featuring Howard Caygill, Julian Stallabrass and Agata Madejska, there were some interesting points made regarding the philosophical nature of the image (at some point I'll try and tackle Plato's cave...that point is not now) but the role of the digital went largely unaddressed. Understandably, Benjamin featured prominently in discussions, and there was a pigments = pixels = binary = dna thread that will fit into something I do somewhere.

It was also my first introduction to Madejka's work which is properly delightful. Her early Kosmos series is beautiful

Agata Madejska. kosmos #4, 2006. Lightjet C-type print on dibond aluminium, black aluminium tray frame, 41.8 x 52.3cm
Agata Madejska. kosmos #4, 2006. Lightjet C-type print on dibond aluminium, black aluminium tray frame, 41.8 x 52.3cm

The other item that was not only asterisked but also pointed to with a wide-angled arrow in my notes was s[edition]. Advertising itself as an ' instant, affordable, social and enjoyable' way of collecting art, it promises you can

Turn your screens into art and see how easy it is to collect and enjoy art in digital format.
— http://www.seditionart.com/about

The site offers still and video work, and there's people like Emin and Wim Wenders on their books, but... yes screens are ubiquitous and big, yes I can understand that it's just like a lightbox, but... there's something I can't quite reconcile (or articulate) about it that feels... wrong? no, not wrong, awkward? maybe... Needs some thinking about

The Sky at Night

In a recent essay about 'urban terroir' I talked about the idea of the grain of the city and used some of the beautiful ISS images of London, New York and Tokyo to describe the difficulty of reading character from such a removed perspective.

A few days before submitting the essay, an image of Berlin taken in 2012 by the European Space Agency surfaced and rudely interrupted my confident assurances that you needed to be on the ground and in the data to start making meaningful comment on the nature of the city.

This picture was taken by ESA astronaut André Kuipers from the International Space Station (ISS) and was first shown at the ISS Symposium 2012 in Berlin.

The former division between East and West Berlin can be seen. The yellow lights correspond to East Berlin and the greener tones show West Berlin. Over 20 years since the Berlin Wall was dismantled the effects of separating the city can still be seen from space.

The picture was taken using a new camera aid called NightPod. Nightpod tracks the Earth automatically as it moves below the Space Station resulting in images that are sharper and have more detail.
— http://spaceinimages.esa.int/Images/2012/05/Berlin_at_night

So, yeah, so much for not being able to read anything from a removed perspective...

LDNIA #2

Any day you get to ride in a New York-style warehouse cage lift type-affair is a good day. When Dan Catt, Matt Ward and Brick Lane beigels are waiting at the top of it, well that's just dreamy.

Albion London were the graceful hosts of LDNIA #2

Matt Ward talked visual perception, conceptual FOV and things that go BOOM

Dan Catt talked numbers.

Artisanal integers.

I need to learn to not be so anxious about numbers.