The Wista and I in action... Pic courtesy of Lyn Caswell.

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I’ve been keeping my final year work away from the Internet…

Soon, I will share something of what I’ve been up to during my last seven months at Newport.  So, watch this space!

 

An image collected during my research.  It's one of the 'babies' I had to 'kill' to get my book edit right...

An image collected during my research. It’s one of the ‘babies’ I had to ‘kill’ to get my book edit right…

 

 

Candour

This work was inspired by G.W. Manby’s 1802 work, ‘An Historic and Picturesque Guide from Clifton, Through the Counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan and Brecknock, With Representations of Ruins, Interesting Antiquities, & c. & c.’  Printed by Fenley and Baylis, Bristol.

What follows are the two mini essays which can be found at the back of my own book, the quotes I used to introduce each section and the images themselves.  The photographs in the book were handprinted in the colour darkroom and were presented as 5 x 4 prints, ‘tipped’ onto the pages.  The design on the cover and the end pages were taken from maps of the time and transformed by my colleague and graphic designer, Christie Powers.  Christie was also responsible for screen-printing the design onto the fabric that was used to create the cover.  The books were printed and constructed by Mr R. Prosser, working out of a Newport church.

For those unsure of the meaning of ‘candour’, it is a noun and ‘the quality of being open and honest; frankness’

The ‘essays’ (the first gives a little background to Manby’s own journey and the second gives the reader a little inclination of my own intentions):

Manby and his own grand tour

There is something charming in G.W. Manby’s ambition to write a ‘small tract’ to guide visitors through early 19th century South Wales; for his small ambition to ‘divert the mind’ and ‘restore the invalid’.  In an age when touring was for the sons and daughters of the aristocracy and focused on the grand scale, the mountains and waterfalls and incredible art held in private collections, Manby’s book takes us to the smaller, quieter places and a new industrial landscape.  We are led to the remains of a chapel in the middle of an unfriendly farmer’s field, to ancient artefacts built into walls and to castles that do not open their doors.  He takes us to marvel at the roar and stench of the Industrial Revolution and at each step of the way offers a commentary on the history of the land and a description of the people he meets along the way.

When Manby visited Merthyr Tydfil it was the largest and most powerful iron manufacturing area in the world; its furnaces lit the night sky and the town was alive with the sights and sounds of industry.  Tintern Abbey and Raglan Castle could be accessed and enjoyed without paying an entry fee.  Roman coins were being dug up by individuals and displayed in private collections.  According to Manby, the Welsh people were either charming or ignorant, depending on whether or not they spoke English.  His guide describes a South Wales in a period of growth and transition, from the ‘backward’ agricultural to the ‘modern’ mechanical; it was a time of discovery, innovation and adventure.  It was a place worth exploring.

Interestingly, his intended readership was not the sons of gentry who would once have embarked upon the ‘Grand Tour’ to Italy, but well-off residents of and visitors to Clifton and Hotwells in Bristol who fancied a change.  The author, a former army officer, was not a member of the upper class and this is reflected in the places he visits and the people he speaks to during his journey.  He has aspirations to ‘belong’ and attempts to build his own collection of Roman artefacts at Caerleon, but also, as an inventor and engineer, is excited by the new Glamorganshire canal and iron works.  He is a man of his time, but also, fascinated by progress, a man of the future.

Candour 

A piece of obscure travel writing from 1802 might not be the most obvious inspiration for a work of contemporary documentary photography, yet Candour has been made in response to Manby’s text.  Intrigued by his choice of route, and his intention to take an ‘honest’ look at the land, I decided to explore 21st century South Wales using Manby as my guide.  He has taken me to castles and country houses, small villages and culs-de-sac, to pub playgrounds and golf courses.  Unlike Manby, I do not seek to tell the reader exactly what they will find on their journey.  In fact, I have deliberately chosen not to name the places I photographed.  This is not a page by page survey and re-presentation of his work, but an homage to the country an independent pragmatic traveller could find, when making a journey, slowly.

Candour speaks of quiet places where in the making of the photograph I was able to remove myself from the bustle of the everyday and connect with the landscape and its past.  At times, I had a strong sense of Manby striding across the countryside in search of details which would delight, and in the focusing of my camera on objects and views which I found of interest, I felt a kinship with this man, this observer of the land.

Allusions to the historical and industrial heritage of South Wales exist within the photographs, but the work I hope is more subtle than this.  Both Manby’s text and the images that make up Candour,  speak of the trace of things, but also of man’s ability to move forward.  Candour is a ‘small tract’, a guide, a diversion and a sense of a land once more in transition.

 And finally, the photographs.  Reader, I present to you (out of context and not nearly as lovely on the screen):
Candour

One can rarely travel in any distance in this quarter, without perceiving indubitable proofs of the splendor that has reigned.

… here I had manifest proof of the inventive faculty of man, and persevering assiduity to surmount the obstacles lying in the way of his pursuits…
Never did I see a country more designed for happiness, or formed to smile misfortunes away…
I felt lost by the elegance of the ruins in their peaceful, sequestered spot, ornamented by the wonderful and bounteous hand of nature…
 
… fancy appears extravagant in her sublimities of wood, water, hill and dale…
 There is one final photograph, which interestingly is a favourite of many people who have seen the work so far.  Unfortunately, I am not able to show it to you at this time…  You will need to wait (or buy the book.  Tee hee.)
The title of this blog post refers to the feedback received from my tutor, in which it was pointed out that my photographic influences are still too obvious and that my work is too whimsical for his taste…  Actually, whimsy fits in rather nicely I think.  The definition in one on-line dictionary for whimsical is as follows,  ‘… playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way.’
I like to imagine that G.W. Manby would find some pleasure in the project inspired by his own, and find within it images and words that would ‘reward the tourist with pleasure, health and delight…’
p.s. I am sorry that some of the images are ‘stuck together’.  In the WordPress preview, this was not the case and I have no idea how to fix the problem!

A little glimpse…

July 4, 2012

So, it’s all done.  Finished, handed in, looked at, marked and handed back.  I really must get some photos of the book itself, but for now I am going to post a link to Christie Powers’ blog.  She was my fabulous designer and these images focus on the design features of the book.

Click here to see Christie’s images.

It seems as though ‘the book’ has been a long time coming and in fact, I am still not quite done with it.  I am currently sitting in my garret, awaiting a delivery of A1 sheets of paper which will need to be taken to someone to cut into A4…  This, along with my designer’s usb stick and the materials for the cover are going to our printer next week and then…

I thought that it might be a good idea to post a few images from the whole process, as it has been a real joy working on the project.  Thank you to everyone who has been involved so far!

Making pictures at Tintern Abbey.

My designer selling her wares at ffotgallery.

Chepstow peek-a-boo.

Lucy, on point at Portskewett.

Early inspiration for the design.

Early design meeting at City Campus.

Easter holiday trip: scouting for locations.

On location. The final image didn’t make the edit.

Raglan Castle fun. Final image not in edit.

Trying to work on a basic edit.

Inspiration for the front cover. Manby’s map.

Christie in the corridors of power.

Christie, with her front cover design.

One tough critic.

Making work prints for the final design meeting.

Trying to make an edit and a sequence.

First look a the sequence.

Amazing to think that within the next three weeks…  All of my work will be in a beautiful book, complete with handmade cover and real prints.

Slowly and steadily, I have been out there making pictures.  Three yesterday and two today…  Working with 5 x 4 is so different to using any other medium!  I’m nervous though about processing the negs as in my last batch I had weird things going on in half of them.  But is it a problem with the film itself (a dodgy batch) or an issue with the C-41 machine?  I’ve really got to get an answer soon, otherwise I will be selling the family silver to pay for processing in a professional lab!

What do you think?

Weird light i

Weird light ii

Weird light iii

Good news:  I’ve had three meetings with my graphic designer, Christie and hopefully we are all set to present a dummy of the first design to Stuart Smith and Paul Reas.  We’ve gone from wanting a big book, to something very different…  Let’s see what the experts think.

Taking inspiration from the view?

 

 

Panic over!

March 8, 2012

Seemingly one person did actually choose to work with me… But they forgot to put their contact details on the form!  I don’t know whether or not Paul was simply being kind and making up this story to ease the pain – but because of my panic and utter humiliating misery, he assigned a different designer to me.  I am very happy to be working with the only graphics student that I actually know, and a lovely person with pink hair to boot…  She, on the other hand has to deal with two of us: her first choice and yours truly.  So here is my promise to Christie:  I vow to be good and to supply a kitten to cuddle at times of greatest stress!  Big hugs and all best wishes to all of us for this next bit of the Doc Phot journey.

So, this is the current state of affairs. Whilst the majority of photographers have been paired with designers, three of us seem to have been left on the pitch, our knees knocking together from the metaphorical cold.

There are two most obvious possibilities here. Firstly, that there has been some gross administrative error which will be speedily rectified. Or secondly, that no-one, literally no-one wants to work with us…

Whilst I could understand why someone young and funky would rather not work with a middle-aged, strong-willed ex-teacher, I don’t understand why Sam and James are left shivering on the side line with me whilst everyone else gets started.

Time to learn how to use in-design and have split personality conversations with myself in the pitch and planning meetings. The latter will not be difficult – after all, I am a gemini.

Embarrassedly yours,

Denise