Monday, 25 January 2016

MA-Ness Term 2 Week 4 - Revelations, UV Resistant Gloss, Return of Letter, Phd-Ness, Cyanotype Solution Painting and Lots of thinking and some light reading....

Slightly more on this weeks post it note - indictative of a slightly busier week too....but can't show you anymore pics as am still working through all the ones I took the fortnight before - deciding which ones to print and which ones to use to make cyanotypes of...and speaking of cyanotypes spent a good chunk of today mixing up the ready made solutions of sodium ferricyanide and ammonium citrate in deinonised water into a one part to one part solution....

Had a busy day today - been painting cyanotype solution onto different coloured paper - red, light grey and dark grey and and dipping lacey pieces of material into the solution, wringing them out and then letting them dry. I learnt that paper takes much less time to dry than material and the heavily embroidered bits of lace don't absorb the solution the same as the unembroidered bits...

Really looking forward to using them and got an idea of which images I want to try and develop on them too - one will hopefully be the angel I took a colour photograph of in the graveyard at Cleethorpes and the other will be of the shrouded female face atop a gravestone in Chapel Allerton.

No prizes for guessing that it would be images from graveyards...but as yet none from St George's Fields but there will be once I've finished sorting through the latest lot of pics I took there - well chuffed with some of the 120 ones I took - not least because they were taken on a fully manual camera and I always feel more of accomplished photographer when I've used a fully manual camera and made it do what I want it too - other than deciding on the viewpoint and releasing the shutter that is. I used the readings from the point and shoot pocket digital camera to set the exposure/shutter speed and they all came out okay. HUZZAH!!

I am still using the crap kids digital camera though - took another lot in St George's Fields in the sunshine on Friday and am well chuffed with some of them. It's such a fun camera to use. Plus it is also very light to carry and fits in my pocket no problem plus since my addition of black insulation tape over the battery compartment the chances of unintentionally deleting the images on it are minimised...though I do have to keep an eye on battery levels as it loses them if the batteries run out too.

Sadly though the letter I sent to the coffin manufacturers to ask if they had any lining scraps I could have for printing on has been returned 'addressee gone away' so I'll have to try other funeral business acquaintances to see if I can find any coffin offcuts that way....

I went to a lecture at the Henry Moore Institute last week - it was given by Tom McCarthy who is one of the founders of the fabulously named International Necronautical Society who have a manifesto that you can read here and which looks right up my street so to speak - or should that be right up my avenues of graves?...anyways I understood some of it and some of it went right over my head (I updated my to do list during those bits) but I also got some good suggestions for my ever expanding reading list including some Joseph Conrad but I also overheard a remark that is making me think re doing a phd.

A chap in the audience asked another chap how he was getting on with his practice led phd, chap replied he was struggling with the writing side of it and original chap said he wondered if this fashion for practice led phds 'is creating a generation of artists who can write better than they can practice'....more food for thought there. I think my deciding factor as to whether or not I decide to go for it phd-wise is the dissertation results which are due on Friday...if that goes okay then I think I'll start researching options seriously. Plus I had an idea re researching the kind of labour used in photographic studios when they were at their hey day in the victorian period....

The lecture was in response to Katrina Palmer's very wonderful Necropolitan Line installation which I have completely fallen in love with ('we are sorry for being sorry') and have looked at the some of the information accompanying it on the Henry Moore Institute website - including a video which looks at some of the ideas behind it - and some of the phrases which struck me enough to write them down on my post it note were:
art exceeds language (yes it can, but sometimes it also needs language to explain it/title it/help it a bit...imo)
sculpture is subject to gravity and revealed in light - beautiful phrasing and description of sculpture
it's the spaces between words which makes language work - yep - love this phrase too.

I also spent some time last week catching up with the lady who taught me Human Remains Analysis at Leeds Discovery Centre (in theory I can reassemble skeletons, determine their sex, age and possible cause of death - in practice I got very giddy because I was holding a real human skull, real human bones...) It was aces to see her and to discuss the possibilities of our working together in the future on some projects.

Projects which hopefully would make people look anew at their landscape and the kind of role it had in people's lives in the past...Places where there is evidence of human habitation and use back to the bronze age and the seemingly spiritual use of that landscape for honouring/housing the dead of those societies. I was also intrigued again by the use of water/reflective surfaces/superstitions about them in death rituals. I have done some research already about this - will have to dig it out and re-familiarize myself with it, am especially intrigued with the practice of breaking objects in this world before throwing them in the water - presumably to either stop them being used in this world so they only be used in the next...not sure about this interpretation though as it does sound a bit unproveable hippy supposition to me.

What else - well I've invested in some UV Resistant Gloss Spray - going to try it (outside or in a very well ventilated room at college)on some of the lumen and anthotype prints I have done and see if it fixes the issue of being able to show them as without any kind of uv resistance they'll completely fade...though this of course means potentially sacrificing some of the work I've already made. Will have to pick a piece carefully....

Yesterday I finally got my arse in gear to go to the Revelations Exhibition at the Media Museum in Bradford. WOW!! What a wonderful show, if you haven't been and can get there then you must for it is fabulous. Have completely fallen in love with work of Gyorgy Kepes (Ghost from 1962 is just wonderful) Berenice Abbott - she believed that science needed the voice of the artist to lend 'the warm human quality of the imagination to its austere and stern discipline'. Plus some of the phraseology used was just gorgeous:
John William Draper's Solar Spectrum from 1842 is labelled with 'time occupied in exposure', 'accidental mercury', plus some of the older prints had the tiniest precise brown (though presumably faded from black)ink handwriting on. Very fine nibs must have been the order of the day then - I love a big chunky nib, be it on a biro or on a fountain pen. I use fountain pen in my physical diary.

The others things which caught my eye were 'helioautograph camera, the embossing of the velvet cases containing daguerreotypes, 'chickens scared by a torpedo' - which can't have been much fun for the chickens but which made my husband really laugh, the work of Lazlo Monoly-Nagy, 'conventions of a single point perspective', Carl Struwe's work which looked like charcoal drawings til you got close and realised there was no visible texture on the surface like there would be with charcoal but they were in fact huge photographs of tiny things under magnification - his image of the chlorophyll chain in algae looked like some of the mourning jewellery popular in victorian times made out of hair. I also particularly loved the stark desolation of Clare Strand's 'The Betterment Room'

I also looked a bit more at how work is displayed and how it reminded me in some ways of my church experience as a youth - ie an almost silent reverent space, I also found myself reading the writing on the wall before looking at the pieces and going round things in a more orderly fashion as opposed to bull in a sweetshop fashion at whatever catches my eye first. Not sure if this is me maturing, whether thoughts of curation are on my mind as we start making preparations for the end of year show or just a well put together show.

Going to the museum reminded me how much I love 'the materiality of photographic processes' - digital is all well and good but there is something about a physical end product and a physical product other than a memory card and a camera to put images on the memory card which just makes my heart sing.

Other things which make my heart sing - graveyards, vinyl records, valve radios, typewriters, skulls, my husband, cats, really cheap and nasty roman catholic iconographic souvenirs, most museums....

Also learnt a bit more about the history of photography as a process, the impact dry plate technology had on photo taking, just how toxic daguerreotype potentially were (mercury vapour anyone?) and also looked at a photograph of a studio production line in Scotland where all the workers looked like women in mournig dress - further investigation needed there.

This week is going to consist of more boxercise classes hopefully as exercise is making me feel better and more energised, catching up with chums not seen in a while, and re-familiarizing myself with black and white photographic print making as it's been a while since I've done that and I'm missing the magic of watching the image appear in the chemical wash....I'm also hoping to make a bit more of an inroad into my unread books pile as well as a bit more of the 'trashy' novel I'm reading for fun - Silent In The Grave by Deanna Rayburn set in London in 1886, it's the tale of widowed Lady Julia Grey and her quest with Nicholas Brisbane to discover if her husband was murdered and who killed him. I'm about a quarter of the way through and it's great fun so far...    

Monday, 18 January 2016

MA-Ness Term 2 Week 3 Newness, Oldness, Deadness, Happiness and That Kind Of Thing...

Just one image this week - and it's quite a full post it note as it has been a busy week in which I have taken LOTS of photographs but as they were almost all on film (1 colour 120, 1 b+w 120 - both of St George's Fields, 3 x 35mm colour and 1 x 36 35mm colour  most of St George's Fields but also of a little graveyard somewhere in the outer reaches of Huddersfield.
The reason for this excessive use of colour is partly the cost - as am still using up the last of the AGFA ISO 200 colour film I got from the poundshop and one roll of ISO 800 colour film - forget the make but think it might have been Fuji film but also because somewhat ironically colour film better captures the greyness of the wintertime...

I'm typing this from or should that be on the new computer and whilst I am not a fan of what appears to be todays fad for built in obsolescence in devices nor of externally enforced change - it is a joy to be using a machine that does not take 15 minutes to warm up, freeze every half hour or so and so necessitate persistent pressing of control/alt/delete buttons and despairing cries of 'just fucking work' from me plus it can more easily cope with all the images I need to copy/paste, move from folder to folder, edit and transmute into new images. Massive thanks as ever to my lovely supportive husband who bought it, faced the hideousness of a retail park to pick it up and then set it up and installed all the software on it. I did make him lots of cups of tea and brought him whisky as a thank you whilst he was wrestling with it though. 

Best of all though after much searching I found the installation disc for my crap kids digital camera. It remains one of my favourite cameras to use and this means I'll still be able to use it and retrieve and print the pictures from it. When I bought it last summer I put the installation disc in a safe place which meant of course that when I needed it again I couldn't remember where the safe place was...
But much hunting on workroom bookcase shelves found it - I had tried just plugging it in via its USB cable into the laptop but with no joy as although it recognised there was a device attached, it couldn't access the pictures on it, and the same thing happened with the college Macs. Though I had been promised they'd be able to work it as Macs don't need drivers apparently....computers remain a frustrating, necessary and rewarding part of my day to day life though and I'd be lost without them and like I said it is very lovely indeed to be using one that (so far anyway) is working very well indeed.

So now I'll be able to get on with the photo sorting that I need to do, need to start putting things together into a portfolio and working out best ways to show them, am still loving having them digitally printed onto tracing paper as I love the translucency and they look *so* good when help up against the light (which reminds me I really must sort out either making a light box or sourcing some anyway) plus an A4 tracing paper print is only 10p and so almost cheap as chips*

And fingers crossed amongst the 6 rolls I'm awaiting getting back there will be some 'money shots' worth printing and getting blown up big - especially on the 120 films. Along with graveyard shots I also took some shots from the train - I went to Huddersfield by train last week to catch up with an ex fellow ma-er and to look round the little cemetery near to her house. It was cold and damp but well worth the journey as it was lovely to catch up with her and see the work she is working on at the moment as well as having a look around a new to me cemetery plus it was excellent to be at the station at standard commuting times and be reminded of how lucky I am not to have to do that on a regular basis.

I went to another kind of station this weekend - the one installed at the Henry Moore Institute by Katrina Palmer and called the Necropolitan Line. I thought it was wonderful - quirky, funny, thought provoking, engaging, stimulating and it made me quite envious too. I'd love to realise work on that kind of scale but that is a goal to work towards. I shall go again during the day when hopefully I'll be able to sit on the platform and listen to the announcements uninterrupted and fully absorb all its wonderfulness. I also feel both inspired and comforted by the work as well as a little envious in a way.

Last week I wrote  I have written to a firm of coffin makers this week to ask if they have any scraps of coffin lining material leftover that I could use to experiment printing on. When I told my Mum this she asked the perfectly reasonable question 'Why?' though I would have preferred it if she hadn't asked it in such a disgusted and incredulous way. I explained that as my work deals with death, and is often of cemeteries then it seems an entirely reasonable if not logical thing to do. I don't think she was convinced and still thinks me 'morbid'. Which my lovely old school Little Oxford Dictionary (1978 edition) defines as: 'adjective-not natural and healthy; indicative etc of disease'.

Mmm - she might have a point but then again she might not and this in turn makes me think of the quote at the top of my post it note from an old prayer card I saw in Kirkstall Museum Archive asking people to pray for the canonisation of Sister Marie Celine who apparently 'died in the odour of sanctity' and was sanctified in September 2007.  I'm completely intrigued by the phrase 'odour of sanctity' and cannot help but wonder what that smells like....

I also wonder what the bread made by the bakers trying to emulate the methods used by Victorian bakers smells like. I've only made bread with yeast a couple of times - I'm too impatient to have to let things rise, prove, knock them back and then rise again but I often make soda bread as that is a bit more straightforward. I've really enjoyed the programme and learnt quite a lot about the different ways of breadmaking and the role (pun unintended) of baking in a society as it industrialises and expands. The number of calories calculated as needed by manual workers to complete their tasks in those days is staggering and the bulk of them came from bread. It's also been fascinating to see the making of the different types of bread, the origin of the fashion for white bread and the dreadful additives used to help make those loaves as cheaply and as whitely as possible. It's very easy to be sniffy and appalled by the lack of trading standards and health and safety legislation years ago but as one of the presenters pointed out - corners will always be at risk of cutting if the primary factor in its production is cheapness of cost....horsemeat lasagne anyone?

Got lots on this week too so hopefully next weeks post it note will be just as full and there may even be more pictures too.....

*it might be twice as expensive though - it's roundabout £2 for a bag of chips these days and you probably get about 60 chips or more...either way it is lots cheaper than printing on more traditional photographic paper.


Monday, 11 January 2016

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 2 Week 2 Relaxation, Enervation, Affirmation, Very Old Newspapers Indeed and Taking Photographs

this weeks post it note - much more filled in than last, current reading which is an excellent and thought provoking book and an appropriate bookmark made from medium format film backing paper

Front page of an original copy of the Leeds Intelligencer from July 1836 as perused in Leeds Library - utterly wonderful...and aside from design, change in language and attitudes not much has changed really - newspapers in 1836 were full of gossip - who had attended what ball, international events and adverts for hair dye, and the latests in fashions with economy
What became known as 'the bastard dissertation' all safely printed up, bound and handed in - now awaiting it being marked with some trepidation but fingers crossed it'll be okay.....

Had a much more chilled week last week, life seems so much easier when there isn't a scarey deadline hanging over you. It was a delight to get back to work in a gentle way - I did some picture taking in St George's Fields, did some playing about on the photocopier (am interested in the way you can degrade the quality of images by photocopying them and then photocopying each subsequent copy - think it is an interesting way to explore how memories can change over time) and some colouring in too with oil pastels as well as quite a lot of thinking about why am I doing the course and what am I doing it for and why I love the things I do.

This thinking was partly as a result of a conversation with my husband and one with my tutor. I want to do as well as I possibly can on this course and the predominant way I had been measuring this was by the marks I'd got for assignments which on reflection seems a rather narrow and reductive way of looking at things, plus it runs the risk of me thinking it hasn't been worthwhile if I don't do well markswise. Which would be silly really - it's taught me a whole new way of looking at other people's work and my own, I've learnt a whole new vocabulary, met all sorts of interesting people and been able to use some really wonderful even if I don't get the overall grade I really want it won't have been wasted at all. And I need to remind myself of this more often when I am getting worked up over marks and the academic hoop jumping side of things.

I got the Photographers Playbook  (Fulford J and Halpern G 2014 Aperture) out of the college library last week after seeing it listed in the bibliography for an abstract for a paper called 'Botanizing On The Asphalt': Wandering as Generative Interpretation by Bonny McDonald and Ruth Laurion Bowman.  And I fell in love with it instantly after reading this quote which is just inside the cover:

'But it just happens, every so often, that something very ordinary seems beautiful to me and I'd like it to be eternal. I'd like this bistro, and that dusty light bulb, and that dog dreaming on the marble and even this night - to be eternal. And their essential quality is precisely that they aren't'.  - Raymond Queneau Witch Grass.

This completely resonated for me (so much so my own copy of the book is on its way to me via a large online tax avoiding company...) and made me think of the times I've stood on Whitby Pier watching the waves crash against the pier wall and wanting to be able to bottle that sound, smell and moment and be able to return to it whenever I want - especially in times of distress (oh how I wish I'd have been able to bottle the smell of the fur behind Lucia's ears as it was so lovely) and no amount of photograph or video taking can relive that moment in its entirety but it can at least boost your memory of it. I've also wanted to 'bottle' moments of peace amongst the remaining stones in St George's Field - I'm trying to make it into a habit that every time I go to college I also pop across the road too so I can resoak myself in its peace and calm.

I'm not sure why I find such peace and solace in what used to be a graveyard - it's partly an aesthetic thing and because it's peaceful and quiet. But I am also very aware that in its past it will also have been a place of great emotional pain and torment, for even if you do believe (like many victorians did) in an afterlife and that once dead provided you have lived a good life you will ascend to heaven and so be in a 'better place' those left behind still have the trauma of missing and grieving and sometimes I worry I'm possibly being a bit ghoul-like when what I want to do is promote the practice of honouring lost loved ones.

Along with lots of thinking, and a bit of reading I also did some research this week - I looked at original copies of the Leeds Intelligencer held in Leeds Library. The very splendid library which is next door to and above Paperchase and very wonderful it was too. You can read all about the library here and if you get chance to go/join then do for it is very lovely indeed. I was in a room marked with signs saying things like 'you are requested not to talk' and 'this room is for silent study' and aside from the ticking of a very wonderful Potts Clock and the distant noise of a clock elsewhere in the library chiming the hours it was beautifully quiet. No chatting, no people tapping on mobiles, or tapping on laptops and the noise from the outside street only became noticeable as the lunch hour began.

I was looking at copies of the Leeds Intelligencer from 1834-1836. In that time it was published once a week on a saturday and you also had to pay a penny tax on top of the cover peice when you bought it. Each copy was stamped somewhere on the front cover with a red tax paid stamp. Initially it consisted of two folded pieces of paper so 4 sides in total and it was adverts on the first two pages. then  reports from the 'imperial parliament', local and national news and gossip. All in very small densely packed typeface, no illustrations though some engraved logos - though not sure they would have called logos then. Very different in tone and look from todays newspapers but not all that dissimilar in terms of content. By 1836 it was 4 pieces of paper folded in two and the first 4 sides were of adverts.

Utterly marvellous adverts for places like the Lounge - 17 Boar Lane Leeds whose proprietor '[respectfully begs to announce that he has just imported a beautiful Assortment of GENEVA WATCHES and several elegant GILT TIME PIECES (15 days movement) with many choice and Beautiful Specimens of Foreign Manufacture, adapted either as Presents or Articles of bijoutire for the Drawing Room'. Capitalisation exactly as in advert.

This advert makes me smile so much - and later on in the period I was looking at, there were adverts for hair dye, wax flowers and 'newest fashions in beaver bonnets' and of course PROFESSOR STEHELINS BOTANICAL PILLS which came complete with a treatise on syphilitic and venereal diseases with 'observations on seminal weaknesses arising from early abuses'. An immediate cure was available with 'secrecy and safety' from 11 Albion Street Leeds for just 2s 9d a box.....

But perhaps best of all the newspapers smelt of old - not just the old cold of being kept in an archive but the almost 200 years of being stored, they were beautifully creased and torn around the edges and were covered in fine black soot from candles and coalfires. Utterly wonderful and captivating. I could have looked at them all day but after a couple of hours and finding the article I wanted to - namely a report about the first funeral to be held at St George's Fields or rather Leeds General Cemetery as it was known then and the calls for subscription to the monument for Michael Sadler (still there alongside the Chapel in St George's Fields) as well as an advert detailing the burial charges I called it a day. Reading such dense type is hard on the eyes and I had to wash my hands more than once to get rid of the dirt of the centuries, as much as I love 'old', I don't want 'old' on my sandwiches and by that time I was very hungry indeed.

I took lots of photographs on Sunday in St George's Fields before heading to the Hyde Park for the afternoon showing of The Lady In The Van. I've never known the ground so soggy and boggy at St George's Fields - the annual reports often complained of poor drainage and there were lots of puddles, not just on the paths of subscription graves laid flat but also on the grass. I took the opportunity to take pics of reflections in the puddles though alas the repairs I'd made to my wellies with gaffer tape aren't as watertight as I would like...but they don't leak as much as they did so at least I only had cold as opposed to wet feet to watch the film.

And what a glorious film it was - heartwarming, poignant, heartbreaking and funny. I'd read the story many years ago and seen a production at Leeds Playhouse many moons ago too so knew the story. Maggie Smith was utterly wonderful as Miss Shepherd. As was the chap who played both Bennetts Alex Jennings. I absolutely love her assertion that as it was holy water that she put in the battery it had no need to be distilled, and the keeping of the air freshener behind the Virgin Mary by the confessional. The unhelpful lay secretary at the convent was a small but also very revealing part about just how miserable and restrictive a religious life can be. I want to watch it again.

So this week is going to consist of more photograph taking, more reading and a lot of thinking about what format I want my final project to take as I have no hand in until the middle of August when I have to hand in my portfolio and I need to focus (pardon the pun) on that but alas no trips to the oldy worldy splendour of Leeds Library again for a while...just my overcrowded workroom instead..... 

Monday, 4 January 2016

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 2 Week 1 - Getting Back Into Swing Of Things, Ruminations, Overview and Stuff....

blank but wonderful funeral/memorial card from victorian era held at Kirkstall Museum Archive - this was quite large, not quite a4 but not far off - should have put something next to it for scale. Most of the other ones I looked at were postcard size and filled in. 
the last months post it note - a mix of proper notes, argh-ness and need to get back into proper habit of filling it in
I absolutely adore Sweep and this is the back of the calendar a lovely chum has sent me which has really made me smile - currently avoiding urge to only put it on May as Sweep looks so fantastic as Superdog or October where he is doing a wonderful kind of werebear with inverted fangs and Soo a rather marvellous Bride of Frankenstein - not really relevant to my studies but as it makes me smile I'm hoping it does you too

Plastic hollow skull of loveliness - bought it in poundshop full of marshmallowy sweetie goodness a couple of years ago and in which I now put pieces of paper filled with lovely things that have happened over the year so I can look at them every so often and be reminded of nice things - especially useful in times of sadness and stress and I have emptied it ready for this year - and first thing in it so far this year is description of above calendar gift.  

I last updated this blog/research journal on 9th December and it feels like a very long time ago indeed - much longer than the calendar month it almost is. Since then I have completed my dissertation, and I am trying to ignore the headweasels who are telling me that it isn't very good and now I need to patiently await the marks and feedback for it. I'm still having trouble deciding whether I found it really stressful because it is in itself a stressful thing to do or whether I found it so hard given everything else that was going on/is going on outside of college life. It's definitely making me think whether or not my phd hopes are worth pursuing as if 8024 words causes me that amount of grief would 30-40,000 be proportionally more stressful......something to discuss at my next tutorial I think.

This is why the top of the post it note says THIS PAGE IS LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK SO EMPHATICALLY - as that's exactly what I felt like by the time I'd finished writing what became known as 'the bastard dissertation'....but of course some things found their way onto the piece of paper - one of them being the stress of trying to work on a semi-broken computer which kept freezing and locking up - never has control alt and delete been pressed so vigorously or so often... and nor has a complete meltdown been so nearly achieved when I thought it had lost all the work I'd done - even though I had backed it up and sent it to myself and saved it on a memory stick - but it was my misreading of the last version date due to no doubt being stressed about the bloody thing in the first place that caused that. As ever massive thanks are due to my ever lovely supportive and clever husband who got the computer working more smoothly by uninstalling stuff we no longer use, and he also did a lot of proofreading and feeding me during the last few days of putting it together too. I would be utterly lost without him.

But it's looking like we're going to have to get a new computer as this one is reaching the time of its built in obsolescence - a concept I find both annoying and depressing but as we live in a capitalist society in which the one of the loudest and most insistent messages is consume, consume, update, update not surprising. It'll mean upgrading to a new version of windows though....which means we'll no longer have microsoft viewer which I find the easiest picture editing software to use - I mostly edit photos on the computer by two ways - cropping and contrast and I find viewer the quickest and simplest way to do this, it cannot invert images or boost levels though so I do use photoshop for that. Oh and cropping out modern fecking bins from otherwise victorian era avenues of graves or of course cat hairs....but otherwise if I have to do more than that then I didn't take a good enough photograph in the first place. My enjoyment comes from taking the image I want as far as possible in camera and then  making a cyanotype or print of it...not fecking about with it for hours on the computer afterwards....that to me is no fun at all.

No idea what I meant by 'abundance of caution' in pencil but I am reminded of some other quotes which leapt out at me from one of my all time favourite writers and much mentioned on this blog - Joyce Carol Oates whose book Mudwoman (4thestate 2012 edition) I finished over xmas - it's the disturbing tale of an abandoned and rescued child who is adopted by quaker parents and becomes chancellor of a university. Creepy and unsettling in places I wouldn't recommend it if you wanted instant upliftment but would if you want something absorbing and thought provoking.

This sentence on page 202 really jumped out at me when the lead character M R is in conversation with a film maker and says:
'Documentary films. To change people's minds, you have to touch their emotions. Only the arts have that capacity - to touch emotions'.

and when she is remembering her mother who was a librarian talking about books:
'When you read a book you are inside it - and you are safe there' italics as in the text.

Lots of food for thought there....

At the top of this post is an image of a blank funeral/memorial card held in the archives of Kirkstall Museum, which I was fortunate to be able to visit just before xmas. I owe massive thanks to Nicola - one of the curators there who showed me all the funeral related ephemera the museum holds - cards, letters, clippings, and most wonderfully of all - a book of verses to choose from to put on a gravestone or in a newspaper announcement. I was incredibly giddy and pleased to see one of these as they are often mentioned in some of my favourite books about the growth of the funeral trade and the formalisation of the undertaking process but this was the first time I'd seen one in the flesh as it were. Amazing and lots of future inspiration for work there.

And of course a reminder that a lot of archives are open to anyone - you just need to get in touch and make an appointment. For some you have to be a student or affiliated to an academic institution but for lots you need nothing more than to ask and if they can help they will - Leeds Museums Archive is one such place as is the Special Collections part of Leeds University and it doesn't cost anything to you as the researcher either - other than time and space on your memory card that is. Though each of the archives I've visited has very different policies when it comes to photograph taking. And as Nicola said - the whole point of archives is that they are there for people to look at - otherwise what is the point of keeping them?

One thing I did make a note of though was the Harryhausen documentary I saw over the festive period - I am a huge fan of his work, I am completely in love with the skeletal armies he made to fight with Sinbad and have been lucky enough to see one in the flesh as it were at an exhibition held at the Media Museum in Bradford a while back....except of course it couldn't have been one of the skeletons fighting Sinbad as it was far too small....

There was lots of footage in the documentary of him talking about the way he worked and in turn the people like Nick Park (maker of Wallace and Gromit and many other plasticine marvels)  who he (Harryhausen) inspired, Park spoke of the tactility of using actual armatured sculptures and what real puppets as opposed to digital effects have on the audience watching them and the relationship they have with the film - that is how people are more likely to believe in them whereas now people are more likely to think 'oh that's not an army of thousands, that's just CGI'. It made me hanker to watch all sorts of films again - not just Harryhausen and Park gems but Busby Berkeley Musicals which involve the coordinating of so many real dancers.

Aside from making sure all was finished as it could be in terms of work to hand in for assessment and tidying my work room - (though anyone who saw it maybe for forgiven for thinking the opposite if they saw it) I've purposefully avoided looking at college related stuff over the festive period in a deliberate attempt to destress and recharge batteries ready for this term. I have been out and about taking pictures though - but as they are all on colour film (it captures winter greyness better than black and white does) I've not seen them yet but am hoping to get them developed soon...and fingers crossed amongst them will be images I can make into cyanotypes. I'm not one for making resolutions as such but one thing I want to do this term is spend more time in the dark room and I have some lovely material I want to paint with cyanotype solution too.....

I'm also hoping that the death I deal with this year is of the academic to be researched kind and not the personally devastating kind and of course last but not least all the very best for 2016 for all those reading this blog too.