Tuesday, 5 July 2016

MA-Ness Week 13 (hopefully lucky for me) Printing Adventures, North and South, Lumen-ness+Cyanotype Failure, BFI-Ness, Procrastination Lurg and WW1 Photography

this weeks post it note - along with my current reading - I have 71 pages left to go and I am LOVING it - I bought it some time ago from a charity shop for 50p but only recently got round to reading it. It is quite a tatty copy and whilst the pages are secure - some of the cover is held together with sellotape.
The green sticky tabs are marking pages that had particularly useful/resonant quotes re death or funeral practices - there have been 3 funerals in the book so far...

Well the end date for this MA malarkey creeps ever closer and though I've made lots of lists about what things I need to do to put together my portfolio I haven't done much actual compiling - partly because I have *so* much work to sort through and partly because I've come down with cough/cold/flu lurgy (so poorly I missed the all day extravanganza of Silent Film with live musical accompaniment loveliness that was on at my favourite cinema The Hyde Park Picture House) and so my energy and concentration levels are somewhat lacking. But also partly if I'm honest - because if I put it off I can pretend the end isn't happening. But I'd best get over this a)lurg and b)endavoiding feeling-ness or else I'll be running round like a headless chicken come deadline time and I hate feeling like that more than the feelings of  enjoyable incredible things coming to an end.

Prior to coming down with lurg though I did do some printing of my images onto the coffin lining material offcuts using disperse inks and a big heat press iron type machine. So pleased with the results - both the actual image on the fabric but also the kind of ghost print it leaves on the newsprint paper you put underneath the material. Plus you can keep using the images though each time the print will fade, you can cut bits out, layer and do all manner of exciting things. I channelled the character of Bea from Prisoner Cell Block H (one of my televisual guilty pleasures) whilst pressing and felt a mix of both really excited at the end results but also a bit 'why has it taken me this long to discover this process???' - especially as the matte medium image transfer I'd tried last week hasn't worked so well. Have lined up multiple images (mostly fish eye lens views of St George's Field)  to be printed using disperse inks and all being well I'll soon be back up to full speed and so able to print them onto various pieces of material soon. 

It's so exciting!! and has worked a lot better than the matte medium transfer I mentioned, but I did get a lumen print using new Ilford black and white photographic paper which I'm really pleased with (it's of dried flower petals I've been collecting) but alas none of the cyanotypes I did worked at all. I'm not entirely sure why but think it's a mix of over development as I left them in the sun far too long (well over 30 minutes as I got distracted by other tasks - note to self if doing a cyanotype set timer alarm on phone and don't fall into trap of fearing there won't be anything there and think 'oh I'll just leave it a bit longer...) two did come out a bit but then I almost completely obliterated it by putting it in a bleach solution to try and bring down the overdeveloped blue a bit and not washing out the bleach enough. Ho hum. But the temporary dark room tent I rigged up using a clothes horse, some black throws and my red safe light worked a treat. It was easier to work under than just draping myself under a throw and whilst complete dark is not so vital re cyanotype prepped paper, it is with photographic paper to ensure you don't a) pre expose the piece you're working with and b)don't expose the rest of the packet to light either. Being in the dark with the red safe light meant I could take a bit more time positioning the paper and acetate negative image exactly where I wanted it as I could just about see what I was doing - RESULT!! I scanned and photographed the lumen print and might get it printed using disperse inks so I can put it on a t-shirt or something....the possibilities are legion. It does all feel a bit Heath Robinson though, if I had the money and the skills I'd be building a proper shed that I could kit out as a darkroom but as I don't have either the money or the skills my Heath Robinson-esque contraptions will have to do in the meantime.

So before last week ground into somewhat of a halt with coughing and snot I did some printing and I also attended the British Film Institute Feedback Event at Leeds Beckett. I'm on their mailing list and going to a screening at their HQ at the South Bank is on my list of of places to see a film screening - they did a John Waters season a while back but annoyingly I couldn't make any of the dates. It was a mix of film students trying to get a job, film festival organising folk, cinema runners, film students still studying and people like me who love going to the pictures and are interested in film heritage and conservation. There were lots of interesting conversations - like does film mean film in the digital era, what about all the information stored on videotape in people's houses that captured things like local news and local programmes in the days when ITV was made of regional broadcasters, what is being done to ensure that a) the technology to show stuff like that is maintained and b) the training of people to operate such equipment, is the resurgence of film in a photographic sense also going to happen in a cinematic sense. Plus how much Yorkshire is a centre for film makers these days and of course hanging over it all as it is hanging over everything at the moment - just what kind of an impact is Brexit going to have?  There was also much discussion about ways of making both audiences and film makers as diverse as possible and what the barriers are to inclusion. Cultural differences were mentioned but by far the biggest barrier people talked about was socioeconomic and the lack of finance/disposable income. I am very lucky to be able to afford my cinematic habit - I don't go to the pub very often (I tend to drink at home) but I go to the pictures at least two or three times a month. 

They are looking for responses so they can build their programme for the next few years -and you can make your input here - and please do. They want to build on the success of Film Forever campaign. A logo and legend which I've seen at the beginning of many a film recently and one which makes me rub my hands with glee and think 'ooh I'm in for a treat'. Something which I told to one of their head bods when chatting with a glass of wine afterwards -  he seemed very taken with the fact that I still used the phrase 'going to the pictures' when talking about going to the cinema as apparently no-one in that London does anymore - according to him they only call it 'going to the movies'.  I must be honest it's only recently that I've become more aware of the BFI and their work - but I am looking forward to watching more on their website and maybe signing up for movie watching service. Plus I am more than happy being an un-metropolitan in comparison bumpkin.

I also went on a walk round Meanwood Woods - but not just any walk, this was an interactive, poetic, curated and thought provoking walk organised by the people behind A Quiet Word which you can read about here. It was quite beautiful to be in the woods - a place I often walk round but not as late at night and not with as many people and certainly not to hear wonderful poetry or watch choreography or listen to beautiful singing. It's finished its run for now - but I hope they do it or something similar again as it was very good indeed. Plus I didn't get bitten by any midges though alas my gaffer taped wellies had well and truly given up the bucket (and let in a bit of mud) by the end and they are now on their way to landfill but as I'd had them for at least 6 or 7 years and had worn them a lot (even though they were bright pink with flowers on) I don't feel too bad about that.

Thanks to lurg I've been doing a lot more reading and watching than I have any doing (apart from coughing and blowing my nose) the past week - North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell which is taking some ploughing through as the style of sentence construction is dense (I often have to read sentences a couple of times before I've properly understood them) but so rewarding - think I'll be using chapter titles from it as inspiration and possibly titles for my own pieces (same as I've done with Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon) and I've also ploughed through a few more chapters of Death in England edited by Jupp and Gittings (now understand a bit more about the decline of funereal pomp after the first world war) and watched a few programmes on BBC4 including the documentary about the origins and rise of Punk - Punk Britannia which was very interesting. There was a piece where Siouxsie Sioux (one of my heroines) was talking to camera and said 'once something becomes easy to copy it loses its power' which struck me as true in some ways but not in others.

The other fascinating, poignant, moving, horrifying and wonderful programmes were about poets and writers of the first world war (some of who survived and some who didn't) and a programme about the non military photography taken during the war - most of it on a camera called the Kodak Vest Pocket which was first made in 1912 and cost 30 shillings which was quite a lot of money in those days and so was more likely to have been owned by officer types as they could more likely afford it. I have a Kodak Vest Pocket - still working but it is a later model from the early 1920's though it looks much the same as the original model issued in 1912.

It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to see some of the photographs taken on those cameras, not just in terms of their subject matter but also in terms of the way in which they were taken as personal photography of that kind was outlawed by British High Command. Though not until the war was already in progress and an article on how best to do it had been featured in one of the amateur photographer magazines of the time had been published.

One soldier had a prearranged code with his family back in England that if he asked for a cake in his letters he meant 'send me a film' - though there was no mention of how the pictures taken were developed. The pictures featured were found amongst the belongings of two grandfathers - one german and one english and featured their grandsons comparing them. There was some interesting but to my mind also slightly misleading analysis of the pictures - ie one of the remains of a completely blown up tree being symbolic of all the destruction, or the haunting one of the nameless dead soldier lying on the ground before a crucifix. As evocative and hauting as those images were the analysis was entirely through 21st century eyes and mores, as surely trying to define the motivations of now dead photographers who left no written or verbal clues as to why they took the pictures they did. Plus as well as choosing (within the very real confines presumably of where best to stand and not get shot or be spotted by a commanding officer) where to stand and what to take an image of - they could also have moved things/bodies to be in or out of frame. I initially used the word shot in that sentence and then realised whilst this would be a technically correct photographic word to use - in this context I'm a little uncomfortable with it - mostly because people might think I was either being insensitive or deliberately flippant.

One thing I wish documentary makers would do though - instead of just thanking archives and other image suppliers in the credits at the end, would be to label each image/film clip not across the bottom with the following details (if known) who took it, where it was taken and when. Too often in documentaries there is footage of victorian era slums or somesuch when moving film images just weren't around and yes it might add to atmosphere but it's not adding to truthfulness....

Well I'd best crack on with all the other things on my not getting any shorter to do list.



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