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Secretive and Squirrely.

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Fiddling

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I’ve been playing a fair bit recently with different ideas and antique processes. In large part because I’ve no access to running water in my current studio space, thus my re-visiting physautotype. It’s a nice process for me in that it doesn’t require water at all, and it’s really not terribly sensitive to light (I also have no capacity to black out my space during the day, closing the curtains and working quickly is sufficient ).

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This was a bad pour, the imafe is from a lith negative I had lying about. It was very thin, it seems that physautotype likes thin negs.

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This is from my digital infrared series, I finally found an output from these files that I like.

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This was a test exposure, it gives you a decent idea of what the plate looks like without any special holder. There’s a lot of detail there when it’s displayed correctly.

So the next step is re-jigging my negatives to be a bit thinner, which should preserve the shadow detail.

I’ve also been playing with an idea about dageurrotypes.IMG_20160322_155900

This is as far as I’ve gotten, not so special really. But in this case I’m trying to use cheap silver plated flatware and I’m using iodophor steriliser with a wet treatment to create the sensitive plate, so even this level of success is pretty surprising.

It’s not something I expect to work out very quickly, but it is fairly cheap to do.

 

Written by secretivesquirrel

March 22, 2016 at 3:21 am

Physautotype… again.

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So I’ve started working with physautotype again. right now I’m gettting some decent results, not quite perfect, but it’s starting to happen.

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These are made with one gram of violin rosin which is crushed to powder, then heated till liquid, cooled, crushed to powder again and added to 100ml of ethanol alcohol. (I’m using purple meths, seems to work fine).

This solution is put to the glass plate with a syringe (the glass plate held level on the fingertips of the opposite hand), the solution is swished around till it covers the whole glass plate, then swished around some more before it’s poured off the corner.

After the plate is poured off and stops dripping I turn the plate by 90 degrees so the next corner is down (the plate being held vertically at this point) and I use a paper towel to mop the bottom two edges of the plate till no more solution beads at the edge (note; the edge, not the surface of the plate).

Soon after this the plate will pass from transparent to a light frosted look, when this light frost covers the whole plate (it can be sped a little by fanning or lightly blowing on the plate) the plate is put down and over the next few minutes a secondary frost will occur. If the coating is uneven or the glass wasnt clean it will be obvious.

I’m using overhead transparencies for the negative (it’s direct positive, so the negative is actually a positive), which seems to work, though I still have a little work to do there, I give it three hours under a nail polish setter and then develop using mineral turpentine fumes.

The mineral turps fumes incidentally don’t need to be concentrated, I put a small splash on some black card in a pyrex dish and that’s enough to last a few days, if you can smell it then it’s probably strong enough.

Then leave it somewhere that it can air and get some sun, and it’s fixed. hold in front of a black surface and the image will show up nicely.

More later…

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March 21, 2016 at 7:19 am

Physautotypes…

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Well, I investigated the idea that I thought would allow me to print them faster – doesn’t work sadly 😛

The idea was sensitizing the solution with methylene blue dye – Only I think I may have used a bit much as it pooled quite drastically, and frankly it cut the sensitivity away to nearly nothing, so I may be on to something with the idea of spectral sensitizing, just I have it backwards or something. *shrug*

That’s my pouring bench, my uber high tech coating method is to put about 1/6th tsp of solution in a spoon and then dump it in the middle of a clean plate… Like so (after 30 sec or so of spreading out).

I was double coating those in the hope it would make a difference – it didn’t. With a clean glass plate the solution will spread itself out by capillary action or something – over a minute or two it basically covers the plate on it’s own – this makes for a slightly thicker coat at the center, but unless you’re dopey enough to add dye to it it shouldn’t matter.

Some coated plates;

So in essence, the blue dye offers no advantage, coats really badly, slows down the print time (1/2 a day out to 2 1/2 days), and to boot, it makes a bloody awful mess when (not if) it gets spilled.

I guess it eliminates a variable – Yay me!

This is the closest that i got to a print;

It’s from a negative, so is negative, and it’s on black perspex – a substrate which, excitingly enough, I have discovered does not work at all well with this process (it coats very unevenly) – though it is good for backing coated glass plates – In the following I’ve bumped the levels and suchlike a bit.

I can make stuff out cos I know what the neg was – a view from my atillier window amusingly enough – there’s a square white sign in the foreground, some stairs about 1/3rd of the way up towards the right – and at the same level on the left a rounded window on the building facing me – very bloody hard to photograph.

So for now, I’ll go back to 1 & 2% solutions of rosin in ethyl alcohol on chemically cleaned glass plates, cos I’m reasonably sure that works.

Written by secretivesquirrel

June 12, 2011 at 9:51 am

Progress

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Some things I’ve tried – first up an orotone – which is a fancy term for painting the back of a positive gold (you’re supposed to use a ‘particular’ paint, but whatev’s, I just used oil paint)

A black print (yup, I made that name up) – sorta like an ambrotype, but not like an ambrotype at all (silver gelatine liquid emulsion based) – I’m handing in one of these this week – it’s washing as I type.

And Physautotypes – I’ve had three crack at it so far, the first was a total failure;

Yup, a blank piece of glass (reflecting my camera strap and my black top).

The second I got a line;

Which at least proved that it’s light sensitive.

The third I got a rhinoceroses bottom;

I messed up the development a bit, but it’s proof of concept – violin rosin and meths with mineral turps as a developer – a la Niepce. I’ve figured out a couple of things to improve the print – but learning to coat the stuff onto glass is top of the list – not easy compared to gelatin, or even collodion.

I have a masters crit Thursday, so after that I’m looking forward to doing some more of them, fun!

Written by secretivesquirrel

April 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

Photography and the icon (masters proposal Re.~1).

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Photography and the icon.

April 2011.

Introduction.

A photograph is a strange bird in that it documents a situation – yet this situation which is documented or re-presented ceases to exist, or perhaps simply diverges in existence from the time the photograph is created. As the photograph is made, an archive is created, yet as the original event or situation which is documented ceases to exist in the manner re/presented, the relationship becomes gradually less clear and the photographic document develops an aura of singularity. Thus the photograph becomes both re-presentation and original simultaneously.

A non-photographic document of an situation has a flavour of attribution which denotes and focuses it’s role as the child of the original it documents, and yet in the photographic re-production the aura of singularity problematises this relationship between referent and descendent – they might share a history, but they do not share a present, nor a future. This absence of a fixed referent is something which makes the photograph different from other re-productive strategies in that the photograph can re-order a formerly linear archive in a manner which questions the role of re-presentation.

In traditional forms of art the closest simile to this paradoxical relationship which I can find, is that of the christian icon. A painting which is intended as a reflective depiction of the ineffable seems somehow semantically close to a photograph being an image with a functionally obscured referent. It is also somewhat axiomatic in as much as people speaking of photography often refer to images as ‘icons’, or as ‘iconic’, yet these words are seldom used in more traditional plastic arts (with the noted exception of christian iconography).

I am interested, in my art practice, in investigating the concept of the photograph as a means of creating icons of things which would, or could not otherwise achieve this status.

My research question is essentially as follows;

Is there something inherent in the medium of photography which is particularly given to the making of icons from things which would not otherwise achieve this status, and does this work differently to other mediums on this level”

Proposed methodology.

As far as method and methodology goes, I have several modes of investigation which I will utilise in this study, the first of which are research strategies;

The first research strategy will be to research examples where a photo has achieved a status which could be considered iconic, Some examples of this could be Alberto Gutiérrez’s ‘Guerrillero Heroico’, better known these days simply as “Che”, Edward Westons photographs of peppers, or any of a range of other great works from photographic artists.

A second investigation will be into Photographs where the referent is consiously obscured, yet the resultant photographs don’t reach iconic status, examples being Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled film stills”, and Thomas Demand’s work with photographed constructions.

Parallel to this will be a research into traditional icons in the religious sense along with any particular secular works which also seem appropriate in order to compare them to the aforementioned photographic works, and to study the parallels and differences between them – this research will be done in a fairly organic .

In concert with these historical and academic researches I will also work with physical media in a manner to investigate and make sense of what I discover, this will be in line with my usual kinaesthetic methodology which I use to investigate concepts in my practice, this is very much an experimentation and play based strategy which I use to translate academic concepts into physical strategies.

So in essence, my research will lead, but will be translated into physical work so that this can be returned to the theoretical in such a manner that each may feed or edit the other reflexively – thus making the aspects of my practice work in concert and hopefully in a self sustaining manner.

Proposed output.

At this point I cannot be sure as I intend to be working in a range of technologies during the process of producing the works, thus intending one output over another at this point would unnecessarily limit my reflexivity whilst working through the proposed processes.

Timeline;

For the first three months approximately of the school year I will gather information fairly rapidly and to do a fair amount of experimentation

in order to build up a largish body of work and an archive which I could analyse.

At that point I would intend to spend time analysing what I have, and working out the boundaries of my proposed research for the remaining time. This would be a point of consolidation and reflexive analysis which I would use to define my path of study, and to possibly redefine my research question.

I cannot be a great deal more expansive than that with regards to a proposed timeline as the research that I am proposing to undertake would be variably referential rather than based on a rigid proposal and thus timeline.

I do also have several outside exhibitions which I can use to test work in the public arena over this time as well, this is an integral part of my working practice.

Contribution to the field.

I intend to elucidate on the relationship between the photograph and the icon.

Ethical standards.

At this point I do not see any major ethical or legal hurdles which will cause undue problems, there are some potential (mainly moral) issues around using images of people, but I am not intending to do this, so essentially I’ll negotiate any decisions as they arise.

Preliminary References.

I’m referencing people rather than books as most of these people have written multiple essays in their respective fields, this is a start point.

J. Derrida I am Interested in his concepts around the referent, his thoughts on photography, but also iterability as well as his thoughts around resistance and hauntology – Particularly relevant is the text “Copy, Archive, Signature”.

R. Barthes I am particularly in his text “Camera Lucida” and his writing on existential phenomenology with regards to photography.

H. G. Gadamer I am interested especially in this thoughts around hermenuetics and the assignation of meaning to objects. His writings around the concept of ‘historically effected consciousness’ in particular are of interest to me, as well as ‘Wirkungsgeschichte‘ or ‘history of effects’.

M. Heidegger I am interested in Heidegger’s writings about the relationship between metaphysics and aesthetics, as well as concealment and the referent. His text “The Origin of the Artwork” is of especial interest to me.

J. Kristeva I am interested in what she has written especially about intertextuality, as well as semiotic systems and assignation of value to signs.

M. Foucault I’m interested in his discussions around ‘truth’ and ‘meaning’, rather than the historical digging that Gadamer does, he seems more interested in the logic that lies behind ‘claims’ to truth then in the actual truthfulness of the claim itself, this structure of the claim is interesting to me. His writings on societal norms and paradigms is also peripherally interesting.

W. Benjamin Although I don’t agree with some of what Benjamin says with regards to the separation of art and literature – his analysis of technological

reproduction and his thoughts around translation and the philosophy of history overlap in ways that are interesting and helpful to me.

U. Eco Eco has written quite a lot about the problems inherent in translation between systems of signs, his focus is essentially intralinguistic for the most part, but it is useful when it comes to the framing of questions around intersemiotic translation.

As for works of art: They would be works such as Alberto Gutiérrez’s ‘Guerrillero Heroico’ , much of the most famous work of the photo succession and the f64 group. There is a very broad scope for seeking out materials which are appropriate to the task at hand, this as well as traditional eastern orthodox icons as well.

 

[Addendum]

I think this needs a bit more clarification, but this is how it’s being handed in for a first draft – I’ll rework it further, especially with regards to the idea that an icon can be personal, and does not have to be cultural or ‘group based’ – an example of a personal icon could be mortuary photography in the 19th century – which could well be only for one or a couple of people – also that an icon can be secular and still invoke a personal response. This is fruitful ground, and many people have written their tracks across this territory as they’ve attempted to chart it’s geography, but there’s an interesting lack of agreement even in basic terms… Fun no?

Written by secretivesquirrel

April 6, 2011 at 8:24 am

Past presentations.

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Some of the meta themes I’ve worked with in the past.
Perhaps I didn’t state it clearly enough in the first essay, but What I find compelling about photography as an artistic medium is it’s facility as a storytelling medium. To me sketching is analogous to this sensibility, as such much of what I have looked at through the lens, as it were, of photography is the snippets of information, the traces which imply the presence of a greater narrative.


These traces are the basis of a fair chunk of my work to date, I seek out the traces that people leave behind in their daily lives and frame them in a manner which allows extrapolation from any viewer. Obviously I use a photographic vernacular in framing these images, composition, printing techniques, and presentation strategies which are of, or have been co-opted by photographic sensibilities.


When I first began to play with photography as a medium I began with pinhole imagery, speed of vision is something we are very much stuck with, to slow down or to speed up vision is very much the domain of photography, perhaps more-so than just seeking particular lighting.

I’m more interested in exploring things that re-present to me a reality which our senses cannot percieve. The hyper fast, the super slow, the spectrally invisible, these are all of a realm, which is to us, extrasensory, this fascinates me in that I am learning whilst making such images, to perceive the world at large in a different manner to that which my naked senses suggest.


In making use of these photographic and non-human visualities I have, of necessity, experimented extensively with the medium of photography at large, these experiments ranging from learning new printing methods, or the capabilities of different technical modalities (camera’s, lenses, etc), through to physically rebuilding (cheap) digital camera’s in such ways that their descriptive abilities no longer match a nominally human view point.


As I have gathered images, negatives, prints and digital files I have started to see themes which emerge, and which bend under the weight of their neighbors. The intertextual and the semiotic have developed interesting complexities within my archives, and this has fed back into long standing (considerably pre-dating my engagement with the photographic idiom) fascinations with linguistics, language, translation, language, and the persistence of archetypical presentations.


One thing which I have not worked with to any great degree yet (and do not intend to start with now) is photographing people, this is due to the fact that I am intensely aware that to frame something in a photograph is to speak for it, to re-present the thing in a nuanced manner. When I am doing this with a trace that a person has left I am comfortable, because I am not challenging a pre-existing narrative, I am not speaking over something attempting to speak for itself.


However I am aware that when I frame a person photographically, then I speak for them in a manner which is authoritative. This, in and of itself, is not problematic, it is, after all the point of having a photographer at a wedding – however I do not personally seek to make stories of people, nor to have people act out stories for the camera. This aspect of re-presentation is something which I am intensely aware of and is something which I am looking to work more deliberately with at this point.

Written by secretivesquirrel

March 27, 2011 at 2:51 am

The mechanism and the meme.

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I’m currently being asked to define somewhat precisely just what it is that I’m wanting to study and why, and the short answer involves a lot of Ummm’s and ah’s…

So instead I’m going to break it down, starting with why I’m utilizing the medium of photography – and going for the long answer, even though this is messier and perhaps less elegant than the words I’d spin to hide my un-sureity about the conceptual terrain I am moving to occupy.

The mechanism and the meme.

(or why I do photography)

There seems to be an assumption, especially from photographers (though not exclusively) that people use photography as a medium because, one, they inherently are photographers, and two, because they wish to work with light – these a maybe partially true in my case (particularly the latter), but they are also somewhat misleading.

My earliest art practice, when I was a child was the written word, story telling, and poetry especially, to shape words in order to describe moments and events, this tendency to describe is still a very central pre-ocupation for me. Being reasonably articulate in forming the written word allows me to use the medium in a manner very much akin to how an artist uses charcoal to sketch in the details of a composition and to concretize a thought or situation in a manner which they can de/reconstruct, and which other people can access.

This can be a loose little snippet which implies a greater whole;

“As I crept along the musty hallway the cat food like smell gradually resolved into a far stronger cat food like smell…”

Or it can be a more insular and encapsulated (polished?) description;

“The man sits alone on the footpath,

disheveled, hunched, mumbling to himself.

People make him invisible as they pass swiftly by,

a child’s hand is firmly grasped…

I don’t look to see where the other cops are”

 

This tendency to draw, or to sketch thoughts using words has seen me expand the visual art media which I can use in a similar manner, pencils, charcoal, paint, and other similar media which have a similar fluidity when used in a looser, more reflective manner. By this I am not meaning an unfinished quality, but rather I am implying materials which can illustrate ephemeral concepts and momentary situations – at times the path to these places can be involved, time consuming, and deeply procedural, but they can inscribe the fleeting, the momentary, the insubstantial in all of it’s gossamer finery – obviously this can be done in nearly any media, but I am describing a personal sensibility which is served in my case by particular media far more than others.

I have also, over time, picked up a lot of process skills which can be brought to bear on a concept working with materials such as metal, fabric, print, and even supposedly non-art materials such as programatic coding. It wasn’t till I was 30 that I paid any particular attention to photographic media, though like everybody for a few generations I suppose, I had used camera’s for different purposes according to my needs or desires, albeit not in a manner that was deeply considered. I didn’t intend to pick up photography, or darkroom practice at all – instead I was kicked out of the print workshop at a former school when a new tutor decided to reconfigure the facilities and decided to occupy some time by having a nosey. Fate being what it is I quickly discovered that photography, as a medium, is one which is deeply capable of facilitating the sensibilities which I had developed already, though this necessitated a several year long investigation into process.

In photography, I have found a medium which to my mind produces a reflection – the camera itself is merely a lens which can focus and fix that reflection, I do not feel the popular analogy of a magic mirror to be relevant to me in the slightest, I don’t feel that there is anything magical about camera’s, or even process at all, though these can certainly shade to arcane in places – even when serendipity creeps into the equation (as it so frequently does), it is typically repeatable and a reflection of my working practice rather than an intervention by the ‘photo gods’.

The reflection that the medium can produce is really what draws me to the medium, this reflection as a sketching medium is about the closest thing to story telling that I have discovered in the visual arts, both in it’s speed of application, and indeed in how incredibly nuanced the reflected image can be. That which is reflected can be controlled, not just visually, but also in terms of what is implied, which is really the most important thing to me about photography as a medium. In the case of the urban landscape/vernacular photography that I have spent considerable time on, the control is a matter of peripatetic gathering, of movement, time, and selections which I largely make instinctively – in short, being there at the right time, and making choices both at the time, but also later in editing, printing and presentation (these are at least as important to me as the act of photographing).

Right now though, I’m more concerned with constructing and manipulating narratives, and in analyzing just how it is that a particular image/photograph/text can be taken to stand for a particular theme or meme, which doesn’t preclude working in the above manner in the slightest, but it does open up a lot of possibilities in terms of a more purely studio type method of constructing this reflection.

This in essence is why I choose to work with photographic possibilities as much as I do in my practice, it is because the medium allows me to sketch concepts and thoughts in a manner which is sympathetic to my intentions, and which I intuitively link to the manner and the methods in which I have previously worked. The narrative aspect and the questioning of assigned/valued meaning is the meme which I am working with – the medium is simply a mechanism.

Written by secretivesquirrel

March 24, 2011 at 5:00 am