Context: Material Considerations

A key realisation I had during the summer and beginning of the dissemination period was around a question of what exactly I was disseminating. What is the work and what is its physical embodiment? I think this question can be answered on a number of different levels depending on the type of photographer or artist you are. I will attempt to do this and yet retain some integrity to my primary interests and focus attention on those. 

Since beginning the dissemination unit I have begun to think what my outputs were, and the answer was interesting. I didn’t really have any other than the Albatross book. This is not to say I don’t make prints or other objects, I am constantly figuring out the best way to present and show my work, I am just rarely making the final objects themselves. To interrogate the reasons of this further explains this. I just simply haven’t had the platforms to inspire me to make the finished products. They cost money and take time, if you lack an audience then your work can suffer because of this. I made pictures because of a need to do so. I feel the producing of the work comes from a different place inside you, it comes out of a want for that work to be seen. 

To back track I did have digital outputs, primarily because in this I had opportunity and an audience. A social media following, awards, features and grants. Almost all of these operate in a digital sense, and through some sense of industry parameters I was sold down the river of creating my projects in little bitesize digital applications. 200 words and 15 photos, there or thereabouts. It creates parameters in the same way as track lengths are considered in contemporary pop music. Can my work fit into this, sure, but is this an ideal vessel for showing its qualities, probably not? To add to this, during my time between creating larger works, social media (primarily Instagram) felt like my only output and audience. I feel this is a tool that can be used, but I’m less inclined to focus on social media as an output for the work itself.

I know in my heart I see my work in a physical sense. Books and prints suit my practice at this moment in time. This all seems to follow with my rhetoric around elevating the work through the qualities of the material. With material and physicality being integral to my practice then my digital presence should be referential to the qualities of the material work. I can see this idea working in many ways. First and foremost, it does what it should, show the work for what it is. Then it creates an intrigue, if you see a post of a book then you are left wondering what that book contained, what it felt like, and how it would be to look at this book in real life. People enjoy the image of the book, press like, consider it for whatever award it may be judged for, etc, but they are also left not fully satisfied until they have seen the physical object itself. The same can be said for images of an exhibition. I have rectified this by including these sorts of images on my Instagram. Also by adding to my tearsheets sections of my website and changing it’s name to ‘in situ’ to represent the work in its various settings. 

The deliberation around prints came whilst printing my images in the darkroom at the end of summer. I do not believe I went into this thinking that the darkroom would be my primary practice. As I made the prints everyone who walked into the room seemed interested, some offered to buy prints and some just went bin diving for test prints. I realised people want the material in the same way I do, they like owning a part of the work. For the first time I considered my work as something that could be owned by someone else (such a strange realisation for someone who worked in a print lab for four years and makes editions for other people). I think the reason this only became apparent this late in the day was that I had not been happy with the results I had got before, this could be because of the images themselves or the realisation of them in print. I was excited by the prospect of creating what I finally saw as artworks that I would want to stand the test of time. 

If the Albatross books I have made so far are dummy’s, then so are the prints I have made. I set about thinking what my first output could be for the Folly work (Albatross as an artwork is the book, I will talk more extensively about books in a separate post). I had recently come to the conclusion that producing Folly into a book for the end of 2018 was too soon and I didn’t quite see the artwork as a book at this stage. All of the playing with the work in physical form had been in 10 x 8” darkroom prints. These prints actually define the project for me, they are what I have used to create dialogues between the images and when I come to create the book it will be 10 x 8” in size. I feel the images suit individual prints well, I see each image as a relic of sorts and a handmade print by the artist seem to suit the notions of the work.

I have come up with the idea of the black box. This portfolio box would be a selection of the initial images from the Folly work, it’s first iteration in a way. This is primarily what I have been planning and working towards. Through creating final prints at 10 x 8” size I am aiming to make this box in an edition. I do not want to edition these prints as I would like to make prints at this size indefinitely, but the box itself will be editioned. This box will be my voice, my edit, potentially my words, all made by myself. It feels like the perfect vessel to initiate the work, and the funds made from selling it can go towards further shooting of the work/production of a book. At the moment I feel a box of between 5 and 10 prints in an edition of 10 feels appropriate. 

I have now made the prints for these and I am in the process of deciding from the 13 images, which to choose and how to go about housing them. I am going to treat Format festival as a deadline for creating these portfolio boxes. 

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As time goes on, I want to consider material output thoroughly for the work. It bugs me that when coming to exhibitions their always seems to be a rush to produce something. Rather than creating material for exhibition when I find the platform to show the work, I would like to start producing artworks in advance of this. For this reason, I have also been planning what prints will be available from each of my works. As an example of this I have been testing print sizes and production techniques of the images from Folly. I have decided on two print sizes at this stage (in addition to the 10 x 8” work print size). These will be 12 x 9.5” and 20 x 18” and unlike the smaller prints, will be editioned (edition yet to be decided). After many conversations about the various merits of differing types of prints I have managed to realise the images in both hand prints at these sizes and digital files able to be printed at these sizes (there is a difference between the two end results, but it is minimal). This gives me flexibility to decide on whether the practicality of the digital or the considered material of the hand print outweighs the other.