Public Art pt1 – Concept

1st computer generated photomosaic using Artensoft Photomosic Wizard and random images

Art is rarely just created solely for the artist, often made as a commission or gift, but the majority of art sits in the public realm. Historically this was the gallery wall, the open studio, civic building or hotel lobby; but now even amateur artists and hobbyists can publish their latest work to potentially a mass audience through social media, the art critic’s judgement replaced by peer reviews and the number of likes it receives.

“Public art is art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.” Knight, Cher Krause (2008). Public Art: theory, practice and populism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Having a piece of sculpture installed into a city square by contractors is a typical example of public art but my experience of making a piece, in the 12ft x 5ft empty frame of a boarded up window, in a very public square over the course of 4 weeks takes ‘public’ to a new level.

The original image made by stitching 6 frames together with Photomerge in Photoshop

The original image made by stitching 6 frames together with Photomerge in Photoshop

The work, a photomosaic, was conceived 6 months prior to the installation, and submitted to Bideford Bay Creatives for inclusion in their Culture Show ‘art in non-gallery spaces’ for August – September 2015. Once the concept was accepted permission was obtained from the shop manager of McColls locally and nationally and of the building owner to use the blanked out windows for the piece. Permission was given so long as the artwork was temporary or was easily removable in the future.

As this was to be public art I wanted the public to be part of it hence the idea of a photomosaic which I estimated could be made from 700 to 800 separate images, many of which could come from the public realm. I had never made a photomosaic but my arts practice over the last 20 years, from triptychs made with a film camera to detailed interiors of sea caves have been achieved through constructing an image from many frames. I have also been teaching photography through this period and wanted there to be a learning element to the work also. With this in mind I approached Devon Youth Service in Bideford as a partner in the project so that local young people would get the opportunity to experience the photographic arts process and see their photographs in a public space.

Colour was intensified through hue adjustments and increase of saturation

Colour was intensified through hue adjustments and increase of saturation

Through experimenting with Artensoft Photo Mosaic Wizard software it became clear that a colourful, high contrast, graphic image would be needed to base the mosaic on. The theme of Culture Show was the River, and so I wanted to use Bideford’s iconic, historic longbridge, which dates back to the 13th century to build the work from.

Early attempt at computer generated photomosaic to determine which images worked the best

Early attempt at computer generated photomosaic to determine which images worked the best

The ‘frame’ I needed to fill was wide-screen in shape so I needed a view of the bridge head on, much like it is in Bideford?s coat of arms, however this is a view rarely seen as you need to be in the middle of the river to see it. I took up the challenge on a very low tide with sunshine highlighting the uneven arches of the bridge; and walked to the middle of the channel using a bamboo cane to check for sinking sand. Conscious of the incoming tide the initial photographic panorama was made very quickly. These images were stitched together in Photoshop?s Photomerge enhanced in Lightroom and then the saturation was increased to give me the graphic representation I was hoping for.

Final Artensoft photomosaic that was used as a guide for the artwork

Final Artensoft photomosaic that was used as a guide for the artwork


Westward Ho! and Bideford Art Society Summer Exhibition at the Burton Art Gallery 2013

Some text to accompany my work which is the first ‘photographic’ work the Society has show in it’s 91 years:

Maidens Retreat, Marsland Mouth, North Devon

Maiden’s Retreat, Marsland Mouth

I was interested in finding historical and literal context for some of the landscape I was experiencing, and went in search of a cave Charles Kingsley had written about as a sheltering place for Rose Salterne, his startled naked maiden in the novel Westward Ho!

“In only one of these mouths is a landing for boats, made possible by a long sea-wall of rock, which protects it from the rollers of the Atlantic; and that mouth is Marsland, the abode of the White Witch, Lucy Passmore, You be safe enough here to-night, miss. My old man is snoring sound abed, and there’s no other soul ever sets foot here o’ nights, except it be the mermaids now and then. There’s the looking-glass; now go, and dip your head three times, and mind you don’t look to land or sea before you’ve said the words, and looked upon the glass. Now, be quick, it’s just upon midnight.”

“Rose went faltering down the strip of sand, some twenty yards farther, and there slipping off her clothes, stood shivering and trembling for a moment before she entered the sea. She was between two walls of rock: that on her left hand, some twenty feet high, hid her in deepest shade; that on her right, though much lower, took the whole blaze of the midnight moon. Great festoons of live and purple sea-weed hung from it, shading dark cracks and crevices, fit haunts for all the goblins of the sea.”

– extract from Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley 1855

A cave was found but hardly big enough to find refuge and certainly wouldn’t hide your parts from the rest of the beach; was there another cave? Kingsley’s book was written over 150 years ago and it was set in Elizabethan times. Much can change at the edge of the land in just one year, let alone 150 or 400. My guess is that there would have been a far greater cave at Marsland Mouth in Kingsley’s day and the small, shallow cave wasn’t it. However one work of fiction can lead to another and I went about photographing the cave I had found but thought about the cave in his novel. 31 frames were shot for the construction of Maiden’s Retreat at 5.07pm over 7 minutes. Rather than using a long lens to prevent distortion and make my images as truthful as possible, as I would normally do, I used a wide-angle lens to distort the perspective and make the cave seem deeper. I was keen to highlight the heart shape of the aperture opening to illustrate the ‘love story’.

The frames were later stitched together in Photoshop.

North Devon Sea Cave

Silver Mine, Combe Martin

Mining for silver, lead, copper, zinc, manganese and limestone has been done at Combe Martin since 1293. This place would have started as a cave, later it would have been mined, but now and for at least the last 100 years it has reverted back to being a cave. Combe Martin Bay is riddled with caves into the steep cliffs and the miners would have had to transport all of their tools and ladders across the rocky shore, in all weathers, every day at low water to work the mines. Then before they were cut off by the incoming tide, take their tools and any of the metals or stone mined back with them to the village.

This image was made to look as truthful as possible, an accurate record of the experience and memory of being in this cave, exploring all of it’s nooks and crannies. 50 frames were shot and later stitched together to make this image. My images can often made up of more than 100 separate photographs, of different exposure, angle of view and framing, all from a fixed point to give the detail from the deepest blacks to the brightest highlights in this extremely high contrast scene. Photoshop is the computer programme of choice for the stitching of images together. This process can take many days to complete because the file size and processing power needed pushes the limits of today’s computer capabilities; but it is not unknown for me to rework an image a year or more later as software, processing power and RAM are updated.

Both constructed photographs are printed on archival paper, mounted on aluminium and protected by acrylic glass.


Ghost Ship, Bideford Quay – commission for The Rose Salterne

A new JD Wetherspoon pub, The Rose Salterne, opened it’s doors on Tuesday 23rd July 2013 on historic Bridgeland Street. I was commissioned to make a new constructed photograph for the premises based on my ‘Ghostcard’ series of images. Above is the finished, 2 metre wide picture, based around a Victorian photograph from the Beaford Old Archive. The buildings of the historic photograph are little changed but the width of Bideford Quay is now approximately three times as wide.

Victorian photograph of Bideford Quay, photographer unknown, with permission of Beaford Old Archive

The original image, above, would have been photographed from the Bideford Long Bridge, I think the darkened edge of the bottom right hand corner could be part of the bridge. Unfortunately to have followed suit and photographed from exactly the same place I would have most of the image obscured by road signs. The new image was shot a few feet closer and was constructed from up to 347 frames, perhaps 200 of these were stitched together in the final photograph. The photographs were taken between 11am and 11.30am over two days; the first a showery Saturday when lots of people were in town, and the second a sunny mid-week day which gave me a better sky and evenly exposed road and stone floor.

In this close-up you can see where the edge of Bideford Quay used to be as the cycle hangs precariously over the edge.

In my Ghostcard images my intention is to form a relationship between the present and the past. In the close-up above, the present day man driving a disability scooter seems to veer to the right to avoid the Victorian ship. Cars and cyclists drive and ride around the girls dancing on the original quay. In the close-up below Andrew Powell, local historian dressed in Elizabethan costume, addresses a group of Mark Horton’s archaeology students from Bristol University; he appears to be telling them all about this ancient ship.

Andrew Powell, author of Grenville and the Lost Colony

See my portfolio of Ghost Card images! I am always interested in taking on a commission, please email me through my contact page.


New Age of Exploration

I’ve been inspired recently seeing new images initiated by the Curiosity rover and beamed back from Mars.
It’s so interesting that the cutting edge of exploration is a camera 36 million miles away, programmed to automatically take photographs, in much the same way as I shoot the interior of a cave on the coast of North Devon, England, Earth. Below is a self portrait done in the same way, a 55-frame sequence that captured everything the technicians back on earth needed to make the image; a combination of those frames, again much like I do with my own photographs.

A color self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity, which is set to drive toward a Martian mountain in mid-February after drilling into a rock.

A color self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity, which is set to drive toward a Martian mountain in mid-February after drilling into a rock.

I had considered the concept of exploration and documentation a somewhat Victorian occupation with little in common with the contemporary issue based arts practice of today. But these images give me solace as some of the places I find to photograph can certainly feel very remote, unseen by human eyes and unexplored.

It ought to be noted that these amazing photographs where originally sent back to earth in monotone and a technician has patiently sat at a computer and added the colour, in interpretation of what we might see on Mars. I’m certain, once Curiosity eventually returns to Earth, it will hold samples of the rock and sand photographed and an accurate colour picture will be made. The rover will also possibly bring back high resolution colour images; now wouldn’t that be something!

Combe Martin Silver Mine Cave, Devon ©_Dave_Green

Combe Martin Silver Mine, Devon


Artists Newsletter Review

Sea, Caves, Shipwrecks and the Rocky Shore

Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe
25 February – 7 April 2013

Reviewed by: Peter Berry
Currently showing at the Landmark Theatre is an exhibition by the photographic artist Dave Green who has been exploring, photographing and researching the history of the North Devon Coastal landscape where he has lived and worked for the past seven years.
Both the earlier, smaller and framed pieces (first shown at the North Carolina Aquarium USA last year) and the later, larger and frameless works show a consistent fascination with the subject matter of the rocky shoreline and its caves. The progression and refinement of the ongoing process in the direction of a ‘greater realism’ is impressive.

Green works on location with a camera, often photographing a single place for as long as an hour and making a large number of images of his subject. In the studio the images are meticulously and patiently worked into a completed final image using Photoshop software. As the artist says “I am trying to make a record of a place over a passage of time in a single image”.
In discussing his work Green says that we see details with the eye and brain which the camera can’t see in a single frame or exposure and that means that the single frame cannot contain the richness and complexity of the original experience. This has to be created in the studio. Decisions about composition, colour, scale and the framing edge are continuously examined and adjusted as the image ‘comes into line’ with the artist’s memory of the experience.
The later series of prints are very finely drawn with the quality of etching. The frameless edges of these larger pieces allows the onlooker to experience a more direct involvement with the subject. This experience is both intimate and dramatic. It is as if we are inside, in the place of the artist, looking out towards the light, the sky and shoreline, surrounded by the detailed surface and texture of these mysterious and timeless caves.
In addition to the formal and aesthetic concerns of picture making,the artist aims to arrive at images which are a true record of the objective and subjective nature of our experiences of the coastal landscape and it’s associations. In this regard the artist references other disciplines such as geology, local history and environmental studies and in order to deepen our understanding includes maps and texts relating to the images.
Dave Green also offers group workshops and personal tuition. Further information about the artist and his work can be found at

Writer detail:
Peter Berry Artist/Writer/Lecturer b. 1936 Cheltenham, Gloucestershire Art College: 1957 – 63 Cheltenham and Slade School – Sculpture/Printmaking. Teaching: ILEA, Cheltenham, Birmingham (Senior Lecturer in Foundation Studies). Qualifications: NDD, PGDip Fine Art, MA (Art Ed.), M. Soc. Sci. (Cultural Studies). Exhibitions: includes Solo and Group Shows in London (MBA Gallery), Birmingham (Ikon Gallery), Glasgow (Goethe Institute), Cambridge (Arts Council) and Leicester (LCBD). Lives and practices art in Hinckley, Leicestershire. Website:
Venue detail:
Landmark Theatre
The Landmark Theatre Ilfracombe North Devon