I got to see installed public art and experience a community led piece in the making at the Plymouth Art Weekender on Sunday. It was encouraging to see a lot of photographic image use in various temporary and semi-permanent ways which gives me food for thought for future projects.
The budget for this work was always going to be small and only sufficient to cover material costs, but as a founder of Bideford Bay Creatives with the opportunity to make a large piece of art for the town that I?m living in I was happy to proceed under these restrictive conditions which define the finished work. I decided to use Truprint to print the images because I?ve been very impressed with the quality of image in both colour accuracy and longevity in the past. Truprint was used in 2012 for my Postcard from Manteo Open Studio where images were glued to the risers and varnished ? these images are still there and look as good as when they were first installed.
Also Truprint is very cheap, approximately 5p for a 6×4 inch print – my intention was to get two images 3×4 inch on each print making them 2.5p each. My reason for such small prints, a size too small for any commercial printer to offer, was to achieve a truer representation of the original image through the photomosaic. Essentially, a photomosaic gets progressively easier to read as the number of images increases. However, the cost of the printing was small in comparison to the glue needed to fix the prints to the window surface; and this was compounded by the condition that the artwork needed to be temporary rather than permanent.
It would have been possible to have sized an MDF board for each of the three window frames, then to have constructed the photomosaic off site in my studio and so only spending time in the allocated space for the installation of the finished boards. However, as this was Public Art, I felt that the public had the right to be engaged with the artwork in progress, so I decided to construct the whole piece within the public domain of Jubilee Square.
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 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.
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.
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.
Photographic Workshops in Devon and South West, Autumn 2015
Digital Camera Skills – ?50
A practical days workshop learning to gain control over your camera, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, flash etc, setting it up for optimum quality under any given lighting, and making better pictures through composition. Numbers limited to a hand-full. I also offer it on a 1:1 basis for ? a day for ?75
Saturday 10th October in Bideford, (10am-5pm)
Wednesday 4th November in Ilfracombe, (10am-5pm)
Half Day Intro to digital photography – ?25
A ‘sit around the table’ workshop to get to know your camera better. You’ll learn about shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, flash and setting your camera up for optimum quality.
Tuesday 3rd November in Bideford, (10am-1pm)
iPhoneography Workshop – ?25
A practical workshop to learn how to use your iPhone’s camera to take professional looking photographs and enhance those images on the go. Suitable for anyone with an iPhone. You will need to install a few cheap photo apps in advance which I’ll advise on when booking!
Friday 9th October in Bideford, (10am-1pm)
SmartPhone Photography – ?25
A practical workshop to learn how to use your Smartphone’s camera (Android, Windows or Apple) to take professional looking photographs and enhance those images on the go. Suitable for anyone with a SmartPhone. You will need to install a few cheap photo apps in advance which I’ll advise on when booking!
Thursday 22nd October in Barnstaple, (10am-1pm)
Sea Caves, Shipwrecks and the Rocky Shore (10am – 5pm) – ?50
An introduction to Dave Green’s own photography. Spend a day with Dave experiencing the secret coast, hidden at the far ends of a sandy beach, full of caves and shipwrecks. Learn how to make the best of your own camera under demanding landscape and lighting. tba
Painting With Light (Light Graffiti) – ?25 per photographer (but please bring a torch swinging friend at no extra cost)
An evening workshop celebrating the dark nights of the Winter. You’ll learn how to make ‘long exposure’ photographs using coloured lights, flames, sparklers, al almost full moon and hand-held flash
Saturday 21st November at Westward Ho!, (6.30pm-9pm)
Photographing your own Artwork – ?60 with lunch, tea and coffee provided!
I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of photographing 2D artwork, jewellery and ceramics and I’m willing to pass this on to artists eager to improve their own image making camera skills. Although this workshop is for a small group (max 4) I also offer it on a 1:1 basis for ? a day for ?75, or I can deliver the workshop in your own home or studio anywhere in Devon for ?125
Monday 19th October in Bideford, (10am-5pm)
Introduction to Photoshop (11am?6pm) – ?75 with lunch, tea and coffee provided!
Opening an image file and adjusting levels, contrast, brightness and colour balance. Rotating, resizing and cropping an image. Placing an image or images into a new file. Using layers and history. Participants will need to be computer literate i.e. use a computer on regular basis and understand the basic controls. Small group (max 4). I also offer it on a 1:1 basis in your own home or studio anywhere in Devon for ?175
Friday 6th November in Bideford, (10am-5pm)
Some text to accompany my work which is the first ‘photographic’ work the Society has show in it’s 91 years:
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.
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.
A new JD Wetherspoon pub, The Rose Salterne, opens it’s doors on Tuesday 23rd July 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.
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 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.
I am always interested in taking on a commission, please email me through my contact page.
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.
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!