Fringe TheatreFest 2009

I have been making documentary photographs since my time at College where this was my strongest work. I?m still very attracted to the tradition in it?s pure sense: shooting only under available light, being a witness to what actually happens rather than setting it up or manipulating events, being as ?invisible? as I could be so that my presence didn?t affect what happened, being objective, looking for ?decisive? moments, being open to the unexpected, anticipating what might make the picture and being amazed at what does make it.

The light was so low here that this image was made at 1sec exposure f4.5 and 2000iso

At the end of June, at the same time as Art Trek, Sadie and I photographed the Fringe TheatreFest in Barnstaple. We?d offered to do this as our way of supporting the festival this year (we were stewards in 2008). It became an interesting brief because we were unable to photograph any of the performances. There were no dress rehearsals so documentary was everything but the theatre performances.

It didn?t help that I had picked up teaching work in Tiverton which took me out of the Thursday and Friday daytime slots, and the weekend was spent at Broomhill doing my Art Trek residency.

There were 3 venues, the Baptist Church Hall and the Inn on the Square upstairs and downstairs with 21 different acts most of which did 3 performances. Most also did a ?tech? which involved anything from a full rehearsal with lights and sound to positioning a few lights in a 5 minute slot.

This kind of work though is very rewarding. I remember a restrictive graphics brief on a National Diploma course used to bring out better ideas than an open brief. Restriction brings us freedom, and there where lots of restrictions here both enforced and self imposed: imagine how dark a theatre is, then imagine there are no stage lights set up, then remember these are spaces that have been made into venues within a couple of days and you can start to appreciate how dark it was ? the cameras rarely had an iso slower than 1600, shutter speeds 20th of a second or slower, aperture wide open ? there was also the hike from one venue to the next hoping not to miss anything.

Sadie did a great job on her own when I was unable to be there getting this wonderfull ?Winograndesc? picture of Janice Connolly as Barbara Nice from ?Hiya and Higher?.

All of the photos can be seen on the Fringe TheatreFest Website:

Art Work made during Art Trek 2009

The last two weekends has seen me demonstrating my process for making camera-less images, sun prints, chemical prints, daylight print, leaf works or whatever you?d like to think of them as. I did this for Art Trek, at Broomhill Sculpture Park near Barnstaple, North Devon?s open studios event at the end of June.

There was a lot of interest with over 60 people visiting on the last Sunday alone. I was making work throughout Art Trek, the image above being the best constructed image made over the first weekend. I used leaves and more from ?throw-a-way? plants and trees rather than some of the more cultivated ones planted specially in the gardens. This particular image was made using stinging nettles and dock leaves, traditionally used as an anaesthetic for the sting; these plants can always be found together and are like yin and yang, sting and anaesthetic, positive and negative complementing the traditional photographic process I was using.

Over the last weekend I made a few single 5×7 inch unique prints from columbine, elder, ash and foxglove (there may have been other leaves etc and included 2x slugs that got in on the act by accident). These I sold at ?10 each once they were archivally fixed, washed and dried then mounted on foam board. I still have some of these left for sale for ?10 with free p&p through Europe, it?ll cost a fraction more for the States. If you?d like one please visit my main website:

This is an example of a 5×7 inch unique print made during Art Trek 2009

How things change….

I have four new works in the current North Devon Arts, New Year New Work show at Broomhill Art Hotel and five more in a two day group show at Holsworthy Memorial Hall over the weekend of 21st & 22nd Feb for the inaugural Ruby Country Art Expo.

Both of these shows demanded new work, the NDA?s had to have been made during the last year and the Expo?s the last two years. It?s always good to make new work and it gives me the impetus to look at all of my ?work-in-progress? and decide which ones I?m still drawn to and will look good, once completed, in the respective shows.

One of the images I chose to bring on from thumbnail to artwork was Hermit Hole, Grand Canyon, March 2008 (thumbnail on the left/above). This was originated from time based in Tucson in the winter of early 2008. This was the first trip I had hiked below the rim of the Grand Canyon and it was fantastic. A lot of compacted snow and ice at the trail heads but further down it got brighter and warmer. This image, made of 47 separate digital frames, was found on the Hermit Trail, hence its name. It was the edge of what would have been a huge waterfall after a good thunderstorm, but when I was there it was totally dry, but there were the odd pools of water left further down.

Here you see how the image has radically changed through the intentional reconstruction of the many photographic frames to make it as realistic and truthful as possible but without loosing its sense of mystery and place. There is a continual battle as I construct an image between the placing of each ?jigsaw puzzle piece? on my computer screen in Photoshop, making sure each piece is in the right place and at the right angle; with my memory of how the place looked and felt, bearing in mind that I am transforming a three dimensional space, a 180 degree, fish-eye view, of a place onto a two dimensional canvas.

A similar, but not so dramatic difference was noticed with an image for the Ruby show: Striped Wall, Combe Martin. I have taken to making a thumbnail of an image using Photoshop?s ?photomerge? to give me an idea if it ?works? or whether I want to pursue it any further. Photomerge is great for merging up to 5 or 6 frames together (so long as they have been taken on a similar plain and have similar tonal values); but to combine more than this successfully I have to make my frames thumbnail sized.

Another use for this thumbnail is as an image to send to a gallery etc for inclusion in a show or for a press release. Once the image has been accepted I have to put the real work in making the constructed image full size, in this case a file of 750mb to make a fine quality print of up to 1.5metres.