PHO705 Week 17: Work in Progress

I had a meeting with my supervisor on 09 June.

First, I have decided to retitle my project and call it The Rising.

We went through my current work in progress (see Figs 1-5). I presented this in the form of double-page layouts as if for a book. I found preparing that a very helpful exercise. The process has forced me to curate my images down to a top 25-40 (from many hundreds), think about how to sequence them, consider the benefits of a consistent aesthetic (light, time of day, field of view, colours and so forth), and look at the most important events and contemporary quotations from the story of the Oxfordshire Rising of 1596.

I have also include a map of the area which I have commissioned although it is a rough at this stage.

I eventually decided to sequence my work village by village ending with the awful events at Enslow Hill (execution and the end of the rising). Bartholomew Steer’s planned rising in 1596 envisioned a kind of procession from village to village – surviving quotations strongly suggest that he had a list, even if only in his head. In each village Steer claimed that he intended to kill the local Lord of the Manor and seize food and weapons, before marching on London. I am therefore matching Steer’s intent to some extent, but I am also adopting a sequence that is walking the land from place to place, and not just showing it, quite possibly using some of the same paths that Steer would have used. I see this as a kind of documentary act of remembering, another layer to offer in my work.

I have thought long and hard about sequencing in different ways, but no matter how hard I try the result is rather a jumble and the story of the rising becomes difficult to understand. At the end of the day these are interconnected places with specific events and buildings tied to them. They are not just random bits of Oxfordshire countryside.

Fig. 1: Mark Crean 2021
Fig. 1: Mark Crean 2021. A draft map (from the designer Tony Hatt) of the main area of the Oxfordshire Rising of 1596. It centred on Hampton Gay, where Bartholomew Steer lived. Modern features that would not have been there in 1596 are show in lighter colours, such as railway lines and the Oxford Canal. However, they too are part of the story because I am photographing the past in the present.
Fig. 2: Mark Crean 2021
Fig. 2: Mark Crean 2021. A sample page from a draft of my Final Major Project.
Fig. 3: Mark Crean 2021
Fig. 3: Mark Crean 2021. A sample spread from a draft of my Final Major Project.
Fig. 4: Mark Crean 2021
Fig. 4: Mark Crean 2021. A sample spread from a draft of my Final Major Project.
Fig. 5: Mark Crean 2021.
Fig. 5: Mark Crean 2021. A sample spread from a draft of my Final Major Project.

For anyone who is interested, a full pdf of the complete draft in a web-friendly format is here: Crean-WIP-080621 Reduced

Figures

Figure 1. Mark CREAN. 2021. A draft map (from the designer Tony Hatt) of the main area of the Oxfordshire Rising of 1596. Collection of the author.

Figures 2-5. Mark CREAN. 2021. Sample pages from a draft of my Final Major Project presented in book form. Collection of the author.

PHO705 Week 16: Spring Cleaning

Now that we are starting my final module, it is time to dial down my research and concentrate instead on output, marketing and commercial questions. I still have research to do, because the subject of my FMP is open-ended, but what I find is not going to change the story even though it may add some depth to it.

With this in mind, I attended an online seminar at the Association of Photographers on marketing: ‘Give Your Brand a Spring Clean’ (Giles et al 2021).

Since the seminar was entirely aimed at solo working photographers, I found it both very helpful and relevant. The key points to emerge are these:

Core Purpose

Identify your USP: your ‘recipe’, style, that which makes you stand out. Research what you do against other photographers in similar fields.

Communication

  • Marketing is all about conversations, not one-way adverts. Choose words that are conversation starters, play to people’s curiosity, put across your character, energy and enthusiasms.
  • Consider what would really interest your audience and talk about things around your work such as your experiences while on a shoot, places you have visited and so on. This will help you to present yourself as open, honest and not too busy to talk (which no one likes).

Goals

  • Map out what your business needs and break that down into achievable goals. When you have established some goals, your mind will start to work out how to achieve them.
  • Your time is an investment. View your marketing as strategic. Be selective and do not try to do everything. Concentrate on what you are best at. Some things can be outsourced.

Know Your Audience

  • Marketing is about building relationships, so knowing your audience needs to inform all your activities.
  • Find out what your audience is interested in and prepare some material or stories for that.
  • It is very important to communicate that you intend to be helpful. How you can help a brand or a client is saying what you can give to them rather than take from them.
  • Put your prices out there. This saves a potential client the trouble of having to guess or ask.
  • Personalize what you do. If you send a postcard, for example, make sure there is a handwritten note on the reverse.

Social Media

  • Do not chase numbers. It is better to have 500 engaged followers on Instagram than 5000 fans who sometimes click ‘Like’. Engaged followers can produce new commissions but fans are very unlikely to.
  • Take care to communicate your personality in your captions.
  • Research what avenues on social media are producing work for you. For some this may be Instagram but for others it may be FaceBook or another platform entirely.
  • A minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 hashtags is good, with a mix of less popular and more popular ones.
  • Add your details to the AOP’s ‘Find a Photographer’ database.
  • Follow your target clients on social media and engage with them. Find out what interests them and what they are currently majoring on.
  • Use social media to identify and research potential new clients.

Your Website

  • A good website still matters and more so for as long as the pandemic lasts. Look on it as your business card. A good photographer’s website should be impeccably designed, concise, up to date and not boring. Clients are simply too busy to wade through fluff.
  • An ‘About’ section on your website is vital. This is in effect your brand. It is where you communicate your brand values and brand story. For this reason, you need to make your story interesting and engaging. Do not view your ‘About’ section simply as space for a conventional resumé.

Newsletters

Only consider newsletters when you have really big news to communicate. Make them short, click-worthy and interesting. Clients are too busy to bother with ‘small news’ and dull.

Printed Material

Printed marketing material sent to clients or potential clients needs to be very specific and beautifully designed. It should be tailored to a particular person, commissioning editor and so on and should include something personal from you – a handwritten note, for example. Since this material will completely represent your brand, you cannot afford the second-rate. Printed material needs to be relevant, compelling and a conversation starter.

Direct emails, calls, etc.

It is important to be specific. Everything you do is about communicating your brand experience, so you need to make it warm, interesting and personal. Avoid mail merges and anything ‘database’ or you will thought a junk-mailer. Research who you are sending anything to, personalize it, get the details correct and say something about what their brand or organization is doing to demonstrate your engagement. The basis of your pitch is how you can help them.

Feedback

Ask for feedback from your peers and do not be afraid to ask for it from your audience. Do not rely on feedback from friends and family. They are unlikely to tell you what you need to hear.

Some of these topics have been covered in earlier modules of this course, but it is still good to be reminded of their importance. A few things are new, and in any event there is plenty I have not yet done such as make a first-class personal website, define my brand and write a brand statement, identify potential clients and generally work out how to position and present myself in the marketplace.

References

GILES, Charlie, Louisa TAN and Kate ABBEY. 2021. ‘Give Your Brand a Spring Clean’. AOP [online]. Available at: https://www.aopawards.com/charlie-giles-and-louisa-from-studio-luxmore-in-conversation-with-kate-abbey/ [accessed 27 May 2021].

 

PHO705 Week 13: Oxfordshire Artweeks

I am exhibiting some of my work in progress as part of a group exhibition in the 2021 Oxfordshire Artweeks festival (Oxfordshire ArtWeeks 2021), though this year it has to be online (from 01 to 23 May). I am showing as part of the collective to which I belong, Oxford Photographers. This will be the sixth year running we have managed to exhibit as a group although normally we do so physically in central Oxford.

My offering is a first attempt to string together the story of Bartholomew Steer and the Oxfordshire Rising of 1596 and see how it sits with peers and public. Results so far are favourable. People understand from images and captions what the project is about and what I am trying to do. This is all good practice.

We are exhibiting in the form of a series of galleries on Flickr (Oxford Photographers 2021). See fig. 1 for a screenshot of my own gallery.

Fig. 1: Mark Crean 2021
Fig. 1: Mark Crean 2021. A screenshot of my gallery as part of a virtual exhibition for Oxfordshire Artweeks.

For publicity, we have inserted a full entry into the Artweeks Catalogue (Oxfordshire Artweeks 2021) and we have run up a flyer – see fig 2. Normally this is printed and distributed to local homes, coffee shops and the like but this year it is for online use only on Instagram, Facebook and similar. This is further backed in some cases with individual videos on YouTube.

Fig. 2: Oxford Photographers 2021.
Fig. 2: Oxford Photographers 2021. A marketing flyer for an exhibition during Oxfordshire Artweeks 2021.

A physical exhibition is much more satisfying, of course, and since we offer a visitor’s book at our physical exhibitions we often obtain better feedback than we do online. Counting visitors as clicks on social media tells you how many viewers you have, but it tells nothing about the quality of their experience and whether they are ever likely to return. Even so, this to me is part of preparing for my current project to go public, and I am very grateful to all at Oxford Photographers for the hard work involved in assembling this or any exhibition.

References

OXFORDSHIRE ARTWEEKS. 2021. ‘Oxford Photographers’. Oxfordshire Artweeks [online]. Available at: https://www.artweeks.org/festival/2021/oxford-photographers [accessed 2 May 2021].

OXFORD PHOTOGRAPHERS. 2021.‘Oxford Photographers’s Galleries | Flickr’. Flickr [online]. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxfordphotographers/galleries [accessed 2 May 2021].

Figures

Figure 1. Mark CREAN. 2021. A screenshot of a virtual exhibition gallery for Oxfordshire Artweeks 2021. Available at: Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxfordphotographers/galleries [accessed 2 May 2021].

Figure 2. OXFORD PHOTOGRAPHERS. 2021. A publicity flyer for the Oxford Photographers Artweeks 2021 online exhibition. Collection of the author.

 

 

PHO705 Week 12: Work in Progress and Ideas

I had a good meeting with my supervisor this week and we went through my work in progress.

It is clear that the key to my current work lies in expressing a coherent relationship between the two layers in it: the historical layer of the Bartholomew Steer story, and the contemporary layer of the use and ownership of land today. It is this layered approach that will make my work more than just a sequence of images. During my portfolio reviews in Weeks 6–7, John Angerson was adamant that bodies of work today need layers and stories (see here). What might have worked a generation ago – a book of fine arts photographs with minimal captions and perhaps a preface – is just not enough today. The audience wants something more involving and sophisticated.

I am not there yet but I do feel that I am on the way.

My supervisor suggested I look at the work of Lewis Bush (‘Trading Zones’) and Donovan Wylie (in connection with landscape and conflict). A quick look already suggests there is plenty there for me to learn (Bush 2021, Wylie 2021). She also suggested that I look at the practice of John Duncan, particularly ‘Bonfires’ (Duncan 2008). The issue here is a long-standing problem in my work: I tend to get too close to the subject. Standing back opens everything up. This provides context, comment and room for the viewer to find their own way around the image. Duncan’s ‘Bonfires’ is a good example of keeping one’s distance in order to produce a more attentive and expressive image.

A day later, I also showed my work in progress at the monthly group critique. This too was very helpful because input from one’s peers is important. The setting is relaxed and there is no hierarchy or authority structure to get in the way. More useful suggestions came up. These include ‘Shot at Dawn’ by Chloe Dewe Mathews, Andrew Lichtenstein on how landscapes are invested with power, and ‘Vale’ by Robert Darch (Mathews 2014, Lichentstein 2021, Darch 2021). Interestingly, my peers also felt that my images are better when taken at more of a distance. The images closer-in are not so expressive.

I presented my work in progress as a provisional book dummy. I chose this method because I needed to clear my head and get things down on paper. Even if this does not bear much resemblance to what will be the final result, doing things this way starts the process of curation, design, storytelling and coherent analysis. I feel much better for having done it.

Two sample spreads are below. For anyone who is interested, the full pdf version of some 36 pages is here: Crean-280421-reduced.

Fig. 1: Mark Crean 2021.
Fig. 1: Mark Crean 2021. Sample book dummy spread from my current work in progress.
Fig. 2: Mark Crean 2021
Fig. 2: Mark Crean 2021. Sample book dummy spread from my current work in progress.

References

BUSH, Lewis. 2021. ‘Trading Zones’. Lewis Bush [online]. Available at: https://www.lewisbush.com/trading-zones/ [accessed 30 April 2021].

DARCH, Robert. 2021. ‘Vale’. Robert Darch [online]. Available at: https://www.robertdarch.com/vale-1 [accessed 30 April 2021].

DUNCAN, John. 2008. ‘Bonfires’. John Duncan [online]. Available at: http://www.johnduncan.info/work/bonfir/bonfir00.html [accessed 30 April 2021].

LICHTENSTEIN, Andrew. 2021. ‘Andrew Lichtenstein’. Andrew Lichtenstein [online]. Available at: https://www.lichtensteinphoto.com/ [accessed 30 April 2021].

MATHEWS, Chloe Dewe. 2014. ‘Shot at Dawn’. Chloe Dewe Mathews [online]. Available at: http://shotatdawn.photography [accessed 30 April 2021].

WYLIE, Donovan. 2021. ‘Donovan Wylie’. Donovan Wylie [online]. Available at: http://donovanwylie.studio/index.php?page=home [accessed 30 April 2021].

Figures

Figure 1. Mark CREAN. 2021. ‘Sample book dummy spread from my current work in progress’. From: Mark Crean. 2021. Entropias. Collection of the author.

Figure 2. Mark CREAN. 2021. ‘Sample book dummy spread from my current work in progress’. From: Mark Crean. 2021. Entropias. Collection of the author.

PHO705 Week 11: Peer Reviews

Some of us in the German Bight cohort recently arranged to hold one-to-one peer reviews of each other’s work. I teamed up with Victoria Smith. We each spent a few days reading the other’s CRJ and reviewing work in progress, then we shared our impressions in a Zoom call.

I found the process immensely helpful. I think it was Martin Parr who said that when it comes to reviewing one’s images, the easiest person to fool is oneself. For a photographer, it is too easy to become caught up in the experience of making the image and to forget that a viewer will come to the image in a much more objective way. This is why culling one’s darlings during curation can be so difficult.

Victoria suggested that I might find it helpful to involve myself more with my peers and the cohort. She is quite right: I have a tendency to be a loner and can often forget to connect with others. She also suggested that I might find it helpful to look more at the work of other photographers in a similar field to that of my Final Major Project. This is another spot-on suggestion. In fact I have looked at several photographers by now, such as Keith Arnatt, John Gossage, Fay Goodwin, Lucas Foglia, Chloe Dewe Mathews and Willie Doherty, but I have not yet written them up in my CRJ. In addition, not all of them are current practitioners, engaged in the kind of project I might see covered in the British Journal of Photography or in Aperture, or shown in an online talk. While it is very important to be aware of the major past photographers in one’s field, it is one’s now-active peers that contextualize the work one produces and against which one is likely to be measured. This feeds into commercial considerations when it comes to pitching for work or entering competitions, for example.

Further suggestions included considering my audience more fully, looking at including historical artefacts in my work such as old maps, paintings, woodcuts, implements and so on, and looking at more fluid and flexible layouts. Finally, Victoria suggested that I look at the work of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in, for example, Liquid Modernity (Bauman 2000) – a new field for me and so very helpful.

So overall, a great meeting. I only hope that my suggestions to Victoria with her own practice were as useful. Her own Final Major Project, Uncanny Bodies, is completely different from mine (Smith 2021). But this just made the process more interesting and more challenging. It is always good to be stretched by considering new things outside one’s comfort zone and, besides, her work has led me appreciate some wonderful photographers such as Viviane Sassen and Annie Collinge.

References

BAUMAN, Zygmunt. 2000. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

SMITH, Victoria. 2021. ‘Critical Research Journal, Photography MA’. Victoria Smith [online]. Available at: https://photographycriticalresearchjournal.wordpress.com/ [accessed 6 April 2021].

PHO705 Week 10: the Oxfordshire Rising II

Although the Oxfordshire Rising of 1596 may remain an obscure incident for most people, it nevertheless continues to act as a source of inspiration. Here are three examples:

The first is ‘Black Showers’, a short story based on the Oxfordshire Rising by S. J. Bradley (Bradley 2019) in Resist, a collection of fictionalised accounts of popular uprisings throughout British history (Page 2019). The story concentrates perhaps too much on the grisly aspects of arrest, torture and execution but is completely correct, I think, in showing how those arrested were starving country folk in thrall to a violent and one-sided system of government. The story is followed by a valuable afterword by John Walter (Walter 2019) which brings his original historical research up to date (Walter 1985). As Walter says,

Where the historical record fails to record the emotional timbre of the story (though their anger comes through clearly in the examination of the would-be rebels), the fiction writer’s imagination can remind us of their fear – and of their bravery (Walter 2019).

The second example is Robinson in Ruins, a documentary arts film narrated by Vanessa Redgrave and made by the artist Patrick Keiller (Keiller 2010). This a film about the meaning of landscape; much of it is set within a few miles of my home. There is extensive coverage of the Oxfordshire Rising of 1596 and of Hampton Gay and Enslow Hill.

Fig. 1: Patrick Keiller 2010. Film poster for Robinson in Ruins.

Keiller’s interests are not entirely mine but there is considerable overlap. He shot the film in 2010 and is much concerned with the impact of global warming on the Oxfordshire countryside and with the aftermath of the Cold War on the land. He therefore investigates Greenham Common in nearby Berkshire, Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire (both once nuclear-armed airfields) and the cluster of sinister weapons and research facilities on the Oxfordshire–Berkshire borders.

However, Keiller very clearly sees the physical landscape of the film as a metaphor for an economic landscape. Keiller’s landscape is dominated by the Ministry of Defence and American corporations whereas mine is more about unequal social relations and the power of new money flowing from the City of London. Both of us are looking at pollution and at agribusiness. A powerful sequence in the film shot near the village of Beckley (Robert Burton from Beckley was executed for his part in the Oxfordshire Rising) shows combine harvesters at work in a field of wheat while the narrator reminds us than less than half of England’s cereal crop is actually destined for human consumption. Much of the rest goes to feed livestock which one guesses actually means ‘hamburgers and milkshakes from US-owned franchises’.

I am glad I have found Robinson in Ruins. It offers me something I can take care to avoid copying but the film confirms my instinct that the way forward with the Oxfordshire Rising is through metaphor. It is the underlying economic and cultural conditions that matter and from time to time they burst out in public protest whether at Greenham Common or in 1596 at Enslow Hill.

Fig. 2: Patrick Keillor 2012. Cover of The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet, published to accompany the 2012 Tate Britain exhibition The Robinson Institute.

A third example is The Robinson Institute, Keiller’s exhibition at the Tate in 2012 based on at least some of the same body of work. I did not see this, but a book of the exhibition is still available and I plan to obtain a copy (Keiller 2012).

References 

BRADLEY, S. J. 2019. ‘Black Showers’. In Ra PAGE (ed.). Resist: Stories of Uprising. Manchester: Comma Press, 35–47.

KEILLER, Patrick. 2010. Robinson in Ruins. [Film]. Available at: https://player.bfi.org.uk/rentals/film/watch-robinson-in-ruins-2010-online [accessed 8 April 2021

KEILLER, Patrick. 2012. The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet. London: Tate Publishing.

PAGE, Ra (ed.). 2019. Resist: Stories of Uprising. Manchester: Comma Press.

WALTER, John. 1985. ‘A “Rising of the People”? The Oxfordshire Rising of 1596’. Past & Present 107(1), [online], 90–143. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/past/107.1.90 [accessed 29 March 2021].

Figures

Figure 1. Patrick KEILLER. 2010. Film poster for Robinson in Ruins. Available at: https://patrickkeiller.org/robinson-in-ruins-2/ [accessed 9 April 2021].

Figure 2. Patrick KEILLER. 2012. Cover of The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet, published to accompany the 2012 Tate Britain exhibition The Robinson Institute. Available at: https://patrickkeiller.org/the-possibility-of-lifes-survival-on-the-planet/ [accessed 9 April 2021].

PHO705 Week 10: the Oxfordshire Rising

The following is a summary of a meticulous scholarly investigation by the historian John Walter (Walter 1985). It is important to record it here because now that I have found and researched it the story of the Oxfordshire Rising is going to form the backbone of my Final Major Project.

The Oxfordshire Rising of 1596 was one of a large number of rural protests that took place all over England in about 1595–7. By 1596 there had been three poor harvests in a row. The price of grain had risen threefold and many rural poor now faced starvation. The government of the time was well aware that a coordinated uprising – another Peasants’ Revolt – would be very difficult to contain. Coming on top of political insecurities such as constant warring with Spain this threat to the nation’s food supply made a fraught situation even worse.

In northern Oxfordshire, another factor was at play: aggressive land enclosures by wealthy landlords, forcing villagers off the land in favour of sheep pasture and thus increasing the pool of landless poor unable to sustain themselves. The enclosers were often aristocrats but were often also ‘new money’, self-made men with little time for the traditional social bonds between landlord and tenant. ‘There is no such thing as society’ is a phrase they would likely have understood very well.

A nexus of contentious and resented enclosures was in a small parcel of land around the villages of Bletchingdon, Hampton Gay, Kidlington, Water Eaton and Yarnton just to the north of Oxford city. Three enclosers, in particular, were at work there: Francis Power in Bletchingdon, Vincent Barry in Hampton Gay and William Frere in Water Eaton. This is almost exactly the area I am already studying for my Final Major Project.

Enter a 28-year-old carpenter called Bartholomew Steer from Hampton Gay. In the autumn of 1596 Steer and a few other young men decided that enough was enough, and they began to solicit support for a general rising in the area against the landlords and to secure desperately needed food supplies. Steer, however, went a step further than similar rebels of the time. Whereas the call in rural areas was usually confined to violence against property – by throwing down the hedges of the enclosers and taking back farmland – Steer advocated a more drastic solution. He called for local landlords to be assassinated and their weapons seized house by house in a progress towards London – at which point, he hoped, the London prentices would join them in a general uprising. Among the top of his list to be ‘spoil’d’ – Steer’s term for executed – were Francis Power and Vincent Barry.

In the event, Steer’s plans were a dismal failure. Records show that he was a thoughtful tactician and eloquent speaker, but the essential problem was that he and a handful of other ‘poor boys’ – angry young village men with no prospects – would never have the authority to persuade large numbers of people to risk everything for political change. Besides, many of Steer’s recorded comments are somewhat fantastical and it remains unclear how serious about ‘spoiling’ he actually was. ‘Work?’, he said to a starving villager, ‘Care not for worke, for we shall have a meryer world shortly; there be lusty fellowes abroade, and I will gett more, and I will work one daie and plaie an other, ffor I know ere yt be long wee shall have a meryer world’ (Walter 1985: 100). This was hardly practical talk in a famine.

Steer aimed to ignite the uprising with a gathering on Enslow Hill (a mile from Hampton Gay) on 17 November 1596, but on that Sunday evening the only people who ever turned up were Steer himself and three companions. Worse was to follow, much worse. Elizabethan society was rife with informers and Vincent Barry at Hampton Gay, Steer’s own Lord of the Manor, had already been alerted. Barry raised a general alarm and within days Steer and others had been arrested and sent to London tied to the backs of horses.

Waiting for them in London was Sir Edward Coke, the attorney general. Coke was convinced that he had uncovered a grave plot and authorized torture ‘for the better bowltinge forth of the truthe’. From now on, matters assumed a terrible inevitability. Statements extracted from the men confirmed to Coke that stern measures were required, if only pour encourager les autres. Four men were subsequently arraigned on charges of high treason, even though some of Coke’s fellow lawyers were uneasy at what may have seemed a disproportionate response to rural braggadocio with no actual action ever arising.

Of the four men charged, only two ever went to full trial. Steer and one companion had already died in prison, either from the torture or from the conditions of incarceration. Judicial proceedings were little more than a kangaroo court. At an assize hearing two of the jurors were landlords from Bletchingdon. A judge at the treason trial was compromised by a familial relationship with Vincent Barry of Hampton Gay: his heir was about to become Barry’s son-in-law.

In the summer of 1597 the Oxfordshire Rising came to a miserable end back on Enslow Hill where it had started. In a final act of barbarity Richard Bradshaw of Hampton Gay and Robert Burton of Beckley were hung, drawn and quartered with proceedings overseen by none other than landlord and encloser William Frere of Water Eaton acting as sheriff.

This is a tremendous if very sad story that John Walter’s meticulous research into contemporary records and court proceedings has now rescued from historical obscurity. The story also has a very surprising outcome. Within a decade, the Elizabethan authorities had reversed their policy on land enclosure and were coming down hard on aggressive landlords. Among the first to be arraigned before the Star Chamber in London for precisely that were Francis Power of Bletchingdon and William Frere of Water Eaton.

Ironically, one of the leading voices in favour of enclosure reform was Sir Edward Coke. Perhaps Coke had a residue of guilt over his harsh treatment of Steer. More probably, he like others in government had realized that a new class of acquisitive and aggressive property-owners could not be allowed to prosper unchecked if the result was social breakdown and possibly catastrophic public disorder. The poor always had to be kept on side. The ghost of Bartholomew Steer would haunt lawmakers for years to come. Arguably it still does. The Cameron government’s austerity programme of 2010-16 fell disproportionately on the poor. The uprising that resulted – this time at the ballot box – was Brexit.

My challenge is how to represent this photographically. I think the only way is to treat the Oxfordshire Rising as a rich layer of metaphor within my own story. To an extent I can take a literal approach, for example by photographing some of the places where these events occurred. However, the real meaning here likes in the metaphor. In photographing a physical landscape I am actually showing an economic landscape. The physical landscape has changed; it is the economic landscape and its social relations that has endured through time.

My research has already indicated that remarkably little has changed since Steer’s day. Many big estates are still there, social inequality has increased noticeably in recent years, and there is an uneasy and sometimes unpleasant relationship between those who own the land and others who happen to live there. Meanwhile government sees the general population as potentially hostile and concentrates mainly on fixing things for its own class of interests. We may no longer have land enclosures of the Tudor kind, but I would argue that the current fashion for offshore financial vehicles, property development and agribusiness is our contemporary version of the same thing. It is essentially a cash grab upon society’s common resources by that same class of aggressive self-interested new money – today, the City of London – that caused all the trouble in the first place. Plus ça change.

References

WALTER, John. 1985. ‘A “Rising of the People”? The Oxfordshire Rising of 1596’. Past & Present 107(1), [online], 90–143. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/past/107.1.90 [accessed 29 March 2021].

PHO705 Week 9: Work in Progress

I had a very good meeting with my FMP supervisor this week and shared my current work in progress.

If anyone wants to see it, the link is here: Crean-Work-in-Progress-Week9

What emerged is that I need to divide my project into its various sub-themes, concentrate on a typology of each one, and see what emerges. This will be my focus for the next month.

It was suggested that I look at the work of several photographers, including Keith Arnatt and Susan Hiller (in her work ‘Judenstrasse’). I have now secured a copy of Arnatt’s book I’m a Real Photographer (Arnatt et al 2007), so that will be added to the coming month’s tasks.

The two important elements that remain to be decided are the question of colour versus black and white and the storyline I will follow. I think I may have found my story, but that will require some research and I will cover it another time. I am not so sure about colour versus black and white. I think I will use both together for a while and then see which one works best after I have assembled a few more credible images.

References

ARNATT, Keith, David HURN and Clare GRAFIK. 2007. I’m a Real Photographer. London: The Photographers’ Gallery.

PHO705 Week 8: Online Exhibitions

While we are still in lockdown I have been experimenting with an online 3D exhibition using a system developed by Kunstmatrix in Germany (Kunstmatrix 2021). They call it ‘Augmented Reality’.

This is an experiment, so in order to become familiar with their system I have assembled some images from my previous main project Silent City, a walk through my hometown of Oxford after dark (Crean 2021). The virtual gallery space and setting it up works quite well but as always with these matters the key is publicity and getting people in through the virtual ‘door’. I will try various methods over the next few weeks and monitor the results. If they are favourable, then I will know that I have a potential outlet for my Final Major Project.

Below is an embedded version of the exhibition. Click on it to be taken to the full site. You can wander round using a mouse (or finger) or the arrow keys on your keyboard, but in practice I have found that taking the guided tour is likely the easiest way for a first visit.

Fig. 1: Mark Cean 2021. A virtual exhibition of Silent City using the Kunstmatrix 3D system.

The Kunstmatrix system looks to be in fairly early days. Plenty of other artists and organizations have mounted exhibitions on the platform but there are a few rough edges and the help files are brief. I would hope that the owners are encouraged by enough popularity to take their platform further. The pandemic has spurred much more interest in these possibilities while bricks-and-mortar spaces are off limits.

References

CREAN, Mark. 2021. ‘Silent City – A 3D Virtual Exhibition’. KUNSTMATRIX [online]. Available at: https://artspaces.kunstmatrix.com/en/exhibition/5199174/silent-city [accessed 17 Mar 2021].

KUNSTMATRIX. 2021. ‘Organize and Present Your Art Online’. KUNSTMATRIX [online]. Available at: https://www.kunstmatrix.com/en [accessed 7 Mar 2021].

Figures

Figure 1. Mark CREAN. 2021. ‘Silent City – A 3D Virtual Exhibition’. From: KUNSTMATRIX [online]. Available at: https://artspaces.kunstmatrix.com/en/exhibition/5199174/silent-city [accessed 17 Mar 2021].

 

 

PHO705 Weeks 6-7: Portfolio Reviews II

I participated in two portofolio reviews in Week 6 of this module. The first was with John Duncan. What emerged from his feedback is this:

  • I should look closely at Jem Southam’s The Red River (Southam 1989), at Keith Arnatt’s Miss Grace’s Lane (Arnatt 2021) and at the practices of Willie Doherty (Doherty 2021) and John Gossage, particularly Gossage’s The Pond (Gossage 2010). I have subsequently started looking at these works and the suggestions are very helpful, particularly the practice of John Gossage and Arnatt’s use of Palmeresque lighting in Miss Grace’s Lane (there being no shortage of detritus to photograph here).
  • The writings of Jonathan Meades are an example of how ideas and themes can be put together imaginatively in order to explore a particular subject.
  • I need to think harder about distance in my images. Some can be too close in and some too wide and placing the results side by side can be disorientating.
  • Landscape can be seen as a metaphor for many different things, for example illness and archaeology, or politics and power. How much have I thought about that? John Duncan cited Helen Chadwick’s The Viral Landscape (Chadwick 2020) as an example.
  • I need to work harder to avoid the obvious and anything that could find a place in a typical advertisement. I need to be more aware of photographic clichés and well-worn tropes and stay away. Originality and working hard to make an image my unique vision of a subject is crucial.
  • It is important to know what other photographers and artists are currently doing in the same sphere and position one’s work accordingly. That is why keeping oneself informed of wider contemporary practice matters.
  • Installations quickly become dull if they only show a row of images all of the same size and mount. People are looking for more imaginative approaches these days.
  • Keep any initial pitch to a single short paragraph and make sure that you begin by summing up your project in a single sentence.
  • As always, I need to be more ruthless at culling my ‘darlings’ and reducing my edit to a tighter selection of images.

This was an extremely helpful experience with a lot of important ideas. The emphasis overall was that the best creative achievements are the result of very careful thought, a refusal to compromise with clichés, and very hard work. I am so grateful that John Duncan told it straight.

My second review two days later was with John Angerson. This too was a very valuable, relaxed experience. The points that emerged from this review are these:

  • I need to pull back a bit and show more context in my images.
  • I need to tidy up some of my images, meaning more care in composition and post processing.
  • Some images might benefit from using a higher viewpoint. Perhaps I should consider a portable stepladder? This strikes me as an excellent idea.
  • With a landscape project, involving people does not have to mean portraiture. For example, it could instead mean including old and interesting images from generations ago – for example, the grandparents or great-grandparents of those who work the land today and the implements of the time. This can add a whole other dimension to a project. Try to look beyond the rather obvious idea that ‘a few portraits might help’. I should look at the work of James Ravilious on rural life and farming from earlier decades (Ravilious 2021).
  • Photography books are changing. Books that consist only of photographs are rarely enough anymore. A book today needs layers. We all need to think much more widely about other things that can become part of a book as well about the physical format, design and materials of a book.
  • Collaboration can turn a stalled project around and make all the difference. Stay open to it.
  • Write down 5–6 things that really interest you but that have absolutely nothing to do with photography. Think carefully about why you are drawn to them. Then think carefully about what you photograph and where you photograph it. See if there are points in common. These may just be emotions or states of mind, but pay attention to them. With any project, one is always trying to reach the core idea at its heart but sometimes this can be difficult to express and bring to awareness. Exercises like this can help. John Angerson called it ‘mind mapping’ and suggested that when one’s core idea is finally in the open, then one will start to take images with a coherent personal vision.

Taken together, these two portfolio reviews were among the most useful, challenging and still enjoyable photography experiences I have had in a long time.

References

ARNATT, Keith. 2021. ‘Miss Grace’s Lane 1986–87, Selection’. Keith Arnatt Estate [online]. Available at: http://www.keitharnattestate.com/works/w53.html [accessed 9 Mar 2021].

CHADWICK, Helen. 2020. ‘Helen Chadwick’s Viral Landscapes in 1989’. Modern Art Oxford [online]. Available at: https://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/mao-archive-helen-chadwicks-viral-landscapes-1989/ [accessed 8 Mar 2021].

DOHERTY, Willie. 2021. ‘Willie Doherty at the Kerlin Gallery’. Kerlin Gallery [online]. Available at: https://www.kerlingallery.com/artists/willie-doherty [accessed 8 Mar 2021].

GOSSAGE, John R. and Gerry BADGER. 2010. The Pond. Second edition. New York, N.Y.: London: Aperture .

RAVILIOUS, James. 2021. ‘James Ravilious – Photographer of Rural Life 1939–1999’. James Ravilious [online]. Available at: http://www.jamesravilious.com/ [accessed 7 Mar 2021].

SOUTHAM, Jem, D. M. THOMAS, F. A. TURK and Jan RUHRMUND. 1989. The Red River. Manchester: Cornerhouse.