Stream of consciousness
Four months has passed since we where given the task of creating a short video that contextualised our practice. My first attempt resembled a strange and noisy pop video. My second attempt was better but the audio frustrated me. Finally after a substantial investment in audio equipment I was happy.
But as in everything I do for this course, when one question is answered another one precipitously takes its place. The last video explained what I was doing but I now feel the need to make a follow up video that explains why I am making/creating. A exploration that will be more for myself than any audience that may view it.
The element that made the last video successful was the narrative: I wrote the story and then I shot my film accordingly. Last night I began writing the first of a number of works, insights into myself and what moves me. I'm not sure how many of them I will write but when I am happy I will thread them together with video and stills.
Sound Clip, 'Lost' by Oonagh Devoy.
Van Werninck Studio
It was through my friend and colleague Sheila Watson that learned about the closure of the Van Werninck Photography Studio in Montrose. Sheila had noticed the closing down sale, mentioned me to the proprietor then messaged me to get through as soon as I could as he had a number of analogue cameras for sale.
The summer holidays have not yet begun at the college so the first opportunity I had to pay a visit was this morning on the studios last day of business. I arrived early for I was anxious to see if there was any treasure left. Just after 9.30am I met for the first time the proprietor Mr Neil Van Werninck. It was a poignant shared moment when I helped Neil
take down the window shutters for the last time.........I cannot imagine how he was feeling himself.
After introductions and declaring an interest in cameras and all things photography Neil gave me a private tour of the shop, studio and darkrooms. It reminded me very much of Chambre Hardman's house and studio in Liverpool.
Neil gave me over an hour of his time.......though it didn't feel like it. We talked about the history of the studio, his family history, what he will be doing after the closure of the shop and of course cameras. He also gave me a couple of lessons that I transcribed eagerly into my notebook.
When I left it was after purchasing his fathers J.Lancaster and Son plate camera: Neil took over the studio from his father. I learned of the photographs that his father had taken with the camera and how his job had led to him meeting his future wife, Neil's mum. All cameras are beautiful to me but this one will be extra special because it comes with a history.
We exchanged contact details and parted company knowing we would be in touch again. It goes without saying that the new shoes have been put on hold and I will be eating beans on toast till the end of the month...............happy days.
It was with great sadness today that I had to say goodbye to my principal tutor Iain Irving when he announced that he was leaving Gray's to begin ventures anew. Iain is modest, kind, extremely clever and enthusiastically there for all of his students. I have without a doubt learned much from the man both academically and as a compassionate human being. I was unable to not be unemotional for I am cursedly demonstrative. Goodbyes are always hard.
Yesterday I ventured out with my single plate camera. Loaded in the plate holders where
my first glass plates - glass slides coated with liquid emulsion - a gift from one of my classmates from the workshop at Streetlevel, Glasgow. At 8 am I set my equipment up at the shoreline near to Arbroath Harbour.
Making an exposure is a slow process, but far from being agonising this is a joy to me. In a world where we demand information, food and experiences to be quicker and more intense I immerse myself luxuriously in my bubble of sticky time. Even if none of my photographs turned out I would still be happy for I would have still engaged in a delicious experiential moment.
It was with much excitement that I entered the darkroom and developed my first glass negatives from my new/old camera. It seemed only fitting that Iain should be gifted the first one.
Message in a bottle #2
Launched today at high tide from Arbroath
Saturday 11th June saw me driving northwards to Banchory for my second meeting with the composer David Ward to discuss progress to date of our future collaboration at the art venue Woodend Barn as part of the Sound Festival in September 2017.
Our hosts Mark and Fiona Hope provided us with our meeting place and a delicious lunch. Mark is one of the board members of Woodend Barn and Fiona regularly contributes also to the venue.
After our last meeting we have been regularly exchanging e-mails and pulling together resources for the project. I also sent David one of my messages in a bottle to inspire him. The principal aims of this meeting where to discuss what we have both been up to in regards to the project, refining concepts and agreeing deadlines for completed works.
Both David and I have been busy with other projects too. David has been composing an opera titled 'The Garden of the Sun' while I have been concentrating on my Masters studies. We are now however both ready to take this project forward and start creating for our joint venture.
Trial and error
Having made my 6 exposures I was keen to get back to work on the Monday so I could develop my paper positives and see what my camera had captured.
Excitement turned to puzzlement when all of my positives proved fruitless. Loading up my plate holders again with the positive paper I decided to make my way to the harbour. This time I made six exposures of the same composition but at different times. Surely one of these would work, but again no.
My dad in his spare time rebuilds classic motorcycles and cars. When something is not working his advice is to start with the simplest fix first. For example, car not starting then replace spark plugs. Applying his advice to my camera problem I decided to replace the positive paper with Ilford RC Multigrade, ISO again being 3. This time however I loaded only one of the plates and made the exposure in one of art studios.
Nervous and unsure if I would get an image I was ecstatic when not only did I get an image but it was clear and the exposure correct. Dads advice had worked and I was on track again.
This week saw me take delivery of a tripod from a friend - the final piece of equipment required to allow me to start making exposures with my single plate camera.
On Friday at work I loaded my plate holders with llford Direct Positive Paper ready for the weekend. The theory behind using the photographic paper is that it has a similar ISO to silver gelatin. This would be a cheap way to acquaint myself with my camera and its controls.
The weather could not have been more perfect to practice and play. The thing I think I love the most about manual analogue adventures is the slowing down of time. Firstly is the setting up the cumbersome equipment, Then, having only six exposures, considering carefully my coastal compositions. Focusing, checking exposure times, loading the plate holder, setting the manual shutter then finally releasing it to make the image.
So enthused was I in my work that I didn't realise that I had a number of people behind me who were taking a keen interest in what I was up to and I got a start when I turned round and found a German couple taking photographs of me and my camera. Interest continued with passers by slowing down and stopping to see what I was up too. My slow motion adventure had sucked others into it's magic vortex.
On my last photograph the string that is pulled to set the exposure snapped and shot all the way into the timer. The camera itself is over a 100 years old.........I'm not sure about the string as it may have been repaired before. Because these items are not stocked in the supermarket and there is no handy camera repair person to call upon, it was time once again to search the internet and get the screwdriver set out.
It wasn't long till I found a number of tutorials, the easiest of which I found to follow being made by a Melbourne Photographer called Paul Ewins. It took me over an hour to fix my Thorton Pickard Timer but thanks to the tutorial I now understand how my timer works and I know also that it is fit for purpose for when I start to make images on glass.