Friday, 27 March 2015

A Different Sort of Joined Up Picture

Whitebeam, North Walls Park © Graham Dew 2015
Whitebeam, North Walls Park

On the web, it is good form be generous with your attribution. So this is how I came to make these pictures...

I've enjoyed staring out of the window on my rain commute to Portsmouth over the past few weeks looking up at the still bare trees that line the route. As the train speeds by one gets a good look at the three dimensional nature of the tree as it relatively rotates. And as I've enjoyed this vision I've wondered about how I might try to capture this as a photo. For a long time I've been an admirer of the multiple exposure photography of Chris Friel, and I've thought that I might try this method to capture the trees. Friel is also an exponent of long-exposure, intentional camera movement images. I've tried this before, and I've not really enjoyed it. As soon as you hit the shutter you are shooting blind. Getting a good image is largely a matter of serendipity, and it's all a bit too much hit-or-miss for me. His multiple exposure images are made in-camera, but my G3 does not have this feature so I've not really given the method much consideration.

Willow, North Walls Park © Graham Dew 2015
Willow, North Walls Park

Recently I was on Amazon looking for books about artisitic inspiration and so had a browse through Amazon's suggestions. I ended up buying two books by Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, which I've enjoyed hugely. Looking on Kleon's blog I came across the joiners of David Hockney that I know well, and the joiners of Pep Ventosa. So browsing Ventosa's website I found his gallery In the Round, which was the inspiration for these new images.

Hawthorne, North Walls Park © Graham Dew 2015
Hawthorne, North Walls Park

I think that there is a lot to explore in this technique. All of these images were composited in Photoshop as 16 bit tiffs and then edited in Lightroom. I like the way the background is de-emphasised, and how the image contains elements of different times and viewpoints. I need to experiment with the amount of movement and the number of frames. Early days; I have lots of ideas to explore...

Monday, 9 March 2015

Pretentious? Moi?

Mesh Fence, Barton Farm © Graham Dew 2015
Mesh Fence, Barton Farm

Late on Saturday evening, I drove around to a parking space  on the edge of Barton Farm. As I pulled up a dog walker putting her pet back in the car seemed to be lingering, waiting to see what dog I had. She gave me a rather disdainful look as I lifted the hatch and rear shelf of our rather shabby motor. What sort of man would make his dog travel cramped up in the dark boot of his car? She looked somewhat surprised when the only the only things I had to get out were my Wellington boots and camera bag.

"Oh, I thought you had a dog in there!"
"No, not me," I replied. "I've come to take some photographs before the light fades." We exchanged pleasantries about the fine weather as I pulled on my boots and locked up the car.
"Are you a professional?" she asked, and I explained that no, I was here for my own pleasure. I knew what she was going to say next would raise my hackles.
"Oh, so just a hobby."

To say that I was an artist hoping to make some observations about the farm as as it gets developed in to a housing estate would be overblown and pretentious. To say that photography gives me a thrill when I can make a visual and metaphorical link between a subject and its environment is a bit weird and strong for most people. However, both statements are nearer the mark than saying photography is a pastime, something to gently fritter away precious hours of free time. I have to make time, clear other duties, prioritise and justify to be able to go out and make pictures that only a handful of people will see, because I need that creative space. But it's too difficult to explain that to others who don't know or appreciate art. 

The sun was setting fast; I needed to get a move on.
"Yes, just a hobby."





Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Kurt Jackson - Place

I know I’m not really giving anyone enough notice, but if you are in the Southampton area this weekend or next you must go down to the City Art Gallery to catch Kurt Jackson’s wonderful ‘Place’ exhibition before it packs up and heads to the West Country for a long stint in Truro and then onto Bath in October.
Kurt Jackson, Walker on the Broomway, rain coming in,
wind picking up. Low water September 2013

The last Jackson exhibition I saw was The Thames Revisited where Jackson followed the path of the River Thames, and the progression of landscapes it moves through. This exhibition finds him travelling all over the country visiting the favourite locales of selected guests. These include writers, poets, musicians, environmentalists and friends. Each of the guests has written describing their feelings about the places, the texts placed alongside Jackson’s creations.

Kurt Jackson, Femi Kuti on the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury 2010

The display ranges from tiny playing-card sized paintings through to his enormous canvases. There are beautiful cast sculptures, a wire and junk mesh (from Glastonbury), beach-combed shells and bones from the Scottish coast. My favourite piece called Erme, Dusk was a small collection of driftwood with a painted coastal scene, complete with found pebbles, a bleached stick and a plastic fork. At the other end of the scale, his huge paintings of the Broomway on the Essex coast really conveyed the enormity of the Essex coastal mudflats and sky. But I liked almost everything in this exciting show. 

Kurt Jackson, This place. Photogravure and drypoint

There is a very nice book to accompany the show that is now my bedtime reading, however the work really deserves to be seen in the flesh to appreciate the physicality of the paint textures, the three dimensional collaging added to some of the pictures and the hugeness of his largest canvases. Seems I'm going to be making another trip down there this weekend.


Monday, 26 January 2015

A Stake in the Ground

A Stake in the Ground © Graham Dew 2015
A Stake in the Ground: Barton Farm

For years there have been discussions, protests, public meetings and local news articles about the fate of Barton Farm, the first area of green space north of Winchester. But it's a done deal now. The approvals have been given, the diggers have arrived and the ground has been cut. Over the next few years, this unremarkable but cherished area will turn into a new housing estate with over 2500 homes. The plans have been made, the first stakes in the ground have been placed. Topsoil in which crops once grew has now been removed, presumably for purposes of landscaping. Will this project provide rich profits for the developers selling housing at a premium and over burdening the city's infrastructure, or will it provide affordable housing and give stability to the city centre and its key services like the hospital? I don't know but I hope it's the latter.

Let's hope that the name stays as Barton Farm to remember what was here, rather than giving some stupid name such as Cameron Fields or Thatcher Heights. That wouldn't surprise me.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Experiments in Art

Experiments in Art © Graham Dew 2015
Experiments in Art

When working with materials artists routinely experiment to find interesting and inspiring textures, patterns and shapes. With photos, we can keep an eye open for similar experiments that have occurred by nature or wear. This is a picture of corrugated sheet found on the side of a compost heap up at the allotment. Something has made the paint craze and shrink, revealing the zinc plating below, but it is hard to imagine just what the mechanism was to create such nice soft ellipses.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Frost on the Allotment

We don't get much snow down these parts. I think that in the thirty years that I've lived in Winchester we have only had about five significant falls of snow in which the snow lasted for more than two days. This, of course, is hardly surprising given our location. However, we do get frosts and once or twice each winter and if we are lucky we get to see good hoar frost. Such a frost occurred just before New Year. With a spare hour before the arrival of friends, I took off to our nearby allotment to see if I could make some worthwhile pictures.


Frost on the Allotment #1 © Graham Dew 2014


I have been photographing allotments for many years now and find them endlessly interesting. There is always the juxtaposition of growth and decay, built and natural, creation and abandon that is interesting in its own right, or as metaphors for other concerns. As photographers we are able to find a wide palette of colours and textures, and a myriad of small details that can be contrasted with the larger environment.


Frost on the Allotment #2 © Graham Dew 2014


The flat soft light of winter can be very appealing, but I find that a small additional amount of lighting really helps to lift the picture, so in these conditions I often use fill-flash. Our eyes and minds see and interpret all the interesting details in front of us, balancing and emphasising in many different ways. Our cameras, on the other hand, are dispassionate and so render the scene without interpretation. I feel it is our purpose as photographers to modify the image on a way that helps guide the viewer, and so I enjoy using the flash to help build the image. The trick, of course, is to make the image both special and believable.


Frost on the Allotment #3 © Graham Dew 2014



















Saturday, 6 September 2014

Last Harvest - Dekkergraph




Here is a small ‘dekkergraph’ made last month at Barton Farm. My previous post about Ger Dekkers has proven to be one of my most viewed pages, which says more about the lack of information online about the artist than it does about the blog. There was a recent post on the Socks Studio blog which has some interesting image series to examine.

All of Dekkers’ series are of the large scale landscape; clean open vistas of fields or regularly planted stands of trees and woods, where the geometry of man-made lines or curves are exploited to create the design of the series and the interlinking of adjacent pictures. In my experience, spotting suitable locations that are suitable for ‘dekkergraphs’ is difficult enough in the first place. Then the series of images need to be rigorously executed to ensure that the series works cohesively. To do this successfully requires careful thought, planning and a fair amount of walking. Perhaps it is not surprising that few people have followed this branch of photographic technique. In Dekkers’ homeland of the Netherlands such scenes might well be common, but in the cluttered, rural areas of Hampshire such opportunities are hard to find.

Last month I was up at Barton Farm attempting to make a joiner of the newly harvested fields. As the harvesting was only partially complete, the fields were especially interesting, with plenty of close shaven stubble, long mounds of cut straw, and stiff upright stalks of barley with soft heads bowing under their own weight. I came across this acute corner of remaining barley which I wanted to photograph, but knew that it would not work with any of the other pictures that I had taken for a larger joiner of the field. It occurred to me that this might be worth an experiment as Ger Dekkers-style sequence. Unlike Dekkers’ pictures, the subject of this sequence was close to the camera. This meant that instead of walking in a straight line I would need to walk in an arc, maintaining my distance from the corner of the barley cutting. Care was taken to ensure key points in the geometry of the images remained aligned from frame to frame. It’s not the most complex or challenging of pictures, but the sequence seems to work well enough and hopefully is a stepping stone to some new work.