I’ve been very honoured recently to have been included in the 2nd Singapore International Photography Festival exhibiting my Thames Town work alongside the works of 47 other photographers from around the globe.
From the SIPF website: “The 2nd SIPF continues its purpose to unearth new works and talents while incorporating the theme, Human : Nature, to address the universal concerns of the world. There is a duality in this theme and it can be freely interpreted either as ‘Human Nature’ or ‘Human & Nature’; the colon representing a relationship or a balanced ratio between the words. This is an ambitious call for creative interpretation based on the theme, yet, the 550 works from 48 photographers from 23 countries selected by the four festival curators Ark Fongsmut, Bridget Tracy Tan, Chow Chee Yong and Yasufumi Nakamori, continue to inspire the photography community and elevates the understanding of photography.”
You can visit until the 13th November. My work is on show at The Gallery, Old School. For more details please visit SIPF.sg and to download the full guide to the exhibitions click here
My Thames Town work is this week featured on the newly formed ShutterSpark website. Shutterspark was, “created to showcase the work of budding photographers to both the public and potential employers alike, shutterspark blog gives photography BA and MA graduates the best opportunity to promote their work.”
Please visit ShutterSpark now and have a look, there is some awesome work being displayed at the moment and if you graduated within the past few years, it is well worth submitting work of your own whilst the site is growing in popularity.
Thames Town II. 12"x12" Giclee Print. ©Dave Wyatt 2008
Well I have had an interesting week of it with trips back and forth to the Photographer’s Gallery in London. “The reason?”, I hear you ask… Well I have been part of a group exhibition showcasing who they deemed the most interesting graduates from the past 12 months on British photographic courses (I know, my MA was in China but it was run through the University of Bolton). 23 of us showed work and it was a varied mix of styles. It was interesting to see the work I was doing in China in the light of what other courses had been producing, including Goldsmiths, the RCA and LCC, all courses I hold in high regard. Overall I am chuffed to bits to have been included and more importantly my work held its own there. I will try and get hold of an image of the work in situ to add here when I go for the VIP reception tomorrow night.
There is also a mini site that will be up for a year promoting the work in the show so go and have a look at the variety of work for yourselves.
Fresh Faced And Wild Eyed 09
Deep Sleep is, in the words of it’s creators, “…a quarterly online photography magazine founded by and featuring work from a small group of contributors who share the same office space in Shoreditch, East London. Each issue (published in February, May, August and November) will be on a specific theme and guest contributors are also invited to submit a set of images based on that theme.”
Well their theme for issue two was Alien and as such they are featuring my work from Thames Town, which is jolly nice of them (too much Blackadder goes Forth means the word ‘jolly’ must make an appearence).
You can see the whole issue here: Deep Sleep
Thames Town. 12"x12" Giclee Print.
Tim Clark over at 1000 Words has featured my Thames Town work on his blog a little while back so please go over there and check out the blog. It is by far one of the more interesting blogs showcasing and reviewing contemporary photography online.
1000 Words Photography Blog
All contact sheets relating to the Thames Town project are located here.
Please ensure to browse via the in site controls and not with your browser buttons for full functionality.
Have been in contact with Jodie Marks of the Architecture Centre in Bristol and they are interested in seeing the continuation of this project if I choose it in view of a possible exhibition in the future.
Have a look at their website here: http://www.architecturecentre.co.uk/
I intend with my images to represent a subject fairly whilst also representing my own viewpoint on a subject. Whilst this in some cases may lead me to portray something in a negative light I will still try to remain fair with my reresentation.
My work is concerned more with the concept of our relationship with the environment than strict photojournalism so whilst I will not perform excessive manipulations or add elements to an image to construct a scene I have no issue with removing distracting elements if they are irrelevant to the overall message I as a photographer seek to convey. This does not include any removal or alteration of recognisable people UNLESS they have specifically stated they wish to not be in the images. Acceptable removal only includes technical problems, distracting elements such as tree branchs which due to the nature of a rangefinder I didnot notice in camera but would otherwise have corrected composition for, and also correcting lens perspective where needed.
The biggest risk is whether or not I am prevented from shooting by security in the estate. Wilst all indications are that this will nt be the case it is a possibility in any situation. In cas of this happening the project will evolve to document other housing that equally exemplifies the growth of suburbia within China.
The next biggest risk is theft/damage of film. Filmk will be both kept and developed in alternating rolls to help minimise risk.
In case of theft i will have 2 options -either purchase a another medium format or resort to digital capture in extremis. It is doubtful I will be able to find a replacement Mamiya 6 so would have to go for a more traditional Medium format SLR.
Here is a breakdown of the proposed budget for the Thames Town Project:
Flights: Total 1800 Yuan
Accomodation: 200 Yuan per night x 10 nights=2000Yuan
Film: 30 Rolls 120 Superia 630 Yuan
Food: 60 Yuan per day x 10 days= 600 Yuan
Travel: Metro -6 Yuan per day, taxis:25 Yuan
Developing film: 10 Yuan per roll Dev and scan x30 rolls= 300Yuan
Printing and high end scanning costs are NA at the moment and will be included in the project if it is expanded past a magazine layout.
We had the priviledge of Robert Pledge’s advice for another day today as well as a morning lecture fro him about his work with Contact Press Images and their coverage of the Beijing Olympics. Spent a lot of time working on my editwhilst heeding his advice yesterday about how to improve the layout and finally at the very end of the day ahd something we were both very happy with. The one thing that struck me is as soon as he saw the work he realised what was important about it even though it is largely invisible in the small format of a book -the tiny details that reveal the Chinese element of the space which are barely visible until the image is huge. The final edit included English style text for the title of Thames Town and the same repeated in Chinese characters (thankyou An for your local Shanghai spelling knowledge!), with a not inconsiderable shift in the image layout. I maintained my stance of one image per page mostly but enlarged the initial image to span the centrefold and shrunk the opposite one to accomodate the text and made some fairly minor changes to the cover. The main changes came within though with the image layout. 2 images were dropped completely and replaced wth a new end pair. I will upload both pdfs when I get the cance so any interested readers can have a look for themselves at the difference the advice of one of the best editors in the world can make…
Spent the morning tinkering with a few things at uni with my layout and my website before meeting Robert Pledge in the afternoon when he came to help us edit our 8 page spreads. I did my draft what seems like months ago now but in reality was probably a couple of weeks but it still seemed reasonable. Not completely happy with the over being the church so i swapped it over to the far more intereesting image of the house with the wooden scaffolding and the piece felt stronger straight away.
Pledge was fascinating to talk to about laying work out and how we should strive to break rules and push the boundaies and not just be trying to make our work fit a predescribed formula and he recommended some useful elements for me to tinker with the final layout to really add a sense of mystery or the viewer about the work being in China not England. A few changes would mean it would not be obvious until the middle at leats of the layout that Thames Town is a Chinehousing estate and not one of the many new buids in the UK.
Spent the day going through all of the Thames Town edit and adding a few images that are worthwhile and making corrections to the original files to make them ready for the layout. Replaced the ones I found to be out of focus last week with sharper images from the shoot as well. Only corrections I am applying are standard darkroom corrections of colour and density and also some perspective cropping where necessary cos I was too much of a gimp to take a stepladder to get high enough to enable keeping the back of the camera straight. Live and learn I suppose.
Also did a first layout in InDesign to see how what I was seeing in my mind was going to look on paper –inspired by a copy of zing magazine I have on my desk. For some reason the template Dave gave me has messed up settings somewhere along the line so the images looked off on contrast on the cover and noticed I had messed up some of the colours very slightly by doing too much too quickly and not concentrating. Not tricky to fix though, only a few minor colour casts in the highlights. The mock layout was close to what the end result will be but a few of the images will need swapping out. I will post a version when the images look publishable in this format.
Still think the work is definitely stronger when it focuses on the idea of our relationship with space and so the street views are more to my vision than the detail shots. If I had more than 10 pages, 3 of which are gone after the cover and text, then maybe I could add them but with laying out 1 image per page I am so restricted in making it just as to the point and atmospheric as possible that I feel 3 sets of diptychs plus one establishing by the next, one closer and a cover will serve the work the best.
Spent all of Monday on production work on the edit arrived at over the weekend. My god scans take forever to process compared to digital originals, especially on a small laptop… Made it through the 1st 6 images and noticed a couple of problems –the depth of field is short in one of the images of a back alley but not badly enough to be noticeable at A4 so I may run with it but it means the image may not make the exhibition set. Thankfully it was the weaker of the alley shots so I can live with it. Also noticed one of the street views that I favoured needs to be scrapped because I somehow missed the presence of a van poking out from a corner and 2 mopeds parked in the background. This was stupid and I should have reshot the image but it is too late now and I have a lot of these street views anyway so will have to replace it. Other than that, production work is a pain on a 12” screen…
Spent the weekend editing the work and reading some works I find help me concentrate on refining my edit correctly –namely Robert Adam’s “Why People Photograph” and various chapters in “Image Makers Image Takers” edited by Anne-Celene Jaeger. By the end of Sunday I was down to about 12 images in an edit that shifts away from close-up and is more centred on the idea of space ad how we occupy it which is at the heart of what this work is about. This edit can be viewed at http://davewyatt.com/ttedit3/index.html The edit isn’t perfect yet but it plays well as a series of diptychs from which I can start experimenting with the layout. I also returned to the original contacts and added some I had previously overlooked to the more general edit so that they will be on the radar in case of any later changes to the edit.
I’m generally feeling good about the project at this point. The images are largely busier visually than I had envisioned but this is fairly typical of my work –finding quietness in busy environments. It is not as empty as say Klenz’s ‘Nonsuch’ but retains my of a Chinese character by having that slightly crammed in feeling so familiar in Chinese housing.
Been looking at a few different blogs and webzines recently which have been really resonating with my working methods at the moment so thought I would post some links here as much as an aide-memoire as anything.
Firstly, I think I may have posted this before but there is a great webzine called Flak magazine. It showcases a new image everyday and has a host of very interesting work there. Make sure you have a look through the gallery on there because there is a plethora of work on there, much of it appears to be medium and large format so provides a healthy break from the masses more attention seeking working seen in much of modern small format work. Have a look here:
Spent the day slowly going through the edit and finding images that work together. I’m sure it will take months before I finally come up with an edit I am happy with and editing image order on a screen is shit. I need to get prints done.
To see where I am at with the edit now I put together a basic site in Lightroom to play with a few templates as a way of still dealing with the images but not directly editing them so still concentrating on them but in a more obtuse manner. The other links on the page are to the wider edits from the past 2 days as well.
Thames Town Edits
The images are in order with the first being the cover image and the rest being pairs to sit opposite each other on pages in a book, so should play off each other as well as still allow flow through the body of work.
Ok, so finally on to editing the Thames Town project. Getting the images down from 350ish to fewer than 100 wasn’t too tricky by just generating jpegs of all the images and flying through Bridge with them. My poor laptop is suffering enough with the heat here without having to do all the work on the full sized 70mb scans… After dividing the images up into groups by subject I have managed to get them down to about 45, with the possibility of substituting some of them for images I initially dropped if they fit better into the layout. Had to drop some of my favourite images from the shoot like the antenna image and an image of a coach under a sun awning with a house roof ‘sitting’ on top visually. They are strong images but do not fit in with the aesthetic of the whole so have to go. Reminds me of one of the first lessons in editing a story we learnt at Newport –quite often you have to drop your favourite image because it just does not fit or add anything to the whole. Because they can’t make the final cut I have included them here…
Returned to Dalian last night but was way too delayed at Shanghai airport to drop the first load of film off at the lab so Saturday morning, after splitting my film into 2 batches, the first batch went in and the second batch went in on Sunday when I collected the initial rolls.
I officially hate the labs in Dalian. The other one managed to fold one of my films in half last time straight through the middle of one of the images (luckily not one from the edit). This lab, although I have spent the past 3 months making sure any problems stopped happening (wrong size scans, cutting films in a pain in the arse way, scratching the shit out of the film etc), decided to introduce a new and unrecoverable problem. 7 of the 16 rolls they had they must have opened the cover of the developing machine too early cos they fogged the edges and in one case half the image of the last frames. I mean, this shit is hardly rocket science so what the hell are they doing? The biggest shit was the one and only portrait from Thames Town is fogged down the side. I can crop and recover it but that is not the point, the image had a lot of copy space for a reason and now it does not. I should have had the film developed in Shanghai but the extra cost was the same as my flight back. In future, I am going to have to ensure that no critical image is at the end of a roll. Film is cheap compared to the possibility of losing an important image. Anyway, nothing I can do about it except learn for the future. I showed them the problem and they said it wouldn’t happen again but that is bollocks…
So reviewing these first scans the project looks to be going well. The images I thought would be strong from the very end are perfect and I have a lot of street scenes plus way more close ups than I remembered shooting. The antenna image from the hut behind a hedge with no opening was fogged but there is only 1 frame here and I know I shot more so there should be some on another roll being developed now.
The second batch scans were delayed till Tuesday but picked up the negs on Monday. See I have lost 1 or 2 more images to fogging but nothing critical. Looking over the whole batch it is more successful in some ways than I had hoped –the early images with the bright sky work fine and do not look out of place alongside the more overcast days. There is one batch where the sun was too directional and bright so the shadows across the images have made them unusable. One of these was an image I had in mind for a cover but looking at it compositionally now it isn’t up to the job –it reflects non of the apparent visual banality I am looking for in the final set of images.
Wednesday was mostly just taken up with filing –oh that job I despise so much after a year in the Magnum offices doing just that to other people’s negs.:) Had to do all the films I have shot on the medium format since being here so, whilst only about 60 rolls or so, took all day when you consider that having no contact sheets meant comparing every scan to the negs to number the scans all correctly. At least that is a job I won’t have t repeat and by doing it now means I won’t have different version of the scans with different filenames all over the place.
I’m sat in one of the 2 open bars in Thames town writing this with a Cold beer and the BBC news on… I didn’t have much film left on me today to use –only 3 ½ rolls of 120, but hopefully I managed to put them to good use. I shot alongside the River in the opposite direction from before that was one of the only parts I hadn’t made use of yet in the area. I also made some images behind the Sonjiang Art Museum and next to what I believe is either a conference centre or council building on the side of a square. Got some slightly different angles and some covered walkways plus a portrait of a tree tied down which I kind of thought was interesting. A tree, in a constructed landscape, with wires holding it down.
There was also a potential establishing shot next to the square in this part of town with a large LED screen proclaiming, “Wlcome to Thames Town”, spelt just like that and in the middle of a very constructed landscape.
The most interesting part though (except for the tree portrait, I loved that!), was along the river. A lot of the most expensive properties in the area back onto the river for the view so I made a lot of pictures of them, mostly emphasising their relationship with the surrounding trees which, along with the de-rigor high fence, protect the owners from the masses. Some had very Chinese scaffolding that is wooden and obviously not up to British safety regulations… I liked the very British looking housing with the obviously foreign scaffolding all over it and this could work very well with the project to help it’s feeling of not being entirely a standard English community. As an aside to myself there were also some bloody big spiders in the trees around there…
As always after I ran out of film I found at least 2 or 3 scenes that would have been ideal, but what can you do? 30 rolls (well, 29 if you discount the one shot around the Jinmao tower for amusement…) is enough for such a confined area! Too much more and I’d have just been repeating myself over and over making editing much more complicated (which of 10 identical images with slightly different weather should I use!?!). I couldn’t shoot yesterday because it was pissing down with rain and I got very lost looking for phone credit funny story: Phone shop said because I had a phone registered in Dalian I had to go to a specific place to top it up. I followed their directions and ended up at the airport. I’m choosing to believe it was their sense of humour and I hadn’t made a balls up of the directions!).
Overall though the last 2 shooting days have been perfect so along with sine of the others which have more contrasty lighting I think I have the work sewn up. Pity the weather went gray so late but then at least it did not stay bright the whole time as it wasn’t working nearly as well with the blue skies. Apart form staying longer there isn’t much I could do to control it –it is typhoon season here so the forecast is regularly wrong. I would be tempted to stay a couple more days just to be absolutely sure I have all bases covered but it should be OK, except maybe some of the earliest work it should all be useable. I need to get back to Dalian anyway to continue shooting the leisure landscape work which is much more complicated due to the multimedia component I am experimenting with.
On a last note, someone really needs to explain to the decorator of the Rose Bar that there is a difference between Germany and England. The décor in here is mostly German and the Umpa-Lumpa music is interesting…
AMENDMANT: Just spoke to the woman who runs the bar and it turns out her husband is German so it is excusable to have a German themed bar! Annoyingly though this is the only place in Thames Town with a Chinese flag, something I have been looking for to really place the work visually in China, but there is no way to shoot it without including the German flag next to it so it just won’t work for showing a British town in China…