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Category: P4: research & preparation

Fred Ritchin. Bending the Frame

AF notes on Ritchin lecture

My tutor suggested looking into Fred Ritchin’s book Bending the Frame, not because have a specific interest in photojournalism but as a source of ideas on how to present photography differently. Instead, I watched a 1 hour lecture by Ritchin. Also linked above are the fourcorners project and website pixelpress.org.

I found the whole lecture fascinating but a few ideas in particular seem relevant as I toy with ideas for A4. I had been thinking of using a PDF document (that would include links etc) because I’m more able to control the layout than I can for a website (I’m not a website designer – and it’s technical more complex than a pdf publishing tool). However, Ritchin makes the important observation that the web has multiple surfaces that can be used to contextualise and show different perspectives. While a pdf can use hyperlinks, it is not as seamless as remaining in the medium of a web-browser. I’m tempted to explore what is possible with WordPress’s new(ish) block layout, without committing to making a web-based catalogue for my project. The pixelpress website shows some interesting examples but I’m conscious they were made with the participation of professional web designers.

Another concept addressed was ‘future photography’; constructed images that show how the future might look (example shown of flooding caused by global warming). The phrase is something that could be applied to my own exhibition – not wish to see when/if permissions and funding might be obtained, I created a composite exhibition.

As an aside, the idea for the ‘bending the frame’ title seems to come from the notion that at one time everything within the frame was considered to represent actual events, much like words within quotation marks. The digital age has bent the frame, with everyone having the means of production to alter and publish images.

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In situ exhibition

I’ve been pressing ahead with my virtual exhibition in the absence of any imminent possibility of securing a canal side site and funding for a site specific exhibition. From the outset I disliked Kunstmatrix and its like; they are clunky to use, resemble online kitchen showrooms and come at a significant ongoing cost. Instead, I’m using my own images (taken this weekend) of the site around Leeds Canal Basin and Photoshop skills to add in my own images and photo-posters to the scene. On top of shooting, this was about a couple of days work.

The technical approach in Photoshop for placement of project images into the site images was complex and varied between composites. Tools used included:

  • Transform
  • Vanishing point filter
  • Blend-if settings
  • Displacement filter
  • Noise and blur filters.

Having completed the composite images, I worked through some iterations of presentation on the www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk website. I settled on one where images enjoy maximum screen space, allowing for clear viewing, including on mobile devices. Adobe Portfolio can be a little tricky to understand at first with layout as many of the spacing controls are adjusted as part of the text / block settings and are not always easy to find – however, familiarity helps!

Portfolio is not a blogging platform, so I’ve included a link to a ‘visitor book’ that I’ll place on my fitzgibbonphotography.com website. I’ve separately looked at ‘guest book’ plugins for WordPress, which I’ll write about separately.

The finished exhibition can be seen at https://leedsandliverpool.co.uk/exhibitions.

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WeAreOCA featured article

Feature image from article

I was pleased to have an article on my ‘work experience’ featured in the WeAreOCA blog – I wrote the article mainly to share the benefits of researched-based work experience to other mature students, but also as a thankyou to the bloggers I interviewed by sharing their blogs to the OCA audience.

https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/photography/researching-the-photography-industry-the-blogger/

I’ve also shared the link (and full research paper) with the bloggers I interviewed as part of the research.

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A4: initial preparation

A4 requires a final draft of work together with the promotional materials. The guidance explains that what is sent will depend on the form of publication and that it must provide a good sense of how I envisage it being presented. Examples are: page layouts; print sequences; installation maquette/sketch; recce shots; web page previews.

Also required for submission are:

  • artist’s statement about the work.
  • artist’s biography.
  • A press release for the publication.
  • Any other promotional material or evidence of promotional activity .
  • Any strategies for assessing footfall and collating audience feedback.

I’ve previously discussed with my tutor that the work is unlikely to be resolved (in the form of a site specific exhibition) prior to completion of the module and that the assignment would therefore be in the form of a mock-up for the site-specific element. A2 already considered in detail how the work will be resolved and its evolution from the BoW, however additional work is required on the presentation aspects, particularly the representation of the work as a mock-up in a site specific location. I already have accumulated significant evidence of promotional activity and also need to consider how to present that. Another presentational element is how to present the website designed for to show the work online – just sharing a URL seems insufficient.

I’ll record my workings / experiments for this assignment in part 4’s research/preparation section of my blog.

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AoP Final Year Show

screen grab from www.the-aop.org

I am pleased to have my work featured in the OCA’s final year show with the Association of Photographers (https://www.the-aop.org/what-s-on/student-final-year-shows-2021/oca). The show is also being shared on the AOP’s instagram feed but feature the cover image only, so unlikely to result in any useful viewings of my project.

It is useful publicity for the OCA, who feature prominently, and there was no cost involved in the submission, apart from the time volunteered to assist in pulling the submission together and submitting it, which I think was appreciated by the others involved.

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No news

It’s been about a month since I emailed a number of sites requesting the use of canal-side space to show my large-scale poster-prints. Aside from a response from the printer, who are considering if they can sponsor the print costs, there has been silence. I’ve sent follow up emails and will look for other potential possibilities. However, I do note that these organisations are only just reawakening after Covid-19 and suspect that many staff are at least partially furloughed. I also see that the Burnley Canal Festival has again been cancelled for 2021, as has the Skipton Canal Festival – because of the uncertainties about large gatherings.

It is seeming increasingly unlikely that there will be an opportunity for a site specific show this season. I’ll move forward with the idea of a virtual show (not Kuntsmatrix!) and research how I might manage that technically.

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AOP student awards – finalist!

I was delighted to be selected as one of 20 finalists in places category of the AOP’s graduate awards for 2021. My work was featured in the video announcing the awards (YouTube link).

Drifting by the Leeds & Liverpool (at approx 5:28 mins)

A video link to my work is also featured on the AOP’s website as a selected finalist:

Featured at: https://www.aopawards.com/awards/student-awards/
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Outdoor exhibition email requests

I had hoped to get feedback on A2 before proceeding with these but my tutor is unresponsive at the moment and I need to push ahead with what will undoubtedly be a long process.

The attached pdf includes text of emails send to:

  • Printed.com – for print cost sponsorship
  • The National Waterways Museum – for exhibition space (the museum is part of the Canal & River Trust)
  • The Super Slow Way – for exhibition space – an arts organisation connected with the cross-Pennine stretch of the canal (appear to be funded by The CRT also)
  • Leeds BID – business improvement organisation, with a remit of drawing visitors into the city (including outdoor art exhibitions).
  • Liverpool BID – business improvement organisation, with a remit of drawing visitors into the city (including outdoor art exhibitions).
  • Skipton BID – business improvement organisation, with a remit of drawing visitors into the town (including outdoor art exhibitions).

The emails explore the idea of supporting both an outdoor exhibition and locations for outdoor screenings.

Attached to each was a mock-up of my outdoor photo-poster that is planned for outdoor exhibition spaces – this would be printed A0 size, with 3 image variations.

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Research: the blogger’s email list

If a blogger’s motivation includes selling anything – art or services for example, an effective way of building a mailing list is important. It becomes a list of contacts that can be nurtured and owned by the blogger, independent of any other channels they might use. It is a more intimate form of communication than social media. The list can be moved by the owner – they are not platform dependent.

I’ve done some practical research into this by looking at free mailing list services, registering with one and putting it into action. I chose MailChimp as its free option is generous and would probably suffice for many artists, without any need to add admin overhead costs apart from time! The main limitation of the free offering seems to be the requirement to use a MailChimp url and no access to some of the more sophisticated marketing tools the platform offers.

Some of what I discovered through implementing MailChimp at a basic level (MC):

  • It is not immediately obvious how to work with it and there’s a range of terminology that needs to be learned. However, there is useful help on the site. It does require a significant investment of time to implement.
  • Integrating with WordPress (.org only) to allow a mailing list pop-up requires an edit of the site code to insert MC code, unless one pays for a premium plugin. However, the edit is not difficult with the right safety measures. Pop-up functionality does not appear to be available on some of the more plug&play type hosting platforms (eg Adobe Portfolio).
  • However, you don’t need to use a pop-up – html blogs and hyperlinks are also available to route viewers to a mailing list sign in. It is also possible to design and set up ‘landing pages’ for different mail campaigns from within MC. You upload your own images to a ‘creative studio’ and design online.
  • The application has a workflow logic that allows automation of emails – for example a ‘welcome email’ once someone has signed up. Or using the concept of segments (or tags for finer detail) within your ‘audience’ for specific campaigns.

Example of landing page in MailChimp (created by Andrew Fitzgibbon): https://mailchi.mp/9f42381d4911/sign-up-to-news-from-fitzgibbon-photography

It is clear that setting up an running a successful mailing list would take considerable time and perseverance. And there is much more to it than just mechanics – understanding and building a marketing strategy, being aware of the law and spam email / email permissions, advertising standards requirements and so on. Susan Gunelius’s book Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business (2018, Irvine: Entrepreneur Press.) covers in detail the various aspect of email marketing.

My conclusion from practical research and reading around email marketing is that significant effort is involved to do it well. This is time above and beyond creating work – one might begin to wonder how long is left for creating work for the photographer who is also an active blogger!

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Google Analytics & Adobe Portfolio

Screen grab from Adobe Portfolio settings

I found that Google Analytics was not tracking activity on my www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk website despite having followed the set up instructions provided. This means I’d missed tracking activity around my newspaper publicity events, though at least video viewings and impressions have been captured within Vimeo.

Some research on fixing the issue, suggested deleting the analytics property in the Google account, creating a fresh one (with a new tracking ID) and using this to populate the Portfolio settings. Thankfully this worked – from 6 June, I have tracking for my website traffic.

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Craven Arts publicity

Craven Arts, a network supporting artists in the Craven District of North Yorkshire and beyond, publicised my work on its Facebook page and Instagram feed. The FB page carries a photo not featured in the film because the newspaper requested an identifiable local image.

Screen shot of FB post

Text of Instagram post – in case embedded object (above) doesn’t function

craven_arts_skipton

Member Andrew Fitzgibbon (@thephotofitz) has produced a new body of photography work and short stills-film, narrated by Paul Butterworth (The Full Monty, Strike), titled ‘Drifting by the Leeds & Liverpool.’ 📷 The photographs were taken during a 127 mile psychogeographic wander 🚶🏼

Andrew describes the film as “A portrait of humanity’s everyday condition using traces in the landscape that mark possession, use and abuse along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. A poignant experience of absence, deindustrialisation, regeneration and the tranquility of water.” He wanted to show the waterway in its “complex everyday condition” and avoid “the often over-shared photos of pastoral scenes.”

As part of the project, Andrew is now welcoming contributors who would like to share their stories from the 200 year old waterway 💧 These stories will help to shape a photo book and exhibition of the photographs, and ultimately a portrait of life along the canal 🌿 

Learn more about the project, watch the film, and join the community of contributors at leedsandliverpool.co.uk 👈 You can view more examples of Andrew’s other work at fitzgibbonphotography.com

#contemporaryart#photography#stillsfilm#film#skiptonarts#cravenarts#skiptoncreative#craven#leedsandliverpool#canal#leedsandliverpoolcanal

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OCA East of England Regional Group presentation

I presented over Zoom to OCA East of England Regional Group on 29th May, along with Paul Butterworth (my film’s narrator and a painting student), who talked about the collaborative aspect of the work and collaboration in general. PDF of slides are attached.

Rather than just talk about Drifting …, I also talked a little about my journey in photography that brought me to the point of making the film. So the talk told some of my story as well as that of the making of the film. Following the talking, we streamed the film. It seemed to be well received and I received a pleasant thank you email from Sharon, who chairs the group, who reiterated that she didn’t want to say anything after watching the film but to just sit in silence reflecting upon what she had seen. An observation during Q&A was how the still images allowed greater participation in the scene than moving images, as people have time to look around the scenes.

From my perspective – unresolved technical challenges with zoom, though this time different. When sharing my screen, it became a full-screen so I could see nothing of what was showing in the chat or anyone waving to get my attention. Need to test and resolve this properly before my next outing. For the ‘my story’ part of the presentation, I could have shaped it around projects rather than individual images (or a series of images from projects), which could been more informative to talk to. I’ll consider reshaping for next time.

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Feature in the Craven Herald & Pioneer

Pleased to be featured in my local paper (covers Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales), following on from my press release and some email correspondence (https://www.cravenherald.co.uk/news/19335588.drifting-leeds-liverpool—tapestry-life-along-canal/). They asked for a local image for the article – the one provided didn’t feature in the film. The journalist, Lesley Tate, covered the story well, given the paper mostly seems to glorify and promote the local landscape (nothing wrong with that of course). A clean copy of the article is attached as a pdf.

The article is released online and will appear in next week’s paper edition. I was pleased to have received a comment on my ‘stories from the canal’ blog and a food bank donation within a day of the article going on line. I suspect there may be more engagement following the print edition.

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Feature in The Yorkshire Post

I was pleased to be featured in The Yorkshire Post following my earlier telephone interview and photo shoot with a press photographer (https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/heritage-and-retro/heritage/photographer-walks-entire-127-miles-of-leeds-liverpool-canal-to-create-film-on-its-story-3248006). A clean version of the text from the interview is attached as a text pdf.

A disappointment was the lack of link to my www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk website, which I plugged heavily in the interview and is prominent in my press release. However, on the plus side Google searches for ‘drifting by the leeds and liverpool’ and ‘andrew fitzgibbon photography’ both now fill the first pages of Google searches. There is of course, the benefit of being able to mention ‘as featured in The Yorkshire Post’ when discussing my work, which is the regional newspaper of the UK’s largest county!

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Submission to Pipeline Gallery virtual graduate exhibition

I received an alert for this opportunity through Curator Space. Pipeline seems to have an online only presence and is aim at students and emerging artists. It’s unclear exactly what the virtual space they are offering will look like and I notice they don’t have a stellar number of followers on Instagram. Nonetheless, one can never be sure where these opportunities might lead. PDF of submission is attached.

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Red Eye Photo Network – newsletter appearance

Having sent my press release to Red Eye Network, asking if they might help promote my work, I was please to see it featured in their newsletter (PDF attached).

On the back of this, I received an email from Val Murray (from the ‘Tea’ artists’ collective), directing me to a video work of theirs from twenty years ago – http://www.teaweb.org/the-cut.html. Usefully, this also connects through to a couple of arts organisations that are still going and might be worth approaching with my own work.

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Yorkshire Post article

Photoshoot and interview 19 May

This morning, I was on the other end of a camera when James Hardisty, multi-award winning Yorkshire Post photographer (https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/yorkshire-posts-james-hardisty-named-business-photographer-of-the-year-3221206) , photographed me for an upcoming newspaper article. The shoot was outdoors on my own land – I had suggested to the journalist that I could meet James anywhere in between my place and Leeds; in retrospect I should have suggested a canal side interview, but didn’t appreciate that James was going try to recreate the story of me walking the canal – just thought it was going to be a few head/shoulder shots! I plan to drop James a line later when it comes to doing some industry research.

Later in the day, Yorkshire Post journalist, Ruby Kitchen called me for a telephone interview for about the work. This was a much more relaxing experience than being interviewed live on BBC Radio Merseyside the day before – there is something odd about being recorded. Ruby was enthusiastic about my work and welcomed it as an alternative to the ‘bucolic’ views of the canal that are often offered up (note to self to borrow that word to replace picture postcard and pastoral). I used my preparation for the radio interview to crib from for the discussion with Ruby, who seemed to be more than happy with the material I was able to share.

I was told that the article would most likely appear on the evening of 21 May – but was warned that likely means 30-40% chance depending on the wider news agenda. Ruby will endeavour to let me know but recommended checking the YP website each morning as her articles feature there on the day they are published on paper.

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Radio Merseyside interview – 18 May 2021

The interview

The interview was live on BBC Radio Merseyside’s Drive Time (1740). It is on the BBC Sounds App on this url, with my slot at approximately 3 hours 43 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09glrnr). However, as the programme will expire on BBC Sounds, I’ve created a copy and a private upload to SoundCloud, which is linked below.

For a first run out on the radio, I’m happy with how it went. I think the message got across and mention of my website for viewing the film and contributing stories was made several times. A bit of stumbling over words here and there, but that will settle as I become more used to talking about the work in everyday media language.

Research on giving radio interviews

18th May 2021, I have a live radio interview about my project. By way of preparation, I’ve researched tips for great radio interviews – this is going to be very different to speaking to an academic / art-informed audience.

  • Be clued up on dates etc – have stories to hand.
  • Tap into heart of local city / drop in local place name.
  • Decide on three main points to plug.
  • ‘Remember your job is to inform, educate, entertain, or inspire. The radio producer doesn’t care about your product. The radio producer wants you simply to be an interesting guest for his or her audience, and that usually means providing the audience with useful information.’
  • Be yourself (ref avoid being media-trained robot) / have fun. ‘To avoid the jitters: Tell yourself how fortunate you are to be on the radio. Talk in a normal conversational voice directly to the interviewer; don’t worry about anyone else listening.’
  • Use soundbites and catchy phrases – keep things simple and avoid generalities, long and complex answers.
  • Stand up when talking to create energy – match or exceed host’s energy to avoid sounding flat.
  • Have a cheat sheet in case it’s needed.
  • Mute phones (turn off alerts) / computers etc.
  • Have drinks / hot and cold to hand.

Preparation

I made hand written notes (on ipad, so editable) and experimented with the sound of different phrases before finally settling / deciding I had no more time to spend. It was surprisingly time consuming – I think being a live radio interview and the uncertainty around what would be asked made it more intense than a presentation!

Notes uploaded here – they were also used as a crib sheet, with my iPad in front of my during the interview …

Quick references

Highlighted article was particularly useful.

https://www.lisatener.com/free-resources/10-tips-for-a-great-radio-interview/
https://www.janefriedman.com/5-things-bad-radio-guests-do-and-7-ways-to-rock-on-radio/
https://www.ereleases.com/pr-fuel/tips-for-giving-successful-radio-interviews/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ggp4Hy7_KQ (how to prepare for a radio interview – based on musician interviews)

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Social-media ready websites

I was caught a little on the back foot with a quick response to my press release from BBC Radio Merseyside who want to interview me next Tuesday. Today I’ve been slogging through my www.fitzgibbonphotography.com website and the leedsandliverpool.co.uk microsite to ensure they are friendly to listeners wishing to leave their own stories. It no longer seems sufficient to leave an email form!

My websites now offer visitors the opportunity to connect through WhatsApp (I set up a business account to manage this) and Facebook Messenger (again through a business account). I’ve also included notices that I people contribute, they are also giving permission for their stories (or extracts) to be featured in my project.

Every time I work on the websites, I feel they are done. But there always seems to be more. Perhaps they are really now done, at least structurally.

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Press and other communication (film/community stories)

Press

I wrote about my approach to press communication in A1, where I also discussed the pdf / press statement. On 13 May, I sent emails to the newspapers along the canal (researched here) and have sent out press release emails to the journalists who appear to deal with arts content. The emails are all to the same format, with minor adjustments to the wording depending on the location of the paper.

Attached is a example sent to the Yorkshire Post:

I also considered other media outlets that might find the story of interest:

BBC Look North (Yorkshire) – television news (look.north@bbc.co.uk)
BBC North West Tonight – television news (nwt@bbc.co.uk)
BBC Radio Leeds – local radio (radioleeds@bbc.co.uk)
BBC Radio Merseyside – local radio (radio.merseyside.news@bbc.co.uk)

I emailed the BBC in a single email to ensure different streams are aware of the contact.

Other

Galleries

There are three main galleries that I’m aware of connected with the Leeds & Liverpool route – The Tetley in Leeds (georgia.taylor@thetetley.org), The Open Eye in Liverpool (INFO@OPENEYE.ORG.UK – Katie Lucas), and the Tate Liverpool (visiting.liverpool@tate.org.uk – will be forwarded to relevant contact). I appreciate that there is zero chance of showing my work in these locations but thought I’d take a punt on seeing whether any of them would help publicise my community art story.

Arts organisations

Both Craven Arts and the Red Eye Network publicise member activities / projects. So, I’ve also contacted them. I was also pointed in the direction of Yorkshire Visual Arts Network by Georgia at the Tetley, so have contacted them too. Finally, I contacted Heart of Glass rem(collaborative and social arts agency (Merseyside), to whom I unsuccessfully applied for a bursary.

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Project microsite update

Following my rebranding of the project to Drifting by the Leeds & Liverpool, and the update to my artist’s statement (prompted by upcoming competition entries), I’ve take a day to update and refresh the www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk microsite. The earlier version was very much a work in progress but I feel the update brings me closer to a resolved online presence for the work.

A pdf of the front page is attached for reference – note that on the website the masthead and page detail are separated by a scrolling action .

The main changes made were as follows:

  • Update website design to include full spread image mastheads on the homepage and the about page – this are overlaid by short introductory text. The purpose was to add more visual presence and allow a slow reveal of the pages without making it cumbersome for the viewer.
  • The video page and the photo page are again separated (Adobe feedback suggested a combined page) as I decided in combination there was too much information in one place. However, the copy has been updated so the photos are not just images taken from the film but as images that stand on their own right.
  • Video link has been updated to reflect the rebranded video work.
  • The Photos page has been updated for a cleaner single column look with more white space (partly possible due to updated Adobe Portfolio functionality) and I’ve also increased the number of photos on show.
  • The foot of each page has clickable links to move a user through the site.
  • The about page has been redesigned to be built around my much improved artist’s statement that now has a strong connection to the photographs and has more of my story behind the work. It is less analytical/critical review in nature.
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Source – online graduate show submission

Exhibition

An update on this post to link to the OCA Graduate show that is now up on the Source website …

https://www.source.ie/graduate/2021/opencollba/opencollba_index.php

Submission

I introduced the Source online show in an earlier post, here I record my submission; these are being managed for the group by David Fletcher.

I’ve already decided that I need to change the approach to disseminating my work as a 10 minute short film limits opportunities for sharing photography based work. More on that later, but this submission helped with my rethinking; moving towards a discussion of photographic work that is complemented by a video. The submission required a 120 word statement and a maximum of 8 photographs.

Statement

Leeds & Liverpool

Socially shared and propaganda images reduce the landscape of a 200-year old industrial canal to a pastural place of leisure; a spectacle of shimmering sunsets and coloured barges. My work offers an alternative perspective, contemplating the waterway’s slow flow through marginal spaces, laden with the burden of deindustrialisation. Traces of humanity mark possession, use and abuse; drawing a poignant portrait of those once there. I celebrate the run-of-the-mill, and the diversity of meanings denied by the normalisation of place.

I created the work through walking a 127 mile route. The images are complemented with an actor-narrated short film with sampled oral histories and ambient sound recordings.

Using this wording, I hope to concisely and clearly set out my position in respect of the work, at the same time as introducing it and making reference to the accompanying video (moving images are not permitted in Source submissions). The link I provided to my ‘portfolio site’ is the leedsandliverpool website, which also features the video work.

Images

It wasn’t easy to choose just 8 images. Looking at successful selections of the past, there seems to be a trend towards the more quirky, which influenced my choice here.

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ArtLab presentation

On 1st February 2020, I presented my film to the ‘ArtLab’ group, run by curator Alice Bradshaw. Two others also presented, with my presentation second (from around the 40 minute mark on the video).

I prepared slides to accompany my talk but didn’t set aside enough time work on these thoroughly, as I’d initially imagined I might let the film itself do the talking, until I realised I was allowed 30 minutes to present. This is one important take-away for me; to work on a slide set that can be used to talk about the work beyond the showing of the film itself. I plan to watch others talking about their work for ideas.

Streaming the film from my desktop to Zoom was functional but not a high quality viewing experience. I need to do further research on whether there a technical solution to this – my internet download speed is more than sufficient for streaming, but upload speeds are always far less. Living in rural North Yorkshire I have no expectation of gigabit internet any time soon!

The talk and film seemed to be well-received with some encouraging comments in the Zoom chat and verbal comments. I initially saved the chat history but seem to have inadvertently deleted it in the meantime. In particular, a few people mentioned the film encouraged an emotional response in them [a sense of loss in the place]. It is perhaps this absence of people / traces of what was once a productive place that kept me going back, despite it not living up to my expectations of a site for portraiture.

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Short film festivals: promotion

Update 23/3/21

This entry updates on outcomes of short-film festival submissions to date. I hope that updating the original post will make for more coherent reading than creating fresh posts for each update.

  • Catharsis Festival – not selected 30/12/2020
  • Hebden Bridge Festival – not selected 28/2/2020
  • Jump Cuts Festival – selected 5/3/2020.

My initial delight at being selected for the Jump Cuts Festival (shown in a small Leeds cinema) was short-lived. I subsequently received an email that the festival event had been cancelled as the venue had postponed for the third time due to the covid pandemic. So, unfortunately no opportunity to view my film on a big screen for now at least. I do have a laurel …

Original post 30/11/2020

The idea of submitting my short film to film festivals came up as I was completing BoW. This weekend, I looked into this and found that the annual deadlines for submissions tend to be November / December – in many cases, if I do not submit now, I would mostly likely not be submitted within the timeframe of the course.

I found that filmfreeway (https://filmfreeway.com/festivals) is the predominantly used portal for submission of films and the advertising of festivals. To submit a film, one sets up a profile and project and make and entry through the portal (along with the entrance fee, which vary significantly.

Technical requirements

There are some technical requirements for submission too – most require a minimum of 1080p (ie 1920×1080 pixel) size films. When preparing my short film, I’d used 4×3 slide dimensions to better fit the images, however this does not meet the pixel size requirement for film festivals. So, I’ve spent some time reconfiguring the slides to the appropriate size and rebuilding the video output. I also added an intro slide to the film – the same as the Vimeo cover images, so it doesn’t just start with a black screen if shown outside of Vimeo. I learned some other useful things along the way: a) Apple keynote can output in far higher resolution than h.264 codec – so I used Apple prores 422HQ, which is virtually lossless but does create a very large file. This slows down file handling significantly but means that a high quality original is available if required for a later showing. b) The high quality original is then compressed for Vimeo upload, using ‘Handbrake’ and Vimeo’s recommended settings – however, I had to tweak these as I found that the encode video was cropped on the long-side to 1680 (from 1920). c) A DCP (digital cinema print) is required by many festivals for selected films – this would be a separate conversion that I’ll need to look into later if needed; it seems that freeware is available for the conversion.

Festival choices

My choices were based on a number of factors; those that are currently open to entries, renowned festivals (according to web research, as I have no experience!), festivals located in the North of England, student categories, avoided anything that was restricted to premiere showings, admission fees, review of festival websites (to see if they look like worthy promoters).

A convenient list of submissions is kept in my FilmFreeway account but a screen shot of my 6 entries is below. Total entry cost was about £50.

Jump, is new and Leeds based. Encounters is Bristol based and renowned. Catharsis is the only overseas festival – based in Belgium but the interest of the festival seemed to fit Leeds and Liverpool.

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Curatorspace Bursary

Update 1/2/2021

I received an comment to say that this application was unsuccessful – the usual comments that there are far more submissions than can be accommodated and that I am encouraged to reapply for the next round.

original entry 3/12/2020

Today I applied for a curatorspace bursary to help me realise my short film as a piece of social art (https://www.curatorspace.com/opportunities/detail/curatorspace-member-bursary/) .

The submission required information about the work (I adapted my artist’s statement); an explanation of ambitions for the project, in which I discussed severe covid restrictions for the communities along the canal and realising the short film as social art through community showings; an explanation of how the award would help my practice; and previous relevant experience.

Curatorspace also offer to publicise the work through their channels.

The outcome of applications will be notified by 30 December.

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Application to Ones to Watch 2021

An opportunity to exhibit at Sunny Bank Mills (https://www.sunnybankmills.co.uk) was emailed to me by Curator Space. It is for students or 2020 graduates connected to Yorkshire. Even if the OCA’s connection as a distance learning college, based in Barnsley might be considered tenuous, I do live in Yorkshire.

I’ve place an application to show my film – the closing date is January 2021, so I won’t hear anything for sometime.

Details of the show are attached in the pdf:

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Vimeo video optimisation

A potential issue identified during my final BoW tutorial was the quality of my video stream from Vimeo (particularly noticeable in the slide transitions). At the time, I was uncertain whether it was related to the video being streamed through a Zoom connection, which would have applied its own compression, or if there was a problem with the way I’d encoded the video for Vimeo upload. Either way, I have looked for solutions to both the video quality on Vimeo itself, and for ways of showing the video to a live audience through Zoom; something I want to do as part of my practice development.

Vimeo optimisation

I looked carefully at a) the original .mov file exported from Garageband in comparison with b) the compressed .mp4 file I’d previously uploaded. Size: 703MB vs 400MB; when I watched the two carefully, there was a degradation in the audio quality from the original and a slight pixelation during the transitions. This degradation may have been amplified during the streaming process.

I found Vimeo’s compression guidelines here: https://vimeo.com/help/compression. But also are some specific guidelines for using the ‘handbrake’ application I use for compressing video: https://vimeo.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/224978308-HandBrake. I wasn’t aware of these when I previously uploaded and just let the standard application settings for Vimeo. I also noticed that Vimeo accepts uploads of the .mov format – so I could potentially upload the original file as it is not huge.

I first uploaded as the original .mov file. After upload the file size was 670MB, so Vimeo must have applied some of it’s own compression to the original file. The quality seemed better than the original mp4 file, but I could still see some pixelation in the transitions.

Next, I used the encoding settings for handbrake specified in the Vimeo guidelines – they are technical and I don’t understand what all of the settings mean! These resulted in an 812MB mp4 file (so larger than the original .mov file). However, the quality was spot-on; there is a noticeable different in sound clarity and I could see no pixelation in the transitions. The upload to Vimeo was 812MB, but after processing, the file size showed 774MB – so there is additional compression by Vimeo to the mp4 file. There seems to be a slight degradation in the transitions but not too noticeable and the sound clarity is retained.

Showing video through Zoom

I searched Google for tips on sharing HD video over zoom. I’ll test myself, but it seems that best results are obtained by sharing a full screen video from the desktop and checking the Zoom box ‘optimise for full screen video’. This will apparently allow for HD streaming. Another suggestion is to kick others in the household off the internet while streaming to protect bandwidth. When I shared videos for tutorials, I’d shared them from the Vimeo feed – so this would have been taking up bandwidth; an obvious error in retrospect.

One difficulty with the free Vimeo account is the 40 minute time limit. This could be a little tight for an intro, a 10 minute video, plus Q&A. A pro-plan is £11.99/month, presumably plus VAT. These things soon add up, along with paid Vimeo accounts etc, but if activated for months when needed, it is not an ongoing cost.

Zoom alternatives

My online research turned up an number of Zoom alternatives, with one that seems worth investigation:

Kast – describes itself as a creating virtual parties with online screening for up to 100 people. It apparent acquired Rabbit.it in 2019. Premium / ad free and HD screening is $4.99 per month.

There are a number of others but they seem to be more focused on sharing of existing online content and often have interfaces that look slightly juvenile.

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Portfolio site | Choosing a WordPress Theme

Despite some earlier ideas about learning something about CSS and WordPress site coding, I’ve decided to avoid my usual propensity to dabble in everything I find potentially useful and interesting. Instead, I’ll purchase an off-the-shelf theme that allows adjustments to design elements through the WordPress admin panel.

The first requirement for using bespoke custom themes is to have a WordPress.org installation, which also requires a hosting service. Throughout my OCA journey, I’ve used WordPress.org sites hosted through my own account with Siteground.com. I don’t need a separate domain name for what is essential a non-public site; I’ve just set up a subdomain under my main site, syp.fitzgibbonphotography.com.

A Google search identifies a myriad of suppliers offering photography themes. Overwhelming. I browsed through these and looked for any recent developments that might improve on the Photocrati theme I bought a few years ago for a one-time payment. I’ve not made much use of this theme during my OCA work and with the introduction of Adobe Portfolio as an effective solution for microsites. However, Portfolio’s gallery/slide/lightbox functionality is currently disappointingly limited. Photocrati, by Imagely, comes with the Nextgen Gallery LR plugin, which allows for many different display types and the flexibility to adjust them. Also, subsequent to my original purchase, there is a LR plugin that provides a publish service to the WordPress site.

While I saw many attractively designed themes, there seemed to be few that offered the flexibility extensively adjust the look of the website and the gallery displays. Importantly, the time saving of LR integration seems rarely available. And my initially testing of the Nextgen plugin was very positive – more on that elsewhere.

In conclusion, I will resurrect the Photocrati theme I’ve already paid for.

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Social media video promo on a budget

While my film is short at 10 minutes, it is long enough to need a bite-sized promo. For social media this would need to be contained within the ubiquitous square format to allow a 16:9 output to be viewed on mobile devices.

I recently unsubscribed from my full Adobe Creative Cloud (student rate) subscription to save cash as I don’t use many of the applications offered. So, I needed to find a way of making square content without the use of Premiere Pro. I made the video through a combination of Apple Keynote and Garage Band, so thought I’d see what I could do with the ‘free’ Apple software and some research.

I found that IG square format videos can be a maximum of 1 minute long. IGTV can be much longer but the format is tall portrait (ie a phone), so wouldn’t work for my purposes. Here’s the process, I refined through some trial and error. The more complex piece is Keynote.

  • In Apple iMovie, I sliced out a short section of the long film, faded the sound in/out in iMovie (very crude compared with Garageband) and exported it as a separate movie.
  • In Keynote:
    • Format the slide show dimensions as square (1080×1080)
    • Use blank slides and text for the intro and outro slides.
    • Import the video and resize to fill the width of the square space, then check the video settings to allow it to continue across slides. Duplicate that slide for the number of different captions to be displayed while the video excerpt is running.
    • Then the work is in adjusting the slide transition durations and build orders (if there are different elements on a slide).
    • Export from Keynote as a video and Airdrop to iPhone for upload to social media. The process of transferring to iPhone seems to take care of the Apple video format to mp4 conversion.

Once the video is on the iPhone, it is quick to share to other social media outputs. In this case, I also provided a link to www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk to allow viewing of the full video.

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Photoworks festival: Dayanita Singh

On 7th October, I joined Photoworks’ zoom discussion with Dayanita Singh, a photographer with strong views on the dissemination of photography and challenger of the conventionality of curators and galleries. Her website is here: https://dayanitasingh.org.

Museum Bhavan © Dayanita Singh, source: https://dayanitasingh.org

Some thoughts on what I found to be an interesting and thought provoking session:

  • DS expressed frustration that despite the versatility of photography, the display/sharing of it has not significantly changed and is still often about large museum or gallery prints. She argued that dissemination in its multiple forms is perhaps more important than the capturing of the image itself. Without it the image remains unseen.
  • DS likes her work to exist in different forms in many places and questioned, ‘how did photography get so fixed and limited’. She has spent much of her career challenging the structure of the museum and suggests that it is up to photographers to determine what changes they would like. She commented that while photography is very tactile, there is often little opportunity to physically engage with it.
  • DS talked about the idea of the book as an exhibition object and her work in this area. A full discussion is available in her recorded interview with hyperallergic (https://hyperallergic.com/468977/the-book-object-as-exhibition-an-interview-with-dayanita-singh/). Interestingly, she created a frame that would allow the book to displayed as an object in the Tate but this had taken quite some persuasion on her part and had conditions attached.
  • She expressed annoyance with ‘photo festivals’ in that they restrict access to art to those who can pay and tend to be limited to specific sites, rather than made accessible. DS believes that accessibility to work is an important aspect of dissemination. Adding that ‘nothing is for free’ – she doesn’t give away any of her physical works.
  • Instagram – DS was surprisingly enthusiastic about IG given her love of the tactile. However, she explained that she uses it more as a publicity machine for her book objects rather than making work specifically for IG (though she commented that she may do this sometime).

Listening to DS has encouraged me to think of my work in multiple-forms, rather than as one thing or the other. The dissemination as a significant additional part of the process that begins with image capture, continues with post-production, and finishes with dissemination. Photography is not simple.

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Website design choices

Screenshot of website: jamesmorris.info

I’ve bookmarked websites of photographers that I’ve found interesting throughout my OCA studies. I tried to clear my head of my own preferences for website layouts by spending an afternoon browsing through my book marked websites. However, in the end I still came back to my preference for clean minimal portfolio sites where images can be the main focus for the viewer. I feel that the more intricately designed sites can work well to show case and complement a specific work; for my purposes they would tend to be microsites, housed on a simple platform like Adobe Portfolio. For my portfolio site however, I am drawn to the flexibility of WordPress.org with its themes, plugins and widgets.

A couple of design considerations seem important to me. Firstly, the placement of the website header. Traditionally, they are at the ‘head’ and contain signposts to allow navigation around the site. However, for an image focused site I think they are more effective placed down one side so they are not always in sight, standing over the photos. Another consideration is the availability of tools to display images as slides or in some kind of carousel. Manually scrolling down a page of images generally feels like a second rate experience. Grids seem a popular approach but I can find myself distracted by this type of layout, not being able to see the wood for the trees.

Examples of a few websites I looked at were:

Laura El Tantawy – I enjoy for project specific sites but find the portfolio site design overwhelms the photography

Tod Hideo – I’m an admirer of the images but find the relentless use of grids and lack of signposting confusing. It is perhaps intended to be this way.

Stephen Shore – neat and minimal, giving the impression that the photographs are what’s important.

James Morris – feels like a contemporary design on the same principles as Stephen Shore’s and includes an effective side-menu rather than top menu.

Mark Power – I like the clarity of the website but again find the extensive use of grids overwhelming.

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