Assignment 5 Tutor feedback

Posting as is for the moment, will return with more perspective in a few days. Click link below to view.


A few days turned into a few weeks. It’s slightly frustrating that this work is so close to being there, but not quite. The feedback was positive, possibly more positive than the written report suggests as my tutor has sesnsibly focused on how to improve the work after identifying the strong points on the skype call. I am hopeful that the shortcomings are not the difference between pass/fail but between pass/better. The two main issues are the need to consolidate from the current three approaches down to one (or else find a way to present mixed methods in a “consolidated and cohesive” way as per Kurt Tong “The Queen, Chairman and I”); and to add more information on the visual context for the work. Fixing these two issues should result in work that is more refined and competent, a bit slicker.

My tutor provided some very useful recommendations. I’m confident that I can provide a suitable visual context. Consolidating the work is providing some challenge. I find myself wondering what it is about Kurt Tong’s work that makes it “consolidated and cohesive” given the wide range of presentation media. I wonder if a group of disparate approaches can be regarded as a group by virtue of their differentness. The easiest decision to make is to abandon, for the moment, the digital jpgs of the polaroid backs, showing the blue developer before it dried white. These somehow feel a bit too “technical”, a bit too “current”. So by discarding those I can think more clearly about the characteristics of the work.

The acrylic blocks provide some pause for thought too. The brief specifies a set of ten images. I think 10 images mounted in acrylic blocks would be a bit unwieldy, and I’m not sure the concept would hold strong over all ten. Yet I feel very strongly about the block with the emulsion lift of the Fox Talbot window, and the way the window can be held in the hand and looked through, that the viewer can see their world through the FT window. We talked briefly about layering the images, to make something like Noemie Gordon’s works (ADD REFERENCE), but I think this would be a bit clunky on my smaller scale.

Moira suggested that I consider what other artists would be involved at a show featuring my work. This has given me much to think about and allows me to start building a visual context for the work. So there’s a method there – refine the work, and identify the context, then the two should help each other.

Part of the issue, hinted at by Moira, is that I haven’t fully understood the work myself yet. There is still more meaning to be “unpacked” and I’m not really seeing it. It feels as if I’ve locked myself out of my own work, and I’m fumbling around the smooth outside trying to find a way in.

Exploring this further, I started out by simply deconstructing Polaroids, physically, and then manually processing the results into a book and two acrylic elements. As time goes on, I can see that I’ve moved from deconstructing Polaroids to deconstructing photography and examining some of the formats used in its history. Moira mentioned “shifts in technology – perhaps the early (or defunct early digital technology) could come into play”. This turned out to be a rich seam to mine. I started out by scanning the Polaroid backs and found that the results actually felt finished, something I hadn’t expected to feel without including the actual Polaroid itself. This got me thinking about how to present any scans, there are prints of course but I was curious about using “defunct.. technology”. I looked into digital photo frames, digital photo keyrings and am currently charging a Nokia 3310 mobile phone to see if I can download jpgs onto it and display them on its screen with the nice Polaroid aspect ratio. I am also interested in using MS Paint for processing the scans, as it too has had a recent brush (sorry) with obsolescence. I’m intrigued by the idea of “translating” my polaroids through physical and digital manipulation from the early days of Fox Talbot through scanning, basic digital processing, and the introduction of camera phones, which now take most vernacular photographs. Travelling from print to digital. Interestingly, the original Nokia 3310s predated the camera phone by some years. This re-launch does include a camera and a colour screen so I am interested to see if I can use it to present “alien” jpgs. The work has broadened from being about Polaroids to being about photography, technology, obsolescence and nostalgia.


Of course the elephant in the room is whether it’s at all realistic to present work for assessment on a device that may well need charging, even the month long standby on the Nokia may not be enough for the long wait between submission and actual assessment. However, I can’t let practicality stand in the way of creativity so let’s explore and see. I suspect that in the real world, requiring power would not be that much of a barrier to showing the work so I don’t think it’s entirely unrealistic. At the very least it can be blogged. Perhaps a video would work.  I need to explore digital keychains too, they might be a better solution in terms of power.

I’m still unsure about what I’ll actually be submitting. I need to try out more approaches and see what works. My gut feeling is that the Window acrylic block will still be there, so perhaps two complementary formats rather than the current mix of three.

Notes for Skype call

I liked the scans. I like the idea of using old technology.

I thought I might do a blurb book with prints of the scans and the polaroids stuck in with glue or Velcro. But that feels a bit normal. The scans somehow feel finished.

Then I thought of putting scans on a digital keyring (mini electronic photo frame) but they seem to be massively unreliable. One reviewer of a digital keyring said that buyers would be better off just putting their photos onto their phone, and that made me think of old phones, especially the Nokia 3310 that’s been relaunched onto a 2.5G network that’s nearing obsolescence. I bought a phone and worked out how to get scanned polaroids onto it. I love that it shows the arc from print and chemicals to digital in one picture on one screen, that it shows obsolete polaroids and chemicals on an obsolete digital phone.

I inverted the colours to explore the idea of the negative (Sietsema). There is still more to do – consistently scan the images to the same size, investigate jpg quality options. Somehow the negatives feel more FT ish and I like how the layers show on the altered/cleaned ones. Interested in using MS Paint on some of the backs. I like the idea of having them on a phone, either submitting the phone or a video of the photos being viewed.

Visual contextualisation – Justine Vargas (conveying information without using a traditional portrait. Paul Sietsema (inversions, negatives). Noemie Goudal (acrylic blocks, layered images). Joseph Kosuth (different ways of looking at chairs). Floris Neususs at Lacock Abbey. Adam Fuss (less information = more meaning). Idris Khan but need to look more. Stephanie D’huppert’s series on backs. Mat Collishaw FT VR exhibition.

In terms of consolidation – not there yet. I’m definitely taking out the jpgs of the backs of the images. I think I will take out the non-window acrylic block. So I wonder about submitting the window block, the video of the phone, and the original book of the polaroids.

I need to continue to reduce the number of circles that I’m going around in. What images do I want to use? Negatives of fronts and backs, positive backs, processed backs? Just fronts, just backs or both? I only need 10 in total. Do I actually need to include the original “book”? If I don’t, I’ll need to sort prints.

These are not the final versions of the scans, they are rough crops. Samples rather than a final selection. The different resolutions need to be addressed, the final images will all be the same size.



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