Community, an American dream aesthetic, and the persistence of the FSA.

I wasn’t expecting to do as much research into the FSA photographs as I have. Essentially, I dismissed this as work that was studied during my formative photographic education, which was for beginners and then move on. It is a persistent presence in documentary photography however, and referenced continuously by other photographers, either overtly, or as a clear influence in the style of the work. Whilst rediscovering its significance when reading Todd Hido referencing the use of Roy Stryker’s shooting scripts (2014, p. 123), the FSA creates a scaffold in which to construct a photo documentary about people, place and connection to community. The canonical imagery from this work, from photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans have become mythologised works, where the original context has, as Susan Sontag points out: “the photograph is, always, an object bound in a context, this meaning is bound to drain away” (1979, p. 106) after acknowledging that the original purpose of the FSA images was a complete construction of the precise elements to elicit the feeling that these people were in fact poor (p. 6). They have been shown time after time to be falsehoods, yet remain revered as the quintessential documentary representation (Stein, 2020, p. 59) and I see the influence of this body of work in much of the photography that I am researching as part of my project.

Figure 1: Paul Hart (2009 – 2015) ‘West View Farm’ from ‘Farmed’ series.
Figure 2: Dorothea Lange (1938) Tractored Out, Childress County.

For example, I started to look at the work of Paul Hart’s work titled ‘Farmed’ (Fig: 1), which are a striking series of landscapes in black and white that are quite emotive, which reference the FSA imagery through the industrialised farming landscape that he shoots (Fig: 2). Comparisons are even made in the opening essay to that work, where Steven Brown compares Hart’s images to those of Dorothea Lange (Hart & Brown, 2016, p. 5). I have started to consider the landscape much more as a vital part of my narrative. I have already discussed Vanessa Winship’s use of landscape in her series ‘She Dances on Jackson’ (2013), in which two thirds of the work is actually made of landscape images (Fig: 3), however Winship notes that even without the presence of humans in these images, they are still about people. Traces of human impact and existence are ever present, especially in a country like the UK where every square inch of the country has had some kind of impact from Humans living here.

Figure 3: Vanessa Winship (2013) Image from ‘She Dances on Jackson’

I have been especially drawn to the woodland areas that surround Watford, which started last module after I connected with the volunteers of Harebreaks woods near where I live (Fig: 4). I had never been to the woods before and was amazed that such a resource existed without my knowledge. This wood become somewhere that I walked during the lock down and have taken a great number of images. This exploration has extended into this module where I have been aiming to connect with people who have also been using the same spaces and are now coming back together – inspiring the title for this work.

Figure 4: Phil Hill (February, 2020) Helen, volunteer litter picker, Harebreaks wood.

Vanessa Winship talked about her work based in Albania and how the people seemed to have some semblance of the American Dream, where she notes that the idea of the ‘American Dream’ is something that all societies are striving for, or at least, a local version of this (2015). This really resonated in the way that I started to approach some of the landscape images as some of the scenes, especially those with pine trees, feel like they could have been taken in north America somewhere (Fig: 5). The concept of community and the American dream have a deep connection in themselves and have become part of a nostalgia and idealised version of the world that may not even exist so I am keen to continue pushing this look in my images to highlight constructed perceptions of the idealised community and now that I am really focussing in on Watford as a place for this exploration, there are parallels to be drawn in the ultra-suburbia of Watford as the last place before entering the metropolis of London, and also the first non-London town when leaving.

Figure 5: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Meadow by the Grove, just outside of Watford

Treating the American Dream as a conceptual tool in which to explore the idea of community is interesting because part of the idea of that dream is inherently individualistic and draws on Barthes’ idiorrythm (2012); people wish to live in the same space as one another but remain separate. As Suzanne Keller notes:

“American society confronts a paradox, historically, the culture has emphasized the language of individualism, laissez faire, and private property; it has valued the idea of the individual succeeding on his or her own, in the absence of social constraints, prodded by a do-it-yourself, do-your-own-thing philosophy.” And she moves on to point out that “there is no way to go it alone”

(1988, pp. 167-168).

The idealistic package being sold versus the reality of achieving are not compatible with one another.

Keller’s discussions on the American Dream and community are useful, even for my project based in the UK as she outlines some basic principles of community:

“Community is part of the proximate, everyday world, more immediate than the far away society yet larger than the family and primary group, that gives meaning and purpose to one’s life and that also diminishes one’s sense of vulnerability and of being adrift or alone in an anonymous world”

(1988, p. 170).

If all cultures around the world are in search of their own ‘American Dream’ as Winship states, then it is important to understand how this ideal is a flawed concept and will continue to perpetuate the disconnect of an immediate perception of the community, creating a perpetual disdain for what is right here, right now. This is becoming quite revelatory to my own perception of community as I consider whether there is a worthwhile investment in the community where I currently live.

Photography seems like quite a useful way of exploring this. Knowing that the idealistic community is a construction, it is quite easy to construct my images to hold up the ideal as a way of analysing it. I am already doing this with my use of black and white to accentuate the nostalgic elements of the community as others might see it. I have aimed to create my own paradox of nostalgia whilst at the same time photographing the present. By also seeking to create an aesthetic in my work that emulates the look and feel of a North American scene would only further play with the perception of community and the ideal, knowing that these are all constructions in my work.

Keller also outlines a theory of community put forward by Ferdinand Tönnies, the idea of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, which is something that will be useful to look into in greater detail. “Gemeinschaft … human association rooted in traditions and emotional attachment” and “gesellschaft is a very different social formation: larger, specialised, impersonal, and pluralistic”  (1988, p. 171). For Keller, American society has shifted into gesellschaft, which has created this disconnect as we increasingly live in larger and larger communities. Moving forward in my own research, it is important to identify whether my own community values gesellschaft over gemeinschaft. This too, is important to understand in the context of the ongoing pandemic and other socio-political issues that we are facing as a society, such as Brexit. Keller also notes that the shift to a more individualistic, impersonal community comes at the cost of the emotional attachment of gemeinschaft, yet people still seek it and long for it, which supports the way we view community through a nostalgic lens (p. 172). This I feel, is something that I have been aiming to place into my project. My own feeling of disconnect is potentially born from the idea of gesellschaft and I also seek an emotional connection to place. My photography could be a way to do that.

Work in Progress Gallery

Landings Zine outcome

I have received my zine back from The Newspaper club. It has turned out quite well and looks quite good on the newsprint. I think that maybe the images could have had a little more contrast, however feedback from my peers is that this works quite well (Fig: 1).

Figure 1: Phil Hill (July, 2020) I hope this finds you safe and well zine outcome [top and bottom]
Figure 2: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Producing my zine for Landings exhibition.

I have discussed the process of creating the zine previously (Fig: 2), however to recap, I decided to create my zine in newsprint to create more of a tangible link to the place that I am focusing my research project this module. Watford has had a significant role in UK printing, including printing all of the colour supplements for Newspapers based here. I feel that this is a great link to pursue as my work can be viewed in a Sunday supplement context.

Workshop Planning

To link to my research project, I would be keen to run a workshop about creating work within the community. This could potentially be about how to approach people and places within the community and identify the cultural signifiers that make that place unique and why you are drawn to it – the reason why you want to take the images in the first place.

I am still getting to grips with grounding my project in this area, so I think the workshop would be just as important for me as it would be the participants. Especially. Plus, if the participants were also from the same community that I am making my work it would create valuable insight into how others perceive the same place, which I also live.

My workshop would comprise of peer discussion and Q&A to establish prior knowledge, understanding of socially engaged photography, and provide me with an opportunity to outline any learning outcomes and introductions. The workshop should take a day to complete, including practical time to go out and start to create images with the potential for a later plenary, or online presentation of work once participants have had the opportunity to create imagery.

Workshop Plan

Ways of Showing Work

The Creative Hub by the Printspace put together a really useful guide in the different ways to show and promote work (2020). I am going to attempt to analyse these approaches compared to what I have already done and what I could to towards them. My notes are numbered in red.

Budget of £0 – £250Instagram 1Website 2Magazine/Blog Feature 3
Cost:£0£120- £250 per year (if using a template) £0
Time to Launch:1 week1 monthDepends on publisher
Post Launch:7 – 20 hours per week4 hours per weekDependent on the reach of the feature
Getting Noticed:Make interesting content and engage with other users, which will organically build your followingImprove SEO blogging and regularly refreshing content. Link to your site from all from all social accountsShare/Publish the feature on all your social media accounts
Key Tasks:– Making interesting & original content
– Post scheduling
– Engagement with other users
– Domain registration
– Logo & corporate identity design
– Choosing & adapting site template
– Set meta tags & meta descriptions for pages
-Choose SEO friendly URLs
– Find publications that suit your work
– Create press package, email, supply images in correct format
– Ensure your website is working for when people click through
Figure 1: Creative Hub (2020) Table showing different methods of showing work with a budget of £0 – £250
  1. Instagram: Having run an instagram account for quite a few years, I find it quite challenging to maintain the level of consistency and sustained approach to sharing and commenting. I understand that this is important and do maintain my presence on the platform
    • I have found that when i was freelancing that platforms, such as Linkedin are far more valuable for building a focussed interest in my work as i am sharing it with professionals who have a vested interest in seeing what I can do
    • That being said, Instagram feels much more accessible and is an important part of getting my work in front of audiences
  2. Website: My website is a self hosted WordPress site after many years of running template sites, I actually enjoy the flexibility of WordPress. However, consistency in the presentation, although might be considered dull and formulaic, is useful for clients and editors who would easily navigate the work knowing the formula of Squarespace et al.
    • Maintaining my website in this way is flexible but also much more cost effective than using a template site. My running cost for my own site is roughly a third of what Creative hub is suggesting. Not including the recent update to my website that included a custom theme, which was the first time that I invested in a premium version.
    • The downside of running this myself is that I must invest much more time in the setting up and really research SEO techniques (which I still have much to do).
  3. Blogs/Magazines: In addition to the promotional side of sending work to be shared and reviewed. I am also keen to pitch my work for syndication and publication, which would also mean payment to me. This of course, is how I would operate as an editorial freelance. That said, there is an expectation that I would need to share work for free in certain circles in order to generate the interest required for paid opportunity.
    • In order to make my work more valuable to publishers it is also worth creating written work in support of my photography.
    • Also worth considering any secondary markets for the work to make it as accessible as possible outside the usual photographic channels.
Budget of £250 – £1,250Printed Portfolio 4Zine 5Group Exhibition 6
Cost:£300 – 700£500 – 1,250£250 – 1,000
Time to Launch:2 – 4 weeks3 – 6 months2 – 4 months
Post Launch:2 – 4 hours per week4 – 6 hours per week10 – 15 hours per week during show. 5 – 10 hours following up interest after
Getting Noticed:Attending portfolio reviews & festivals. Meetings with agents/ art buyers/creative directors/marketing/creative agenciesHaving a launch. Selling online & getting reviewed blogs/magazinesPromoting the event extensively across social media, press reach-outs, emailing invites, posting out printed invites
Key Tasks:– Confirm edit
– Print test strips
– Choose paper
– Choose presentation method
– Arrange reviews/meetings
– Confirm edit
– Write copy
– Research print/bind methods
– Design layout
– Print/bind final version
– Space hire
– Curate/install
– Private view/refreshments
– PR: marketing/press/social media
Figure 2: Creative Hub (2020) Table showing different methods of showing work with a budget of £250 – £1,250
  1. Printed Portfolio: I am thinking at this stage of the MA, that I am not in a position to have a completed printed portfolio. I am a proponent of a well presented printed portfolio and am keen to pursue this in the future for the FMP.
    • I already own a box for presenting prints, for example (Fig: 1). The argument for allowing readers to construct their own narratives from my work supports this method of printing and presenting work. They are also useful to spread prints out and see how they might work together – An important consideration for clients.
    • I also have a courier case, which is useful to protect the box and send it out to potential clients. This might include: publishers, galleries and other potential audiences for my work without necessarily having to spend the time travelling around myself. The more traditional method of getting work out there.
    • Portfolio reviews can be quite costly and it is really important to only attend those that represent value for money. Better value would be to really research potential clients and buyers of my work and set up meeting with those people instead.
    • A downside of this method is the need to replace prints as they are frequently handled, which would be a concern of a blurb style book and folder style folio, however print sleeves might circumvent this.
    • In terms of what might represent the most value for money in presenting work, this might be the best in time and money spent, over a book dummy for example. it also allows others to see sequences in the work that will work for them.
  2. Zine: I produced a zine collaboratively during the task in week 3 and learned some really valuable lessons in the production and printing. Primarily in the setting up and compromises required. Taking on board these lessons, I have also produced a zine to support my Landings exhibition.
    • What could be quite useful about zines is the ability to make a self published object that I can then sell myself. The main challenges is the initial outlay of this can be quite costly, especially when I do not have the £500 stated by Creativehub above.
    • To truly make a success of self published zines, it would be useful to already have an established audience, which is where platforms like Instagram would be useful.
    • For Landings, I have produced a short run of 20 zines (the minimum required by The Newspaper Club for printing).
    • Even if I do not manage to sell any copies of my zine, they can become a useful promotional tool to send out to potential audiences of my work.
    • I can also submit the zine to the ‘Self Publish be Happy’ library.
  3. Group Exhibition: Not something that I have lots of experience with outside of an academic setting. That said, the Landings 2020 experience will be useful to understand the process and potentially see how disparate bodies of work can be curated together.
    • Additionally, all of the work that I am carrying out towards the creation of my own zines and website updates will support creating promotional material for group shows in the future.
Figure 1: Seawhite (2020) Archival print box
Budget of £1,250 +Solo Exhibition. 7Art Fair. 8Book. 9
Cost:£1000 – 7000£3,500£5000+
Time to Launch:3 – 6 months1 – 3 months6 – 12 months
Post Launch:40 – 60 hours per week during show, 20 hours following up interest after12 hours a day during the show, 20 hours following up interest after8 – 20 hours per week
Getting Noticed:By promoting the event extensively across social media, press reach out and direct emailGood presentation, understanding the type of attendees to the fair, following up diligently on interestHaving a launch, finding stockists, entering book awards, attending publishing fairs, selling online, getting reviews
Key Tasks:– Space hire
– Curate/Install
– Private view/refreshments
-PR: marketing/press/social media
– Create show catalogue
– Set up print sales; online and in the space
– Design & curate the space
– Create catalogue and takeaways for attendees (e.g. postcards)
– Setting up digital capture of details
– Set up point of sale terminals
– Create edit, produce dummy
– Get text written
– Review/critique
– Final edit
– Research printing techniques
– Design
– Promotion
Figure 3: Creative Hub (2020) Table showing different methods of showing work with a budget of £1,250+

This block is potentially a bit beyond me at the moment due to financial and where a solid audience will need to be created in order to justify some of these.

  1. Solo Show: There are opportunities to exhibit work in venues that do not cost as much as this, or would even be free for a percentage of any sales. The compromise would potentially be in the location of such venues however.
    • promotion would inevitably still cost money to produce the materials necessary.
    • Many of the options that have been outlined above might also need to be put in place before I am in a position to be able to put on a solo show.
  2. Art Fair: This is another one that I am fairly new to. It could present a good opportunity to build an audience for my work if the right fair was selected. Quite risky with the budget that CreativeHub suggests.
  3. Book: Book publishing is an interesting one. As I understand it, if you even manage to secure the interest of a publisher, you might still have to put together a substantial investment of money in order to realise the book.
    • There are a number of dummy book awards and Mack’s for example is free to enter.
    • As I work for an FE college, there are a good amount of facilities to help me realise a book dummy should I wish to pursue that in order to keep the costs down
    • Sequencing is vital for the success of the book as it could be easily overlooked.
Bibliography

Creative Hub, 2020. How to Show your Work. London: Printspace Studios Limited.

Writing as Process

I have been spending time considering the photograph as an object related to my research around Object Orientated Ontology, black and white images and a documentary aesthetic. Source magazine also have a writing prize, so I have put together a short article about the topic as i feel this would be a good way to explore ideas and also use writing as a process to present them:

Drawing Attention to the Photograph
Robert Frank (1955) Elevator, Miami Beach – From ‘The Americans”

When Robert Frank penned his application to the Guggenheim foundation leading to the hugely influential ‘The Americans’ trip, he wanted: “To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation” (Frank, 2012). This accomplishment was never in dispute. However, he also did something else: Frank showed the US photographed and by doing so, drew attention to the act of photography in challenging the stiff, formal technical proficiency of traditionalists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and his mentor, Walker Evans (O’Hagan, 2014). Frank broke all the rules with his approach to process, As John Szarkowski points out: “what was being described had to be described because it was there, it didn’t have to be described according to the rules and formulations that were thought of as being good photography” (2013). Frank’s photographs openly display the act of photography by showing you the means of its production (showing you the strings): motion blur, un-level horizons, moving the depth of field from the main subject of the image, shifting attention. Things that are only shown through photographs, and considered mistakes by some, yet they cut through the illusion of perfection, making them relatable and placing Frank into the photograph as the photographer.

This idea of drawing attention to the photographic act might sound pretty obvious to anyone looking at Frank’s photographs, now part of the mythology of a documentary aesthetic: black and white inviting the reader to view the subject nostalgically, for example. These quintessential qualities of the photograph are opposed to the way that we interpret the world and a learned knowledge of their perceived importance, as Vilém Flusser notes: “Many photographers … prefer black-and-white photographs to colour photographs because they more clearly reveal the actual significance of the photograph, i.e. the world of concepts” (2000, p. 43). Of course, for Frank, black and white film was the primary means to photograph, yet it still highlights a contrast of the real world. Contemporary photographers such as Vanessa Winship, choose to utilise this conceptual suggestive power of black and white, clearly recognising the subjective act of photography, or as she puts it best, the area “between chronicle and fiction” (Winship, 2015), drawing attention to her photographs’ contrast of the concrete world and as objects in themselves.

Drawing attention to the act of photography separates it from the sea of images occupying our daily lives, perhaps one of the last bastions of differentiation that the photographer has. It is easy to take a picture, everyone has the means to do it, but the awareness of the photograph as an object remains with those willing to study it and then accentuate its qualities, both conceptual and technical. Photographers do this often with apparatus. For example, Joel Mereowitz considers the theatre of the 10×8 camera in which he captured Provincetown a significant part of that work, where even during the late 70’s and early 80’s must have seemed like apparatus from a distant time (Meyerowitz in Perello, 2020). This idea also led to Alys Tomlinson making a ‘break through’ in pursuit of her seminal project ‘Ex-Voto’ when she switched to large format black and white (Tomlinson in Smith, 2020).

The theatre of apparatus also draws attention to the photographic act, though not necessarily for the viewer. It is more of an interaction between the author and subject as it creates the means to interject the visual associations of candid and vernacular; apparatus invites intrigue, breaking down tension with a curious subject. It should be noted, this reaction may not have happened without its presence bringing up questions of subjectivity and representation as it is more an intervention by the photographer author, as Philip Toledano reminds us, “The art is always about you [the photographer] in some respect, it’s just a question of how visible you are in that photograph; how much you can see yourself or other people can see you” (Toledano, 2020). In our world of images, how does the photographer differentiate themselves from the vernacular and the sea of images? Going back to the example of Robert Frank, who’s subject was the vernacular – you draw attention to the photography within the photograph.

Bibliography

Flusser, V., 2000. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 2018 reprint ed. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

Frank, R., 2012. A Statement by Robert Frank (1958). [Online] Available at: https://americansuburbx.com/2012/07/robert-frank-a-statement-1958.html
[Accessed 15 July 2020].

Meyerowitz, J., 2020. The Candid Frame #500 – Joel Meyerowitz [Interview] (26 January 2020).

O’Hagan, S., 2014. Robert Frank at 90: the photographer who revealed America won’t look back. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/07/robert-frank-americans-photography-influence-shadows [Accessed 16 July 2020].

Szarkowski, J., 2013. John Szarkowski On Robert Frank’s Book ‘The Americans’” (1986). [Online] Available at: https://americansuburbx.com/2013/05/john-szarkowski-on-robert-franks-book-the-americans-1986.html [Accessed 16 July 2020].

Toledano, P., 2020. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers – 132 Phillip Toledano [Interview] (10 June 2020).

Tomlinson, A., 2020. A Small Voice: Conversations with photographers – 123 – Alys Tomlinson [Interview] (5 February 2020).

Winship, V., 2015. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers – 003 Vanessa Winship [Interview] (11 November 2015).

Sorting Images

Figure 1: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Selection of the images produced during the MA so far.

My project has taken a number of turns throughout the three modules and now for this one I have decided to explore black and white film photography, which creates a big departure from the way that I was photographing my project up until now. This development is how I am starting to move away from a more commercial way of shooting, linked to my comfort zones.

Sequencing is one of my biggest challenges and although I have been putting together a zine in time for Landings, I have not yet started to look at how my work will be edited ready for the next WIPP submission.

Considering formats for publication, I have always quite like the idea of postcard sets as they acknowledge how a reader of the work might create their own narrative from the work. They are quite nice to spread out and do the same as this task. The downside is that the standard postcard is small compared with many books and the quality of the image may be lost in this small format. 

I am interested in books as they create a tangible object from the photographed and can be carefully sequenced in a way that the author intended, should that be a primary concern for the project (as opposed to postcards). The challenge with the book is the limitation this might put on the accessibility of the project. Only available to a few people who can afford it and accessing the creation of such a publication where many publishers expect the photographer to contribute to the cost of producing it.

Some Surfaces: Publications

I have been looking at my own book collection for some inspiration into potential exploration into publication.

I very much enjoy photo books and collect them enthusiastically. It is worth noting however, that the photo book might not be an effective end in itself, as it can be quite a limiting format to display work. There is a great deal of prestige in having a book published of course and I would absolutely love to have one of my own. The audience for these books is quite limited however and it is important to understand this before chasing this as an output for a photography project, which should consider other ways of presenting work and making it accessible.

The primary market for photography books is other photographers, which the demographic is notably white middle-class. This has been one of the reasons why Simon Norfolk, for example, stopped producing books as a matter of course, noting that they are more about an insular self-congratulating between photographer that does not look outside its own bubble (2019). Norfolk is quite damning, but makes a solid point, if you are producing a body of work, especially one that is socially concerned, having 300 books produced will not reach enough people. There is an argument for the photography book as a way of opening doors into other avenues of publication, for example Vanessa Winship’s ‘She Dances on Jackson’ (2013) also has features on the BBC (Coomes, 2013), and The Washington Post (Dickerman & Winship, 2018) with the latter being published in 2018, long after Winship’s book has sold out and a collectable rarity. Of course, any work by Winship is going to have a life beyond its limited publication, however this is an example of how a body of work can continue to reach audiences beyond its printed origin. There may be a need to consider the secondary market for photography outside of photography. Hoxton Mini Press are quite good at creating these and I have regularly seen copies of Jenny Lewis’s ‘One Day Young’ (2015) in parenting shops.

Understanding that I would ultimately like to produce a photo book, however also considering that the project must exist outside of only that format is important for the effective dissemination of a photography project. This is another good reason for my Landing exhibition to be displayed online as it makes the work accessible to all with the option to purchase a limited-edition zine for anyone invested in collecting and rarity.

Looking at different binding and publication options

Postcard Sets
Figure 1: David Bailey (2014) Box of postcards produced to coincide with Bailey’s ‘Stardust’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Knowing and understanding that I have no authority in the reading of my work by others, postcard sets present a really interesting way to present a body of work. I have used this method in the past as a marketing tool to send out to potential editors. One of the biggest draws to this format is the ability to spread the work out in front of you and create your own narratives by placing images together (Fig: 1). The challenge of the book is that the sequence is fixed to the linear journey through the book format. This was pointed out by the curator of Jack Latham’s ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society (2019), who stated that the audience of the exhibition had free reign to create their own version of the narrative, which very much suited the conspiracy and mystery of the ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ work. Postcards have the advantage of being a tangible art object, which is not limited by any sequenced narrative of the author. The size of a standard postcard makes them ideal for mailing out to potential audiences and buyers of work, however the size could be considered limiting as it is quite a small size compared to many other books.

Figure 2: Lewis Bush (2016) Postcard set for ‘A Model Continent’

Lewis Bush produced a postcard set of his work ‘A Model Continent’ (Fig: 2), which is glued on one edge to be flicked through as a book. It is quite delicate and potentially designed to be taken apart by the reader, however I have tried to keep them together. This continues the idea of the object having rarity but removes any advantage that the postcard had as a flexible narrative presentation.

Saddle Stitch Binding
Figure 3: Portrait Salon et al (2015) Exhibition Catalogue cover and with stickers attached.

In 2015, Portrait Salon created an interesting concept for its exhibition catalogue, which links to the flexibility of the postcard. The book was essentially a sticker album where you would have the book and a pack of stickers that could be placed in any way that you wanted (Fig: 3). This created a method of giving the audience agency in the way that the work could be read and placed together. Once the stickers are placed they are of course fixed.

Figure 4 Sadie Catt (2019) Cover and interior spreads from ‘Woodstock’

Saddle Stitching might come across as lower quality than a traditional case bound book. It is much more accessible financially however and can be created as a very high-quality art object in itself. For example, Sadie Catt’s book ‘Woodstock’ (2019) is a beautifully produced saddle stitch book with a very nice finish (Fig: 4), which has been stitched not stapled (Fig: 5). I also really like the letterpress wrap that creates a greater sense of the book’s quality.

Figure 5: Sadie Catt (2019) Woodstock book with stitching finish.
Perfect Bound
Figure 6: Ewen Spencer (2005) Open Mic book cover.

Ewen Spencer’s self-published book titled ‘Open Mic’ (Spencer, 2005) is perfect bound and creates an exhibition catalogue aesthetic (Fig: 6). This is another method that is more accessible to self-publishing and does make the resulting publication look more professional over many saddle stitch books that can come across looking like zines. What I find challenging when reading through Spencer’s book is when an image is printed across pages, much of it can be lost to the gutter of the book (Fig: 7). This feels like it is because of the binding method that is quite tight and does not open out.

Figure 7: Ewen Spencer (2005) Image printed across spreads.
Case Bound
Figure 8: Nick Turpin (2016) ‘On the Night Bus’ book cover and close up.

Considered the best binding technique (Philipson, 2017), it creates a significant sense of the quality of the book. As an object it seems to denote the significance of the photography within and understanding the hard work that goes into getting a book published, there is also the prestige of having the work in a hard cover book. I have a few Hoxton Mini Press books who’s aim is to create high quality but accessible books, primarily focused on East London (2020). The covers are generally linen with an image (Fig: 8) and smaller in size than many of the books that I have. The size compares to Spencer’s ‘Open Mic’ but is more easily read and images viewed (Fig: 9).

Figure 9: Nick Turpin (2016) Spread from ‘On the Night Bus’
Experimentation

Unfortunately, my ability to experiment with publication is limited by the current situation, however I was lucky enough to have some printed pages from the previous modules and a printed-out PDF book dummy I made prior to the MA to use.

Figure 10: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Pagination test

I am fairly used to creating PDF books using InDesign, however printing them out is not something that I have been too concerned with up to this point. The challenge is getting the pagination correct when setting up the printer (Fig: 10), which was my aim when I printed these out. I still have some research and development to do in this area as although I was able to work out pagination for saddle stitch (Fig: 11), I could not get the case bound version to print correctly without setting up a separate InDesign file for each of the book’s signatures (Fig: 12).

Figure 11: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Saddle Stitch test
Figure 12: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Book Signatures for case bound book test.

I created a saddle stitched booklet using black thread with holes I punched myself. A little uneven without the correct tools for the job but useful to understand the process (Fig: 13). My finished book is rough but works, albeit with some loose pages (Fig: 14).

Figure 13: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Saddle Stitch outcome

Figure 14: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Loose pages in Saddle stitch test

Using some of the lessons learnt from the saddle stitch, I have also created a booklet from the signatures I set up, without a cover for now. Each signature is essentially a saddle stitched booklet, which is then sewn together in order and glued. Again, mine is very rough but works well as a booklet (Fig: 15)

I would have liked to have made these experiments with my current work in progress research project, however it has been really valuable to explore and better understand the differences between bindings. Moving forward, I think that i am still very keen to produce my work in a physical medium. As I am waiting for the delivery of my Landings Zine (Fig: 16), I can use these lesson to develop that process and refine it ready for my WIOPP Submission for this module.

Figure 15: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Case bound binding test

Figure 16: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Digital version of Landings zine with current research project images.
Bibliography

Bush, L., 2016. A Model Continent. 1 ed. London: Self.

Catt, S., 2019. Woodstock. 1 ed. Frome: The Lost Light Recordings.

Coomes, P., 2013. Each picture paints 1,000 words in Vanessa Winship’s US photos. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-22508301 [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Dickerman, K. & Winship, V., 2018. Deeply poetic photos focus on the nexus of ‘chronicle and fiction’. [Online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2018/06/06/deeply-poetic-photos-of-the-junction-between-chronicle-and-fiction/ [Accessed 15 July 2013].

Hoxton Mini Press, 2020. About Us. [Online] Available at: https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/pages/about-us [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories. Bristol: Royal Photographic Society.

Lewis, J., 2015. One Day Young. 1 ed. London: Hoxton Mini Press.

Norfolk, S., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers [Interview] (12 June 2019).

Philipson, S., 2017. WHAT’S IN A BIND? 4 TYPES OF BOOK BINDING – PROS AND CONS. [Online] Available at: http://blog.ironmarkusa.com/4-types-book-binding [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Spencer, E., 2005. Open Mic. London: ESbooks.

Winship, V., 2013. She Dances on Jackson. 1 ed. London: Mack.

Kuala Lumpur Photo Award

I had one of my images selected for the 2020 Kuala Lupur Photo Award in the single image category (Fig: 1).

During the afternoon 'Children's Procession' at Gillingham Carnival. Part of: Wessex Grand Prix
Figure 1: Phil Hill (October, 2019) Rory, Gillingham Prince from PHO701 WIPP ‘The Wessex Grand prix’

I’ve not had an image place at a major photography award before, so I am really pleased that I had this one accepted. Even though the image was taken for Positions and Practice, it is particularly good to have an image accepted into an award during this module to experience the process of entering and placing in the exhibition.


Figure 2: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Discussing awards, competitions, and bursaries.

Figure 3: Phil Hill (October, 2019) Rory image on Instagram [click to view comments].

I discussed a number of the awards that I was intending, or had entered earlier in the module (Fig: 2) and the KLPA was one of these. Initially, my intention was to save the image of Rory for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize after Photographer Paul Welham-Clarke commented on the instagram post I made of this image (Fig: 3). It quickly became apparent that the Taylor Wessing wold not be running this year, so I made the decision to include the image with my entry into the KLPA.

My image is online with the other finalists, and will be exhibited at ILHAM Gallery in September.

Producing: Landings Zine

As my intention for the Landings exhibition was to not compromise locations and spaces to show my work, I decided to focus on an online exhibition, which I discussed earlier. Owing to the nature of the online exhibition, I still wanted to offer some kind of physical object (Fig: 1).

Figure 1: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Digital version of Landings Zine ‘I hope this finds you safe and well’

After the last webinar it was suggested that I try and ground my research project in the place that I am taking the images. I have found that Watford was an influential printing hub up until very recently. It was responsible for the printing of all of the major newspapers and colour supplements as well as government propaganda during WW2 (read more here). I decided then that it would be good to use this in my own publication and create a zine as a mini colour newspaper. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get this done in Watford so in the end I opted to get my zine printed using ‘The Newspaper Club’ who have been responsible for producing a number of high-profile photography newspapers and zines.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Zine front cover
Figure 3: Watford Borough Council Logo
Figure 4: Watford FC (2020) Watford’s football team logo.

I wanted the design to be minimal so not to distract from the images (Fig: 2), however, to maintain the link to the place, I have chosen to create the cover background using yellow, and the typeface in red, both from from the Watford town coat of arms (Fig: 3), and more commonly associated with the Watford football team (Fig: 4) and can be seen all over the town. As my images are black and white, these are the only elements of colour in the series.

Figure 5: Atipo (2020) Calendas Plus Bold Typeface.
Figure 6: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Zine back cover.

The typeface used is called ‘Calendas plus’ in Bold by font foundry Atipo (Fig: 5) and is also going to be used for the landing page of my exhibition and also in the social media promoting the show. The typeface is a clear serif that links again back to newspaper headlines and Watford printing. To maintain the minimal style of the zine, the cover only displays the title and my name, and some additional information on the back as well as a QR code, which links to my website (Fig: 6). My design for the cover was inspired by ‘Out of Place’ books, who have employed this kind of cover for a number of their zines, including ‘Spark’ by Andy Pilsbury (Fig: 7) and ‘This Must be the Place’ by Daniel Lyttleton (Fig: 8). The books that ‘Out of Place’ produce are primarily about places, and those not normally photographed, so I feel that my own journey through Watford may have an audience there.

Figure 7: Andy Pilsbury (2019) Cover of ‘Spark’ Zine.
Figure 8: Daniel Lyttleton (2018) Cover of ‘This Must be the Place’ zine.

As mentioned above, I have also produced a landing page for my exhibition, which also utilises the same cover design as my zine (Fig: 9). This creates a consistent branding that should feel more professional when clicking through whilst also providing a differentiated experience other than just viewing my existing web galleries on my website. The landing page utilises a simple enough HTML coded index page that has the same typeface embedded into the page and a fade in code so that the title is not too abrupt on visiting.

Figure 9: Phil Hill (July, 2020) ‘I hope this finds you safe and well’ landing page.

Zine making – follow up: Learning lessons for Landings

After working in the successful collaboration during the week 3 zine making task, we all wanted to have something tangible and decided it would be great to print the zine out for us all to keep. Additionally, Tim suggested that this could coincide with the Landings exhibition to add value to our exhibitions.

Figure 1: Phil Hill et al (June, 2020) Ginger Zine V1 with fold out middle.

This meant that we would need to seek a printer produce what we had created digitally. The initial version of the zine was 24 pages (or 12 spreads) including the longer fold out page in the middle (Fig: 1). The idea behind the fold out was to create something memorable and interesting at the heart of the zine, the challenge with this is the printing cost associated with creating something so unique meant that it became far too expensive to produce. We instead came back together to re-adjust the layout to maintain some of that same interest but also allow it to be printed for a reasonable amount (Fig: 2). It has been a useful exercise to go through the process of trying to get the zine printed as it is useful to understand these kinds of challenges before attempting to get one of my own completed.

Figure 2: Phil Hill et al (June, 2020) Adjusted Ginger Zine layout for printing.