Instagram Collaboration & Dissemination

Figure 1. Phil Hill (April, 2020) Discarded Gloves found during walking (Posted to The Long Exposure)

A few weeks ago, I suggested to the rest of my cohort that a positive way to spend time in this lock down period could be through collaboration and create an Instagram account called ‘The Long Exposure,‘ which we could all use to share images created in isolation (Fig. 1). This also gave me the opportunity to start to engage with audiences and share some of my latest work that is also part of my WIPP and gauge its reaction.

Instagram creates a direct means of dissemination via an accessible platform, which easily puts together images from a similar body of work and share it with an interested audience. This, of course depends on the ability to utilise a number of specific hashtags that direct the work in front of the right people searching for that content. There is an opportunity through platforms such as Instagram to put the work in front of a wider audience than if, for example, it was only to be an exhibition, which would be limited by the time of display and location of the exhibition space together with the demographic of the audience, which might be limited to those already only interested in the arts. Similar could be said of the photobook, which I have discussed previously (Fig. 2).


Figure 2. Phil Hill (March, 2020) Are You Drowning Yet? Discussing audience, social media, and the photo book.

There are many positive to displaying my work on Instagram, however there are a number of challenges too associated with Instagram, and platforms like it. For example, the display of the image is limited by the way that Instagram forces you to upload and present it in the square format that is synonymous with the platform (Fig. 3). There are some that work around this by adding a white border and is also something that I have also adopted with my uploads to the platform (Fig.4). This seems to be used by many creatives as a way of denoting more serious work, which Kat Stoeffel refers to as the “Anti-Filter” (Stoeffel, 2014) and notes of photography blogger and prolific Instagram user, Andy Adams: I’m guessing the trend originated with professional and fine-art photographers, and those who promote their work, like Andy Adams, the editor of online-photography blog FlakPhoto. Since the beginning of the year, Adams has been teasing the art featured on his blog on Instagram, using Photoshop to add the white space necessary to render the photographs in their original dimensions. To him, the rise of the white border implies “photographers of all levels” — i.e., those who can make photographs without their cell phones — are “recognizing Instagram as a powerful tool not just for making but for talking about and sharing photographs.” (Adams in Stoeffel, 2014). Therefore creating a differentiation from the many thousands of images that are uploaded to platform, which are vernacular in their nature and one that signals that this work should be considered instead of consumed.

Figure 3. Phil Hill (December, 2018) Images from my photography Instagram feed before adopting a white border.

Figure 4. Phil Hill (April, 2020) Images from WIPP posted to ‘The Long Exposure’ including a white border.

However, it is the many thousands of uploads that become part of the challenge of using a site such as Instagram, as we have looked at previously, during ‘a sea of images’ (Fig. 5). Any upload is ultimately mired in a deluge of imagery shaped by the algorithms that drive the site and that creates a homogeneous effect, as Lev Manovich informs us: “Different elements of photo culture that throughout 19th and 20th century were separate, now have been combined in a simple platform” (Manovich, 2017), in which he is referring to how of of the technological elements of photography have come together, are more accessible and easier to use for the average user and you can see how this is shaping the similarities in the images posted to the site (Fig. 6), even in the white bordered ‘serious’ work uploaded (Fig. 7).


Figure 5. Phil Hill (March, 2020) Discussion on the ubiquity of images and their value

Figure 6. Insta Repeat (2020) Image from @Insta_Repeat
Figure 7. This Ain’t Art School (2020) Profile aggregating and curating more serious work based on submissions to a hashtag.

During the last module, I produced a zine and postcard set (Fig. 8) to help disseminate the work with the aim of sharing my project with a range of editors. I won’t be able to produce similar under the present lockdown circumstances, so Instagram is one way that my work can be continued to be shared, however I feel that this should be supported through other channels, so not to be too reliant on just one. This would include my own website, where the work can be displayed as I intended. I would also be looking at sharing the work via Linkedin, as the audience for the work is more tailored to industry professionals who might be more inclined to engage with it.

Figure 8. Phil Hill (November, 2019) Zine and Post Card set produced for ‘The Wessex Grand Prix’ project.

Moving forward, I would ultimately want to produce physical materials to share the work. My postcards for ‘The Wessex Grand Prix’ were well received and I would want to replicate this with this more developed work. I also am quite interested in continuing the collaborative approach with my peers, I believe that on the other side of this pandemic, there is an opportunity to curate either an exhibition, or some kind of publication from the images that we have collectively been sharing.

Bibliography

Manovich, L., 2017. Instagram and Contemporary Image. Online: Manovich.net.

Stoeffel, K., 2014. Introducing the Anti-Filter: The Rise of the White Border on Instagram. [Online]
Available at: https://www.thecut.com/2014/04/whats-up-with-these-white-borders-on-instagram.html
[Accessed 22 April 2020].

Notes on Dissemination

I am continuing to consider the ways in which to disseminate my work, which is a continuation of the discussion I had in my post ‘Are you Drowning Yet?’ and also in my post ‘Hunters and Farmers’



Simon Norfolk’s critique of the photo book is a valid response to a sometimes esoteric world of photography, however there are photographers who are able to both create a work in the form of a beautifully presented book whilst at the same time disseminating that work with a broader audience, or at least with the people that helped to create the work.

Clémentine Schneidermann
Figure 1. Clémentine Schneidermann (2018) From ‘I Called her Lisa Marie’

I have been following the work of Schneidermann since the start of this module, after having the work recommended to me at the end of the last one. I really connect with the aesthetic of her work, especially ‘I Called her Lisa Marie’ (Fig. 1), which contrasts Elvis fans of South Wales with images from Elvis’s home in Memphis and really creates the idea of community formed through a connection to the culture and music of Elvis Presley and blends portraiture with environmental imagery, that Schneidermann says “help to breath between each portrait” (Rosenberg, 2016).

Figure 2. Clémentine Schneidermann (2019) From ‘It’s Called Ffasiwn’

Her commitment to working with communities as well as within them is something that also resonates with me as I look to work closer with my own community. For example, her project ‘It’s Called Ffasiwn’ is a collaboration between Schneidermann, stylist Charlotte James, and the youth clubs of the South Wales Valleys (Fig. 2), which is referred to as a “fashion-cum-documentary-cum-participatory community project that challenges the static way the region has been portrayed by the media through celebrating the creativity of its younger inhabitants” (Wright, 2019). The work seeks to work in collaboration with the people who live in the South Wales Valley region, one of the most deprived areas in the UK in order to change the perception of how the area is represented through images of deprivation left after the decline of the coal industry in the 1980s.

Figure 3. Clementine Schneidermann (2019) ‘It’s Called Ffasiwyn’ exhibition at The Martin Parr foundation.

Although the series is primarily a fashion work, I find the tools of collaboration a positive way of re-framing the way a culture can be depicted, which is a kind of decolonisation of the poverty that we automatically attribute to these areas. The project has been exhibited at the Martin Parr foundation, which has been set up to focus on work created in the British Isles, something that I feel my work could aspire to. My own work is fundamentally about British community and would sit quite comfortable in this space (Fig. 3). Schneidermann has produced photobooks as part of her work, however for ‘It’s Called Ffsiwn’ a magazine was produced and was also shared in the local newspaper to share the work with the community. In this way the work becomes more inclusive of the people who helped inspire it.

Figure 4. Clementine Schneidermann (2019) for Vogue Italia.

Additionally, for Schneidermann there is also a secondary market for this work, creating opportunity for wider dissemination. Schneidermann also completes commissions for publications such as Vogue Italia (Fig. 4), and continues to utilise the aesthetic of her documentary and collaborative work by staging many of these shoots within the Welsh Valleys where she is based. This supports the discussion that I had regarding publishers such as Hoxton Mini Press who also work in this way in order to create a larger audience for the work and by extension making then work more attractive to these publishers to put out into the market place.

Figure 5. Clementine Schneidermann (2019) for Gucci x Vogue Italia.

If there was to be a critique to this approach however, it would be in the potential gaze of this kind of imagery; taking advantage of the people depicted in the images (Fig. 5). However, I don’t believe that this is Schneidermann intention, who does not operate in the way that traditional documentary photographers have done in the past; As Sontag points out “The photographer is supertourist an extension of the anthropologist, visiting natives and bringing back news of their exotic doings” (Sontag, 1979, p. 42). Schneidermann is not a tourist in the Welsh Valley, she also lives with the community and works with them to create this photography, and continues to do so.

Considering the secondary market for my work
Figure 6. From BBC Article ‘ Coronavirus: The month everything changed’ (Kelly, et al. 2020)

Now that my project has evolved to include reaction to the current Coronavirus pandemic, it does present an opportunity to disseminate the work in an editorial setting. For example, BBC has already started to create reflections on how the UK has changed as a result of the virus, and illustrating this with stock imagery edited to present a before and after view of how life has changed (Fig. 6). In the weeks during the pandemic there will be inevitably be a range of content produced to help illustrate and understand what is happening and my work would fit very well in this. Especially as my intent is to look at the connections within community and society at large.

Figure 7. Huck Magazine spread (2018) from ‘Teen Activism’ issue.

Another example could be through a publication, such a Huck magazine, creates themed issues (Fig. 7) for content that could feasibly produce an issue on the impact and outcomes of the pandemic. Huck’s editor Andrea Kurland suggests that in this context it is the story that they are able to put together is just as important as the visuals when considering commissioning a piece of work “start thinking about what that editor would need to turn that into a feature” (Kurland & Creativehub, 2020). It would be good start thinking how my work can exist in these kinds of contexts as they have established audiences and built on the basis that if it is published there must be an inherent quality to the work and worth seeing. However, there is the issue of compromise to consider when pursuing publication in this kind of media. Both of the examples that I have given will have their own editorial guidelines with regard to the kind of work that they publish, and this could also exist in a particular political standpoint (although less so for the BBC), which could have a fundamental impact in the way that my work is read, potentially compromising the intent and dominant reading of my work. An important consideration that could have implications on how I am able to create work in the future.

Bibliography

Huck Magazine, 2018. Teen Activism. Huck Magazine, 15 May.

Kelly, J., Getty & Alamy, 2020. Coronavirus: The month everything changed. [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-52066956 [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Kurland, A. & Creativehub, 2020. How to Show Your Work. London: Printspace Studios.

Rosenberg, D., 2016. Elvis Presley’s Biggest Fans. [Online] Available at: https://slate.com/culture/2016/01/elvis-presley-fans-around-the-world-photographed-by-clementine-schneidermann.html [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Schneidermann, C., 2018. I Called Her Lisa Marie. [Online] Available at: https://www.clementineschneider.com/i-called-her-lisa-marie/cz93s22tomb7f4jbr8radnwqtgxpal [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Schneidermann, C., 2019. For Vogue Italia. [Art] (Vogue Italia).

Schneidermann, C., 2019. Gucci x Vogue Italia. [Art] (Vogue Italia).

Schneidermann, C., 2019. It’s Called Ffasiwn is a collaboration with Charlotte James & youth clubs. [Online] Available at: https://www.clementineschneider.com/ffasiwn-1/lwqc0f3qqhdc4s3fznz34vv6tavez7 [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Schneidermann, C., 2019. It’s Called Ffasywn’. Bristol: s.n.

Sontag, S., 1979. On Photography. London: Penguin.

Wright, S., 2019. It’s Called Ffasiwn. [Online] Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/clementine-schneidermann-it-s-called-ffasiwn [Accessed 31 March 2020].

Are you Drowning Yet?

I have written about parts of this topic a couple of times since the start of the MA and I think it is definitely important to really consider the context of how my work is displayed, and the audience of that work:

Photo Books, for example. I absolutely adore them and spend many hours looking at my own small collection. However, I was interested to listen to Simon Norfolk in a recent Small Voice Podcast (Norfolk, 2019), who said that he himself is done with them. His reasoning for this is down to the audience of photobooks, which is almost entirely that of other photographers, and a middle-class demographic of photographers, which can be problematic for a number of reasons. When you consider that many of these books have small print runs of around 150, and can be exceptionally expensive, this can be limiting in the dissemination of the work; for the socially concerned photographer, what you are actually doing is creating esoteric works for other people like yourself which does not bring issues to a wide and diverse audience.

Norfolk’s critique continued, and he also discussed the way that some of the major awards operate to only reward those that are part of the same cliques within the traditional photography world and this kind of self-congratulatory feedback loop will ultimately harm the practice of photography and its relevance.

Figure 1. Simon Norfolk (2020) Instagram Profile.

Interestingly, Norfolk cited Instagram as the space where the most current photography is happening and has worked to increase his own audience to around 150,000 followers (Fig. 1). Norfolk also discussed photographers such as Joey L as potentially moving the medium forward in this sphere, yet wouldn’t be considered by the traditional gallery system. Added to this, I also read recently of the TikTok photographer Derek Harris with a 3.6 million fan base (Harris & TikTok, 2020). These two examples are not who you might consider as legitimate photographic artists and social media creates a homogenised view of photography (Fig. 2), yet they draw audiences that clearly cannot be ignored, and to a great extent show that photography still has a large audience, albeit a younger demographic than those who might follow the Photographers Gallery; this could be considered a gateway into other parts of the photographic world. The rise of these photographers is surely a reaction by a generation that only consumes media via an online platform and technologies potentially considering the way we consume imagery archaic and obsolete.

Figure 2. Insta Repaet (2020) Image from @Insta_Repeat

Norfolk’s comments on Joel L were an interesting one however, he stated that he did not really like his work, a statement of which I tend to agree with owing to L’s highly exoticised gaze which is similar to the discussion around the National Geographic gaze we are looking at this week. However, Norfolk did have a great deal of respect for his ability to create an audience, and L’s aesthetics and technical ability can’t be discounted wholly. When I looked up Joey L’s Instagram however, he was actually using his most recent posts to promote his own first photobook, ‘We Came from Fire’ (L, 2019). So, even with L’s large online audience it seems he still places value on the tangible medium, albeit with a much larger print run no doubt.

Continuing this point, Last week’s reading of Bright’s ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men, I was struck by her discussion regarding Lisa Lewenz’s ‘Three Mile Island Calendar’ (Bright, 1985) which consciously presented the work using a highly mass produced format playing with the notion of how these images would normally be viewed – primarily in a corporate report setting. This kind of presentation has impact over how you might expect to see a landscape image within its black borders and hung on white walls. To do something similar in a contemporary form of mass production, which ultimately would be using an online platform such as Instagram, the context could quickly drain away (Sontag, 1979, p. 106) as the image gets swallowed up by the countless others uploaded every second.

Where the photo book may hold more resonance with audiences outside of the photography world might be through publishers such as Hoxton Mini Press who will look for secondary markets for the books that they produce. For example, the book ‘One Day Young’ by Jenny Lewis (Lewis, 2015) is a beautiful series of portraits of mothers and their brand new babies, which was bought for me and my wife when my daughter was just born, and I have also seen it for sale in stores such as Oliver Bonas, creating an opportunity for those unaware of photography in the esoteric sense to access it. However, and I consider my editorial print background here, market forces shape the creation of photography for the masses and ultimately leads to its homogenisation, as broad appeal and aesthetics take the place of challenging work, which was certainly the kind of images that I shot for airline and travel magazines. There are advertisers and increasing market share to think about.

Bibliography

Anonymous & Instagram, 2020. Insta_Repeat Instagram Profile. [Online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/insta_repeat/ [Accessed 2 March 2020].

Bright, D., 1985. Of Mother Nature and Marlborough Men. Exposure, 23(1), p. Online.

Harris, D. & TikTok, 2020. derrekharris TikTok Profiles. [Online] Available at: https://www.tiktok.com/@derrek.harris [Accessed 2 March 2020].

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

L, J., 2019. We Came From Fire. 1 ed. New York: Powerhouse Books.

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

Norfolk, S. & Instagram, 2020. SimonNorfolkStudio Instagram Profile. [Online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/simonnorfolkstudio/ [Accessed 2 March 2020].

Sontag, S., 1979. On Photography. London: Penguin.

Hunters and Farmers

I am not sure that I completely subscribe to the ‘Hunters’ and ‘Farmers’ analogy from Jeff Wall (Wall in Horne, 2012). If all images are constructions, which I do believe, then this is surely a spectrum in which all photographies fall and even within the distinct extremities of the continuum, even the hunters subjectively construct the reality of the actual (Berger, 2013, p.8) , which is based on the real world.

As such, I do not feel wholey comfortable subscribing completely to either title, however, I believe that my work is rooted in this actuality. I do not consciously or emphatically try to deceive with my work, however this is not to assume that what I do is not a construct with every decision that I make creating a version of reality, although naturalistic in its appearance & indexical in its traces, I am starting to appreciate that representation can only be a part of the whole narrative, an informed – if you will – overall opinion of what I am trying to say. If I was to consider which end of the spectrum that my work falls, it would inevitably be on the side of the hunter as I tend to look for the photographs that I want to create in the actual, my work is less about the gradual constructions and more about the constructed actualities. On the face of it, my practice does little to tend to my images over time, however perhaps this ‘tending’ could be through the development of personal style and aesthetics in the way that I approach my image making, it is easier to suspend disbelief when viewing my images because they are based in the real world.

As I reflect on this, I realise that my work on this end of the continuum is still rooted within my own comfort zones of how I take pictures, which is founded on my commercial practice as an editorial photographer. During the presentations, we have been continually asked to consider the importance of the reality of the image to determine meaning (Cosgrove, 2020) so moving forward, it would be good for me to play with this notion and create some work that consciously moves further toward the ‘Farmer’ end of the spectrum.

With this in mind, I am thinking of returning to two areas that I identified in some earlier research, the term idiorrhythmic came up when reading a text by Barthes and the reference to how we can live our separate lives but co-exist within societies and communities, Barthes considers this view non-paradoxical and considers that for a proper Utopian community to function there would be a removal of identifying information to distance ourselves from ‘spaces of Manipulation’ (Barthes, 2012, p.101). I wonder if the people that I am aiming to include in my look at the local community need to be ‘real,’ or could this be part of a constructed reality that plays with this notion of the spaces of manipulation and links to why I chose community as an area of interest for my photography and my fractured sense of connection to the place that I live.

Figure 1. Desert Places by Robert Frost (1936).

Another related area to Barthes notion of living together and apart is through the metaphor of the desert which Barthes uses in his text and also unpacked in the analytical paper of his work ‘Roland Barthes, the individual and the Community’ (Stene-Johansen, et al., 2018), from here links can be made to this kind of monoclastic living balancing isolation and attachment (2018, p.16). Robert Frost’s poem ‘Desert Places’ (Fig. 1) is also referenced here and an area that I wish to explore (Frost, 1936, p.44).

How are my images consumed?

My work has always sat in the printed media category, in that for the majority of my commercial life I have worked as an editorial photographer primarily for the airline publication sector, with other magazines and newspaper imagery too. So far, I have treated the work that I have produced for the MA as a kind of extended editorial shoot with the intention of displaying it in printed media, or its online equivalent. For example, after the last module, I produced a postcard series of the project to be distributed to a range of magazine and online editors (Fig. 2&3) with some interest in the work and a few shares on social media platforms. As is the way with publishing lead times, timing has been an issue for some of the publications that I sent my work, citing that my images of the carnival needed to be published to coincide with the next carnival season in the autumn. My intention here is to follow up in the spring to see if the work can be published later in the year.

Figure 2. Phil Hill (November, 2019) Postcard Series created to market ‘The Wessex Grand Prix’
Figure 3. Phil Hill (November, 2019) Postcard cover and graphic for ‘Wessex Grand Prix’

The topicality of the project lets it sit comfortably in this editorial category and would be considered professionally as an interesting look at British culture in the southwest region of the UK. The context of any kind of publication would omit much of the intentions that I set out in the creation to the work, in terms of the fractured sense of community that inspired to look again at the Carnival culture.

I have been testing the limit of this view through the submission of the work to dummy book awards, such as the Mack First Book Award (Fig. 4). At this stage, I am not sure whether my work sits comfortably within this category. 

Figure 4. Phil Hill (November, 2019) Wessex Grand Prix Book Dummy cover

Reflecting  on my decision to create a postcard series was primarily from a marketing perspective. In our digital image world, I wanted to let my project stand out from the plethora of emailed submissions that these editors would inevitably receive. Viewing images in an online gallery form can be very linear, as you are bound by the sequence and flow of the gallery in which they are presented with the knowledge that the job of the photo editor is to produce a narrative that fits with the intent and the editorial guidelines of the publication, this could be considered quite limiting to the potential of publication. This presents a slight irony in that the postcard mailer, which traditionally was a primary way of marketing for photographers, allows me to stand out. Presenting my work in a tangible medium also allows it to be laid out in full and viewed in a way that may work better within the context of the editor that I send the work. 

The postcard and the book dummy that I have started to explore also marks a departure in the ways that my work can be consumed, albeit an esoteric one. Simon Norfolk, for example has remarked that the world of the Photo book has become a self-congratulatory loop, where photographers are celebrating other photographers belonging to the same clique, and the same can also be said of the gallery and award system (Norfolk, 2019). Any move into other ways that my images are distributed and consumed should consider the esoteric and have an awareness that any meaning that could be derived from it needs to be viewed by more than a small group of taste makers. 


Bibliography

Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of some Everyday Spaces. Translation ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Berger, J., 2013. Understanding a Photograph. London: Penguin Classics.

Cosgrove, S., 2020. Week 2 Presentation: Is it Really Real?, s.l.: Falmouth.

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

Hill, P., 2019. The Wessex Grand Prix. [Photography].

Horne, R., 2012. Holly Andres, ‘Farmer’ of Photographs. The Wall Street Journal, 3 February.

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

Stene-Johansen, K., Refsum, C. & Schimanski, 2018. Living Together: Roland Barthes, the Individual and the Community. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.