Zine making and Reflecting

I have found the process of zine making a really valuable experience, which has forced me to consider other voices in my own creative process. Working with others means that it is possible to draw on a range of skill sets that are not particular strengths of my own, which results in a much stronger outcome that I might have been able to achieve independently. This was really valuable during the editing and compiling stage of the zine making. I was also able to input some of my other skill sets to support and collaborate in the project, including illustration. In any kind of team project, there is potential for members to become side-lined, however everyone in our zine group was able to contribute something valuable.

Figure 1: PANTONE (2020) Pantone colours listed under ‘Ginger’

At the very start of the week we discussed potential roles for the zine. Tim had a clear experience and background so was made team leader and was able to provide really insightful background on zines, their history and significance. Outside of photography, I was unaware of zines outside of photography. Victoria and Isabelle offered to source and create content, together with Ross who suggested that he could also picture edit, having some experience there. Andy has experience writing so offered to provide some copy and create a short text, which provided the context for the zine’s opening page. This left me to support the design and layout with support from the others.

Figure 1: UK Government (2016) Cover from EU referendum leaflet, which uses Helvetica as its typeface.

I wanted to incorporate some illustration to create a zine with a multidisciplinary approach but which maintains it photographic underpinning through the method of remixing images. I also have a fair amount of experience with InDesign so wanted to offer my support there.

We all came up with a range of ideas initially, which were discussed by the group. There were a number of politically and topical ideas, which on balance we decided to move away from owing to the short amount of time in which to do these kinds of subjects’ justice. It was also felt that looking at the current pandemic as a subject was leading to a kind of over saturation of the topic and again in order to really do it justice, some distance would be need together with time. ‘Ginger’ was decided as the subject, in all of the ways that the word might be interpreted. We collectively thought that the process of this week’s task would be the most value, so by focusing on a word, it was a good way to explore the very different ways that it could be represented in a zine format.

Figure 3: F37 Type Foundary (2013) ‘F37 Ginger’ Typeface example.

The theme created an opportunity to define some of the design features of the zine through the colour scheme, and typeface. Colour theory has an important role to play in semiotics, so this it is important to understand how the colour of our zine would be read by the audience. I utilised colours that are titled ‘ginger’ from the Pantone range (Fig: 1) as it provides a quick way to input the values from these swatches into InDesign and the other Adobe software that we were using, which maintains consistency across the design. Typical for Zines to have a kind of handmade aesthetic, I felt it important that the main text and anything that we wanted to flow through the pages as a narrative would be legible and able to be picked up quickly by the audience. Sans Serif is the obvious choice for this, owing to its legibility and graphic quality. For example, Helvetica is used by a range of governmental organisations because of its authoritative way of conveying information (Helvetica, 2007) such as the government leaflet on Britain’s exit from the EU (Fig: 2). This together with images can have a fundamental impact on the reading and the narrative of the overall message. For ‘Ginger’ I discovered that there was a really great sans serif called ‘f37 ginger’ (Fig: 3), which felt perfect for the project, however this was a commercial typeface, which was cost prohibitive for our purpose. Instead, I settled for an openly available typeface from google called ‘oswald’ that had a similar look to ‘f37 ginger.’

Figure 4: Phil Hill (2020) Ed Sheeran Illustration

Figure 5: Gareth Cattermole (2019) Ed Sheeran reference image.

Figure 6: Phil Hill (June, 2018) Illustration made using reference photographs

I contributed two main artworks to the zine, the Ed Sheeran illustration and the Binary Ginger page. The Sheeran illustration (Fig: 4) was created by utilising a reference image (Fig: 5) to remix and create an appropriated illustration that can be edited to change the hair colour. This is a process that I have been doing for a number of years through an Instagram account called @hell0_Philip, which I use reference and appropriation to construct images to illustrate emails sent to me (Fig: 6). I had not necessarily considered the practice inherently ‘photographic’ until we started looking at remixed photography and it would not be immediately obvious that they could be considered so, compared to, for example, Cold War Steve who creates photo shopped composites of images in order to create new meaning from them (Fig: 7).

Figure 7: Cold War Steve (2019) Composite image made with Photoshop
1A0000114N01110
2B0001015O01111
3C0001116P10000
4D0010017Q10001
5E0010118R10010
6F0011019S10011
7G0011120T10100
8H0100021U10101
9I0100122V10110
10J0101023W10111
11K0101124X11000
12L0110025Y11001
13M0110126Z11010
Figure 8: 5 digit binary code to letter conversion table

The binary image is something that I was experimenting with prior to the zine making task as an extension to the Ed Rucha task. I wanted to see if there were any other ways that I could present a body of images and also include additional information about them. To do this, I utilised a 5-digit binary code system of ‘1s’ and ‘0s’ that can be converted back into the alphabet (Fig: 8), for example: 00001 would equal the letter ‘A’ in binary, which can be converted into an image sequence where each image might equal a number ‘1’ and a ‘0’ would be represented by a blank square, or coloured one. For my experiment, I used my blossom images from my Rucha response to spell out the word ‘Covid-19’ in binary as this was the underlying theme to that series (Fig: 9). The challenge then was to differentiate between letter s and numbers, so I created a different version of the image that used red squares to denote numbers, and black squares to denote letters (Fig: 10). I also produced a sourced image version of Rucha’s ‘Twentysix Gasoline Stations’ in binary (Fig, 11), and a less successful version where each ‘0’ was replace with a letter, however this is quite a busy and confusing layout (fig, 12). From these approaches, I created the ‘Ginger’ binary layout using sources images and a binary code that spells the word ‘ginger’ (Fig, 13).

Figure 11: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Twentysix Gasonline Stations from sources images using 5 digit binary to spell ‘Twentysix’
Figure 12: Phil Hill (June, 2020) 0s replaced with letters
G:00111
I:01001
N:01110
G:00111
E:00101
R:10010
Figure 13: Phil Hill (June, 2020) The word ‘Ginger’ in 5 digit binary – code shown on the left.

Ginger zine is an A5 booklet that would have a middle fold out section to feature the images of Victoria tasting ginger, which makes an interesting mini-narrative as it is folded out of the main body of the zine.

Bibliography

Helvetica. 2007. [Film] Directed by Guy Hustwit. UK: Veer, Swiss Dots.

PANTONE, 2020. PANTONE 15-1020 TCX. [Online] Available at: https://store.pantone.com/uk/en/colorfinder/index/acfproduct/code/15-1020+TCX
[Accessed 22 June 2020].

Collaboration or Participation?

I have never really considered many of these terms and how I might fit into them. However, as I think back to my commercial practice, I would regularly work with a team in order to realise a client brief. In terms of a collaborative, though not necessarily in the strictest sense, I have often worked with a writer in order to realise and illustrate elements of that text.

Figure 1: Phil Hill & Darius Dabrowski (March – June, 2020) ‘Casiobury Park, Watford’

During the MA, I have explored the idea of collaboration much more and during the last module I invited people I had started to build a relationship with and photograph to also photograph themselves using a camera that I provided. Owing to the current situation I have not been able to develop this approach, but I did start to use some of these images for the re-photography task as a way of responding to these images (Fig: 1). This first exploration, I merely gave cameras to individuals with little instruction to see what I would receive in return. I think moving forward, I would be keen to work with the people more closely to discuss how they might want to photograph for their own representation, and my roll could then be to facilitate how they could do this from a technical perspective. In a similar way to how Anthony Luvera approaches collaboration (Fig: 2).

Figure 2: Anthony Luvera (2019) Assisted Self-Portrait of Joe Murray from Residency

For the work that I have been producing, which are primarily portraits. I would usually contact people I would like to photograph in advance so that I can make my introductions, set out my aims, and build a relationship with the subject and this is more of me seeking to find participants. Sometimes, I would not even use my camera on the first meeting so that we can discuss the project and most importantly how we would work together to take the photograph. I am keen to better represent the subjects that I am photographing and am acutely aware that there is still a heavy bias towards the way that I am setting up and taking my images, which I think is a confidence thing. My approach in this way is very much like how Alys Tomlinson approached her subjects for Ex-Voto (Fig: 3), where she arranged an appointment and then photographed them at a later date.

Figure 3: Alys Tomlinson (2019) Unamed from ‘Ex Voto’

For this module, I have struggled to approach people in the same way due to the lock-down and the usual channels of contact being on hold for now. I actually find the process of approaching people without an initial introduction, or in the case of me being hired for a job, a reason for being there. However, my challenge has been to approach people coming back together in the open community spaces as the restrictions lift. This method of seeking participants had the potential to become quite a quick exchange as my own reticence to approach might turn into quickly taking the image and walking away. Instead, I have chosen to shoot this module using a medium format film camera to introduce some theater into what I am doing (which breaks the ice), and also slow my process right down so that I have the space to engage with my participant and talk with them (Fig: 4). This still needs developing as I really need to develop an approach that is much more inclusive of the participant to include their voice and a direction that also considers how they want to be represented much more.

Figure 4: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Portrait of Wais at Callowland Recreation Ground

A collective is fairly new to me and this week’s zine project will be very good for this area of development. I am fairly used to working independently as a photographer so it will be useful to come together with others that have different ideas to my own.

Place Over Time

I took a number of approaches to this task and have found it quite useful in thinking about my own practice. I think that I have been doing forms of re-photography in quite a lot of then work that I produce.

Image 1
Figure 1: Phil Hill (April & June, 2020) Light on kitchen floor

This is one of the images submitted for the last module (Fig: 1). Although not exactly the same in terms of composition, the light cast onto the floor creates an interesting contrast between the two images. In terms of the passage of time, the first was taken in April when it was much cooler and the kitchen door was closed, compared to the recreation, where the door was open allowing more of the afternoon light come into the space.

Images 2 & 3
Figure 2: Phil Hill & Darius Dabrowski (March – June, 2020) Casiobury Park, Watford
Figure 3: Phil Hill & Darius Dubrowski (March – June, 2020) Watford Town Center

Again, during Informing contexts, one of my aims was to start collaborating with others (Fig: 2 & 3). I gave out cameras to some of the people that I met in my community in order for them to photograph it from their own perspective. Unfortunately, owing to the pandemic, I was unable to truly resolve and develop that approach so had to shelve it. I decided to use them for this task as it felt like a great way to apply the techniques by way of a collaboration. As my research project is about connection to community and idiorythym, I am interested in how other perceive the same space as me.

Images 4 & 5
Figure 4: Phil Hill (April – June, 2020) Window images
Figure 5: Phil Hill (April – June, 2020) Window Images

The final two images are part of the evolution of my research project as a result of having to adapt to the pandemic (Fig: 4&5). I was happy with the way that these abstract images of the windows in my home turned out, however they are also a reaction to a situation and something that I feel need further development if I am going to utilise it for future work. After reading Vilém Flusser during the break, I was interested in the way that he discusses the surface of the photograph and how it abstracts from reality: “traditional images are abstractions of the first order insofar as they abstract from the concrete world” (2000: 14), so I wanted to take this concept and start to purposefully abstract using different processes, including considering the photograph as an object itself. This is the first exploration in this are – the images on the left have been re-photographed using black and white film, which was pushed 5 stops (100 – 3200) beyond its normal capability to increase grain and reduce the resolution of the final negative. This was a useful task to start exploring these ideas.

Bibliography

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

Other People’s Vernacular

Now that I have processed two of the films I asked others to shoot for me, it is worth looking at how they might fit into the rest of my project and research.

Figure 1. James Petrucci (March, 2020) Image of a concrete road bridge support
James

James is a work colleague and who I initially asked to shoot some film for me, partly as an experiment to see how this might work with the other images I am creating (Fig. 1). James is the Fine Art lecturer at the college I teach, so although some of the technical aspects of the images are less than refined, his sense of composition, space, and attention to detail are clear in the resulting images that he shot (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. James Petrucci (March, 2020) Steps outside Watford Town Hall

The first thing that struck me when I developed these images was a sense of the banal and topographic within some of the subjects that James decided to photograph (Fig. 3). James has shot a series of images on his walking commute to the college where we both work and has placed emphasis on some of the imposing brutalist concrete structures that occupy Watford. This is a vernacular of Watford that I am not sure I will have made the link, or even approached to photograph myself. However vernacular in the sense of the content and not necessarily the aesthetic of the images, which is black and white film; vernacular photography of the everyday seems to now be the domain of smartphone photography.

Figure 3. James Petrucci (March, 2020) Building in Watford

The overbearing grey concrete architecture is one of the myriad of reasons why I personally have never felt connected to the place; Watford seems to me never super welcoming as a result, so potentially an area I can personally develop and respond to. Interestingly, James also moved to Watford to work at the college, as I did, so I will discuss with him his feelings towards the town. These are the everyday banal features of the place that we both live.

Figure 4. Phil Hill & James Petrucci (March, 2020)Layout experimentation for WIPP

I made a conscious decision to provide my collaborators with black and white film for this part of the project. For the moment at least, I felt it was important to differentiate the images of persons collaborating with my own imagery and this approach is starting to come together as I explore ways of sequencing the images (Fig. 4). The aesthetic choice of black and white is also an evolution of my initial look at FSA photography and its blanket approach to covering small towns in the US (Fig. 5), which incidentally could encompass working with collaborators in a similar way to Roy Stryker and the FSA photographers. John Tagg considers the aesthetic of the FSA as what was new way to disseminate the message of state: “Mobilising a new means of mass reproduction, the documentary practices of the 1930s, through equally the province of a developing photographic profession, were addressed not only to experts but also specific sectors of a broader lay audience, in a concerted effort to recruit them to the discourse of paternalistic, state directed reform” (Tagg, 1988, p. 12). We collectively understand that the black and white documentary aesthetic is ‘evidential’ and a perceived record of authenticity. For example, when I first introduced myself to the food bank across the road from me, one of the volunteers asked if I was going to be taking the images in black and white because this would seem more fitting of the subject somehow; a learned behaviour that all documentary needs to be in gritty black and white.

Figure 5. Roy Stryker (1939) Page from an FSA shooting script on a small town

Black and white photography plays with our learned knowledge of what is truth and evidence in photography, as Tagg goes on to state: “Documentary photography traded on the status of the official document as proof and inscribed relations of power in representation which were structured like those of earlier practices of photo-documentation: both speaking to those with relative power about those positioned as lacking, as the ‘feminised’ other, as passive but pathetic objects capable only of offering themselves up to a benevolent, transcendent gaze” (p. 12). The reference to ‘Documentary photography’ is closely linked to the use of black and white, especially when considering the context in which Tagg is discussing. Giving a camera to people that I collaborate with in some ways rebalances the power that Tagg refers to here; they are able to tell their own story and representation. However, I am aware that by including these images into my own narrative I am creating a constructed ‘legitimacy’ for myself in a number of ways. The black and white aesthetic states ‘documentary’ it also creates a perception of authenticity that readers may engage with more fully that merely viewing my images individually; readers expect to believe the black and white image, and this is supported by its own vernacular and positioning having been taken by the collaborator themselves, essentially providing more proof of its place in the actual and naturalistic, and again Tagg informs us: “it has been argued that this insertion of the ‘natural and universal’ in the photograph is particularly forceful because of photography’s privileged status as a guaranteed witness of the actuality of the events it represents” (p. 160). I use this to my advantage when I sequence my images together with those of my collaborators, and will need to carefully consider how the balance of power as stated by Tagg is influenced in sequencing and if an oppositional reading is developing from this work.

Darius
Figure 6. Darius Dabrowski (March, 2020) Cassiobury Park protected tree

I met Darius at the food bank who is a regular user of the service, and asked him to shoot a roll of film for me, I decided to not give a great deal of instruction just yet, only to go and tell his own story so that we could talk through the images together. When I processed these images, I was surprised to find that the majority of them were shot in Cassiobury Park here in Watford (Fig. 6), Darius has chosen to photograph the picturesque in contrast to James’s view of brutalist concrete (Fig.3). I find this representation of himself interesting and wonder if Darius sought to photograph scenes he thought would fit a picturesque photographic aesthetic (Fig. 7) owing to the average perception of photography which occupies the learnt visual style of publications, such as National Geographic, which I have discussed at length (View Post) and have set the mythological status of the picturesque image.

Figure 7. Darius Dabrowski (March, 2020) Somewhere in Cassiobury Park

The concern here is that Darius’s images is that they are not representative of his story insomuch as they are a projection of what he thinks that I am looking for. The same can be said for James’s series that has sought to look for aesthetic compositions within its banal brutalist look at Watford. This does not however mean that the images do not hold value when I create a sequence of the work. As Perter Lamarque writes of representation: “So to write a story or paint a picture is (usually) to bring into being a new story or picture world. This makes the existence of fictional worlds, unlike that of possible ones, a contingent matter” (Lamarque & Olsen, 2004, p. 354), which clearly puts the new sequence into the realm of the constructed narrative and was always going to be the case as I seek to blend the collaborative narrative together.

The picturesque images that Darius took, were surprising to me because of my assumptions of the life that Darius might lead outside of his visits to the food bank. This was not based on any other information other than my knowledge of Darius and the Food bank and highlights to me that I clearly have some bias in the expectation of what I might see when I processed the images. Looking at Darius’s set, there are some images that could really work with the narrative, for example figure 6 is an iconic view of the well-known protected tree situated in the park and would really provide context to the place I am photographing, where I have yet to shoot this kind of panoramic landscape.

Choosing to sequence my work next to that of my collaborators presents an interesting question about authorship. Logistically speaking, I have asked everyone involved to sign an assignment of copyright agreement to in essence give me ownership over the images to use as part of my project. Lamarque posits that authorship has a relationship to legal rights, which is, as Lamarque suggests, the basis for Foucault’s argument of the author (Lamarque & Olsen, 2004, p. 434). I am appropriating these images, for sure, but my intention is to create a narrative that considers the Barthesian idiorrythmic concept of everyone living separate lives, whilst also living together in the same places: “Where each individual lives according to his own rythym” (Barthes, 2012, p. 178). James and Darius, directed by me, have created a series of images that allow me to view parts of their iddiorrythm, and I aim to contribute mine.

Figure 8. Darius Dabrowski (March, 2020) Watford Town centre
Bibliography

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

Dubrowski, D. & Hill, P., 2020. Cassiobury Park protected tree. [ Photo ].

Dubrowski, D. & Hill, P., 2020. Somewhere in Cassiobury Park. [ Photo ].

Dubrowski, D. & Hill, P., 2020. Watford Town Center. [ Photo ].

Hill, P., 2020. Layout Experimentation: Mark and Concrete support image. [ Photo ].

Lamarque, P. & Olsen, S. H., 2004. Aesthetics and thne Philosophy of Art. 2 ed. Massachusetts: Blackwell.

Library of Congress, 2011. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Written Records: Selected Documents. [Online] Available at: Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Written Records: Selected Documents [Accessed 11 12 2019].

Petrucci, J. & Hill, P., 2020. Steps outside Watford Town Hall. [ Photo ].

Petrucci, J. & Hill, P., 2020. Building in Watford. [ Photo ].

Petrucci, J. & Hill, P., 2020. concrete road bridge support. [Photo].

Tagg, J., 1988. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. 1st paperback ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Collaborating: James

I asked a colleague to create some images for me to start experimenting with the idea of collaboration with my project. James is an artist so his sense of composition so clear, he is not used to film photography, which was a useful gauge to see if the people that I would work with will be able to create anything that could be used for the project moving forward. I very much like the aesthetic of James’s images in the regard, I think that – selfishly – there is a useful differentiation between my images and those that James took, however moving forward, it may be useful to include more delivery on taking and exposing the image, which would be in turn useful to support the collaboration but also to maintain a sense of me as director.

What I find works quite well with this set is that if the vernacular and perhaps some of the images and views that I might not have considered shooting myself. My initial intention for this experiment was to create responses to James’s images that could either be displayed alongside, or for my own images to take their place. I am wondering whether creating a narrative that merges both my images and those I have asked others to do will create a more interesting narrative.