I set myself a number of targets at the beginning of the year, to focus my practice, to extend it, and to engage both with the work I’ve done, and the work I would like to do.
I entered my first photography competition, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, I travelled to Finland to photograph wild bears, and I applied for an artist in residency programme.
These might sound like small things, enter a competition, buy a holiday, write a proposal document, but they were all geared towards testing my practice and taking my work further, and to testing my resolve.
I have no idea where I was in the running order for the residency program, they had over 1100 applications for 4 places, each aboard a ship that would cross the pacific, travelling between Vancouver and Shanghai. My plan was to document life aboard, to tell honest lies, and to highlight a world we all engage with unknowingly. Had I been lucky enough to secure Rebecca Moss’ place I would been telling a bigger, less-predictable story. Mid-way through her voyage ‘The Hanjin Shipping Company’ (with whom she was travelling) ceased trading and she and the crew were left stranded off the coast of Japan. Interesting reportage aplenty.
I entered two pieces into the Summer Exhibition, two of my favourite photographs from the last two years. They are good examples of my practice, but also works that I want on my wall at home. (If I were to fail at the first judging I would at least have some nice prints of photos I like.)
I was surprised to find that one of my pictures made it through to the second round, which while delightful also meant that it was time to engage with a process that I don’t deal with that often. Print.
There’s something troubling about the production of a printed work. Whether it’s the choice of medium, ensuring a colour space match or achieving a finalised and redacted post-production. Every step requires significant investment and all without an undo button.
I decided to use C-Type prints, where paper is exposed to a negative or digital image via a laser and then developed in a series of chemical baths. This creates a sealed photograph with increased colour depth and increased lifespan over inkjet printing. After ordering 10″ prints of my photos on Fuji Pro Gloss, pro Matte, and Kodak Metallic and showing these to friends it was decided the paper would have a matte finish.
Setting Sail was framed with a warm white mount and a black wooden frame, aping the exhibition prints I have loved in the past. I also plumbed for the more expensive non-reflective ‘art glass’, as I didn’t want reflections from the glass detracting from the matte print.
I delivered it to the Royal Academy, driving into central London for the first time, and then returned a week later after it had failed to go through to round three. (It beat a lot of other works to get as far as it did, something I tell myself often enough.) I got it home just in time to go away.
Having written a little about my trip to Finland before, I can report that after achieving such a dream, one esteemed for so long, I was briefly consumed by a petite mort. Accosted by a sadness and a loss of focus that came with the return, I looked for a new goal to replace the one I had lost. Would that one could stay in the woods, regarding the bears and their picnic, and not return.
While ordering the print of Setting Sail for the exhibition I also ordered another print – that of the other picture I had entered. This was Galleria. Shot on the Tachihara, the print was from a 4x5″ negative, and I wanted to go big. Scanned at 3200dpi the file was 16000 pixels by 12800, nearly 205 megapixels. Even after tidying it up and cropping in slightly it could easily have done a 50x40″ print – I ordered it at 47x37″.
What I didn’t know at this point was that I had crossed a rubicon in terms of framing complexity. I was now in the realms of the non-standard mount, the special order glass, and a assembly job that required two members of the framing team. Having fallen in love with the art-glass on ‘Setting Sail’ I wanted to have that again, this added significantly to the cost as did reinforcing the wall it would hang on and having it delivered via an art taxi). It is after all, very big, and somewhat delicate.
After all this kerfuffle, six months and multiple conversations with the team at AG Photographic, Bevere Gallery, and my builder Dave, this beast finally hangs upon my wall, and is quite stunning.
I’m not sure what the targets will be for next year yet, possibly some of the same things, but one thing I have already resolved to do is print more work.