A wee bit of publication…

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A Painters View; No. 15 from ‘Out Of The Woods’, 2008

I was very pleased to receive a pre-publication copy of Making Photographs: Planning, Developing And Creating Orginal Photography by Mike Simmons as I’ve the image above reproduced in the book.  It was a bit of a shock to realise that it is over seven years since I embarked on my photography Masters course and nearly that since I took the picture.  I found going back to college (after a gap of more than thirty years) a lot of fun and I learnt a great deal from Mike, Paul Hill and Greg Lucas who taught the programme.  Although I’ve used photography since I was 17 until the course I’d always seen myself as someone who ‘took’ photos (and, as a painter, often abused them badly!) rather than someone who ‘makes’ photographs – pretty much the basic thesis behind Mike’s book.  I’d recommend it to anyone interested in developing their creativity as a photographer (but I guess I would, wouldn’t I!).

It’s interesting that the use of photography as an artist is very much in the creative community at the moment with the prosecution of Luc Tuymans just the other day.  Of course the case revolves around appropriated images rather than self originated but, like many others, I’ve done my share of that too over the years.  Thinking through the case makes one realise how the explosion of the mechanised  image over the past – nearly two hundred – years now, and especially the exponential growth since digitisation has smashed the distinctions to smithereens. I play about with both drawn and photographed images on my iPad all the time…and am thinking of making a portfolio of some of these at the moment…and it occurs to me that amongst the sources I’ve plundered are colleague artists, my students and famous artists and photographers whose work I’ve seen on my travels over the past few years.  Ok I do ‘bowdlerize’ them more often than not but nonetheless… And I’ve been using other people’s ‘stuff’ ever since I was a student…

When Ordinary Tourists Arn't Crowding THe View
Ordinary Tourists, Collage, 16 x 12 ins, 1970

Adrian Searle makes a good case for the absurdity of the decision in The Guardian but maybe misses a serious point…after all the young Belgian photographer, Katrijn Van Giel has her copyright too.  Ok Searle asserts that the painting is quite different to the photograph…and of course it is…as long as it is viewed as a painting.  But of course (as the work is in a wealthy American businessman’s collection) most of us only get to see the image…and are just as likely only to ever see the image of Van Giel’s photograph…indeed nowadays its likely Katrijn has never actually made a photograph of the image…(ok maybe not until now!).  Now the image is still ‘different’ to a degree but the subtleties Searle ascribes to it are pretty much lost on the screen that most of us will view it.

There is of course one simple reason why this all matters…money…and one of the things it points up I think is the relative ‘value’ put on traditional ‘art’ and ‘photography’ – those contemporary artists and commentators ‘outraged’ by the judgment are, I suspect, simply unprepared to accept photographic reportage as ‘art’…they hanker over some transformative mojo to turn what they see as base metal into gold.  Heck I may even be one of those myself…I just don’t know anymore?

What works out…and what doesn’t

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Demon’s Wood (occultation-dawn)

I do not think it worthwhile usually to comment on the mechanics of being an artist (or at least aspiring to be) and have long since become accustomed to the ins and outs (outs being the more common!) of trying to get work ‘out there’.  Nor have I tried anywhere near as assiduously as perhaps I ought over the years to push it professionally…rather relying on opportunities just coming along.  And by and large that hasn’t been too difficult over the past two decades.  However sometimes it’s hard not to feel fate is conspiring against one.  In the past few weeks two potential opportunities seem to have slipped away and whilst neither is critical to my practice (I will just keep on keeping on after all) both would have been useful not only in allowing work to gain an audience but in giving me an impetus to complete the respective projects in a sensible timeframe.

So it’s as well that one or two other kind souls have picked up on things that distract me from these disappointments for which I am most grateful.  One will allow me, yet again, to push my photoworks out to an international audience…I rarely show these here at home as over the years it has been hard to get my paintings and digital manipulations seen – let alone trying to get anyone to accept the ‘straight’ photographic pieces.  But the photo pieces are both more easily portable and seem to gain a more ready acceptance overseas.  So in the next few days I am working on a new interpretation of some of the material I produced as part of my masters course (is it really five years ago now?!) but that never got used back then.

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Demon’s Wood (occultation-midday)