Saturday, October 31, 2009

Past and Present

Since the last post I’ve had another opportunity to combine the present with the past through the Beaford Arts ‘Old Archive’. I was recently involved as an artist in a Beaford Arts residential for ‘gifted and talented’ year 9 pupils. It was hoped I could lead a ‘drawing with light’ exercise in the dark evening as the residential was loosely based on the ‘big draw’ national incentive to get people drawing. Rather than simply reiterating the previous residential I chose to also include the combining of the past with the present.

A mysterious Old Archive image of Greenwarren House (which now houses Beaford Arts) was found. Mysterious because there is no information attached to it except the description: “Old view of Greenwarren House with different window heads and stucco and 2 horses and riders.” There is no date or reference to the riders, horses or dog in the picture. Technically I should have composed the photograph before dark to have obtained the same angle-of-view and comparable lens length. However the only real discrepancy is to the left of the house where the old stable block isn’t lined up but the advantage of this mismatch is that you see a photo-collage made on a previous residential pasted on a door.


The children, after making some long exposure night photos themselves, made light patterns with a number of coloured torches, drawing or painting with light in the darkness. Afterwards they had the opportunity of learning how to combine the old and new images in PhotoShop.


My final image is a combination of 2 ‘drawing with light’ exposures of 1 minute each plus the original ‘Victorian’ photograph. I’ve tried to photograph the present both actually, the house as it is in October 2009 with reference to art being made in the photo-collage seen on the door and metaphysically; children learning through art seen by the light traces and sometimes ghostly images as they move through time. I’ve also made reference to the past through the old windows and doors seen through the bleached out windows of the present and the trace image of the old building’s chimneys, flowerpots, garden sculptures and the 2 riders on horses and dog.

'Old Archive, Contemporary Responce' continues at Boston Tea Party in Exeter from 3rd of November follow this link for more information.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Working from the Beaford Old Archive

Recently I was asked to choose an image, any image, from the Beaford Old Archive http://www.beaford-arts.org.uk/index.php?id=5 and respond to it in a creative way. I had to limit my time to 3 hours, although this time restraint was creatively interpreted. If you want to see this image framed and hung on a wall, you'll find it alongside other artists interpretations of Beaford Old Archive images, at the Boston Tea Party Cafe in Barnstaple, North Devon, during October and then it travels down to a cafe of the same name in Exeter.

Old Archive image chosen: ‘On the beach, Appledore c1890’ (ref. b08514)
Contemporary response titled: ‘Still on the beach, Appledore 2009’
I’m drawn to pictures like this, they fascinate and excite me. They talk of a recent past, where our North Devon ports were full of sailing ships, importing tobacco and exporting products like our sgraffito slip-ware pottery to the Americas and all over the world. It’s surprising how few images there are showing scenes like this until they are compared to the modern day vernacular equivalent, the lorry park. I often catch myself imagining our rivers full of moored tall ships like ghosts of the past making a trace on our 21st century world. Walking on the quays in Bideford and Appledore I can feel the past, just like one can sense the layers of history in an old house.

This image from c1890 was most likely exposed onto a glass plate negative and printed onto light sensitive, fibre-based, silver-salt rich, photographic paper. It epitomises the worst attributes of the old silver based technology. Dust and hairs have left their white marks as they’ve stubbornly clung onto the negative at the printing stage; fingerprints have been left on the surface from the photographer who uses his hands to move the print from developer to fix but doesn’t clean and dry them properly; stains miraculously appear through uneven agitation, irregular fixing or uneven washing; more stains and marks are left from over 100 years of being passed from family member, to friend, to nostalgic collector. The photograph, like the image it holds, is a testament to the passing of time.

This image of Appledore’s shoreline is a fading reminder of it’s past. By this date our ports were little used, the railway had taken over transportation of goods although it hadn’t reached this village yet. Appledore here is a scant reminder of North Devon’s heyday in the Elizabethan era when ships sailed from here taking the 1st colonists to America and 5 ships under the leadership of Sir Richard Grenville left here to fight against the Spanish Armada.

We can learn a lot from old pictures, we can learn more from trying to re-photograph them. To place my camera where the original camera had be mounted I would need to dig up some of the car park today. The quay at Appledore has been raised and widened, quite considerably, although the part of the waterfront seen in this picture is relatively the same. New houses have been added and some of the original outhouses demolished.

The tide and position of the sun have proved to be my most difficult obstacles. From observing the shadow I estimated that the original picture was made mid-afternoon, and from observing where the tide was and it’s direction (or direction the boats are pointing) I estimated a couple of hours after high tide. To get the tide and sun like this I needed to make my new pictures around a neap tide, which I’d get every 2 weeks. Then, of course, I needed sunshine; something we never get on demand in North Devon. And finally 3 free hours, the allotted time for this commission, when all of the above were in place, to make my images and construct them together in PhotoShop.

I hope with this new digital image something of the view back, through the layers of time, can be seen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review in arts+culture magazine

Dave Green's photo exhibition at the Tavistock Wharf revels in discovery of the North Devon coastline

Dave Green, a Bideford-based photographer, reveals hidden parts of the North Devon coastline in his solo exhibition at Tavistock Wharf.

His work is a continuation of his childhood fascination with ‘looking for that elusive hidden rock pool teeming with life or being the first person to tread over the sand and discover a cave’.

Seemingly undaunted by tides, he continues to ‘discover’, squeezing his adult self into narrow tunnels formed by the pounding ocean and wedging himself at the back of sea caves. He documents his artistic endeavour using a digital camera. In Turbulent Passage, Baggy Point, North Devon 2008, a trail of sea foam on the smooth, untouched sand creates a feeling of isolation and imminent danger, but also wonder at being able to see something usually hidden from the human gaze.

In these meticulously-created Constructed Photographs, Green overcomes the problem of lighting in the cave that would result in dark, detail-less images by taking many different, long-exposure shots and stitching them together in Photoshop. The edges of his work are often left jagged, as if individual photographs have been placed together à la Hockney. The results are images that reveal the exquisite tones and textures of the rocks within the cave and pictures that have both depth and movement. The viewer is taken on a journey from the dark space of the cave to the glare of the outside light, the secret openings and slick, smooth rocks provoking analogies to birth and ‘the feminine.’

The biggest surprise, perhaps, is the way in which Green’s images manage to turn the most hostile and remote of environments into an almost comforting space.

Another highlight from the exhibition is the selection of camera-less images from the1990’s. Created by placing natural materials – seaweed, nettles and leaves – directly onto 5 x 7 photographic paper and using the action of sun, water, fixer and developer to form unique pictures, these ‘photograms’ have a surprisingly wide range of colour and tone. There is evidence of Green’s love of stitching here too as the smaller images are rearranged to create different ‘wholes’.

The exhibition runs until Saturday, September 26.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Communication with Bats

I was making the most of the spring tide on Friday 18th September and exploring a bit of the North Devon coast I hadn’t accessed before, via Mouth Mill, on the Hartland Coast. At low tide, midday, I found a shallow but very high cave under Windbury Head with 2 grand pillars of rock holding the cliff up at it’s entrance. The shallowness of the cavern meant I couldn’t photograph it from the back as I usually would so I snuggled up to the wall on the left-hand-side and started to make my constructed image, photographing the boulders at my feet first and moving along the floor and up the right-hand wall with my camera. As my Olympus E3 focuses it emits a high pitched sound; this sound attracted the bats, I’m assuming, as I made no sound and used no flash. The bats, (I’m rubbish at identifying them, bigger than those seen on the Tarka Trail South of Bideford, you could clearly see their ears!) 2 of them flew in formation around the inside of the cave mapping it, then back to the top, out-of-sight, then after seconds, came out again and flew lower down until they were within a few feet of me; then they were gone taking exactly the same flight path back to their roost. I had stayed still all of this time, happy to watch them, and didn’t take anymore pictures whilst they were flying; I was shooting at 1/10 of a second anyway so I couldn’t have photographed them. It seemed as though as soon as they had discovered that it wasn’t another bat making the noise they were happy to go back to bed. I finished taking photographs and didn’t see them again.

It’s unusual to find bats in these sea caves because at high tide the sea is well inside of them and the surf is pounding up the sides and back. In fact, it’s rare to find any life in these places because the environment at high tide is so violent, only the most stubborn limpet will cling onto these walls. However, in this cave, the ceiling was so high, a good 30 feet, and with plenty of jagged crevices to make a home for a bat. I’ve only found bats in one other cave in the cliffs here, and that one was always dry.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Workshops Up-Date

I’ve just come to the end of two weeks of workshops for myself ‘greengallery’, Beaford Arts, the Plough Arts Centre and BBC Blast. It’s funny how it all comes at once; but good that I now have a week dedicated to only the Bideford Folk Festival.

Everyone seemed extremely happy with all they achieved through the workshops, and organisers too, with many sessions being over subscribed; photography seems to getting very popular!

The workshops have covered the whole spectrum of photographic genre and it’s whole history (and pre-history): chronologically I started with the pin-hole camera, at Beaford Arts with a ‘gifted and talented’ summer school residential designed for school children. The technology of seeing an inverted image on the wall of a darkened room through light entering a tiny hole was known over 2000 years ago and noted by Aristotle. Being inside the room and gradually seeing the image of the outside world reveal itself on the walls, as our eyes adjusted to the lack of light, was a great thrill; repeated again with adults two days later with just as much excitement.


Adult students on my weekend course made pinhole cameras from boxes and tins. This is an incredible process as the raw material is simply a box or tin, made light tight through the liberal use of black tape, made non-reflective inside using black paper or card and having a lens (hole) made with a pin prick in a piece of silver foil which is then taped over a larger hole somewhere on the box. Exposures are made through the pinhole onto black and white photo paper, held in the box with masking tape. Another square of black tape serves as a shutter. That’s all there is to it and this image was made after about 5 hours of the workshop. The image above was made by 'soon to be teacher' Natacha Withoft.


Images without a camera follows with the making of photograms or as Man Ray coined in the 1920’s ‘Ray-o-graphs’, the placing of objects on photographic paper, exposing them to light in a darkroom, then developing and fixing the image – this process goes back to the very early days of photography 1840’s when Fox Talbot and others made similar images on light sensitive paper. Daylight prints or chemograms were also made, a similar process but with no darkroom, and giving wonderful warm browns, pinks, purple and yellow colours, with occasional greens where the paper was fixed (slightly) first and silver where a build up of the metal occurred on the paper.


To carry on in a chronological order I could give you two examples of long exposures which relate to the length of time one might have had to expose film or plates in the 19th century. One of my workshop titles for BBC Blast was ‘Action Photography’, and one of my methods for recording action/movement was to slow it down and sometimes use flash to freeze it within the same image; this image shows my Blast students photographing a dance practice with as slow shutter speeds as they could use. The process was taken to a greater extreme at the Beaford residential where, after everyone feeling really tired by 8pm we took stock for an hour then carried on outside to experience night photography. Give a few young teenagers torches and you need to do little directing to make some great images. Everyone got fantastic pictures, even those who had no control over shutter speed managed to make images by combining layers of light rings together. This image of the Beaford Centre and students was a 1 minute exposure using a tripod to steady the camera.


Another successful project during the residential was making a joiner similar to David Hockney’s images made in the 1980’s. Students were encouraged to photograph each other in situ around the building; making many images which were then printed out and joined together to make life-sized images. This one, slightly bigger than life, will be made permanent through wallpaper pasting the images onto the door then sealing it with yacht varnish.


Coming right up-to-date all of the BBC Blast workshops, the Plough Arts Centre and most of the Beaford residential were based around getting more out of digital cameras. Time was spent on all of these understanding the basics; aperture, shutter speed, focal length, ISO, exposure etc; setting the cameras up for optimum image quality and making more interesting and engaging images for any given subject. Using the past as inspiration to visualise the future.

Experiencing life inside a camera, a converted bedroom at Beaford Arts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fringe TheatreFest 2009

I have been making documentary photographs since my time at College where this was my strongest work. I’m still very attracted to the tradition in it’s pure sense: shooting only under available light, being a witness to what actually happens rather than setting it up or manipulating events, being as ‘invisible’ as I could be so that my presence didn’t affect what happened, being objective, looking for ‘decisive’ moments, being open to the unexpected, anticipating what might make the picture and being amazed at what does make it.
The light was so low here that this image was made at 1sec exposure f4.5 and 2000iso

At the end of June, at the same time as Art Trek, Sadie and I photographed the Fringe TheatreFest in Barnstaple. We’d offered to do this as our way of supporting the festival this year (we were stewards in 2008). It became an interesting brief because we were unable to photograph any of the performances. There were no dress rehearsals so documentary was everything but the theatre performances.


It didn’t help that I had picked up teaching work in Tiverton which took me out of the Thursday and Friday daytime slots, and the weekend was spent at Broomhill doing my Art Trek residency.

There were 3 venues, the Baptist Church Hall and the Inn on the Square upstairs and downstairs with 21 different acts most of which did 3 performances. Most also did a ‘tech’ which involved anything from a full rehearsal with lights and sound to positioning a few lights in a 5 minute slot.


This kind of work though is very rewarding. I remember a restrictive graphics brief on a National Diploma course used to bring out better ideas than an open brief. Restriction brings us freedom, and there where lots of restrictions here both enforced and self imposed: imagine how dark a theatre is, then imagine there are no stage lights set up, then remember these are spaces that have been made into venues within a couple of days and you can start to appreciate how dark it was – the cameras rarely had an iso slower than 1600, shutter speeds 20th of a second or slower, aperture wide open – there was also the hike from one venue to the next hoping not to miss anything.

Sadie did a great job on her own when I was unable to be there getting this wonderfull ‘Winograndesc’ picture of Janice Connolly as Barbara Nice from ‘Hiya and Higher’.

All of the photos can be seen on the Fringe TheatreFest Website:
http://theatrefest.co.uk/pics.htm

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Art Work made during Art Trek 2009

The last two weekends has seen me demonstrating my process for making camera-less images, sun prints, chemical prints, daylight print, leaf works or whatever you’d like to think of them as. I did this for Art Trek, at Broomhill Sculpture Park near Barnstaple, North Devon’s open studios event at the end of June.

There was a lot of interest with over 60 people visiting on the last Sunday alone. I was making work throughout Art Trek, the image above being the best constructed image made over the first weekend. I used leaves and more from ‘throw-a-way’ plants and trees rather than some of the more cultivated ones planted specially in the gardens. This particular image was made using stinging nettles and dock leaves, traditionally used as an anaesthetic for the sting; these plants can always be found together and are like yin and yang, sting and anaesthetic, positive and negative complementing the traditional photographic process I was using.

Over the last weekend I made a few single 5x7 inch unique prints from columbine, elder, ash and foxglove (there may have been other leaves etc and included 2x slugs that got in on the act by accident). These I sold at £10 each once they were archivally fixed, washed and dried then mounted on foam board. I still have some of these left for sale for £10 with free p&p through Europe, it’ll cost a fraction more for the States. If you’d like one please visit my main website:
http://www.greengallery.co.uk/pages/forest.htm

This is an example of a 5x7 inch unique print made during Art Trek 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Photo Workshops this Summer

I’ll be running a lot of photography workshops/courses over the summer. Every Tuesday in June and July. The Morning workshops are designed as a basic introduction to digital photography; learning to gain control over your camera, shutter speeds, aperture, iso, flash etc, setting it up for optimum quality under any given lighting, and making better pictures through composition. The Afternoon sessions are based around photographing landscape and the natural environment. This workshop is designed for someone who has a basic knowledge of how to use their camera but now wants to experience the natural landscape in a personal and creative way.

On Wednesday July 22nd I’m doing a special one day workshop exploring triptychs and the constructed image. I’ll will be using historic and contemporary examples and sharing my own experience in this one day workshop. A basic knowledge and experience of using your own digital camera is required for this day. A detailed itinerary for the workshop will be available soon. See my website for details:
http://www.greengallery.co.uk/pages/workshops.htm

Also I’ll be leading, with Caroline Preston a couple of residential courses, developing and exploring photographic techniques, at Beaford Arts. The first one’s for school years 9-11 and starts 10:00 Thursday 30th - 16:00 Friday 31st July and the second is for school years 6-8 and starts 10:00 Monday 3rd - 16:00 Tuesday 4th August. Details are here:
http://www.beaford-arts.org.uk/index.php?id=21 also whilst you’re there check out my pages as a Beaford Artist: http://www.beaford-arts.org.uk/index.php?id=84 and: http://www.beaford-arts.org.uk/index.php?id=57 thanks to Jane at Beaford for these!

Talking of which I’ll also be having an exhibition of current work there during the last week of July and the first week of August. And I’ll be running some very special workshops for adults at Beaford over the weekend of 1st and 2nd August, I haven’t fully planned it yet, but think camera-less, so if there’s anything you’d like me to cover let me know; details will arrive here as soon as it’s all finalised.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Art Trek

Suddenly I’m a lot busier than I was, fitting in 2½ days teaching at East Devon College in Tiverton, I’ve lapsed in my blog writing. Neither have I made many new images recently, of the large ‘art’ variety, as my best camera lens is being repaired. But I see this summer as a very creative time.

On Thursday 28th May I’ll be promoting Art Trek on the quay, under canvas, at the Appledore Visual Arts Festival. Art Trek for real starts three weeks later and I’ll be based at Broomhill Sculpture Park between Barnstaple and Muddiford making camera-less images. This will be the first time that I have used traditional photographic chemicals and paper for eight years and it will be fascinating to see what I can make from the leaves I find in Broomhill's wonderful gardens. This will be a taste of the Year of the Artist residency I did with an Arts Council grant in 2001. I’ll be next to the Broomhill Stables (which will house North Devon Art’s Square Picture Show) on the 20th, 21st, 27th and 28th June 2009.

Whilst preparing for this residency I came across a whole load of unfinished work that I made in 2001 at the National Forest in Leicestershire. I had been making so many new pieces during the Year of the Artist residency that most of them had never been constructed together and mounted; I had quickly moved onto other things in 2001. these ‘old’ new pieces will be shown whilst I’m at Broomhill, one of them will also be show in the Queens theatre Café Gallery, Barnstaple, during June.

I had hoped to do some workshops during the Tuesdays of Art Trek, but I’m now committed to teaching in Tiverton. However if the interest is there, I’ll be happy to do something like this later in the summer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I bring these things on myself!

After writing about how things change I was reminded of another current image, which will be in the Ruby Expo, which has changed - through my own mistake!

Atlantic Aperture (collapsed) was shown originally at Trelawney Garden Centre with Atlantic Aperture, shown one super-imposed on the other above. Following is the text that accompanied the two images:


We are living on the frontier of climate change here in North Devon. Our coast is living proof of historical changes through different heights of sea level and the comings and goings of Ice Ages. As the speed of change increases, so does the evidence. In the three years I’ve been photographing the North Devon coast I’ve seen caves disappear as their roofs have collapsed into the sea. This image is a combination of two that are in this exhibition; the original ‘Atlantic Aperture’ was shot in the spring of 2006 and the other was the same place one year later. This was an eight metre high tunnel, a passage from a small sheltered bay to the roar of the Atlantic, situated just west of Hartland Point and only accessible at low tide. Now, buried under a huge landslip, it’s only entrance is from the sea.


Anyway, I digress. I went to print Atlantic Aperture (collapsed) for the Ruby Expo, as they had accepted the image I had sent them as above, however, search as I might through my computer, external drives, back-up DVDs etc I could not find the image. So I resigned to making it again from scratch. Bizarrely after half a day of concerted Photoshop effort it turned out different, I believe better, than it was.


I’m not sure if there is a moral here. It ought to be ‘keep your workspace clean and tidy’, ‘file everything away in a methodical fashion’, ‘always make a back-up of your files’. But my loss is also my gain as the new construction from the original frames is better than it had been. Perhaps the moral should be all of the above plus ‘occasionally re-work your images’!


New version of Atlantic Aperture (collapsed), Hartland, North Devon 2009


Monday, February 16, 2009

How things change....

I have four new works in the current North Devon Arts, New Year New Work show at Broomhill Art Hotel and five more in a two day group show at Holsworthy Memorial Hall over the weekend of 21st & 22nd Feb for the inaugural Ruby Country Art Expo.

Both of these shows demanded new work, the NDA’s had to have been made during the last year and the Expo’s the last two years. It’s always good to make new work and it gives me the impetus to look at all of my ‘work-in-progress’ and decide which ones I’m still drawn to and will look good, once completed, in the respective shows.

One of the images I chose to bring on from thumbnail to artwork was Hermit Hole, Grand Canyon, March 2008 (thumbnail on the left/above). This was originated from time based in Tucson in the winter of early 2008. This was the first trip I had hiked below the rim of the Grand Canyon and it was fantastic. A lot of compacted snow and ice at the trail heads but further down it got brighter and warmer. This image, made of 47 separate digital frames, was found on the Hermit Trail, hence its name. It was the edge of what would have been a huge waterfall after a good thunderstorm, but when I was there it was totally dry, but there were the odd pools of water left further down.

Here you see how the image has radically changed through the intentional reconstruction of the many photographic frames to make it as realistic and truthful as possible but without loosing its sense of mystery and place. There is a continual battle as I construct an image between the placing of each ‘jigsaw puzzle piece’ on my computer screen in Photoshop, making sure each piece is in the right place and at the right angle; with my memory of how the place looked and felt, bearing in mind that I am transforming a three dimensional space, a 180 degree, fish-eye view, of a place onto a two dimensional canvas.

A similar, but not so dramatic difference was noticed with an image for the Ruby show: Striped Wall, Combe Martin. I have taken to making a thumbnail of an image using Photoshop’s ‘photomerge’ to give me an idea if it ‘works’ or whether I want to pursue it any further. Photomerge is great for merging up to 5 or 6 frames together (so long as they have been taken on a similar plain and have similar tonal values); but to combine more than this successfully I have to make my frames thumbnail sized.


Another use for this thumbnail is as an image to send to a gallery etc for inclusion in a show or for a press release. Once the image has been accepted I have to put the real work in making the constructed image full size, in this case a file of 750mb to make a fine quality print of up to 1.5metres.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Green Gallery re-launch and revamp

2009 brings you a totally new look website for Dave Green's photography, www.greengallery.co.uk . I’ve been unhappy with my current website for some time now; it had been built over many years with content added every so often. Now it is time to have a coherent look to my site with plenty of information as well as images to inspire, inform and hopefully start some thinking and debate.

This blog is like a New Years resolution that I haven’t actually made, but in essence launching a new website and a blog in the first week of January implies that I intend to keep both up-to-date through 2009 – let’s hope so.


I've added the video below to this blog as I'm having difficulty placing it within http://www.greengallery.co.uk/ Wren Music commissioned me last year as an ‘arts' worker and documenter of their junk band, Recyc, undertaking a funded project the ‘River Taw, from Moor to Shore'. This work, in collaboration with musicians Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll and the 14-16 year old band members, resulted in a video made up of stills shot at 4 frames per second, illustrating their journey through the writing, making and performing of music inspired by the River Taw and the journey of the river from it's source to the sea.

video