Thursday, October 8, 2015

Public Art pt3 - Trials and Tribulations

The photomosaic created on a computer with Artensoft software gave me a good idea of the kinds of images needed for the piece in terms of their colour, contrast and arrangements of compositional elements and where they should be placed. Unfortunately, the software wasn’t ‘clever’ enough to keep each separate photograph to its format of 3x4, often cropping frames then magnifying them to a larger size. The computer generated photomosaic was to be my guide but in reality it proved to be a very loose guide and it’s only value was in selecting or suggesting a range of images to use.
My intent, as noted earlier, was to collaborate with the public in sourcing images for this Public Art; specifically images generated by members of Bideford’s Youth Club run by Devon Youth Services. The photomosaic project idea, within Culture Show, was discussed in the Spring with DYS and gained a very favourable response, as the young people would get some photographic training through the partnership. Dates were set in June and July for this to take place. I had hoped for up to 100 digital photographs each from the 20 or so members of the group, and was particularly keen on including portraits, or selfies, of the young people as a way of dating the piece, but always knew that a lesser number could be supplemented by images of my own taken to document various Bideford Bay Creatives events. However things don’t always work out as one hopes perhaps due to the timing on the calendar, a breakdown in communication, or the sheer size of the task. Only one member of the club came up with a set of images, though sadly many of these where of too low a quality to print at 3x4 inches. A few more images were extracted from staff members. I had a small set of images from a previous workshop with the same group and with Young Devon (now dissolved). This left me very short of images as I was hoping I would only need to add a few hundred of my own to complete the cache. So time was spent trawling through Bideford Bay Creatives’ archive of images, mostly taken by myself. The images found were mostly from First Fridays, music on Jubilee Square, Potwalloping Festival, Appledore Arts Festival, AONB Photography Project, Wicked Week workshop and documentation, A Year in the Life of Bidefod project (which included many of the towns events), Culture Show and Tales of the Riverbank. I was never going to find hundreds of blue images, of differing shades, so I decided to shoot a whole lot of pictures of sky.

Back on Jubilee Square the window’s, which had been covered with a white plastic film for many years, were cleaned of their greasy surface and roughened up with an abrasive scourer. A4 card was fixed to this surface with wallpaper paste to enable easy removal in the future. The card was white or black and it’s positioning in the grid was determined by the brightness or darkness of the image that would be on top of it, so that any ‘cracks’ between the prints would be a similar tone to the images.

I used a scaled down print of the Bideford Longbridge photomosaic on my computer, with grid lines, as my guide. At first I had positioned the 3x4” prints on my computer screen as layers on top of the photomosaic grid; then, precisely, used the same prints on the prepared window. However this proved to be an extremely slow process, locating specific prints, and ultimately it didn’t work anyway because of small discrepancies in the cut sizes of the prints in comparison to those on the guide. Very soon I reverted to drawing the grid and all of the key features of the image straight onto the prepared windows and working in a far more intuitive way. It was clear by now that I would have to trim and crop prints down to make the overall image easier to read so I made the decision to work from the irregular inside shapes of the bridge arches, so that their shapes were as accurate as possible. I was essentially making a computer generated photomosaic manually, a massive task for a picture 12ft x 5ft in size. This was a fascinating part of the process for me as I could no longer ‘see’ the individual prints as images in their own right, but as a relative colour and hue. I found myself looking for lines, horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved; where those lines were created by a light area and a dark area meeting. It was a thrill to make the crown of an arch with an upturned image of Jubilee Square or the vertical wall of an arch with a coastal horizon. Prints were grouped by their colour, tone, line, shape etc and my creative approach was to keep same or similar images apart from each other and also to find interesting juxtapositions of unrelated images.

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