Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A Fresh Start

This blog will no longer be added to. I feel like I want to create a fresh blog for work i'm producing now. Although I can comment in the header that the blog contains old MA work and new images, it feels cluttered for some reason. Time to pull the curtain down on this one and start again. I'm not certain if this will still be visible but if it is, it'll only be an archive.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Back Again.

Yet again i've been a bit lax with this blog! In fairness I have switched jobs and started volunteering so things have been crazy-busy for a few months. Everything has started to level out again and i'm into a bit of a routine. Hopefully this means i'll be able to produce a lot more work and take time to post it. On a side-note, i've looked at a lot of the images I produce and they strike me as a childlike, playful interaction with the world. I'm not sure why I get that impression but i'll roll with it.

The photographs below were taken since my last post. These were taken on 35mm film with an old Soviet Smena 8M. The film was cross-processed for those interested.

I really love this collection of images. They're dark, grainy with something almost threatening sprinkled in!

Friday, 20 January 2012

A long overdue post.

So, it's been a long stint since i've posted on here. I'm determined not to neglect this blog in 2012 as I quite enjoy posting and chatting about different bits. Anyway, i've had a busy year trying to dig myself out my overdraft and generally put my life under the microscope! Amongst that I have found time to engage with some photographic devices.

I've been fiddling around with 35mm film a lot over the last year and liking the boundaries that a roll of 36 enforces. I've been thinking more about exactly what I am aiming to capture and what I want a shot to speak of. I've placed great emphasis on interacting effectively with natural light. I've always said to myself that i'd like to develop a grasp of the way light plays over objects. To me this is key to being able to produce work of interest. As this is my first post in a long time, I thought i'd just offer an insight into my favourite images from 2011. I plan to discuss some in detail in future posts.

It doesn't matter what the following were captured with as they are just to show where my head was during 2011. Although for those who care, either a Canon Ixus 300HS, Olympus PEN E-PL1, Holga 135BC or Canon 40D.

This is my favourite image from 2011. I'm mad for the picture postcard tone and almost oil painting reproduction.

Watch out for a future post regarding this mini-project. I loved trying to pin down what these trees meant to me. Shadows, creeping branches and uncertainty a-plenty.

Cross-processing test.

Beach huts

High summer sun

Forlorn monkey

Summer ice-creams

Derelict South Yorkshire

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone's 'Things To Come'

Today I completed the first day of my technical internship at Sheffield's Site Gallery. I spent the day under the guidance of Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone. Ellard and Johnstone are filmakers, also lecturing at the University of the Arts in London. Really approachable guys who were at ease discussing their work.

The project Ellard & Johnstone are currently undertaking at Site is a commissioned piece entitled 'Things to Come.' It is based around Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's designs and images for British science fiction film 'Things to Come' (1936) directed by William Cameron Menzies. Moholy-Nagy was commissioned to design and shoot footage of a 'future city' which he completed only for the footage never to be used. His footage is considered lost but it is claimed the images "were so rich a visual result that the editor dare not use them."

The artists explained to me that they had travelled to Chicago and examined unpublished images of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's implementation of the 'future city'. They are using these stills in order to re-create the 'future city' set comprised of abstract structures made from plastic, glass and metal. When the city is completed, 16mm film will be used to shoot a film imagining what an audience in the 1930s may have been greeted with had William Cameron Menzies included Moholy-Nagy's footage in 'Things to Come.'

My role today was fairly basic but enjoyable, running for components needed to make the set and a few hours threading a large metal square to create a loom-like hanging sculpture. It will be very satisfying if the prop I made actually appears in the final film as the artists plan to tour their film around European film festivals. It would be handy to tag onto my CV.

It was a great experience to assist on this kind of project and in the short space of a day i've learnt a huge amount about the running of an art gallery and the implementation of an exhibition of this nature. I'm due back next week to assist further while the 'Things to Come' project is still on-going.

Worth looking at;



The stills below were taken on my phone as it is all I had. They give an idea of the scale the set is constructed on, and the stage the project was at on the day I worked on the piece;

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Late 2010

2010 is marching toward an end. It has been a fairly productive year and after receiving confirmation of passing my MA, I think it is a good time to update this blog.

Overall, I received a 60% pass mark for the MA in Digital Imaging and Photography which i'm satisfied with and would put down as a fair reflection of my effort and ability. Looking forward to the graduation in January.

Academic marks aside, way back in October I applied for an unpaid internship with Sheffield's international centre for contemporary art (The Site Gallery). After finally attending an informal interview on Friday 10th December, I left with a buzz and a sense that working in a gallery space whether it be arts administration or technical set up, is a path i'd like to venture down.

The people I met at Site were genuinely some of the most welcoming i've been in contact with and made me aware that undertaking an internship with them would be a great opportunity to plug gaps in my CV and hopefully equip me with an understanding of similar environments.

I was incredibly pleased to get a call not long after the interview offering me the chance to undertake an internship with a focus on technical setup with elements of arts admin. I've accepted and am due to start in January. I'm going into the Christmas period geared up for a fresh challenge in the New Year.

It is worth noting that currently at Site there is a thought provoking installation from Richard William Wheater. Wheater works with glass and neon signage requiring a great deal of skill to achieve half decent results. The material I read described his current skill level as basic. During the time I spent with the installation, the artist tinkered with his portable neon-making equipment and pondered a multitude of tubing while intermittently heating and manipulating glass. In summary, Wheater is spending a two week period honing his practical skill in neon signage, with each day's result being displayed and illuminated behind him. The displayed work should chart a personal progression. Although the piece sounds fairly basic, the noise coupled with the artist's concentration makes for an a mesmerising yet unnerving viewing experience the longer I watched on. Very much worth popping in if any readers visit Sheffield. A final evening event takes place on Friday 17th December at 6pm.

My own production of work has ground to a halt in all honesty. I've captured a few images for no other reason than to get to grips with some new Cokin filters. They all depict rural South Yorkshire countryside.

I'll update in the New Year unless I venture out with the camera anymore.

Monday, 4 October 2010

What next?

Since finishing the MA, I have applied for an internship with contemporary art gallery, 'Site Gallery' in Sheffield. I feel an internship will give me an understanding of how galleries and exhibitions operate, and provide me with an avenue into arts administration and technical setup.

I plan to keep producing work of my own and will use this blog to store my thoughts.

Exhibition Comments

It is now over a week since the exhibition and i've had a bit of time to reflect on how it went. The main points to stem from exhibiting my work are;

* Pleasing that the piece evokes more than just basic sympathy/interest. Much of the feedback speaks more of empathy.

* Tension and unease was present with some audience members. The opposite to what i'd thought, but on reflection, peering into a strangers home whether permitted or not raises an element of voyeurism. I'd expected boundaries between audience and image to be weakened, welcoming them in.

* Although it was not an aim of the piece to play on emotional tension, it has added an extra dimension to the work and contributes to its success.

* The voyeuristic thread was overlooked during production.

* Being uneasy yet curious is something the images tap into effectively.

* Semi-objective captions strike a balance between being far enough away from the images and adding poignancy.

Images from the exhibition are shown below. Harsh reflections from the poor lighting were massively detrimental, if the work is exhibited elsewhere lighting needs to be considered carefully.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Printed and Framed

Yesterday was spent under the guidance of Mike Downing (many thanks), resizing, applying minor image adjustments and finally printing my exhibition images.

In total the exhibition piece is to feature 12 images, as 18-20 was felt to be too many. Also, using 18-20 images would mean the images having to be split into two locations.

Early issues included the white border of a printed image being too large. This resulted in it being visible when mounted. The was worked around by enlarging the images proportionally and having them fill a larger area on the paper. Even this did not leave much margin for error and it was fairly time consuming to ensure the images were mounted correctly.

After resizing, the printing process started around 10:30ish in the morning and I had the last image in its frame around 2:30ish. On average, each image took about 20mins from print to frame. An image was printed in a little over 10mins meaning another 10mins was spent mounting and framing each.

The next steps scheduled for this coming week will be to re-screw the hanging hooks into landscape configuration and clean the outside of the glass. The inside of the glass was wiped over with a microfibre cloth to pick up any loose debris at the time of framing. I'm a massive clean freak so if I notice any bits inside the frame they'll have to be opened up again during exhibition set-up.

Generally i'm pleased with the way the images printed. Minor criticism (and maybe i'm nit picking) is that some areas of some images are a little bit dark. This might be to do with the lighting in the room and may not bother me too much in a better lit location. Also, the image of the wooden camel seems to be a bit yellow, again this might be to do with the conditions i'm viewing it under so it will need to be looked at in the exhibition area before any thoughts are turned to a reprint.

Screenshots below were taken on my phone while waiting and show the images being printed and some already in frames;

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Plugging the research gap - Dennie Eagleson

I found a practitioner called Dennie Eagleson during research undertaken for earlier portfolios. The portfolios were effectively designed to propose what I planned to do for the final piece, how it was supported etc. Problem is, some research made it into the portfolios and not onto here.

As the evaluation document refers heavily to this blog, I need to add research only appearing in portfolio 1/2 to this online repository too. But i'll be brief.

The images are scans from;

Eagleson, D. (2008) “Dennie Eagleson: Archaeology of a Life (2004)” , in Belt, F.A (Ed.) Understanding and Creating Sophisticated Images, Oxford: Focal Press, pp. 136 – 139

Eagleson ventured into the home of her mother after her death to document it and explore a personality. The exploration of her mother's life and personality has been conveyed through still-life photography. I found the use of natural lighting, minimal lighting and angle particularly interesting. It also made me consider that I needed to be careful to have a continuous thread running through my still-life piece to give a complete, true and informative reflection of a life. Something that I feel Eagleson only partially succeeds in doing.

Anyway, visuals;

3 weeks until exhibition

With the book finalised, the checkpoints below need to be met too;

Saturday 4th September: Decide which 18-20 images are to be exhibited in print and transfer to their own folder.

Wednesday 8th September: Meeting with everyone involved in the MA exhibition at 1300. I personally need to conclusively decide where my images will hang. Ideally the private viewing should be confirmed as 24th September 1700 - 1900.

Friday 10th September: Resizing, printing and framing final images.

Monday 13th September: Place the order for promotional flyers.

Monday 20th - Friday 24th: Clearing of areas, final setup and hanging of images.

I'm also in the process of putting the final evaluation together, the sections i'm writing under are;

- Introduction
- Recap and overview
- Overview of key research
- Process reflection
- Post shoot workflow and RAW conversion
- Readying for book
- Book layout
- Summarising development
- Exhibition setup
- Closing summary

The write-up is time consuming but i'm being careful to be reflective, critical and direct regarding the development of the project. Where possible i'm referring the reader to this blog for major parts of research to save repeating myself.

Book progress update

The start of September has seen the MA programme gather yet more pace and on Friday 3rd September I received the test book from Blurb.

The image quality is manageable but if i'm honest I expected more, some are a little grainy which i'm fairly sure isn't a problem my end. Also, some images are annoyingly dark. This really is a pain as I did everything to avert it. As mentioned in earlier posts, I calibrated my screen, used the correct ICC profile and soft proofed correctly.

To try and resolve the darkness issue, i've raised the brightness in all images to a maximum of +20 depending on the image. These brighter images have been replaced in the book creation software and a new order (the last before exhibition) placed with Blurb. There is no guarantee that the next batch of books will be printed on the same machine which is a little worrying.

On a positive note, I like the relaxed and intimate feel to the book. The white, clean layout with emotive captions works really well and focuses the audience's attention to where it should be.

Images below are not exactly great but have been quickly taken to illustrate what the test book looks like;

Friday, 27 August 2010

Online presence

One point to come out of the last tutor meeting was that most photographers have some sort of online presence. It would help my project to have a web address that visitors to the exhibition can visit to view the work in their own time.

Thanks to staff on the programme, a server has been set up in conjunction with Slideshow Pro Director to store and recall images as required. I've implemented a basic Flash slideshow to access the images once a piece of software called 'cyberduck' receives the relevant .swf file and .html file

I did something similar for the second project but this version is cleaner, smoother and has more impact. One reason it works better is because the images uploaded are not terribly large files meaning that they load quickly on a variety of browsers. Some quality is sacrificed but not a lot.

My workflow for those interested was;

1. Export PSD files as small-ish JPEGS to be suitable for web delivery
2. Upload images to server (photomedia.lincoln.ac.uk)
3. Switch on the required images in Slideshow Pro Director
4. Create slideshow container in Flash, make cosmetic changes.
5. Publish the .html file (index.html) and .swf (aaron francis.swf) to a folder with the .fla file.
6. Drag and drop the .html and .swf files into a cyberduck connection pointing to photomedia.lincoln.ac.uk

It has been a little complicated to get it working this morning but i'm pleased i've managed it. The image below shows how jumbled my workspace had become in the lead up to getting it functioning;

Jumbled workspace prior to success.

Just incase i've published the required files to the wrong folder, not entered a valid name or if the server explodes, the screenshot below shows the online slideshow working;

If everything continues to function correctly, all the images used for the book can be viewed online here;


For my own notes, the stage i've used that works is 1024 x 768. I'm now experimenting with 1344 x 840. Not sure it will work on most displays though.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


I figured it might be helpful to promote my part of the exhibition with flyers. The designs i've come up with are basic and to the point, but use an image that is part of the exhibition. I've downloaded and worked to Moo.com's PS flyer template meaning they should print well. As yet I don't have an opening time for the exhibition but it will be essential to add this to the information side of the flyer when I have it. Below are the designs i'd like to use;

Back of flyer with info

Possible front 1

Possible front 2

Test order placed

This morning i've placed an order for one of my finished books. I've only ordered one initially as i'm worried some colours may not be reproduced as desired. If the book isn't what I expect i'll have time before the exhibition to change things around, sort the colours out etc and reorder.

Another point to note is that I contacted my brother (the subject of the work) late last week. As i'd written the introduction/closing section about him, it was only fair that he read through it and rubber stamp what i'd said about him. The sections detail his personal struggles so I was expecting to have the pieces heavily censored and in need of re-writing. When I spoke to Matt last night I was really pleased that not only was he fine with what i'd written, he genuinely liked it and thought it was good.

I take great heart that he was positive about the written pieces as it isn't everyday parts of his life are there to see, printed in black and white. Basically i'd tried to be to the point and non-judgemental, in the spirit of a documentary photography piece.

The written pieces are too long to cut and paste on here so you'll either have to come to the exhibition to read them, or buy a copy of the finalised book! More images that made the final book are given below. The images have been edited in accordance to what has been displayed on a colour calibrated screen, if they are viewed on different screens i'm not sure how they'll appear. You'll have to trust that the colour is accurate.

A starfish sits on a ceramic-drawered chest purchased by mum from Barcelona. Once used to save her spare change

Sunlight streams over jewellery once worn by mum. Matthew has made a start in organising the pieces

Cream leather sofa donated by a friend's mother. Matthew reads in preparation for a foundation science course here

Matthew's calculator and organiser lie used ontop of a pile of books and papers. One about early inventions is visible

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Further colour management and gamut comment

So, after double-soft-proofing my images using Blurb's ICC profile (for the printer my images should be printed on), I feel that the colour is being washed out more than i'd like. To resolve this i've been working with a copy of the original PS file next to the original. The copy has soft-proof turned on, this then allows me to try and match up the colours with the original accordingly. Thankfully, the differences are not too drastic and generally only requires the contrast boosting up.

I am a little concerned that some images display areas of colour that are out of gamut (tones that wont be represented accurately in print), but after reading through a LOT of Blurb forum discussions, this shouldn't be too detrimental. I initially tried to bring out of gamut shades back in but it affects the whole image and seems a bit invasive. The general consensus with the Blurb community is that shades that are out, actually print fine.

At worst, out of gamut colours will appear duller than what I see on screen and it really only affects areas with a large amount of green. This could prove annoying with the example below. Areas that are out of gamut are greyed in.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Colour management

Bit of a dull post but just a note regarding colour profiles/management. I'd been working in Adobe RGB during photo editing, so I needed to convert my final PSDs to sRGB ready for the JPEGS to go into Blurb's software. I also downloaded their ICC profile in order to soft-proof my images in Photoshop. Although difficult to say for certain whether the images will be ok in print, the soft-proofing gives a good guide.

My colours, contrast and brightness seem ok, and I am inclined to trust my screen as I made sure to properly calibrate it. The book should be sent to print sometime this coming week. Initially i'm only ordering one to ensure it looks fine.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Creative Commons Licensing

Another point to cross off the list for the final piece regards licensing. The license selected does not permit external commercial use of the work, or allow modifications. Primarily the license is for an online version of the piece which will be created time-permitting. It has been possible to capture the HTML as regular text for use inside the book.

Below is the HTML generated based on the Creative Commons License selected;

Creative Commons License
Matthew (Final Semester MA Project) by Aaron Francis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Book/Exhibition images

I'm wrestling with which images to include in the book and exhibition. The ones below are three of the most successful, and ones that I would like to include in both the exhibition, and supporting book. The captions offered are almost finalised but may be tweaked and reworded after a meeting next week.

I was initially reluctant to put images up here that are to be used for the finished project but I guess it is nice for people to see how the thing is coming together.

Fruit bowl in one corner of kitchen table, a favourite of Kim Francis. Shattered and glued back together by Matthew

Matthew examines the wings of locally shot bird. A friend brings him a range of wildfowl for meals.

A love of wood and carving has been present since childhood. This camel has a snapped leg but still deserves a place