Falmouth Face-to-Face: Vision 20/20. (Wed-Fri)

It was a great 4 days, with a number of practical workshops and seminars. While it was wonderful to get my hands on Falmouth’s photographic equipment and spend time in a darkroom, my main take from Vision 20/20 would be the stories, experiences and work from fellow cohorts. The projects that they were working on and where they are in their own practice. I would summarise this with the following points:

  • The intent of the photographer, which I am coming to realise is the cornerstone of your practice;
  • Personal experiences and the assessment of them;
  • Reflection and expression: each one leads into the other, in a continuous motion and symbiotic relationship;
  • And finally where the Photographer (artist) places themselves within their work

My thoughts and observations of individual speakers

Viola Arduini

https://www.violaarduini.com/

Words: language is a structure for sharing.

Arduini is a visual artist that uses different forms, such as sculpture, photography, text, to investigate “the relationships formed by humans, animals, and technology” (Arduini 2019).

My main feelings about the talk and her work are the use of story-telling that is present, and that she is exploring the various ideas of the “gaze” within the work and its reception.

In the work Nina’s Story (2019 ongoing project) “she wanted a poem, a symbol and ultimately the story of the progenitorial Mexican grey wolf Nina to grow, evolve, mutate and carry on in the language of living cells” (Conde 2019). Nina was a Mexican grey wolf, the last female wild wolf, who became central to the policy to protect and secure their continued existence in Mexico. To Arduini, she became Eve. Into this project, Arduini interweaved poetry; the bones of Nina’s daughter Cecilia; classical Greek through the appreciation and understanding of Ananke (fate); the writings of Donna Haraway (Staying with the Trouble); and looking at genetics and DNA as a language.

Language seems to be at the core of Arduini’s practice: its use, interpretation and conveyance to the viewer. It becomes an essential component in the development of a project, becoming part of the artwork and its meaning.  This “liminal” start became liminality and which in turn becomes its ecology.

In anthropology, liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete. (Wikipedia)

What I took from this was that the original idea, when merged and affected by new thoughts and concepts, became a new story. And that through our contact, through our own bodies, there is a transformation and change.

“Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment” [notes from the seminar, maybe referencing Viola Arduini or Octavia Paz’s The Bow and the Lyre]

The Street by Zed Nelson

The Street started with a death, a funeral of someone we were not to meet, and ended with a homeless man whose only belongs and place where he slept under the bridge burnt out in probably an intentional and malicious act, gathering what he still had and walking off into the distance. And in-between we met the characters of Hoxton Street. Starting in 2015, and shot over 4 years, The Street explore the effects of gentrification upon the people that live there, and also entwined the uncertainty of Brexit and the rise of populism and right-wing views within a community.

For me, The Street presented a powerful moral tale and examination of a specific place, showing the real lives and concerns of local residents and local shop owners who have no power and ability to stop market forces, corporations and money-focused enterprises from removing them from the landscape. With those presented as owners of The Street, were businesses that had been established over 100’s of years, and new to the area, and then we began to see the gentrification of the area through places being purchased for corporate offices and apartments with no social housing, new places which were not aimed at the ‘locals’. Those who made the locality what it was, who added to its culture and vitality, who both lived and worked there, would soon be moved on.

The homeless man following the moment of discovering his burnt-out place of sleep and destroyed belongings said of his situation, “Seriously fucked”.

This is what I believe Zed was attempting to highlight: that if we have no protection for a community, that if we can’t discuss the impact of big business and purchasing of properties for leasing, that through the years of austerity and government policies that create greater divides of resources and finances, the destruction of communities will continue. Added to this, is the widening gap of those with money and those without, in which the politics of Brexit were laid.

AdGreen

“We are in a deep hole, and still digging. Soon it will be too deep to escape” [quote from AdGreen seminar]

Jo Coombes (founder of AdGreen) gave a fascinating presentation of the creation of the company as an advisory resource to the advertising industry “to support the advertising industry’s transition to environmentally sustainable production methods; working in collaboration with trade bodies and other industry organisations to accelerate the adoption of best practice.” (AdGreen website)

The company was created 10-years ago as a response to the waste and bad practices that Coombes’ was witnessing as a freelancer within the advertising industry. It is not a consultancy service itself or offers a service in which you can purchase.

The main take from this seminar was about exploring and understanding your own practice and the potential conversations you can have with clients. The aim of the company is basically to reduce the impact of the production process on the environment and promote practices that will be more environmentally friendly, through such ideas hiring local photographers to the shoot rather than “flying them in”.

Concerns from those watching did focus on the earnings of a photographer who might be at the beginning of their career, but the response was that this is really just the beginning of a conversation and process. Of course, you might not want to personally work with a client such as BP who has a bad environmental presence. Likewise, you also might have an issue with being flown halfway around the world to create an advert. For me, these are sensible concerns and that it will become about personal judgements and presence.

Within the Arts Council England, and a recent report published in January 2020, we see that the 184 NGOs that make up the “Portfolio’s total carbon footprint is 114,547 tonnes of CO2e – which would take almost 115,000 trees 100 years to absorb!” (Arts Council England website). Within the report, we also find examples of how the arts sector organisations are looking to reduce its impact on the environment and reduce their CO2 impact.

Of course, this is public funding which will have its own reasons for accountability and transparency and the advertising industry is a commercially focused business with the aim of promoting and selling products, lifestyles, experiences, etc. to its target audiences.

I feel that the overall aim of the presentation was to demonstrate a) how you can assess your own environmental impact within an advertising promotional shoot b) present some basic ideas and concepts as to how you can reduce this and c) to arm photographers with salient facts that can be useful in starting conversations with clients.

References:

CONDE, Clarke. 2019. Nina’s Story. Alibi 2019. [online] Available at:  https://alibi.com/art/58294/Ninas-Story.html (accessed 15 March 2020).

ARDUINI, Viola. 2019.  Nina’s Story (2019). [online]. Available at: https://www.violaarduini.com/works/ananke-amor-in-progress (accessed 15 March 2020).

WARNER, Marigold. 2019. The Street: Zed Nelson captures the debilitating effects of gentrification in Hackney. British Journal of Photography. 2019.  [online]. Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2019/11/zed-nelson-the-street/ (accessed 15 March 2020).

AdGreen. Website. [online]. Available at: https://www.adgreen-apa.net/ (accessed 15 March 2020).

ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND. 2020. How culture is combating climate change. Arts Council England. 2020 [online]. Available at: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/how-culture-combating-climate-change (accessed 15 March 2020).

Liminality. Wikipedia Page. [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality (accessed 15 March 2020).

Disclaimer

These notes and thoughts are from the conferences and are my own opinion, and not necessarily the intent of the speaker.