So with this projects I have decided to keep only a very limited number of photographs to display along side a decent amount of contextual writing as I feel the writing will situate each photograph in its place very strongly. I want the emotions and the encrypted stories to pour out of the faces of these people, and I can achieve this through strong writing and well presented outcomes.
American Cultural Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has".
I might get the work printed out onto fine art paper from the Darkroom Uk LTD. This will give me a visualisation of the photogrpahs initially and I can start placing text along side somewhere in the sequence of material. Doing this will help me pull together these very complex ideas in which I still feel only I can articulate and translate into a visual and journalistic documentary perspective which will be presented as a high quality photo book/portfolio/ display archive box of very simple design and order, but will also convey the complexities and personalities fo this sub-culture.
Ryan Scott - Ryan was the first person I got to know in cheltenham, he is everywhere these people go, a really good friend to all, Ryan used to create the posters for events for places like the Frog and Fiddle, he created and helped put together some really big events for the small town of Cheltenham under the name of 'Drunken Masters', to name a few... 'The Four Owls', 'Datkid' Mic D, Jam Baxter, Dr Syntax Sumgii and many more. Ryan has been an important person t help network artists into the local vicinities, and it is because of these events that these names grow in size and gain better recognition, if it were not for people like Ryan I may not have ever stared to pursue the documentary of HipHop within Cheltenham and Gloucestershire.
Tommy Burnz - One of the oldest members of this groups of people - a legend in the UK graffiti scene, Tommy has been painting the world with colour and tags since the 90's whilst also rapping for various HipHop groups such as Vital Organs in which I believe JPDL and SKetchster were all a part of at one point. Either way all of these people I have been documenting and writing on are connected a lot closer than it may initially seem. Most have been friends for some time now, groups of MC's have parted and others have stayed, some people have moved away to Amsterdam and places across Europe and some have stayed local and are still in the same parameters do this day
I hope that my photographs re-imagine the ideas associated with HipHop culture. By documenting certain moments in history within Cheltenham, I aim to reveal my perspective of the people who create and lead HipHop/ music events and activities. I initially planned to photograph a select number of people (around 4 or 5) but when I created the event on Facebook to get people together for the 'Traditional photo shoot' I had more interest that I thought I would get. This meant that I had a nice little project underway and the people who could attend were the people I had in mind, for me that would complete the project.
The Lockdowns gave me and the artists I was working with time to think, time to articulate real issues and more time to put into the photographs for this project. As I was using a Large Format Camera, people just got as involved as they could, this big metal tripod with quite old equipment just staring them in the face. Just this opened up conversation about what was going on, what we were planning on doing in the future with projects and how we can communicate them across the community. It was just as helpful for me to create this photoshoot as it was for the artists to be documented during the Global Lockdown of 2020/ 2021.
After creating the photographs I have been thinking over and over how to present them, firstly I feel there needs to be more images, I only feel I have 3 or 4 satisfactory ones that can be printed and talked about meaningfully as some of them have imperfections, such as really bad framing, really bad development and fogging, some of them I just don't think captures them in their best light. But after all of this I am happy that I managed to create something rather than nothing in a time when it was very hard to just meet up with someone.
Griz-o - My favourite Rapper In Cheltenham that has a lovely warming presence, he always offers something, whether it's him showing me his new music that he has just recorded and had mastered or asking my opinion on photo/video shoot ideas for promotional material... He's always behind good ideas and loves to put his voice across to express his understanding, although he can be a bit reserved when its been a late one.
JPDL - Jean Pierre (Dave) and his Wife have recently become a father to a little boy Reggie Leongson and so much has changed since when I first met Dave about 4 years ago. He was a lot different as a person, he drank a lot of beer and had a few bad habits. Over the years we have traveled around Gloucestershire going to HipHop events, festivals, residencies, house parties and live cyphers in which I have been given access to freely photograph everything I wish with the understanding and intention of documenting a beautiful and alive culture and friendship between myself and everyone we have come across along the way. Now years later he has just had his first child, stopped smoking, cut right down on the booze and is a lot healthier mentally, he is working within Gloucestershire managing workshops and young creative events with local businesses and organisations who have the same kind of ethic as he does. Dave has been a king pin in this whole environment for me, he is someone who always welcomes you with open arms, he will jump at any idea to help bring forward photographs, plays, songs and so on, he gives ideas a chance, and has taught me to be more joyful in my craft. At first I found it hard to impress him through my photography but after a few deep conversations and showing him my projects and books, I feel that he seees my intentions and longevity when it comes to trying to reimagine the HipHop subculture of Cheltenham and Gloucestershire, the South West of the UK.
Now I have developed the large format and 35mm film that I planned to shoot for this project I am now working out how to present and talk about the work in context with my original proposal.
I am going to create a book/ presentation box using the negatives shot, first I will be hand making the paper in which I will choose the best fibre to create the finest quality for detailed photographic prints. The reason I want to create the paper is because I have never made paper before and I feel I can do a good job at it after researching how it is created, I also want the overall project to reflect my ability to work with people within my community and to bring ideas together in which we all played a part in...
Create A3 size frame with fine mesh for paper making.
Create A3 Paper from Silk/ Indian Cotton/ Muslin fibres and water.
Start designing book/ presentation box with 'Functional Art and Design Members' (community based group made up of designers, artists and critical thinkers.
Create Book/Presentation box out of fine quality hard wood that also is designed uniquely e.g. How it opens, the designs on the front and back, the way it is stored inside of the home.
I will then contextualise the work I have been doing, I will talk about the people I have been working with and the spaces that made it possible to bring forward my ideas through my preferred means.
I will also write about my work within it's cultural context to situate it in a relevant place within the music scene of Cheltenham, the South west of the UK and it's historical parallels between the digital world and the physical. Doing so will allow me to finish this last piece of university work and will free up time for me to start something completely new.
I will then talk about new ideas coming into light, new equipment I wish to create with and ways of working that will help facilitate the progression of ideas. I aim to create workshops in this community to inspire, to keep alive what is already being forgotten even within our own universities.
I will talk about the future of the role of the photographer within society and the significance of this discipline when it comes to critical progression and responsibilities that we face when there is a time in life when these people are in demand to represent what it means to be alive right now, to refresh the image of the world through conversation upon looking at reflections of ourselves? something like that...
I will then finalise my experience at university and open a new chapter of life, one which will be more fulfilled with free time to think, more time to create and less of a worry about chasing money, because I have realised whilst working a full time job is that I am giving away my time to an idea that was created without me in mind... So I am going to be loyal only to myself and those who are actually helping the world move and not sit still.
I have managed to create around 20 or so negatives in the past couple of months on large format alone, these have been across different shoots with around 10 or more individuals.
Firstly these ideas to document musicians, producers and creatives on Large Format have been in my mind for a while, well since I have been inspired by people I consider great artists and individuals during my time at university. Obviously the lockdown has completely disrupted everyone. But no matter what, I have tried to hold onto my ideas of creating the quality of work I aspire to, as I explained in my initial proposal that I wish to step up in the technical side of my practise because I want to set levels within my work that are not easy to be reached ever again, hence the use of the universities equipment (Large Format) in which I find most challenging. If I don't bring forward those ideas and make the most of it then what else.
So I have shot the work, Developed most of them by myself, some I got developed at the Darkroom business at the end of the High Street, they are amazing in there, extremely attentive to film and its archival care. Some of the film I developed and scanned using the universities equipment, this was a fun rewarding part of the project that gave me a lot of success. Not all of the negatives came out as I hoped, some with light leaks and dirt marks from the poorly cared for dark-slides. I have achieved some really nice portraits, that are completely different to anything I have made before using standard 35mm and 120 films. The frames on these photos are lovely, some of them have a light leak around the edges and places where the film has stuck to the dark-slides on the inside, so they are naturally inset into a 5x4 frame of light and imperfection.
I'm very annoyed that I have no way of realising my project brief without the University being open. But even though this is happening i'm still going to have to complete my ideas/ project so that I can move on in my mind. It is going to cost me more and more to finalise, I know I can get to the end and how I will go about it. I simply need to keep outputting my photographic and written work to keep articulating and to keep on top of things.
What I need to do now.
Develop the rest of 5x4 images left in dark slides. (£60 roughly)
Scan it all in (£30 roughly)
Print them out ready for exhibition and to be laid into book format (£90 roughly)
Create book (£40 roughly)
I also need to keep writing about the photography I am working on, technically and subjectively. This will help situate the project within it's own context and should logically bring forward some sort of resolution. For this book I want to create a link between myself and perseverance.
John messaged me asking how I was getting on... I asked to see some of his latest work and ill send mine over too. The next day we had both reviewed each others work and had some feedback to give each other. Doing this was good because I don't think either of us get many people reviewing our work voluntarily.
So after doing the photoshoot at Dave's house I had more motivation, I felt I had a better understanding of the Large Format equipment, I can now frame quicker, I feel more in control of it all.
A couple of weeks or so before this shoot I had the idea of creating an event where I can get people together, under one roof, to make use of the equipment I have the chance to borrow from university. This equipment creates the quality i want to see, it also gives me something new to grasp, the next level of my photographic practise / technical understanding. It is something that others will want to know more about, it's not just a camera or a photoshoot, this event will be a traditional portrait shoot, doing it properly.
So I had the idea to contact Kingsley and Sal, the ones who have recently started to rent an old guitar shop/ studio in town. These two guys are very open with creative ideas, so I messaged them with my project idea and they agreed to lend me a space for a day for £30, from 12pm till 9pm.
My idea was simple, to set up my camera equipment in the corner of a room with a black backdrop and one studio light / flash with a soft box attachment. I wanted to be able to create something rather than nothing, and with all these lockdowns it seemed that I wasn't going to be able to create anything as I work physically. But I said fuck it and went ahead with my idea whilst I could.
I Created a Facebook event as seen above, the event detailed everything, what I want to actually do, how I want to do it and where it will take place. In the end I had about 7 people turn up, all at different times throughout the day and all in line with the latest Covid-19 guidance and legislation at the time. The people I invited were people I feel kind of close to, they are people I have met over the past 4 years of living in Cheltenham, each one of them was either a music producer, a rapper, graffiti artist, but everyone of them to me stands out to be an everyday hero. People who work hard and sacrifice their time for others.
On the day, the equipment set up was nice and easy, the first person came along at about 3pm, I met and greeted them, showed them the equipment I was using, had a little catch-up and showed them where to sit and how to sit for this traditional photograph. Everyone was very easy going, many of these people I have photographed before, some quite a lot of times. Before I took the shots I would take a polaroid which synced to the studio flash unit, this gave me a good idea of what the images will look like, it also made the interaction between me and the subject more comfortable as they had something to see and to take home with them, luckily these people still value polaroids and loved receiving one (not everyone had one taken as I only had like 5 left).
I took 16 exposures throughout the whole day, I took portraits of each person individually, some people in a pair and a few group shots at the end as some people stayed a while so this was possible. Each shot was completely different. Different sizes, clothing, different colours, each shot was understood, composed and exposed as well as possible.
I feel there are still people and photographs that I need to create using this equipment, some people could not make it and some people didn't want to be in a small space with people outside of their bubble. So there will be a shoot two at some point.
I am happy with how the whole day went, everyone got on well, the photographs felt meaningful and looked really really professional when I was composing. I just need to develop the film and scan it all in and we will be able to see it on this page soon.
Below you can see the backdrop, camera and flash set up. Nice and simple. 2 photographs for each individual and a few others for group shots and one was fogged I believe.
These are in chronological order.
My favourite photograph is the third one above. I loved the framing with the speakers as a background, it creates nice patterns, contrast and adds the connotation of music into the image. It is sharp on the eyes, it has extreme tilt shift focused on that front eye and it had technically and objectively fallen into place very well. We both felt this shot was going to be the one. This is the one I will print in the darkroom.
Large format photography with JPDL. (Jean Pierre) - A spoken word performer, rapper, and recently father to a boy.
Jean Pierre (Dave) invited me round when he found out that I was creating photographs using a Large Format Camera. Dave is always someone who gives up his time for me so I make sure I have the time for him as often as I can. He was off work for the whole day so we had plenty of time to talk, think and compose photographs within his house. When I first got to his, he made sure to express how nice his coffee was, and that he had to make me one, it was lovely.
We then talked about what we had been doing during the past 6 months as we last saw each other near the beginning of the first lock down, discussing feelings and the struggles of recent life. Dave's wife has just had a child in November so he was extremely tired but expressed his joy for the new born. (Reginald 3rd) He showed me round his house and suggested we set up the LFC in the spare room with all of his work on the walls and with posters from past events he has been involved with. We discussed quite a bit more before we started to take any photographs. As always, the photograph is a product of interaction, conversation and thought.
We discussed how Covid- 19 has in a way brought people so close together, in that it has brought about arguments and problems, but that has also had a positive effect because it's like we have been able to over-come and adapt to problems much faster than usual. It seemed like the year 2020 was condensed to 3 months. We discussed how artists like himself who work a lot in the event world locally, have had most of their work cancelled because of the 'emergency legislation' put into place to close venues, pubs, and to limit the movement of everyone, ultimately slowing down the work flow of the individual and the independent artist, or the local business and allowing for the more established business and authority to take more control of the world over the ideas of protecting the National Health Service.
Dave discussed how 2020 has also been one of the best years of his life, he managed to stop smoking cigarets after about 20 years, he has just had his first child and has moved into his first house with his wife. So it has been quite different for everyone really.
I would think and compose the photographs whilst he is talking on his sofa in the room with all of his posters on the wall. I would simply look through the glass, and direct his position slightly. I would adjust the light to that it is the right brightness, in the correct place so that there was a catch light in his eye but also not too harsh or too close.
I took Dave through the whole process of the what this type of camera is, how it worked, and what every movement I was doing with each piece of equipment was, testing the light with a metre, testing that the flash would fire when I have cocked the lens and I fire it and focusing etc etc. Doing this created the relationship between Me, Dave and the camera as something to present himself to when the time is right, consequently there is attention between Dave and the camera. He is conscious of what is going on and is just as excited to try and make a nice photograph as I am.
So we had both become comfortable with what the camera is, how long it takes to compose and to take a shot. For the last shot we decided to move his table and stack his speakers on it to create a wall behind his head. This added a nice pattern to the edges of the frame, but more importantly this added the connotation and the denotation of music within his and my own life. When we set the shot up and I composed it I was so excited to take the shot. I did all kinds of tilt shift with the lens and threw the focus in all sorts of layers, but made sure I was still sharp on the front eye.
The results will be posted in a separate article in series. I took 4 exposures. Each one was successful and I felt them as worth taking.
For my Final Major Project I intend to go back to what I love about photography, the hand-made processes that are involved in creating negatives but also photographic prints and a final bound book that they will be stitched into. I intend to create 6-10 images using black and white large format film and a ‘Cambo’, large format camera. I will focus on portraits, full body and mid shots, within an open space, most likely outside on the street or hopefully inside the subjects own spaces. With more limited access to places and people during this global pandemic I will simply ask people I think will be up for it. I think I want to capture people I have met in the past 3 or 4 years in Cheltenham, people that I look up to, so professional musicians and mostly, artists. I can think of loads of people to photograph, lets just hope that the are fine with restrictions etc… These people are visually quite expressive which is good hopefully it will become layered but also relevant to the situation we find ourselves in today. I want the subjects to express themselves however they want and to play with the idea of a professional photograph. The reason I have chosen to go back to using film and changing my idea is because I simply feel that I enjoy all of the processes that comes with it, as opposed to working with digital. But I also feel that this project is more possible for me to achieve, with a much better physical portfolio/ archive at the end of it.
I intend to create the images on ILFORD MULTIGRADE ART 300, size: 11x14 inches. Which I believe from experience is the real deal. I have already met and arranged to start creating a hard-back-book out of wood and leather with a woodworker in cheltenham (for free), which will have a wooden sleeve that the book slips into. It will be hand stitched using either a Japanese style or one taught to me by the workshop owner. I intend the photographs to be executed well within the given scene, the negatives exposed well for a good print, the prints to look and feel like my best work yet, and a hard back book that respects the material and represents the quality and professionalism that goes into the creation of the work inside. I think the wood for the book will be something that isn’t too expensive but will last, looks nice and is strong. Maybe Mahogany or Pine, not sure yet… I want to engrave a title and make a motif for it too. I’m not sure if there needs to be much writing but I might include notes and documents made along the way.
I aim to create 1 photograph a week from next Tuesday, maybe break for a week over Christmas then finish in January. Print it all in mid Jan. Create the book over 2 weeks and finish it all within a month, ready for submission end of Feb. This will be tough work that requires a lot of planning and consistency But I am committed to it. I just pray the university doesn’t close the darkrooms in January. I am excited and ready to get stuck into some very nice work.
I will write as much as I can on my blog, also research notes, photographs and inspiration, my progression and my whole process along the way. I will try and make the writing relevant, clear, interesting and make sure it is presented well. (nice paper too).
Day One (3 hours 15 mins of filming at pirate studios, cheltenham. 2 hours editing) 5 hours, 15 mins logged.
Today I have been assigned to work with DJ Fallow and Grime and Hip Hop vocalist Griz-O, both from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK.
Location: Pirate Studios Cheltenham.
Meet: 15:45 - 19:00
Equipment: Sony A7III + 50mm lens. Canon A1 + 28mm lens, + Ilford HP5 +.
Weather: Sunny all day with strong light.
Aims: Create 10 photographs on Canon and Film 3 minutes of video footage to use towards 30 minute documentary.
Editing: Create folder with all material to be used in documentary. Get Premier Pro again by signing into University account on my laptop. - Create initial file for documentary + save onto laptop and in material folder. (have 2 copies)
Evidence 600 Hours.
Proposal of 500- 800 words by 23rd September.
Main Research Period between September and January.
Deadline Wednesday 3rd March 2021.
Initially I proposed to carry on my current work but go the extra step of shooting colour portraits, on 5x4 sheet film in the streets with recording artists, producers, and music professionals. When the time came, Lockdown happened and the whole world was acting in response to a world-wide pandemic, resulting in countless complexities, one of which is not having access to anymore equipment from uni. This whole situation lead to a lot of doing very little and watching tv for a while, and I had to continue my uni work somehow. So I bought a GoPro Hero 7 to start creating footage of my bike journeys and skates with the other half, I was pleased with the quality but It has me wanting to do better and to be able to use uni's equipment because I know that is what I needed. The audio wasn't great but I used it anyway as this also lead into editing skills and understanding the frame even more in terms of ratio and screen resolution etc etc.
So I have created one film using the GoPro which is where I first test out the interview style with Dave, (JPDL) the footage was flickery and the frame rate was all messed up, this was a result of the wrong frame rate settings and a default as the lights were old yellow tubes and were not giving off the best quality. I used this footage anyway as it was the best I got from the time in the studio.
I arranged a few days ago to create some video work with Grizz-O. We both were unsure what exactly we were going to attempt but I had a vague idea for an interview, straight to camera style short documentary. Something to be creative with and to help each other out.
We met up Sunday 27th July, I had the Sony a7III with a 50mm lens, I was also shooting the odd frame with my Rollei 35S as usual, there will always be some film made from every event of shoot I attend. We met at Cheltenham bus station and talked for a while about recent news and family, we then eventually walked to Sandford park where we started creating footage.
Sandford is a lovely place because it's relatively quiet, it's teaming with wildlife and is well landscaped so it is aesthetic for the footage.
We decided to basically sit under a huge Wisteria where we had a nice natural woodland-green reflected into scene from all the plants around. The sun was trying to push through the clouds but was fluctuating a little. But this did not mean the colour was hard to edit in post.
The lighting was spot on for me, Grizz-O was comfortable and he could be very open with me even with the camera. So I just let him speak for 5 minutes and filmed a couple of takes, I chose the best one where he doesn't mess up and he says his points clearly.
I spent about 10 hours editing this new video on Premier Pro, I managed to source an unreleased track from Grizz-O himself after we created the initial footage which has been used to create a beginning to the video.
I am very happy with this interview attempt and it has really given me hope to buy my own Sony A7III becasue I know this is what I need to start creating long term documentaries. Thank God I've managed to get hold of something to use, lockdown has holted so much of my flow it's been really annoying.
The Visual quality if way beyond my expectation, as well as the sound quality, it is amazingly clear and there is not much background noise, to be honest it is nice to hear the birds and card going past every now and then, it gives it that bit more grounding.
Under the mask: episode 1