In the week where the Guardian carries an article on the, probable, opening of the, possibly, world’s largest photo-gallery in Marrakesh, and the unexpected but entirely predictable problems that this has generated (avoidable if someone had bothered to do their homework, or paid someone else to, or maybe it was deliberate) we at Reflex Camera Club stayed a little closer to home and set ourselves up in true Santa-at-the-Mall-in-May spirit for a little Winter Festival commonly known as Christmas (which I understand is in December). Specifically, members were tasked with producing a club Christmas card in an evening. There was, dear reader, some controversy, about which, more later.
The original Christmas card, at least as far as the UK (and the world) is concerned, was introduced in 1843 at the cost of 1 shilling (5p to you non duo-decimalists), which was rather pricey at £4.28 in today’s coin (that might make me look like a cheapskate, but then I am). The average retail cost of a card in 2013 was £1.44 (4d in 1843 money) according to the Greetings Card Association (Yes, there is one). The original run of 1,000 cards was followed by another of 1,050 and the ones he didn’t use Henry Cole sold at a profit. He sold them all. Today Christmas is worth £130 million in card sales, according to the GCA. The original card was also controversial, for its depiction of alcohol, but it was a sell out. One of the 18 or so thought to remain in existence was sold in 2010 for $7,500. One of our cards (which went to a tie break on a show of hands) was controversial for its more, to use a period allusion, Scrooge-like qualities (which was also alluded to in another entry with the greeting, “Bah Humbug”, I’m beginning to think that the Xmas spirit maybe a little thin this year – we will find out on the 18th December which is our Club Christmas night). In the end we decided on a more traditional offering from Roy Williams (Photography), Myk Garton (Editing) and Alec Williams (Executive Producer).
Henry Cole, the man in too much of a hurry to write to all his friends and relatives in the first place, engaged the artist JC Horsley to illustrate his innovation. That, and a DPS article this week, set me to thinking about the relationship between art and photography (writing a blog will do that to you). There does seem to be a tension between the states of “Photographer” and “Artist”. As touched on in last week’s blog, the same rules and guides apply to painters creating an image as photographers. The term “Creative” as a profession is somewhere in the middle of this. Creative, as a description of an economic sector is worth, according to the UK Treasury, £8,000,000 per hour to the UK economy. Artists, the people who create the work, form a substantial part of this but not the only part. There is a further tension between the art itself and the industry around it that makes for its consumption.
Yet there is still a cachet around the status of artist – I bet your unmade bed made less at auction than Tracy Emin’s depiction of depression – that is part of the process of selling it, regardless of the message that you were trying to get across. Exclusivity, being the owner of that Van Gogh or that Rubens or anything else creatively produced, is also a driver, not least of market value – but once a photograph is published on line anyone can consume it (as opposed to own. Or steal). Possibly this makes photographers artisans, but in a week where “snobbery” undid three establishment figures (I am thinking Andrew Mitchell, Emily Thornberry, and David Mellor) one needs to be mindful of being “All the gear and no idea”. Maybe, after all, it isn’t anything but a sterile argument, as entertainingly exposed by Richard Thripp (do take some time to read the comments under his post, they do rather prove his point).
The number of photography books both about and using it (e.g. fashion) you will find in bookshop certainly underline the point that this is a visual medium that isn’t going to go away. The craft of art is there, but some think that because the process doesn’t involve fine motor-skills with a sharpened stick dipped in something then you’re not an artist. David Hockney is less of an artist for using a camera among his tools? Around about here we mostly get into a Vicky Pollard style argument. What seems to get neglected is the argument “Does it matter if it is/is not art”? Let me pose one half of an answer. No, because, if taken seriously, any artistic endeavour is about making it as best you can and next time better. The tools don’t make the art the artist does. Photography is a representative art. The camera is a tool, the image a story. A canvas, paint and brushes are tools, the image a story. The infamous bed and detritus so many berate Ms. Emin about are the tools for her to tell a (personally painful) story.
This brings me back to the news story I started with, the planned gallery in Marrakech. There are enough problems surrounding photography, even in the UK, especially street photography, however, one of the points made in the article is about the behaviour of so many people (tourists) towards the locals and a disregard of the traditions and culture they are snapping away at. Start from a point of respect and you learn a lot more. Both sides in the photography is/isn’t art take note.
Feel free to agree/disagree with me via the comments section on the club blog page.
WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
See Myk or contact him via the club Facebook Page.
UPCOMING AT THE CLUB
December 4th – Capturing Stunning B&W images plus Post Production Tips from basics to more advanced from Mr Mark Stone. Kindly take a few minutes to peruse https://www.flickr.com/photos/mark-stone/ and contact Mark via the club Facebook page with one you want to know more about.
December 11th – The second round of this year’s Reflex Open Competition (ROC) will be judged tonight.
December 18th – Christmas social evening. To quote Mark S:
” Thursday 18th December is our Christmas Social. We’re planning on doing an American Supper style evening which means we’d like you to bring some food & drink. So that you don’t all bring in a pack of Scotch Eggs we’ve created a list that will be on the sign in desk each week up until the 18th. If you’d like to take a look at what is on the list just peek at the PDF attached to this post.
It’s no good saying on here what you are planning on bringing you need to sign your name (in legible writing) next to the items on the list at the club meetings”. The List is via the link below. ‘Nuff said.
I have spent some of your generously donated time over the last several posts talking about the appreciation of an image and in trying to encourage wider participation in competitions. Talking to other people in some other photographic clubs and indeed, some remarks Peter Wheeler made in one of his visits to us this season, there broadly seem to be two focuses: the competition focused clubs and the participation focussed clubs. These are not two mutually exclusive categories, sensibly there cannot be one without the other, but it is the way that the mix of the two is dealt with that determines the nature of the club. BPS, for instance, appear have a set of images that they use for the many competitions that they enter and they are a very successful club. Dorchester appear similarly disposed, and these were the top 2 clubs in the WCPF 2013 competition. We are more participation focussed and either way there would be no club if it were not for its committee. From and on behalf of the floor, thank you. Last Thursday we had our AGM, which had a reasonable turnout by any club standards that I have been to on whatever topic (not a huge number I will admit). There was: discussion of important topics to the club; consumption of tea, coffee and biscuits; reportage on the path of the club; efforts were lauded and decisions arrived at democratically. Overall, I would judge it as a success because people got involved.
Ruth, Mark O and Dan E were voted onto the committee in the posts of Club, Competitions and Events Secretary’s replacing Julie, Ian and Hanneke at the end of the season. A great deal of thanks is owed to the outgoing members for their considerable parts in making this a successful club and thanks due to those incoming for the prospect of its continuation.
The topic on which we were most exercised was that of the competitions, specifically the format and most particularly the lack of and diminishing numbers of prints being entered. Firstly I will hold my hand up and, as a distinctly novice member, admit I have not entered any physical prints in any of the competition rounds this year. Indeed John P. has been the only consistent entrant in this category and thanks to you John, because the novice print category is an issue not a dead letter. There is a decision for the committee to make about whether the novice category continues into next season for reasons I have blogged about previously, but, in essence, boils down to the fact that the border between the two has become increasingly blurred. There is a but and a very important but so worth flagging: this may become a self-fulfilling prophecy i.e. those who enter are benefitting from the feedback and those who are discouraged by the perceived gap between their own and others efforts remain so and do not enter. The reasons were discussed why this is so, the general lack of prints, and reasons included “Faff” (a general term for producing something the individual thinks not worth the effort as measured by the return), time, space, and additional cost – travel (time cost) being the chief issue when using Keynsham Photographic (KPC). As Mark S. pointed out, as part of a different point but one that applies in general, you can’t eliminate the category and still compete – i.e. digital projection only. Yes I know Zen Photo is web based, but they meet physically four times a year and they compete as a club.
Competing is a core value of our club, but it is not the reason for it, in my far from humble opinion, participation is its life-blood but we have an imbalance at the moment that needs to be addressed and that is getting more people involved in competitions in general and in prints in particular. It is getting you involved in competitions in general and in prints in particular. Yes, next season I will be entering the print competition regularly, a little late for New Year resolutions I will admit, but then they are hardly worth making the effort over if you have no intention of keeping them. I have every intention of keeping this one (and only). The ease and relative speed of entering the projected is not in dispute, but the experience of producing and mounting a print is far more tactile and gives a different perspective as Mark O. attested.
So, 10 questions to ask and my own answers (in brackets). The only permissible answers are Yes or No because anything else is a No, all dressed up with nowhere to go:
- Did I join Reflex CC to become a better photographer? (Yes).
- Is entering the club competitions a positive part of this? (Yes).
- Have I learned anything by looking at the entries and listening to the feedback? (Yes).
- Am I looking at photographing subjects differently than before I did this? (Yes).
- Does that effect the way I take photographs? (Yes).
- Has the overall effect of the feedback been positive? (Yes).
- Is there room for improvement? (Yes!).
- Would entering my own efforts personalise the feedback? (Yes).
- Have I made the best of the opportunities the competitions have presented? (No).
- Does a lack of trophies mean I am no better for the competition process? (No).
If anyone of the first 8 is a yes, then there is a personal gain to be had from you entering the competitions. Logically, enter. Logically enter both projected and print. As for the self imposed quality issue then I would point you to the observation that, even in the Olympic 100 meter sprint final, every athlete is not running against the other athletes because they cannot maximise their own performance against them and run their own race. The things that they can control are the things that are in their own race i.e. they are all running against themselves and their own limitations. Same for us in club competitions. And you don’t have to be a “photographer” to contribute to photography, anymore than you need to be a writer to contribute to the essay form. You just need to plan, do and review to get better.
There are a number of questions that might arise surrounding prints, and the first one is, “What size file does it take to make a good photographic print?”. For Reflex CC competitions the mounting card dimensions are exactly 50 x 40 centimetres (roughly 20″ x 16″) and the image can be any size up to that. The decision is yours. The competition form has to be filled in as with a projected image + a digital copy of the image also has to be submitted. This latter part helps with the blog when publishing results and the catalogue I have done with the last couple of rounds and will continue to do as long as its viable. Rather pointless having an empty space where a winning entry should be. So back to the size of the file. If you have bought a digital camera in, roughly, the last 10 years, you should be OK. KPC say that the jpegs they use are to be 305 PPI (pixels per inch) and you can do this through image scaling software (Photoshop will do it, ditto Paint.Net so will GIMP)
Part of the problem I have with the print section of the competition, I admit, is that it is more difficult to see and remember what is which when it comes to the feedback. The big, vibrant projected image is a different experience to the more tactile, focussed print. I sit at the back of the room, I know, but that is so I can use the light to write my notes. This rather puts me at a disadvantage as compared to the projected images, given that the optimum viewing distance is usually given as a 1.5 or 2 x multiple of the diagonal of an image – making a 16 x 12’s prints optimum between 30 and 40 inches (76 to 101 centimetres), though time can be spent walking around, looking at the prints close up. Therein lies a very important point. The relationship between the viewer and the image is different in a print than it is in a projected image, we react differently to it. It isn’t just a question about which is better, because the answer depends upon the context you are viewing it in. The photo-marathon was as much about moving around for the viewing as it was in the taking. The Interaction was different. Broaden your experience and double your chances of constructive feedback by entering both parts of the competition next season and keep practicing by entering the Flickr competition until then. Maybe we need a Flickr evening?
As an evening a very successful AGM. This is a vibrant and happy club to belong to, made so by its members. Yes we need to expand our competition base but that is something we can all contribute to. I look forward to the rest of the year.
NEXT MEETING – Practical, bring your camera and as it is product shot time, feel free to bring a tripod if you have one and anything interesting you want to photograph. Very successful last time, you will probably have some competition entries among these!