Project Presentation and Reflection - September 2018

09 September 18

Posted at 8:35

So, that’s it. Two years of part time study completed. Images are up using command strips (along with many, many, many other sticky tabs, just in case!), and I am happy with what has been produced, although there were a few last minute issues with printing. I ordered my final prints from Photobox with plenty of time to spare, but they did not print in the size I needed for the panoramic (36”x12”). I found a company online which appeared to be good, and the panoramic print was ordered. Unfortunately, I received a phone call on the week the work was due to be displayed, that they were unable to print the panoramic due to machine issues. Plan B was to have the image printed at the university Print Bureau, and following a few phone calls and payment, the image was printed on Friday for my to display on the Saturday. Unfortunately, when I arrived on Saturday, the print was much too dark, much darker than the original digital file that I had sent, and after thinking about the situation for over an hour – I decided not to display the black and white panoramic.

 

Fortunately, I had printed an extra image through Photobox with the 4 portraits, just in case. I felt that this was the best image to use in replacement of the panoramic, and it seems to have worked out well. I am very happy with the quality of printing, as the colours on the aluminium seem to give more of a textured feel to the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s brightly coloured uniforms. I have also printed business cards with the website nothing-is-real.co.uk with each portrait featured on different cards.

 

I have also followed advice from tutors and entered the body of work into Format 2019. Format is always strong, and although I feel that my work will fit in with the theme of FOREVER//NOW, there will always be professional artists that enter, and I doubt my work is good enough quality at this stage. I feel the concept is sound and justified, however working in such tight margins and time constraints on the portraits, sometimes just the opportunity to catch one portrait in ten seconds, I don’t think the end result is what is requested and expected at Format. However with more time and access, I’m sure it will not be long before the work I produce is of consistently high enough quality. With skills and understanding I have acquired on the MA, I feel I can now reflect and understand my work honestly and accurately, understanding where my work fits into the industry.

 

I am still in contact with Simon Weitzman, with the aim of having some of my work featured in his documentary Here, There and Everywhere. Weitzman’s documentary has the backing and support of various key organisations, including The British Beatles Fan Club and The Beatles Story Museum. If I can maintain contact and push this opportunity, it may help to continue this area of study.

 

With skills and understanding I have acquired on the MA, I feel I can now reflect and understand my work honestly and accurately, understanding where my work fits into the industry.

 

As I have relocated to London, I am hoping that with time and effort, I will be able to document more tribute bands and expand on the body of work under the title Nothing Is Real. My aim is to have work published and exhibited.

 

August 2018

30 August 18

Posted at 10:30

Being away from Uni has been confusing and knocked a little bit of the flow out of my project I think. I have taken my first holiday in ten years, but unfortunately I’d clearly timed it wrong as it was the only time The Bootleg Beatles were available for some portrait shoots. Talk about gutted! With only one more UK gig before flying out to Singapore and Australia, I just had to go and shoot some live shots with the new line up featuring Tyson Kelly as John Lennon. There was no time for portraits, no costume changes into Sgt. Peppers, but I have a few visuals of Tyson in the line up. The project hasn’t quite panned out as I’d wanted, but some things can’t be helped.

 

I will be looking to continue the project when everything has finished with the MA Film & Photography course, and will extend and build my work. I feel that if I capture some stronger studio based portraits of The Bootleg Beatles then it would really wrap things up with the project.

 

I had toyed with the idea of manipulating the portraits more in Cindy Sherman’s style, changing the way the features appear within the images. After contemplating this idea, and discussing with peers, I decided against it eventually. The features of the tribute artist needs to stay the same as it is them representing the original Beatle, rather than my photo manipulation skills to make them to appear to look more like them.

 

While researching for the project, I read in various sources that a need for nostalgia was becoming more and more necessary for the public in order to cope with times of hardship and difficulty. According to one interview in the Guardian with psychology professor Constantine Sedikides of University of Southampton: “Nostalgia compensates for uncomfortable states, for example, people with feelings of meaninglessness or a discontinuity between past and present. What we find in these cases is that nostalgia spontaneously rushes in and counteracts those things. It elevates meaningfulness, connectedness and continuity in the past. It is a vitamin and an antidote to those states. It serves to promote emotional equilibrium, homeostasis.” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/09/look-back-in-joy-the-power-of-nostalgia

 

Surely tribute bands must be the clearest and most direct link to nostalgia. A simulation of a band or event, a hyper reality of a situation designed to engage the audience longing for nostalgia.

 

 

I have also been reading a few books to understand The Beatles a little more too. I have always had an interest in the band, have a few books on them, however after watching a documentary on Eric Clapton, and his friendship and history with George Harrison and indeed Harrion’s then girlfriend, Pattie Boyd, I felt it would be good to understand the original band. I also read about Boyd’s best friend’s point of view – Chris O’Dell. O’Dell was very close to Boyd, the in’s and out’s of her relationship with George Harrison and Clapton, plus O’Dell worked for The Beatles’ own record label, Apple.

 

It was while reading O’Dell’s autobiography that realised the perfect title for my project was in fact a Beatle lyric – Nothing Is Real. Taken from Strawberry Fields Forever, and written by John Lennon, I feel that the phrase is perfect for this project. It sums up the hyper reality, simulation and spectacle which is taking place each time a tribute band takes to the stage. Nothing Is Real, but the crowds believe in it, join in, and for a brief moment they participate in an unwritten contract.

 

I have purchased the URL: Nothing-is-real.co.uk as I plan to continue this body of work after my studies at Derby University. With the website address, I have the ability of showcasing my MA studies, as well as separating it apart from my usual music photography work. As discussed with tutors before the summer, I will be displaying portraits of each band member with a panoramic print in the middle. The aim is to draw in the viewer with the large, colourful portraits, and for them to take a closer look at the panoramic. The images will be printed on aluminium (dibond), and I am hoping these will be an investment with the option of showcasing them elsewhere once the university exhibition is completed.

July 2018

02 August 18

Posted at 2:44

I returned to shoot The Bootleg Beatles at Epsom Racetrack this month. I had hoped to try and capture a few more portraits in the Sgt. Pepper’s outfit, but unfortunately this was not possible as the band were not doing any costume changes. I did, however, push my portraiture skills a little further, adding a brolly to the off camera flash which softened the light much more compared to the portraits captured at The Royal Albert Hall. I feel that my technique is much stronger now, and although the location for the shots was not ideal, (in front of a bush backstage as the sun set in the background), I did achieve a “studio environment” aesthetic to the portraits.

 

In one of the final tutored sessions in uni, I received positive feedback on the images by tutors and peers. I am in contact with The Bootleg Beatles about the possibility of shooting more portraits for them in a studio environment in London. Portraits will be used for their promotion, and obviously for my project. If possible, I am looking to capture a portrait of “the new” John Lennon, with his back to the camera. Looking at the back of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Paul McCartney’s back is facing the camera, which at the time sparked conspiracy theories that he was dead. If the opportunity arises, I would like to capture the new Lennon, and the rest of the band, in a similar pose. It would be interesting to see if, with the denotations and connotations mentioned earlier surrounding the Sgt. Pepper’s uniforms, if visually the band appear more alike the original band members. It would also be interesting to play with the viewers own perception of the shot and band member too, with them questioning the validity and authenticity of the images.

 

Following the previous post concerning entering the two photography competitions – unfortunately I have been unsuccessful for both. You’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say. I guess it is just a prompt to push my work further, more professional and improve the quality.

June 2018

21 June 18

Posted at 10:27

Reflecting on what has been produced so far in this project and on the course, and following plenty of guidance from tutors, I have entered both the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2018, and Portrait of Britain which is run by British Journal of Photography. I feel that the body of work fits for both competitions, but I am not sure whether the quality of work is strong enough at this stage.

 

I am also waiting to meet up with Simon Weitzman to discuss his documentary on The Beatles. Through a few emails exchanged, there may be scope for some of my work to be featured in his documentary, which would be fantastic if that coincides with the end of my MA Film & Photography studies. Weitzman film, titled Here There and Everywhere, focuses on how The Beatles’ influence remains in the modern world, with interviews and behind the scenes footage of musicians that keep the spirit and memory of The Beatles alive today. (www.herethereandeverywheremovie.com)

 

If I could get some of my images featured in this documentary it would definitely help push and promote my photographic work, especially to a target market that is definitely interested! I also researched the documentary a little more, and adding to Weitzman’s experience is producer David L. Simon, who was head of DreamWorks Television Animations, vice president of programming for Fox Television.

May 2018

03 June 18

Posted at 10:36

With Adam Hastings leaving The Bootleg Beatles, I have to wait to find out when the new band member will begin. Although I am gutted that Adam is leaving, I am hoping the new Lennon impersonator will begin over the summer to allow me to capture some portraits and live shots. I received positive feedback with the portraits of The Bootleg Beatles captured in April, which has encouraged me and picked up my confidence with the work. With everything going on, I had wondered about pushing back this module and picking it up again this time next year, but was encouraged by feedback, and also told to carry on with the work.

 

With this in mind, and in case things do not pan out as planned with The Bootleg Beatles, I returned to shoot this years Glastonbudget. A weekend festival situated just outside Loughborough in the midlands, it is self proclaimed to be “Biggest Tribute Festival in The World”, and it is where my interest in tribute bands began ten years ago. I was asked by a band to cover the festival when it was just a few years old, and I have seen it build itself over the past decade. More tents, more bars, more stages, more tribute acts, and many more thousands of fans travelling from all over the UK to spend the weekend watching people pretending to be other people.

 

Reflecting on this year’s festival, I think I have struggled more than ever. With time off because of arm surgery, the last time I picked up the camera was for The Bootleg Beatles performing at The Royal Albert Hall in April. Not only did I struggle with the physicality of the festival this year, I over analysed what I was trying to achieve at the festival.

 

I tried to capture a few portraits behind the scenes, in the same style I captured The Bootleg Beatles in London. However due to stage times, busy bands, and the fact that I needed to carry my equipment with me over the large festival site, I only managed to capture a couple of quick portraits. I have known the Michael Jackson and Guns N’ Roses tributes, Ben – MJUK and Guns 2 Roses, for the past few years. They were both happy to have their portraits taken quickly, but in the fast paced environment of live festival music, again it was just a minute with each singer. Looking at the shots over the weekend, I was really unsure whether it was working or not, so looked to document the festival more.

 

That’s when the struggles really began. I couldn’t help but think “how would Martin Parr / Simon Roberts shoot this”. Due to this over analysing of the situation in front of me, and probably mixed with the physical strain, I lost confidence that weekend and wasn’t happy with what was produced. It was difficult to try and capture each idea that was running around in my mind, and I just couldn’t seem to find the right shot to achieve a panoramic in the style of Gursky. Although I achieved a few shots that weekend, it left me feeling rather flat, and unsure about my progress as a photographer on the MA course. I don’t think the work was up to my usual or previous standard, musically, documentary nor portraiture.

 

Outside of studies, and obviously playing on my mind, is that I have accepted a new job just outside London, and will be relocating over the summer. Add that on to the MA studies and everything else in life, it is going to be an interesting few months!

April 2018

30 April 18

Posted at 9:24

Another operation due to nerve damage, followed by another shoot with the Bootleg Beatles. This time, it’s at The Royal Albert Hall in London, and this is an opportunity that I just cannot pass on. The Bootleg Beatles play at this iconic venue at least once a year. The concert is also always a sell out. If I ever needed validation for this project – maybe this is it? A tribute band selling out one of the most iconic performance venues in the UK.

 

The operation on my arm went well, and because I am right handed, I didn’t struggle as much as I did with things back in January. However, my aim was to create portraits with off camera flash, along with some panoramic photographs inspired and informed by Andreas Gursky. I went to see Gursky’s work at The Hayward gallery in London recently, and felt like it was another missing piece to the jigsaw of my concept. There was a key phrase within one of Gursky’s statements. Detailed next to his composite photograph of a Formula 1 pit stop, Gursky stated that he was not trying to capture the pit stop, but instead his aim was to “capture the spectacle”. Reading this phrase – the penny dropped in my own mind concerning my project. I have been trying to communicate the hyper-reality generated at a tribute band concert. I am trying to capture the spectacle of this strange scenario.

 

It was a successful nights shooting on many levels. As planned in tutorials and following research, I planned to shoots portraits with off camera flash, capturing the different stages that The Bootleg Beatles perform in during a concert. Visualising The Beatles in their early days, Sgt. Peppers and The Summer of Love, visually there are many denotations and connotations on display. I feel that the most iconic has to be the Sgt. Pepper’s outfits, which is instantly recognisable and adds to “the spectacle”. Following feedback from my previous project, where I captured and displayed the band behind the scenes in their Sgt. Pepper’s uniforms, I felt that portraits would be strong visually, and a step out of my comfort zone a little. I have never really taken controlled portraits at a concert, and the aim was to create a studio effect with the off camera flash, under exposing the background.

 

With a very limited time with each band member after costume changes, I captured a quick shot as they walked towards the stage. Asking them to pose while looking away from camera, and then one shot to the camera, I feel that each band member was more relaxed and looked more natural for the shot facing the camera.

 

After the show, I also met Simon Weitzman, who is creating a documentary on The Beatles. Weitzman and I discussed our projects, and he was impressed with the images that I showed him of previous assignments featuring The Bootleg Beatles. He also stated that there would be a good market for my imagery within The Beatles’ fan world – which I felt was very positive feedback! We exchanged contact details, and I hope to catch up with him over the summer to discuss our projects further. I felt that it was a very positive meeting, and Weitzman clearly has experience in this area as his CV is very impressive, with experience working for BBC, ITV, Sky, HBO and Disney.

March 2018

28 March 18

Posted at 4:29

Over the past month or so, I have really been focusing on research and presentation ideas by visiting galleries and exhibitions. These have included trips with university to Mac in Birmingham, as well as National Portrait Gallery, The Photography Show, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, The Photographers Gallery, and various music photographs at Proud Galleries. I am also looking forward to June, when Jane Bown’s images of The Beatles will be on display at Proud Galleries (formaly The Strand Gallery) in London. I am looking to invest in the final displayed images of my project, so I am currently figuring out how to print and frame them. I have also been researching the work of Anton Corbijn and Chris Floyd for the music and portraiture.

Independent Scholarship Reflect Blog

31 January 18

Posted at 8:16

So, it’s the final count down. Final project on the MA Film and Photography course at Derby Uni. My feelings are a little mixed at the moment due to several factors, however the main one is the operation I had on my right arm just before Christmas. I really began to struggle throughout the end of November and December with written work, and then framing and mounting for the December submission due to nerve damage in my arms.

 

I have been written off work until the start of February, which means I could be spending loads of time on my last project. However, I can’t use my right hand properly – no lifting, writing, shooting etc. I’m also waiting for the operation on my left arm too, so at this stage I’m concerned about how I am going to succeed and complete the project. I’m guessing that time will tell.

 

I have tried to shoot this month – The Bootleg Beatles performing at the Echo Arena in Liverpool in front of around 8,000 fans. It was my first attempt at picking up the camera after the operation a few weeks ago, and it is fair to say I struggled. I am happy with some of the shots achieved on the night though, a few documentary shots, captured left handed!

 

It was a positive night with the band and management too. I presented them with the book I had created for the December submission, and it was received very positively. All of the band want a copy, and there was a conversation about ordering one hundred limited edition copies to sell at future concerts. I was over the moon with that! However, Adam Hastings, who performs as John Lennon, will be leaving the band in the summer to move to America. Due to this, the management eventually decided not to pursue the photo album being printed for sale. Obviously they’d like the full new line up to feature in any merchandise being sold, which is understandable.

 

All in all though, it’s really positive to know that the band and managers like my work and coverage of their performances.

 

As part of my research this month, I visited the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I have visited this exhibition every year for the past 8 or so years, and it is clear to see a trend has evolved over the past few years. This year, I really began to question what it is to be successful in the competition. I had received some very positive feedback in my last project from Camilla Brown, who has curated exhibitions and been on competition panels. Camilla had stated I should enter this years competition, which blew my mind a little. I did not think my work was strong enough at this stage to enter.

 

So, while looking through the 2017 winners, I tried to picture and hypothesise where in the competition my work would fit. Would it fit?! Looking through the images printed and framed in the NPG, I couldn’t help but analyse the photographs in front of me, and I couldn’t escape one question – is it more concept or technical ability?

 

I have taught photography for the past ten years, and each year I have given interviews and mock interviews for students. One of my questions is this: “what is more important, technical ability or strong ideas?” I expect, and usually receive, a varying response. Many students will say it is technical ability, while others will pitch in for strong ideas. The reply I give them, and my own point of view, is that it should be around 50/50, a good mixture of both. If you have fantastic concepts, but no photographic knowledge, you’re not going to achieve the images you hold in your mind. And on the flip side, if you’re a technical genius, but you cannot create any ideas or concepts for your work, then you’re going to struggle.

 

Looking at the work in the NPG though, I began to question my own view point. Here I am, looking at competition finalists, but the focus is on the foot of someone in a portrait, rather than their face. I can remember in previous years, the digital manipulation of an image wasn’t quite finished on a print and you could easily see where a dog had been manipulated. If this happens on competition finalists, am I over analysing my own work? Should I just go and shoot the idea? I can’t just shake this feeling at the moment.