Monday 4 February 2013

Summer Toys, in the Bleak Midwinter...

So yes, the depths of winter, not the most obvious time to do a project featuring summer toys, but on the other hand maybe a nice bit of colour and light during the days of snow and rain is a fitting way to do things and banish the winter blues.
The "Inflate/Deflate" project is an ongoing and somewhat sprawling body of work, which originated back in the distant depths of University, and which has been ongoing in various forms ever since.  Essentially fits in with a lot of my projects, featuring angles of nostalgia and uses toys.

It originated with a Uni project brief back in 2004 to photograph a “football sized object” as part of a generic shoot to get us used to studio working/lighting.  And being as I couldn’t come up with any ideas (despite loads of experimenting) I just bought a ton of football-sized objects, including a small-ish beachball.  The initial shots being boring as hell, the revelation came when I knocked the lamp over and it fell behind the ball, illuminating it from behind.  Hey presto, a rather eyecatching image which got good marks for the project.

The next year I was part of a small group from Uni who staged an exhibition ".RAW" independent of the college, and wanting an eyecatching and colourfully upbeat project as a change from doing constant landscape shoots, I decided to revive the earlier inflatables shoot.  The original ball was long gone, but I did have a much bigger transparent beachball leftover from the “Happygoth” fashion shoot (more on this in a future post).  This ball was immense though, and too big to properly shoot a full-size pic with it.  So I ended up shooting close-ups, going for more abstract angles.  Hey presto, the project was properly born.

The next year I started to try and acquire a few more inflatables for a reshoot of “Happygoth”, and planned to do some more shots for “Inflate/Deflate” with them afterwards.  This project massively grew in scope when, during the purchasing of props for “Happygoth”,  I was able to acquire an absolute ton of inflatables and other summer toys at a stupidly cheap knockdown price from a seaside shop that was closing down.  Since then I’ve managed to acquire some more toys in similar fashion, been gifted some from friends, and occasionally bought new toys when I’ve seen them suitably cheap in the shops.  It has meant a massive box of toys, but luckily deflated they don’t take up much room, and have proved a handy resource for other shoots (both for myself and fellow photographers), not to mention handy for seaside holidays.

The project has had several spin-offs to experiment with the basic concept- shooting out of doors, shooting against white backgrounds, in water, underwater, multiple exposures, with models posing with the toys, but I always end up returning to the still life abstract shots as the strongest series.

One of the experimental underwater shots- nicely abstract, though would be better/easier with access to a swimming pool to do the shoots with, rather than the freezing cold sea off Wales...

Having had a bit of time off over the winter from the main Day Job, I decided to basically reshoot the entire project.  Originally the majority of pics had been shot at 72DPI with my trusty Cannon 350, but with a D90 at my disposal now, the opportunity was there to shoot sharper, higher-res pictures.  So out came the summer toys, the spare room was converted into a sort of mini studio for the shoot, and away we went.

The ‘set’ is the same as it has always been throughout the shoot- a black bedsheet with some extra black velvet backdrops, and a single spotlamp used for the illumination.  The only change this time was to quickly spray the lamp black so it wouldn’t risk showing up too much in the pictures.

One handy decision this year was to invest in an electric pump, as blowing them up by hand pump took ridiculously long during previous shoots- inflating and deflating the toys taking invariably longer than merely shooting the actual pics with them.  As a quick note, they have to be blown up my pump to avoid the forming of condensation on the insides of the toys which affects the pictures somewhat. The electrical pump was worryingly efficient, to the point of actually exploding about half a dozen toys...

Thought I’d include this (at the risk of sounding like one of those people who write into the Daily Mail) just to show the absurdities of modern Health and Safety info.  If it's recommended that you can't play with an inflatable toy in the water, outside near stones or other pointy/hot things etc then what exactly do they recommend you do with it?

As can be seen, moving the lamp to the back of the toys creates a rather fantastic effect to the shots, making the images much more distinctive and abstract.  The only downside with the project is the relative fragility of the toys- some burst when they’re being inflated (as the best light effects with the shots come when the toys are blown up rock-hard), others get wrecked by the thin plastic being melted and burned on the red-hot spotlamp.  Getting stoned on the smell of melting plastic being an interesting side effect of the project from a health and safety point of view…

 Something I had a bit of a play with this time was doing some long exposure/rapid zoom shots, just to see the kinds of weird effects that could be created...
The tunnel of rings abstract is inspired by an installation done using inflatables by a nice artist whose work I stumbled across recently, a lady by the name of Janice Thwaites.  There’s more on her website here  The tunnel pictures were something I liked the look of, and had sort of touched on in a past shoot, but not with the sheer number she had used, so this is an acknowledged nod towards her work, given her very helpful advice to me when trying to work out the logistics of exhibiting a show with inflatable toys in a gallery environment.

So what of the project now?  I have in the past designed a self-published book of the images, in the hope of some day getting the project published.  Its been exhibited as part of group shows a couple of times, and I’m hoping to exhibit it as a standalone show at some point soon.  Of course, now that I have posted pics from the project here On The Internets, no doubt there’s a risk of a much more famous and rich photographer perhaps stumbling over the images and stealing the idea and making tons of money off it, but hey-ho.

Its also partially because I’m gearing up for a fashion-type shoot which is an extension of an earlier spin-off, featuring models posing with the toys... though more on this later on in the year if/when that project gets developed.


Saturday 2 February 2013

Deer, Snow, Trains and Beach Toys- Jan-Feb 2013

So, despite the best laid plans in the last post, of updating more regularly on here, things went awry.  Largely because the laptop decided to throw one of its semi-regular wobblers, and had to be restored to factory settings.  Not that this is a regular occurrence or anything, but the supplied System Restore Disc is starting to look rather worn from overuse...

So, now that we have rejoined the computer age, a catch-up of January's goings ons...


For a change, we managed some of the Art side of Ribbon Art and Photography, Amy having embraced doing animal illustrations, which started out as example pieces for the Day Job, but which has now expanded out into a full scale project, more on which in a future post.

...and Photography

This may have passed people in the UK by, but some may have noticed the snow we recently received.  Despite the collapse of transport infrastructure, the complete failure of the postal delivery service for several days, and the newsypaper headlines shrieking "SNOW APOCAGEDDON!" and so on, most people, ourselves included, just got on with life, and took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.

Being as every other person with a camera in West Yorkshire seemed to be out taking pretty landscape photos, I ended up doing some more abstract stuff, hence the duck footprints above, and the long exposure 'rush' shot, both in my perennial favourite photography location, Hirst Wood, Bingley.

It wouldn't be a photography outing without some train shots, largely because there is the outside chance of getting something in print.
Trains in the snow.  Grubby, running slightly late, perhaps a little boring, but still the sort of shot that would seem to be of interest to magazines on occasion. 

Rather nicer trains in the snow, a bit closer to home on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.  A day marred somewhat by the police hunt for a murderer further down the valley, which did at least explain the suspicious looks we got from the van full of police whilst we were walking up the valley in the morning.  Anyway, the shot shows the visiting Lancashire and Yorkshire loco 1300 piloting the resident 957 out of Haworth.


Just a quick word on exhibitions- The above shot was in the "Dromology" exhibition at South Square, Bradford, which finished last week, and we both have work up at the lovely Cupola Contemporary Art Gallery in Sheffield, to whose group shows we have often contributed in the past.  Though both these shows will be over by the time this post goes up, its nice to recount the exhibitions we have been in.  Nothing on the immediate horizon at the moment, but this time of year is always like that whilst we wait for galleries to announce their open call programs.

Ongoing/Upcoming Work

In actual photography news, we're both working on various projects at the moment- Amy is starting to develop the fore-mentioned Animals project, I'm reshooting an old project from Uni days, "Inflate/Deflate" whilst I have time and opportunity to do a sprawling still life shoot.  Its practise for an upcoming project, and also partially to bring the images up to scratch now I have a better camera than the originals were shot on. 

Basically the shoot consists of abstract photos of inflatable toys, but there is a bit more to it than just that, so I'm going to assemble a separate post in a bit about the shoot.

In other shoots, the surviving figures from the Britannia Model Village project will be getting an airing, as part of an 'intervention' project for an open call, more on which after the shoot is, er, shot, as at the moment it consists entirely of ideas in my head.

And so that was January- Feb should bring some more projects and shoots, though my day job shifts up a gear as we head into the 2013 season so this may play merry hob with some planned photography, we shall have to see.

Sat in the cold in Keighley