Saturday 20 September 2014

"Home is..." in a Sheffield art gallery, at long last.

Something of a long post tonight, but then the opening of our "Home is..." show seemed to deserve a properly detailed entry on the blog.
In our experience, no run-up to an exhibition ever goes smoothly, and this was no exception...  We thought we'd document it here just to show the kinds of things that can go wrong, in spite of the best laid plans.  We were roughly on-schedule in the summer holidays, despite the major alterations to our personal lives with us becoming foster carers part way through the project.  There were some images we hadn't got round to shooting, but we had a decent body of work to select from.  We sent off pictures to the printers, and as has happened a few times before, as soon as we entrusted something so vital to another party, it started to go wrong.
A specification of the gallery was for flat-mounted work in the downstairs room, and we duly ordered three of the prints to be Dibond mounted (basically printed onto large sheets of aluminium).  And after a lengthy delay, they turned up in the box above about two weeks before the show, which was cutting it fine to say the least.  Suspicions were raised by the extra corner padding which seemed to have been hastily added...
... with reason, it turned out.  Multiple corners on all three of the Dibonds were mangled, ruining the pictures.  Panic setting in, an anxious 48 hours was spent in consultation with the gallery (who were incredibly supportive and understanding), local printing firms, etc, and three replacements were sourced, which would be delivered to the gallery four days before the show opened...
The back-up option was to print the images A1 size and frame them; the best frames we could get within budget, having spent several hundred on defective Dibonds for which we couldn't at that point get a refund, were available through Ikea (a higher quality solid-wood frame, not their bog-standard Ribba frames which we've used in the past, and which have a distressing tendency to dismantle themselves over a short space of time due to poor materials).  Unfortunately the frames are rare as hens teeth, and we were on the verge of having to drive up to Newcastle after work to buy the last 4 in the country.  We'd already had to ask relatives to pick up the A2 frames from that branch the week before, the local store in Leeds not stocking them despite the details on the website.  On top of that, and for further stress, the printers we used managed to delay or lose our larger prints on two separate occasions.
A call from the gallery on Tuesday confirmed our personal suspicions that the re-printed Dibonds would be significantly smaller and would look lost in the main gallery.  Thankfully Karen and Graham at Cupola had a good idea for a scenic backdrop for the chair.  We arrived on Thursday morning with extra prints, a load of toolboxes, and a big roll of astroturf, and got to work.
My wallpapering skills are woeful, but we (with the considerable assistance of Graham) managed to get the woodland backdrop up on the wall, including dealing with various lumps and bumps and the fact the gallery is in a nice old building with no right-angled surfaces.
Deciding where the extra prints would go took a surprisingly long time...
The above pic is from about 5 hours into the process, with it all finally starting to come together.
And above, the upstairs room, which was home to the bulk of the framed pictures.
With the work up on the wall after some seven hours work, with the assistance of Graham and Karen, it was time for the finishing touches; some mounted but unframed prints of the show (and some of our other projects, for a bit of variety), a couple of self-published books to accompany the show, and business cards, displayed on some of the free samples the AstroTurf suppliers sent out to us.



The set from the shoots forms a nice eye catching, and interactive, centrepiece for the show.  The use of the AstroTurf and slate was planned from the start of the project, and its nice to see how well it works.  Mind you, its going to take me an age to scrape it up from the industrial-strength tile adhesive and repaint the gallery floor after the show...

And so, with three weeks of manic stress getting the show ready, delivered, and up on the walls, the opening night rolled around.
We've been to a few opening nights here over the years, but this was the first time in a while its been for a show that wasn't a group or open call; there was one other artist, Becki, exhibiting alongside us in an adjacent room, and frankly it was all a little nerve-wracking. 


Big thanks at this point to Graham (above) and Karen (below) at the gallery, not only for accepting our proposal for the show in the first place, but for all the support, help, and dealing with the emerging chaos in the last weeks as printers failed us, work didn't turn up, etc.  The gallery has been magnificent at coping with it all and giving us everything we needed to get this show up.

So that's that then.  Its been a long road getting here, from the early days of Amy's original concept shoot for the project back in Carlisle in 2005, the test shoots a few years ago, and the manic summer of shooting images for "Home is..." at 5.30 onwards most mornings last summer, all over Wales and the Midlands.
Its not over of course; this show runs until mid October, and then we have plans to try and find other outlets, venues, and avenues to explore with the work.  There are still dozens of locations we'd discussed as potential backdrops for images around West Yorkshire and the Midlands, which we had to regretfully abandon due to time constraints... we plan to shoot a few more images over the winter months if possible.
A big thanks to everyone who modelled for the shoots, who assisted, and who contributed in any way shape or form.  Special thanks to the Severn Valley Railway, East Riddlesden Hall (National Trust), and all the other locations we were able to access for shoots.  And of course a massive thanks to everybody from Cupola Contemporary Art for commissioning us to do this exhibition, giving us the chance of a big show, and providing us with a 'target' and an incentive to shoot such a massive project.

Saturday 13 September 2014

"Home is..." nearly in the gallery

Just a quick post tonight...  mainly because we are buried deep in getting the last bits for "The Home Is..." project sorted.  After about 18 months of shooting pictures, it feels a little scary that the show opens in six days.  It shouldn't be so intimidating, as we've both had work shown fairly regularly over the last few years, including with this gallery, but its our first joint show in a while.  We dropped the bulk of the work for the upstairs room into the gallery yesterday, the last couple of pics are about to be mounted (we had to wait for some frames to be back in stock), and the three Dibond-mounted images for downstairs are due to be delivered straight to the gallery on Monday or Tuesday.
This might be seen as cutting it a tad fine, and indeed it is; mainly because the original company we used managed to severely dent and damage all three Dibonds they were tasked with producing.  We were not best pleased, but at least they have refunded us.  It does mean though that in a small and very cramped suburban terrace we now have to accommodate three unusable Dibond-mounted images with battered corners...

Anyway, back to the forthcoming show...  there are more details on the gallery website:
Cupola Gallery,
178-178a Middlewood Road
Sheffield S6 1TD

The three shots here are experiments by the way; with every image shot from the same viewpoint, we thought we'd do a more arty and experimental take on it, layering the pics together to make something more abstract.
More on the final set-up for the show during the coming week...

Thursday 11 September 2014

It was a dark and stormy night...

Tonight's post, and a few pics taken over a couple of days at Criccieth, Wales.  After a couple of days of fairly settled weather, a front was starting to move in, giving some nice dramatic skies in the early evening...
No apologies for a slightly dramatic angle; mainly because we didn't have a tripod with and were using rocks to steady the camera...

An Amy trademark, the railing-shot (something she did a lot of at Blackpool the last couple of times we visited the illuminations).

As the light faded, a couple of long exposure shots, trying for a nice, smooth sea... not too bad given the lack of tripod for stabilising the camera.

Finally, a nicely dramatic sea at the same location as the storm battered the coastline.

We're off to Cupola Gallery tomorrow with the first batch of work for the exhibition, so more on that tomorrow night...

Wednesday 10 September 2014

A trip to Beningbrough

For tonight's blog entry, a little look at a visit to Beningbrough, a National Trust property near York.  We ended up here on pretty much the day when the heatwave finally broke near the start of the summer holidays, and we needed somewhere to go that was out of the rain.  On arrival though, we ended up spending the afternoon in the gardens, making the most of a three-hour gap when the rain had stopped.  Funnily enough, it wasn't until we were going back through six-weeks worth of photos from the summer that we realised just how much of the time was spent under grey skies, or with visits to locations that offered shelter from the weather...  In comparison to last year, and all those shoots for the "Home is..." project, the weather seems to have been a lot less suited to photography this summer.
I will say though that Beningbrough has fantastic gardens, and though we couldn't do much in the way of photography with three kids in tow, we still managed a few shots, mainly around the flowerbeds which provided some much needed colour on an otherwise grey and manky day.  Definitely another location to return to in the future...

My undoubted favourite shot of the day, and a chance encounter at that, during the thirty seconds it was landed right in front of us...  Never realised just how colourful the eyes on a dragonfly are. 
Right, more from Wales in the next post, or maybe a bit more on the exhibition...

Tuesday 9 September 2014

"Home is..." Keighley Gasworks, the last shoot of the project

A rather belated post for the "Home is..." project tonight.   Back when we were shooting pics for the project last year, we planned a load of urban, industrial locations around the West Midlands, as a contrast with the more rural, pretty-mountainscapes we'd got in Wales.  Then for a variety of reasons, mainly personal or work related, we didn't end up shooting anything after a brief (but productive) visit to the grounds of East Riddlesden Hall in West Yorkshire during April/May.
We still regretted not getting an industrial location though, and we still want to shoot some pics around the grittier parts of the West Mids when time permits, but whilst editing the selection for the forthcoming exhibition, we felt we really, really needed something a bit more urban for the show.  And with literally a couple of months until the exhibition, and with the supposedly final selection made for the show, we made a slightly spur of the moment decision to shoot some more pics.
Theoretically, a slightly run-down mill town like Keighley should be able to provide a lot of abandoned industrial locations, but a mixture of fires, demolitions, and redevelopments have got rid of many shooting locations.  That and the fact that actually a lot of the industrial buildings in Keighley are still in use in one form or another, means that we'd have needed permission for a shoot; we simply didn't have time to wait weeks for permission to go somewhere.
Happily, in a sense, there is a derelict gasworks on the edge of the town.  This is awaiting demolition and replacement with a biomass power station, but there is a lot of publically accessible roads and waste ground around it.  A quick recce on the way to work confirmed at least five spots to shoot in with the gasometers and other surviving buildings in shot, and a plan was made to get in and shoot a few pics from the 'public' side of the wire. 

Again, for work and real-life reasons, not to mention the weather, the shoot became complicated and delayed to the point where only an early-afternoon finish at work gave time to get a shoot done.  And typically, things went awry.  Two van-loads of gas board employees occupied one of the locations, a wagon full of scrapmen (who didn't look favourably on someone with a camera nearby) were parked on the road...  but we did manage to access the waste ground on the far side of the site.

By our standards, it was a quick shoot, but then practise makes perfect; the amount of these pictures we've shot over the last 14 months does mean we're pretty quick at setting up, shooting, and dismantling the set.

So there we are, the last shoot of the project, at least prior to the exhibition opening.  We are planning on carrying this project on after this exhibition, and hitting some of the locations we did recce visits to last year (particularly in urban parts of the Midlands), but for now these are likely to be the last shots of the "Home is..." project for the time being. 
(we're going to do a bit more of a detailed blog post on this shortly, but to remind anyone reading who is interested, the project is being exhibited at Cupola Contemporary Art in Hillsborough, Sheffield, from mid September to mid October).


Monday 8 September 2014

A return to posting... Wales

With summer drawing to a close, time to start updating the blog again; we've been busy with actually taking a lot of photos, mainly during repeated visits to Wales.  We'll be posting the various pics over coming days, so first, some 'general' shots which aren't from any specific sets or projects, all taken around Wales...


The top-two images were taken on a nice, but very windy day, near Porth Dinlaen, but the shot of the kite above is rather more indicative of how the weather was during the majority of the summer...

Llanberis provided a nice location for taking some pics, or would have done had the weather not been so poor... a mix of dramatic landscape, ancient castle, derelict slate quarries, a superb museum dedicated to same, and a large lake.  Definitely have to return here in the future.


Above, a nice dramatic waterfall above Tanygrisau, another location to return to in better weather (we had to run to the car after taking this shot, as a violent and very sudden downpour visibly swept down the valley towards us, and wouldn't stop). 

Another location which didn't quite provide as many photos as hoped (due to the poor weather) was Penrhyn Castle, which is actually a 'fake' castle built by the owner of the large Penrhyn Slate Quarries nearby, and now owned by the National Trust.

Finally a few landscape shots, just because we don't tend to take this sort of pic any more, but every now and again we feel inspired to get some nice photos if the location is right (in these cases, the Cob at Porthmadog for the butterfly, and Tan Y Bwlch for the other two shots).

Coming next, either a specific project/set from Wales, or perhaps an update on the "Home is..." project, the exhibition of which is imminent...