Wednesday, 17 December 2014


John Rylands Library (Presentation Notes)

The John Rylands Library is a Victorian Neo-Gothic library located on Deansgate, about a 2 minute walk from The Town Hall.

Gothic architecture came back into style during the industrial revolution, as Northern cities became more wealthy they wanted grand buildings to show their wealth and power, town halls across the north were constructed in this gothic style in cities such as Rochdale (Show)                   Sheffield (Show)                  and Manchester (Show).

(Show archive photo & new photo)

The library was constructed between 1890 - 1900 and was one of the last Neo-Gothic buildings constructed in England as the fashion fell out of style not long after it’s construction.

It was built in a compact area of the city surrounded by shops and warehouses and has obviously attracted people to the area as it is now surrounded by modern banking towers.

(Show wide shot)

The building was financed by Enriqueta Rylands as a tribute to her late husband John Rylands, who was the owner of one of the largest textile manufacturing companies in England and Manchester’s first self made multi millionaire. 

The building was designed by architect Basil Champneys using the most modern building techniques at the time. The building has a fireproof concrete construction, a full air conditioning system and was one of the first buildings in the city to be lit by electricity. 

In terms of functionality it is a great piece of architecture, the main reading room has an upper and lower level with two other rooms dedicated to the preservation of books. 

(Show new photographs)

A new section of the library was constructed in 2007 at a cost of £17 million, the steel and glass structure contains a new reception, gift shop and cafe. 

This is evidence that in this time period we always feel the need to renovate old buildings to bring them into the 21st century, destroying the original design and almost making buildings a parody of themselves. Saying this out of all the buildings we have looked at for this presentation this one is one of the only ones still surveying its original purpose a century after its construction. 

The building remains relevant to this day as it holds thousands of years of human history and is still visited and used by hundreds of people every day.   

(Show my photos of library)

Map Information

John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library is a Victorian public library commissioned by textile merchant john Rylands' wife Enriqueta Rylands to hold his large collection of books and texts. The library was designed by architect Basil Champneys and completed in 1899 and opened on 1st January 1900. It was the last great Victorian Neo-Gothic building constructed in Northern England. The building was constructed using the most modern building techniques and no expense was spared in it's construction. The library contains many separate rooms the main being the reading room, which consists of 2 levels, with the bottom level only being open to the public. The building was one of the first in Manchester to be lit by electricity. The library contains around 250,000 books as well as thousands of manuscripts. It was restored in 2007 with a modern glass structure built on the back of the existing building containing a cafe, reception and gift shop. The building is currently upheld by Manchester University. A few weeks ago I was given permission by the manager of the library Ian Massey to take photographs from the second level of the reading room which is normally closed to visitors. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

How to see Blog Posts in Order

Unfortunately Blogger doesn't allow you to put the first post at the top however the post dates are listed on the right hand side starting at the beginning of the course working their way down the page to the end of the course so you can click on each date to view posts from the start to the end of the course. 

Reflection on Unit X (Key Post: Reflection)

Unit X has been an interesting unit for me as it was the first time I've documented my work in Blog format, I've always stuck to sketchbooks as a way of documenting my practice as I like presenting my work in a physical form and sticking things in and laying things in a sketchbook. Now I can compare the two and they both have advantages and drawbacks, I think for next year I will go back to using sketchbooks as I prefer my work physically printed than being looked at on a screen, for example I haven't used the darkroom much for Unit X as I felt there wasn't much point as the prints wouldn't be assessed so I scanned all my negatives into digital files. On the other hand blog are good in the sense that it is much quicker to post something in a blog then it is to type something up then print it out and stick it in a sketchbook so working in blog format does save a lot of time, in addition it saves a lot of money on printing. 

When I started Unit X I was determined to shoot subject matter I haven't shot much of this year, that being people, I chose the everyday as a title because I hoped to shoot mainly people however this soon changed after Alan advised me to in a different direction as he said my work was far too simple, so I did. I went back to shooting architecture but was determined to shoot it in a way I previously never had to I eventually used double exposures to present my work in a new and interesting way. 

For Unit X I was determined to improve my skills when it came to shooting and printing film. Because I scanned a lot of my negatives I didn't use the darkroom much for this project however I still managed to get in there and work on my dodging and burning techniques which is something I still need to build on and become very skilled at. I also had never shot double exposures before so that was something new I learned, it was very fun and a technique I want to continue and become more excelled at. 

Working within a team of students from other courses was another interesting experience, we collaborated in the sense that we worked together to set up and promote our exhibition but we didn't collaborate in terms of creating work as everyone in the group had specific ideas of what we wanted our work to be, I'd say most art students have a very clear idea of what they want to create and don't like other people getting involved. I'd say we worked reasonably well as a group, we came up with the title for our exhibition them certain members of the group created promotional material for the exhibition the contained contributions from everyone in the group. I provided on of my photographs to be used in the posters that were created to promote the exhibition. We only met for discussions two or three times and said to our tutor Richard that for next years Unit X students they should be put into their cross course groups much earlier in the project as for the first few weeks we never saw each other. 

The exhibition was an interesting experience as I got to see my work in context with everyone else's in the group and other courses. I printed my final pieces A1 as I wanted them to command attention in a room where there are 100 other students exhibiting work. I know a lot of students were dissatisfied with the exhibition space at it had more window that wall space however I thought that as long as your work is strong where it is exhibited doesn't really matter and in the end everyone's work overwhelmed the space so the location didn't really matter. When I arrived at the exhibition space for the first time on Tuesday I didn't think everyone's would be able to fit because the space seemed much smaller than I had seen on the photographs. I chose a board facing the center of the exhibition to exhibit my pieces, it was right in the path where people walked so I got a good spot early. On the other hand I could only use two of my prints out of the three as there wasn't enough space on the board however the two photographs still worked well together. I thought the exhibition went well and although it only went on for a few hours I still enjoyed it. 

Overall Unit X has been an interesting unit and I feel I've improved my practice in a variety of areas and hope to build on that the next two years.  

Techniques I've Learned During Unit X

During the duration of Unit X I have learnt and improved on photography techniques I previously hadn't used, these were mainly to do with shooting film and darkroom techniques. I had used the darkroom many times before Unit X but never really got into dodging and burning, this time I decided that it was a technique I wanted to use in creating my prints. A Lot of people use their hands to make shapes whilst dodging and burning however the way I did it was to use black card and cut it into the shapes I needed, the reason I did this is so I hands have a tailored shape that stays consistent. I used dodging and burning on my early black and white prints the darken and lighten certain areas, the shapes I needed to dodge and burn were very straight so I could just use the edge of the card. On the other hand when printing some of the photographs I took in London I had to cut the card into more intricate shapes as I had to dodge and burn faces and the outlines of bodies. The photographs came out much better than if the entire image had one exposure time however I still need to vastly improve my printing skills and the prints still weren't exactly what I wanted, after Unit X is over I'm going to go back in the darkroom and print them better. 

The next technique I learned was double and multiple exposures. A few weeks into the project I purchased a Nikon FE 35mm camera which had a multiple exposure function so this was the genesis of my double exposure photographs. Working out the exposure time for the photographs was hard as you need to over expose the photograph but too much and the photograph will still be over exposed and not enough and it will be under exposed. I tended to over expose the photographs by a stop or 2 which worked quite well but if I did a triple exposure I would over expose it a little more. I also had to remember where certain elements of each photograph were in the frame as I wanted to overlap certain bits of each exposure. Working with double exposures was very fun and I will definitely continue doing it.

One thing I wanted to do during Unit X was use medium format however I was a little pushed for time so I'm going to hire one out when Unit X is over so I will have used one before second year. I feel my digital photography techniques are strong in terms of post processing however I need to bring my film techniques up to that level especially when it comes to darkroom printing. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Favorite Work From Unit X

When I started this project I wanted to shoot different subject matter than I did in my 'The Figure in Photography'. In that project I shot primarily architecture and street photography so for initially for Unit X I wanted to focus on photographing people. Firstly I shot street photographs of people doing 'everyday' things such as smoking, reading or looking at their phone, I shot the photographs on 35mm colour film and was reasonably happy with them as they were only suppose to be a start point. I showed the photographs to Alan and he said the idea behind them was too simple and obvious and suggested I head in another direction, we talked about the theme and talked about photographing simple compositions in the room such as chairs against the wall and how different objects go together. From the meeting I felt I needed to photograph something different so I started photograph patterns and shapes within architecture, although I wanted to shoot something other than architecture for the project I was confident I could present it in an interesting and different way than I previously had. I started shooting patterns in rails and various other geometric structures that people see everyday but never really notice. Some of my favorite photographs I created were taken in this early period like the black and white photograph of a hand rail in hard sunlight, the rail had horizontal bars which curved around the composition creating hard shadows which looked interesting. Another photograph from that shoot which stood out to me was a photograph of a wall with a variety of textures that looked a lot like a Rothko painting. After this shoot I decided to focus on more geometric architecture and different patterns and textures within it. Another stand out photograph for me is a photograph taken in the parking structure under the Convention Centre, this was a key location for me as I shot there quite a few times after and ended up photographing the location shooting for my final pieces. There is a stair set in the building that is plain white and had a very 2D geometric form that contrasted well against the brick background. By this point I felt I needed to develop my work into something more intricate and complicated and I had just purchased a Nikon FE which allowed me to shoot double exposures so I decided to do that. This was during Easter break so I went to Birmingham hoping to photograph some interesting looking architecture and found a grotty parking structure with lots of square architecture and metal pipes (quite industrial), the type of place people visit but never take time to study its form. I decided to shoot double exposures of this location overlapping different parts of architecture and pipes. The photographs looked very interesting as they resembled cubist structures and the pieces of architecture were taken out of context and used to create new patterns. I decided this was the right direction to go so I shot more double exposures back in Manchester, I shot in the same format on the same type of film as the previous shoot looked interesting and I wanted to use on of the images as a final piece. I feel my work developed well and I used new techniques I had never previously used and I managed to present architecture in a new way that differs heavily from my previous work. 

Unit X Everyday Unnoticed Group

Before I went to my first cross course seminar I didn't know that we worked in our groups to organize our piece of the exhibition. I missed the first seminar so when I arrived at the second they had already started organizing roles and made a facebook group so I had to make a facebook account to join it because I've never had facebook (personally I prefer twitter). We had to come up with a name for our exhibition so we came up with the title 'The Everyday: Unnoticed', we wanted to keep the 'everyday' in the title and then add another word that linked to all our work. We chose the word 'unnoticed' as we thought that our work shows the things people do and see everyday but never really notice which links quite close to my work. All the people in my group were helpful and easy to work with. Mccaullie Porter taken on the role as team leader which she did very well, she kept in contact with everyone and oversaw the transport of peoples work to the exhibition space. It was decided that we were going to make posters to promote the event and booklet handouts, it was decided that one of my photographs was going to be used in the background of the poster so that was my contribution. It was decided that Rene Thomas and Mollie Milton were going to handle the design and printing of the poster and booklet. Everyone in the group wrote and paragraph about their work then sent it to Rene who put it in the booklet, the booklet did look alright however I feel it could have been done better if we had more time as Rene had to wait until everyone had submitted their paragraph which took some time. We kept contact quite a lot on facebook with people posting questions all the time. Although we didn't collaborate in terms of our work I feel we did work well as a group in organizing the promotion and deciding how much space we all need for the exhibition. Working with a group of student from other courses who I'd never met was interesting and we all got on well and expressed our views on certain topics such as title, promotion and exhibition space. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Visiting the Exhibition

I had to go to the exhibition in the afternoon as I had to rub out the pencil lines I drew the day before whilst setting up my pieces. I visited the exhibition later that night with a couple of friends who study photography and film making so we all got to see our work. The exhibition was a lot busier than I imagined it to be as previously I'd only been there whilst people were setting up their work so I hadn't seen it with extra people. The best thing about the exhibition seeing people looking at your work I suppose that's the whole point of the exhibition but it is nice to see that people are interested in what you have been doing, it makes it worth while. A lot of people were dissatisfied with the exhibition space however I think that that was taken out of context when the space was full of work, it was so full of work anyway most of the wall space was covered. 

I placed my work in the path that people walk around the building so I had a good spot. The exhibition was also casual in the sense that people were open to drink and chat and whatever so it felt very laid back. I enjoyed the exhibition and looking at other students work not just photography but work on all the floors, also seeing how different people had interpreted the same brief as me was interesting and how different their work was to mine.

I look forward to doing other exhibitions in the years to come and enjoyed the experience very much. 

Setting up the Exhibition

Before I arrived at the space on Wednesday I didn't know where I was going to exhibit my work in terms of I didn't know if I'd use windows, wall space or boards. When I arrived the surround wall space was already being used to I decided to use one of the triangular boards, I chose a spot on one of the boards that faced the center of the room and was in the path people would walk so people walking round the floor space would naturally see my work as they walked past so I got myself a very good spot. The only problem with exhibiting on the boards was that I only had space for two of my photographs rather than three, I chose to leave out the photograph I shot in the stairwell of the Benzie Building. My reasoning for this was that it had a clean and minimalistic appearance whereas the other two were both taken in parking structures and had quite a grungy aesthetic therefore they went together well, in addition the Benzie Building photograph was generally my least favorite of the three photographs. 

When it came to putting my work up I'd already worked out that I was going to use double sided tape to attach my photographs as it is very strong and sticks to almost any surface. I stuck three lines of tape on the top and bottom of the print but didn't stick any on the side as I didn't want to worry about air bubbles warping the print and I figured size lines of tape would be enough. 

I measured the board then measured the prints and explanation card and figured I would have to leave an 8cm gap between the prints, I drew out pencil lines so I knew where to stick the prints and then stuck the prints to the board, I placed the prints so that your eyes are in line with the middle of them so you don't have to look too far up or down to see it. The prints were a little bit slanted (as sticking an A1 print is not that easy) but not enough that anyone would be put off the work because of it. 

I wrote a small 130ish word paragraph explaining what the work is about and my influences and inspiration, I also put my email address just in case anyone wanted to contact me. I printed off the paragraph then used double sided tape to attach it to a piece of mount board. 

Overall I feel my worked looked good when I'd set it up, I know my work was a little slanted but hopefully no one else did. I would like to have exhibited all three of my photographs as I didn't print them as a set of three but I just had to work with the space I had, I suppose I could have used the windows but then the prints would have been spaced a little too far out. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Exhibition Prints

Last week I went to Print Services and had my three final photographs printed for the exhibition. I ordered them on A1 matte paper as I wanted to print them big and Alan advised me to print them on matte paper so they were seen more a paintings than photographs. When I picked up the prints I found one of them had a pink cast, this also came up when I showed my work in a seminar the following day. So on Friday I re-edited the photograph taking out the pink cast then went to Print Services and re-ordered the print. This morning I went to Print Services and picked up the print then went to Book Binding and cut the prints, because I ordered the print separately it was slightly smaller than the other two prints so I had to cut the other two down to the same size, I only had to take a few cm's off each side and I'm glad they're all the same size. I'm pleased with how the prints came out, they work together as a set as they're all double exposure photos with a cubist aesthetic but the subject matter of all three photographs is different so each one stands apart from the other. In terms of attaching the prints to the wall I'm either going to use a small amount of double sided tape in each corner or I'm going to use small pins to attach them. 


Friday, 9 May 2014

Exhibition Final Pieces

Tuesday I processed my last roll of film then chose 2 photographs from that to use as final pieces alongside one of my Birmingham photos. After I scanned the negatives I went back to my flat and edited my 3 final pieces on Adobe Lightroom 4 adding contrast and straightening the images. When I finished editing them I went to Print Services and had them printed A1 size. It was very quiet so I had them printed then and there, I had to turn the files from psd files to pdf's which didn't take long, I'd say I was only in there about 45 minutes and my work was printed (normally you have to wait one or two days). Alan advised me to print them onto matte paper so they are seen as paintings more then photographs as they have a very cubist aesthetic. I do want to exhibit all 3 photographs however if there isn't enough space I will just exhibit 2, I assume I will have the space for 3. One of my photographs have a pink cast to it even though it is a black and white photograph so I think I'm going to re-print it.