Assignment 5 – revised submission

This is a revised version of my assignment 5 submission. I have amended my reflective account of publication in the light of feedback from my tutor.

Summary

The publication of my body of work is in the form of a hand-made artist’s book. The photographs and cover were printed in Donegal on Irish linen and the text pages were printed by me. The book was bound by a small bookbinder near my home in the New Forest.

Because of the current difficulty of getting an audience for this one-off book, I have made a limited edition (100 copies) of a smaller replica version of the book. This is printed by me on paper and again bound by my local bookbinder. I am selling this version via the internet.

Item list

  1. Publication evaluation (essay)
  2. Video of linen book
  3. Video of replica book

Work placement – Shoair Mavlian interview

Shoair Mavlian Photo: Photoworks

I am continuing my work with Photo Meet, and my latest interview was with Shoair Mavlian, director of Photoworks.

As with previous interviews, it was conducted in a conversational style over Zoom and I then transcribed it for publication on the Photo Meet website.

You can see the interview online here:

https://photomeet.org/shoair-mavlian-interview

or as a pdf here:

Feedback on Streams of Consciousness Replica book

This post is a place to gather the feedback I receive on my book and reflect on it.

From Facebook:

‘I just received a copy of David Fletcher’s limited-edition photobook on the story of the Irish border. It is extremely well done – concept, photographs and text. Beautifully made.’

@mickyatesUK, Visiting Professor Leeds University Business School.

Not much I can say about this one, other than to say it was completely unsolcited.

‘A very impressive and highly original approach to a carefully researched documentary project. The quality of production for such a unique book is very high. The text draws the reader through the story and I was left feeling that I knew more about the history of the issues with the border than I had before without having the sense that I’d been taught anything. A thoroughly good publication that I shall be pleased to have on my shelves.

Two thoughts to store away in my own reflective journal;

(1) I was left feeling that the photographs were really just illustrations for a text-based narrative.

(2) A related point, I’d have liked a list of the photographic locations and even a map to see where they were. Purely for my own interest and not necessary for the project.’

@drgrahamwilson, Tutor – Psychology & Counselling at University of Oxford 

This feedback is in two halves really. I appreciate the comment about knowing more about the border after reading the book. The text was meant to be absorbed rather than studied. The follow-up thoughts offer a more critical view, which is equally welcome. I am surprised at the idea that the photographs week ‘just illustrations for a text-based narrative.’ This is certainly not a view I have heard from anyone else, but it does raise a point worthy of consideration.

The text was always an important part of the project for me, but I certainly don’t think it stands on its own, which is what would be implied if the photographs were illustrating the text. I consider my text to be what what Barthes would call ‘relay text’ or what Nancy Newhall would call ‘additive captions’- the images and text complement each other, but neither seeks to explain the other. This comment perhaps represents the view that images should speak for themselves, and that text is somehow a transgression of the documentary ideal.

The use of text in parallel with images is an area of my practice which I want to develop further. Allan Sekula and Duane Michals are references which I return to, although I think that the handwritten texts used by Michals need to be used with caution.

A map of locations has been a feature of various books which include a series of geographical features or a journey and it is something which I considered at an early stage of development of the work. Indeed the first work I produced from my trip to the border included details Google maps showing the location of each photograph. Stuart Franklin suggested a map when he looked at the work. In the end I decided that the location of the photographs was not relevant – the streams represent the nature of the border rather than any specific part of it..

Bristol Photo Festival

Bristol Photo Festival is a new biennial photography festival which has its first edition this year. The Director of the festival is Tracy Marshall (now Tracy Grant since she married her partner photographer Ken Grant) who I know from interviewing her for Photo Meet.

I have volunteered to help with the festival, and the job that Tracy has assigned me is to run the print auction. The idea is to request signed prints from well-know photographers and auction them in aid of the festival. The auction will run online, and then finish with a live auction at the Arnolfini in Bristol.

This is in essence what I the project will involve:
Logistics and admin:
Contact photographers
Obtain files
Print photographs
Get photographs signed
Set up and run online auction
Hang exhibition
Run live auction
Distribute prints
Clean up
Interface with third parties:
Photo printers
Arnolfini for exhibition, book stalls and auction
Marketing : promotion of the auction and recruitment of potential bidders
Accounts : setting up payment system and managing receipts

I will be handling the logistics and admin tasks and interfacing with the intern who will be handling marketing. Since she is Bristol-based, she will be available to do any hands-on work in Bristol.

The great thing about this for me is that I will have a dialogue with many well-known photographers. Even if it is a limited one, it gets my name into their orbit. I will also be dealing with printers, looking a file specs and the technicalities of printing. I will be involved over a long period with the vibrant photographic community ib n Bristol.

Assignment 5 – submission

Assignment five
Publication evaluation and preparing for assessment

Submit a 2,000-word reflective account of the resolution of your publication (i.e. the work you have done since Body of Work). You should discuss in depth how you have resolved your major publication and justify your particular choices relating to its publication. Evaluate your efforts to engage an audience with your major project and the related themes.

This should be a fully illustrated and referenced piece of academic writing.

You should also reflect upon the feedback you documented throughout the publication of the work, and also describe how you might either develop and/or promote the work further. If appropriate, you should include installation shots and a press book and/or visitor’s book.

This is my submission for Assignment 5

Streams of Consciousness linen book
Streams of Consciousness replica book

Book promotion

The idea of producing an affordable version of my book Streams of Consciousness is to reach a wider audience than is currently possible with my artist’s book. To achieve this I do need to sell it of course. The way I have chosen to promote the book is via social media, namely Facebook and Instagram.

I have watched the way photographers promote their publications on Facebook and Instagram, and the usual approach is a series of ‘teasers’ – short posts with an image from the work and some background about the work and the title and proposed publication date. Many of these publications are funded via Kickstarter, but that is because they have significant up-front costs due to commercial printing and distribution. My approach was different – print the book myself and keep the costs as low as possible. Effectively I could operate a print-on demand service but without the high costs of one-off printing. I could group the orders received, printing the books and then take them to my local bookbinder in batches. So I used the build-up approach but without asking for any financial commitment in advance.

Before this project my Instagram presence was minimal. I made few posts and followed few people, so inevitably I had few followers. So I did some reading on building up followers and then adapted what I read to my own needs. I wanted to avoid simply following huge numbers of people and then hoping they would follow me back. Followers acquired in this way would be unlikely to buy my book I think. So I spent time following up all connections I have made through photography, including : OCA; photographers and photography professionals I have worked with through Photo Meet; the RPS; and my local camera club.

The rough rule I made for myself was that I would only follow people who showed some serious interest in photography. These people would be more likely to buy my book I thought. Once I had followed someone it was important of course to show some interest in their work. Again, I didn’t want to apply blanket ‘likes’ to everything, but if I did not demonstrate some engagement I could hardly expect them to show an interest in my work. I also need to share interesting work of my own. There was a process of trial and error in posting and assessing the response. I also need to build a series of posts which showed some coherence and provided context. Then I could begin to publicise my Streams of Consciousness work and my forthcoming book.

Over a period of a few weeks I increased my followers from around 40 to over 140. Still not a huge number, but a significant percentage increase, and still increasing.

On Facebook I followed a similar approach, but this platform lends itself to including more text, allowing more contextualisation of the work. So it was here I chose to launch the book. There is of course an overlap between my Facebook ‘friends’ and my Instagram followers, so I followed up with launch info on Instagram and cross-referred.

I announced the book as a replica of my linen artist’s book, with a video of leafing through the book on Facebook. It is in a signed edition of 100, and I sold 13 copies on the first day.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/davidfletcherphoto/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidfletcherphoto/

Assignment 4 – tutor feedback

This is the feedback from my tutor on Assignment 4:

The main change to my work at this stage is the introduction of translucent overlays on which the text is printed. My tutor agrees that this better integrates the text with the images, so that confirms my way forward.

The most significant feedback point was that I should not be underselling the book compared to a potential exhibition – both are valid outcomes in their own right. From now on I will concentrate on the book and leave consideration of an exhibition until after I have finished my degree. I am happier now that I have found a way to get the book in front of a larger audience – my concern was how I would get an audience for a single book. My plan for smaller, more affordable copies of the book should help me achieve this aim.

Alternative book publication idea

One of the things which has been bugging me is how to get an audience for my linen book. Although I have been able to produce a lower cost version of the book, my original idea of placing copies in tourist office along the Irish border is now a non-starter due to Covid-19 restrictions.

I am trying to think of something other than just an online presentation of the book via video. Apart from the impossibility of representing the haptic qualities of the book, everything seems to be online at the moment. There is a risk of online presentation fatigue I think, and with so much work online it would be difficult to get noticed.

One thought I had was to make a zine. This has the advantage of being a physical object but, unlike a book, it could be produced cheaply enough to selll cheaply or even give away. The downside of course is the quality of reproduction of the photographs. I have been wedded to the idea of reproduction of the photographs on linen because it is part of the concept: the linen industry serves as a metaphor for British colonial domination of Ireland. But printing on linen is expensive and the books have to be hand-made.

I was talking to my bookbinder when I picked up my linen book, and asking her about possibilities and what kind of bindings she could do. We talked about perfect binding, and I was surprised how cheap it was in reasonable quantities – say 100 books. This gave me an idea. If I was to print the photographs myself I could achieve a better quality compared to a zine. The the text pages I could print myself because I was already doing that for my linen book.

I went through an exercise of sourcing low-cost paper for a book – photo paper, translucent vellum and plain paper. For the photo paper I chose matte as it would produce the highest level of detail – my images are high resolution for printing large, so if I print them small I want to take advantage of the level of detail present. Size-wise, I decided on A4 because this is a standard size, likely to be fairly low cost because it is produced in high volumes. This would also be a practical size book for posting while allowing reasonably large images to be included.

This concept still left out the factor of printing on linen. How could I include this metaphorical aspect in the book? I hit upon the idea of positioning the A4 book as a replica of the linen book. This has three advantages: a) it allows me to refer to the linen book and therefore include the introductory text about the linen industry which much have seemed superfluous otherwise; b) it allows me to point out that the original book was printed in Ireland on Irish linen – again maintaining the metaphor; and c) by referring to the existence of the linen book it provides publicity for that book.

For the cover I managed to source a card with a linen finish, so that there would at least be a. nod to the haptic qualities of the original book.

The result is that I have been able to produce a low-cost version of my book which retains the metaphorical references of the original and has a high quality of reproduction.

Fig.1 Replica book
Fig. 2 Interior of replica book showing text overlay and photograph