T4 : Group Critique

The small group critique of progress in the exploratory project was an interesting experience. The caution I feel in trying to explain my thinking about my work is slowly beginning to leave me, but it's still not something I truly relish. The work I presented is as follows:

Ed Ruscha, Whiting Bros. near Ludlow, California, 1953

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Rimmy Jim's, Arizona [Oct 2011]

Whiting Bros, near Ludlow, California [Jul 2012]

Texaco, Barrow, Lancashire

Texaco, Longridge, Lancashire


  • Does the act of attacking the print with diesel add anything interesting to the GSV images? (aesthetically or conceptually - or is it just pretentious?)
  • Other than the fact they’re petrol stations, are the two parts of the project actually related in any way, or do I just drop the local photographs?

There was some talk about the process I was following, how the bathing of the prints in a tray of diesel is reminiscent of the analogue printing process. Indeed I was asked if I had a darkroom for making my own prints, but whilst I can develop negatives (if I was to buy the chemicals once more), I am unable to print myself - I don't have an enlarger. Or the space to make a darkroom for that matter (for the negs, you just need a drum). Is this fact really important to me? I'm not really sure it is. I know for some, the process to get to the end result is all important, but for me... I think the final image is where it's at, actually, no, it's the narrative that is formed by the images in groups. When I photograph "normally", as with the last two images above, there is not a lot I do with the image, maybe a slight tweak to the highlights and shadows to ensure there's no "paper white" and some range in darker areas, but that's it - similar to a quick dodge and burn in the old darkroom days.

Something else that was mentioned that does arise from the process is that the residual smell of diesel that remains on the prints after they've been washed - the smell reinforces the connection to the subject matter and the process by which the images were made.. It's possibly a touch overpowering, but then again there's still a tray of diesel in my garage (where the prints are at the moment), but I'm hoping that there will be something left and that it will be possible to show the prints. Having said that, I'm still planning to rephotograph the prints with the thought of putting them in to a book. In a book, clearly there will be no diesel smell.

A popular proposal amongst the cohort was that I should draw on the images. I'm really not comfortable with this and would not be intending to do so. What has drawing got to do with my practice? Taking the comments from Lisa Barnard on board, surely this would serve to further weaken my larger body of work, which she saw as disjointed anyway. I'm still in the process of recontextualising my back catalogue, weaving what is there into something that might be considered more cohesive (bearing in mind that there's various styles of work in there). Enough of that for the moment, I don't consider drawing on the images to be appropriate for me.

I was also encouraged to continue both sides of the project, continue to photograph the local petrol stations. I'll do this, maybe on the back-burner though. I'll be concentrating on the "diesel" images for the moment.

Finally, Emma made a really generous offer to produce a couple of polyester litho prints (her school has the facilities). This means I will be able to experiment with a different paper/ink combo in the diesel. When they arrive in the post, I'll do what I need to do to them with the diesel and take it from there - it might be a little late but it's worth the effort.

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