The Stump and other objects
[30Oct21] Cemetery HS church find a perch for consistent location, view to include shops over the wall and lots of graves and a tree. Local cemetery in use, find the spot currently expanding, again find a repeatable location, avoid active burials.
Continue with the old stump, new stump, start Eltham Palace. A parade of shops likely to change 1. HS, 2. Top of church road, 3. new Eltham.
Take mini tripod, clamp and monopod, until the regular spot has been established.
Do all these once per month, around 1st for ease of reference.
For all of these, shoot regular colour and BW moody, maybe UV too.
[12Nov21] I think Asg.6 has been dropped from the latest version of the course. I might use it for the self-directed Asg.5.
[29Nov] I have always liked the idea of showing several local sites as videos in an old-fashioned TV shop with viewers outside the window. i thought today that I could mock that up and then use mobile phones and small tablets to show them all simultaneously and video that.
Or modern-day John Lewis
[3Jul22] Work begins in earnest on Asg.5 today. Here’s a summary of thoughts so far:
- Asg.6 was one of the attractions of LPE, “Produce a series of images that responds to the idea of ‘transitions’ within the landscape”, but that has now been dropped. I therefore decided at an early stage to run the old Asg.6 for the new Asg.5, “produce a body of work that explores a particular place, type of space or environmental theme relating to your understanding of the landscape genre” [LPE p.191].
- The work will be in the form of several ‘sideshows’ of (to me) nearby locations photographed repeatedly over a period of time.
- The centrepiece is a treestump on private land that I pass on my way to the Hight Street. I first noticed it several years ago, when it started “fighting back” and trying to grow again. I began photographing it every time I passed and so charted it being occasionally cut back when the gardeners visited then being chopped a second time. But it struggles on. It featured in my EyV Asg5.
- My occasional jottings to date on the project were placed on the Asg.6 page. There is no good reason for that and I’ll move them to this page.
- Other subjects will be included too. A while after beginning work on The Stump †, I started to photograph a block of flats with a stump before it that I pass less often. With this assignment in mind, I have added Eltham Palace through the fence, the Stephen Lawrence memorial, a small medical facility and perhaps a few others, if there are enough images, I had planned to photograph a cemetery, visualising the slow advance of new graves, filling vacant space towards the camera position, but that did not get started for lack of suitable public transport.
- A asked in various OCA forums for advice on what software to use for the project. The consensus was iMovie. Fingers crossed.
- I want a sound track for it. My standard in the past has been the gallery theme from Vision On (The Noveltones, Left Bank Two). This will only mean something to persons of age. I would like to create an adaptation of John Cage’s ASLSP, one reason being that it is intended to be performed at any length (always As SLow aS Possible). I’m no sure there will be time to record that too.
- I recently realised (and mentioned in Asg.3) that the presentation mechanism / display format / delivery channel of a project is as significant as the images themselves. For Asg.3 I could only describe it rather than realise it as envisaged. It later sprang to mind that the seeds of this notion (for me) probably lie in I&P Asg.3, 100 Dogs, where my tutor fed back, “I could see these images being displayed on the wall of a gallery or in various multiple combinations”. The idea had occurred to me too, but I had not thought of articulating it. So, I conclude, an Assignment can comprise a delivery plus a description of the final delivery. That is likely to happen again here.
- The first delivery I had in mind was the recreation of an old TV / Electronics shop, in front of which, in pre-digital days, men paused for the latest cricket score. Perhaps this could be recreated from an old photograph and phones and tablets substituted for TV screens.
An alternative would be a modern TV shop, either a charity shop or a John Lewis TV department, with the slideshows playing on the machines: I’ll ask, but it does not seem likely: there is no charity shop of that nature in Eltham.
- The format of the images in each slideshow remains undecided. The images are taken on whatever camera I have to hand, though most commonly a Canon G5x as the camera I usually carry. Whether to format to a standard shape, whether to straighten etc. remain be decided
- There is a potential issue of self-plagiarism with images made before I started this course. Having logged this, I will make the position clear in any submission and might make dual versions of any such subjects, one complete and one course-only. It would also be possible for the main subject to create annual versions.
† I have long called it The Stump. While writing this introduction, the matter of a title raised itself. The working title is The Stump and other objects / Becoming subjects.
I believe it to be the case that objects (arguably the suitable term for things being photographed) become subjects when embraced by a photographer’s gaze.
[6Jul] I am working my way though 1,000+ photographs of The Stump. I usually take two photographs each time, one closer, showing the stump itself and a little of the tree behind it to confirm identification, then one wider-angle. The current plan is to create separate slideshows for the two views. During the process, I started to photograph a smaller version, growing from a twig a few yards further on: I am saving these as The Shrub.
[8Jul] A trial run on the four Eltham Palace images has been quite successful.
[9Aug] Time out to catch up on the Part 5 coursework. The images have been added to during that time, some videos worked on and so the methodology is more-or-less in place. The sound track has been the most difficult.
Three weeks to submission so it’s this week to get some sound together, next week to finish the videos then a week to write up the presentation.
[17Aug] I should have been completing New Eltham today, but instead I took a newly-arrived 2003 vintage 5MP Digilux 2 for a test drive. I justified this by making a trailer with the (surprisingly good) results.
I wrote this early this morning on my way to bed,
Every good title should have some ambiguity
A few short films about Eltham flora.
make a trailer
[18Aug] The films are done, two sound tracks to be added.
[19Aug] All films + trailer complete. Tomorrow populate them all on this web page then start writing the submission paper.
[29Aug] While building the WordPress version of the project, I realised that the videos could be uploaded to a service and those entities embedded in both versions of the pages. I have used YouTube and Vimeo – I prefer Vimeo as it is more technically adept, less oppressively commercial and not owned by Google †, but free Vimeo has low limits on weekly and on total uploads and so I had to use both.
† Vimeo is owned by “IAC/InterActiveCorp is an American holding company that owns brands across 100 countries, mostly in media and Internet”, Wikipedia.
[6Jul] Time to start exploring my delivery system. As mentioned, IMovie has been recommended and I have a book, Pogue & Miller’s The Missing Manual (2014).
Aspects for consideration include titles and credits, fades/transitions, timing of each image. #2 and #3 thereof seem to be in setup so I need to look at these before starting.
The subset of images I’ll use is Eltham Palace, as there are only four.
Some notes on settings:
1. remove Ken Burns (random zooming) effect – select 1 – Cmd A for All – Crop – Style – Fit
2. Image duration – Cmd A – i icon – Duration – enter a number – Return
3. Transition – Cross Dissolve – default timing. Settings – Automatic content.
4. Soundtrack – Audio & Video tab – select – drag end point to match – fade.
5. Titles – added at end, not sure which option.
[9Jul] the working (trailing) titles are, e.g.:
1. The Stump and other objects / Becoming subjects / 4. Eltham Palace
2. Sound track / adapted from / John Cage, Organ2 / ASLSP, 1987
3. Nick Blackburn, 2022
[11Jul] Setting up a titles only file which I hope to append. Centred – font American Typewriter – size 58 – plain.
1. the stump, A and B
2. the bush
3. flats, North Park
4. Eltham Palace
5. Stephen Lawrence memorial
6. New Eltham
The default – Resolution 1080, Quality High, Compress Faster.
The raw plan is to scan the Cage score through the PlayScore app (Bigwood, 2022) to create a midi file and play that through some native GarageBand sounds with afterprocessing to create a series of sound files. I have no experience of PlayScore or GarageBand.
Cage’s piece comprises eight discrete but intertwined sections. They can be paired individually with photo-series and combined for the main Stump series. “Distinct from Aslsp, all eight pieces are to be played. However, any one of them may be repeated, though not necessarily, and as in Aslsp the repetition may be placed anywhere in the series”, score instructions.
Later … PlayScore is up and running and creating midi files for GarageBand. I do not yet have a workable score for Cage’s ASLSP – I have a print somewhere that I bought decades ago but have not found it yet. It is print to order with delivery 4 weeks, which will not work. I have a public domain copy of Cage’s Echoes, which I will use for now.
[9Aug] This is the most troublesome component, perhaps not surprisingly as it is the one in which I have least experience (for which, read none).
The Cage score is too complex for PlayScore to render successfully as midi so the workflow now is:
for each section of ASLSP
1. Transcribe the score using the free version of Sibelius, giving three staves of score, treble, bass and pedal. Print it out. Scan it using B&W, not text and export to jpeg.
2. Edit the score into three parts (treble, bass and pedal) and repeat it to double the length.
3. Read each part separately though PlayScore to create 3 midi files.
4. Load the files into GarageBand as three tracks.
5. Reduce the tempo to the slowest possible at each stage.
The Sibelius data entry is the most time consuming.
[13Aug] I planned to pause after 4 of the 8 pieces, but also scored the fifth as it was sparse dot-wise compared to density of parts 6 and 7. I’ll run with those and complete the cycle when time allows. They are currently being recorded and work on slideshows will continue tomorrow.
[16Aug] Three+ things to know about Sibelius:
• Manual here – Tutorials
• add a line of lowest notes then use the three semibrieves symbol on the right of the toolbox to add chords
• Esc to switch in and out of note entry to make changes of pitch and add accidentals
• click the left note then the tool box to add a slur
1. The Stump I and II
[15Jul] I have finished the initial edit and sort of the stumps and have 326 close images, 278 not-so-close and 183 of the bush.
I started the course (a bit of a grey area, because of 1. the discussions over whether I should be doing the new or old versions and 2. all the office staff were working from home …) anyway, according to the LPE blog, I applied on 7 Sep 21 and paid on 25 Oct. I have 89 close images from 7Sep21 to 11Jul22 and 237 from 27 May 19 to 29 Aug 21.
I’ll start with an attempt to process all 326 and see how iMovie copes.
I have reduced the quality of the output (usually 1080 – High, now 720 – Medium) to keep the file size under 1G, see fig. O1-1
[14Aug] v2 with Cage soundtrack. The last image on the film was made on 17th July: I have another dozen since then but it can stand.
2. The Bush
[14Aug] First cut today, upload tomorrow.
3. Flats, North Park
[15Aug] I started photographing this in April 2021, firstly because it has a stump (albeit seemingly dormant), secondly it is near The Stump (though not on a direct route to the High Street), thirdly because once when I passed it, a person was having a barbecue there. Regrettably, little changes on my visits, although three frames have glimpses of people and the items visible in the windows suggest a few changes of ownership / tenancy.
And a squirrel.
4. Eltham Palace
[6Jul] This is the first run of the project, only four images created so far. Opening guess, 20 seconds for each image with a five second transition. No theme. Let’s try.
[8Jul] I opted for 9 seconds and the default transition for now.
[14Aug] Two new images added (nothing much changes over summer) and Cage soundtrack now available.
5. Stephen Lawrence
[11Jul] V.1 complete. Sound track silent for now.
[14Aug] This is the first completion after finishing the soundtrack. Potentially, the first final cut.
The memorial is en route to two hospitals that I occasionally visit. I have tried to get off the bus every time I pass, though the one occasion I did not (frame 2) gives a useful context of the area.
6. New Eltham
[14Aug] The main reason for photographing this scene is the line of cherry trees which blossom for a few days each year. I photographed the pub (which was my local 30 years ago when we first lived in the area) for an English Heritage project aiming to record all listed buildings.
[14Aug] This is a small community hospital where my GP is located. I photograph it because it has a hanging garden.
[21Aug] This was made largely as an excuse to avoid the relative drudgery of wading through yet more repetitive images.
In retrospect, it was a good idea.
[20Aug] All the films are done. Getting the links to behave themselves in the HTML video boxes is proving a chore (I expect the file sizes are a cause, and perhaps my naming convention), so I’ll try simple links here and them get on with the first draft of the write up for submission. [29Aug embeded links retrofitted.]
[21Aug] A notion of how to (theoretically) present these videos arrived early in the process, November 2021. I envisaged a scaled-down recreation of an old TV shop with a number of TVs in the window, perhaps with passers-by looking at the screens, as they used to particularly when Test Matches were being played, waiting for the latest score. Mobile phones or tablets could be used to replace the screens, depending on the scale of the recreation. There would probably need to be some liberties taken with sizing as early TVs were surprisingly small.
There are many examples of such images online but most are watermarked with agency identities (figs. C1-C5).
Another possibility is a modern TV sales facility such as John Lewis (figs. C6 and C7) or a charity shop selling old flat screen TVs (fig. C8).
Box C shows a selection of historic images found on the internet (figs. C1-C5) and my own alternates (figs. C6-C8).
Box D shows one each of historic (D1), John Lewis (D2) and a charity shop (D3). The latter two serve their purpose but fig. D1 is unsatisfactory because the original is too small (728×599 pixels) and will not take much enlargement. Searches over a few days have revealed that all the decently sized images available are held by the agencies (Alamy, Getty. Shutterstock etc.): I may have to pay for usage although it pains me to do so. Fig. D4 is the Alamy offering I have in mind, selling at £11.99 for personal use (plus VAT and other extras, I imagine): I will try to resist the urge for now and invite readers to visualise the outcome.
[23Aug] One of the reasons I chose this course was Assignment 6, “Produce a series of images that responds to the idea of ‘transitions’ within the landscape” (Assignment 6, original Landscape, Place and Environment course), but in the 2019 version, that assignment has been dropped. As this Assignment 5 calls for, “a body of work that explores a particular place, type of space or environmental theme relating to your understanding of the landscape genre … You’re free to choose the subject for this assignment, although you should be able to contextualise the project in relation to contemporary landscape practice as explored in this unit” (Alexander et al., 2019), the obvious solution is to choose the old Assignment 6.
An interest in and concern for plants has always informed my photography and my final assignment for the EyV module was The use and abuse of plants (Blackburn, 2019): that included three photographs of The Stump (fig. E1), a tree, victim of repeated arboricide attempts, that I pass every time I walk to the shops and usually photograph. I have being doing so since May 2019 and it forms the centrepiece of this assignment.
For each photography project of any length, I try to decide a subject, an approach and an intended presentation format. For this assignment the intention was to identify several nearby intrinsically interesting locations that also included an aspect of plant treatment — to photograph these over the duration of the course to back up the longer term project of The Stump and to produce video slideshows of all the subjects.
Ideally, the presentation would be a scaled recreation of a 1950s electrical appliance shop window with several televisions on display and the slideshows substituted for whatever would have been on the screens: my memory of these pre-digital shops is of passers-by pausing to watch the televisions, especially for coverage of grand occasions and, more mundanely, those hoping for sports scores (there was no rolling news then, so news events would have to wait for the film stock to be processed and edited, then shown at 6 o’clock or 9 o’clock).
In reality, the shop will not be built, but I have created photo-facsimiles of this and modern equivalents (a John Lewis technology department and a charity shop furniture and electricals store) for submission.
The other items photographed are:
a twig a few meters from The Stump, optimistically called The Bush;
a block of flats, not directly on the way to the High Street and therefore not often photographed. The remains of a tree are in the foreground, with no signs of life and there are few signs in the flats behind — the occasional glimpse of the tenants or owners, implicit evidence of moves when the window contents change, and once a squirrel;
Eltham Palace, the subject of Assignment 3, photographed through the fence, so that I can continue to photograph the location when the site is closed for the winter or when we let our membership lapse. There is a large, live tree in the foreground, the leaves of which obscure the Palace almost entirely in Summer;
the Stephen Lawrence memorial — a replacement paving slab close to the bus stop where he had been waiting. There are usually flowers or plants there in various states of decay, especially at Christmas and the anniversaries of his birth and death. The memorial is on my route to two hospitals and I try to break my journey whenever I am passing;
The Beehive, a pub in nearby New Eltham, a listed building with fine exterior decoration, once my local. There is a row of cherry trees on the opposite side of the road that blossom for a few days each year;
a community hospital, included because it has a vertical garden.
The soundtrack is adapted from John Cage’s 1987 Organ2 / ASLSP (as slow as possible). This is a slow-moving, atonal piece and performances can be adjusted to any duration. It’s sense of disjointed permanence echoes the nature of the subjects.
Each of the slideshows has three closing titles, all in the same format:
1. The Stump and other objects / Becoming subjects / [no. location]
2. Sound track / adapted from / John Cage, Organ2 / ASLSP, 1987
3. Nick Blackburn, 2022
[26Aug] Regarding the title, the short version is Becoming Subjects. I jotted recently that “every lengthy project deserves a title and all good titles have some ambiguity”: the short form meets that requirement. The full title is The Stump and other objects / Becoming subjects and this reflects a concern stated when I first began the degree that I was not sure whether what a camera is pointed at is a subject or an object. I resolved the matter to my own satisfaction at the end of Identity & Place, concluding that the item being photographed is technically an object and that the photographer’s attention transforms it into a subject.
The genesis of this project is explained in detail both in the introduction above and in the project blog, but in essence, I have a three year archive of photographs of a nearby tree stump and was looking forward to using it for Assignment 6 of this course. Finding that 6 had been dropped in a course rewrite, I adopted it for this self-directed assignment, noting that it met the criterion of “a body of work that explores a particular place, type of space or environmental theme” (Alexander et. al, 2019, p. 191). Other local objects were added to the project which fulfilled the old A6 requirement of “transitions within the landscape” and the unifying theme was plants. As noted in the introduction, I have photographed plant use and abuse for many years and this project also explores the passage and effects of time, another preoccupation of mine. The sound track reinforces the latter, an adaptation of John Cage’s ASLSP (as slow as possible), 1987 (currently being performed in a version intended to last for 639 years ending in 2640 at St. Burchardi Church, Halberstad,Germany (Macdonald, 2021)).
Presentation of the project to my tutor and for final assessment was always going to be an issue as it comprises three long (17, 18 and 12 minute) videos and six shorter ones. A lesson I learned from my tutor on the previous course is that a presentation approach should always be considered as part of the project development, but it is not always possible to deliver that though OCA channels. My intention is a part-scale recreation of a 1950s television shop display, ideally with passers-by looking into the window and the assignment videos replacing whatever was on show at the time). For submission, I have substituted stills with this effect overlaid in a 1950s shop, John Lewis Oxford Street and the British Heart Foundation charity shop in Sidcup. If there had been a charity shop in Eltham (where all the subjects are located) with a bank of televisions for sale then I would have tried to persuade (or sponsor) them to let me use the TVs for a few hours of simultaneous slide-shows, but there is no such shop. I will try to submit all the videos, but in case there are problems of size, I will also provide links to online copies.
I am not aware of any direct influences or parallels on the subject or approach of this project. Much of the Part 5 coursework deals with the use of photography in depicting and publicising ecological harm (Jordan, Epstein, Ouedraogo and, of course, Andy Hughes): I think it is important to illustrate how such harms are embedded in our daily lives and will continue until far-reaching fundamental changes are made, both individually and as a society. I was particularly struck by Agnes Denes’ 1982 Wheatfield … project — I had not encountered it before and look forward to exploring it in more detail when I complete the Part 5 exercises.
On Learning Outcomes:
L01 visual and conceptual strategies – I have been running with the core subjects in this project for three years and will certainly continue to do so so long as I am living in Eltham †. The additional subjects integrate well with the theme and I think it likely that I will continue to photograph them all every month or so. Transmission of the project through slideshow videos is effective and the sound tracks enhance the effect. I regard the conceived display format as appropriate and look forward to comments.
† Direct intervention is also planned as there has been no recent sign of life at the stump. Starting next Spring, the site will be seed-bombed and the outcomes documented.
L02 social, cultural and ethical considerations – the use and abuse of plants is a significant issue and this project, examining routine local examples, illustrates the breadth of the problem. The Stephen Lawrence memorial is particularly poignant — his death, the subsequent police enquiry (or lack of it) and the Macpherson enquiry constitute (or should have) this country’s George Floyd moment. It is appropriate that Lawrence’s life and death are remembered and commemorated, but flowers, the quaint and absurd traditional method of doing so, involves a global industry and distribution infrastructure devoted to unnatural plant growth and resulting in enormous energy usage. This was seen at its most remarkable on the death of Diana Windsor and is repeated daily at family funerals and roadside shrines. Although (subjectively ‡ ) less unpleasant than the associated greetings card racket, the cut flower industry is far more wasteful. (PetalRepublic, 2022; dontsendmeacard.com, 2022)
‡ Both are ultimately pointless though there is pleasure to be gained from the beauty of a flower.
L03 exploring a range of ideas – I believe that I have presented an interesting, albeit localised, range of relevant and related subjects and that these have been delivered in a creative way. My suggestions for the final presentation format is unlikely to ever be realised, nevertheless, it is important to outline such details and a sensible compromise solution has been identified and implemented.
L04 research, managing time and resources – This is the largest and most complex assignment I have undertaken with the longest learning curve. My knowledge of three software packages — iMovie (for slideshows), Sibelius notation and GarageBand (for midi files) — has progressed from a state of complete ignorance to a status of enthusiastic beginner.
L05 autonomy, voice, and communication – interaction with fellow students continues in the monthly chat and some individual correspondences. There are some broader discussions coming up, organised by the Student Association, on distance learning.
I continue to volunteer at Courtaulds in an increasing range of roles.
Regarding voice, my view on the matter was described in previous reflections and has not changed: my understanding of the concept has deepened as the course has progressed.
LP&E Asg 5 References
Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.
Bigwood, R. (2022) PlayScore 2. Sound on Sound. June 2022, Vol. 37 no. 8, pp.116-119.
Blackburn, N. (2019) The use and abuse of plants [online]. eyv.baphot.co.uk. Available from http://eyv.baphot.co.uk/?page_id=139 [Accessed 23 August 2022].
dontsendmeacard.com (2022) Infographic [online]. dontsendmeacard.com. Available from https://www.dontsendmeacard.com/docs/infographic.html [Accessed 27 August 2022].
Kim, E. (2017) How to Make a Photography Slideshow in iMovie [online]. youtube.com. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rt9bLjQDpjU [Accessed 6 July 2022].
Macdonald, K. (2021) A 639-year-long John Cage organ piece had a very rare chord change. And it was quite an event. [online]. classicfm.com. Available from https://www.classicfm.com/composers/cage/as-slow-as-possible-organ-chord-change/ [Accessed 26 August 2022].
Petal Republic (2022) Floristry and Floriculture Industry Statistics & Trends [online]. petalrepublic.com. Available from https://www.petalrepublic.com/floristry-and-floriculture-statistics/ [Accessed 27 August 2022].
Pogue, D. & Miller, A. (2014) iMovie the missing manual. Sebastopol, CA.: O’Reilly Media.