Friday, 30 January 2015

Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne - In Colour by Tom Beg

The second part of my photographic record of Benjamin Britten's, Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens. The production was an ACT collaboration combining the talents of many artists and designers across a wide range of disciplines, including work produced by Computer Animation Arts at UCA Rochester.

Click the link below to view the first set of images.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne - In Black and White by Tom Beg

On Wednesday 14th of January, I traveled with Computer Animation Arts' Phil Gomm to the historic French city of Amiens, with the purpose of documenting, via the medium of photographic film, dress rehearsals for a performance of Benjamin Britten's, Noye's Fludde at the spectacular, Cirque Jules Verne. Featuring work produced by Computer Animations Arts, the production was an ACT collaboration project combining Britten's original lo-fi, amateur-based intent, with fascinating modern visual production and design. Keeping in spirit with the analogue approach, I took along some classic photojournalist black and white film and also modern colour film hoping to capture the energy and buzz of the event as faithfully as I could. While it wasn't always easy, I hope these photos at least portray that sense of atmosphere and excitement, felt by all the performers, artists and technicians in the lead-up to the final performance. 

Part 2 'In Colour' Coming Soon

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Large Format Photography: First Attempt and Results

It feels like I've been talking about large format photography for very long time, and it probably feels like that because it really has been a very long time. The good news is I've finally been out and taken some black and white 4x5 shots and developed them, so I can start to get a feel for this interesting format. The weather has been dire and continued to be dire when I took these images but you take what you can get. I would like a little more light, but it's better than nothing. I went to one of my usual photo haunts, a marshy area which runs directly adjacent to the Eurostar line. In the summer it's a bit too overgrown, but in the winter it's like a scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. 

I'm learning that even though it is fundamentally the same as taking photographs on any other medium, large format really is quite different to taking pictures on a roll film. It feels like you're right back to square one and everything is a lot slower and a lot more fiddly. I'm getting a feel for it, slowly, but there's still lots of quirks I need to work out and get used to; remembering to take out the dark slide out, stopping down the aperture etc. There's more to think about for every shot but really it's quite simple.

Development feels a little less simple. The process is no different: developer, stop bath, fix and wash, but how you go about it varies from method to method.  Developing large format just seems to be tricky business, and a roadblock for anyone trying to get into it. From what I can tell, there is not a single method for getting perfect results each and every time, but rather a bunch of methods which you work with until you are able to get the results you desire. My choice is a fairly standard one but not without a lot to learn and issues to overcome. Needless to say, for my first try I expected a mixed bag and that is exactly what I got. I thought I'd share my results, warts and all.

Besides it not being a very good photograph for many reasons, I made the mistake of loading the sheets into the film holder the wrong way around so have ended up with these black patches along the top where the developer was unable to react with the emulsion on the film. A problem which is easily fixed. There's also these peculiar grey blobs, which are air bubbles forming on the surface on the film and therefore causing less development in those spots.

This is easily the best shot of the lot, but still not without problems. Again, air bubbles seemed to have formed on the emulsion and it's caused spots to be underdeveloped. However, I think you can really see the sharpness and detail starting to come through. Perhaps less so in the bottom half, where it has become a bit blurry, but this is where I can begin to see the potential over 35mm and 120 film.

I took this shot without using the shutter release cable, but even with a tripod there was a lot of camera shake, so in the end, a blurry shot. Lesson learned is to use the shutter release cable, and also to get a much better tripod!

Conclusion: more practice needed but exciting nonetheless!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Coming Soon!

This week I had the opportunity to visit France to photograph dress rehearsals and preparations for a performance of Benjamin Britten's Noyes Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens. I took along my medium format camera to capture the action, the results of which you will see very soon.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Adventures in Large Format Begin

A new year, a new project and new things to blog about. A few months back I bought a lovely 1950s Crown Graphic but embarrassingly it's been sitting unused ever since. Getting set up for large format development requires a little bit more effort and expense than regular film, but I'm at the point where I can start taking pictures, and very close to the point where I can develop the film as easily as any other. I bought some cheap n' cheerful Fomapan 100 which is a Czech-made black and white film to test the camera and development techniques before I move on to something slightly higher quality.

I have a really interesting photography assignment coming up in a couple weeks so expect to see lots of photo-based posts in the near future along with continued development of The Jungle.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Jungle: Visual Research - The Union Stock Yards

Along with the packing houses, where the meat is processed. there is also the Union Stock Yards where the animals awaiting slaughter are penned. These vast stretches of imprisoned livestock symbolise the swathes of immigrants who come to America is search of the 'American Dream', but then find themselves trapped within a system from which they cannot escape. Sinclair's assertion is that animals packed into the pens, being led to an inevitable death, are treated no differently than the low wage immigrant workers packed into the death traps of the packing houses. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that a lot of people die in The Jungle, or if they don't succumb to death, are spit out by the system and forced to live in extreme hardship. Not to say that Sinclair presents the workers as mindless animals, but he certainly wasn't adverse to painting them as one-dimensional characters in order for them to fit his political agenda. This is an oft-levelled criticism of The Jungle as a humanistic novel, but one which lends itself well to visual storytelling because in a way, you're only dealing with surface information,