Review of Tempus Fugit Shoot 2

All the images from the shoot can be seen here – there are 2 galleries, 1 of medium format images and 1 of 35 mm images for reasons which will become clear shortly.

I used the same lighting set up as in shoot 1 as I was pleased with the results obtained. Again using the medium format camera, at least initially.

Although after a while I had to revert to my 35mm camera as the medium format camera would no longer function. It was an evening shoot so couldn’t see technician until next day and the fault was diagnosed as flat batteries although this wasn’t obvious as lights were on it just wouldn’t fire.

To address the problem of the shots appearing too empty to be Vanitas images I added more props to the arrangement and shot closer or more zoomed in. I felt this was much more successful and 2 of the images, 1 featuring the typewriter and 1 featuring the computer will be in the final selection.

The heavily over exposed images are to get a decent image on the mobile phone screen which was too dark when photographed in the same light as the rest of the image but subsequent post processing to mask the rest of the image too just display the phone screen I felt was unsatisfactory.

Final images for the project can be seen here.

Further I did like the general composition of some images but felt they would need re-shooting to obtain the quality of images I wanted.

The other decision I made was to discontinue with the medium format camera as I didn’t feel the somewhat marginal quality improvement was worth the additional effort involved in using what I think is a very cumbersome set up. I much prefer the convenience and familiarity of my trusty 5D mk III.

 

Posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 1: Tempus Fugit

Review of Tempus Fugit Shoot 1

Not all the images shot for the project have been uploaded to this blog as many, ultimately were not relevant to the final project e.g shoots featuring office stationery, found objects and leaves. However all shoots are contained in the hard copy copy contact sheet display books submitted separately.

This is not to say I regard the time spent on these earlier shoots as wasted, I learned much about lighting, displaying of objects and refining the technical quality of images, as a result I was able to apply these techniques to the images in the style I did want to present for the project.

In addition to the contact sized images on plain paper I made a number of A4/A3 sized prints during the project to get a better idea of the quality of the images as well as to help determine which paper and print to use for the final images.

Shoot 1

I had 2 main objectives for this shoot, firstly to experiment with the digital medium camera and secondly to determine the lighting set up to be used for the final images.

I found using the medium format camera to be tedious in use, shooting in tethered mode it has a tendency to time out and lose connectivity meaning either  a lengthy restart or often captures were not saved to the host machine.

The lighting set up in the end was an angled reflector on the background to give the impression of light coming in from above left, the main light was a large soft box from the right as the image is viewed  as I wanted soft, diffused light to avoid harsh shadows. The lighting aspect was the most successful element of the shoot.

In terms of the images themselves whilst the higher resolution is of course beneficial compared to the 35mm format it wasn’t the quantum leap I expected compared to my own full frame 35mm Canon 5D mk III. The difference would be much more obvious compared to a crop sensor camera. Secondly in terms achieving Vanitas style images, I didn’t feel his was at all successful on this shoot and none of the images would be used in the final selection. The is because they are simply too empty compared to the rich detail usually found in such images.

So a number of lessons learnt but no final images obtained.

Posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 1: Tempus Fugit

External Speakers / Visits

Creative Torbay copyright Robert Darch

This blog post is only included for completeness.

Visits such as those made to the Elton John collection at the Tate Modern and Format Festival in Derby along with external speaker visits and other external activities undertaken in the period such as photography support for Bath Spa Careers and visit to the Photoshop World Event in Orlando have been included in the Professional Contexts Blog dossier rather than these project blogs.

Only activity directly related to the making of the project is included in these pages.

To access this additional material select “Professional Contexts 3” as the category from the blog home page.

Please note Professional Contexts Blog posts may continue to be modified and updated until the (revised) Professional Contexts hand in deadline of 31st of May.

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Protected: Individual Practice Review & Evaluation

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Website Design Considerations

Crane moving letters of the word website into position and caption of 'Website under Construction'

Website Under Construction

The Clockwork Imaging website will be the primary vehicle for promoting its photography services. The primary goal could be summarised as  “to create an attractive and engaging website that will encourage prospective clients to engage in a dialouge ultimately resulting in a commission”. As such the website has a few key requirements that need to be implemented to achieve this goal. There is a separate post here describing the look and feel aspects of the site, this post is about the functionality required to service the needs of Clockwork Imaging.

Firstly and Primarily;

  • Showcase the photography work of Steve Edwards

This will be in the form of galleries by genre, initially it will have galleries for;

  1. Family Portraits
  2. Fantasy Portraits, work done with Media Make Up Artists.
  3. Headshots,
  4. Travel, some of the travel images I have taken over the past few years. At least some of these will eventually be offered for sale as prints, see also e-commerce capability.
  5. Personal Projects, to be finalised but likely to be from my final year BA project – In-Step on discarded shoes and 2nd year portrait series featuring subjects with interesting hair.

These galleries will be accessible directly from the front page by showing a thumbnail for each of the galleries, clicking on the thumbnail will take the visitor directly to the gallery. The galleries will also be accessible from a drop down menu on the gallery page of the main menu on the website. The content and variety of the galleries will be regularly refreshed, I envisage on a 3-6 month cycle to ensure there is always fresh content for return visitors to see.

This functionality has been, at least partially, implemented on the live site and can be viewed at www.clockworkimaging.co.uk. Any missing content will be added in the coming weeks rather than months as I believe the ability to effectively showcase work is fundamental to a photography website. As otherwise I believe any visitors will swiftly become bored with the site.

Capture Contact details of prospective clients.

  • Contact details / Email / Phone

This is a simple form that visitors can use to provide basic contact details of name, phone number and email address along with a free text box to ask questions. There is an automatic reply provided to confirm receipt of the query along with my contact details including phone number. I opted not to have this displayed publicly whilst I think what to do about a dedicated number. I was further dissuaded when within a day of implementing the contact form and no publicity for the site I started receiving spam email from web bots. To counter this  I implemented a WordPress Plugin called CAPTCHA which is an anti-bot measure designed to ensure its a human at the other end. This does seemed to have halted the flow of spam.

This functionality is live and can be seen at http://clockworkimaging.co.uk/contact/

Social Media Links

  1. Email newsletter.
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Instagram
  5. Blog

In 2017 its considered essential to have a good grasp of social media channels in order to address the domestic market of my target audience for my work. Sadly at this time I don’t have such knowledge as I am only a peripheral user of such technology, I do have a personal Facebook page but only because I realised it was the only way to communicate with classmates. This is an area  I recognise I need to develop my expertise in, this, in order to market the services of Clockwork Imaging. Happily there are several channels to go about this – e.g. on line seminars, training films and ultimately paid consultancy. However I certainly don’t feel I am ready to employ a third party at the moment as I am not even sure what I would want to ask them. I do know some basic things to do such as regularly blogging to add fresh content, create a business Facebook page and post links to the website, build up an email contact list from enquirers and contact them regularly (without bombarding them with spam). I think these are steps I need to take steadily in order to measure the impact and decide what works for the business. This will be an ongoing process to build up the results from this activity.

I have listed what seem to be the major platforms to be active on, however this will need to be reviewed on an ongoing basis as in the world of the internet there is always “the next big thing” around the corner.

SEO Management

There is a specific post about the concept and meaning of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Here I am referring to the functionality required in order to be able to manage the content of the site in order to be able to positively affect the SEO ranking. Happily the WordPress platform provides this in spades, with inherent editing, review and publication capabilities for both text and images. This is further boosted by plugins such as the YOAST toolkit described in an earlier post which helps identify shortcomings and suggest resolutions to SEO issues.

This will be an ongoing process as new content both blog and pages is added and I will make it a standard practice to review and edit the SEO ranking of new content when its published. For the hand in on Wednesday 31st I intend to have the main pages of the site optimised and as many of the image galleries as time allows. However I do recognise both from the information provided during tutorials but also from my independent research on the topic that it is an ongoing process to maintain, review and adapt the site for optimal SEO results. This is both to address existing shortcomings in content but also the fact that SEO is a moving target as Google refines its ranking processes in response to audience behaviour then adjustments are required to maintain ranking.

Accordingly it will be necessary to regularly dedicate time and effort to addressing this issue, as per the business plan I would hope to outsource this task as and when finances allow.

E-commerce capability

  • For selling general prints.
  • Clients to book and review shoots, order prints.

E-commerce is a longer term goal as it is another potentially complex area to address requiring developing of accurate price-lists and payment methods. Ultimately I do want to be able to offer this sort of capability to site visitors as in this day and age I believe its expected to be there. There is some limited functionality available immediately in that clients can review a gallery of images taken by publishing them on a password protected page so that they are not available to the general web browsing public but only those in receipt of the password.

The Photocrati theme which is the basis of my site has extensive e-commerce capability but this needs careful testing which I will probably conduct on the 55red.co.uk domain first. However as stated this is a slightly longer term goal the immediate priorities for clockworkimaging.co.uk are;

  • Create and upload basic content pages.
  • Address SEO for these core pages
  • Start to implement Social Media strategies for driving traffic to the site.
Posted in Professional Contexts 3

Individual Practice : “Tempus Fugit” Final Images

Pretentious Inspiration?

Artist Statement

Tempus Fugit is a series of still life images illustrating the accelerating rate of the consumption of consumer goods and thus the associated resources. The are photographed in the classical Dutch Vanitas stlye with its strong moral symbology reminding us all of the passing of time and our own mortality. Begging the question ‘Is the way we live and the objects we require to live sustainable for the future generations of all the world?’ “

 

Image 1 Flat Iron

TUESDAY: IRONING In most Iowa homes this third day of the week is reserved for ironing.  The whole day should be reserved to complete this job.” 1880 quote from The Iowa Housewife

I choose to include a number of domestic items in this composition to complement the main subject, the galvanised jug and the copper pans along with classic Vanitas symbols of time passing and lifes fragility such as the watch, candle and tipped over glass ware.

Image 3 Sewing Machine

“The SINGER model 15 is believed to be the longest manufactured machine in history introduced in 1870 and is still made in some Indian & Chinese provinces today. The model 15 was regarded as being just about perfect. It would sew anything from silk to canvas without complaining. It was the dawn of a new era in sewing machines.”

More classic Vanitas with the Arabian brass jug indicating travel along with fruit,flowers and burning candle which have a short life span. I particularly like the natural light reflection on the wall behind this composition.

Image 3 Manual Typewriter

 

“In spite of advances in technology and changes in the economy, state government still operates on an obsolete 1970s model. We have a typewriter government in an Internet age.” Matt Blunt, Former Governor of Missouri

The typewriter has a cast iron frame and is extremely heavy, I decided to contrast it with the fragility of glass and the timepiece as the Vanitas objects along with the domino pieces to represent human vice, gambling,  or delight in earthy pleasures.

Image 4 Film Camera

“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” Arnold Newman, Photographer

Books, on the history of the Labour Party, to indicate a well read man interested in politics, undetermined liquid refreshment and of course the skull in the background as Death biding its time simply waiting for the inevitable.

Image 5 Personal Computer

 

“Moore’s law is an observation originally made in 1965, revised in 1975 that the density of integrated circuits doubles every 2 years, thus making for ever more powerful and efficient computers. Inevitably accelerating their rate of obsolescence.” Gordon Moore, Co-founder of Intel Corporation.

I choose a redundant computer case, deliberately stripped of its workings, wires hanging out to show its useful life is already over. Again along with classic Vanitas symbols of a timepiece, hourglass and flowers.

Image 6 Mobile Phone

“In 2013 the UN announced that of the [then] estimated world population of 7 billion, 6 billion had access to mobile phones. Only 4.5 billion had access to working toilets.” UN Spokesperson

Vanitas images normally have a lot of detail and content, I deliberately choose to make this image more minimalist in line with the design aesthetic of modern computing devices, no ornamentation – compare for example with the typewriter or sewing machine. I deliberate chose the display of a child on the phone and a toy as indications of time passing rapidly. Additionally as an indication of the generations growing up apparently glued to such devices. The use of stuffed toy bird rather than a real dead one is a further pastiche of the Vanitas style.

Preparation and Presentation

I always envisaged this would be a limited number of images and therefore not suitable for a book but rather would be an exhibition piece of a limited number of larger prints. I decided to make the prints A2 sized as that is approximately the size of many Vanitas paintings and wished to continue with that aesthetic into the finished images. That said paintings of course come in many sizes but 60x40cm is a reasonable average and is also suitable for display in a home rather than necessarily in a gallery.

Originally I had intended them to be all landscape images but during shooting the light reflection in the sewing machine image worked better in a portrait orientation, similarly in the case of the mobile phone image although this is deliberately less crowded than others in the series the final image viewed in landscape mode was simply too empty and the phone is itself physically a portrait format.

One of the striking things about the Format Festival, there is blog post on the festival in professional contexts, was the range and variety of framing methods adopted by the various submissions. There were traditionally framed images in uniform sets, in a variety of sizes in the same display, images pasted directly onto the wall, pinned to the wall, hung from wires and bull dog clips.

However one particular method interested me and that was separating the frame from the print. So a simple box frame is attached to the wall, no glass, and the print is simply pinned to the wall inside the frame. I took these camera phone images to illustrate the method and the effect.

I think this is both attractive and cost effective as traditional framing of large prints is prohibitively expensive. Although I have decided to only show In Step images at the degree show this is the method I would choose to display these images and is the way I will present the In Step images. I made 2 116×85 cm frames for a total cost of less than £15 in the wood shop at Bath Spa. All that’s needed now is a couple of coats of emulsion paint.

 

Posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 1: Tempus Fugit

Individual Practice Brief

 

 

 

 

The brief for Photography Individual Practice Y3 will open as a PDF when you click the link below.

IndividualPracticeModuleHandbook2016-17firstv

Posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 1: Tempus Fugit, Individual Practice 2: In Step

Individual Practice : Project 1 Tempus Fugit Concept

Painting by Jaxine Cummins

As I outlined in my rsearch presentations – hard copies are in project contact sheet books – I wanted to make an observation on mankinds impact on the world, particularly the rate of consumption of natural resources. However I didn’t want to have just a series of negative images that showed the destruction man wreaks upon the planet. Nor did I want to capture images that somehow how make beautiful images from the destruction. For, as much as I admire, the work of Eduard Leal somehow works such Plastic Trees don’t have the intended impact on me – I just see a great visual image rather than a thought provoking one.

I also wanted to look at another genre of photography as I have varied this with each project in my studies. Lastly I want to  combine some personal interests such as technology, mundane or discarded items and decided to look at creating a series of images that would illustrate the consumption of resources, past and present, and how I feel this is accelerating as more of the world aspires to live the way the western world does and the fact that we collectively need to realise its simply not sustainable. For example America has 5% of the worlds population but is estimated to currently consume more than 20% of the worlds consumable resources. The inequality between the have and the have nots of the world is a serious cause of concern for future generations as they will need to seek out an equitable solution to sharing the worlds resources else there is every likelihood of conflict on a previously un-imagined scale. No longer over land or religion or politics but simply over the right to survive.

Incorporating a desire to represent time I came across the symbology and presentation of classic  Dutch Still life painting, known as Vanitas art, which has much embedded in its depiction to indicate the passing of time, such as skulls, candles, glass, dead animals and insects. Vanitas art was popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and further details of the meaning of the symbology are covered elsewhere in this research. Accordingly I decided to do a series of Vanitas inspired still life.

I chose as a title for the project of Tempus Fugit which is a Latin term, usually translated as “Time Flies”, it is frequently found on clock faces from about the 1920’s onward and was particularly popular in the 1970’s and 80’s although clocks from this era are somewhat looked down on as the bulk of such clocks were cheap reproductions of earlier, much grander pieces. However I think it summarises the concept of the project quite neatly.

Artist Statement in respect of Tempus Fugit

Tempus Fugit is a series of still life images illustrating the accelerating rate of the consumption of consumer goods and thus the associated resources. The are photographed in the classical Dutch Vanitas stlye with its strong moral symbology reminding us all of the passing of time and our own mortality. Begging the question ‘Is the way we live and the objects we require to live sustainable for the future generations of all the world?’ “

So I decided to photograph a number of examples of pieces of technology from the past 150 years or so namely :-

  1. Flat Irons – Middle Ages
  2. Sewing Machines – Circa 1850
  3. Manual Typewriter  – 1865
  4. Film Cameras – Circa 1885
  5. Personal Computers – 1980
  6. Mobile Phones – 1983

Additionally with each image I intend to display a brief pertinent fact or statement pertinent to the history of the object and its impact, the underlying theme in this selection is that the successive technologies have a shorter life span thus supporting my assertion that the rate of consumption and obsolescence is accelerating. For example The Singer Model 15 has been manufactured  somewhere in the world continuously since 1870, whereas a modern Smartphone probably has a production life of 12 to 18 months before its replacement is announced.

Flat Irons  

Ironing was another example of the domestic burden on women as indicated by this 1880 quote from The Iowa Housewife   “TUESDAY: IRONING In most Iowa homes this third day of the week is reserved for ironing.  The whole day should be reserved to complete this job.” (Iowahist.uni.edu, 2017)

This is taken from a history project run by the University of Northern Iowa to provide teachers relevant information on the development of the state from both a social and economic standpoint.

No-one can say exactly when people started trying to press cloth smooth, but it is known that the Chinese were using hot metal for ironing before anyone else. Pans filled with hot coals were pressed over stretched cloth as illustrated in the drawing to the right. A thousand years ago this method was already well-established. Meanwhile people in Northern Europe were using stones, glass and wood for smoothing. These continued in use for “ironing” in some places into the mid-19th century, long after Western blacksmiths started to forge smoothing irons in the late Middle Ages.  (Oldandinteresting.com, 2017) 

Manual Sewing Machines

“The SINGER model 15 is believed to be the longest manufactured machine in history introduced in 1870 and is still made in some Indian & Chinese provinces today. The model 15 was regarded as being just about perfect. It would sew anything from silk to canvas without complaining. It was the dawn of a new era in sewing machines.” (Sewalot.com, 2017)

Singer Model 15

There was huge pent up demand for an effective sewing machine as prior to this everything was laboriously hand made making clothing both time consuming to create and expensive. Poorer families couldn’t afford to buy clothes and typically the wife would make clothes for the family. Another task in the endless drudgery for women of that time. So the introduction of the manual sewing machine had huge social impact, freeing women, creating employment – 50 years before the introduction of typewriters sewing defined employment of women. Both in the exploding clothing industry as it became possible for people to buy clothing cheaply and thus have a more extensive wardrobe. It also created self employment for may women, buying machines under Singers innovative financing (basically hire purchase) and providing sewing services in their local area.

It was a fiercely competitive market for a huge prize and there were many competing manufacturers who were constantly stealing each others innovations and suing and counter suing each other. Fortunes were made and the most famous name, Isaac Singer, created a fortune, from nothing, that even when distributed amongst the 24 legitimate and illegitimate children he acknowledged in his will, made them all wealthy beyond their dreams for an estimated 5 generations.

Manual Typewriter

Sholes-Gidden first commercially successful typewriter.

Sholes Gidden in use

“In spite of advances in technology and changes in the economy, state government still operates on an obsolete 1970s model. We have a typewriter government in an Internet age.” Matt Blunt Former Governor of Missouri

The first typewriter to be commercially successful was invented in 1868 by Americans Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule in, although Sholes soon disowned the machine and refused to use, or even to recommend it. It looked “like something like a cross between a piano and a kitchen table.”  The patent (US 79,265) was sold for $12,000 to Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (then famous as a manufacturer of sewing machines) to commercialize the machine as the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer. This was the origin of the term typewriter. Remington began production of its first typewriter on March 1, 1873, New York. It had a QWERTY keyboard layout, which because of the machine’s success, was slowly adopted by other typewriter manufacturers. As with most other early typewriters, because the type bars strike upwards, the typist could not see the characters as they were typed. (Ament, 2017)

The QWERTY Keyboard was designed to minimise key jams and has since become the default layout for keyboards firstly on electric typewriters and then computers even though these latter 2 devices don’t have manually moving keys to jam, it is not the most efficient key layout as numerous demonstrations since have shown it is simply the most well known and with millions of trained typists was the easiest to adopt.

The typewriter had another major social impact and is credited with bringing women into the office, although paid much less than men, typing and stenography positions could pay up to ten times more than factory work, accordingly women were attracted in large numbers to office work. In 1874, less than 4% of clerical workers in the United States were women; by 1900, the percentage had increased to approximately 75%. Before his death, Sholes remarked of the typewriter, “I do feel that I have done something for the women who have always had to work so hard. This will enable them more easily to earn a living.”

Film Cameras

“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” Arnold Newman Newman was a New York Photographer famous for his contribution to the development of Environmental Portraiture.

In its earliest days Photography was a pursuit mainly for the wealthy amateur. The materials were expensive and much of the equipment had to be self made. George Eastmans, he behind Kodak, invention of a chemically stable, flexible roll film in standard sizes revolutionised photography by making it available to the masses. Eastman’s Kodak company supplemented the film by introducing cameras to suit. The first of these was the Kodak camera marketed with the slogan “You press the button – we do the rest” this because the camera had to be returned to Kodak for processing, a few years later they introduced daylight loading film so users could reload the camera themselves. In 1900 they introduced the ubiquitous Box Brownie costing $1 with film at 15 cents effectively making photography affordable for all.

We now seem to have gone full circle in that the cameras on offer now have gone away from the cheap and cheerful to being technologically highly advanced with prices to match. Even a modest modern smartphone contains a better camera than the first generations of digital cameras.

Personal Computers  “Moore’s law is an observation originally made in 1965, revised in 1975 that the density of integrated circuits doubles every 2 years, thus making for ever more powerful and efficient computers. Inevitably accelerating their rate of obsolescence.” This  forecast has proved uncannily correct until very recently. The circuitry in a modern chip is now so dense that it is becoming physically impossible to create faster computers using these methods and hence the search for new technologies for the next leap in computing power.

“In 1975, Business Week ran a cover article called The Office Of The Future. In it, George E Pake, head of research at Xerox, predicted “a revolution… over the next 20 years”, involving a television display terminal sitting on his desk. “I’ll be able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button,” he said. “I can get my mail or any messages. I don’t know how much hard copy I’ll want in this world. It will change our daily life, and this could be kind of scary.” He turned out to be quite right. Our daily lives have changed and it has been quite scary.The only thing he was wrong about was those hard copies – our love affair with computers hasn’t ended our love for paper. It’s only in the last few years we’ve stopped printing out every email we get sent. The joke more or less still stands that the paperless office will arrive at the same time as the paperless toilet.” (BBC News, 2017)

Personal Computers were available in kit form from about 1975 from a number of manufacturers but it wasn’t until IBM introduced its PC as a complete system in 1981 that they sold in large numbers to the general public. The availability of what was seen as an open platform spawned the software industry we see today and made PC’s multi functional devices as by using applications they could be used for  word processing – simultaneously largely killing the market for typewriters – , desk top publishing, spreadsheets and databases.

Mobile Phones

Apple Iphone 6s

Since its introduction in 2007 Apple has sold around 600 million Iphones and generated 32 billion dollars in revenue for the company. (Statista, 2017)

“In 2013 the UN announced that of the [then] estimated world population of 7 billion, 6 billion had access to mobile phones. Only 4.5 billion had access to working toilets.” I witnessed this first hand in South America at the time of the announcement in 2013 when visiting Canaima, Venezuela, the access point to the Angel Falls, I went down to the river bay early in the morning to catch the sunrise and was surprised at the number of people swimming, except they weren’t swimming they were families bathing, washing hair and clothes. An hour later walking back to our accommodation I was surrounded by the same, freshly washed and groomed , teenagers walking to school texting and calling their friends on mobile phones just like teenagers back in England.

Final Tempus Fugit  Images Here 

Posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 1: Tempus Fugit

Individual Practice : Initial Research Lines

Shoe of the Month May 2017 * see footnote.

When I decided to do a project on shoes I started to think about where I might find interesting shoes. Northampton was and still is, on a much reduced scale, the centre of the shoe making industry in the UK.  I decided to look at the local museum website and found the following information :

“Northampton Museum and Art Gallery has the largest collection of historical footwear in the world, designated as being of international importance.  The ground floor is given over to the display of some of the museum’s 12,000 shoes, spanning the period from the Ancient Egyptians to the present day and includes novelties such as Elton John’s ‘Tommy’ boots from the film Pinball Wizard, giant boots made for Jumbo, the eleven year old female elephant that took part in the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition in 1959, and a signed pair of football boots by former England international captain and fashion icon David Beckham.

There are also two galleries dedicated to footwear: Life & Sole focuses on the history of shoemaking and contains a re-creation of an old shoe factory;  Followers of Fashion concentrates on the history of fashions in footwear throughout the centuries and includes designs from the likes of Salvatore Ferragomo, Manolo Blahnik and Vivienne Westwood.  There are also several paintings on display that reflect the museum’s focus on footwear, such as the 17th-19th century Dutch and Flemish works by Jan Miel and Hendrik van Oort featuring cobblers, shoemakers and shoeshiners.” (Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe, 2017)

The website also informed me that they were advertising for volunteers, with photography skills, to re-photograph and catalogue the collection. I contacted them as requested to be told the Project Manager was absent for three weeks, when I was able to eventually make contact with the right person I was informed that the web site was woefully out of date and the positions were no longer available, further that the shoe collection was currently closed until April or May 2017 as the galleries and displays were being completely overhauled. Nor were they willing / able to provide any access in the meantime despite the academic nature of my enquiry.

This was a frustrating outcome having had to wait for some time to be able to get a definitive answer.

In parallel I had also contacted a number of shoe recycling outlets and large scale recyclers. This after some research to track down the companies in question as it turns out many charities and council recycling sites sub-contract the actual recycling to third parties who have large scale regional processing centres and merely act as collection points.

I contacted 3 such organisations, none of whom were willing to let me visit their regional centres, especially armed with a camera. Quoting variously; health and safety restrictions, lack of insurance for 3rd parties and lack of staff time to accommodate extraneous activities. I have no idea what lay behind this reluctance other than a suspicion they thought I intended to show their operation in a negative light.

This opinion based on regular reports of a number of dubious activities in the charity recycling sector – e.g. various recycling companies advertising that they support specific charities which upon investigation exposes that whilst the recycling operation is often highly profitable – giving truth to the expression  “where there’s muck there’s brass ” – the actual contribution going to the charity in question is often minuscule.

I was surprised that there was such a consistent and industry wide reluctance to engage but the bottom line was that this was a another dead end as my goal was to get some images for my project rather than embark on a long term investigation of the recycling industry.

I then considered the remaining shoe manufactures in Northampton, in response to the influx of cheap mass produced shoes from places like the Philippines, Korea and China the remaining UK based manufactures tend to be more specialist high end designer makers. Often selling hand made shoes in the £500 to £1000 plus range.

Although high fashion was an aspect of the industry I had considered I decided that this wasn’t what my project was really about and didn’t pursue this line of enquiry any further. Instead deciding to focus on what could be found in local 2nd hand outlets such as charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales.

Footnote : Shoe of the Month: Rollermania

The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop-rock band from the 60s and 70s. With their unforgettable haircuts, good looks and half-mast tartan trousers they had a strong following among teenage girls. Rollermania peaked in the mid-70s with a stream of top hits including the classics Remember (Sha-la-la), Keep on Dancing, Bye Bye Baby, Shang-a-Lang and Summer Love Sensations. The band made an impact on teen fashion. Fans supported them wearing tartan scarves, homemade tartan trousers and even Bay City Roller inspired shoes. Designed by Barrie K, these shoes were made in 1975.

 

 

 

Posted in 1 Individual Practice, Individual Practice 2: In Step

Shoes and Boots in Popular Culture

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz

Shoes and boots have long featured in Art, Literature, Film and TV and with a little thought we can all think of examples of the humble shoe being central to some key pieces of work.

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers in the 1939 film the Wizard of Oz being one example, in the book they are silver but red was considered more impact for the emerging Technicolor technology being newly employed by film studios at the time. The shoes are regarded as major icons of that era of movie making and a consortium of leading Hollywood figures including Leonardo Di Caprio and Steven Spielberg paid a rumoured $2 million to secure them for a new museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2016 the Smithsonian Museum  started a kickstarter campaign to raise $300,000 for the restoration of another pair used in the making of the film. (Gelman, 2017)

We are all familiar with Cinderella and her glass shoe, the story first published in French in 1697 is quite mild compared to the horrors contained in the Brothers Grimm version of 1812 with the step sisters cutting off parts of their feet to try and fit the shoe and being blinded by birds sympathetic to Cinderella by the end of the story. Not at all the saccharine Disney version, made in 1950, that most people and children are familiar with.

Many of the Brothers Grimm tales feature shoes such as the Seven League Boots which enabled the wearer to travel vast distances rapidly, written at a time when the fastest transport available was the horse and that certainly would have been far too expensive for the common man. So the idea of rapid transit was very appealing.

As depicted in Shrek

Puss in Boots is another popular character, famously made comic in the Shrek animated films but in the original story is a master of duplicity and violence, conning a king into believing his low born master is a prince and thus allowing him to marry his daughter and murdering an ogre to steal his castle along the way. The shoes give the character a status far above that of a cat – even a talking one.

Puss meets the Ogre, Engraving by Gustave Doré, 1867. From original story.

In all of these tales there are strong morality lessons and its striking how often shoes are used to define or transform characters social standing, so “poor” Cinderella wears wooden shoes, glass shod Cinderella becomes a princess. Puss in Boots master is similarly transformed by his clothing. This theme of stern morality is perhaps most viciously illustrated in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes. The anti-heroine who is the centre of this tale of the dire consequences of sinful vanity,  goes to church in bright red shoes, received from a kindly benefactor after the death of her mother. Thus Karen, allegedly vindictively so-named after Andersen’s loathed half-sister, attracts both sympathy as an orphan and  condemnation as a sinner, compounding her error by failing to care for her grandmother and is punished by being forced to dance unceasingly for ever. The dancing becomes so persistent, that Karen heads to the town’s executioner, and asks him to chop her feet off with the red shoes on them, while she confess’s her sins of vanity. Her reduced social status is then reinforced by the executioner fashioning her wooden feet whilst the shoes, containing her severed feet continue to dance. (Racked, 2017)

A film based on the story was made in 1948 with the twist that Karen is now a ballet dancer torn between two men.

In All Quiet on the Western Front an anti-war book written by Erich Maria Remarque and based on his own experiences of WWI as an 18 year old. One of the central characters boots become a symbol for how war destroys morality, requiring that soldiers abandon social niceties and think only about their own survival. The boots command as much, if not more, respect and attention than the man to whom they belong, and in this way symbolise the cheapness of human life in war.

“Paul, Muller, and Kropp go to the hospital to visit Kemmerich. The hospital stinks of infection. Kemmerich is very weak. Someone has stolen his watch off his wrist. He will not live long. His foot has been amputated, but he doesn’t know it. The others don’t tell him. They try to be encouraging, telling him he will be going home soon, but Kemmerich can barely respond. Paul thinks of Kemmerich’s mother, who cried when they left home and asked Paul to look out for him. Now, Paul can barely look at Kemmerich’s waxy skin. Muller puts Kemmerich’s things underneath his bed. He sees Kemmerich’s prized pair of boots, more comfortable than what they wear, and asks Kemmerich for them. He wants to get them before they are stolen as well. Kemmerich doesn’t want to give them up, and Paul stops Muller before he can argue. After a while, they leave, bribing an orderly to give him some morphine for his pain. As the walk back to their camp, Muller talks about how nice the boots are. Better that he should have them when Kemmerich dies than anyone else. There is no hope for him.”

In the film version Paul is alone with Kemmerich when he dies, he retrieves the boots for Muller. There is then a recurring montage where each new owner of the boots dies wearing them.

Even though written by a German, the enemy, the book was extremely popular in the UK and USA. It was published in the late 1920’s as National Socialism was on the rise in Germany and was hated for its anti-war sentiments by the Nazi’s who often burned examples of it, and many other titles, at public rallies. It was banned by the Nazi’s from 1933 when they came to power until their defeat in 1945.

James Clavell’s novel and subsequent film King Rat, about allied prisoners of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore—a description informed by Clavell’s own three-year experience as a prisoner in the notorious Changi Prison camp-features a similar scene whereby a dying prisoner wants to “die with his boots on” the doctor looks under his bed to see the boots have been taken so removes his own and puts them on the patient, retrieving them a few minutes later when he dies. Another illustration of how mundane items become significant when all else is gone.(Clavell, 1962)

The symbolic use of shoes continues to this day.

In the short story Big Blonde by Dorothy Parker written in 1929 the testing life of Hazel plays out: she has outlived her beauty, but has to try to keep men happy, partly by wearing high heels – she teeters along “on her aching feet in the stubby champagne-coloured slippers”. Even her attempt at suicide is a failure, and she wakes up dreading having to put the shoes back on again as they have come to represent all that is wrong with her existence.

In 1940 Agatha Christie wrote the aptly named One Two Buckle My Shoe, featuring a brand new patent leather shoe with “a large gleaming buckle”. As it turns out, this is a major clue.

In the 2000’s so called “chick lit” had a reputation for shoes and shopping, and the TV series Sex and the City series made much of the Manolos and Jimmy Choos coveted by the characters.

Sex and the City Characters Shopping

A 2015/16 V&A exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, suggested that the symbolism of shoes has changed little over centuries – so, for instance, contemporary advertising for trainers implies powers of flight and speed akin to winged sandals and seven-league boots. And shoes in modern children’s literature also convey some of these ideas. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, in which modern-day youngsters are the children of Greek gods and mortals, show Percy (son of Poseidon) fighting Luke (son of Hermes); Luke wears winged baseball boots. (Vam.ac.uk, 2017)

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