Photograd Experience: James Dobson

University of Brighton photography graduate and soon to be featured Photograd, James Dobson, has written a piece for the Photograd blog about the group exhibition he was recently a part of at the Brighton Photo Fringe entitled, Lie of the Land. Continue reading to find out more about this group of graduates that have remained connected post university. 

Lie of the Land  installation shot

Lie of the Land installation shot

Introduction

We are four photographers James Dobson, Rachel Maloney, Annalaura Palma and Noora Pelkonen, who met four years ago on the MA Photography course at the University of Brighton, graduating in 2014 and 2015.

Since beginning our studies together we have had an ongoing dialogue, all being interested in different aspects of landscape and place. After we graduated we stayed in touch and continued our conversation beyond University and eventually decided to make a collaborative exhibition when BPF was on the horizon. The exhibition is called Lie of the Land and it is about the ways in which the past, the unperceived and the forgotten fold themselves into our current experience and reading of landscape.

Image from the series  Karelia  by Noora Pelkonen

Image from the series Karelia by Noora Pelkonen

Image from the series  The Forest  by Rachel Maloney

Image from the series The Forest by Rachel Maloney

Planning

We were all at a stage where we felt ready to show our work, be that a different manifestation of older, ongoing work or completely new work and BPF seemed a good opportunity to do this. As a platform it gives you a framework within which your exhibition can be made visible - there are more people engaging with photography and potential visitors in Brighton during the Biennial/Fringe month and you are given support by the fringe in terms of promotion.

We knew that we wanted to show our work in a neutral space (which are quite hard to find in Brighton) such as a gallery, as we wanted full attention from the visitors, so we looked for a suitable space in Brighton and booked it early in 2016. As the gallery is limited in space, the challenge was to make sure that each work had its own breathing space but also make sure that the visitor could enjoy the journey, however small, through the exhibition– so the connections between works was very important. We were limited in the amount of pictures we could hang so we started to think of the exhibition as a collaborative development of an idea, rather than a chance for each of us to have our own individual exhibition. Smaller, low-budget shows often work better with this approach, and I think we all enjoyed discovering new aspects about our work and making new associations between pictures during the curation process. 

Lie of the Land   installation shot: images form the series  Churches  by James Dobson

Lie of the Land installation shot: images form the series Churches by James Dobson

Image form the series   Churches     by James Dobson

Image form the series Churches by James Dobson

In terms of promotion, BPF produce a newsprint brochure with a map and website to navigate the exhibitions, so we decided to not make any flyers but instead built an internet presence via twitter, which you can find here @Lie_of_the_land.

Experience and reflection

The exhibition has had a positive response from visitors. For us it was very good to have a space to see how our new work operated in a gallery context and also to be able to open up dialogues and new relationships. When you’re in this kind of festival environment it is good to be involved in every aspect of making an exhibition – so invigilating, which can sometimes be tedious, was actually at times very rewarding, giving us the opportunity to be surrounded by our work and think about photography. Exhibitions can be great spaces for the development of ideas, in a different way to being out in the world.

Image from the series  Virginia Woolf: Virginia’s path  by Annalaura Palma

Image from the series Virginia Woolf: Virginia’s path by Annalaura Palma

Advice

In regards to advice, look at festivals like BPF that not only support the promotion of your work to a wider audience but give opportunities for photographers to submit their work for exhibitions and prizes; BPF has the Danny Wilson Memorial Prize, the Open Solo Show, the group show at the Regency Town House and also the Collectives Hub. 

 

Photograd Catch-Up Feature: Caitlin Chescoe

Featured Photograd Caitlin Chescoe was commissioned by Brighton Photo Fringe this year to make a new body of work alongside their three emerging curators. We caught up with Caitlin recently to find out about her plans for the festival and then her experience of accepting a commission and being a part of this years event. Caitlin has since informed us of more about Kings House: In Transition and some of her influences when making the work. Continue reading to find out more...

Statement

As the offices of Brighton and Hove City Council since 1996, activity inside Kings House has shaped the face of the city. The imminent sale of the building and relocation of the Council offices has received much local press coverage, but less attention has been paid to the social histories of the site. Kings House: In Transition celebrates the people and stories that have shaped the life of the building by inviting members of staff to share their experiences. The exhibition features portraits and oral histories collected as the Council staff begin the process of relocating.

Kings House: In Transition  installation image by emerging curator, Sarah French.

Kings House: In Transition installation image by emerging curator, Sarah French.

Series Influences

I really love the work of portrait and documentary photographers such as Alec Soth, Stephen Shore, Nick Ballon, Jo Metson Scott and Kalpesh Lathigra who all use photographic film. I use social media a lot to look at imagery and also take from my own experiences assisting to try to progress with my work.

Images f rom the series   Kings House: In Transition

Images from the series Kings House: In Transition

The Commission

Kings House: In Transition was my first commission out of university. I was sent the brief after Sarah French, one of the selected Fringe emerging curators, messaged me to ask if I was available to do it. I felt the brief really suited my work and so agreed to start the following Tuesday. I was told that I could do whatever I wanted, which was great! However, it all came down to how receptive the staff at Kings House were going to be towards us to what we would be able to photograph. We were fortunate enough to have full access to the building with the help of Cat Fletcher, re-use manager, and Martin Hedgecock, facility and building services manager. The curators assisted me in contacting members in the building, arranging meeting times and having brief interviews whilst I photographed the staff which I really enjoyed as I am used to working on my own in these types of situations but this meant I could concentrate on taking great photos. I decided to shoot film because I knew I would be happy with the end result and this could potentially be another project to add to my portfolio once we had finished.

The organisers of the Fringe had given the trainee curators, Sarah French, Jamila Prowse and Ruby Rees Sheridan, the original space in Kings House reception. Time was of the essence so we had to shoot and complete the edit in a very short period of time. We only had a few days to complete the edit and through assisting I was able to receive advice from a couple of photographers who I have worked with which was really helpful. We agreed on what materials would work within the budget and would be to a high photographic standard. Our space also changed from in the reception area to in the first floor hallway which meant we had more space for the installation.

Images from the series   Kings House: In Transition

Images from the series Kings House: In Transition

Work and Outcomes

We decided to re-use chains that were from an adult day care centre in Brighton that had been funded by the council however the centre had to close because of cuts which Cat Fletcher found for us. We also decided to re-use bulldog clips from the building so this was all in keeping with the concept of re-using and recycling. We had to prepare the space a small amount by cleaning the windows and painting the walls to white as they were scuffed and decorated in a lovely lilac colour.

During the exhibition we put on a talk; Caitlin Chescoe and Cat Fletcher in conversation with Sarah French, Ruby Rees Sheridan and Jamila Prowse, which was us discussing our roles within the project and our journey towards the final exhibition. It was great to have a chance to debrief altogether about the project as we had not had the chance to previously. In hindsight I am glad our tutors made us talk in public at University because I new I would have been really nervous otherwise, however I really enjoyed it.

Images f  rom the series   Kings House: In Transition

Images from the series Kings House: In Transition

Experience and Future Plans

We are hoping for the exhibition to be moved to the Town Hall which is where the workers from the council have moved to. However, we are also looking to potentially show the work at other galleries in the near future.

Overall my experience has been a positive one. I can trust myself to handle the pressure of shooting with the expectation of a good outcome and working within tough time constrains which I found made all of us more proactive as we used our time wisely. It has been different to work with other people on my projects as normally I work alone but it has been really good working as a team making creative decisions. I have really enjoyed meeting everyone involved in the Fringe, have had great exposure and made great contacts. Thank you to everyone.

Find out more about Caitlin and her work via her website.