This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Perhaps the title of this blog post is a little sensational (got to do what you can to get people’s attention these days, though), but it was an interesting starting point for Colin Archibald’s Photography 3: Advanced course. Using a variety of visual strategies, Debenham Millennium City imagines what the impact of the re-location of Britain’s capital city to a village in Suffolk might be… Colin came to this course with a stack of Photoshop skills and some interesting ideas, but he has worked diligently throughout the course to develop this single body of work, which he currently has installed in a gallery in Debenham, Suffolk. Colin is organising a talk about his project on Saturday 18th May at the Spiral Gallery, IP14 6QW, from 11am.
A lot of people enjoy experimenting with Photoshop, deceiving older notions of the reality of the photographic image, but in my opinion, people tend to ‘play around’ with Photoshop with a great deal of enthusiasm but without a great deal of thought. I would like to congratulate Colin on completing an exciting and irreverent body of work which demonstrates a good deal of technical accomplishment, but moreover, addresses some really interesting ideas.
JA: What was the starting point for this work?
CA: Having read about the fantastic buildings of the new capital city Astana in Kazakhstan I decided last summer to go and photograph them. During the visit I started to think about the impact of a capital city move on the UK and what a new city would look like. I imagined how a new city could be integrated with the village I live in Debenham and also what magazine coverage and guide books you would find. The first few pictures started as an assignment and then grew into a major project for the course.
JA: What is the idea behind your installation?
- © Colin Archibald
CA: I have admired the work of Joan Fontcuberta for some time and especially some of his exhibitions like ‘Fauna’ in which he produced the text to tell the story of a scientific expedition and aged the pictures to match. I have not seen the work exhibited but I understand that hand written notes, photographs some photographic plates and a lot of dust is used to convince the viewer that the expedition was real. I decided that an alternative reality exhibition of the Debenham city photographs plus artefacts could allow people to suspend their rational thought for a while and enjoy the experience of a new city.
Initially a discussion with the gallery over the concept and providing some of the pictures provided an agreement to proceed with a formal proposal. The documented proposal for the exhibition was then discussed with the gallery until we had agreement on all aspects of the exhibition. The proposal included details of the concept, reasoning, exhibition contents, four month timetable of activities to launch the exhibition and a list of advertising opportunities. Spiral gallery is quite small and also has jewellery and other handmade items for sale so the main debate was over what space was available for the exhibition plus, dates, commercial agreement and how we split the advertising work.
All the pictures and artefacts that I had produced have been displayed at the gallery although they decided on where in the gallery the items would be displayed.
JA: What are the challenges with Level 3 compared to Level 2?
CA: The biggest difference I found between Level 2 courses and the Level 3 Advanced course is that the structure and scope is wide open. Not only do you have to produce some great pictures but you have to decide and plan for yourself what you are going to do. Instead of a course book full of projects to complete you have a couple of pages explaining that you need to plan your work over six assignments. This is a very positive aspect to this course but it can come as a bit of a surprise. I understand that the other Level 3 course ‘Your own portfolio’ has more structure and perhaps in hindsight I should have taken that course before ‘Advanced’. At level 3 you have the photographic skills, what you need to work out is what you are going to do with them. For ‘Advanced’ my advice would be to start thinking about what you want to achieve during the course and perhaps experiment with a few ideas as soon as you decide to enrol.
JA: How did you find working on one major project throughout the module?
CA: It did not start out that way, as I had several ideas to explore but I enjoyed working on the Debenham city pictures and with a positive reaction from my tutor it seemed the logical way forward. Once it was agreed that I should pursue this as a major piece of work for the course, I then established what needed to be completed by the end and then broke that down into the manageable assignments. This seems to provide a bit more flexibility in bring work forward or pushing it back between assignments if needed.
JA: Do you have any plans to develop this work further?
CA: I would like to continue creating pictures and developing the story until there is enough content to produce a book. The book would appeal to two sets of people, locals interested to read an account of the city development with pictures and to photographers for the images. My only concern is whether the images will stand on their own if the viewer does not know what Debenham looks like to start with?
I will be available from 11am to host a group tour of the exhibition on Saturday May 18th. If you are interested please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org so that I know how many people will be coming and also so that I can provide information on parking etc.