Online tip jar and shop

A screengrab of my Ko-Fi storefront on Thursday the 20th of June 2024
A screengrab of my Ko-Fi storefront on Thursday the 20th of June 2024.

Recently, as a small experiment, I setup shop using the Ko-fi platform, you can tip me $5.00 and it will go towards my hosting costs. If I get enough tips they will contribute to purchasing more silver gelatin paper and film both 120 and 5×4 inches and my server costs. I chose Ko-Fi because their setup was easy and fast and they only take 5% on sales, they take nothing on tips. Sadly the lowest I could set the tip jar to was $5.00.

I also have a shop set up. You can buy prints I have printed specially for the purpose from there too.

I also have at this stage a single members tier, for those who want to purchase a silver gelatin print from this album on flickr.

There is an easy button on the bottom left of the screen that helps, too I hope?

a screengrab of this blog showing the Ko-Fi button
A screengrab of this blog showing the Ko-Fi button

About the author.

Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He has also nearly 40 years of silver gelatin printing under his belt. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photographs in the 21st century. Photobooks sit quite high on his radar too these days.
☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr | leave a tip, or buy a print

Back in the Darkroom

seven prints at 8x10 inches that Ian Lobb saw that prompted me to enlarge and exhibit all are a mixture or the natural and man made with neither dominating.
Seven  8 x 10 ‘work prints’ pinned to my darkroom wall.

Another cause for recent reflection was an encounter I had with Ian Lobb a few years ago. I asked him to look at some of my silver gelatin prints, which he did, over coffee in Fairfield.

choice of paper for this body of work in not yet final here are some of my options in my darkroom
Choice of paper for this body of work is not yet final here are some of my options in my darkroom. Forte Fibre based on top of Ilford Multigrade Fibre based paper.

He appeared enamoured by one body of work that I have been sitting on since about 2006, as it only consists of 6 or 7 prints.

The body of work was a response to Robert Adams’ book, Summer Nights. The first edition of this book has 38 images in it.  The date of the first edition is 1985. This means I may have been exposed to it whilst studying my undergraduate degree. Ian Lobb would have definitely been aware of it. He knew what I was talking about when I discussed my motivations for printing them. I acquired my copy  of the book in 2003.

I had no specific idea in mind while making the pictures however. I simply went for a walk one morning in a quiet country hamlet 3 hours north of Melbourne, and shot a whole roll of 120 film in that short time.

the contact sheet that I am making up to 9 prints from
the contact sheet that I am making up to 9 prints from

Because of Ian’s response I have decided to print the images to exhibition stage. I have work prints from about 2017 that are 8×10 inches. But in this instance I feel a larger size will really make them shine so I am beginning the process of making the final prints. Paper brand and final size is yet to be determined. I have started with Ilford Multigrade Fibre based paper at 12 x 16 inches.

Re-examing the contact sheet this morning I feel I may be able to push the series out to 8 or 9 prints. This is unheard of for me. I consider one good picture per 3 or 4 contact sheets adequate.

The first print in the rinse tray.
The first print in the rinse tray.

I want to finish with a quote from another of my favourite photographers, Frederick Sommer, that goes some way towards  my reasoning behind making these prints:-

“… When you go out to make a picture you find you are moved by something which is in agreement with an image you already held within yourself.”
– Frederick Sommer


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photographs in the 21st century.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

How I Got Here Part Three?

still from 20 years ago today
Still life from 12th of May 2000 19:35:36

Life and time commitments make it difficult to plan shooting. Working around good light and the best seasons complicates this. To then process film on top of that, means a lot. Not to mention that materials, such as black and white papers, are running out as well. This puts me in a quandary. It means, my creative energies would be better spent exploring ideas and the world around me. using other means, preferably with a lens and a light sensitive material of some sort.

a self portrait from 2000
a self portrait from 2000 made using a phone camera

Technological changes mean I can create good quality images quickly . Excellent ones If I’m careful in an analogue sense] and easily using the smallest of devices. The caveat being they will probably only ever exist in cyber space. Why then not explore other ideas now. I mean all that other stuff, I’d felt was important for all this time, is it important? In this image saturated media landscape? Why not just see if I can’t get the ideas across using the simplest of tools? With nothing more to deal with than the 3 most important elements of photography. Light, Time, Space.

Well hey presto! Here I am using a mobile phone and or a small camera. Hopefully getting some idea across about the world I see. one that I am somewhat incongruously part of. One that I can share in real time or in a myriad of other ways.

North Geelong, Victoria, Australia 2022-10-26 14:12:21
North Geelong, Victoria, Australia 2022-10-26 14:12:21

There is somewhat of a leap of faith here. Between finely crafted silver gelatin prints, and the bulk of work I’m producing these days. So let me retrace my steps. Somewhere between 1994 and 2004, I started meandering in other directions. A Grad. Dip. Ed and an MA, were two of them. Computers the internet and Desktop Publishing were other side interests. All the while, digital cameras are following Moore’s Law. Desktop printers are getting better and better. By 2004 I’m hooked into flickr using my Nikon Coolpix 5400, bought after travelling the world. This is the first digital camera I owned, capable of producing reasonable A4 prints. It is not the 1st I ever owned. The first I owned, had died a quiet death in Wales on the same trip. In the interim had produced 13,000 plus images, a tiny selection of which made one of my 1st e-books, “buy, buy, buy”.

The current iPhone I use now creates both RAW and HEIF files. I have printed these files to A2, so my digital toolset is getting physically smaller. All in all a good thing. Now I spend a large amount of time choosing images to upload to flickr. Book creation forms a major part of my creative energy now too. As film prices have skyrocketed that aspect of my production slows. I now too have a scanner at home. I plan on revisiting my 30 year old colour film archive. This project alone should produce I hope at least 2 or 3 bodies of work. Also, several social media sites have risen attempting to usurp Instagram.

But I digress. As I said 2004 and getting a flickr account, was somewhat of a turning point for me. The first few years on flickr were pretty insane. Eventually I picked up on some patterns and ideas that were not dissimilar to the real world. Particularly amongst amateur photographers. For example.

  • 35 mm DSLRs produce better images than point and shoot cameras, allegedly.
  • Shallow Depth of Filed has some special magic quality about it. Which in turn, spawned a slather of cults/followers/groups 11,000 on flickr at time of writing.
  • Skin/sex sells, but I guess I knew that already but had forgotten it
  • Subtlety/complexity was often overlooked
  • Democracy exists in a way I’d never experienced it before [is this a unique web/forum thing?]
  • I don’t need to upload daily, and can even ‘curate’ my images in advance before uploading.

Anyway, I enjoyed those first few years prior to the Yahoo buyout immensely. I still do enjoy my time on flickr, but in a much more pared back kind of way. Two of the factors I enjoy about flickr, are. The amount of folks who seemed prepared to push the envelope on photography. The interface design, particularly compared to ‘deviantart’ and ‘fotolog’. In the beginning though it, flickr or my experience of it, was still somehow tied into the idea of a polished and finished ‘object’. You know the stuff I’d learnt at University.

Somewhere around 2006/2007, things slowly moved in another direction. I knew it was pointless obsessing over colour and colour management. This is still a very poorly misunderstood idea. Not to mention, interfaces and browsers interfere with these factors anyway. I began wondering then, how I could add a layer of complexity to my images that was uniquely digital. How I could use flickr and the internet to exploit that? So I then began looking at other ideas.

Maps have always fascinated me. They, give some clue to your geographical location. Which in turn hints at who you are, and in turn may give some clues to your culture. One thing that is unique to digital photography is, Exif Data. Digital exif data maps to the second when you made the image. The Web itself has grown to allow people ways to geographically and visually place images into maps. These images then add data to larger databases. Databases that collectively and individually add to the greater understanding of who we are, and where we are.

Coode Island, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 2023-01-29 16:26:49
Coode Island, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 2023-01-29 16:26:49

Time, place, identity/memory are driving factors behind much of my output. Yet. I’m also still not only interested in what makes a photograph “good”? But now, how I can use the simplest of tools to create images this way? The biggest change for me though is, that I carry at least one and often 2 or 3 small digital devices everywhere. And can work at an intuitive level that I’ve never been able or allowed myself to work at before. [Once I’ve learnt how to exploit or overcome the shortcomings of each device]. Intuition is for me the most difficult of creative processes to justify. In this day and age, of huge staged, over-manipulated, images. That adorn the halls of many Arts institutions.

For me, seeing comes before speaking. Therefore why an image I made exists is often more a visceral thing than an intellectual exercise. Although, the intellectual stimulus that a good photograph provides IS important too.

Let me finish off by, presenting one of my favourite little poems I picked up while studying at art school. It for me sums up art and photography so well.

“In modern thought, [if not in fact]

nothing is that doesn’t act

So that is reckoned wisdom which

describes the scratch

but not the itch”

Anon.

part 1, ||  part 2


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs.
☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

The Shape of a Photobook Project; BIFB 2021

Below is the transcript of the presentation I gave online with the other members of MPC at the Ballarat Photo Bienalle photobook weekend on the 17th of October 2021


The Shape of a Photobook Project?

It’s an interesting question and thanks to Anne for proposing it.

my latest publication 'contact?' a book of 26 tipped in silver gelatine photographs
My latest publication ‘Contact?’ a book of 26 tipped in silver gelatine photographs.

My most recent book is a DIY style book of ‘tipped in’ photographs.
Ideas for books don’t come easily to me nor do they arise from singular “AHA” moments, their creation often come from an idea or an experience, however small and inconsequential. Mostly the ideas toss and turn in my head for some time before I sit down and actively look for pictures to include, rarely do I make pictures with a book in mind. That is until the last few years anyway.

Some Background?

I have been a practising artist since 1987.

My interest in photobook making was sparked by exposure to photobooks at college in the late 1980s and was kicked up a notch in the mid 1990s when I realised if I learned a computer program like Aldus Pagemaker or Quark I could create a polished book that looked anyway I wanted. It was to take a Masterclass with Marshall Weber and Stephen Dupont in 2015 to get me to see beyond the established codex of a photobook and to think of book making in a different light.

A selection of books I have published over the years.
A selection of books I have published over the years. From high end trade books to lo-fi Zines

The above books span more than 12 years of experiments with the book form. All self published, from the polished Art & Mathematics, to the handmade, Body Bags & Other Misdemeanours. In these books software figured heavily in their production, my latest book however comes from a craft perspective, where the use of computer software has been minimal.

The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century by Richard Benson, May Castleberry, Jeffrey Fraenkel
The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century by Richard Benson, May Castleberry, Jeffrey Fraenkel
The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1, 2, & 3 Martin Parr, Gerry Badger.
The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1, 2, & 3 Martin Parr, Gerry Badger.

Influences?

Two formative books [see above] that have shaped my research, interests and tastes since college are:-
The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century by Richard Benson, May Castleberry, Jeffrey Fraenkel
The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1, 2, & 3 Martin Parr, Gerry Badger.

Amazon and the internet changed the way I find and purchase books radically. Which in turn feeds the process. It feels to me that the photobook has undergone somewhat of a Renaissance over the last 15 or so years and sources of information about them are almost overwhelming. Nearly anyone who publishes photobooks will have a website, newsletter and instagram feed at a minimum.

The cover of my latest photobook. Contact?
The cover of my latest photobook. Contact?

My most recent photobook is titled Contact? It is a DIY style book of ‘tipped in’ photographs, in a purchased visual dairy that was spiral bound but had blank pages. I Initially imagined it as an edition of 3 with 1 Artists Proof. The book ended up with 26 pages in total and 26 tipped in photographs.

One of two double page spreads in my newest photobook Contact?
One of two double page spreads in my newest photobook Contact?

The idea itself can be traced back to several conversations I had in the years since meeting the rest of the Melbourne Photobook Collective. Firstly Stephen Dupont one of the masterclass facilitators, where MPC first crossed paths suggested ‘tipping in’ work as a way to create a desirable book object, after I showed some work from a long running project I have been making using large format film during the workshop. [see below]

a box of contact prints that helped drive the creation of my latest publication 'Contact?'
A box of contact prints that helped drive the creation of my latest publication ‘Contact?’

This planted a seed.

Inside my newest photobook, Contact?
Inside my newest photobook, Contact?
A short piece of background text from page 2 of my newest photobook, Contact?
A short piece of background text from page 2 of my newest photobook, Contact?

Fast forward to about 2019

A discussion with a colleague at work pointed me to a blog post by Blake Andrews. Blake had written a post about a tipped in photobook he made using an existing sketchpad and small enlargements from a larger pile of discarded prints he made in other darkroom sessions.

Lastly coffee with a former teacher pushed the project forward after we talked about paper used in silver gelatin printing that convinced me Blake’s idea was suitable to pursue my own ends.

All the while I was thinking about history, memory and the archive. I was also sorely missing my time spent outdoors with my cameras.

My usual method of working involves looking back over contact sheets or digital files looking for connections between the images. These connections might lead to a book idea or an exhibition proposal. But having not had the chance to get out and look for new picture making opportunities I decided that there was enough in my archive to make a book.

At this point we were well into our second lockdown. I kept coming back to the idea of walking in a city with a camera. Something I took for granted until the pandemic began.

My archive of 120 film contact sheets, from 1987 to today.
My archive of 120 film contact sheets, from 1987 to today.

My Archive?

My archive itself spans more than 30 years of picture making. All up more than 530 or so contact sheets, each with 12 pictures. It actually took several hour long sessions to ‘consider’ them all. Peppered throughout were some images that for a variety of reasons resonated with me for many years, these also helped the process tick over.

The only selection criteria for the images at this point, was that the image have enough visual strength to stand out as a small contact print. I had decided very early on to only contact print these images which in turn drove the choice in book format. A6. Blake’s method was intriguing but I had other ideas on how I wanted the finished object to look.

A contact print from a roll of film shot in Canberra in the early 1990s from my latest photobook, Contact?
A contact print from a roll of film shot in Canberra in the early 1990s from my latest photobook, Contact?
Forty images after several edits, seen here in aperture, in no particular order.
Forty images after several edits, seen here in aperture, in no particular order.

My first edit yielded about 80 possible images, which I roughly printed digitally. Then edited down to about 40. I had yet to solve the issue of how the book would look with so many images, this weighed on my mind as I printed 4 sets of  40 images in the darkroom using silver gelatin paper.

The printing process, took several days, as I way making 4 books, I had to print each image 4 times.
The printing process, took several days, as I was making 4 books, I had to print each image 4 times.

After staring at the 40 images spread in front of me on a wall in my darkroom dedicated for this purpose I managed to edit the sequence down to 26

Final edit of 26 images in order, organised suing Aperture Apple's pro level photo management tool
Final edit of 26 images in order, organised using Aperture Apple’s pro level photo management tool

I then spent some time trimming and assembling and gluing them into 4 books

The second double spread in my new photobook Contact?
The second double spread in my new photobook Contact?

At one point I realised disassembling the books made some aspects of the production easier. Thanks to the spiral binding. A process driven result.

This helped the page count, as I removed more than 2/3 of the original pages.

Final thoughts

Overall this was a satisfying exercise, I’m not convinced however, the object achieves the look and feel I was hoping for. In my mind it was going to be a unique yet luxurious object. I severely underestimated the skill level to achieve this. I may use this technique with a different size scale and binding approach in the future.

Thanks to Fiona Sweet and Ballarat International Biennale for organising this event.


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photogrpahs in the 21st century.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

From Doom-scrolling to Darkroom

St.Albans paddock with pylons and burnt grass
Circa 1989, St.Albans 19 x 19 cm silver gelatin print. Printed 2021

Today was the beginning of the term break for me as I only work 3 days a week now. I managed to procrastinate online all morning. I fitted in some quality time in my darkroom after lunch though. I have a solo exhibition application in the works. So if I’m accepted into the space I want to have plenty of time to make the best quality prints I can. The negatives span more than 30 years of shooting film and are mostly images that I have liked for and of themselves. But may not have fitted in with other series and bodies of work I exhibited in the past.

It’s a bit weird working with such old negatives. I started in my first year of University with a Mamiya medium format TLR camera. I used Microdol-X as my developer in those days. I now use a Hasselblad as my main medium format camera. Recently switched to Xtol too, a commercial developer also by Kodak. Prior to switching I had used a home made developer called D25. I’m still using the same film though, Kodak T-max 400.

Papers too, have changed radically since 1989 when I was at University. Now most papers are multi-contrast as opposed to graded. This is actually a good thing as I feel I can eke more out of a negative using the 2 extreme filters, 00 and 5. A technique called ‘split filter printing’.

I hope then to better match my expectations of an image using the split filter printing system, and a variety of home made paper developers. Compared to my University days, when a neg may have been put aside due to it not being able to printed well on a single grade of paper.
The differences between cameras and eras seems noticeable. The developer not so much. I switched film developers mainly for environmental reasons but technique also played a part in that decision too. I touched base with an old teacher a couple of summers back and he suggested the change.

The weird part is as I’m not really working to a fixed time frame, I have all the time in the world to muck around as I make each print. Some are just “falling” out of the enlarger, others are requiring many test strips and prints. I plan on exhibiting about 14 to 18 prints. Pinned directly to the walls of the gallery.

I applied to exhibit in October 2022.

Fingers crossed.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | Twitter | Tumblr ☚

New Online Group Exhibition

I am involved in yet another online exhibition. This time with the Friends of Photography Group. This is their 3rd exhibition asking ‘members’ to submit an image made or printed during the Covid restrictions. I submitted a print I made on Ilford Multigrade Fibre Based paper, scanned. I made 2 versions and toned one in sepia and the other in selenium, this is the sepia version.

Here is my ‘statement’ for the image.

Back in 1989, I listened to one of my lecturers talk about his relationship to the landscape and in particular She Oak trees. That notion has stayed with me ever since. This print is a result of this exchange. I continue to photograph these trees as I encounter them. Given that many councils are regenerating their open spaces the significance of these trees is important.


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photographs in the 21st century.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

Solo Exhibition a year ago

Almost 12 months ago I had a solo exhibition of silver gelatin prints at Sunshine Art Spaces. Sadly I made virtually no installation images. I have this short video and a handful of iPhone snaps.

Here are the stills

I did however blog about it over on my old blogspot blog


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photographs in the 21st century.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr