image by Gareth Jones
This is an interactive artwork I made with Tim Shaw and was one of the several pieces that resulted from the Sound Spaces project with John Bowers and Stefan Kazassoglou. Sound Spaces was an investigation, through making, of various intriguing locations across Liverpool in 2015. One of the places we visited was Liverpool’s Old Dock, which is largely unseen to passersby being underground in the foundations of the Liverpool ONE leisure and retail development. Anyone can visit The Old Dock by booking onto one of the free guided tours offered by National Museums Liverpool, but I wondered whether 360-degree spherical photographs, layered with images and sounds evoking the site’s past and present, could engage passersby above ground. I worked with Tim Shaw to create a first prototype, which attracted sponsorship from Liverpool ONE to develop and install the piece for two years. The artwork went live in April 2017, some of the first visitors being a convention of Lord Mayors!
The piece is intended to be viewed on location in Liverpool ONE. But the image below gives a flavour of it.
I visited the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California yesterday – a house with many rooms and many stories. The site is packaged with more than a whiff of the Hollywood haunted house spin. The house designed by spirits. The labyrinth built to confuse evil spirits with doors and staircases to nowhere, winding staircases and secret passages. The house of paranormal phenomena, where you may still feel the presence of Sarah Winchester and those spirits she thought never far behind. And a house where all the explanations given inevitably end in ellipses “we’ll leave you to make your own mind up folks…”
But the Winchester Mystery House has many more layers than this. It is an architectural pattern book of Victorian style. It is a monument to the many labours and crafts that produced it. It is an antidote to rigid design and ‘logical’ buildings (although Sarah Winchester applied different logics in its construction). It is the satisfaction of a previously frustrated architect’s desire to build. It is a physical manifestation of Sarah Winchester’s psyche and how she sought to deal with the tragic deaths of her infant daughter, husband and others close to her. And it is an attempt to make this conundrum engaging to modern visitors through ascribing mystery and intrigue, and the answers we append to all those ellipses.
What is so fascinating, though, is that the house is all these layers and others all at once. And is no different to anywhere else in this respect, simply a vivid example of this layering. I loved it.
Unfortunately photography inside the house is not allowed, but I took several outside.
I’ve just come back from an intensive four-day workshop at FACT in Liverpool, working with Kinicho (a company specialising in kinetic/3D sound engineering), three researcher-practitioner colleagues from Newcastle University (Tim Shaw, John Bowers and Tom Schofield), and several people who signed up for the workshop which was part of FACT’s Build Your Own programme of activities. We visited several fascinating spaces across the city to make various recordings, which we then used to produce several interactive works for public performance and demonstration. During this time I created an interactive, layered, series of spherical panoramic photographs which can be explored here: http://simon-bowen.com/soundlines/ (For extra interaction, use a smart phone or tablet…)
We intend to develop these works further for a public installation towards the end of October.
I visited Selby Abbey last week as part of research I’m involved in on interaction design and heritage sites, and made some spherical panoramic photos:
Norman arch at the main entrance to Selby Abbey
The site has a rich history including being one of the oldest Norman churches in the country (founded in 1069). But whilst I was there I learned that the building has hosted notable events more recently being the venue for Taiwanese superstar and ‘New King of Asian Pop’ Jay Chou’s wedding.
After much of my usual prevarication I’ve finally created a book of 21 of my panoramic photographs of Yorkshire. I’ve used BobBooks rather than iPhoto. We normally use Apple’s iPhoto for our annual books of family photos because the layouts are easy to populate and elegantly designed. However I wanted lay-flat pages for wide panoramic images spread over two pages (that is when you can open the book and not get the image squeezed in and out of the spine at the fold line). BobBooks offer this and printing on photographic lustre paper, which yields better contrast and deeper colours than traditional printing. The layout tools provided are a little clunky (compared to intuitive iPhoto), but worth persevering with to get the image quality.
I wrote the introduction and captions to the book for an interested audience, rather than just the family so that I could offer the book for sale, too (no profit taken – these books are expensive enough as it is). You can check it out here.
The new Nikon Df camera was released recently, a camera I thought I’d immediately start to covet but have actually been somewhat underwhelmed by. I learned my craft on manual Nikon SLRs (a Nikkormat EL2 lost in a burglary and replaced with a Nikon FM3a) and loved the direct connection with image making enforced by manual selection of exposure and focus settings. Moving to digital in 2007, I still used most of my manual lenses and generally continued to set shutter speed and aperture manually. I’ve since acquired some auto-focus lenses (great for portraits) but continue to rely on crisp, contrasty manual lenses for landscape work.
So why don’t I love the Df as a return to the good old days? Firstly it’s big(ish). The FM3a is rather svelte by comparison, principally because it doesn’t need to fit a D4’s electronic gubbins inside it. Secondly, I’m not sure what you gain from using ‘manual’ dials to set exposure settings over using the front and rear command dials as I’ve become accustomed to (and you can use command dials with the camera to your eye much easier than the rotary dials). Thirdly, the sensor size – why 16 Mp on a camera aimed at photo-purists and not something larger like on the D800? And the clincher is the cost – not much change from three thousand pounds.
I would have preferred a camera closer to the ideals of the FM3a – basic metering, no auto-focus drive and manual exposure settings (alright, perhaps aperture-priority auto-exposure). And image processing components that provide the highest quality image for subsequent development – i.e. a high resolution sensor and RAW-only files. This would reduce the complexity of the electronics inside and place the camera back into the hands of those who prefer not to be distracted by details such as number, spread and types of auto-focus sensors, metering patterns, and ‘scene-based’ image processing algorithms. It would be smaller and cheaper, too!
I’m pleased to say that I can now offer photographic prints, greetings cards and posters of my images for sale. As much as I like sharing my images on the web, they really come into their own as large prints (something I was reminded about recently when we had my panoramic image of Castlerigg Stone Circle printed 1 metre wide and framed for our living room wall).
The two Yorkshire galleries where I used to sell my prints have long since closed but I’ve recently joined Red Bubble, which means that I can offer images in a variety of formats. Prices start from £1.51 for greetings cards, £6.80 for photographic prints, and £57.60 for framed prints (in a choice of styles) – prices in other currencies available on the site.
I’ll be adding more images to Red Bubble soon but, if you have any particular favourites that aren’t there at the moment, let me know and I’ll put them at the top of the “to do” list.
Or rather a photo set on Flickr. Two weeks after returning from a whistle-stop tour of Norway after the Nordes conference, I’ve put my photographs online.
Why the wait? Aside from a particularly busy period running participatory design activities, it’s finding the time to process all the photographs. Image quality being a top issue for me, I shoot in RAW format rather than JPEGs. This means storing all the information from the camera’s sensor rather than letting its software decide how to process that data into a JPEG image (contrast, colour balance and saturation etc.). The upside being you’ve all the data to work with when modifying an image (some being lost in the creation of the JPEG), the downside being you need to ‘develop’ each of your images. An intensive two weekend’s work and they’re done. I’ve been using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 software to do the RAW conversions and majority of image processing and, for Nikon owners, can thoroughly recommend it.
* Anyone who’s travelled to Norway, or considered it, will probably have heard of the “Norway-in-a-nutshell” tour. A great way to get a taster of mountain and fjord scenery via train, boat and bus.
Harem window, Topkapi palace, Istanbul
I’m slowly getting through my backlog of photographs that need either scanning (for those I shot on 35mm transparency film) or RAW-conversion (for those I shot using a digital camera), then post-processing (colour balance, contrast and the odd bit of dust-removal) and keywording (for picture sales via Alamy
) before making them available online. The latest images to get finished are a set I took in Turkey in April 2007. This was Joanna and my first trip to Turkey, ostensibly so I could attend the European Academy of Design conference in Izmir
, but we also travelled a few days ahead so that we could explore Istanbul. We weren’t sure what to expect but Turkey was a revelation: a beautiful, vibrant country steeped in history with some stunning architecture, the friendliest of people and lip-smackingly fresh and fabulous food. Click on the image to browse the full set on Flickr
One of my photographs of the impressive marble staircase in Glasgow’s City Chambers has been included in the latest Schmap Glasgow Guide. The company that produces these guides uses Flickr to source its photographs and Yahoo and Google to produce its maps. A nice bit of web cross-fertilisation.