Menai View - A Personal Commission

22 April 2022

Last year I was privately commissioned to make a very personal and particular image in a place close to my heart and home, Porthaethwy. I was asked to photograph the Afon Menai (Menai Strait) with Telford’s suspension bridge, Ynys Tysilio (Church Island) and Eryri (Snowdonia)in view. Oh and the photograph was to be in monochrome. 

Of course, this was a special commission for me as I got to make the image while staying with my father during the 2021 Northern Eye Festival (yes, that was last October so I’m well overdue writing about this). 

One evening driving home from the festival the conditions looked perfect. The visibility of the mountains was crystal clear. The sun was setting behind me but not quite gone down too far. What seemed to be a foehn wind lipped clouds over the ridge and into a cwm. You can’t see it in the monochrome image but pastel colours were already appearing in the sky. I just had minutes, perhaps 20 at most, before the sun would have gone down so that the strait was thrown into shadow while the mountains were still lit, unbalancing the image. 

As part of my efforts to lessen the impact of my photography practice on the environment I printed the image on Hahnemühle’s Natural Line bamboo paper. I’d begun researching this line of papers last year after previously using Canson’s Baryta paper. 

The Hahnemühle Natural Line papers in bamboo, hemp and agave are matte papers and warmer in tone that the Canson I was used to. Each of the three has a slightly different textures and warmth, but they feel as close to darkroom fibre paper as I have come across in digital inkjet papers. The bamboo seems to hold deep blacks well and gives an excellent tonal range throughout the image. I’m very pleased with the result and so is the person who commissioned the print. 

In fact, several other people liked the look of it when I showed them prior to delivery, and with the blessing of the person who commissioned it, that resulted in two more sales of the same print! 

In addition to the photograph selected for the print I made several other photographs of the view from slightly different positions, the first of which is my own favourite from the set. If you are interested in a print of any of these images, please read this information about my prints and contact me directly to discuss sizing and pricing. 

Or perhaps you might be interested in commissioning me to make a photograph and print for you. Maybe there’s a place close to your heart, somewhere you have been on Holiday or your family has close ties to. 

As part of my process I discuss with you exactly what the place means to you or the person you want to gift the print to and the emotions that are part of it. We can do that in person, via video or a phone call. Once I have that information I can think about when might be best to make the photograph to bring out the aspects we’ve talked about and mark it in the calendar. We’ll also discuss printing options. 

A slightly more bespoke service can be provided at a premium if you wish the image to be made using monochrome film and printed in the darkroom. Film still holds a certain emotional and physical connection for me and it may well do so for you too! 

We can also discuss exclusivity within the terms of the commission. That would come with a special agreement, licence and premium pricing to reflect the nature of the terms. 

As a special for Earth Day, I would like to offer 20% off prints and commissions until the end of April. Just contact me using the code: 

EarthDay2022EB20

I hope to hear from you soon. 


Tansa

20 April 2022

Earlier this year I was commissioned by textile artist Linda Brassington to photograph a piece she created for an exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. The piece, called Compressed, consists of textile, paper and foil, and reflects the Japanese practice of itajime, indigo dyeing of folded materials, such as washi, between pins and clamps. 

When deciding how to photograph the piece, I wanted to reflect the creative idea and process behind the object by making it feel like it had just emerged from the inky depths of an indigo vat. I constructed my setup and lighting accordingly, using a black backdrop and resting the object on a pane of glass. The delicacy of the piece itself mean this was a very considered process, only making small, careful adjustments as needed.

Compressed was exhibited alongside other pieces born from a University of Creative Arts textile research trip to Japan and my photograph of it has been included in the book catalogue for the exhibition. Tansa-Japanese Threads of Influence has closed now but it was fantastic. Walking into the exhibit was surprising as I didn’t expect all of the pieces to be so small. Each one rested on a  square plinth about one metre tall and  50cm x 50cm on top. The intricacy of the artistic endeavour was astonishing. Tansa is the Japanese word for exploration, which felt very apt as I explored these small worlds; mysterious creations made out of thread, textile and other materials.

I think it is fitting to end this post with an excerpt from the short essay within the exhibition book by Keiko Kawashima , Director of the Kyoto Contemporary International Textile Art Center, which she starts by saying:

“In the long history of Japanese art, one of its characteristics is said to be “the love of small things”*. We have poured our skills into small things and created wonderful things”.

*From the exhibition in 1996 at the then Kyoto National Museum “Manazashi no boken” (Adventure in 7 Viewpoints from Japanese Art)

Wonderful things indeed.



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