Macula Collective - 5 Years Old

Five years ago today I set up a photography group for young people. Tom Coleman director of Unveil'd has kindly written some words about his involvement with the Macula Collective.

'I scraped through school with a mixed bag of GCSEs, with the worst grades in Art and Graphic Design - the two subjects I should have enjoyed the most but felt completely un-inspired to do any work for. I was skipping school a lot to hang out with my girlfriend. We got drunk on a Monday afternoon when I should have been in double maths and I stuck photocopied, pretty graphic porn on my art final piece (it was otherwise an ink drawing of an owl). I handed it in, wrapped in a bin bag and got stuck trying to jump the school fence running from my teacher before she opened it.

I went to college for three weeks, it didn't interest me. On a rainy day I told my tutor, a Philosophy teacher I was dropping out, he asked me what I was going to do instead and I remember murmuring something about a photography blog I had been running since I was fifteen. He looked bemused and off I went.

The cafe I was working at cut my hours, it was late autumn 2013, there was nothing to do and no jobs going. I volunteered in a charity book shop for a while just to get me out of bed. I saw on Facebook a little photography gallery Dodo Photo was opening in Exeter and they needed a hand setting up. I went along, met Martyn Windsor who was also helping and Brendan Barry, who was living above the gallery space at the time. I painted the toilet. I told them both about the blog I was running and Brendan said I should get in touch with Rob, who ran 'Foto Group'. Me and Martyn both went and met Rob and the other members. I had something to sink my teeth into and we re-branded to Macula Collective. Every Tuesday we would look at each other's work or go out into the countryside to take pictures. I was still shooting loads of film of my friends getting drunk so Macula gave me a kind of constructive space to think about the work I wanted to make.

Rob's work was developing too as he had just started doing an MA at Plymouth University. His pictures always heightened the places we had seen into a dream-like state. I have just got back from Wales, having photographed the beginnings of a new long term project. There are hints of Rob's work in all of my images, I've learnt to read light through his camera more than mine.

I turn twenty-one in exactly two weeks. In the last four years I founded and ran Unveil'd alongside Martyn, producing three photography festivals with the next set to take place in 2019 and planned to be the biggest yet. I have curated a number of exhibitions and had my work shown in three different countries. I have had the chance to meet some of my personal heroes and raised the funding to fly my favourite photographers into the UK to give talks as part of Unveil'd. Sitting next to your heroes is humbling and petrifying at the same time, more so when you are physically exhausted after pulling everything together last minute and trying to find the last bit of energy to make sure they are looked after.

Rob, Martyn, Jessica Lennan and myself now head up Unveil'd, pulling in all of our respective skills and contacts. Brendan teaches foundation degree photography in Exeter so we have a close partnership with the School of Art and the students. Rob and Jes moved into Dodo Photo when Brendan moved out, it's now functioning as their personal studio with some exciting projects in the pipeline.

I have been invited to give talks and guest lectures at galleries, organisations and universities over the last few years, nervously accepting each offer. I applied to do a degree of my own at London College of Communication, realising the constructive space, network and facilities that come with a university setting would benefit me. My place was accepted.

I move to London tomorrow to start University and i’ll be sharing a house with Peter Butterworth and Stan Jeffrey, both fellow Macula members.

The first event I did as Unveil'd was in some Edwardian toilets in Bristol, taking it's name from the line "And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd" from Alexander Pope's poem. I hadn't made the connection until now that the last four years might not have happened unless I had painted the toilet in Dodo Photo. Whenever I've given talks I tell the audience or class to hang out at galleries, help out and sweep floors. People usually think I am joking or speaking generally but I'm being serious. Sweeping the floor is the last thing that happens before a show opens. It means someone has turned up and got their hands dirty, they're not just there for the free beer. I always clock those people and they're the ones I want to work with.

I think it's funny the way things have worked out, I've ended up doing what I always said I wouldn't, just with a very strict set of rules about how to do it and what matters to me personally. I owe the next three years of (University) life and probably everything that comes after them, to Rob and the collective. I have an inkling they might be pretty good.' Tom Coleman.

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Fisheye Photobook - Vol 1

It was lovely to receive the Fisheye Photobook in the post today! I spent some time over a cup of tea looking through the book and discovering lots of interesting image makers (After shamelessly flicking through to find my images!). It's a really interesting concept taking content which was first curated online and then sharing that as a book, especially the instagram index section at the back. Hopefully it's successful for Fisheye and they continue making the books. Click <Here> to buy a copy. 

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Photo London - Magnum Awards

I recently headed down to London to spend some time visiting Photo London and to attend the Magnum Graduate Awards. It was lovely to be nominated for the award and although I knew I wasn't one of the 10 selected winners, I thought it would still be interesting to attend. Living in Devon, I feel very removed from London, sometimes it doesn't even feel like both places are in the same country. So I think it's even more important to leave the rural idyll for the bright lights of the big city every now and then. 

It was lovely catching up with friends and Colleagues and my highlights included, seeing Niall Mcdiarmid's work at the Museum of London, The Peckham 24 show, IPF exhibition at House of Vans, Ron Jude & David Chandler's talk and Dana Lixenberg at the Photographers gallery. 17 year old me also got very excited seeing Ed Templeton and having a flash back to when I met him in London 20 years ago. 

I also spent an afternoon at Offprint, which I usually find a little disappointing, as it's an event I always get excited about beforehand. I normally set myself a budget, to control my spending, though, I struggled to part with my £100 and spent most of my time judging books by their covers. Perhaps it's the intimidating amount of books, or maybe that most of the work doesn't appeal to me. On one stall, I casually flicked through a book and the publisher, (kindly) offered to explain the work to me as it was quite complex. It seems the idea has become more important than the image and there definitely appears to be a movement towards an anti aesthetic intellectualised discourse in contemporary photo book publishing. I struggle with this, as the images always have to draw me into the idea and the work. This doesn't mean I am against photographers using varied visual languages and design to realise their work in book form, it's that the images need to have some aesthetic appeal, nuance, soul or emotion to intrigue me in the first place.

The Five Bells - The Telegraph Magazine

Thankfully the Five Bells received a favourable review from Michael Deacon in the Telegraph Magazine, although he seemed slightly more in love with Devon than the food, which as an outsider I can completely relate too. I have to (metaphorically) pinch myself every now and then, just to make sure I don't ever take where I live for granted. 

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Geology - Wales - Exeter University

I was recently commissioned by Exeter University to take photographs of their geology students on a field trip in West Wales. As Wales is prone to a bit of dampness, I was relieved that the sun was shining for the trip and it was fascinating learning a bit about the geology of the region as well. 


The Five Bells - Clyst Hydon - Telegraph Magazine

The Telegraph commissioned me to take some photographs of the Five Bells Pub at Clyst Hydon to accompany a restaurant review by Michael Deacon. I knew I might need an extra pair of hands so I enlisted Macula member Jazz Moffatt to help out. The Pub was tucked away in the depths of Mid-Devon, a former coaching house built in the 16th century, definitely the rural idyll. The food looked sublime, so I hope they receive a favourable review. 

Plymouth College of Art

I had a really rewarding day at Plymouth College of Art at the end of April. I was invited to give a talk about my work in the morning and then in the afternoon I had the opportunity to sit down with the 3rd year BA students and discuss their work. I was really impressed with the quality of their projects and enjoyed chatting to the students about their plans, hopes and aspirations. They were a really lovely group and it was great to see how close they all seemed. I look forward to seeing how they progress once they leave the education bubble! 

 

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Fisheye Photobook - Vol 1

The French Magazine Fisheye have produced a Photobook compiled from Photographers they have showcased over the last couple of years. They have kindly included some of my work in this first edition and I am looking forward to seeing the physical book and all the talented photographers included in it! I think it’s a super idea as I like the notion of buying a book where you have the opportunity to discover lots of different photographers. These compilation books are quite common in other artistic disciplines like Illustration, but not so prevalent within photography, so lets hope that changes. You can buy the book from their website. 

Bath University Lecture

Just before Easter I had the pleasure of delivering a lecture to the BA Photography students at Bath University. It always seems quite daunting beforehand trying to fill an hour, but in reality I always end up running out of time! The students were lovely, really engaged and asked lots of questions. In the Afternoon I sat down with several final year students to look at their work and offer some advice. It was a super opportunity to see the different work they were making and their strong personal motivations for the projects. 

Freya Najade - New Contemporaries Series

The final speaker in the New Contemporaries series was Freya Najade. Freya published not one but two books last year, so I was really interested to hear Freya talk about her experience of publishing. Freya gave a super talk and like all the speakers in this series she tailored the lecture perfectly to the audience. I wanted this series to also give the students an insight into the realities of earning a living and working as a photographer. This is something that very rarely gets mentioned in talks, photographers preferring instead to focus on their artistic practices and personal work. It was really interesting to learn that Freya also set up a photography company with her partner Marcela Spadaro, Naaro, which specifically deals with architectural photography. As a recent graduate myself I found the lecture really thought provoking and insightful. It has been a real pleasure to curate this series of talks and that all the speakers delivered such interesting and inspirational lectures was wonderful!

Images © Freya Najade

Lewis Bush - New Contemporaries Series

The fourth speaker in the New Contemporaries series was Lewis Bush. I was slightly sad like many others that Lewis had recently decided to stop writing his Disphotic Blog, but really excited to meet him and hear his talk. Lewis delivered an excellent lecture using his practice to help illustrate the different directions you can take as a photographer. He discussed all the various roles that form his practice, photographer, writer, curator and teacher, highlighting the importance of this diversification. I was particularly interested in his series Shadows of the State which examines the phenomenon of listening stations, originally used during the cold war to broadcast information to spies. It was slightly haunting listening to some of the messages that always contained a string of numbers spoken by a sampled voice. I admired the amount of research and investigation that had gone into discovering the locations of these stations and it rekindled memories of when I was fascinated by similar subject matter. 


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Images © Lewis Bush from Shadows of the State

Tereza Zelenkova - New Contemporaries Series

The third speaker in the New Contemporaries series was Tereza Zelenkova. I have admired Tereza’s work for some time so it was a pleasure to be able to invite her to talk at Plymouth University. Tereza works predominantly in black and white and her images are often concerned with mythologies around people or places. There are also obvious elements of fiction and storytelling within her work which is a device that I use as part of my own practice. Tereza gave a really interesting and informative talk, discussing several of her projects and the motivations behind her work. It was also a privilege to see several new images from her current series and I look forward to seeing how it develops over the coming years. 

Dog Cemetery, 2015. 

Dog Cemetery, 2015. 

Landscape, Aderšpach, 2015. 

Landscape, Aderšpach, 2015. 

Devil’s Table, Beskydy, 2015. Images © Tereza Zelenkova

Devil’s Table, Beskydy, 2015. Images © Tereza Zelenkova

Jurassic Coast

A few Sundays ago Jes and I went for a wander near West Bay, Dorset before visiting my parents. Obviously these cliffs are now more widely known due to the ITV series Broadchurch. Though before televisual fame they had been beautifully captured by Jem Southam in his Rockfall series. Jes and I both spent a few happy hours seeing and capturing the same images, apart from the dogs, I got there first!