LECTURER, MASTER OF DESIGN (M.DES) IN PHOTOGRAPHY AT GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART

 

LECTURER, MASTER OF DESIGN (M.DES) IN PHOTOGRAPHY AT GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART

BY INÊS MOREIRA AND PEDRO LEÃO NETO

IM_PLN: Please tell us about your academic and cultural education, where did you study photography, who influenced you the most?

DS: I was born and I grew up in Venice, where I got my BSc in Urban and Landscape planning, which I think helped me to have an idea of the complexity of the dynamics, which characterize the world we live in: a world where many languages are spoken, even within people which think there are speaking the same one. I believe there is an interesting connection between the role of the Urbanist, the planner, and the one of the artist. I like to think that our role as artists is the one of the ‘translators’, being able to process and communicate in various different ‘languages’, re-represent information in a variety of ways, showing new perspectives and possibilities, providing platforms for reflection, dialogue and inclusion. The core of my final thesis in Venice was a photographic project on the history of cinema theatres and after I graduated, for a couple of years, I decided to form professionally as a photographer, working as an assistant and teaching assistant at the IUAV university of Venice. Soon after I got involved in an incredible adventure called Sismycity. Sismycity has been a year long project on the aftermath of the earthquake which hit the city of L’Aquila, not far from Rome, in 2009. This work became a collateral event of the Venice Biennale in 2010 and has been an incredible learning platform, which pushed me to start applying to AIR and to apply for a master in photography at the Glasgow School of Art. My formation as a photographer was very formal, documentary and architectural, working with Fulvio Orsenigo and Alessandra Chemollo, but during my master I explored the potential of interaction with the spaces to create my own language. Andy Stark has been a very important person in this process.

IM_PLN: We are interested on teaching profiles, so, can you tell us how did it start? What directed you towards a teaching career?

DS: I got my first teaching experience as an assistant in Venice several years ago, where I discovered that I really enjoyed working with the students, but it wasn’t until last year, spring 2013, that I effectively started teaching. Last month the first group of students I worked with for the full length of the master, graduated. Now in few weeks times I will meet a new group of master students and another year will start.

IM_PLN:Thinking of Glasgow School of Art, could you describe the photography program being taught there? Can you discuss the challenges and your role as a teacher of photography?

DS: The M.DES. in photography at the Glasgow School of Art asks the students to arrive with a proposal, which is discussed during the course of the year (or the two years) through a series of weekly tutorials where the students are guided, suggestions are given, ideas discussed, work in progress reviewed, etc. The students are coming from a variety of backgrounds and countries all over the world. It is our role as educators to support the creative process, suggesting but not revealing everything, stopping early enough so the students are able to discover things making them their own. This is probably the part I find most challenging: the process of appropriation and metabolization of knowledge for the construction of their own voice and their visual language.


IM_PLN: Since you divide your time between the teaching and your professional artistic work, how do you manage these different paths and related points of view?

DS: My personal research feeds into the teaching, also, the relationship with the students is always very direct and open.  Sometimes we discuss books or documentaries or radio programs, share exhibition and other events to go and see. I think is very important for them to explore outside the boundaries of the art school world while they are still studying for their master. It is easy to get absorbed inside the bubble of the art school world and this can limit the amount of critical thinking and diversity of the influences in their work.

IM_PLN: What about your professional and artistic paths, and photographic research? Tell us about your main interests and what projects you have worked on in recent years. What are you working on now at the moment?

DS: I am about to start another residency, just before the beginning of the academic year. I will be in Cardiff, where I will spend 6 weeks as part of Cardiff Contemporaries. I am preparing a show in Glasgow and I am working on a book about Sown, an ongoing work that is now into its 3rd year of life. I am also putting together a series of small books/photozines, which are helping me to reflect on a series of works developed in past year.

IM_PLN: What are your inspirations in terms of books and photographers that influence you the most? Can you  recommend a book to our readers?

DS: When I started was incredibly inspired by the works of Hiroshi Sugimoto, especially by the Theatres series where the light projection of a movie in a cinema theatre literally shapes the space around and makes it what it is. I was also fascinated by the geometrical perfection of the works of Bert and Hila Becker and by the work of their students from the Dusseldorf school of photography, in particular the work of Candida Hofer in the libraries. I was very inspired by Joel Sternfeld, especially in the occasions where his work impacted the world around him, like in the case of the High Line in New York, where the exhibition of the photographs he took ‘walking on the highline’ became the catalyst for the requalification of the old railway system into a suspended park. In terms of works which are less photographic and more about temporary interventions I will mention the most important for me, which is Chirsto’s Running Fence, I was amazed when I watched the documentary by Albert Maysles (Running Fence, Fandor, 1978). Something more recent which inspired me a lot, and it’s funny because he is my age, it’s JR, there is an awesome TED talk online about his work women are heroes, pasting huge pictures in different cities around the world. In terms of books I recently bumped into an awesome book by Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin called Fig. It is probably my favorite book just now.

IM_PLN: Can you refer an emerging photographer that recently interested you? Why?

DS: By working with emerging photographers and by being one myself is very difficult to make a list. Just out the top of my head: Max Pincker, we met a couple of years ago in Brussels, and since then he is doing extremely well. His work plays with reality and fiction in a very fascinating way.

IM_PLN: You took part in many artist residences, can you give any particular advice for young photographers aspiring to circulate and take part in such circuits?

DS: Yes I can, just a very simple advice: do not hide your work. Let your work circulate and be discussed. Talking about it is the best way to move it forward. Asking questions, showing engagement. It will sound obvious but the most important thing about residencies is applying. Many times you will be last minute and decide not to go for it, well I believe that the last push makes the difference between your work being seen or not.

IM_PLN: With rapid and continuous technological change those who want to pursue a creative career must always be updated. In addition, the vast competition requires more skills to young people entering the labor market. What are the tips and suggestions you have for the younger generation?

DS: This question could be asked to an art or design student but also to a medicine student or a law student, which once had automatically a job just because they finished their studies. The technological changes always affected all the professions and being updated has always been key. Careers In the creative world, as far as I know, have always been more difficult in terms of the amount of energy and effort needed to get a job in the field or being recognized at the end of the studies. I can say that in my experience it’s a slow process and you are never arrived, as soon as you think you are at a stage in your life when you have enough experience and network, etc. you get out of fashion, stop getting exhibitions and opportunities, and have to start again from scratch. We have to be able to re-invent ourselves every time and work and live for the cause and thanks to this we get all the inspirations and inputs that establish a relation between us and the outside world.


IM_PLN: How do you think the internet and everything that is connected is affecting the production and sharing of projects and images?

DS: In my humble opinion this is overproduction of images shared on the internet had the effect of increasing the number of artist books for example, or different ways of looking, less fast and more reflective. It’s very hard to give an answer, which isn’t a forecast. I will say that maybe we are looking at something similar to what happened when painting felt challenged by the technological advancements of photography (Daguerre and friends), and had to re-invent itself. In a similar way I think the internet and the new-tech are after all offering an opportunity to us for re-inventing the photographic medium.

IM_PLN: And last, the reflection on the mirror, what’s your opinion about the Portuguese photography panorama? Do you find echoes in Glasgow?

DS: I don’t know enough about Portugal to answer this question properly, but I can tell you that there is something that connect Glasgow and Porto. Perhaps both being at the periphery of Europe or perhaps because both are postindustrial cities. In Glasgow there is an interesting relationship between the artscene and the making of the city (A social sculpture is a good book to get an idea). Many artists and collectives are making work insitu, using the numerous empty and abandoned spaces, warehouses, factories, etc. I was in Braga to see the photography festival and the most interesting work there I think were the ones which found an unconventional installation set up (eg. Hung in a street, in a container in the middle of a square, etc). It made me think of The Social, encountering photography, a small festival in Sunderland, where the exhibitions took place mostly in public spaces, in an attempt to construct a different relationship between the audience, the place they live in and the artworld.

 

INTERVIEW WITH KELLY MCERLEAN

 

INTERVIEW WITH KELLY MCERLEAN

Director of National Media College, Dublin

by Pedro Leão Neto

PN: Tell us about your background, where and when did you study photography, who were your teachers, who influenced you the most?

KM: My photography tutor was called John Hodgett from Bourneville College, Birmingham, UK. At 22yrs, I was working as a Software Engineer at a UK Ministry of Defence site. I decided to change career and study photography, then film production. I was always interested in films and thought that becoming a proficient photographer would be a goodway to start in that profession. Then I fell in love woth photography and work in both fields.

 

PN: What was your first teaching experience? What directed you towards a teaching career?

KM: I started teaching part-time photography at a school in Dublin in the 90's. The classes went well so I was promoted to full-time. I have always enjoyed teaching. It's very rewarding. 

 

PN: As this interview series focuses on photographers / artist /educators and their photography schools and teaching experience at your institution? Can you discuss the challenges and your role as a teacher of photography?

KM: It is challenging to unravel a students' pre-conceived opinions as to what photography is. There is a strong element of trust needed between the tutor and student. They must believe that you know what you are doing and that you know how much they can learn in each lesson. We ask students to 'engage' with the spirit of the course. We also ask them to focus on critical analysis and lateral thinking. The photographic skills will come with practice, but critical analysis and lateral thinking abilities take perseverance.

 

PN: You divide your time between the teaching, research and your professional and artistic work. How do you manage it? How is it possible to share these aspects of professional and artistic practice in teaching and with student careers?

KM: It is helpful to move between commercial and creative projects. Discussing commercial projects with students helps them to understand the reality of professional practice. Creative projects remind them why they wanted to study photography in the first place.

 

PN: What about your professional and artistic paths, and photographic research? Tell us about your main interests and what are you working on now? Any ideas for the future?

KM: I am working on 2 photobooks and a short film.The books are called 'New York is Purple' and 'Americana. ''New York is Purple' are images I shot in NY during the heatwave and impending financial meltdown of July 2011. Purple is the colour of change, it signifies importance, I had the same feeling about New York. People are tough but there is also a strong feeling of community. I can send you a rough draft if you would like to see it.

'Americana' is a series of images of San Francisco in 1999. The short film is called 'Singularitas.'

 

PN: What are your inspirations in terms of books and photographers that you have loved the most? Do you have a book or photographer that recently interested you?

KM: Tony Ray Jones. I saw his exhibition in Bradford recently. Also, I am reading the work of Georges Perec and I am interested in photographing what he described as the 'infra-ordinary.' 

 

PN: You took part in many exhibitions. Any particular advice for young photographers aspiring to display and exhibit their work without drowning in the ocean of images in which we daily swim?

KM: Always photograph with the 'intention to make a statement.'

 

PN: With rapid and continuous technological change those who want to pursue a creative career must always be updated. In addition, the vast competition requires more skills to young people entering the labor market. What are the tips and suggestions you have for the younger generation?

KM: Keep an eye on new technologies and their application in industry. Employers want new ideas, not old ones. 

 

PN: What’s your opinion about the Irish photography panorama? What about the International panorama?

KM:There is a major photofestival each year here in Dublin. As I was originally trained in the UK I gravitate towards UK photographic practice and style.

 

PN: Are the new technologies useful vehicles for the dissemination and the promotion of the photographers work?

KM: Yes definately. Students should read all the technology sites like TechCrunch to be aware of what new technologies are coming.

 

PN: What is the importance of online specialist magazines such as, for example, Lens Culture, Portfolio, Source, Aperture and the influence of these being a source of an amazing volume of work from around the globe.

KM: Very important. Critical analysis creates better work. Foam magazine is one of the best.

 

EMERGING PORTUGUESE PHOTOGRAPHER MIGUEL REFRESCO

 

EMERGING PORTUGUESE PHOTOGRAPHER MIGUEL REFRESCO

BY JIÔN KIIM

Miguel Refresco is one of the most emerging Portuguese photographers. Born in 1986 in Porto, Portugal, Miguel lives and works in Porto as a freelance photographer and photography teacher. He has a degree in Audiovisual Communication Technologies - specialization in Photography of ESMAE and Master in Contemporary Artistic Practices - FBAUP. He has developed documental works related to the issues of identity and territory that he has exhibited regularly since 2008. At the same time, he collaborates with “o Ballet Contemporâneo do Norte”, “Lovers and Lollypops” and “Capicua.” His work has been published in several publications: Vice Spain, Vice Portugal, Public, Observer, P3, Scopio Network, Terrafirma. He is a co-founder of the publishing house Álea. Lately, he's been participating in group exhibitions and opened his solo exhibition with his project "Promenade" from Balkan region in Espinho Auditorium and with a book presentation of "Menir" which is his 10 years of photography project in IPCI - Instituto de Produção Cultural e Imagem.

 

JK: Please tell us about your background.  Where and when did you study photography? What directed you towards a photographer?

MR: When I was a teenager, I wasn’t quite sure of what I wanted to study in college. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to enter a Law School or do other things like Audiovisual Communication. Eventually, I’ve decided to take a chance on a School of Media Arts and Design (IPP) and started to study Video, Sound and Photography. But it wasn’t before I went to Barcelona as an exchange student at Centre de la Imatge i la Tecnologia Multimèdia in Terrassa that I got interested in photography as I am today. Spending a lot of time alone, I had just enough time to develop new skills and techniques and I started focusing a lot on my final graduation project. But way before that, my parents got me a camera for my 9th birthday and I started taking a lot of pictures of my friends at school and during vacations. The camera still works!

 

JK: Who/what inspired or influenced you the most when you were studying?

MR: Looking back after all these years, I’ll have to say that it was probably the moment where I first presented my work at college to my classmates, without even knowing the shape of a photographic series nor authorial intent.So basically the thing that influenced me the most might have been my classmates and all the projects we’ve shared with each other. And, of course, my Erasmus period in Terrassa (a 40km-distant town from Barcelona) was also important. As I told you, because I spent a lot of time by myself, I had no other distractions besides my final project. Curiously, the University was quite more focused on technique rather than on the artistic approach of photography - nevertheless, I met two great Professors who taught me a lot, introducing a great deal of ideas that still influence my work today. Before this period, I was trying out a lot of techniques and styles more focused on the photojournalism aesthetics.

 

JK: Tell us more about your project as photographic research of that period.

MR: By that time, I was hoping to do my final Project in a specific neighborhood in Barcelona, called Carmel. A border region of Barcelona, with an astonishing view of the city where you could see traces of the Spanish Civil War (bunkers, guns, etc). It is hard to get to that specific place and there were lots of illegal occupation too: non-licensed construction and terrible conditions as well. My first attempt was trying to talk to its people, going inside their homes and tell them about the guidelines of my project. Obviously, with a combination of apathy and aggressiveness, my proposals were constantly rejected. Eventually, I started giving up on Carmel and my work became more spontaneous, less premeditated (I was just photographing without any defined or specific goal) – I’m sure that this episode still influences the way I work on my photography series: suddenly, the work shows up and you never know when it starts nor when it finishes. This gradual discovery of my working process – well, if we can even call it a process – turned it into a more spontaneous method: my camera as a constant presence of my day and photographing whatever comes along. During my stay at Terrassa, I spent most of my day time walking. Maybe strolling around is the correct way to put it since I didn’t have any destination whatsoever on my mind. All photographs that were part of “Untitled Ruptures” had this mark, of someone who was always passing by. However, it’s not a clear mark.

 

JK: Tell us about your last editorial project with your new Label.

MR: Álea is an editorial project created by Daniel Costa and myself in 2016 and it was born from our desire of publishing the work of several artists we admire and follow. “Menir” seemed like a viable option for the label's first publication since we both knew it quite well and it the project was already in an advanced stage. No image in "Menir" was specifically thought to be published in a book. They are pictures that, gradually, started dialogue with each other due to little experiments for some exhibitions. Some of them determine the structure of the work - a good example of it is the opening image of the book, "Oakland" or "Greenwich" . You feel something is growing out of it and it will be hard for it to fade away. The moment where you start thinking of those pictures as a book coincides with a "subtraction stage": this means, thinking about the amount of images and trying out to delete all the obvious connections between the pages and any other kind of narrative. I get the sense that if I try to draw a narrative, I'll shut the opportunity for others to pop in and, in this book, this would be something that I was really trying to avoid. The book includes photos taken between 2006 and 2016 in several different places - from Porto, to Galiza, Cataluña and Minho region of Portugal. Despite the diversity, I link it a lot to Barcelona.

 

JK: I couldn't find any text or statement in your book. Is there any specific reason or intension as an author?

MR: As a matter of fact, that’s quite an interesting question since we discussed it and thought of it for months. We gave up any text whatsoever because in all of our experiments we felt that with it the book was becoming something else; its aura of the unknown stone strolling around space would vanish. All information that we decided to include was the name of the author, title and date (in the dustjacket) - and even those can be removed at any time. This was something that we came round to after several tries, there was no initial intention, but rather a consequence of all failed experiments. All information we didn’t include in the book are at the label’s website: www.aleaeditora.pt.

 

JK: Tell us more about your main interests. Which project are you working on? Any ideas for the future?

MR: Currently, we’re working of the distribution of the book. Personally, I’ve been focused on a project called Intermittent Fasting. It all comes down to fast for a 16-hour period and it took me to the a new project organized in volumes in which I explore a place that I’ve been just for a short time. I came up with this after a work trip to Funchal where I stayed less than 24 hours. Actually, it looks the antithesis of Menir which is built from a 10-year-old work. Up until this moment, there are three volumes: I Funchal, II Vilamoura, III Cíclades, each one with very specific formal characteristics. Three objects with very distinctive guidelines with an intention in common: at some point, they should look as a travel guide - Volume I was thought to be published as a leaflet. I like the idea of working in the immediate, without having to be stuck at a story or a long-run project; thinking of the same relevancy and legitimacy of a two-day project as a 5/10-year-old one.

 

JK: For which reason, you've been in those places if you didn't have any idea of the project?

MR: As I told you before, I try to include photography in my daily life, therefore I didn’t go to any of those places specifically to photograph. I went there either for professional or personal reasons. Obviously I have choices to make in those places; I know that specific zone in Vilamoura ou Funchal will be more appealing for the kind of images I do, but it’s a spontaneous decision. For this specific project - Intermittent Fasting - the less I know the better.

 

JK: What are your inspirations in terms of books and photographers that influence you the most? Can you recommend some book to our readers?

MR: It’s always a hard task to tell you what influences me the most because it goes way beyond books or authors. I get a lot of inspiration from the daily life, in my case music and food - that walk side by side with each other since I cook while listening to music. But also walking and riding my car inspire me a lot. Regarding photography, I guess one of the last things I’ve read was a book that gathers interviews to several artists working on photobooks, it’s called “Photography Between Covers – interview with photobook makers”. During the 70s, Tom Dugan interviewed Larry Clark, Ralph Gibson, Robert Adams, Duane Michals, among others. Actually, I now remember that Volume III of Intermittent Fasting - Cyclades has the obvious influence of “Um Adeus aos Deuses” of Rúben A.

 

JK: Could you refer some emerging photographers who recently interested you? And why.

MR: This week, I came across the work of two authors that I hadn’t seen in a while: Alejandra Nuñez who documented the whole catalan punk-rock scene and Joana Castelo’s work on Vietnam.

 

JK: You took part in various exhibitions. Any particular advice for young photographers aspiring to display and exhibit their work without drowning in the ocean of images in which we daily swim?

MR: I have no advice to give, as a matter of fact. The idea of an ocean of images is beautiful, as long as you know how to swim in it. It is something that we need to learn how to deal with. Instagram might be that ocean: a young student today has a much more critic opinion on photography than what he could have had 20 years ago - at least because you have to choose one picture among many to publish. He spent that time deciding which elements of the image will make him choose it over others and I can either be talking about a random selfie or a self aware act of a photographer. I try to be optimistic.

 

JK: With rapid and continuous technological change those who want to pursue a creative career must always be updated. In addition, the vast competition requires more skills to young people entering the labor market. What are the tips and suggestions you have for the younger generation? Any particular advice for the young photographers?

MR: Technology is not mandatorily connected to the evolution of photography. I can’t see such an obvious correlation: some tools help, others don’t, it’s much more about the way you decide to work. Technology is a tool that can help you materialize your ideas.

 

JK: How do you think the internet and everything that is connected is affecting the production and sharing of projects and images?

MR: It’s quite a complex issue, but I guess it has more advantages than disadvantages. For promotion and sharing is great and it’s cheaper. All that involves democratization and free access to tools for creation and promotion sound great and, for this, internet has been remarkable. I like the idea of sharing and if it is easier to share I like it. In the other hand, in Instagram for example, you could easily have connection with your favorite artists.

 

JK: Do you have any opinion about us, scopio network?

MR: I think it’s a great platform because it works such a vast area as architecture and urbanism, divided into smaller and particular branches. It’s funny that you ask that, because a few weeks ago I was reading an author project at Scopio and, two and a half hour later, I was still reading articles on the website that had nothing to do with the original topic. It’s a diverse platform, not diffusing.

 

* "Traversed by a meridian where time passes stumbling and guideless,“Menir” stirs Iberian geography. It is a cycle of images that doesn’t renew itself (2009 to 2016), where Miguel’s photographic gesture is swift, and the quality of testimony is less of the realm of duration, actually belonging to that of the spirits who evade the insense, errant. We leave “Menir” as we do a long day of sleepless nights. From here on, the images will be different."

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