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Ansell Adams said, " A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words." But the back-story can sometimes be interesting. There is often a creative journey one must travel to reach the final destination of the finished work. In the case of bespoke work, it is often a shared journey between ourselves, our client and their interior designer as we work to fulfill both the brief and the artistic vision. This blog brings you some of those back stories, interspersed with things that visually intrigue us, and get us thinking and creating. Bill Brandt said, "It's part of the photographer's job to see more intensely than most people do." As photographic artists we believe this to be so, and hope you enjoy the things we share here. Regards, David & Sandra


 

From Doorstop to Fine Art: Resurrecting Eileen Boyd

October 09, 2016  •  1 Comment

Eileen Boyd Postcard Tryptich 1 Eileen Boyd Postcard Tryptich 2 Eileen Boyd Postcard Tryptich 3

Bringing family history to life in a bespoke art piece is a richly rewarding, enjoyable experience. Originally we were commissioned to document a vintage album of postcards that had been kicking around the extended family for generations before being lovingly rescued. These postcards, dated from 1907 to the 1950's, were the way their ancestor, the opera singer Eileen Boyd (1890-1975), kept in touch with her parents and family whilst living and touring in England, Europe and Asia. So not only are the pictures a fascinating window into that time in history, the messages written on the back give insight into her personality, her life as a performer, and are a social history of the times.

Miss Eileen BoydFrom the David Elliott Theatrical Postcard Collection - http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-145697698/view Mona Lisa PostcardVintage postcard from the album - Da Vince's Mona Lisa, which was stolen from The Louvre 4 days before this postcard was written. It was not recovered until 1913. Date 25-8-11. My Angel Mum, This Picture has been stolen from the "Louvre" there is great fuss about it here, keep this card dear as they may never find the Picture again. Your loving child. Eileen A. Boyd. Paris.

The family are very proud of their ancestor and really wanted to bring her to life. So they asked us to create an artwork to celebrate who Eileen was to them. Working our way through over 1200 postcards, the family selected those ones most important to them, which told her story and her memorable experiences. It was then up to us to find a way to incorporate these diverse images into a design that worked as an art piece.

We created a triptych design that gave some visual structure to the diversity of imagery and kept the physical feel of the album by incorporating the actual page design with its grid of 6 cards, each with decorative cut corners to hold the cards in place. The combinations of colour vs sepia/black & white images we organised into a subtle blocked grid pattern rather than a random one, adding yet another structural layer to contain so many differing pieces into a cohesive whole.

We also wanted Eileen to tell some of her own story in her own words. Instead of a traditional white matte, we created a border from sections of the postcard backs at a percentage of their full colour. This allowed the postcard pages to come forward while their messages were still readable.

Detail of first Triptych showing border design The family were thrilled and tell us how they love to see Eileen's life on their wall, and "hear" her voice reading her letters in her own handwriting. Eileen comes to life for them through the artwork. Framed in white to suit the contemporary decor, and hung in the centre of their apartment beside the dining table, the triptych can be seen from all angles, and has been a fabulous conversation piece at dinner parties.

Talk to us about bringing your family history to life - documentary photography, albums & book making, bespoke artwork.


A Harmony of Space

July 06, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Harmony (333 Collins Street): The Finding Sacred Space CollectionHarmony (333 Collins Street) by David B Simmonds, 2011. Limited edition in 3 sizes - 100cm, 75cm and 50cm wide. Every day people criss-cross the foyer floor of 333 Collins Street, hurriedly going about their business. Yet, above them, towering quietly and majestically, is this most beautiful of domes. How often are our minds full of other thoughts and concerns so we don't actually see what surrounds us? My ongoing series Finding Sacred Space in a Secular World is about exploring those public spaces which, if we were truly paying attention, would stop us in our tracks and hold us transfixed, even if only for a moment.

I seek to transport you into another space where time stands still. As you look at this image, imagine you are floating upwards into it's serene beauty and harmonious flowing lines, your mind filling with its luminous spaciousness. I want to take you into the very heart of this space, but to do this I cannot simply stand on the ground and point my camera at the ceiling.

I'd gained permission to photograph in the small window between the morning rush hour and lunchtime. Setting up right beneath the dome, using a sandbag on the floor rather than a tripod, my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III had to be dead centre. Getting the camera level on all planes was also critical to the integrity of this image. This was a challenge, even using the 17mm Tilt Shift lens, especially as my camera was tethered to my laptop and showed the reverse image on screen. Nor did I want to use an extreme wide angle lens which would distort and push the dome's detail further away from the viewer. Using the shift ability of my lens allowed me to shoot several frames without distortion and stitch them together into a whole, preserving the architectural integrity of the space. 

The resulting image has the effect of pulling us closer inside to experience it more intimately and dramatically. This is also why I like to print these quite large. They are vast spaces and being confronted with that in an intimate way, I hope, invites us to surrender to an altered experience.

In the words of the philosopher, Alain de Botton, such spaces "speak to us of the highest hopes we have for ourselves...we can come close to a state of mind marked by integrity and vitality. We can feel inwardly liberated. We can, in a profound sense, return home." [The Architecture of Happiness, Penguin 2007, page 119]

PURCHASE THIS LIMITED EDITION PRINT | Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta | Edition of 5 (100cm x 132cm) | Edition of 15 (75cm x 99cm) | Edition of 15 (50cm x 66cm)

Read more about the History of 333 Collins Street


So what is "Beyond the 'decisive moment'"?

February 28, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Intersect I: Bourke and Elizabeth StreetsIntersect I: Bourke and Elizabeth StreetsBy David B Simmonds (2015), from the series Life@648k. This work was a semifinalist in the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize 2015.

Going beyond the single ‘decisive moment’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson) has been at the core of how I photograph the world for many years now. For me, seeing and experiencing any place needs more than just one frame, more than one moment. After all, I exist in any place for more that one moment and my memory of that place consists of many moments woven together in my mind’s eye.

Film and the moving image would be a logical solution but, like in a Pieter Breugel or David Hockney painting, I am still wanting to express myself in a single ‘frame’ which is teeming with life. Not a fantasy of life, but like my memory of that life, which expands any single moment of time into a collective of multiple decisive moments, expanding time in a single place and rendering it into one seamless image. As if it were a single decisive moment.

Looking back, I can see how this artistic practise evolved over the years from literally cutting and pasting together actual prints into a larger montage (homage to David Hockney’s ‘joiners’), through creatively responding to adversity when something goes wrong on a commercial shoot, and I still needed to deliver to my client (like the wind blowing fireworks away in a completely different direction and out of camera frame; second camera to the rescue shooting fireworks components which were then recomposed into the main image, all on film in those pre-photoshop days!)

The digital era has allowed me to take this approach into more complex and fluid ways of working. Building up and choreographing a story of community and place, rendered into one image as if it all really took place in that one moment. At times I play with that even more, also distorting perspective to give my image a dynamic and emotional push that enhances the drama of my visual story.

I’ve been making many of these images, creating a body of work that tells a story of contemporary life in our cities and urban spaces. I’ve called this series Life@648k (648,000 being the number of 1/60th second moments in a 3 hour time period). This featured image Intersect #1 invites us into the diversity and vibrancy that is one of Melbourne’s busiest intersections, Bourke and Elizabeth Streets. There are many cameo roles: The Big Issue seller sitting on the plinth above the street, the elderly woman with the handkerchief etc. Over 3 hours I took many photographs from the same position, from which I selected and choreographed my ‘characters’ in this ‘play’, creating an extended narrative in a single frame.

Limited by the environment I could not get back further from my subject, so I used a wide 17mm TS lens, distorting the buildings, giving them a dynamic flow as they bend around the intersection, evoking the famous Flatiron Building in New York. Using a high contrast black and white treatment adds to the grittiness of the inner-city vibe.

David Hockney has said that “All photographs share the same flaw. Lack of time.” What I’m attempting to do is expand time and bring it back into the single frame yet maintain a sense of the authentic moment that is the defining quality of all good street photography.


International Chamber House: Showing Melbourne at its Inspiring Best

October 29, 2014  •  2 Comments

Fed Square & Forum (detail) | © David B Simmonds

It's been a privilege to contribute artwork for International Chamber House, Victoria's new hub for international business situated in Exhibition Street in Melbourne's CBD. ICH was officially opened last week by Premier Denis Napthine and Trade Minister, Louise Asher. We were commissioned to source seven large artworks from David's extensive collection of Melbourne photographs. These dynamic and inspiring images of Melbourne and Victoria were chosen to convey just that - a vibrant place to do business. And it is especially nice to know that the work is being well received:

"Hi David, Thanks for all your work getting the artworks installed at International Chamber House. The launch by the Premier took place this morning and the venue looked great. We have had good feedback on the art already. Many thanks for your assistance. Don Richter, Director Marketing, Invest Victoria"

We managed the project from initial costings through to file preparation, production and installation, including two other images sourced by Invest Victoria - a total of nine large works ranging up to 2.3m wide, four traditionally framed and five presented on DiBond Aluminium. The DiBond, which sits very close to the wall, gives a very clean, contemporary look to the larger spaces, and the framed works hang as a series at the entrances to the business chambers. As usual, our "print masters" at CPL Digital did a splendid job (our thanks to Darren, Asko and the team). We've worked together for many years and know we can always rely on them to get everything just right. Framing was done beautifully by Chamtons and all works installed with great care and efficiency by Ellis Art Installation

Have a look at the artwork and see how they enhance the space in this newly designed facility.

International Chamber House | Photo © David B Simmonds 2014 International Chamber House | Photo © David B Simmonds 2014

Client: Invest Victoria | Project: International Chamber House | Artist: David B Simmonds | Print & DiBond by: CPL Digital | Framing by: Chamton Pty Ltd | Installation by: Ellis Art Installation


The Argo Apartments: Bringing the Past into the Present

July 07, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

X Marks the Spot (2014) by David B Simmonds MMBW Map: City of Prahran 1896 (detail) Windows on Argo (2014) by David B Simmonds

South Yarra's new Argo Apartments have a long history behind the refurbished facade. When Rtist Agency engaged us to create artwork for the apartments public spaces which acknowledged this history, we looked first to the building's "original" architecture for inspiration. The original hotel (then named Sheppard's Hotel) dates back to ca. 1866 but, as the hotel was rebuilt in 1927, it was the distinctive "cross braced X motif" on the balcony facade which caught my eye. The apartments were still under construction at this stage so there was the challenge of creating a fine art image when the building was completely covered in scaffold and scrim, and the interiors gutted. Luckily, there was one small section where the scrim had come away revealing enough of the X motif for me to get a preliminary image to use to work up my idea (a necessary stage to the creative process as the finished artwork was to be installed in time for the new owners to move in, but the facade repair and final paintwork was not completed until just before). Meanwhile, Sandra was researching the history of the original hotel and its licensees, finding stories in newspapers of the times. If only the walls could speak...so we decided that they could, and incorporated a selection of the newspaper articles into the structure of the X motif so they appeared as if etched into the stone itself.

Very few images of the early hotel exist. The earliest "image" being an MMBW map dating back to 1896 in the State Library of Victoria. This map showed the original Sheppard's Hotel and all the other dwellings, public buildings and infrastructure of the time, giving another insight into the life of Argo Street and the City of Prahran at that time. Beautifully drawn, it was like a work of art in itself. We took a detail of this highlighting the hotel and its original surrounds, tinting it to enhance the warmth of nostalgia that goes with old maps, and giving a subtle nod to the Verve Cliquot (orange-gold) label with which the later-named Argo Hotel was associated.

From the stories of the time we could really see how the hotel was not just a place to have a drink, but a gathering place for the local community. Much has changed in the street since, but directly opposite the apartments is the old church building that features in the MMBW map. It is still a church, although a different denomination now, and the old stained glass windows are still there. I was attracted to this window motif as a way of linking the apartments to the historic street scape of its origins. Photographing this as a detail, then playing with this motif in a repeating pattern, we created a beautiful contemporary abstract work with the patinas of the past.

As the interiors were public spaces, and very minimalist and modern in appearance, I chose to print these works directly onto glass which then fixed securely to the wall. I'd been waiting for the right project to use this medium as the glass printing technology has come a long way in recent years, with fine detail, good tonal range and a secure backing process. So although this medium is very minimalist, almost clinical, the images themselves are still warm and human in feeling, connecting the present with the stories of the past, adding depth and complexity and a sense of place to this latest incarnation of The Argo.

Client: Pace Development Group | Project: Argo Apartments | Agent: Rtist Agency | Artist: David B Simmonds | Design: Sandra Curtis | Printing: Glasskote | Installed: June 2014 | View the Images


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