This July the Falmouth Flexible Photography community convened again at Falmouth University’s Penryn Campus, after what seemed like a very long two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. For three full days Falmouth Flexible students from across the globe descended on Falmouth’s Institute of Photography (IOP) to partake in a wide range of practical workshops, in some of the best university photographic facilities in Europe.
For many students this was the first opportunity to spend face-to-face (F2F) time with their peers since starting either the MA Photography or BA Top Up Photography courses. The F2F events are an excellent way to further develop bonds with their cohort friends and to create new connections with peers on the other modules and courses. These relationships have a positive impact on students’ progress during the courses and importantly in sustaining continued creative development and professional networks after the course’s completion.
Learn more about face-to-face events and what life is like as a Falmouth Flexible online student:
The F2F event kicked off with gathering together in a lecturer theatre and pausing a moment to reflect on the diversity of our community and to acknowledge the support we have offered each other during the last two difficult years of uncertainties. Then the workshops commenced.
Darkroom techniques workshop
Some students choose to join online tutor Paul Clements in the Black and White darkroom, in the morning wet tank developing their films and, in the afternoon, producing hand crafted photographic prints. Some of the students were learning darkroom techniques for the first time whereas others were returning to the darkroom after a long period away to brush up their darkroom skills.
This mix of abilities in the darkroom made for interesting discussions on people’s different relationship to this unique place, with some seeing their own photograph slowly appearing through the cloudy whiteness of photographic paper for the first time and others sharing their own personal histories of how the red glow of this bunker-esque space had shaped them as a photographic practitioner.
Figure 1 - Paul Clements and Students in during the film developing workshop.
Studio lighting workshop
In the studio lighting workshop, the technical instructors demonstrated a range of different lighting kits including the Profoto flash kits with their range of modifiers and the Arri continuous lighting kits. In the afternoon the students got to work independently to produce their own studio photography with expert technical assistance.
Another workshop introduced the students to the range of digital medium format camera systems that the IOP has in its stores and the Capture One software used for most digital medium format processing. Students were guided in becoming more familiar with the different cameras and had a chance to book the cameras out in the afternoon to create their own self-directed photographs.
Large format photography
On the second day of workshops, I offered an introduction to large format photography. The workshop aimed to dispel any apprehension towards this notoriously technical format of photography the students may have previously had, by breaking down the approach to large format into small manageable steps.
The students were spilt into small groups of mixed abilities, each with a camera, and over the course of the day learnt all the different aspect of large format photography, from how to assemble the camera, how the different film planes effect the depth of field, how to take a light meter reading and finally to expose the negative.
Even that was a lot to get through in one day, but we still found time for each student to capture a couple of negatives each and to develop them through the film machine processors and to scan, so each student could see in full the details and possibilities that large format cameras offer photographers.
Figure 2 - Students familiarise themselves with the large format cameras.
Photo microscopy workshop
Another workshop offered on day two was photo microscopy, a technique that takes macro photography to the extreme. Students learnt how to prepare slides and how to use microscopes with a camera attached to capture the world on a microscopic level. Some of the results were incredible.
Figure 3 - Dawn Boon's microscopy experiments with onion skin
In the evening of the second day, we all gathered in the Student Union Bar on Penryn campus for a well-deserved drink and put our photographic knowledge to the test with Jesse Alexander’s famous photography pub quiz. ‘Photography knowledge’ here needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as quiz rounds included: ‘which famous photograph is our teammate re-enacting’, ‘name that photography related song’ and ‘what photograph is this 5-year-old child trying to describe’!
Figure 4 - Group photo after pub quiz
On day three some students were shown how to get the most out of the ever-popular cyanotype process. The students learnt the best practice of coating paper and making prints with different materials and types of negatives. Thankful the weather played ball and we had perfect cyanotype printing sunshine all day. One student even took the opportunity to print their large format negative she made during day two’s workshop using the cyanotype process.
Figure 5 - Mandy Simpson, Large format negative cyanotype print.
Another workshop that was running throughout day three was the curatorial workshop with Catarina Fontoura and myself. Taking place in the IOP’s gallery space a group of students worked to edit, curate, and install a pop-up exhibition titled In the Offings.
For his F2F event, the pop-up exhibition’s aim was to visually explore the student research clusters that were established at the start of this study block. The individual photographs that formed the pop-up exhibition was gathered through a call for work open to the Falmouth Flexible Photography community, in which the curatorial workshop team had invited people submit one photograph that related to any one research cluster.
However, when the team was in the space and looking at all the printed photographs, they realised that through the curation of the work they wanted the research clusters to be re-drawn by allowing the visual relationships to grow in a curatorial method we develop from the natural process of ‘sporulation’.
If you would like to see and hear more about the In the Offings exhibition please see the exhibition video Gerard Liston, member of the curatorial team created:
The opening of the In the Offings exhibition offered students and staff the opportunity to see through the exhibition format the expansive photographic landscape being developed in the Falmouth Flexible community and to see where their own creative practice sits in relation to the practices of others.
The opening also signaled the end of a very busy and productive F2F event on campus, bringing all the participants together to celebrate the reason we were all there in the first place, to create innovative photography.
We are already looking forward to the next F2F! Hopefully see you there…
Learn how to critically analyse and develop your practice with the online, part-time Falmouth Flexible Photography degrees:
Clare Bottomley brings over ten years of education experience to her role as an online tutor for both the Photography MA and BA Top Up.