The Simplon Pass leads to Varzo

Written on May 30, 2016 at 6:23 pm, by Dan Fone

In which a man cycles up a big hill and feels a bit confused. He then cycles down the other side of the hill, only to become even more confused.

The top of the Simplon Pass was a strange place. I think it might be partially because it was my first alpine pass. It was always going to feel a bit special. It might also have been because they were doing roadworks. One of the signallers directed me to push my bike on the narrow pavement of a tunnel, which I did for a couple of kilometres. Then I whacked my ankle with my pedal and I made a very loud noise with my mouth. Click here for the rest of the post…

A quote from Life After God by Douglas Coupland

Written on April 13, 2015 at 11:52 am, by Dan Fone

I found this in my documents folder just now. It feels relevant somehow to things I want to move toward making.

“My mind then wandered. I thought of this: I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments—we hear a word that sticks in our mind—or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly—we share a hotel elevator with a bride in her veils, say, or a stranger gives us a piece of bread to feed to the mallard ducks in the lagoon; a small child starts a conversation with us in a Dairy Queen—or we have an episode like the one I had with the M&M cars back at the Husky station.

And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection—certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.”

Anselm Kiefer’s materials

Written on April 6, 2015 at 8:30 pm, by Dan Fone

Before Christmas I went to see the Anselm Kiefer show at the Royal Academy. It was fantastic. It reminded me of how much I love seeing art.

I was wondering a little today about the reasons why I enjoyed the show so much, and why the content of it resonated with me as much as it did. Quite a lot of it is very nebulous really. It’s difficult to put your finger on what’s going on some of the time for the simple reason that it’s about things which are by nature hard to define.
Click here for the rest of the post…

John and the hundreds and thousands

Written on November 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm, by Dan Fone

We decided to cover John in Hundreds and Thousands. I got them to stick by covering him in Golden Syrup first. For this session I had decided that the blood and mud shoot with Phil was good because the subject matter is more purely about me covered in weird stuff, as opposed to being people covered in weird stuff in documentary or fashion shoots. I wanted to photograph John in his sitting room by his bookcase with pictures on the wall but I wanted the depth of field to be quite shallow so those elements weren’t crowding the picture out.

On reflection this session was a bit of a struggle. Portrait photography is hard. Setting up a composition with the right degree of simplicity is hard. When I looked back at the pictures I noticed that there was one good shot of John looking straight on at me that I like. I wish I had that shot while he was covered in hundreds and thousands. That would probably have been my favourite.

There are shots I like from this collection though. They’re mainly the more close up ones of John from the side on looking into the distance. I’m interested by the difference between the one of him closig his eyes and him looking into the distance. They’re almost the same shot apart from that but him closing his eyes changes the emphasis quite a lot. I like that.

Both Libby and Mary have said they’ve thought that the pictures where people are closing their eyes are better. The ones with eyes open are immediately about different things. In the mud one I’m suddenly the swamp thing, whereas the one where my eyes are closed looks much more serene. It’s much more like I’m in my own cloud of reflection. That’s important. These photographs are at least in part about something that’s happening inside of someone. That demands a careful balance with these pictures. I’m learning a lot from doing them. There are many more decisions to be made than I might have thought. In a way I’m trying to learn how to do portrait photography full stop.

I feel like one of the ways I’ve failed in these photographs is that they should be portraits. So far I’ve been doing them as people covered in different weird things. The photographs need to come out of my relationship with these people. They’re all my frieds after all. These pictures are both more simple and complicated than I had initially thought.

Chris and Kaori on the beach

Written on November 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm, by Dan Fone

For the next set I did after the one of Tola, I figured I’d like to do my friends Chris and Kaori as a couple. They’ve both got a good sense of toilet humour so we all agreed it make sense to cover them in fake poo. I found the fake poo mix here:

It’s from the British arcaeological college and is presumably part of some scheme to get children interested in archaeology and its process by looking at diffeent poos throughout history. You can make Aztec poo, Tudor poo, Viking poo and Victorian poo. Chris and Kaori are modelling Aztec poo, which was easiest to make because it didn’t feature fish bones.

Anyway, here are some of the pictures.

I like these photographs because they look like they’re from a fashion shoot. We took them at sunset on that ludicrously hot Saturday at the beginning of October. Because of this, the light is really good. It gives the pictures a small extra dimension somehow. Libby pointed out that because Chris and Kaori are both quite beautiful people, in the fashion shoot sense the feeling that these photographs are part of that aesthetic is somewhat inevitable. This hadn’t occurred to me at the time of shooting. In fact I don’t think of them as being especially good looking. They’re mates. But when she mentioned it I did have one of those ‘Oh yeah’ moments.

This means that the pictures have a strong reference point. It simplifies them somehow, and gives them a focus that the paint ones of Tola don’t have so much.

In a way I do wish I’d covered them in more fake poo. I wish I’d been more assertive in my coverage. I should have had them covered like I had myself covered in mud. There would have been the danger of getting the poo in their eyes though. That would have been bad. This is one of the difficulties of doing the goo portraits full stop. It’s difficult to just splatter stuff on to other people for fear of doing them a mischief.

Tola covered in paint

Written on November 24, 2011 at 11:16 pm, by Dan Fone

I have done a few more of these goo portrait sessions now. I like the blood and mud ones I did though my main reaction was that I wanted to see some done in everyday settings.

My next step then was to photograph my friend Tola with some paint on top his head in the middle of my local park. I’m showing a load of them here.

I’ve got mixed reactions to these ones. The wider ones have more of a documentary feel. Tola’s in the park surrounded by dogs chasing each other. He’s standing by the edge of the road as cars rush past. I quite like these pictures in their own right but they’re not what I’m trying to do. Those pictures are about too many things for my liking. I find myself looking at the flat in the background, or the dogs, and thinking about social context. I think these photographs should have quite a singular focus. They’re portraits first and foremost.

The closer ones somehow don’t tap into the right conventions of portraiture for me. There’s something missing from them. I don’t know what it is.

Another issue is my own photographic skills. I feel a bit like I got let down by my tripod in some of these pictures and they’re softer than I’d like them to be. I have a new tripod and a cable release now so I can deal with that. The exposure on most of them is not as good as it could be. These problems taught me a lot. I’m bracketing my pictures now, as I should have been anyway. Generally I just want to get more professional in the way I approach my photographs.

PS – I had another look at this folder of pictures the other day and noticed that a few of them which I haven’t posted here yet were much better on second looking. Tola’s a pretty phenomenal model. There’s something about the blank way he’s standing there in some of the other pictures that works well. I’ll post those as well when I get a sec.

Goo Portraits so far…

Written on October 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm, by Dan Fone

I’ve done a few sets of these goo portraits now. I don’t have time to write everything I want to write about them now but I want to get something up. So, here goes…

Dan still covered in bloodFace shot covered in fake bloodDan covered in blood eyes openCovered in mud with closed eyesmud covered portrait

These are the blood ones. Phil took them. My main reaction to these is that while they were what I was looking for, I want to see some in a more everyday context. I want to see people covered in blood and mud doing the washing up. The idea of having them against a black or white background was that it would look like more purely internal experience that was being documented. I think this does come across to some extent but I think there’s something more subtle in what I’m really after that I can only get to by taking these pictures in more everyday situations.

A couple of these specially lit ones against the black background are quite iconic though. I like that. That’s also getting to the heart of what I wanted in the first place, I think. These ones have a simplicity, directness and focus that works well. I’ve yet to post the ones I’ve done in public settings but they don’t have the same directness. There’s too much other information there. Hmmm… food for thought here.

I’ll post the other two sessions very soon. They have their own aspects that I like. But I’ll get to them. Soon.

Things to be learnt from remix memes

Written on August 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm, by Dan Fone

One thing to think about with the Splatterbound project is the current Remix culture. The whole project is rooted in that. One of the most obvious examples of this is the meme for remixing Hitler’s rant as he realises his bunker is surrounded in the film Downfall. This was a relatively little known but nonetheless culturally significant film when it was released in (I think) 2004. It was beautifully filmed and performed, which is part of the reason why it lends itself so well to being remixed. Somehow this gives a strong basis for people to add their own pet hates. Suddenly Hitler is talking about the iPad, Rebecca Black, Comic Sans, Windows Vista. And what’s more, we can often feel his pain. At least I can.

Crucial to the success of this meme is the fact that there are key points in the excerpt. The bit where he sends most of his officers out of the room. The weeping of the two women outside the door. The part where he sits silently, brooding for some thirty seconds. When the remix is a good one I find myself anticipating these parts of the film, wondering what way this version will treat those parts of the clip. I love that anticipation and it’s only possible because I’ve watched so many of these remixes before. The first time I watched it, I laughed. But subsequently, the meme has become more and more of a familiar friend. When I laugh, it has a well worn texture. How great is that? I think it’s pretty great.

So how is this relevant to Splatterbound? One thing both Annie and I have thought is that it could be quite difficult to add to something someone else has already done. I sent her a collection of pages to draw on and she’s been having a hard time thinking of what to draw on them. I’d looked at the scans of what I sent her a few months after I sent them and had had a similar thought. ‘What would I draw on those?’, I’d thought. When I sent them to her I commented that she should feel free to cover them in tar and feathers if she wanted. There was no need to stand on ceremony or be overly respectful of what I had done. The problem is that tar and feathers don’t really progress the existing drawing, they destroy it. Here’s the rub. A really good Splatterbound drawing or page will have something in it that makes it easy to expand upon and/or rework a familiar theme.

The question then is one of how to make the site’s proposed mission familiar, or immediately digestible. This is tricky because part of the idea of the site is a lack of familiarity. It’s about making something new. Thinking about it, most really good contemporary art tends to have a certain clarity of intention about it. Formally, good work is often very simple but has an element that draws in a second look somehow. That’s the simplicity that Splatterbound needs.

Hmm… I think the key here might be suggesting five or six approaches and then alpha testing them, shifting the focus each time. It could also do with a strap line that tells people what it’s for very quickly.

Goo portraits

Written on August 13, 2011 at 12:08 am, by Dan Fone

Okay, so I have this ludicrous idea for some photographs. I want to cover people in goo and then make portraits of them. An image of someone covered in blood fell into my head a few weeks ago. From there I had the idea of getting pictures of people covered in all sorts of different things. Obviously real blood is a bit of a no go area but apparently corn syrup makes for good fake blood. I’ll use that then. I’ve asked a few people if they’d be willing to model and some people have said they’d be up for it but most people have looked at me as if I’m mad. Comme ci comme ca, huh? I guess I’ll have to to do the modelling myself. This means I can’t take the photographs myself. This isn’t such a bad thing as my housemate is a lighting cameraman with ten years’ experience. I’ll probably learn a thing or two by watching how he sets shots up.

The different things I plan on covering myself in are as follows:

tar and feathers (marmite and feathers)
different colours of paint mixed up
blood (corn syrup)
mud and sticks and the occasional stone
peanut butter
powder paint
sequins and glitter
hair (I have a bag of my own hair available)

Possibly try all of them in one messy mixture.
I like the idea of glitter and sequins in the mud.

I’m not really sure what the point of all of this is but I want to see the final images. I want to see them and think about how I can move them further. Largely because I think they’ll be strog images. One thing I’m tempted to do is make a project inviting people to send me their own mess self portraits and then exhibit those. I think it could be a fantastic series of photographs and I like the participatory aspect.

Another thing I have been thinking is that I want to present the photographs as a film of sorts, where at some points different photographs are layered on top of each other. Different images can fade in and out of view. I like the idea that each one of these images represents something of a person and that that person can be more than one of these things at any given time. Maybe the ones of mud and clay and blood will be ugly. But hopefully the ones of paint and glitter will be quite lovely. I am especially hoping the one of paint will be glorious. I think it could be.

Thinking of artistic precursors, the only person I can think of immediately is Gottfried Helnwein. Though I’m not so committed to being bloody miserable as Helnwein. Not that Helnwein’s intentions are necessarily making dark work. I’d e pleased if these photos could attain anything like that level of focus though. There’s a sense of intimacy with the viewer in some of his pictures, especially the ones of children. They look back at you and seem to contain more than they do. This gives them a peculiar power. That’s a good thing.

This is really one of those things I want to do for the sake of seeing how it works and then building on it.

Questions answered from previous post

Written on February 6, 2011 at 1:32 am, by Dan Fone

Right. So I asked a bunch of questions about the direction Splatterbound is taking in my last post. Here, as much for my benefit as anyone else’s, I try to answer them.

Click here for the rest of the post…

Splatterbound decisions

Written on February 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm, by Dan Fone

After making a bunch of first starter pages for Splatterbound and emailing with Annie about the Splatterbound book we (okay it was more me) ended up deciding that it would be good to stick the whole thing on a website. This means that other people can add to it. This really changes the direction of the project. The book is still an aim of the project but in talking about a website for it we realised an online version means a completely different set of challenges.

Click here for the rest of the post…

Beginning of the Book Project

Written on June 22, 2010 at 11:07 pm, by Dan Fone

So I’m starting this project where a friend and I make a book. We nicked the idea from but we figure we can go a few different places with it and have some fun.

In short, one of us does something on a page and then posts it to the other. Over time the pages make a book. I want different relationships between different pages and little reference points developing. But part of what should be cool is seeing what Annie (my friend and partner in crime) wants.

We’ll most likely be dragging other people in along the way.

I have decided not to use a proper sketchbook and am using any old paper I have lying around. Recycling and all that, you know. This means we can post each other single pages if necessary and not have to post the whole thing. This is important because we live thousands of miles apart and postage is, well, expensive.

So, over to you, Annie. Let’s see what happens.

Photos from the plane. Beziers to Luton 03/03/2010

Written on March 15, 2010 at 12:10 am, by Dan

Flight from Beziers to LutonFlight from Beziers to LutonFlight from Beziers to LutonFlight from Beziers to LutonFlight from Beziers to Luton

Bill Viola – Ocean Without a Shore

Written on November 17, 2009 at 11:15 am, by Dan


Unit 3 report

Written on July 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm, by Dan

An ability to resolve work according to the objectives defined in your proposal

My initial proposal aims and objectives were as follows. I will speak about each one in turn:


To make a (very lateral) history of language and meaning using the word ‘all’ as my focus.
The focus has shifted here from history to documentary snapshot. The project is about people’s perception of the word’s history and present as opposed to the history itself. I am using the internet to help me get the viewer to be part of producing that snapshot.

Click here for the rest of the post…

The plinth

Written on July 5, 2009 at 6:46 pm, by Dan

Making the plinth for my questionnaire has been interesting. I had initially wanted to make something quite complicated. I wanted it to be an object in itself. This is easier said than done though. Ideally it would have been galvanised steel and quite carefully designed.

Click here for the rest of the post…

F@$K F%^K F*$K and other web designer war songs

Written on July 2, 2009 at 12:47 am, by Dan

Okay, so I’m reminded of why I hate (hate hate hate) using other people’s scripts. The AJAX poller has stopped working. I’ve spent about two hours trying to figure out why, deleting and re-uploading different files, all sorts. It’s still not working. It’s been fine for ages. I’ve done nothing to it to the best of my knowledge. The vote goes on to the database. I checked. I checked the error log. No error. Does it give me the result graph back? Obviously not.

Very very very annoyed.

And what’s more, I have no idea what to do beyond deleting the whole thing and redoing it from scratch. I would naturally rather avoid this eventuality.
Very very very annoyed. Would blog about other things but want to fix other things having wasted so much time on that.

NB – Prospective employers please note that this problem was fixed the following day. You live and learn.

Continuing frustration

Written on June 28, 2009 at 10:29 pm, by Dan

Hurrah. It’s now gone ten on Sunday and I’ve just spent most of the weekend getting nothing done because I’ve been looking for a decent captcha tutorial. They’re all either rubbish or built for wordpress. Very annoying. I’m beginning to wonder what the best course of action is.

On a brighter note, I found a word cloud that seems to work quite well. It’s called dynacloud.js and it’s pretty simple. So that’s there as and when I need it. Good.


Written on June 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm, by Dan

I’ve been investigating how to make buttons that will give me a different kind of interactivity. Kenji’s shown me a few things. I’m undecided about the idea though. The whole point of the questionnaire (to my mind) has always been that in filling it out people will have a chance to think about the questions. That won’t happen if it’s just a case of hitting buttons. The process of thinking through an answer and typing it out is integral to the project.

Click here for the rest of the post…


Written on June 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm, by Dan

I’ve been trying to implement two things for my questionnaire. One is a tag cloud which comes back after the user has filled in their answer. This will give them two entry points in to all of these words.

Now I come to write this I’m considering the value of having the tag cloud at all. Is it any more than a trick? Will it help people to reflect on the questionnaire. I’m actually inclined to think that the best things here will be the simplest. People will want to read other people’s answers. They’ll definitely want to do that. Who wouldn’t?

Click here for the rest of the post…