Photography Book Makerfoto bookmaker
British Journal of Photography - Jason Fulford, educated bookmaker and fotographer.
By accepting the photo book as his main media, using both elaborate sequence and free association to produce what is called "open metaphors," Jason Fulford is more interested in question than answer. Fulford is also co-founder of J&L Books, which publishes between two and five new books a year, and co-editor of The Photographer's Playbook and This Equals That, both of which are out now.
This year alone, Fulford leads workshop sessions at the ICP in New York, the Contact Festival in Toronto, the University of Ljubljana, the ISIA in Urbino, Photo España in Madrid and ISSP in España. It was eight years ago that I first encountered Fulford in Toronto at the Flash Forward Festival.
We were invited to take part in Fulford's The Mushroom Collection the following year in Amsterdam, an exhibit and installations from his acclaimed book The Mushroom Collector (first released in 2010). It was a present from a boyfriend found at a fleamarket - a Manila cover crammed with anonymies.
He kept the pictures "like a poor song" and began to develop in his own work, which he finally merged with the original and mysterious lyrics for the book, which then developed into a set of workshop, installation, brochure and sculpture intervention throughout Europe and the USA. This is not only the focus of Fulford's own work as an artists and bookmakers, but also in the studios for which he has become famous.
Starting from early talks he gave on his own work and influence, he has developed a series of practices that inspire students to interact with pictures, and especially the resulting combinations of combinations to produce different meaning. "I' m interested in how one picture can influence another's reading," he said to me in our interview for Aperture, and that certainly happens in the work-shops.
Instead of concentrating on their own photos, the students work with a large swimmingpool of pictures to which they all add, which encourage them to think about the interaction of the photos from different perspectives instead of working towards a final destination. He takes a handbag full of utensils and requisites to the workshop - pens, stickers, coloured papers, India India ink, various text, as well as an aerobie fly ring that he takes everywhere (Alan Adler is one of his favorite creators, who also made the AeroPress among innumerable other creations).
In addition, he is carrying a pile of index-card files connected by a silvery ring, each of which is a different activity he could do with the pupils - during the course of the training he has selected the most suitable "DJs" and determined the order of the activities on the basis of the course of the training and each of the foregoing.
There is a rationale for the overall course of the workshops, but Fulford improvises all the time and uses these practice charts as a guideline. I asked him to take part in Re:Search, the 2014 Krakow Photomonth major show program that I curated. At the beginning of 2018 I asked him to another curated event, Jaipur Photo 2018, where he presented a site-specific installment titled A Dozendoors, "an explore of the idea of home as a state of mind".
In May I recently asked him to lead a four-day studio for my doctoral candidates in the MA photo program at UWE Bristol. Afterwards, the talk took place one afternoons during his stay and included topics such as his own training, his way of approaching class, his relation to his own photography and more.
In this respect, what was your initial inspiration, both photographic and otherwise? This is Jason Fulford: When I was 11, my mother enrolled me in a photography course and I liked it because it was in some way a way a way of immediate satisfaction. Later my high schoole had a dark room and provided a photo room, so I took it for four years and adored it, in additon to drama, board, sports so on.
When I was in high schools, my acting and photography teachers were very important and inspirational to me. JF: My photography instructor would only give us instruments - "Here is Selene colour. The most of his advices were: "Make your imprint more contrasty", or whatever, but in each grade we were given something different to do.
I had a theater instructor use more Psych. Once he returned from a journey to Belgium and took a pack of pralines to the classroom. Pupils from all over the land could send in photos and an entry, and then Pratt selected a fistful of men and offered them grants. I had my photography instructor encourage a few of us to sign up and I got it - I won a full speed.
I went in to tell my photography instructor, and he glanced at me and said: "Get out of my work! A few years later I gave a lecture at the International Center of Photography, and he was in the public. He' had one of his pupils with him, and we had a long chat afterwards.
JF: My father wanted me to go to university with'job skills', so I studied communications instead of photography. to have a personal dark room. A: Why do you think your father agreed to communications and not photography?
With Pratt, however, Anne Turyn - who first showed me how to print in color - was the one I was most involved with. A: So far you have spoken of your training as something that has given you exposure to photography and encouraged you. However, your own practices are strongly influenced by many other subjects - literary, musical, cinema, scientific, artistic, philosophical, etc. - and you refer to them in your work as well as in your work-shops.
A: After you left Pratt, you became a working professional and co-founder of J&L Books. How long have you been teaching work-shops? Then Ed Panar and Melissa Catanese together with some other J&L performers invite me to the Cranbrook Academy of Art to hold a four-day studio. That was my first one; we thought up many different plays and practices for schoolchildren.
AS: What exactly happens in a Jason Fulford World? JF: The tutorials and all the tutorials I've created for them are well thought out, and each one is a little different, so I can't give a straightforward explanation or'recipe' for them. First we begin with image couples and then work our way up to long strings of up to 25 pictures, and on the way there it gets more and more intricate.
How sizes, order, contrast, whitespace, etc. impact the significance, the way images are viewed, the way any text you introduce can have an impact, and the way it all refers to the editor's vote - or the photographer's if that is the same people.
Each exercise ranges from the hands-on, such as "Look at these two images together - what is the relationship between them? We' re also doing some really silly drills to keep the atmosphere light, and I usually just put a few songs or video clips on the big canvas just to affect the whole mixture.
Every tutorial is done with a vast swimming pool of photos that the pupils take to the workshops, and after each tutorial all the photos go back into the shared swimming pools and are swapped again. Nothing is preserved, and hopefully what the pupils take with them is a new way of seeing and reasoning that they can use in their own work.
In addition, the pupils are not permitted to work with their own paintings during the workshops. In the past, when I let them use their own paintings, everything came to a standstill; they are too busy with their own paintings. Likely the take away is to sometimes ask for help and use some of these instruments and drills to keep up.
A: If someone takes part in one of your sessions, what do you think is responsible? What I want is for the garage to be enjoyable and tough. They have many different precepts in these practices, but I also want them to be very open. Then I realize that at the beginning of each practice I really give them special regulations that are necessary for them to work.
A: You seem to have the same expectation of your pupils as of your audiences when it comes to your own photos, book, installation and performance. They lay down very special regulations by defining the contents and shape of the photo, the editing or the event, but therein lies a great deal of untapped scope for going elsewhere, and so on.
I always thought that the workshop had more to do with the way I think when I do work, but both my work and my workshop are a way to see. When I was working with the pupils today, we did practices that would change the meaning of the pictures, and then again and again - I could do it forever.
A: Often your drills will end and there is no clear deduction or statement for their intent - there is no "OK, so the why we did this...." It just ends and the pupils realize that they are in charge of finding out what can be gained from this one.
They are not necessarily fed directly with information or know-how, but planted seed, given instruments and support through the practices, and the disciples quickly realize that they need to grow these seed and reap the knowledg. I' ll let the pupils do that part.
They may seem free too, but they are actually very sophisticated; there are very special classes to be learned through these classes - complex classes. I think I'd like to have my own pictures, my own book and so on in the same way - like a zipped book or a poetry you can have out.
A: When it comes to photography training, there seems to be a certain preconception - especially among an older population, but also in some modern contexts - that when one studies photography, one does not really "photograph"; that through the occupation with photography in the towers of an educated establishment a certain link to "real photography" is erased.
In a way, you have opposed institutionalisation - you often give talks, hold courses and hold workshop at different institutes, but you have consciously refrained from a fixed course of instruction throughout your entire ordeal. What about what happens to photography when it is in an education setting or school?
The problem is that photography is such a wide area. However, in my own teachings I am really influenced by Josef Albers (artist and teacher, whose method laid the foundation for contemporary Western arts education) - especially by his color studies tutorials (published in 1963) - because what they taught is such a general purpose lecture that can be applied to everything in his world.
Why teach a course for a whole weekend instead of using that period for your own work? I' d like the photo books that will be made in the near term to be good. A: In his 1978 book Mirrors and Windows: John Szarkowski has been writing in the book since 1960: "It may seem ironical that the sharp decline in the possibilities for a career in photography[in the 60s and 70s] was accompanied by an explosion in photography training, especially at the university? There is no question that these programs have greatly boosted the number of individuals who believe that photography is a very interesting artistic genre based on their own work.
One might assume that one of the by-products of photography literacy was the generation of an esteeming public for the work of the more gifted undergraduates. Some years ago Tamara[shopin, graphics artist and artist with whom he often worked] and I made a book entitled This Equals That, which is in a way the simplest copy of what my work-shops do. Recently we worked with the Whitney Museum of American Art on a couple of children's novels.
It' s also a fun year of education for me - I think I have become a true instructor by mistake this year. I run seven work-shops in seven different nations, which is really amazing. In Slovenia, for example, the pupils did not really speak. However, here in Bristol I can experience the preparations you have made with the pupils to recruit them and to develop a feeling of faith, reliance and openness among them.
However, today we did an activity in which the meaning of the images grew and grew, and it seemed like it could go on forever. So we all look at them, find out that they all had a meaning, and then we shifted the lyrics and compared them with other images - the meaning changes, and then we do it again, and they change again.