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Ben McDonnell

MA work

I have chosen three works for the degree show. The first is an arrangement of twelve hand printed and direct-to-media glass prints hung against a graphic score. There is also a large installation thirty metres in length that has been manipulated and hung in the ceiling as well as a series of small black & white hand-printed photographs. 

The three pieces all use sound recordings that have been visualised and printed onto paper as a basis of the images. The paper is twisted and pulled, given a form. 

The installation of three columns of images is based on a recording of the first piece of music I heard, which is shot on high speed film emphasising the grain or noise inherent in film photography. The ratios of sizes of the negatives mimic ratios of the musical intervals of the first chord in this piece of music. The images are presented on a score based on the resonant frequency of the room they are hung in. The score serves as a ground for the photographs, the multiplicity of horizons in the images set against this unstable musical ground emphasise the shifting, reworking and retelling present in the piece. The same source material that was used for this piece has been further reworked into a small series of intimate black & white analogue prints in which sound has been given form and shaped into geological shapes that float groundless in the frame.

Installed in the ceiling is a sonogram of an hour of sound recording made of ambient noise in the studio it is installed in. I was keen to make site-specific work for the show as the space I was allocated happened to be the studio I had been working in for the past two years. The recording is printed onto a single roll of paper the length of which references the dimension of the circumference of the studio. It is the latest iteration of site-specific paper sound structures I have been developing over the last year. 


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Photography, 2017

  • My background as a musician and composer informs my visual practice, allowing a cyclical relationship to develop through photography, installation and sound. I graduated from Leeds College of Music in 2004 with a degree in jazz performance and composition; since then I have been working as a musician, performing and teaching internationally whilst developing my photographic practice. 

    Current themes in my work revolve around silence, the ephemeral quality of sound and the relationship between silence, sound, photographic and architectural space. I make use of the formal qualities of the photograph such as frame size and film grain to help question what is lost and gained through the exchange of information from one medium to another. I want to present the camera as a potential listening device, using it to ask what it could mean to hear an image. Recently these ideas have manifested through site-specific structural installations of printed paper, graphic installations on gallery walls and sequences of photographic images.

  • Degrees

  • BA (hons) Jazz Performance and Composition, Leeds College of Music, 2004
  • Experience

  • Guest lecturer at Camberwell College of Art, London, 2017.; Guest lecturer at Salford University, Salford, 2017.; Portfolio reviews with Redeye Photographic Network, Manchester, 2016-17.
  • Exhibitions

  • Creekside open, APT gallery, London, 2017.; Open Cities, Look/17 festival, Liverpool, 2017.; Line | Body | Light, Barbican Arts Group Trust, London, 2016.; Pingyao International Photography Festival, PingYao, China, 2016.; Salon/16, Photofusion, London, 2016.; Telling Tales, Liverpool Biennial Fringe, in association with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, 2016.; Offprint, Tate Modern, London, 2016.; RCA Secret Postcard, Gulbenkian Galleries, London, 2016.; The Campaign, in association with Subject Matter and Sedition. Dyson Gallery, London, 2016; At First Sight, Paris Photo, sound design collaboration with photographer Natasha Caruana, Paris, 2016.
  • Awards

  • 'Resonances' (2016) acquired into the collection of Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, 2016.; Shortlisted for The Annex Collection Award, 2016.
  • Publications

  • Kings Cross Project produced by Tamsin Dillon and Rebecca Heald, 2016.; Harmonious Society Catalogue, Centre For Contemporary Chinese Art, Asia Triennial Manchester, 2014.