The Journey – ‘Holland’ (outreach work)

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As mentioned in the post ‘The Journey’ I ran a  workshop entitled ‘The Journey – 2’ and in this we looked at using imagination to see beyond taking a normal snap shot.

The workshop was linked in with a trip that the teenagers were taking to Holland and during this trip I asked them to record what they saw with either the use of video/camera or just camera.  Most of them had never been abroad at all so this was an adventure for them.

We talked about the different themes that they could use to capture pictures and I showed them some photos I had taken whilst on a journey to London (entitled The Journey) and a recent trip to Finsbury Park (Ecology of the Park).

I have been working with the teenagers this week to go through all 849 photos to pick out their top 50 shots, but we have also been taking into account the following:

Visual language of the shot (shape, textures, mood, leading lines, patterns etc);

Visual Language L1  presentation attached.

whether there is meaning behind the piece for them;

the reason why they have picked the photograph;

Categories that the photographs will go into.  We decided on the following as some photos didn’t fit into the categories that I gave them initially.

‘Representation of Holland’:  what photos really bring across to the viewer that they are in Holland

‘Living things’:  animals/birds

‘Signage’: Road, houses, restaurants, shops, cars

‘Environment’: a flavour of where they are staying eg. windmills, rivers

‘Abstract’: patterns, parts of objects

‘Left Behind’:  things not wanted or lost

‘People (Portraiture)’: people with and who they met there

‘Reflection’: windows, water

‘Accommodation’: where they were staying, a flavour or what it was like

‘Group Activities’:  going out together, what activities involved in

‘Graffiti’: before and after shots, what was used etc.

I have put the chosen photos into a slideshow.   Trip to Holland

We are currently working on a book which I will get printed and present to the teenagers once completed and a video which will be linked in with the photographs that were chosen from the many taken.

Mock up for book

One of the residents Gemma, wanted to do a collage picking out some of her own favourite photographs from the trip.  She painted a board white and then placed the photos onto the board in whatever way she wanted.

Whilst studying the photographs it was very interesting to note that Gemma had placed people that meant a lot to her around the picture of herself. (Gemma is in pink).

Beyond Entropy – Part 2 (Reeds)

Ed Coveney, a student studying on the Masters in Landscape Architecture (at Writtle College) invited us along to see his installation created with ‘reed’s.  Ed has created a framed representation of what happens with reeds in a river and recreating this within a controlled environment.  He is studying the phenomenon of the reed that is making the patterns.

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When I saw the piece I realised that this would be the ideal opportunity to practise my black and white photography and so returned with my camera the following day.

The reason why I saw this installation as an opportunity to really start to see in black and white, is that I observed the lighting  (the way the light shines in from the window, falling onto the reeds changing the positive and negative spaces within the installation), and movement/ shape,  the way the reeds seem to change shape depending upon the way the light hits them, creating a contrast within the image and a change in composition.  I had to re-visualize the images in my mind before taking the shots and this is something that I have learnt to do as I have developed as a photographer.  Not all photographers do this though and some just take a picture and do not think about the subject matter first.  William Eggleston was known to take one shot of something and if it didn’t work out he would move onto the next without retaking the image.

Within my black and white photography I am looking at lines and shapes and not the overall components of the installation to enable me to create quite abstract results.

I emailed the photographs that I had taken to Ed and he was very pleased with them.  I have his consent to display two of the photos I took of his work in my exhibition (confirmation email dated 30th March 2012).

I have been reading ‘Light and Lens’ by Robert Hirsch who talks about photographers ‘learning to see’.

‘What determines the success of an image is not the camera, but the knowledge of the person operating the camera.  The principal job of a photographer is looking, which defines all photographic processes.  Good photographs are made by learning to see.  Good photographers become skilled at following their eyes and seeing things others overlook’.

This exercise confirmed to me, that is what I am exactly doing.

The Journey – 2 (outreach work)

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I went along to the Homeless Centre to run a second workshop with the teenagers.  The workshop was entitled ‘The Journey’ and in this we looked at using imagination to see beyond taking a normal snap shot.

This workshop will be linked in with a trip that the teenagers are taking to Holland and during this trip I have asked them to record what they see with either the use of video/camera or just camera.  Most of them have never been abroad at all so this will be an adventure.

We talked about the different themes that they could use to capture pictures and I showed them some photos I had taken whilst on a journey to London (entitled The Journey) and a recent trip to Finsbury Park.

Living things – animals & birds

Rules & Order (including rules that have been broken)

Childhood

Untouched/overgrown

Those things Forgotten or Left Behind 

Culture

Environment/Reflections (windows, water)

I also asked them to think about where they would most like to be in the world right now and asked them to complete a confidential questionnaire telling me why this was so.  I took individual pictures of them and transferred those pictures to the place in the world they most wanted to be.  Those that weren’t comfortable showing their faces, turned away from the camera. These are the results.

It was extremely interesting to find out that most of the residents have aspirations to visit certain places, some with a purpose, others because they just want to go there as have never been.  These were the responses I got:

“I want to visit New Zealand because I want to start a new life and find a new path/career and explore what NZ has to offer”.

“Where I want to be right now is here and nowhere else, as I am happy with my life”.

“I want to go to Portugal  just because I have not been and would like to go there”.

“I really want to go to Mexico so that I can play in the homeless World Cup”.

“I want to go to New Zealand as I am moving out there when I have my career sorted”. 

In the photographs I have had to place the person into the scene or on the edge of the scene the best I can as I did not want to ask them to pose for the photo and was not aware of the place they wanted to go beforehand.  I didn’t want to control them infront of the camera so some have turned away as were uncomfortable facing me.  In the photos I have tried to make them as observers because they have aspirations to go there and are not actually there.

I have been reading a book entitled Tim rollins and K.O.S. (kids of survival) – A History, which has been an inspiring read and one which I can really relate to with the work I have been doing at the homeless centre.  It is about an artist and activist, Tim Rollins who was given the job of developing a curriculum that combine art marking with lessons in reading and writing for students that were classified as ‘at risk’.  This book is a catalogue of the work that they produced, even through times of hardship.

The Journey

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With this set of photos I am taking a journey and observing the space between things.  I am focusing on the window frame and beyond and highlighting what is usually edited out or not looked at.  I am asking the viewer to think about the way we see and experience our everyday environments.

My intention with these photographs is to show them to the residents of the hostel and ask them to go on a journey and record their observations and thoughts through the use of photography and video.

Detritus (part 2)

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Whilst watching a carrier bag twirl round and round in a wind trap it made me think about the fact that once a carrier bag has served its purpose it is discarded and cannot be recycled.

My memory cast back to a film I had watched called ‘American Beauty’and the carrier bag scene which had me mesmerized at the time by the beauty of the clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHxi-HSgNPc

In my work to date I have been studying themes regarding entropy and the breakdown of systems that are sometimes then put back together again to once again create stability.  I have decided to use this theme to make use of an item (in this case a carrier bag) which is often thrown away by creating the above into sculptures of beauty.

I created these pieces by letting the bag fall naturally, once I had crumpled it, onto the black cloth to see whether it formed a paritcular shape.  I would then pull the bag and maybe tear or rip it to develop the sculpture.  I was actually taking charge and determining how this piece would look which was a contrast to most of my other work.

Finally I would take a few photographs of the piece I had created and pick the best ones to display.

Beyond Reflection

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Following on from my written assignment comparing documentary photographers ‘William Eggleston’ and ‘Martin Parr’ I have decided to take a more detailed look into the study of people.

In this series I am capturing people’s thoughts through the use of the camera, trying to get as close as I can without the person knowing that im there. I am taking a snapshot of them transfixed on something for a few seconds before they come back to reality.

Pockets & bags

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What lies in men’s pockets and women’s bags?  Nobody knows until a possession is taken from within and is observed by someone briefly.

Pushing the boundaries even further into seeking to find out about people’s personal lives, I wanted to explore the personal possessions that people find essential and carry around with them, going about their day.

I asked a selection of my friends to participate in this exercise. This request seemed to form into 3 cateorgies:

  • ‘I haven’t got anything to show you of interest’. –  They didn’t want to share with me what they had;
  • ‘I can show you a selection of what I have’.  – The person was choosing what I saw;
  • ‘I can show you what I have, its not a problem’.  – They were very open and obliging.

All of the above reactions was an indication of how comfortable the person felt, sharing a personal part of their life that I wouldn’t normally see, unless they happened to temporarily retrieve an item from a bag or pocket whilst I was present.

What I was shown related exclusively to that person, which was a contrast to going into someone’s home as the homes I saw weren’t  exclusively theirs but they have to share it with a family or pet.

This selection of items indicated to me that the person concerned was a fan of ‘real ale’ as had tokens and a membership relating to beer.

Contents of a lady’s bag who stores all of her receipts in her purse, which consequently is crammed full of papers. A sort of a filing cabinet for receipts.

This person had a mound of keys in their bag and preceeded to tell me what they were all for.  This was all I shown from the contents of their bag though.

Photography Workshop (Identity)

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As mentioned previously back in the Summer I went along to a shelter for teenagers to take their portraits and recently went back to show them the results and display the portraits around the centre.  I wanted to continue with the photography theme with them so decided to run a photography workshop for those that wanted to attend.   I based it on ‘identity’ following on from the portraits I took of them.  I decided on the themes for the day but let those that took part do what they wanted to do with the camera they were given.

Themes:

A group shot

Take 6-10 shots of yourself

Possessions (take a photo of something that means a lot to you)

Take 2 photos of your surroundings

Choose 3 emotions

The first theme ‘group shot’ we did together.  They decided where they wanted to go and what pose and I took the picture.  This is the result.

Some of the residents didn’t want to be in the picture so turned their backs, away from the camera going against the tradition of facing the person taking the picture.

I have left the residents to take the other photos in their own time.  I am hoping they will want to take part but I have been warned that they may not.  I really look forward to seeing the results in a few weeks.

One resident has responded and taken part in the photography workshop.   I was blown away by the thought provoking and powerful shots that were sent to me.

The results of these photos will be in my written journal as they are very personal to the person that completed this for me.

Following on from the group shot I decided that as the response from poor from the other residents I would work with the image I had.  I decided to transfer different backgrounds onto the image and then email the revised images through to ask the residents and asked them to let me know how they linked themselves into the photos they saw.  I got 3 replies in total.

One resident said that he felt like he was currently banging his head against a brick wall. Another said that he was behind other people he knew in his achievements and had a long way to go but he knew what to do so put himself in the windy road picture.  Another one felt trapped and choose the wall picture either side.  Another interesting exercise and since posting this I have received a further 6 responses.

Taking this one step further I wanted to compare this set of results with a different group of people and ages to obtain a comparison.  I approached 16 students to be surveyed, with one refusing.  From these results I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what background you have in life or who you are, we can all suffer from the same worries, fears and anxieties as everyone else does.

I have recorded the results in table form. Link here: Results from photography background survey

I have been fortunate enough to show my work through The Furtherfield Gallery, London.  http://www.furtherfield.org/your-art/different-backgrounds-photography-workshop

What lies within?

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Expanding on the theme of  ‘Sudden Departure’ I wanted to explore other people’s lives behind closed doors so I embarked on asking friends whether I could go into their homes when they had left for work to explore their domestic environment and see what they had left behind.  Again I felt like a forensic archeologist, a voyeur, looking for clues about that person’s existence.  I felt a sense of anticipation when entering their homes as to what I might see, a natural curiosity, but also felt uncomfortable as I was intruding on their privacy.  I was surprised at the complete contrast I found in some of the homes I visited which gave me a good insight into that person’s personality and how they lived eg. (a cluttered or tidy existence).

Upon reflection every object that I saw in that person’s house was equally a form by which they had chosen to express themselves.  They have put up ornaments, laid down carpets and got themselves ready for work.  Some things may have been gifts or objects retained from the past but they had decided to live with them and they are an expression of that person or household.

Sophie Calle

Whilst researching, I came across the photographer Sophie Calle and her work entitled ‘The Hotel’ where she was employed as a chambermaid and took photos of people’s belongings within the hotel rooms, when cleaning.  She was also a voyeur and detective in her work and through the photos she also got an idea of who that person was.

http://www.iniva.org/dare/themes/space/calle.html

Sudden Departure

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With this set of photographs I am exploring Entropy within possessions.  In physics terms it means the slowing down and eventual standstill of all phenomena and inevitable drift from order to disorder and breakdown.  I am  displaying the normality of a situation which can quickly turn to chaos within my photography.  I have felt like a forensic archaeologist and voyeur, as I have been seeking out clues to a person’s existence.  Where they have been, the marks they have left behind through the years of maybe sitting in the same chair and what they were doing before they left.

Most of us fear our eventual death and dealing with family sickness has led me to confront issues of mortality.  ‘Sudden Departure’ is my response to a situation over which I had no control when a family member was taken into hospital.  It is a piece that wasn’t planned but just occurred; I simply documented what was happening.

Here a close relation was rushed into hospital with no time to sort their possessions. The normality of their life broke down into a more disordered and chaotic existence.

I am demonstrating the impermanence of the environment in which we live.  I have created a hybrid space, constructed using actual items of the person’s furniture, replacing their possessions with photographs to represent the fact that photographs live on as a constant reminder but the environment in which people live can change.

At one point everything had a purpose in this room but now I the situation may change.  What does the future hold?