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).

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 clothes we wear

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As well as studying people, I also wanted to take a close look at the clothing that people wear, especially discarded clothing, linking this in with my ‘left behind’ work.

When I look at clothing, I am also studying the person wearing it, as clothing can represent so many different things about that person.  Clothing conveys to me the person’s gender, class, maybe where they come from eg. different cultures, level of education and if that person has strong beliefs eg. reglious, cult or follows a particular movement.

I am also taking notice of the sculptures that are made from clothing which have been hung up or dropped on the floor, abandoned by its owner, like a shedded animal skin.

I have been looking at Christain Boltanski’s ‘pile of clothes’ installation where he focuses on the themes of death and memory.  In his words he states ‘Someone’s photograph, garment or dead body are pretty much the same thing: there was someone there, now they’re gone.” Garments are also vestiges or marks that bear testimony to a life now past’.  http://www.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources/ens-boltanski_en/ens-boltanski_en.htm

The Journey – Tilt Shift

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In contrast to getting in close to capture people’s emotions I have been looking at peoples’ lives from a distance and through this have captured these photographs.  I used a new photographic technique called tilt shift which highlights the people within the photograph making them look like miniatures.  Each one of them going about their journey to get to their distination.

http://www.digital-photography-school.com/an-introduction-to-tilt-shift-photography

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.

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.

Forgotten

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Previously exploring dwellings that are lived in,  I then had a desire to explore buildings that had deteriorated or outlived their original purpose, being abandoned by their inhabitants.  In a sense I was photographing what has been overlooked visually and historically.

My travels took me to an abandoned Mobilisation centre.  Source:  http://www.undergroundkent.co.uk/north_weald_redoubt.htm

“In the late Victorian period (1889-1903) mobilisation centres were constructed around the London area in order to provide ready ammunition in order to defend the city. These centres were not designed as forts themselves, although they could have been armed if the need arose. Being a mobilisation centre, if the need for armament did become apparent, the North Weald Redoubt would have been armed with whatever guns were seen as appropriate at the time.

North Weald Redoubt is one of these mobilisation centres and it’s structure clearly shows it’s purpose as an ammo store. Viewed from above, the redoubt forms a rough D shape. The arc at the rear of the redoubt is comprised of the magazines. The second building consists of a caponier giving covering fire into the ditch and further casemates known as the gorge casemates that could have been used to either barrack troops or as further storage space for shells. Under normal conditions this would have been utilised for the storage of other equipment.

Within the magazine arc, each room is clearly defined as either a cartridge or shell store and has excellent lighting provided from multiple lamp recesses in each store. As in other similar magazines, the cartridge stores were accessed via a shift lobby.

The redoubt underwent many changes during it’s use and during the Second World War it was fitted with two Allen Williams turrets. These would have been used to protect the nearby Ongar radio station.”

Again I felt like a detective, looking for clues from the traces that were left by previous human activity.  I felt uneasy as I approached the site but once inside I felt sadness at the complete disregard for a part of our history, where the area had been abused by fire, graffiti and theft of lead from the roof.  However, I was satisfied that I was able to record part of that history on my camera as I knew that I would never go back again.

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?

Possessions

I have decided to go off on another direction and rename my final year theme from ‘Celebration of Life’ to ‘Documents of Life’. This will cover people’s identity, possessions, lifestyles, aspirations, sense of place and how we remember and celebrate the lifes of those that aren’t with us anymore.  Within my photography I am also capturing part of people’s lives and will record my encounters as I go through.

Possessions are a large part of most people’s lives and so I decided to confront my mother and ask her to pick out some things that meant a lot to her. This was an interesting exercise as it really made her think and I also learnt a bit more about her past.  I also decided to record her, speaking about why these possessions were important to her now. Most were kept for sentimental reasons but other things because they were just her favourites and she wouldn’t part with them.

The more people that come forward with their possessions, the more fascinating it becomes.  When I initially see an object that a person wants to show me, it has sometimes looked so ordinary, but then when the story about it unfolds, I can see why that person holds onto that item.  A box with a secret inside, a photo, who knows what it might be.  That is the great thing about them all, I don’t know what im going to be shown or told.

Within this work I am the observer.  I am gaining an insight into the things that matter to the people I see.  It reveals the forms by which ordinary people make sense of their lives and hold on to their memories.  Its the way in which these possessions become their companions in the daily struggle to make life meaningful.

Some of the objects I have been shown represent a time gone by, and allow me to connect to the past and at the same time appreciating its difference to our present, reminding us of the ever present power of change.

Song Dong is a chinese artist who is running an exhibition until June entitled ‘Waste Not’.  In this work Song Dong has created an installation comprising of over ‘10,000 items collected by Song Dong’s mother, Zhao Xiangyuan, over five decades – ranging from a section of the family home, to metal pots and plastic bowls to blankets, bottle caps, toothpaste tubes and toys. The activity of saving and re-using things is in keeping with the Chinese adage wu jin qi yong – ‘waste not’ – a prerequisite for survival during periods of social and political turmoil.
Song Dong is known for his conceptual and often very personal performances and installations. For his London exhibition, Song Dong has developed a new iteration of Waste Not. First conceived in 2005, it remains of the utmost significance to the artist. Unexpectedly and tragically Zhao Xiangyuan died in an accident in 2009. Each time Song Dong remakes the work, assisted by his sister, Song Hui, and his wife Yin Xiuzhen, the entire family is brought together again.

In both Dong’s work and my own we have been rediscovering family objects whilst rekindling emotions and memories.

http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?ID=12878

Possessions – 1

The cards have been collected over the years and from my daughters and grand children.  I like to look at them every now and again as they remind me of special occasions that have gone by”.

“I wouldn’t part with this photo as this reminds me of the first dress that I made when I was 15 as I couldn’t afford to go and buy one.  I loved that dress”.

I won the British Judo champion for the under 13’s and its a reminder that sport was my favourite activity at school and I wish I was as active these days”.

My mother owned all of these scarves when she was alive and they remind me of her as she would always go out wearing a scarf”.

This bible was given to me when I was 8 years old and its one of the oldest things that I have and I wouldn’t part with it”.

This coat belonged to my mother and it was her favourite.  Its something that I do not wear but again, I wouldn’t part with it as it reminds me of her”.

Using my mother as a guinea pig I then decided to go further afield and start to ask other members of my family and friends about their possessions and I was extremely surprised at what they showed and told me.  Such an interesting and enlightening part of my project.

Possessions – 2

Photo of Aunty Pat who died approx. 8 years ago.

“My mother gave me this photo a few years ago and at the time I had no idea why, as I was never close to this lady. In fact  looking back she was an angry and bitter person, and didn’t like me, despite the smile in the picture. I was bright and cheerful and she was chewed up with envy probably. I see that now. I recall a conversation I had with her at the age of 20 or so and she was about 60. She was terrified of dying and wanted to know about the possibility of an afterlife.   I understand many years later having trained in psychotherapy that sometimes, awakening to the  fear of death as one heads towards those final goalposts (and sometimes sooner for others), can be indicative of the lack of life they have lived and continue to live,  including meaningful connections with others. I am now able to see her in a different light, and despite the fact that she didn’t die until she was 89, she remained  stuck and miserable for the rest of her life – how sad is that? Her photo now reminds me that life is precious, and living each day ought to be done with meaningful intent, respect for others and self and gratitude”.

 “This little pill-box contains all the teeth of my second son, Geoff. He thinks I’m crazy and doesn’t understand why I
collect them all. I know this is a hangover from my own family’s habits, as they also collected teeth. They also collected the hair from a child’s first haircut. And while these old-fashioned customs have multiple explanations,
personally I know that they serve as keepsakes or milestones in my own life, and help solidify my own sense of self and meaning. One day I will find sentimental value in what I have kept from the days of raising my boys. They may even help me to mourn the loss of being a mother when they leave the nest…Examples of both my boy’s first handwriting. Again a hallmark that is precious to me as they grow up and leave behind their days of innocence, and my days of motherhood”.

I ADORE coloured glass, in particular when the
colour is backlit from the sun or a candle. When the light shines through there
is life and promise and potential. I first started my fascination with glass as
a child. After my parents divorced we went to live with my grandparents who
lived beside a pub. Now in New Zealand pubs weren’t quaint – they were
piss-halls – and they catered for many. Consequently (and because there were no
drink/drive laws back then) the car parks were huge and littered with broken
glass. In the days of family disintegration, I found life in broken glass. They
imitated my broken and cast aside self. Red, green, brown and blue and
sometimes weathered and pitted – all took on a special life when I let the
light shine through. It was, and still is, painfully beautiful.

Possessions – 3 

The green silk material was woven by my mother during her working life at Courtaulds Mill, Halstead.  She was born in 1914 and left school a few years after the 1926 General Strike.  Prior to leaving school she had been promised a job in the design office at Courtaulds, Halstead as she was a talented amateur artist.  It broke her heart when she reported for work only to be informed that the design office job had been given to a man, which meant she would have to work on the looms.  The general state of employment at that time, and the fact that there was no employment legislation meant there was no recourse”.

“I made the needle case from the silk and use it most weeks.  That is the reason why it has faded and the piece of material hasn’t”.

I bought this little bird ornament when on holiday in Scotland with my friend Ellen.  I particularly liked its shape and tactile quality.  I think I have had it at least 30 years and have seen it almost every day.  It reminds me of my friend and the many happy times our families enjoyed together”.

This plate was given to me by two of my oldest and dearest friends.  They regularly came to support me when I took part in amateur dramatic productions in Halstead in the 1960s and 1970s, which means it was a very thoughtful present.  It shows characters from Shakespeare’s plays with the Globe Theatre shown in the centre.  The plate is situated in the room in the house which is used most, so it is seen almost everyday. Although my friends and I do not see each other often these days we keep in touch by regular telephone calls”.

In my youth I was often taken to visit my mother’s aunt whom I knew as ‘Great Aunt Gertie’.  She lived in a vicotrian terraced house in sudbury which is still standing today.  I remember her as being quite autocratic and very strict about children’s behaviour, but she gae me the thimble when I was about 12 years old when she realised I loved sewing.  The Victorian terrace as a fascinating house with a wonderful heavy oak curtain rails with enormous wodden rigns holding long velvet curtails.  Great Aunt Gertie lived until she was 96 years old”.

Possessions – 4

On Wednesday, 19th June 1940, the air raid warning siren had sounded and together with my mother and brother I went to our shelter at the bottom of the garden.  My father was on duty as a policeman.  About midnight we recognised the distinctive sound of the German bomber and shortly afterwards the sound of machinegun fire followed by silence.  We sat for some while in apprehension then the shelter door was flung open by my father who excidedly called out “we’ve shot one down”!  “I’ve left a bit in the kitchen”.  he then rushed off.  A short while later the all clear siren sounded and we made our way back to the house.  In the kitchen was a large piece of debris that smelt like witchhazel which I hastily threw outdoors.  Later that morning my father told how the bomber had narrowly missed houses at Springfield and had crashed into the bishop’s garden.  He had attended the scene with his sergeant and a war reserve officer Mr Lamb who they had armed with a shot gun to arrest these dastardly Germans only to find their shocking remains.  They had allowed people to take souveniers but in the morning RAF personnel demanded it back so our piece was returned.  Flying Officer Adolf ‘Sailor’ Malan D.F.C who had shot the aircraft down also attnded the scene.  This is a replica of him and his Spitfire”.

 

During the war years my mother was required to take in aircrew members attending a radio course at Marconis.  Each fortnight two or three airmen of various ranks and nationalities would arrive.  This meant her cooking for seven of us each day and washing and ironing by hand six pairs of sheets each week.  Amongst these visitors were three Polish airmen.  They were smart and full of continental charm and courtesy especially towards my mother.

They enjoyed their stay and frequently returned on leave and on once occasion presented my parents with a brass plaque bearing the Polish eagle and flag.  As the war progressed contact with them was lost.

In 1998 whilst polishing the plaque I resolved to endeavour to trace them.  I had two photographs published in a magazine and some months later one was identified as living in France but ironically he had died the month I started my enquiries.  His widow sent copies of photographs of him holding my brother.  If only I had made my enquiries earlier”.

Possessions – 5

“My Grandfather James Bowers who was born in 1867 lived with his wife Emily at Purley Farm, Coggeshall where he was the farm bailiff.  My father was born there in 1911.  In November 1940 two bombs fell on Coggeshall, one demolished their house.  My father and a brother rushed to the scene and rescued their parents.  The only things to survive were a teapot and a mirror which I have in memory of them”.

 

Possessions – 6

 

 

 

 

 

 


Possessions – 7

Possessions 8