Place | Face | Object

About a month ago I worked on my first project for university titled ‘place, face and object’. Here we had to make three images in response to each word and so we would end up with 9 individual images. At first it was a challenge to really get back into photographing as I had a year out where I wasn’t really doing all that much accept working. It was nice to really get back on my feet and to start exploring round Cardiff a bit. We had about 9 weeks to complete the project and hand it all in. I made over a thousand images and really worked hard on making each one of them as unique to the others as possible. We had to make our work versatile and show a variety of different techniques whether it be through flash, close up, in editing, conceptually or otherwise. I really enjoyed doing this project as in some aspects its was a challenge to make stand alone images that could really present a solid idea and be strong enough to make an impact. Especially living in Cardiff where I have felt strongly uninspired and a little under enthused by it all.

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6 Months On Film

An entire half of 2017 has gone by and what have I done? I have faced many new challenges, some of which were much harder to overcome than others. One thing that I have learned is patience. You must wait for the things that you desire most and no matter how badly you want them they will not come to you until they are ready. I like to reflect to prove to myself that I have grown and what I have taken on with that growth. This year I have become a more caring person, a strong one and a more passionate and driven person. I strive for the things that are out of my reach because I need these challenges to excite me, to bring me purpose.

For this half of the year I have taken photos using a disposable camera. I used it sparingly and only used it when I deemed it necessary. Many of the images I have forgotten about because they all seem to be from so long ago. It’s funny how we say time flies and yet when we look back on recents months we feel that they are so far away from us that we can no longer remember the content that filled them. I have taken so long to fill up the film on this roll because I wanted the images to be real, something that I can see and generate a memory or some sort of meaning towards. I still haven’t seen the images myself but am excited to reveal them. What did 6 months younger me deem important enough to photograph on a non-deletable device? Something I hope to be able to shed some light on soon.

I like to think that the images I made with this disposable camera are amateur, a stepping stone towards using film. I wasn’t thinking in a photographic sense when making these images, I simply took my camera out when and if I wanted to. When it felt like the right moment. Some of the images on here are really beautiful scenes of the island I am from. Many include my mother. It took something drastic for me to fully understand the kind of love I have for my mum. I never knew it existed until I thought I might lose her. I realised that I love my mum with all my being and it is this unconditional feeling and this feeling of so much love. I care so much for her, beyond words. At the beginning of the year I looked after her while she was recovering from a long time in hospital and it gave me a sense of purpose. I didn’t once get fed up or tired of  it, I enjoyed caring for her. I seriously appreciate everything my mum does for me and I care for her so deeply that my heart kind of aches when I talk about it. The images I created were mainly inspired and surrounded by her, a kind of homage to her.

Upon looking at the images I really noticed a pattern. One of which started as quite dismal and sad, the images are all very dark and mysterious to then suddenly bright and happy. The first images were taken when my mother was in a coma and I felt lost. I felt like I had lost all sense of purpose and that nothing really mattered anymore. Until she woke up and was on the road to recovery. I did not make happy photographs until she was with me. The first image is that of the boats and the blue sky where I went with my mum, her best friend and her daughter and we just got some lunch together. It was a peaceful day. I didn’t realise while making all of these images that they changed in this way but I guess they really reflect my feeling. They give a physical embodiment to help express my lack of words at the time. I became a sort of mute when things got bad, I bottled myself up and that was how I coped. I kept myself to myself and that was it. These images really have helped me to express my thoughts. It’s amazing what stories images can tell, especially using film where you can’t edit or reshoot and change anything afterwards.

Never Growing Up

This idea came from a mini spontaneous photo shoot that I did recently. This project was actually part of a task set in a local workshop with photographer Clare Rae and to create a performative piece. We were tasked with coming up with three different images, one of which needed to be a self-portrait. I focused on that and created all of my images using myself as the subject. I came up with the concept of adolescence and how I myself feel conflicted about growing up and don’t want to even though it’s already in the process of happening. The images I have created are reflective of that push and pull feeling, that part of me is growing up and moving on but the other half doesn’t want to and wants to remain youthful and carefree. I really liked this concept as it was fun to create and run around different environments within the 2 hour timeframe we were given. For the whole process I took my tripod and usual DSLR camera and brought my sister along to press the shutter when I needed her to. I set everything up with the compositions and the ideas behind each image which was a challenging yet fun process. We went to a few different locations and I worked my body within the environment that surrounded me and found that I was left with very fun and interesting images.

Overall, the shoot was really fun and I’m happy with my outcomes and the concept behind these images. They resonate with me on a personal level and I like that they are a bit strange and my stances are unusual. I often worry about growing up and how it’s all happening so fast and without my control. This change will happen whether I want it to or not, in some ways it is good and focuses me to accept and to grow with the changes but on the other hand I am slowly leaving my youth and becoming more responsible. In a way I feel conflicted about my own freedom and how having all these responsibilities may make me feel confined and less able to creatively produce my own work. The future both scares and excites me at the same time, which is something I feel that many other young people at this stage in their lives will be thinking about. Change isn’t always good and it isn’t always bad, sometimes it is indifference, but we must accept and learn that eventually it will happen.

A Note On Claude Cahun

I first sparked an interest in the work of Cahun when studying my A Levels exploring gender roles and feminism. Upon being introduced to Cahun I researched more about her and her life during the 1920’s and 1930’s in the midst of World War II. Cahun soon became one of my biggest inspiration for not only her work on challenging the gender norms placed on society but also her determination and her passion for not giving a fuck what anyone thought of her. To me, Cahun was a very strong individual and fought for what she believed in without fear and yet she had every reason to hide away and live a quiet life. In a time where women were treated as second class citizens, she was a photographer, artist and writer. Not only that, she was a lesbian in a time where people were still being drugged, sent to prison, and executed for their ‘abnormal’ sexuality all over the world, including Britain, she embraced it. Furthermore, her same-sex relationship was with her half sister giving her another reason to hide away from the spotlight and to try to blend in with everyone else. But she never did that. When war came to France and Germany invaded, Cahun and her partner moved to Jersey, Channel Islands where again Nazi invasion occurred. Instead of hiding she, and her partner, became rebels sneaking notes into soldiers pockets telling them to kill their sergeants. She inspires me to take risks and to stand up for what I believe in, no matter how obscure it may seem to others. To creatively express myself without caution and without fear of failure or judgement.

Further researching into Cahun’s work I found it intriguing how she challenged gender norms and completely disowned the expected roles of being male or female. She almost created a third gender, one where she stood alone. Cahun, most likely unknowingly, created a movement. One to dispel the stereotypes and characteristics society labels on both men and women. How can we really bracket an individual in a category that has become so generalised and so tainted by societal views when and individual has their own unique characteristics that cannot be subjected to exclusively male or female. I am a huge believer in allowing individuality and that gender is an extremely outdated and old way of thinking. We must see one another as individuals and not expect one thing, one image, or a single representation of an entire half of the human race.

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I am constantly inspired by Cahun’s fearlessness and find her work captivating, making most viewers uncomfortable but engaged. Her work really forces the spectator to question what they really think of gender and how someone can be both masculine and feminine. I am also writing about Cahun now as she has recently been featured in two magazines (that I am aware of), Porter Magazine and British Journal of Photography. Here Cahun is featured alongside an artist inspired by her work as well as showing the similarities with both artists work. This work will be displayed together in an exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery. This excites me as Cahun was never really found in the photography until after her death in 1972 at the age of 60. Her work continues to inspire and I hope that many others will feel the same once they have been introduced to her through this exhibition that will, I hope, give her the exposure to not only the photography world but to everyone.

Cahun’s work speaks volumes to me and the more I engage with gender politics the more I understand her work. I find every image captivating, not in the composition or in how the image was taken but how she commands the spectators attention. Your eye is immediately drawn to her and her presence. For me Cahun becomes an entirely new person in all of her images, she isn’t held back by gender roles or stereotypes, she is simply being herself.

latimer-1An image that really stood out to me was the one to the left. Firstly, the use of the surroundings with Cahun placed in the very centre of the frame and the added details of the plain furniture in the background really making the checkered pattern of the jacket drawing the spectators attention. Your eye is then brought up to the direct gaze of the subject moving swiftly the her reflection in the mirror. Something about this image captivates me and intrigues me. I want to find out more and to learn more about the person in the image. Her feminine features, eyes and jaw line, along with her masculine ones, short hair and nose, balance one another out making the image more challenging for the spectator as we so often automatically bracket people into male or female. I love that Cahun is staring straight into the camera while looking away from her own reflection. The expression on her face and the strength in her gaze makes me think she is telling the spectator to accept her because she has accepted herself. She stands strong in her pose and leaves the spectator wanting more.

Cahun is one of my biggest inspirations. Like previously mentioned, she has taught me to take risks in my photography and in my own life. To not worry about what others think of me and to just do it. Her work has helped me grow as a person as well as take more risks in my style, the way I present myself and my photographic work.

Creating More

This month I’ve really been thinking more and more about my photography work and all of the projects that I want to create. Sometimes it can be harder than we think to come up with ideas and actually creating them because life gets in the way. There’s always something that happens to us in-between work and creating that seems to take our full focus. Many things have gone on this month, most of which I have chosen not to share, that have stopped me from creating and posting. This body of work was done in the middle of last year and is something that I really enjoyed doing and had a lot of fun creating and conceptualising. I wanted to create something fun, with little meaning behind it. A project that I could just do on a random day and be done with at the end of it. This shoot holds some fun memories with my friends and our time back in school. I miss those times and the freedom and lack of responsibility that came with being a student. Creating will always be something fun and enjoyable for me because I get to express myself and how I’m feeling as well as just being able to mess around and try something different and new.

Remember Me?

It’s funny how friends come and go so often in life. We tend to forget about how many friends we once had and how many just drifted out of our lives. Somehow friendships don’t last, people change and sometimes people just grow apart. I often look back at old photographs and think about those who are no longer permanent figures in my life, people I used to tell everything to I now just say hi to when I see them in the street. That’s all part of growing up though I guess, you can’t always decide who your friends are and you definitely can’t make them stay when they just don’t want to. I wanted to create a small project and bring it to life in this post as I’ve taken some inspiration from photographer John Baldessari and his work of defacing people or making them anonymous. I took the liberty of looking through old images from when I was in my early teens and saw the amount of people I would hang out with. It made me reflect on how vastly that number of ‘friends’ has narrowed but now I feel that though the number is smaller, the quality of those friendships are much stronger. I wanted to be able to creatively express myself in some way and so took to slight destruction to make an image new, to show my life and those who are now more irrelevant to my life, to add an aspect of anonymity to those who I no longer spend most of my time with. I decided when re-shooting these images to make them slightly blurry, this symbolises my blurred memories of when those people were more prominent figures in my life.

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Outcast

Last month I developed an interest in outcasts and how people that don’t fit into the standard norms of society are treated and excluded from the rest of their community. I decided to focus in on local stories on lunacy, transgender and general misfits. I wanted to get a proper understanding on why these groups of people are excluded and made to feel like they don’t fit in or that they aren’t normal. Through my work I found many amazing stories and re-interpreted those into 5 separate series of images. This was a really great project to make and has opened my eyes to how poorly many people were and still are treated within our society. This project was created as part of my final A Level exam work for photography. To present my final outcomes I decided to create a box and add some material on top to make it look more like a Victorian style box, since all of my work is inspired from the late 1800s. The flips books were all handmade creating six individual flip books each holding 50 images. Below are images of my complete final project with all adjustments already made. What links all of these mini projects together is the idea of being an outsider, people that don’t fit in with the norm that are cast off and made to feel like they don’t belong that they aren’t good enough. I wanted to make photographs of the people, through my personas, that society ignores.

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This particular series has been inspired by photographs found from the Victorian period whereby mother’s would hide behind blankets or curtains in order to get a photo of their child while holding them still to make sure they didn’t move with the long exposure going. 

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This series was inspired by a local transgender story from the early 1900s of a man called Colonel Victor Barker who was found out due to an unpaid debt from a restaurant.

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A series inspired by a true local story of a woman, Jane Le Maistre, who was locked up in an outhouse and left to rot with her own insanity until inspectors were due to arrive and she magically became groomed and cared for. 

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Scared Sh*tless was inspired by yet another local story of insanity in the late 1800s, before the asylum was built to house these ‘lunatics. A tradesman was scared out of his wits by an apprentice who jumped out at him in a white sheet, the man never recovered which led him to insanity. 

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This series was inspired by a photograph taken from inside my local asylum which was abandoned many years ago when the new one was built. I found an image of a large drawing of a tree inside one of the rooms and it captivated me and from that I created a persona, someone who that drawing could belong to, trying to deal with their own mind and insanity.