New work…

January 24, 2012

It’s going to be another week and a bit before I get to sit down with Paul Reas, Conceptual Documentary Photography guru (and the next module’s leader for anyone not at Newport) and so it is all about the ideas at the moment; the ideas and the research.  Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know how much I like research, so that bit’s easy.  I have an idea too – but it is whether or not it will get the ‘thumbs up’ from Caesar Paul, or not…

I ran it past Clive and Ken at my recent assessment interview.  Clive recommended that I don’t get too bogged down in theory (I think I said a bit much about women and photography and the landscape whilst discussing my pics) and Ken suggested that it would offer a good opportunity to further develop my skills with the 5 x 4.  They didn’t exactly jump up and down and exclaim that, “Bloomin’ heck Denise: you’ve hit on an exciting and original idea there!”  But they did seem to quite like it…

So, a little tease here:  if you want to play the game.  There is a link between my ‘A Gentle Eminence’ project and my book/pics idea; it will involve landscape photography; I will use my beautiful Wista (oh, the expense…  I did suggest I work digitally this time, but both men became rather animated and I respectfully backed down); it’s going to involve an old map or two…

The way I visualise things at the moment, I will produce a body of work that will speak about the landscape, but also some of the people who inhabit it…  Hurrah, possibly an opportunity for Soth style portraiture…  It could end up being interesting and maybe even a bit pretty.  We shall see.

Today I went to find the place which may actually be the start of the journey.  I ‘made’ a couple of descriptive shots of what is there and then, the battery in my little G-11 went.  Bugger.  This is the only one I have.  So, an extra clue to the idea I have:

Research trip I

Another pic I took is but a pale imitation of one shot in the past by the wonderful photographer and all round good person, Alice Carfrae:

Research trip II

Maybe she will let me have a j-peg of the image in question and I can post it here and you can see just how gorgeous the original version actually is…

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Snap! Well, almost.

January 23, 2012

What does this remind you of?

Image by Raymond Meeks

From the new book, Idyll

Nice pic, but actually – I prefer mine:

V, from, 'A Gentle Eminence'

Is that an arrogant thing to say?  Well, no apologies if it is.  I really like the colours, textures and the light in the pic…

 

Apologies again for the quality of the images… Much better when seen on big bits of photo paper…  I would like to thank the Newport branch of the WRVS for helping me with the project.  The first image below is from the negative scan. The others are really awful photographs of the prints (You can see where the daylight is hitting the prints…)!  I will sort out better reproductions to put on here soon…

31 Breaths

The series of 5 x 4 pinhole images uses Stanislavski’s idea of ’emotion memory’ to articulate the experience of being housebound.

For individuals no longer able to explore the outside world physically, they achieve ‘access’ through what they see on the television, in photographs or through the windows of their home; they also have their memories.

In memory, the special places of our past become soft and idealised; the sky is a rich blue, the grass a myriad of vibrant greens.  The images we call up are not sharp, we do not see the fine detail, but rather an impression, coloured by emotion, by longing.

To re-visit the places we once explored, we must breathe deeply and carefully, and with each breath, remember.

This series evokes the act of remembering.  Created by hand-holding the camera and allowing its body to vibrate with the artist’s breath, the process of making each picture is as important as the final image itself.  The ’31’ in the title refers to the number of breaths drawn by the artist whilst each negative was being exposed.  2 minutes and 46 seconds of thinking, remembering and laying down new memories.

Hand-printed in the darkroom, the blue/green tones are calming, yet intense and are intended to articulate the romanticisation of memory and heighten the viewer’s emotional response to the work.  The aesthetic is deliberately ‘romantic’, with echoes of Impressionism and the photography of Steichen.  The imperfections within each print speak of the individual’s inability to control the visual pictures memory brings forth, pictures that comfort yet also tease those who are unable to venture outside their own homes.

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Please find below my project synopsis and the negatives scanned and turned into basic j-pegs.  Apologies for the quality – the real prints are much better!  Any comments would be very welcome…

A Gentle Eminence

In 1760 a grand house was built on a private estate in Llanwern, just to the east of Newport.  It stood for just under 200 years and was home to Baronets, Lords and Viscounts.  Its last owner, Margaret Haig Thomas, daughter of Viscount Rhondda, Minister of Supplies during WWI, became a suffragette, company director, proprietor of the magazine, ‘Time and Tide’ and for her entire adult life, a campaigner for women’s rights.  It is because of Viscountess Rhondda that women are able to vote in The House of Lords.

In 1952, the house was demolished and following her death in 1956, Viscountess Rhondda almost disappeared from history.  She is there, if one looks closely enough: in a few paragraphs ‘on-line’ that focus on feminist or Parliament ‘s history.  But for the general populace, she has been lost, along with the house.

‘A Gentle Eminence’ is a personal response to Margaret Haig Thomas’ story and a search for traces of her in the landscape.

Made using a 5 x 4 field camera and hand-printed, the final prints incorporate the repeated motifs of barriers, pathways and light: metaphorical symbols which are intended to encourage the viewer to pause and reflect.  The deliberate subtlety of some of the images hints at the feminist subtext of the work.  For here is a female photographer working in the male dominated landscape genre, in order to tempt the viewer to wonder about a historical figure, that has been ‘almost lost’: perhaps because of her gender.

The title, ‘A Gentle Eminence’ is taken from travel writing, unearthed in The National Library of Wales and dates from 1802.  Whilst the phrase relates to the land on which the house stood, it also symbolises Margaret Haig Thomas in the artist’s mind.

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Back and broken already…

January 8, 2012

Lesson to self: Always check your kit when you get home from a trip.  Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a muddy field and need to use it.  Turns out that at some point in transit, my carefully packed Wista sustained a little damage…  The focusing screen cracked like Agatha Christie’s mirror (from side to side.)  After making three very tentative exposures with it in this condition, I hightailed it down to a large superstore (that shall not benefit from any advertising here) and bought a couple of those phone screen protectors.  It may not be pretty, it may actually not be doing much good, but psychologically I am thinking that the glass won’t totally fall apart just yet…

Another downside to having a broken focusing screen, is that I am unable to use my little extension thingy and am therefore reduced to sticking my head underneath the black cloth once more, sticking my backside out for any passersby to slap (luckily for me I photograph away from the crowds) and squinting like buggery to try to make out if anything is actually in focus – I really MUST get a new prescription for my glasses!  The difficulty with focusing has been very problematic and who knows what the images will be like when I finally get them printed.

I seem to have fallen a little bit out of love with the project too.  This is possibly because of the break from it, but also because I am aware that if I want to develop the work in the future I will not be able to re-submit any of the pictures I make now.  I did find something new in the landscape today which might just work visually and metaphorically, so all is not totally lost.  Unless of course the image isn’t sharp!