Write What You Know – Biography – Exercise 1.2

Below is a list of things you are likely to know about. Choose one and write for 60 seconds about any personal experience of your choice; my pet; my job; my mother; my home; my hobby; my sport; my family. 

My job

Work is not a part of my life just now for health reasons. I’m a student and I’ve just completed Foundations in Photography, and have now begun to study creative writing.

Sixty seconds is not very long. When you stopped after one minute, did you feel you had more to say? Did you carry on regardless of the instruction? See if you can carry on now: Choose something else from the list and write for two minutes. Choose a third subject and write for three minutes. Keep going until you get to your last choice, and attempt six minutes of writing. If you can’t write about one of the subjects, for example if you’ve never had a pet, substitute something else (my sister; my school). Did that feel like creative writing to you? This is how most writers start. By writing for a few moments, then carrying on.

My Pet

My first pet was a rabbit called Bunjy. I was six years old, and I don’t have that many memories of him. Although now I have started writing I can remember feeding him rabbit pellets. He was an albino with white fur and red eyes. I remember the day he died. I was at my nana’s house. Mum told me that Bunjy had been found dead in his hutch. I burst into tears. It was close to Christmas and we went to see santa.

My mother

My mother fucked up badly, and I stopped speaking with her in my early twenties. As time has gone on I’ve come to realise that she did the best she could with what she had. The hardest part is knowing that I’ve fucked up in some ways too. I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve got. Coming to terms with an inconsistent and inadequate parent is hard work. It’s taken all of my adult life, and the process remains as one that is ongoing. She died 5 years ago. I didn’t grieve, I had done that during those 20 odd years that we didn’t see each other. Somehow I find myself speaking with he now she’s dead. Life is bizarre.

My Family

I guess it makes sense to follow on with my family. I have no contact with most of my family now, and I have no desire too. In fact, I don’t wish to add anything further.

Pause…

Its hard to be the black sheep of the family, especially since being so is as a result of the abuse I experienced whilst growing up. I’ve stayed away from my family for my own protection. I see happy families sometimes, and wonder what it must be like to have that closeness. It’s not that I long for it, it just not my experience.

I am in touch with two cousins. They express their love for me, and then I feel confused. What is love? Love makes no sense to me.

My home

It’s taken a year to begin to feel safe in my new home. The flat is lovely, the difficulties are living in close proximity to others, and the busyness on the street. I can hear the sounds of my neighbours above, below and to the side. I’ve put sound-proofing down under the carpet and upon the ceiling. It’s helped a little. I’ve been scared that my neighbours can hear everything that I say and do, it feels like I’m living in The Truman Show. It’s developed into paranoia, which becomes intense when I can hear them talking, and I’ve had periods when I have thought they are planning to kill me. The paranoia led to a suicide attempt last year, and to a very difficult summer during which I couldn’t tolerate being at home. However, my neighbours are lovely. Whenever I bump into them it has been a positive experience and being able to reflect upon these encounters has helped me to begin to feel safe in my home.

My hobby or sport

Photography is far more than a hobby to me. It’s helped to turn my life around, and it has improved my mental health considerably. When I first got a camera I had severe agoraphobia and panic attacks, which lead to me being housebound. Holding a camera in front of my face helped me to tolerate the fear for a short time. Gradually, the length of time I could go outside increased. Photography has given me a voice, a way of expressing myself and a way of exploring my life and that of the world around me. One of my biggest life achievements has been completing a project around anorexia, and my recovery from it. I haven’t published the results because I have embroidered on top of self portraits, and I struggle with my body image and how I look. An arts project once to exhibit the photos. They are unique. I’ve done considerable research into embroidered photography, and I’m bringing something new to the table. I’m feeling very proud about that.

Considering The Year Ahead, Life, Death And Photography

It would be impossible to think of the future without considering that there is the potential for me to die from heart disease. As you’re aware I have decided not to have surgery for my heart condition. I can see how dieing could be a scary experience, but I have been at peace since making this decision.

Knowing that I have a limited time left has most certainly helped me to focus on living well and considering whether my daily actions improve the quality of my life. This doesn’t mean running around like a mad march hare and doing, doing, doing. Sometimes I just want to sit still and do nothing, others I want to read or birdwatch, and occasionally I want to be around people.

I’m not used to being around people, and I can struggle even when I’m around those who I love and feel safe with. Getting the balance right for me isn’t easy, I’ve had a wonderful Christmas, but I’m ready to go home now.

When I return home my plan is to begin meditating daily. Meditation is most definitely linked to my creativity and photography. I have a few ideas for photographic project’s and I know meditation will help with developing these. I have vague ideas about making photos with others who identify as being non-binary or gender fluid, and making use of masks or props to explore and express gender identity.

I’ve particularly enjoyed my embroidered photography this year, for my project “Some Emotional States Of My Anorexia, And The Strengths Of My Recovery.” I completed the project just before Christmas, but I don’t feel ready to make these public at the moment. The wonderful thing is that I already have a gallery/arts project who would like to exhibit the series. I can see the potential for building upon this work to explore mental health further. Meditation will definitely aid my progress in these areas.

“Snippets” is a series I’m currently working on in which I write down snippets of overheard conversation and take a photo in the area of which the conversation was heard. I got the idea from a fellow OCA photography student Chloe Halstead. The idea is to have this as a long term project using my Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and to present the series as a photo book.

Hopefully I will also have some news about my application for a bursary to study an Open Foundation in Creative Writing, with the Open College of the Arts, I can feel some more photo essays coming along.

Colour is also going to feature in the clothes I wear, it’s time to bring more colour and variety into my attire, and today I’m top to bottom in yellow. I’ve also seen some green corduroys that I like. I’ll give them some thought.

I guess I’ll need to tone the colours down when birdwatching, something which I plan to do more of this year. I’m so grateful that I discovered RSPB Rainham Marshes. One thing that would aid my birdwatching would be finding a teleconverter that I can attach to the front of my Mzuiko 75-300mm lens. I can’t currently afford one. However, I have four photos appearing in The Loudest Whispers exhibition, run by The Arts Project London, during February, March and April. If they sell then I’ll be able to afford a teleconverter. Fingers crossed. 

I don’t have a bucket list, but I would like to be able to go on a birdwatching holiday during the summer.

Wishing you all a wonderful year ahead.

Masks – Inspiration From The British Museum

With signing my new tenancy today meaning that I’m in London, I planned a gentle day at the British Museum.

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My project for assignment 5 is using self portrait and embroidery to explore the emotional States of anorexia. I visited the British Museum as a means of having a gentle day after signing my tenancy. I travel back tomorrow and then move here on Friday. Yay.

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It quickly became apparent that the museum has a collection of masks in most of the cultural zones. Masks being an important element of many traditional and indigenous cultures, religions and traditions. As I will be embroidering onto my self portraits for this assignment, then I see that I am creating masks.

I felt particularly drawn to shamanic cultures that use icons depicting animal spirits. Some cultures use masks to reveal hidden aspects of personality, rather than to hide them. This feels particularly pertinent to me in my process of recovering from my eating disorder.

Hidden or suppressed aspects of my character being revealed to aid me in my recovery, now that makes sense to me. Animals are important to me as spirit guides, and I’ve previously blogged about my connection with pigs, and their spiritual representation of abundance. I feel drawn to kingfishers, which to me represent both protection and rage. These are helpful and unhelpful aspects of personality. Kingfishers will fight other kingfishers to death to protect their territory. That fits in with my portrait depicting rage. Some native American cultures consider the rattlesnake (utsonati) to be a potent medicine spirit, which fits in with recover. This would work well with pride, my sixth self-portrait.

Today I’ve also considered that I could make a plaster cast of my face, and then use the decoupage technique to blend my portraits with Letinsky’s photography to add a different dimension to the work I am producing.

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My tutor recently gave me some feedback, suggesting that I be open-minded to the organic evolution of my ideas. Today’s trip to the British Museum has done just that. Is anyone up for making plaster casts of my face? I can’t remember when I last got plastered!

Crystalising Ideas For Assignment Five

  • Installation
  • Photo of my face, over-sewn to represent emotional/mental states of anorexia
  • Positioned 90 degrees to photo from Laura Letinsky
  • Stitch on Laura Letinsky’s photos to pick out detail
  • 1 inch in front of Letinsky’s photo will be plain card of same size
  • Cut out shapes so aspects of Lentinsky’s work can be revealed and others remain hidden
  • Revealed areas will be related to food or eating
  • An object from Lentinsky’s art will be placed between the two photos i.e. Cup, plate, squashed water melon
  • Long stitches to go from my face over to the revealed areas in Letinsky’s photo (in the style of Kate Aston (review to be written up shortly). This will further emphasise emotional state.
  • Sound recording which emulates specific thought patter relating to each of my mental/emotional states
  • There will be six states represented so I will use six self portraits and six of Laura Lentinsky’s.

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Assignment Five – Refining My Idea

I’ll be making my own portrait with 6 different emotional expressions relating to my eating disorder. Justaposing them with 6 different photos from Ill Form and Void Full (Laura Letinsky).

Both photos will be placed side by side on a white surface, with a white backdrop. The surface will become a space in which I will place a piece of fruit, or other food which will match that from Letinsky’s art. The photos will then be squashed, twisted, torn or altered in some way. I’ll then photograph the still life I’ve made and then stitch onto the final photo.

 

The stitching will be done in a manner that uses shape and colour to emphasise the emotional expression.

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Stitch Sampler

OK, so this is not the greatest idea of a sampler, but it’s been good practice to try out different stitch samples for my fifth assignment. The majority of the artists who stitch over photography tend to use a long stitch, rather than different styles of stitching. And hey, their work is fantastic, so maybe the idea is to keep it simple. However, I like chain stitch and diagonal tent stitch – and I can see how they can be used, and perhaps cross stitch would be good over eyes.

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  • Blue – herringbone stitch
  • Yellow – running stitch
  • Orange – Cross stitch
  • Pink – Back stitch
  • Red – Tent stitch
  • Green – Diagonal tent stitch
  • Brown – Chain stitch

Thank You Laura Letinsky – Refining My Idea

I recieved the most wonderful and exciting news yesterday. Laura Letinsky responded to my email, giving me permission to use 6 of her photos as the basis of my fifth assignment.

This assignment is exploratory in many ways, and I will use it to develop my embroidery skills, embroidering on top of photography.

Letinsky, in her own words, “cannabalises” her own and others photography. In anorexia the body moves into the metabolic state of catabolism, in which the body eats its own proteins (muscles) in order to survive. One idea is to make use of photographs of my body parts from when I was really ill, justapose them with photos from Letinsky’s I’ll Form and Void Full, and use embroidery to distort the shape of my limbs, picking out cours of the foods from Letinsky’s art.

The other option is to photography my face, capturing different emotional states, embroider over them in the style of Maurizio Anzeri, and justapose these with relevant parts of Letinsky’s art.

I’m not sure how I am going to develop these ideas into a concrete plan as yet, so time for some meditation.

Laura Letinsky

Maurizio Anzeri

 

Initial Ideas For Assignment Five – Concept – Exhibition

  • Eyes
  • Faces
  • Expression of emotion in eyes
  • Over-sewing
  • Cross stitch pattern of facial expression
  • Gerhard Richter documentary
  • Basic stitch ideas (JW)
  • Advanced over-sewing ideas (TL)
  • Keep authenticity in my photography
  • Break away from authenticity
  • Explore more fully the work of Laura Letinsky
  • Explore emotional States in the style of letinsky
  • Review photography books for further ideas
  • Create test photos
  • Seek feedback upon ideas and test photos
  • Make test photos with the public
  • Review Maurizio Anzeri
  • Review Carolle Benitah
  • Review Julie Cockburn
  • Select and print 6 photos from Ill Form and Void Full (consent gained on 28/12/18 from Laura Letinsky)
  • Leave the photos on my lounge floor in order that I breath them into my soul
  • Meditate – this will come together in its own way if I meditate
  • Review Shaun Cardinal, Diane Meyer and Annegret Soltau
  • Review Kate Aston
  • Review https://hollyocacontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/assignment-5-constructed-image/

http://maurizioanzeri.com

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1982113/

https://myblueprint.com/article/top-10-must-know-hand-embroidery-stitches

https://jamierawlingsartist.com/

http://www.juliecockburn.com

Any feedback upon my initial ideas would be most welcome.

Assignment Four – Responding To A Theme – Initial Ideas

The brief asks us to create a series of 3 – 5 still life images that respond to a theme. Exercise 4.12 Presence/Absence gave me the opportunity to explore self harm and suicide, and I have an idea which will give me the opportunity to build upon this.

  • Self hatred juxtaposed with self love
  • 3 photos relating to self hatred
  • 3 photos relating to self love
  • Crop photos with a 1:1 aspect ration
  • Create a solid cube from wood
  • Attach self hatred and self love photo at opposing ends of the cube
  • The cube becomes a still life object

Assignment One – Square Mile – Initial Thoughts and Ideas

“However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography. Think of it as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter; try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you’re most successful at.”  (Enoch; 2017)

My Interests

Sociology, People, Inequality, Diversity, Events, Macro, Transcendence, Buddhism, Colour, Sweets, Flowers, Birds, Digital Developing, Films, Meditation, Routine

Out of Comfort Zone/Dislikes

Landscape, Tourism, Being out at night, Conflict, Talking to people, Black and white/Monochrome photography, Carrying a tripod, Exercise, Enclosed Spaces, Crowds, Anxiety

Ideas

1) Taking photos in a city that is familiar to me and looking for things I havent seen before. Leaving envelopes where I take photos with a request “I am a photography student and am exploring the idea of ‘things we overlook’. Would you be so kind as to have a look around and taking a photo, right where you are standing, of something that you havent noticed before. You can email it to me at…. My only requirements, for reasons of ethics and consent are that you must be over 18, if you are not then please ask an adult to take the photo and send it to me. The photo cannot be of an individual or a group of individuals with them as the main focus, but a general street photo with people in it is acceptable. Many thanks”

This idea is one of collaboratively exploring a familiar place with different perspectives. What do we overlook because of familiarity? Do my ideas of a place prevent me from seeing what is there?

2) Exploring the use of text and captions to add narrative. I follow other OCA students blogs, and a recent entry from Emma Pocock’s Landscape Blog. Emma is studying Landscape as a module of the BA (Hons) Photography with the Open College of the Arts. Exercise 2.5 is an exploration fo text in Art. After completing the exercise she says:-

“Although this isn’t a form of art I think I am cut out to make in its pure form, I am definitely going to try harder to jot down words which convey my thoughts and feelings when I start my walks for my assignment. The tiny glimmers of something interesting in the work above is enough to show me that there is merit in trying this out, either with a view to using the words alongside the images or just to trigger new ideas about how to visually represent the way I experience the journey.” (Pockock; 2017)

Along with the inspiration from Pocock’s blog, I have recently reviewed photography by Chloe Dewe-Matthews and an image by Walker Evans. The introduction to Dewe-Matthews “Shot at Dawn” and the title and date of Evans “Graveyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania have helped me to see the importance of text, captions and introductions, and the consideration of what style of text is best with a series or narrative. However I like the idea that Pocock used of writing notes as she walked around, and I could explore this technique as a way of exploring myself and my thoughts and feelings whilst I am photographically exploring the Square Mile. Present the idea as a photo book series with the photo on one page and text on the other.

3) Going to tourist attractions and taking photos in the style of John Hinde, following my recent review of his photography. I don’t find myself attracted to the photography that he made and neither do I enjoy tourist photography. However I found myself to be impressed with his development of his images and, what at the time was, pushing the boundaries with colour photography. Residents in tourist towns often have a negative view of tourists. I could go to popular tourist attractions and take postcard style photos of them and develop them in the style of Hinde, either through digital manipulation or over painting in the style of Gerhard Richter. If I were then to speak with tourists and locals and ask their opinion of the town or attraction and its tourists, I could use these with the images. It would be good to produce these a postcards with the tourists comment on the back, as if they were sending a postcard home, but with the quote from the person who lives near the attraction on the front.

I believe that conceptually idea 3 is the strongest from a conceptual viewpoint. I like the juxtaposition of a tourist postcard and a locals view of tourists. I remember someone from Filey referring to the tourists as “Comforts” meaning “Come for T’ day” as a derogatory statement. Tourism is a great source of local income and also disruption. This idea would also push me with regard to technical ability with regard to landscape photography, how to use space, or control space to tell a story, and with developing photographs. There is an emotional challenge as well. Being in busy, populous and confined spaces with people is something that provokes anxiety within me.

Any feedback on the strengths of the above ideas would be appreciated.

References

Enoch, R; 2017; Foundations in Photography; Barnsley; Open College of the Arts

Pocock, E; 2017; Exercise 2.5: Text in Art; Online at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/63756241/posts/1538253432 (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Review of “Shot at Dawn” Chloe Dewe-Matthews; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/review-of-shot-at-dawn-chloe-dewe-matthews/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Review of “A Graceyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” by Walker Evans; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/review-of-a-graveyard-and-steel-mill-in-bethlehem-pennsylvania-by-walker-evans/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Review – John Wilfred Hinde; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/review-john-wilfred-hinde/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Richter, G; 2016; Gerhard Richter (online gallery); Online at https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)