Monday, 16 February 2015

MA-Ness Week 6 Acetates, Crits, Signing Up For Exciting Things and Nostalgia Bathing

Mmm Monday morning and a rather grey and bleak looking monday morning it is - perfect for taking colour photographs which would capture the lack of full blooded colour so much better than black and white ones would but instead I am sat inside writing this....

But that's okay as I have been taking quite a few pics recently - 3 rolls in Cleethorpes and tomorrow (all being well) I shall be making some cyanotypes - a good old fashioned victorian invention which cheers the cockles of my victorian loving heart. Even if they will be cyanotypes with a 21st century twist of photoshop to invert the images and photocopiers to copy onto acetate to create them but hey ho I'll take my 19th century kicks where I can find them - though I'll leave lack of antibiotics, consumption (of the disease as opposed to material kind) uncontrolled industrial expansion and lack of rights for women and workers behind thanks.

The eagle eyed amongst you may notice different handwriting on the post it note this week - that's because I was in the bath when I thought of those things and so asked my ever patient and supportive husband to write them down before I forgot. So I didn't forget who gave me the wonderful phrase 'bathing in nostalgia' I wrote down Kevin's name next to it. Bathing in nostalgia was how he described his process of going through old photographs of him and his siblings when they were little and uploading them to Facebook and they are glorious. Evocative and reminiscent of the wonderful bits of my childhood too - ice creams at the seaside and t-bar clarks sandals, stripey windbreakers (which I always lusted after but never got so we had to put up with even more sand in our sandwiches) and acrylic jumpers that gave you electric shocks. 

Ice Cream Parlour Cleethorpes Kodak Colour Plus Iso 200 7.2.15
 - and they charge 10p extra for red sauce aka monkey blood...but it was so cold and stuck in the bottle that the lady making it for me did earn that extra 10p squeezing it out.....
Though I'm sure ice cream wasn't as expensive in them days - and in turn they made me think of the sheer joy I felt when seeing an exhibition of Daniel Meadows photographs of living rooms in Salford at the Media Museum and for the first time in a gallery space I felt not only an appreciation of what I was looking at on an aesthetic level but also an emotional connection and recognition as they looked like the living rooms I was familiar with - they had ornaments in like the ones I had grown up with!!!!!! Martin Parrs retrospective also at the Media Museum some years ago had exactly the same effect on me - walking into the living room recreation with the soundtrack of South Pacific playing was just wonderful.

Anyway I've been trying to read and get to grips with some theoretical perspectives (so far aside from feminism which has been a given in my life since I was very little and I can remember arguing with the headteacher at my primary school about the unfairness and silliness of not letting girls do the same job as altar boys though in retrospect I am pleased I never was an altar boy) Roland Barthes is in the lead so far - partly because I find his translated works more immediately accessible than others I have tried but also primarily because he talks about his emotional response to things. And for me an emotional response to my work is what I want and what I can most relate to - though any kind of response is welcome if I'm being entirely honest as to not be noticed at all would be worse than being disliked or dismissed I think and what I want when I go into a gallery space of any kind is to have an emotional response to the work on show...but again any kind of response even one of revulsion is better than none....

But my love of all things oldy worldy and bygones is according to a Baudrillardian interpretation of things (or rather what it says in Introducing Baudrillard by Horrocks and Jevtic Icon Books 1999 as my approach at the moment is to start with an Introduction and see if it seems like it's going to appeal to me) is according to page 29  ' a desperate narcissitic attempt to to regress to childhood and to find Mother (origins) and Father (authenticity)'. And having household pets is a sign of 'failure of human relationships and narcissim' and wristwatches 'absorb anguish of death'. 

Mmm even if he's right on this basis he's not the theorist for me - as having undergone and still undergoing the pain of bereavement I can only wish that wrist watches did absorb the anguish the death as in my experience so far they definitely don't. And what appears to be his interpretation of womens role in society is not something I can agree with but I am enjoying other aspects of his work and interpretations of things so may well cherry pick some bits but this is a roundabout way of saying something has to resonate with me on an emotional level  for me to want to get to know it further. Hence the sentence on page 9 of Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes Vintage 2000 leapt out at me:

'that rather terrible thing which is there in every photograph: the return of the dead'.

Which is both literally true as in a photograph captures a moment which is gone and can never be refound/recreated and as a morbid zombie film loving person a phrase like 'return of the dead' has me instantly sold. Which is not to say that I won't critically look at his work but it is looking good for me so far. Plus I've been given some suggestions of other people to read like Annette Kuhn, Patricia Holland and Valerie Walkerdine whose work I shall hunt out in the library later this week.

Oh so much reading and it feels like so little time to do it in - even though I do have an abundance of time compared to most as I do not have to go out to work as all my work is done in the home and can be fitted in comparatively easily round other things as the admin work that I do for my husbands business does not require regular 9-5 hours and housework can be fitted in as and when (3 loads of washing have been done in the time it's taken me to put this post together) but I am still struggling to get back into habit of gym classes.....and with a few things on this week and a presentation to create and practice for Friday I'm feeling a bit 'argh so much to do this morning' but it's now 10.40 am and I have made good progress with this post,  and replied to some emails and been less distracted by social media as I have started using my husbands kindle to look at farcebook and social email first thing in the morning so that when I start working on the main computer like I am now I can concentrate more on study type things as opposed to getting distracted by pictures of cute kittens and invites to events and pictures of other peoples breakfasts...

Though it is thanks to social media that I heard about the Arts Council for England briefing session on how to apply for grants at the Tetley last week which was very useful and provided an impromptu reunion of some of the Place and Memory Artists, and Mourning and Morbidity in Art at York University next month, it also reminded me re the opening of the Transistions exhibition at Inkwell at the moment which I went to the opening of on Friday night. Some gorgeous thought provoking work on show there - go see it if you can but it was an old school paper flyer in the foyer of Trinity Church on Boar Lane which told me of the very interesting lunchtime lectures by Leeds Civic Trust about the history of Leeds.

What else? watched The Black Cat Ulmer E 1934 Universal 1934 USA yesterday afternoon with a fellow horror loving chum. And it is a sumptuous film to watch - the art deco sets are gorgeous, its direct mentioning of the mass slaughter and horror of the First World War (poignantly referred to as *the* war as at that point thankfully there had only been one world war) and its cinematic signposting, the acting is somewhat mannered to our 21st century eyes but if you want a monochrome feast for your eyes and a creepy thought provoking film then you could do much worse than watch this.

Friday saw us split into different groups and do a socratic crit - I took advantage of this by doing two versions of the same images of dead and dying flowers in wintertime at Temple Newsam gardens  - one in its original colour and one post processed to black and white and with a difference in borders - though all the borders are a nod to victorian mourning traditions. It was very useful and I have some really good ideas for developing them further (note to self save all petals from every bunch of flowers bought or given from now on)  but I did also have a massive pang of angsty doubt re my work as I felt it looked somewhat unprofessional and unfinished compared to the other work on show plus my lack of technical photography knowledge is preying somewhat on my mind and it was a mix of both giving myself a talking too and talking to a fellow MA-er who is a photography graduate that made me remember and reinforce that these are WORK IN PROGRESS and not the finished items and the actual photographs which form their core I am really pleased with and as ever it's not so much the technology that you use (though that is important too) but the eye with which you take the picture that is most important.

Which in turn makes me think of this quote from Elliot Irwin which I have pinned to my noticeboard which I am going to try and make a habit of reading every day and making my mantra (especially as my other mantra of 'everything looks better in black and white' is possibly undergoing some qualified re-evaluation....I know, I thought hell would freeze over first but what would be the point of doing a course like this if all I did was redo things in the same way I have been doing? plus I can confidently state that NOTHING will ever change my mind about my preference for black and white films) but here it is:

Photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in the in an ordinary place. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with how you see them.

I'm not very good at getting my hands dirty - literally, I've never been one for playing in mud or fingerpainting but I have been enjoying the little bits of painting I did last week and have got my hands dirty in another way by using *whispers* photoshop as til now I have resolutely avoided using it out of my belief that it is horrifyingly complicated compared to the very basic and free with operating system that I have used up til now and that it is often used to polish turds and if I have to do more than crop/adjust balance/contrast then I haven't taken a good enough image in the first place and I need to go and retake the photo if possible. 

I do appreciate the use of photoshop for creating new images composed of other images or using it to restore old damaged photographs but otherwise mmmm it seems to me kind of cheating (though that is not a fair or realistic thing to say about it) but it is very definitely part of the ever increasing homogenisation of facial features software like Portrait Professional which frankly make me flinch and feel anxious though of course I would want anything to be used on any pictures of myself so that the image portrayed looks as good as the one I imagine and vainly hope that I actually resemble...

Thanks to an uncomfortable mix of vanity and insecurity I really don't like having my photograph taken and so any and every opportunity to make me look as good as possible I would grasp at with both hands - though I would prefer if it was done primarily with sympathetic lighting and soft focus.....another reason Barthes resonated so closely for me - his description of how he feels on seeing images of himself rang many bells for me....however as I studiously avoid having my picture taken this is somewhat of a moot contradictory point.

So contradictions is/are something else I am thinking about.....and this and many other things are things which my personal tutor, fellow MA-ers, husband and photography chums are helping me get to grips with....slowly but surely......and I'd best crack on with this presentation or else I'll be umming and ahhing and that won't do.  

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