Thursday, 30 June 2011

Mulling it over


Right. Ok . I admit it. Ever since deciding it was alright to make constant photographic visual references. I have become a complete Instagram addict. Sometimes I feel very, very bad about this and (metaphorically) beat myself about it. In my head it is cheating to snap a quick image and simply apply what I deem to be the most appropriate effect. The effects being usually nostalgic, vintage or cross-processed. In the past we had to toil to achieve these effects, in a darkroom. What massive fun that was, the experimentation, the smells of the chemicals, the burned image, the never quite knowing... Today it is easy... you snap the shutter then decide which type of memory you want to associate with image and apply it in one click. Am I pre-deciding how my memories will look by doing this? Am I somehow cheating myself and faking them? Something inside me thinks this is terrible.... but still I can't stop. Digital photography changes the very nature of how we use photography on a day-to-day social level, thousands of images are taken. The images are no longer precious, they become disposable, but in my case, are never actually disposed of, they clog up my various hardrives 'just in case'. I love the old romantisism of a photograph capturing a moment in time and then looking back at it over the years as a reminder, watching it slowly fade and discolour. Old photographs are special and can never be replaced, they fade in the same way as memories do, possibly even at the same rate (for a while anyway...). It is so different now, but how many digital photos do we actually properly treasure? Is it just a few? Or do we feel safer with lots and lots? A colleague pointed out to me today that just as much work goes into producing an 'effective' image, you still need the skill/vision of actually 'seeing' the image, composing it, but the often the larger amount of time/ experimentation now goes into post-production (the digially altering) whereas with film that 'playing' time went into the developing, and was more physical. Another question... are we losing our grasp on actual materials in this age? Educationally and creatively there is soooooo much value on the exploration of materials and processes (will a graphics tabs ever totally replace the act of getting filthy with paint, charcoal etc) I think there is a place for both in our delightfully creative world today.

 I was so insensed with these thoughts today (and by a very 'closed book' negative reaction that I recieved from someone I respected, on the matter) that I spoke with a photoshop expert with a degree in analogue photography who stated 'It's important to know how to manipulate light yourself' 'Digital photographic effects are all derived from analogue photography and unless you have that grounding, that initial understanding you will not be competative with your contemporaries'.

 I have an excellent DSLR which I use obsessively because I need to keep up with the sheer pace of life, aside from making visual references, I need to record images quickly and efficiently in my work. But I do often feel these images are somehow less meaningful than the ones I take with film (probably because there I so many of them and probably because for me, involvement with materials is such an important part of my life, my soul). In February I documented London Fashion Week using a variety of cameras including a Box Brownie, I'm still collating some of the outcomes, some I have already published, but it was a fantastic experience and the images I took on film felt so much more definate, permanent... but that still needs lots more mulling over and is probably partly down to me being a romantic, nostalgic old soul deep down...
Here are some examples of the detrius of homeless, indulgant images currently cluttering my desktop.... Visual noise!

But I must love them... Otherwise they would have been deleted definitely!

Monday, 27 June 2011

You Promised Me a Storm

I'm waiting and waiting for the sweet relief of raindrops. The sky is heavy. But the rain won't come. I've been waiting since mid-afternoon when the clouds started to gather, and form a menacing cloud-gang. Hoodies, ASBO's, the lot. Will these clouds live up to their promise? I kind of need them to, the atmosphere is intense. Too intense to cope with much longer. It has been 30+ degrees for the last two days (yes even in Yorkshire). It was fun for a while.. pretty dresses and paddling pools (god how I plan for the pretty dresses, my hot day outfits are planned months in advance!). But now I've had a day of hot crossness. It's not pretty anymore. I'm not good with heat. It makes me grumpy, I flop and flap around in a dramatic way, cover up in factor 50 (heaven forbid my milk bottle legs may take on a little colour) and become obsessive about opening windows and 'letting the air through'. It makes not a jot of difference, of course. Simply being grumpy in the heat keeps me busy and tires me out and, in turn, makes me even grumpier. Right now there are dead flies in the paddling pool and I really, really need the storm to come and end it all.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Last night, at bath time my little daughter said to me 'Mummy, will you please try to act like a normal person?' (she is five)! Am not really sure what I was doing that wasn't normal at that point. Maybe it was because I was doing a Downward Dog whilst singing 'Little Donkey'? But that is normal in my life. A few months a go we were in a shop choosing bathroom tiles and she randomly declared 'I do love the Levellers and Vampire Weekend, but I really love 'Little Donkey' the best'! Anyway.. I digress... The point is that last weekend I was at a corporate 'family' BBQ and just couldn't stop taking pictures. Little things just kept capturing me. It was that old issue of being afraid of losing a single moment, coming to haunt me again (this was the same event that sparked of the 'Big Yorkshire Skies' images). I was fascinated by the grass- it's structure, the way it fell, the little flowers growing through it, the white-sprayed patches on the games pitch. It was as though I was viewing it with fresh eyes. And the loveliest thing of all was that nobody batted an eyelid at this...After all these people work with my dad (the man who writes wonderful Jelly Baby Stories). Like father like daughter... they wouldn't have expected anything less.

I really want to use these images in some way, at some point. But for now I'm busy with the 'Big Skies' stuff. Seeing if there is any sort of possibility of translating it into glass...

Friday, 24 June 2011

When I smile...

 This week I'm smiling, from ear to ear. Big projects have been ending, humungous descisions made, work finished off, students producing beautiful, beautiful work, friends being there at exactly the right moments, people believing in me (goodness, the pressure not to let them down...), being allowed to start running again after my little knee injury, tidying up, being appropriately inappropriate, little gestures... putting things right. It's been intense and at the moment my brain will only process it all in little fragments. Snapshots of memories and images. I'm sure it will all make sense... in time. This strange old thing called 'life'?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Big Yorkshire Skies

Dear Dad
These are for you. I think you should re-form the 'Cloud Appreciation Society'. I would definitely join. I took them all today at the BBQ (think I might have shown you the first one already?) and on the way home. The skies were stunning. I wanted to gaze at them a little longer, but the light was changing so quickly, too beautiful to capture in a photograph, but clearly etched in my mind.
Happy Father's day xxx

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Art Teacher

Warning: what follows is a completely rambly train of thoughts. No sense. No logic. Just as they tumbled out of my head...
 I'm an Art teacher. In a big secondary school. Ages 11 to 18 (and sometimes even a bit beyond that) and I utterly love it. Everyday I learn something new or see something in a totally different light. My students constantly inspire and surprise me. To me it is of the utmost importance (and almost a responsibility) to be a practitioner too. The old saying of 'practising what you preach' etc..etc. How could I have any credentials with the students if I don't go through it too?  I teach because I believe in growing through art, not just learning new skills, but as a means of expression and making sense of the world. I believe in art and culture as an essential part of human existence. In fact is it possibly what makes us human. I do often have to fight my corner, justify the places of arts in education. In fact that's what I wrote my dissertation on many years ago. It's becoming a bit of a specialist subject.. actually these days I almost welcome the question 'why should my child study art?'. It breaks my heart when children arrive to me and state that they are rubbish because they can't draw. Art is so much more than drawing. But drawing, in all it's different guises, is the building block of visual communication. It's not about being able to draw a bowl of fruit (goodness how boring!) but about using symbols (after all that is what drawing is) in a similar way to using writing to express ideas. Everyday is so different. An undulating landscape of highs and lows, never quite feeling on top of everything. Sheer delight and the deepest of frustrations. I adore my job and wouldn't have it any other.
But for now, I am deeply embroiled in it: Exam arrangements, preparation, planning, assessment, wrangling with the useless Microsoft Publisher, making resources, organising, writing, getting to grips with new systems. I am a practitioner, but at the moment, you wouldn't know it...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

I wonder what memory will do to colour?

 The last two and a half days have been very hot. Yes, even in Yorkshire. It was terribly exciting, digging out the factor 30, making ice-lollies, flopping around in pretty dresses and bare feet. The sky was blue. Proper summer-type intense blue, no clouds. The colours, usually seen under a dull, cloudy sky, were vivid and addictive, as was my need to photograph and reference them before they slipped away again. I wonder what the passage of time will do to the memory of these colours? Will they pop up in some piece of artwork in the future as muted or disproportionately intense? I wanted to record them so that I can refer back at some time... just to see.

 After a while the sun screen started to feel sticky, the heat a bit too pounding, the air conditioning in the car stopped working...

Then at lunchtime yesterday I stood on the hem of my maxi-dress and snapped the strap. About half an hour later a wind got up, the clouds came over and that was the end of it. I do love chilly Yorkshire really. Three cheers for cardigans!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

If I'm happy will I jinx it?

(Er... this is a possibly a little too deep for a Thursday morning?)
 I've always been a little afraid of happiness. Don't get me wrong, I'm always striving to achieve it's elusive, slippery self, but whenever I have captured it in the past, something seems to go wrong and it all unravels. These days, all though I'm pretty certain it's there, I daren't acknowledge it, daren't let myself actually feel it, in case it's gone again. I think this comes from having a pretty rough ride these last six years, I'm through the worst of it now (I hope), but am so afraid of jinxing this fragile little bubble of ok ness that I inhabit now. If I allow myself to be happy then I'm just setting myself up for another very steep fall. Goodness I'm getting deep these days... Anyway this is the new work that I'm tentatively happy pleasantly chuffed with. I've managed to take slightly better images of it, but am still plagued with reflections... will get there eventually. It hasn't got a title yet but is developed from the Strata work. It is basically layers of drawing, stitching, wire and glass... am going to fire another two experimental pieces later along the same vein. (Don't say anything pessimistic.. don't say anything pessimistic... but they will probably break or get tin boom or slide... damn it... said something pessimistic)

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