Polly Penrose loves to work on her own. She would often give interviews and talk about her practise as a photographer and how she is making the work. Photographer uses shutter release remote and goes to abandoned places by herself. The images that she takes are always beautifully composed and the body seemingly blends in with the landscape. The use of natural or available light in her images appear to be staged, but it was mostly spontaneous. It fascinates me, that Penrose claims to be not brave enough to show her face in photographs, but nude body is completely fine. I, on the other hand, am the opposite - I have no problem showing my face, but I would not show my nude body. The body is highly sculptural and she acts as a performer - to herself. Penrose finds places that feel emotional with a sense of temporality.
“Obviously, a lot of nudes of women are taken by men and that’s a whole other thing, but even (when it’s) by a female photographer it’s a conversation between two people it’s someone taking a photo of someone else. And you react to people, whereas I have no one to react to. I react to the space and I kind of forget that the camera is there, and I love, love houses and spaces and there’s something quite emotional about quite a lot of these places (because they) are going to be knocked down and they’re on their last legs (when I’m there shooting).” (Penrose, 2016)
I have been thinking of the final outcome of the project and how I would like to show the work at the end of the year. I came up with this idea of four different seasons which would result in 4 main photographs (of me) surrounded by the smaller close-ups of the textures and some parts of my chosen location, without giving away where exactly it is. Because my chosen are feels personal to me, I would like to bring in the object from that space, which would be a plant or some stones, bricks… I would make it into a neat sculpture highlighting the fragile (plant) and the solid (brick or stone). I would need a corner for that, so my chosen object would be placed in the corner and the images on both sides of the inner corner. I don’t know yet what the object will be, but in the image below I made a very rough mock of the exhibition plan so far.
I’ve spoken to Hannah Watson from TJ Boulting last week and she suggested hat the object is not necessary and all the images should be displayed as a grid, instead of having some larger scale photographs. She thought that this exhibition plan is not working for my project. I appreciate her thoughts and suggestions and I will try to show the work as a grid in my studio space. I don’t think she liked the idea of the smaller images being scattered about the main ones, as I doesn’t need more context from the location, but I am not sure if I agree yet. I guess I need to try out everything and see if it the display reflects on the project outline. The more I look at the exhibition display mock the less I like it. It is missing something and I haven’t figured it out yet.
I only have 2 rolls of film so far, that I believe work well to my topic of the project. I have been experimenting with other people, but these last 24 images of me confirm that my project is about self-portraiture and I can confirm that I know what I am doing. It felt correct and I was able to achieve he results that I wanted, which are odd poses of me within the landscape of my chosen personal/public space.
At the moment, I have to go back to the location, choose some objects and bring them back to the studio for experimentation. At the same time I have started photographing the close-up objects, but haven’t finished yet. Also, changing my outfit would help to highlight that the shoot was on a different day. It is important now to choose a sunny day, because I want to have shadows within my photographs which would give me more space to experiment. It is a bit challenging, because it is January now and the days are cold and grimy most of the time.
For further inspiration on self-portraiture, I rediscovered Juno Calypso work once again. Her work is very different to mine, but I found that I can relate to her thinking behind the process. As Calypso says, she likes to work on her own and that way she is fully in charge of the process. Her aesthetic is about femininity and the absurd. She uses beauty products as props and photographs herself wearing them in specific locations that relate to the project and the most iconic one - hotel. What I like the most about her work, that she is open that she would rather work on her own that with others, in fact, she doesn’t like people. I really like that darkness and the humour that Calypso presents in her work. I look up to her work in general, rather than specific projects because of the hidden emotions of loneliness and the way she presents it. When listening to her talk about her work I can feel the melancholy and humour at the same time. It makes me want to find my own voice within the work.
After watching multiple interviews it inspired me to focus on photographing only myself for this project and continue with odd performance in the public space which has a personal feeling to me. I will reconsider the clothes that I am wearing and try out different options.
After Christmas break, I am feeling refreshed and full of positive thoughts about my project. I realised why I kept coming back to the same location - Wapping. This place feels personal to me, even though it is public. When I feel upset, down or even happy, I come to this specific location to recharge. Living in London is loud and can be challenging at times. I remember a few years ago when I first discovered this place I felt different, but in a good way. It is very central and close to my house, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like this place is somewhere quiet, not many people around, no city noise. I always notice these little plants sticking out of concrete walls, which highlights the contrast between the fragile and the solid. It is like nature is trying to push itself forward, but the concrete reminds that therefore, this is urban space. Because the place feels personal to me, and I may feel a different connection to this location, I will be photographing myself.
I took a tripod and Hasselblad camera, few 120mm colour films and a shutter release cable. I set up the camera in a way that urbanism and nature could be seen as a contrast. I then focused the camera, which was a difficult task and positioned myself to the middle or the side of the frame. My poses were quiet and simple - I would lean towards the wall or lay down on the floor, focusing on the fragility of nature. It felt like I was performing, but not to the public - it was to the landscape. The day was dull and cold, so my clothes were black, according to my mood. I was wearing a hat and gloves, but took off the coat - I wanted to be closer to nature.
After this shoot, I feel like the project gained more information about itself. I can now say that my work observes the contrast between nature and the city using a body and its language as a tool and response to the surrounding environment. It focuses on a site-specific location which is fragile and solid at the same time. The area I keep coming back brings me different memories and experiences every time, making it intimate and personal space whilst it being public. The body performs to the landscape by becoming part of the environment which exposes its odd response, where the effects of cognitive behaviour result in a physical reaction of disconnection. The project focuses on the fragility aspects of nature in the shadow of the resilient and well-built. It is a personal response to the overpowering urbanism.
I am also going to be photographing some plants and other smaller scale objects from this site-specific location. I may cut off some of the plants and regrow in the studio. Also, I will be looking for some bricks or stone from the location to try out making an installation to complement the images.
Overall, I think the shoot was successful, I achieved what I was aiming for, but I may come back and reshoot because I am not happy that some images are slightly out of focus or there is rubbish around I did not notice before. Ideally, I will choose a sunny day and play around more with the shadows within the composition. I will decide what to wear the same day, before the shoot, depending on my mood.
I started my research by looking at the artists who are working with the themes of the failure in various forms. The passion for unexpected and so often called failure came from my previous project “Unwanted” which examines different approaches to the failure. The main inspiration was a project ”Too Good To Be Photographed” by Paul Paper. The project consists of photographs that have been sent to the artist as spare/not suitable images. Some of which were out of focus or odd looking, with unnatural poses. The project fascinated me so much I wanted to incorporate some of the ideas to my current work.
This time I am focusing more on the awkwardness of the model and what is called unsuitable pose for a good photograph. I find myself feeling awkward when having a picture taken by someone else, therefore I would like to translate that awkwardness or the oddness of the body through the images, which I also find humorous.
For further research on the body and the awkwardness I looked at the project ”More Than Violet” by Julia Peirone. Her work mostly concentrates on the uncomfortable imagery of teenage girls, when photographer clicked the shutter before the girls were picture ready. Personally, I do not like the project very much, but I appreciate the idea, which further inspires my work. I also understood that my idea for the project is nothing like Peirones’ work.
I came across Gregory Crewdson work a couple years ago and it still fascinates me how his work transforms my imagination to the scene. At first, I didn’t like Crewdson’s work as it seemed “too cinematic” for my liking. In 2017 I was one of the selected students to speak about one particular photograph - ”Mother and Daughter” at The Photographers’ Gallery which in a way, forced me to thoroughly research the artist and his thinking behind the images. The more I researched and looked at the project the more it fascinated me. All of the hidden clues and props have a deeper meaning, which might not come across obvious at first. These highly staged images also are sending a very personal message which is linked to the forest. The people in the landscape are as important as the forest itself and the viewers get to recreate their own narrative because there isn’t one.
Valie Export is another artist that inspired my project. The visual language that the photographer is portraying becomes very sculptural and engaging. She photographs herself as part of the environment. Her inner-state suggests the body postures which are part of the architecture or nature. Her work is very performative, she poses herself before carefully setting the scene.
I think my work is very similar to hers contextually and visually, as it has the odd body performance, the nature and the architecture links to it.
A big inspiration for my project comes from Erwin Wurm work. His ”One Minute Sculptures” or ”Brothers and Sisters” projects gives me a feeling of quick and simple setup, but at the same time very complex situation. I enjoy looking at his projects as they seem effortless, like someone stood up and quickly took a picture, but also he has put a lot of thinking before taking a photograph. It feels like the subjects are going through a tough time and their body positions reflects on that.
For my own project I am trying to take a similar take - set up a camera and place myself in it, without too much thinking once the camera is ready. It is performing to the camera, for myself and the landscapes.