During our tear and share session this morning a wide range of photographers and idea were brought forward; one photographer that interested me was Ben Hopper. In his series ‘Transfiguration’ Hopper looks at the human form in this series of work, using human bodies as his subjects, his photographs become more like sculptures, the images move past the normal human figure. What is also interesting is the fact that his subjects are covered in chalk like paint, so much that most of their identity is hidden, this makes the bodies seem even more like sculptures and a bit alien. I really like this work as it is very interesting, and in my own work I could consider how I could use the human body to make interesting and unusual imagery.
Another body of work that interested me was Jamie Diamond‘s series ‘Constructed Family Portraits; in this series, Diamond found strangers on the Internet and in public and invited them to meet him in rented hotel rooms and pose as artificial families for the camera. What appear at first glance to be conventional studio portraits, documents of genuine intimacy, are in fact false. The portraits are of normal people performing as themselves in an entirely new context; they intuitively follow the rules of the genre, and the group they form for the camera ascribes them an identity. The work explores the public image of family, themes of photographic truth, gender, class, culture and identity. The title of the whole series gives the idea away, and I wonder if the series had a different name, would the viewer be able to tell that these are not ‘real’ familes?
The work of Diamond is very similar to the work of Richard Renaldi who I looked at in a previous lecture, both look at these ideas of truth and relationships between strangers. In my own work I should consider what I want to portray and also my title, do I want to ‘give away’ my idea like Diamond has or do I want to leave me viewer to figure it out themselves.
Finally we looked at the work of Miguel Ribeiro and the series ‘Abstract Body‘, in which Ribeiro looked at different ways of photographing the body. With many close up photographs, it is hard to tell that this is part of the body or which part it belongs to. Similar to the work of Ben Hopper, these photographs become more like sculptures of the human body. One section of the series contains images that look at how the body makes the landscape, they show images containing parts of the body, however how the image has been taken, it looks more like a landscape photograph.
As a collection it feels quite disjointed as there are a range of different kinds of close up photography, with very different imagery. I feel that the work would be stronger if it all had a similar style and look. However I still feel that I can take influence from Ribeiro’s work and look at the idea of the human body but in a more abstract way.
During our lecture we moved on to look at the work of Laia Abril who is interested in eating disorders, identity and relationships. ‘The Epilogue’- spends time with a family who’s daughter died 10 years prior from bulimia, the book is the story of the Robinson family after losing their daughter and the story of their daughter. Working closely with the family Laia Abril reconstructs Cammy’s life telling her story through flashbacks – memories, testimonies, objects, letters, places and images. The Epilogue gives voice to the suffering of the family, the indirect victims of ‘eating disorders’. Throughout this series of work, the relationship with the photographer and family was key, the family needed to trust Abril to allow her into their private lives and heartache. The book combines imagery from Abril but also archival images from the Robinson’s family album, it is not a complex book yet a lot is going on.
Our lecturer Matt had the opportunity to talk to Abril about her work, there were many interesting points that I picked up on and considered how these could affect my own practise. One of the main things that I picked up on was Abril’s relationship with the family; usually the photographer gets very close to the person they are photographing, but for this project the ‘main’ character wasn’t present and so Abril got close to the family. Abril explained her idea from the very start, and allowed the family to be involved, over time the relationship evolved from a working relationship to a friendship; the family trusted Abril and allowed her into their life. Because of this trusting relationship, the family gave her everything she asked for, both parties wanted to tell the story, even if it was hard for the family to do so. I feel that the relationship between the photographer and the people involved in their project is very important, as a strong relationship allows more freedom for the photographer, as well as the participants feeling comfortable and happy with working with the photographer. In my own work when working with other people I will make sure I spend time getting to know the people involved in my project and build a strong relationship with them.
It can be seen to be a very intense project; Abril went to stay with the family for two weeks, spending all her time in the family’s home and working with them on the project. By living with the Robinsons, Abril was completely involved through her whole stay, she had to get all her photographs in that time making the project fast moving and intense. However after her visit it took a year to construct the book; Abril spent time working out the story and how she wanted to tell it, as well as still communicating with the family. This time spent on working out the book is important as I feel if this book was rushed to get published some of the important little details could have been lost; in my own work I need to learn not to rush to get a finish, I should spent time working out exactly want I want and not force a project.
The final book contains a mix of heavy hitting content, and then irrelevant and simple information makes it more relatable and more human. It is these simple touches that often make a book come alive and more relatable. The documents involved add value and show a different form of identity and detail of the person; combined with interviews and imagery, the book becomes interactive and you can read the story into as much detail as you want. Abril is not telling the viewer how to read the book or what the whole story is, the viewer can interpret it how they want, giving them space to explore the story. I feel that the type of work will affect how much context and structure you give to a body of work, some work needs to be ‘read’ in a certain way, however work like Abril’s that gives the viewer space to take what they want from the book can often be stronger as each viewer has their own experience with the book making it unique and special to each person.
Finally one question posed at the end of the lecture, how did the Abril find out about the story and family, and is she going out to purposely use their story to aid them and their book or rather to help and tell the story of the family? This is an interesting question that can only be answered by the photographer, however I believe that as Abril spent so much time on the book and with the family, she wanted to help them tell their story and inform other people on the issues around eating disorders.
In this weeks task we have been asked to represent a relationship through any appropriate visual or written medium. Focusing not on the participants in the relationship but the space in-between which makes up the relationship – this may be a physical environment, it may be an emotional space or it may even be mediated through objects. This is an interesting task, and I have a few possible ideas; one I could look at the idea of travel and how I am far away from my home and family. The other idea is looking at my relationship with the earth in relation to my senses.