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Tuesday, 28 January 2020

East meets West, Writing, Photography and some new work

It was a rare pleasure to talk and run a crit/workshop (along with a great talk by Max Barnett of Pylot Magazine) at the East Meets West Masterclass run by Grain and Format. It was a pleasure because it is one of an increasing number of really fantastic courses and workshops that are popping up around the country - offering an affordable but absolutely top end opportunity to develop your work. 

I was talking about writing and photography so in part the workshop was about writing and how words can either really push forward your work (but can also hold it back - and sometimes all you need is a title or a caption - as Bill Owens or Karen Knorr prove). But it is also about how words can help you anchor and focus and push forward a project. 

There were people who had studied at MA level, BA level, or had worked in commercial settings and now wanted to spread their creative wings. There were people who had never studied photography before or who had come to it late. What was notable was how much was brought to the class by every participant, and the range of life experiences and approaches that were apparent. There was participatory photography, speculative documentary, the family, the fictional, the archive, the psychogeographical, the personal, the psychotherapeutic, collage, documentary, portraiture, extreme materiality, and a very scientific mapping survey. It was such a range

Anyway, here are some examples (and I could have put everyone's up). The top picture is by Lucy Turner who is also running a callout for pictures with gas fires in. If you have any, get in touch with her via lucyturnerphoto@gmail.com


My Grandfather worked for the marketing and advertisement team for the company Southern Gas. This project looks at the archived imagery that was taken and produced between 1950’s-1970’s for Southern Gas advertisements, as well as the posed company photographs that accompany them. 

Part of my recent research and photography project is based around Gas heaters such as the one featured in this image. I’m doing a call out for anyone that has family photographs with this style of heater featured somewhere in them, it doesn’t have to be the exact same as this as long as it’s a gas fire or heater. If you wouldn’t mind it being possibly featured in my project, could you please email me at lucyturnerphoto@gmail.com regarding any family photographs you have that could help with this. Thank you in advance!'

Inge is an amazingly talented artist. Her painting studio is on her allotment and this is the place she said she feels most beautiful and so where she wanted us to make her portrait. The allotments are just outside of Nottingham city centre but to get there I had to turn down a road that was more like a country lane. Even from the car park we had to walk for at good 5 minutes along a narrow path to get to Inges allotment. The allotments were all gated and enclosed by tall hedges which made it silent, serene and eerie. Inge went into her studio and emerged wearing the floor length, red silk, antique dress just as the sun started to drop. I only had about 10 minutes to get the shot. Inge is a quiet and thoughtful woman but she was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t sure I’d actually get a useable portrait but once I got my camera out and started making light readings Inge became very serene and was actually a natural.

'The Luminous’ was commissioned by 'The Renewal Trust’ based in Nottinghams Creative Quarter. ‘The Luminous’ explored the myriads of beauty with the local women of Sneinton, Nottingham. It was a fairly long form, highly collaborative project; each participant entered into an ongoing conversation with me to decide where and how they wanted their portrait made. The project was funded by Arts Council England and Paul Hamlyn Foundation and culminated as a solo exhibition at ‘Surface Gallery’, a set of postcards and a zine (which was printed on recycled paper and with vegetable inks).

" I'm a social worker and photographer. These images are contemplative and reflective moments both towards, and returning from assessing a persons capacity to safeguard a child within their family, or a child they are connected to. A child who has suffered from significant harm in the care of their primary caregivers and deemed unable to return to their care.  The images are made through train windows, each in harmony with my preparations, doubts, optimism, conflicts, thoughts, analysis, and feelings whilst undertaking an assessment. 

The images are spontaneous as journeys are fully controlled by the cases allocated to me. Going only to where I am asked to carry out a statutory legal duty, fulfilling one jigsaw piece in the protection of children, ensuring they get the best out of the care system/keeping families together where possible. " 

“The hands have an infinity of pleasure in them. The feel of things, textures, surfaces, rough things like cones and bark, smooth things like stalks and feathers and pebbles rounded by water, the teasing of gossamers . . . the scratchiness of lichen, the warmth of the sun, the sting of hail, the blunt blow of tumbling water, the flow of wind - nothing that I can touch or that touches me but has its own identity for the hand as much as for the eye.” Nan Shepherd

‘this is how the earth must see itself’ is an investigation into classification. A human urge to identify and organise the natural world. These systems of observation reveal how we see and understand the world around us, and are testament to our quest to find our place within it.

Early maps required no legend to read their paper landscape. Over time, map language has been simplified and digitalised to an abstract system of points, lines and areas. The Ordnance Survey (OS) map today uses just twelve symbols and three colours to describe the ‘natural features’ and ‘vegetation’ of the whole of Great Britain.

Looking at the individual symbols, I began to question why there is a need to identify and differentiate between particular types of natural features. What do they reveal about the way we view the natural landscape? How do they reflect the purpose of the maps making?

These OS symbols are used as a guide for exploring the landscape. A hunt for loose rock, bracken, scrub, scree. The process of ordering the photographs into these pre-defined categories throws up questions as pebbles become boulders, flowing water becomes outcrop, vines become the path. As with all classification systems, the rules are subjective, leading to their own telling of the story.


With my parents and older sister, Asturias, April 1979.

We should have been his comfort in life. He should have let us help him.»
Even though we lived in different countries for over twenty years, the morning Dad died I was only a short trip away from his hospital bed. I had arrived in Spain at midnight the night before. Early the next morning I was woken up by a phone call from my sister telling me that we had to rush to hospital as he was deteriorating rapidly.

When we got there it was too late, he had passed away just a few minutes prior. 

I hadn’t seen my Dad for over a year, and couldn’t really remember much about the last time we spoke to each other, or how - or even if - we said goodbye. 

That Sunday morning was the end of my journey with Dad. A journey that had had happy moments but was often marred by dysfunction and conflict.

Dad suffered from mental health problems, which got progressively worse as he got older. For as long as I can remember these were managed at home by my Mum, my older sister and I without a word about it to anyone.

Our family album was the only glimpse of family life that we would show to others. It would always come out during special occasions, when we had friends or family over, as a way to showcase our good times and share amusing anecdotes.

Choosing when and where the family photos were taken and selecting which ones would go into the family album was a way to curate our family narrative and present a certain image of our life together to the outside world. 

As I look through my family album once more, I can clearly remember the memories that the images represent,  but   also   the   difficult   experiences and feelings that  were   there   at   the   time  but   remain undocumented. 

My purpose with this work is to tell our story and look at the childhood experiences that have shaped me.  The  project  will combine  photos taken  from the album with new work to lay  bare  our  family dynamics and portray a more authentic account of our time together.

Some of these projects are well under way, some have just started;  I'm looking forward to seeing how they all develop, and how words are use to  focus and communicate ideas. 

So look out for all the great affordable courses and workshops taking place around the country near you. The options for photographic education are opening up and it's a great thing to see.

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