Why you work in the way that you do?
These last two modules for my MA, Research and Practice and Practice 1: Art and Design, has really given me the courage to explore my own personal work and change the way I work. For although I teach for a living and have photographed professionally something has always stopped me from pursuing personal work. Reflecting on why I think it steams from my personality, as a child I was an observer, great listener, introvert, a shy child, reserved in large groups of kids, fearful of public speaking. At least this is how my teachers would describe me to my parents and it was always a concern to them, I saw it on their faces, my introversion was a problem. My mother was outgoing and gregarious my father, I believed, was naturally so too and their extroversion was for them a healthy trait. As a kid I had always longed to connect with others, I have always enjoyed listening to people’s stories and people watching. In high school I found a way to become an extrovert, to engage with others which I was desperate to do, I drank and became outgoing and could “be myself”, the life of the party. Drinking silenced that little voice in my head that kept me from speaking up and talking easily with others. Although it was fun to drink and be outgoing it was a crutch, and it was something I noticed that my father suffered from too. Seeing your parents reflected in yourself can be a great comfort or a great motivator for change, this is something I did not want to be my crutch for the rest of my life.
Growing up I was interested in photography but it was not until I saw a silver gelatin print develop in a darkroom that I really became hooked, the process was magical. So I threw myself into photography and it became a healthy obsession. Then photography became my business, photographing for weddings, portraits and commercial clients and it eventually led me to teaching. Photographing for clients was easy for me as I was commissioned and although the work was creative, I did not fully put myself out there and I always admired the artistic work of photographers like Diane Arbus who engaged with her subjects and produced the most amazing portrait work of strangers. Researching Arbus I came across these two quotes that really resonated with me:
“Photography was a licence to go whenever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do.” Diane Arbus (Scala, 2014:p.10)
From this quotes I think would think that Arbus might have been an introvert who used photography to help her connect with others. I do know about her death by suicide so perhaps for her photography was not enough of a connection to others, why she killed herself we will of course never know for certain.
Has photography become a crutch for me? No, as I now understand what a crutch really is, it is an aid something to help you cope with pain on the road to becoming a better person, it is not something you rely on for the rest of your life. Photograph for me now has become an artistic outlet, something that enables me to connect with others and express myself. For my last Research and Practice post I am including an image inspired by Diane Arbus.
I have passed by Steve several times dropping off film for processing. One day camera in hand I got up the courage to ask him if I could take his portrait. He instantly said yes and we connected immediately over photography. We talked about Kodachrome slides he used to shoot, our love for film and old cameras, sharing the photographs with friends via projectors and slideshows.
How do you develop solutions to creative problems?
For me I develop solutions to creative problems by trying out different techniques and processes until I come upon a solution that works. I really like iterating ideas to come up with a solution, I also find that I work best when I have time to reflect and not think about the problem. Letting an unfinished problem float around in my mind makes me go back to it often and it allows me to be open to possibilities that I might not have otherwise thought of.
How does your work relate to other, current activity in your field?
At this stage of my professional career I am really open to looking at and experimenting with any process, style or genre. I have realized through-out these last two modules that I am moving toward a more film based practice something, akin to the work of August Sanders or Judith Joy Ross. I like the older techniques and film in general as they slow you down and give you time to reflect.
Machinski, J. (2018) Steve: Street Portrait 001. June 2018. Unpublished.
Scala, A. A. (2014) About Photography. Lulu.com