Reading Photographs

Blog, Creative Writing, Diary, Nature, Theoretical, Typologies, Walking Art

I have at times, throughout my time as an artist, been accused of never having people or humanity in my photographs, and not showing any life around me. Humanity is not just people, humanity is what encompasses us. The way we interact with our environments, the reason things are where they are, the way they are. Do we know the stories of the strangers in photographs? Not always, people watching in a perfectly composed shot, we invent their stories and use them for our own narrative. I could say that those photographs have no humanity. The story of my photographs are very introspective, the essence of my humanity, they are what I see and what I obsess upon. Then there is the story of how and why they became, and I obsess beyond the image – how things got there, why are they there, social history, natural history, our impact upon the world.

When I was at university studying my degree, when viewing photographs we read into them, we researched our subject, and discovered in the brief artist statement what the photographers intention was, but there is not always provided, the in depth analysis of each individual photograph, not in the way that we apply to them. The reasons why they chose that photo fits and bends with our narrative. Reading the artist statement is an important necessity, or we are free to manipulate the image to mean something else, or create a dialogue that isn’t true.

The signs, the signified and the signifiers. What we see is this. A tennis ball sitting on the grass. That is the signifier, the form which the object takes. It tells us nothing unless we place meaning upon it. The signified is the interpretation, the what and why we place upon the image we are looking at. So that tennis ball, why is it there, where has it come from, who was the owner, what does it say about the environment, what was the weather that day, when was it taken, who took a photo of it, why did they take a photo of it, what is the point of it… Without me giving any statement of why I took the image, the viewer is open to question, and can draw assumptions as to why the photo was taken and what it’s purpose is. Now, I share the image alongside other photos of tennis balls, or remnants of tennis balls. I have opened this up to so many more interpretations. Why is there a collection of images of tennis balls in various degrees of degradation? I welcome others to interpret in their own way and add reason as to what the intention behind taking the images is. But now I provide reason in my artist statement, so that changes the initial viewing and interpretation of the photos. This is my experience, and therefore the humanity in the image.

My experience of taking images comes very subconsciously initially. I seldom start with a plan of why and what. But I am very self-aware. I question why. There is more to the image than it just being there, there is very definite signs within the images I take. With the example of the tennis ball, my reason became obvious quickly. I kept seeing them everywhere after I had become parent to a pet dog, on our walks they are there, why are they there? After the big mower has come to cut down the grass, they multiply and clearly come into view, like worms after the rain. But it isn’t just the mower that destroys these tennis balls, it’s the dogs that through rambunctious play, tear and rip and break their beloved toy. I have spoken to dog walkers that tell me that the tennis ball is their pet pooch’s favourite toy, yet they lose and destroy them so easily, seems like careless ownership of a beloved toy to me. My dog would never lose his favourite toy, bury it under blankets perhaps, but never lose or destroy it in such a manner. Bizarrely my dog doesn’t like playing fetch and is completely nonplussed by a tennis ball. Maybe that is my fascination. I have no association of tennis ball destruction with my hound, so the tennis ball becomes my obsession.

My way of working begins, as I focus on something compulsively. I then ask myself why. And by asking myself why, I will begin to research and discover more about my environment and everything within it. There is also a the added caveat that I am now disabled, so my environment has shrunk. But shrinkage doesn’t mean I am now devoid of inspiration or subject. It means that I am now more invested in my environment, in it’s history, in my interaction with it, I am a slow walker, so I take my time, I revisit often.

There is plenty of humanity within my images, perhaps you have just not looked close enough to find it.


Audio of blog, with stumbles over words included

[Image descriptions: On the left there is a grid of 8 images of different pink and purple flowers. The image in the middle is a grid of 8 images of the same view across the River Aire, taken on different days, with different skies and trees in various stages of foliage. The image on the right is a grid of 8 images, this one shows remnants of tennis balls found on the ground]

 

Exhibition – The Story of a Lost Toy

Arts Events, Dogs, Events, Exhibition, Love Arts Leeds, Mental Health, Mickey, Theoretical, Typologies, Walking Art


click on the image above to find out more about the event

On 29th September until 13th October, I will be showing the culmination of a year of collecting tennis balls. Images of discarded and destroyed tennis balls that is!
Hosted at the Union Coffee House, we will be holding a one off special dog friendly viewing on 6th October.

Visit Eventbrite to book your ticket and bring your pet pooch (or just come to meet all the other pet pooches).


Google Maps satellite image showing the area which the photos were taken. My walks take me over the common at the top, into the Abbey House gardens, around the Abbey parkland, along the river, and through the woodlands at the bottom. 

About Union Coffee House
A unique community space and venue to hire in the heart of the city. All the furniture in the cafe is for sale, including the chairs you’ll be sitting on. Their furniture is a mixture of up-cycled/pre-loved and handmade, and they can create bespoke furniture to suit their customers. All their suppliers are local small independent businesses or social enterprises. The charity that they are currently working with is LS14 Trust in Seacroft. It is a quirky place that is quick to make you feel welcome and at home.

click on the map below for directions

This is exhibition is part of Love Arts Festival, a yearly festival held in Leeds as a celebration of mental wellbeing and the arts, click on the image below to see the full the programme.

10 things about being an artist that art teachers don’t tell you

Theoretical, Tutorials

Original article from The Guardian written by Emily Browne

What art students need to know is: can I make a living from being creative? The answer is more complex than you might think

There are many misconceptions about the art world. Ask someone to describe what it means to be an artist, and they will probably paint a picture of one of two extremes. There is no perceived middle ground, no stability, no security: there are simply those who make it, and those who don’t.

The quintessential artist-failure is dedicated, talented, yet tragically unappreciated. Regrettably, their work acquires value only after their death.

The other extreme is the artist-celebrity. The conceptualists, the YBAs, the Damien Hirsts – these cunning characters are able to sell anything, particularly if it has some kind of biological waste product artfully smeared across it.

If popular opinion is anything to go by, the creative sector is a huge gamble, braved only by reckless, or masochistic, individuals. But if you’re an art student, you need to know if this “make or break” view bears any relation to reality.

I’ve completed three years at art school, and am now an MA student, and as far as I can see – no, it doesn’t. But with all the stereotyping that goes on, it’s tough for students to work out what to expect from a career in the arts. So let’s try to make things a little clearer – and maybe dispel some myths along the way.

Here are 10 honest truths about work, life and leisure in the creative industry.

1. Many artists work freelance. A study by the Arts Council finds that 41% of creative workers are self-employed. Temporary work contracts can make for an interesting and varied career, though periods of unemployment between jobs are a reality for some artists.

2. Freelance artists budget carefully. Being self-employed means you are without pension, holiday pay or maternity benefits. Contingencies such as falling ill or having children require pre-emptive financial planning.

3. Artists self-promote. Many showcase their talents on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Linked in, as well as on their own websites. Having a good online presence shows employers that you are self-motivated and digitally literate.

4. Artists love socialising. Networking events are the art world’s equivalent to job hunting, but with less misery and more booze. Whether you’re searching for commissions or trying to advance your career, networking gives you the chance to meet industry professionals and expose yourself to new opportunities.

5. Many artists form collectives to publicise and exhibit their work. Kate Rowland, an illustrator from the collective After School Club explains: “Being in After School Club is great for motivation. It allows us to utilise each other’s skills, therefore we have more resources to help one another. It’s kind of like a creative support system. And lots of fun.”

6. It’s all about your portfolio. The visual arts are less grade-centric than other disciplines. An art director at a graphic design company once told me he’d think twice about hiring someone with a first-class degree, as he worried they’d have no time for hobbies outside of work. In his words, not mine, “they might be really boring”. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t aim high – another employer might appreciate a first-class candidate. Rather, you should focus on making your portfolio the best you can possibly make it. A good body of work speaks louder than grades.

7. Some artists supplement their income with a second job. Doing so gives them financial security while they exercise their creative passions. Take a look at some of these prolific “double jobbers”.

8. Many artists take on internships to help kick-start their career. Working for a company can prepare you with essential industry skills and improve your employability. The question of payment is a hot potato – in general, the shorter the internship, the less likely you are to get paid.

9. Job opportunities are growing. There are currently over 1.9 million people working in the creative industries. However, by 2016, the government expects this figure to skyrocket, with an additional 1.3 million new jobs in the private sector alone.

10. The creative sector is characterised by high levels of job satisfaction. As a result, the industry is highly competitive and jobs are sought after. If you have the passion and the motivation to stay ahead of the game, then a creative career can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

The Science of Well-being

Diary, Mental Health, Theoretical

How Mindy Goose used the work of the New Economic Foundation in her photography.

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I have suffered from depression, on and off since my teens. I only really came to terms with what this meant for me when I hit my 30’s, and by acknowledging that I am wired differently have I been able to cope better. I struggle with motivation at times, which makes me feel like projects take twice as long as they should do. I also find that I can judge myself quite unforgivingly and lose confidence in my abilities as a result, even if my friends tell me I work harder than I think, I never think I work hard enough.

I discovered the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ when I volunteered at the Love Arts Leeds festival in autumn 2011. How can a scientific study quantify and improve your mental state? Is it possible?? I decided to take on board the simple message in Take Notice and produce my own wellbeing book, which will form part of my final degree show at Leeds College of Art in summer 2012.

A simple pocket size book with images of everyday objects, landscapes, journeys and routines photographed in a way that makes them seem unusual, beautiful and unique. The idea is to have something small that can fit in a bag, that I can look at and see the world, my world in a more enriching way, and hopefully to inspire people who see my images to take notice themselves.

For me I have found I have opened my eyes, I see more, I have stopped burying my head in the hope that seasons I don’t like pass me by quicker, I can get motivated by my routine, making more out of what once were tedious tasks and now I notice that there is beauty in even the most mundane of things.

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In 2008, nef (New Economic Foundation) was commissioned by the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Well-being to review the inter-disciplinary work of over 400 scientists from across the world. The aim was to identify a set of evidence-based actions to improve well-being, which individuals would be encouraged to build into their daily lives.
Evidence suggests that a small improvement in well-being can help to decrease some mental health problems and also help people to flourish. The results of the project are the ‘Five ways to Well-being’.
More information about the project can be found on the nef website: www.nationalaccountsofwellbeing.org