The project I undertook with help from an A-N travel bursary, allowed me firstly to explore parts of Finland I had not yet been to, this was one of the main reasons for its undertaking. I secondly wanted to put myself in a position where I would be taking portraits of strangers, this was something I hadn’t done in quite a while, I felt out of practice and missed the feeling of being uncomfortable in my surroundings. The possibilities become very open in those types of situations, and as a photography technician in a secondary school I am constantly telling young people to do things that take them out of their comfort zones – the more I said it, the more I felt like I should be doing it too.
Aside from making some pictures I had no solid outcome in mind, I knew I also wanted to shoot some video though what I was going to do with it, or what I am going to do with it, I still don’t really know. Looking through the footage now becomes helpful, what i’m focussing on and how I’m using the camera – panning or static, changes from the first dance to the last as I begin to find a way of shooting that works in the dance environment. I also changed lenses a few times which completely changes how the viewer is drawn into the frame.
I have already begun applying for more funding to go back next year travelling to the west of Finland beginning in Oulu and working my way down the coast as I know of quite a few active dance pavilions in those areas. By keeping in touch with some of the people I photographed and following the activities of the performers I am slowly building an archive of stories which will, eventually, accompany this work. But i am staying open to changes.
I have exhibited a small portion of the images at a Photo Scratch event which took place at Four Corners in Bethnal Green in east London. The event acts as a kind of crit or a work-in-progress exhibition where participants show projects and speak to the people who attend. Feedback has been very positive with a mixture of people perceiving the lack of images I have of people actually dancing as both a good and bad thing.
So I know that I would like to do things slightly differently when I return, some of the changes are technical; for example working out a way to achieve better dance images, sticking with one lens for filming and to continue developing relationships with the people I photograph and seeing where this takes me. I am continually researching new areas dealing with the history of Finnish dance pavilions that new interests are constantly being sparked – this can also be a hindrance with my dyspraxic nature as I tend to jump from one idea to another but I am staying open and positive that these connections can only make this project stronger in the end.
The support I have had so far has been amazing; from the LCN London Creative Network who gave their time to help me with my A-N travel bursary application, the Lansi Savo newspaper who interviewed me in Finland about the project, Photo Scratch and Four Corners whom I have showed part of the project with and family and friends who have been on hand to look at the work at hear my stories. These connections and collaborations have begun to form an important part of how I can function as an artist and it is thanks to funding and networks like A-N that make projects such as mine possible.