From the studio, ‘I Always Wanted To Be …’ work continues. Here is just a small taste of some of the amazing images captured by photographer John McCormick when we spent some time together in the studio a couple of weeks ago.


I’ve been working really hard these past couple of weeks, but have been left with a strange feeling of having nothing concrete to show for it. It’s a temporary thing, but it feels slightly odd to be sitting here, preparing to write a blog post without any images of the past fortnight’s intensive period of activity. Traditionally, for me – after hours of setting up and placing the various objects I work with – the exciting part is downloading the photos of finished pieces. The images are often the work, the part I post on Facebook, Twitter and my website, indicators of what I’m up to creatively.

Right now, I don’t have any images – and that’s despite an intensive morning with my photographer friend, John last week, followed by a further vigorous day on Thursday with film maker, Henrietta Thomas. It feels strange not to have any images to hand, precisely because the work I’ve been involved in has been all about cameras and focus, filming and lighting – getting the best possible shots and angles and so on; working collaboratively has meant being very involved in that process.

So, I’ve done the work, but at this moment in time, while my collaborators have access to the work we jointly created, I have nothing to prove it – and that feels weird! I’m confident that there will be some strong images coming, but if there’s a downside to working collaboratively, it’s not having control over when you can have access to the work that’s been made!

And so, it’s a case of sitting back and waiting patiently, hoping upon hope that the photographs and the film turn out well and that I’ll be able to progress with the next stage of my work around the ballerina theme. From what I’ve seen of both Henri and John’s work so far, I’m pretty confident that everything will be fine, but I’m very reliant on them, I realise. You have nobody but yourself to rely on when you’re working independently – working alone, I wouldn’t need to be waiting on other people getting back to me in the way I am right now. But working alone would also mean that I’d have none of the really useful and welcome imput and suggestions I’ve had from my collaborative partners over these past few weeks. I know which I prefer and it’s now a question of keeping on being patient.

In the meantime, there’s still a stack of 1970s Diana, Bunty, Judy and Princess annuals on my living room floor, stacked up by the sofa. I’m continuing to dip into them, revisiting the various adventure stories, absorbing myself in the common fantasy of so many young girls growing up in 1960/70s Britain – to be a ballerina.


Photo: John McCormick

I’m feeling a bit more relaxed now that I’ve had time to give the film rushes for the ‘I Always Wanted To Be …’ film footage my proper, undivided attention. The rushes are essentially the initial recordings, raw and unedited. Henrietta (Henri) Thomas, the film maker I’m working with on this project sent them through some weeks ago and I’ve been waiting to find the time to go through them thoroughly. Now that I’ve managed to, I realise what an intense process it is. It’s taken a lot of time and concentration, analysing every second of two 45+ minute tapes, thinking about what’s to be kept and what will eventually be edited out from both the visual and the audio footage.

There will no doubt be a lot more of this editing to come – a process that’s completely new to me – in a film version, anyway. Otherwise, editing is what I do all the time while working with objects – weeding out the ones which aren’t wanted, keeping the ones that are, in any given assemblage. In terms of the film footage, I have to say that so far, I’ve found this part of the process pretty boring and tedious! I’m not renowned for my patience in any case and never feel particularly comfortable around uncertainty and the unknown.

The filming day at the end of August/start of September was always anticipated to be a day of experimenting and playing around with ideas, but I still surprised myself that I strayed quite so far away from my original ideas for the film. This process is, of course, a part of a huge learning curve for me and retrospectively, I’ve been able to work out more accurately what I’d like to feature in the final film version.

It’s now clear to me that I’m not actually so interested in the exteriors of the boxes – it’s the dancers inside them that interest and fascinate me more – seven different ‘personalities’ and the amazing images conjured up by the dancers being reflected in the boxes’ mirrors. I also keep getting drawn back to the theme of competition amongst the dancers – who’s the most robust?/who is going to ‘make it?’

So, now it’s a question of focusing on the additional filming that needs to be done and working out how far the budget will stretch to enable this to happen. The ideas I have in mind have at least been confirmed as ‘doable’ by Henri and a provisional date for the filming is now in place for the end of this month. I’m going to be focusing on doing as much preparation as possible so that Henri and I are able to make the best possible use of time when it comes to our next day of filming.

The beauty of being given financial support for this project means that I’ve been freed up to experiment and try out various options and possibilities – all with an experienced, flexible and willing film maker in place (thanks, Henri!) It goes without saying what an absolute godsend it is to also have the a-n Artists Network professional development bursary in place, enabling me to be flexible with the budget and secure in the fact that there is money in the budget to pay for another day of Henri’s filming expertise (thanks also to a-n!)