Had a great day yesterday of free form researching (improv researching?) online.

Here’s what I found, starting with following this link from artist Lyndsey Perth on (https://twitter.com/lippi) on Twitter:

‘Manipulated Photographs, Manipulated Memories
An interesting blog post by a neuroscientist working with memory – especially interested in the last paragraph about the use of photographs to strengthen autobiographical memoir, and this quote, in the final paragraph:
we should begin to explore how photography can be used in both helpful and harmful ways. How should we as individuals and as a society use photography to help maintain an accurate and precise history?”
I then followed this link, which discussed how the brain makes memories from photographic images: ‘Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain

Then, a look at visual anthropology, finding this website www.visualanthropology.net/‎which contains some useful links, papers and publications. I chanced upon a post on conference in 2003 at the Tate about the relationship between anthropology and art which I found intriguing. http://www.visualanthropology.net/reviews/moffat.p… I then had a look at the MA in Visual Anthropology course information at Manchester University – I’m hoping to chat to someone about to start the course and wanted to get a handle on what the subject involves.

I can’t remember how, but I then stumbled upon a book by Gillian Rose photography, ‘Doing Family Photography: The Domestic, the Public and the Politics of Sentiment’
Gillan Rose is Professor of Cultural Geography at The Open University, and her current research interests lie broadly within the field of visual culture. Reading an excerpt, I found the text refreshingly directly and without jargon. I found her blog, which again is very accessible and wide-ranging ttp://visualmethodculture.wordpress.com/more-about-gillian-rose/
Though the print version of ‘Doing Family Photography’ is very expensive, I managed to find an ebook version on Scribd for just over £4 (the cost of a 24 hour subscription) http://www.scribd.com/doc/99659160/Gillian-Rose-Do….

I’m not far into it but I’m already completely hooked, as it focusses not just the content or the politics of domestic photographs, but how they are used:

“Family photos are particular sorts of images embedded in specific practices , and it is the specifity of those practices that define a photograph as a family photo as much as, if not more than, what it pictures. What is important in a family photograph is: who took it; who it shows; where and how it is kept; who made copies of it and sent them to other people; who those other people are; and how it gets looked at by all those people.”

This brings me back to my own key statement about what my own project is essentially about:

‘How people use, and make meaning from their family photographs’.

I suspect this book is going to open up so much new thinking and inquiry. Hurrah for the internet.

Oh, and I finally Storyfied my Twiiter and Facebook responses to the question ‘What do you do with your family photographs?”



…Continued from last post

Caroline suggested that it might be good to take the brakes off in terms of the ACE application, and give myself to have further exploratory conversations with other collaborators, allowing myself to develop a firm sense of exactly who I want to work with, and how the project will work best. The only person imposing a deadline on the project is me – this is my project, and perhaps its needs more time to incubate.

I felt a palpable sense of relief after this conversation. The prospect of not having to spend the next fortnight struggling with trying to complete the ACE form while everyone else is enjoying the sun or on holiday, seems pretty seductive. I’ve got a few meetings lined up over the next few weeks – including with an ethnographer, and art therapist – and rather than the focus being ‘the ACE form’ – these conversations can perhaps be more exploratory and less directed. Also I can have time to research (I’ve ordered 2 books, Using Photographs in Social and Historical Research by visual sociologist Penny Tinkler and ‘Phototherapy and Therapeutic Photography in a Digital Age’ by Del Loewenthal http://www.play.com/Books/Books/4-/33510791/744196305/Phototherapy-and-Therapeutic-Photography-in-a-Digital-Age/ListingDetails.html?_$ja=tsid%3a13315%7ccat%3a33510791%7cprd%3a33510791 – which was kindly suggested by fellow a-n blogger Rodney Dee – thanks Rod! www.a-n.co.uk/p/2422257) so being able to have some reading, and maybe me of my own making time, seems good for now.

I’ll also be meeting up with Caroline and Jez later this week to start to explore ways we could collaborate on the project. I’m really pleased about this. Our starting point is groupings of archive images, and each of us is going to bring some of our own archival images – and looking at single sex groupings. Now feeling excited, not stressed.


A week of taking time, a rethink, a few changes

Had a useful and positive meeting last week with Rashmi Sudhir the Arts Enagagement Officer at Bradford Council , to talk over my ACE application. Rashmi was very positive about my proposal and the support/partners I have, in the involvement of Fabric, Caroline Hick as mentor, and Anne McNeill from Impressions Gallery contributing. She is happy to support my application with ACE and suggested She suggested that I read the Arts Council Plan document to gain a clear understanding of their 3 year plan and priorities, which could then inform how I artculate the rest of my application. I came away from the meeting feeling positive but also thinking that I need to crack on with the form – which is still only partially complete. Still a lot of work to do..

After the meeting I went straight up to Gallery II at Bradford University to meet with Caroline Hick and artist Jez Coram (http://www.jezcoram.co.uk/)/ Caroline had been in touch to say that she and Jez were developing some collaborative work (after working together on Jez’s ‘Corners’ project at Gallery II Late 2012/early 2013 http://www.jezcoram.co.uk/) and to invite me to talk about the possibilities of working with them.

Caroline and Jez explained their collaboration, called ‘For the Love of People’ – as an application, a set of projects, some small, some big, bringing together different artists and non-artists, exploring participatory work and actions in the wider community. Caroline and Jez’s concerns very much chime with my own – exploring ways of working meaningful projects towards social change – and having known and worked with Caroline on various different projects over the years ( most recently her as one of my Re:view artists) I am very keen to work further with her. I am also very interested in Jez’s participatory practice from having seen the ‘Corners’ show.. I’ve also heard good things about him from people I know and trust, so altogether it feels like a very good time to be having this conversation with both artists.

Caroline and Jez were interested in possibly collaborating with me on the family photography project. They are looking at working on and with film archives of local areas at the moment and thought that my work on family archives/material would work as a good parallel to this.I explained my over- riding concern at the moment upcoming deadline for ACE application (I had set myself the 9th August as submission day).

Talking around the progress of the project for the ACE application over past weeks, it became clear that this self imposed deadline might not be helpful: I haven’t yet managed to identify potential collaborators and some of the specialists I want to involve in the project, and also conversations which I have been having along the way are causing me to question and rethink some of the collaborations I had envisioned for the project. For example, a speculative conversation with a worker from a refugee support group last week revealed that working one to one with someone from a refugee/asylum seeking background on family photographic materials may not be appropriate or possible – as this is a hugely sensitive and potentially painful area for many who have had to flee their countries with nothing. I had been aware of the potential sensitivities involved in working with someone from this background, but also of the potential power of the possibility making/exploring ‘new’ images through creative collaboration. Talking to the worker over the phone and via email in more depth however made me realise that for an organisation with a duty of acre and ethical responsibility to protect their vulnerable clients, this is too much of a risk. The worker, after discussing possible involvement with her colleagues, came back and said no. This conversation has been good learning for me and I’m see it very much as part of the research process. Documenting it here, too, feels important – saying what doesn’t work, as well as what does, is equally, if not more useful.

continued next post..


Progress on the ACE application is inching forward slowly, amidst leaky pipes, boiler problems and visits from friends and family.

I met up with Gideon at Fabric (http://www.fabricculture.co.uk/) last week to go through what I have already and got some really good feedback and suggestions from him (avoid the art jargon, write simply and straightfowardly was a valuable piece of advice). I have also had some email feedback and suggested changes from my Re;view mentor Caroline Hick which has alerted me to things I’ve mised out or not explained fully enough.

Each time I discuss the application with others it feels a bit less onerous, a bit more do-able. I’m grateful for the support from Gideon and Caroline, it’s keeping me sane and motivated when I might have otherwise have gotten discouraged. I’m lucky to have a few other artists friends who have had successful R and D funding who have also offered to read my application over.

Some great news as well – Anne McNeil, director at Impressions Gallery – has agreed to be involved in the knowledge sharing part of the project – to write something for the publication and perhaps talk at one of the events. Anne is my dream photography expert, partly because of her work with Trish Morrissey (http://www.impressions-gallery.com/exhibitions/exh…) and Marjolaine Riley (http://www.impressions-gallery.com/exhibitions/exh…) at Impressions Gallery – both of whom have made great photographic work on the family – and also because of her background in community photography. Anne wrote a wonderful essay called ‘Secrets and Lies’ for the Trish Morrissey show ‘Seven Years’ – published in the catalogue which she kindly gave me a copy of recently (http://archive.balticmill.com/index.php?access=&it…)- and since then I’ve been hoping that she might be involved in my project. I’m really interested to read and hear her perspectives on the creative collaborations which will form the first part of the project and on photographic work around the family. The fact that Anne is from Glasgow, and grew up near to where Nana brought up her family, means that we have a shared cultural connection and understanding is just an extra bonus. I’m so delighted she said yes.

Right, on with this form then.


Thinking very much this morning as I walked with Betty about power, access, hierarchies and ethics.

I used my second and final Re:view meeting with artist and curator Caroline Hick last week, to talk through the family photography project in depth; nail down what I wanted to do with it, who to work with, how to frame and structure it. The key thing I want to do is to find out how people use, and make meaning from their family photographs.

I want to collaborate in an equitable, non-hierarchical way with people on their family albums. I’ve done a lot of solo work in response to my own family album, and I want now to learn from others about how they might use their own family photographs, and the possibilities for creative collaboration around this. I’m interested in learning from people with different experiences, backgrounds and cultures from me, and in hearing stories that aren’t normally heard, or told. I want to create new contexts for dialogue to take place.So I want to work with non-artists, and people who might be described as ‘marginalised’. What is the experience of someone who is a refugee, who may have no, or few family photographs? What meanings might they attach to photographs? What are the possibilities for making new images?

I always come back to this quote by writer Annette Kuhn about family photography;

‘Images of former our lives are pressed into service in a never-ending process of making, remaking, making sense of, our selves—now’

Talking to Caroline about the ways I have worked with my own archive over the last few years, and showing her some examples of collages, books, zines, photographs and drawings that have formed my practice, she suggested because personal nature of my work, working one to one might work well. That felt kind of right. I would see the process as the quiet building up of a relationship, of sharing personal and creative responses, over time, using my work as a starting point for the sharing process. Making a collaborative piece of work, which takes away that direct autobiographical link, but which is informed by personal experiences and stories. This seems pretty exciting to me.

Of course, in finding people to work with, particularly people who might be vulnerable, needs a lot of thinking about and sensitivity.

A few months ago, a five year old boy told me a secret. When I asked him what it was, he whispered in my ear

‘with great power comes great responsibility’

Whether Spiderman said this or Voltaire, it doesn’t matter. It’s true.

As an artist going out into the world to work with people, you have a responsibility to engage with them as ethically and equitably as possible.This involves continually challenging yourself, being honest, and open, considering how and what you communicate, thinking about where the power is in any situation, and sometimes asking difficult questions.

These questions, posed by Nato Thompson, for an essay in the book “Living As Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1999 – 2011” seem apt

‘When is a project working? What are it’s intentions? Who are the intended audience? When is an artist simply using the idea of social work in order to progress her career?’

With these questions in mind. I’m taking tentative, speculative steps out ‘into the field’ to try to find people who might be interested in working with me.

Another quote, from the same book, from artist Rick Lowe

“Oftentimes as an artist, you’re trespassing into different zones…. Oftentimes… I know nothing. I have to force myself and find courage to trespass… Artists can license ourselves to explore in any way imaginable. The challenge is having the courage to carry that through.”

Full interview here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gregory-sholette/act…