I’m rephotographing Nana’s photos. I’ve had them long enough – since she passed away 18 months ago. Now it’s time for the photos to back to their subjects, their owners, family members. In each I look for something. Eyes, hand, gesture.. I instinctively focus with the macro lens on a detail. Why am I doing this? Searching for clues, stories. Looking for the odd, the beautiful the strange. To understand, me, we. To make a story.

Is it possible to to learn anything from these images? To gain a deeper understanding of the individual, the family, ‘us’?

More rephotos here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.38238856…


‘We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world’

Patti Smith, ‘Just Kids’

“I want to work under the table” announced L, who looks like she might be my collaborator. She sat on the floor, spread out her photographs, and began to tell me their stories.

A few weeks before, in the far end of the space, Caroline crouched over a corner, constructing a scene from cutouts, card acetate and light in one of the corners.

The same day, Jez went rummaging and discovered a lampshade in the cupboard. He put it on the floor. He found a picture of a standing woman, and put her inside, lighting her with a tiny lamp, only visible if you stooped down and peered.

The last time I was in the space, in the days before Christmas, I upturned a couple of chairs and put them in the middle of the room. I moved everything from the tables to the floor.

When we were away with friends at the coast at New Year, their 4 year old son Sorren made a den with a tiny gap between two sofas and a blanket.

I’ve been thinking about these moments of hiding, sitting, making, imagining, telling, looking.

This week, I am going looking for a curtain for those chairs.

WE ARE ALIVE AGAIN project page: https://www.facebook.com/jeanmcewanfortheloveofpeo…

I have been collaborating with artists Caroline Hick and Jez Coram aka For The Love of People on WE ARE ALIVE AGAIN. More about FTLOP here https://www.facebook.com/ForTheLoveOfPeople?fref=t…



The other week, experimenting with a printed photograph on acetate, putting it into a card mount and shining a tiny light on it , led to the accidental, magical discovery of a ghost image on the other side of the card. Here’s a short video of what I did:


I showed Caroline and Jez and we began to experiment combining images of different sizes and multiple light sources. This simple magic and subsequent play with light and image feels like enacting memory itself – ephemeral, elusive, distorted, layered.

Thinking of these arrangements as possible sets, architectural assemblages, book pages – offer so many ways to interact with and read this way of working. Also as a tool, and application for working with other people on their own family memories and stories. Much to think about now in the way of possibilities for this work.

Caroline commented that what we were doing was ‘serious play’. These words have been in my head since. They seem absolutely right: intentional, focussed creativity in a state of simple adventure and curiosity.

These days make me keenly miss my late friend and collaborator, artist Maria Cobo (https://vimeo.com/user3134719) who died last summer. When we worked together, which was often, we played like giddy children. She would have loved this project. Some days at the moment are very bittersweet because of this. I wish she was here to join in.

I recently watched an amazing documentary, Marwencol (http://www.marwencol.com/)The film tells the story of Mark Hogancamp, who created a fictional world Marwencol to deal with the effects of a traumatic violent attack which wiped his memory and nearly killed him. The film reveals Hogancamp to be an extraordinary man, who consciously uses his creativity as a way of healing, physically and emotionally. ‘The first thing I had to learn was how to use my imagination’ he says.

I was bowled over the awareness and intelligence he brought to this process. He created Marwencol as a safe arena for working out difficult emotions and exploring different aspects of his past and his identity – and he believed in the transformative effect of the stories he made in that world to his ‘real’ life. His naming of this work as ‘therapy’ made me think of Jo Spence and her response to her cancer diagnosis- creating and developing photographic strategies which would be her own therapy, as she rejected conventional medicine.

Some more words which have been with me all week, these ones from Chinua Achebe:

‘There is no story that is not true’

Caroline Hick and Jez Coram are artists currently working under the coloration For The Love of People. You can find out more about them here https://www.facebook.com/ForTheLoveOfPeople?fref=t…

Our Facebook page for the collaboration, where we are all documenting our work and responses via photographs, video, and writing: https://www.facebook.com/jeanmcewanfortheloveofpeo…


‘My daughter’ said the elderly man on the bus, beaming, gesturing to the woman next to him.
A bit further on, towards town, a middle aged man links arms with his mother and they stride towards us, she pulling a shopping trolley.

Overheard/observed on bus to Bradford, Friday 8th November.

I am trying to practice active mindfulness to pull myself out of the swamp of my brain which thinks too much, and is too distracted, and forgets to pay attention to the present. Recently, occasionally, the white noise of my thoughts abates and I become aware of the wide open moment moment: now. I’m slowly noticing more. Conversations on buses, gestures, colour, light, shapes, mood.
I started following writer Ian Macmillan on Twitter https://twitter.com/IMcMillan. His tweets are observations, mini stories, poems. Example from this morning:

Early stroll: many leaves fallen; many, many still to fall. Two people walk up to a lamp-post, walk one on either side, light and geometry.

When I got to the Arts Lab on Friday last week, and I looked at the set on the table, I thought about being present to the richness of stories all around me, weaving them into the narratives I’m making. As I played with the cardboard set, combining photocopies, found images, family photos, acetate, with frames, albums, light – I thought about what I had seen on the bus, and wondered

Is everything, in the end, about family?

Final thought from my literary hero, David Foster Wallace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Foster_Wallace)

‘You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t’

We (myself, Caroline Hick and Jez Coram, who are For The Love of People) are documenting our collaboration at Fabric Arts Lab this month on this Facebook page:


5th November : First solo day at the Arts Lab, Bradford on WE ARE ALIVE AGAIN

(I will be working with Jez and Caroline each Friday this month)

Just wanted to pin down some thoughts from yesterday before I forget them and they meld with tomorrow’s session. Since the first session with Jez and Caroline I’ve been thinking a lot about theatre, sets, layers. I thought it would be interesting to construct a smaller version of what we did together at the Arts Lab on Friday, which could be like a mini theatre, with layers – three dimensional collage in a box.

I attempted to construct such a thing from a cardboard box at home on Monday – making a couple of slots from the top and side to put in acetate/ tracing paper/paper.A test run, a crudely made thing – the cardboard box is now mostly held together with parcel tape – but it gave me an opportunity to try out working in three dimensions.Trying it out at home on Monday, I was excited by the possibilities.But in the space on Tuesday, these things became deadened, somehow. Because they were encased in acetate? Too many layers making it too opaque and difficult to see?

I gave up and started working instead with some handwritten text strips made by my late friend, Madrid based artist Maria Cobo as part of a video performance she did (https://vimeo.com/10811292)

I put the strips in a box and lit them with a bathroom light and combined them with some excerpted text from Werner Herzog’s book ‘Of Walking In Ice” which details his walk from Munich to Paris in Winter 1974 in the belief that doing so would save his friend, filmmaker Lottie Eisner, from cancer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Walking_In_Ice. This book has been very significant to me in the last year. Walking as an act of faith, also for me has been a way of experiencing and processing grief. Herzog’s unromantic and often bleak account of his journey (‘Must the sun lose every consecutive battle?’) has been with me since reading it shortly after Maria’s death last year.

I am lucky to have Maria’s texts (which are themselves handwritten excerpts from Beatles songs) and earlier in the year did some experiments with working with them – which I documented on the collaborative blog Artist As Explorer http://artistasexplorer.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/f…

This work has felt unfinished but I wasn’t ready till now to work with them again.

Also in my head has been Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘The Footing’ a fine looking new poetry anthology on the theme of walking newly published by the fantastic Sheffield based Longbarrow Press http://longbarrowpress.com/2011/07/08/the-footing/ which I would really like to get my hands on.