Seemingly endless days of sewing and pinning and cutting and glueing….
I can tell that a deadline is looming (The Opening Night for the end-of-residency show is on Friday 22 May) when the sketchbook turns into page after page of “To Do” and “To buy” lists. Pages which at the day’s end become almost impossible to decipher as most things have been “crossed off the list”.
So much has happened and there is so little energy to tell of it. Midnight again; squeezing as many hours out of the day as possible to devote to the work.
Things learnt today:
When you decide to dust off your old non-digital 35mm SLR cameras on the day you need them, to make 35mm slides for your project, you rejoice to find some old 200 ASA Fujichrome film. You can now leave the 100 ASA film, the only one you could buy in shops these days it seems, for another day.
Discover that both your Nikon and your Pentax K 1000 need batteries (as you haven’t used them for 10 years); luckily Clocktower cameras in Brighton is open on a Bank Holiday Monday. You go and buy some batteries and discover that your Nikon needs to be sent off to be repaired.
So armed with a now working Pentax, a sturdy tripod (that you have never operated since you bought it about 15 years ago) 4 rolls of film and two eager children you head off on a Bank Holiday afternoon to the Sealife Centre in Brighton to do some serious photography. Hah!
You discover that everyone else has chosen this day to come to the Sealife Centre. And that entrance for 4 people costs £58.
You soon discover that loading the film into the camera is a bit nerve-wracking in the semi-darkness of the Sealife Centre. It’s all very atmospheric, but you’ll definitely need that tripod even with a 200 ASA film.
Oh yes, the tripod, that inscrutable monster: it takes you almost a whole roll of the first film to get a hang of, to remember, how it works. You start to envy all the people that are momentarily sticking their iPhone 6’s in your field of vision especially as you see how gorgeous their images are and you haven’t a clue whether your photographs are going to be even vaguely successful.
You chose to use a wide-angle lens (28mm) today. Why oh Why? You soon realise that if you are going to get any of the really abstract images of underwater that you want for your project a more suitable lens would have been a telephoto. With a wide angle, lovely as they are, great depth of field, for example, it’s almost well nigh impossible to not get any fish in the picture. Then there’s the fact that with a 35mm slide what you take is what you get: you can’t crop out the window frame edges of the tank later, you have to wriggle your camera on a tripod into the exact, correct position and, at a low shutter speed, take a picture whilst hoping (praying?) that no tourist will trip over one of the feet of your tripod as they’re pushing their buggy past.
Finally two rolls of film down, and wise to the fact that 100 ASA isn’t going to be possible today, you have a much needed cup of tea and meet up with your children, who’ve had a lovely time.
You manage to wheedle the little digital camera off your 9 year old and start using that to photograph the kinds of images that you wanted to take. There’s no problem with the light levels or camera shake without a tripod. You can zoom in to whatever part of the tank you want to, no problem. Thus begins the last and happiest hour of your visit to the Sealife Centre.
You take pictures, delete the ones you don’t like almost immediately, to free up space on the memory card and you learn that your daughter, who’s been photographing since the age of three, really knows her way around her camera. And can help you out.
You also learn that, although only 9, she is a pretty amazing photographer too and a generous one, as she’ll let you use any of the images that she’s taken, if they fit in with your project. In fact she’s more than happy to contribute and the “black & white” image, the one with the great stark contrast, above is hers. Very perfect and really suits the almost (David) Lynchian music that they play in the Ocean tunnel part of the Sealife Centre.
I was still ill, just recovering from days nursing a cold, but that place is so magical and atmospheric that I will come back again very soon and make further pictures, digital or otherwise.
A week of intensive work on “Angel’s Nightie” in the studio: both making and thinking. Following on from thinking about the quote from “the Tempest” (Shakespeare) in previous blog, I took my daughters to see the Alexander McQueen show (my third visit) on their INSET day.
Whereas on previous visits I’d been particularly taken by the Dark Romanticism pieces for which I felt a lot of affinity and love, this time round I felt myself drawn to the last exhibit, from his last show “Plato’s Atlantis” (2010), which tied in with my interest in taking the chrysalis-bodybag piece beneath the waves and into “the liquid life”. An idea of death as less ashes to ashes, dust to dust (although there will be that too, perhaps) and more a return to the sea. Both in an individual sense, but also in an evolutionary sense.
Afterwards we went over to the Natural History Museum and in the Museum shop I bought a book about Marine Invertebrates, called “Spineless”: full of beautiful imagery; several years worth of inspiration.
On the way home after picking up my daughters from school towards the end of the week, me covered in plaster, having done a few rows of knitting in the school playground (finding time to fit everything in), my eldest asks me: How is the chrysalis-bodybag thing going, Mummy? and I tell her: it’s no longer just a Chrysalis-bodybag. It’s becoming other things as well. I’m trying to merge the idea of chrysalis-butterfly with bodybag with sea cucumber with influences from Alexander McQueen and Shakespeare with death and ashes and pigeon wings. And meld them all together and knead them and knead them (We’ve been watching old episodes of the Great British Bake-off together) until the “dough-of-ideas” becomes less sticky and becomes itself. In the car she asks me to tell her all the ingredients again, that she wants to write them down. I do, telling her not to worry about getting the spellings right, that not even Shakespeare really knew how to spell his own name and she compiles a list in her note book and by the end of the journey has merged and jumbled all the words together, taking a part from each, into one incredibly long and strange word.