I attended the Side Gallery in Newcastle to see the Small Town Inertia Exhibition.
Whilst I had read a great deal about this project prior to the visit I did not expect the impact the imagery and word would have upon me.
I have never attended an exhibition where I have been emotionally affected so much, there were occasions where I was on the verge of tears.
It is perhaps because Mortram really explains through both the words and the imagery very effectively what his subjects are going through, and how they are affected by society both physically and emotionally.
This was a very important exhibition for me to see especially as it is my plan to have words accompanying my imagery to give context to my work.
Each of my images will have a diary entry which addresses not only my struggles with mental health during my journey to my physical diagnosis with Rheumatoid Arthritis but also addresses the struggles that come along with having an invisible disease. Whilst you look OK on the outside no one knows what any individual is going through on the inside.
I feel that by going to see this exhibition I have a clearer view of what I need to do for the public outcome of my FMP.
I’m preparing to get my images professionally printed a digital lab, I really am getting the feel for them. I can see where the images are expressing themselves and also me, I can feel the different feelings in the water and where it is trying to show my glimmers of hope and where the light is trying to show me the way.
It is also very interesting to see how the images are fitting with my diary entries. I haven’t finalised how I am going to show them just yet.
I’m not sure if it is just my subject matter but getting myself outdoors to obtain the images is helping to improve my mood and it is starting to give me purpose again.
I have been carefully researching what I need to advise people in terms of holding my workshop. I want to make it very clear that it is not a medically endorsed workshop I cannot give professional advice and what we will be doing and talking about is not a miracle cure and professional advice should be thought if you are contemplating suicide or have low mood.
When looking at some of the images as I’m preparing for print I am brought back to Mark Rothko especially on the seascape images where there are blocks of colour. The water pattern work also reminds me of Man Ray’s patterns in the dust that were featured in the David Campney Exhibition – A Handful of Dust.
I am keen that my audience understand how the water reflects my emotions and feel this can only be supported from opening a dialogue with me and reading my diary entries.
Intent: I knew this was going to be the final shot of my project. We were due a super moon and I had the visual in my head that there would be a breakthrough image – The super moon reflecting onto the sea. It would be representative of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Equipment: Nikon D3300, Tamron 70-300mm with Macro, Tripod, iPhone
Methodology: I spent a good few weeks studying the timings of the super moon, along with fitting this around my work schedule, and also the weather reports. The full affect of the super moon was to be the 19th February, but the weather was not looking to be working with me so I decided to go and get the test shots so I could make sure my equipment and set up was correct. As it turned out, although my lens was the right one for the whole of the project – every single image taken with the same set up – it was not the right one for the night time shoot – I needed to have had a wider angle. That was one lesson learnt! So I took out my trusty iPhone, and took some shots so that I could see the basic set up. So that if the shot worked I can come back the next day with the correct set up for the real event.
Research: For this shoot I did reading around night time shooting as I knew that this was something that I had never done before so it would be a new challenge to me.
Reflection on the shoot: This was always destined to be the shoot that I struggled the most with. As I had no prior experience of night time shooting. I am really glad that I carried out the research into the moon, and how to shoot at night, although I didn’t get my initial set up right. The saving grace is that I did check the weather and take my iPhone as on the 19th the weather clouded over and we saw nothing of the actual super moon, and I learnt a very valuable lesson of doing your research. What did make me happy though is in my test shot and I do understand that some won’t be happy that I have an iPhone image in my final collection, but I got the shot that I wanted the one I had envisaged and it did feel that on the computer screen, my collection of images for this project was now complete. I did have a level of anxiety as I didn’t predict how spooky the beach is in the pitch black!!! Although I did take a assistant to help me. On a personal level also, I was starting to feel better in myself, which means that my mindful photography journey had helped me, it had been therapeutic, and I was starting to enjoy it again.
I went to visit a location for my workshop/exhibition and this was at the newly refurbished Spanish City in Whitley Bay
The room I was hoping to use was right at the front of the building overlooking the sea – which would have been perfect.
A major drawback to the space was that I would not have been able to mount anything to the walls at all. Although I had planned to use large sketchbooks so that my diary entried could be mounted along side like a giant diary – i think this venue would be extremely limiting and they kept changing the times of the room.
Whilst the view from this room is perfect I don’t feel it is the right place for my work.
There are several of Derges’ work that I have been able to connect with.
Shoreline – 1997-98
Waterfall – 1998
Ice – 1996-97
Atlantic Ocean – 1997
River Taw – 1996-98
In the period 1996 – 1998 much of the work appears to be focused on water in some form or another. Whereas Horn and Sugimoto focus on the top of the water Derges work is under the water looking up.
I think this is appealing to my work as sometime you can feel like you are drowning, that you cannot survive, like you won’t ever make it to the surface, and i think it might look like this to an individual under the water.
Whilst I don’t think that this is the intention of the work, to present itself in this way, it is certainly the way that I can link this into my thinking of my project.
Particularly the work with the ice, it looks to me like the light at the end of the tunnel and quite often this is the the hope that will eventuallly lead you our to the light to draw you out of the depths and show you the way to find your way back.
This is one of the reasons that I hope to be able to capture a moonlight image so that on the surface I have a metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel image.
When I brought together the images that I wanted to use my initial thought was that they couldn’t sit together and say to an audience that this was the story of a single person. Due to the constant light changes and weather changes there was nothing that really linked them together and said this is me!
Through the duration of the course I have always found myself drawn to black and white – I feel that it has more impact.
I decided to put colour and black and white side by side and see how I feel about them – I also took this to tutorial as in my head I knew I was going to go black and white but I think I was seeking confirmation that I was making the correct decision.
I felt that the black and white just had more impact and fitted with what I was trying to say.
Intent: I felt my project was missing some shots – it just didn’t feel like I had the right number nor did it feel complete. This shoot was to try and fill the gaps, make it complete and also to continue with the mindful techniques.
Equipment: Nikon D3300, Tamron 70-300mm with Macro
Methodology: As I didn’t take the tripod I had to be very focused on my breathing which assisted in the mindful techniques. I just wanted to get out with the camera and capture what I saw.
Reflection on the Shoot: I didn’t start this shoot with a definitive list of shots I wanted to complete – but I think this helped me to complete the mindful side more fully. I was more aware of my surroundings and I paid more attention because of this. This enabled me to notice water patterns so defined and also to capture then with amazing detail. It also made the surface of the sea glitter in a way that I have never seen before and I also got some shots which actually showed this. I did get a little distracted by the seals sunbathing on the rocks as this is something else that I hadn’t seen before. I can definitely feel that the techniques of mindful photography is showing me how to look again, and this is allowing me to make beautiful discoveries along this journey.
To give the bigger picture of the enormity of mental health, showing large expanses of water was always going to be an important step to take.
It was at this point that Hiroshi Sugimoto was suggested to me, particularly his seascape series.
Sugimoto’s work reminds me in some ways of the artist Mark Rothko. Which I also fin interesting to me as Rothko was also an individual who is said to have suffered with mental health issues, and in 1970 he was found dead in his studio having committed suicide.
Many of Sugimoto’s images seem to have a cloudless sky, and this was one of the elements that I knew was not going to work for my project. the clouds are important to my images as to me they express the feelings, stormy skies and water express the struggles an individual can feel when struggling with depression and other mental health illnesses, so this is a point where my work differs greatly from Sugimoto’s
One thing that I do take from Sugimoto’s work is a sense of calm.I’, not sure if this is due to all of the images being black and white. Through my studies it has become well known the impact that colour can have on mental health, which leaves me with the decision of whether I should keep my images with colour or convert to black and white for more impact.
Another are that really interested me was his use of the fog in his images, many people that I have spoken to describe depression as a fog that descends upon you, and is perhaps one of the images that I should consider trying to capture because of this metaphor.
Sugimoto travelled the world to capture the images of ancient seas. This is not something that I would look to replicate, I will be remaining on the North East Coast. I find that when depression and anxiety set in there is an urge to stay within the confines of the familiar, where there is a clear route back home to safety – or possibly the prison of a person’s emotions, it will not be a worldly view like Sugimoto’s but it will be an almost tunnelled approach aiming to survive and sometimes struggling to exist!