I was fortunate enough to also research this subject for my Foundation course, it’s documented here but here follows a brief extract.
Tom Hunter and Dan Holdsworth introduced me to the diversity possible in the brief – from Holdsworth’s vast unpopulated buildings and spaces to Hunter’s intimate photographs of people interacting with their environments and telling their stories. Wanting to read further, I found the research brief for the same assignment in Express Your Vision. Gawain Barnard inspired me with his words “The landscape of youth is laden with memories” (Boredom to Burn) and showed a convincing adolescent world, part dark underpasses, part open grasslands. Like Hunter, Venetia Dearden (Somerset Stories Fivepenny Dreams) shows a powerful physical interaction between her subjects and their environments. Her use of bridges echoed Gawain Barnard’s underpasses and made me think of different ways of showing the bridge landmarks of my home. Jodie Taylor’s Memories of Childhood was very inspiring. Her photographs were an intimate account of where she played in her childhood. Her landscape seemed familiar even though my childhood landscape was very different. I wanted my photos to be empty of people, and Jodie showed that it was possible to do this.
Coming back to the same brief but with a year of learning under my belt, my first thought was to identify those photographers I’ve encountered over that year that I thought would fit with the Square Mile concept. I also considered those photographers whose work didn’t really chime with me the first time around, and re-visited those. I stayed with Dearden and Hunter, as I was inspired by the physical interaction in their images and wanted to include interaction in mine too. I ended up with a mind-map of potential photographers to explore. The right hand side contains photographers suggested as research by the Foundation and EYV versions of this assignment, the left hand side is photographers I have encountered as part of my independent learning or via comments from my Foundation tutor.
The book Family Photography Now (Howarth and McLaren, 2016) was very interesting and provided several points of engagement – especially Mimi Mollica’s “Nora there” series which documents his young daughter in familiar places but with complete strangers. I was looking for work that combined portraiture and location, preferably familiar locations fulfilling the Square Mile element.
Here are my notes on the photographers that I researched, via books and internet.
Hannah Starkey. Cinematic, stylised reconstructions of moments from the everyday. They have a detachment, a sense of disconnect which I like.
‘Untitled – May 1997, Hannah Starkey, Date of Work, 1997: © Tate, London ’
Anna Gaskell “Wonderland”. A dark retelling of the classic story.
Evgenia Arbugaeva “Tiksi”. A series exploring her own childhood in the Russian Arctic. Colour palette ranges from the domestic through fairy tales to sci-fi and she shows a young girl confidently and comfortably exploring an environment of vast frozen land and seascapes and snug domestic spaces. Documented further in study visit here.
Penny Watson “Where have all the children gone?” Level 3 OCA student Penny shows images that also have that disconnect. She takes found images from Victorian postcards and works them into contemporary rural landscapes, neatly illustrating the lack of children in our landscapes today. I found this one interesting because it became obvious early on that most of my daughter’s favourite places are indoors; her favourite places are rather more indoors than mine were at the same age.
Stephen Gill “Hackney Kisses” “Hackney Flowers” and “Hackney Wick”. I wrote in more detail about these series here. He has a literally organic approach to working and photographing in his locality. He works with collage, found objects, buried photographs and images transformed organically by inserting matter into the camera. It’s not the approach I need for this assignment as I need to work more on straight digital images, but I find it fascinating and inspiring.
Charley Murrell “Constructed Childhoods”. Charley’s images are of constructed versions of the childrens ideal selves. I liked how the images were hard-wired into the child’s physical environment, making these hopes and illusions palpable. This was the photographer that gave me the most inspiration for my reworked previous Square Mile, along with Peter Kane and Parick McCoy as suggested by my tutor.
Sian Davey “Looking for Alice”. All of Sian’s family work engages me, it is so very current. “Looking for Alice” has an interesting use of space and place, somehow conveying the idea of this tiny girl absolutely owning the spaces that she’s in.
Roni Horn “You are the weather”. This was one of the photographers that I struggled to engage with first time around. Returning to the work, I’m touched by the effective simplicity of it – the way that the woman is showing her response to the weather (and hence reflecting the weather) in every shot. It’s simple recursiveness reminds me of John Hillier’s Camera Recording Its Own Condition.
Marc Rees. Another artist that I struggled with at any level, from the website structure onwards. Now his work makes far more sense and the way he works with the most banal and mundane artefacts of childhood to construct meaningful art (such as Supper set site). I also realise now that you (I) can keep returning to the same Square Mile brief over and over and there is no reason for the work to be repetitive even when covering the same mile repeatedly. Looking at his work has left me with a desire to photograph my daughter’s square mile via the domestic textiles and artefacts that she encounters.
“It’s good to return to the familiarity of my square mile: the intimate landscape and décor of my upbringing and it’s amazing how much material can be continuously drawn from that very simple notion, it is indeed an inexhaustible source of inspiration.” (http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk/news/newsdetail.asp?newsID=2962)
Peter Mansell. Another OCA student, this series shows landscape from a wheel-chair owner’s perspective. It shows the physical interactions between the chair and the environment, the different perspective, and gives the idea of a different type of mobility.
Sarah Jane Field. Another OCA student, who I know via various social media channels. Her photographs of children always engage me with their directness and use of colour. She is working on a series about girlhood, which I cannot wait to see more of. You can see one of the images here. She shows children as people, as individuals, which sounds such an obvious thing but which is actually not that common on Instagram.