This is a condensed blog post for assessment. Please refer to the original posts for more information if needed.
The pregnancy test – a truly metaphorical decisive moment. The first tangible proof of pregnancy that most of us see, an object that’s well-recognised but rarely seen outside the bathroom. A test, a trigger, a wait, a result. For many of us the used positive test is kept, whatever the outcome of the pregnancy. Like a Polaroid, this physical record of the moment is initiated by a chemical trigger, changes and degrades over time but remains treasured. Here are eight tests from four women, from the last fifteen years. Sadly, not all the pregnancies went successfully to term.
The decisive moment shown in these images is the moment when the results area of each test was the sole focus of someone’s attention, a visible indicator of new life that developed as the test was watched. Each test is a decisive moment that has been kept for weeks, months, years. It’s a decisive moment constructed from a chemical reaction that now bears physical and chemical traces of the intervening time, taking in different homes and places. It’s intriguing to wonder if this indicator of life could sustain life itself. It stops being sterile at the point of opening, could bacteria colonise it once used?
Henri Cartier Bresson described photography as “the simultaneous recognition… of the significance of an event as well as the precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression”. I think these images do show the “significance of the event”, each test becomes a talisman, a proof that the pregnancy existed, however briefly. Long after the child is born, or the miscarriage memories soften slightly, we retain this tangible memento of the moment when we knew. In keeping them, they age, and we get this perspective of the decisive moment and how it has changed.
Looking at Bull (2010, p14-15), I see that indexicality is the idea of a photograph as showing reality; looking at Hall (2014, p30 I learn that an indexical sign has a direct physical relationship to its subject. So we have the photographs, which are indexically linked to the tests that they show, and the tests themselves that are how they are because of how they reacted to a woman’s urine. Indexicality in action.
My research strands were Elina Brotheras’ Annunciation series and Nigel Haworth’s Counting Seeds. Both include physical tests, but in a different way to how I chose to photograph them. Presentation was influenced by Taryn Simon’s Contraband and Mary Kelly’s Post Partum Document.
My tutor’s feedback was very positive, her main suggestion was that the work could be improved by better composition and lighting, by cleaning my sensor and by having a larger selection to choose from. I agreed entirely. She also suggested removing the text. I have reshot some images (this wasn’t possible for all the tests). I wanted a more engaging presentation, and decided to present the work in a pregnancy test box, with an unused tests. The idea being that the viewer can experience the decisive moments as s/he handles the photographs. This required a non-standard crop due to the size of pregnancy test boxes.
Here is a video of the final presentation.
Here are the final images which were printed by Loxley as 5x7s and then trimmed to size to fit the box.
I’m very happy with this work, it is both universal and a little bit secret. There is plenty of scope for continuing it further and I look forward to doing so.
Links and references
Bull, S., 2010. Photography. Abingdon: Routledge.
Calle, S. and Auster, P. (2007) Sophie Calle: Double game. London: Violette Editions.
Elinorcarucci.com. (2017). mother. [online] Available at: http://elinorcarucci.com/mother.php [Accessed 12 Sep. 2017].
Cartier-Bresson, H. (2014) Henri Cartier-Bresson: The decisive moment. Germany: Steidl Verlag.
Elina Brotherus. (2017). Annonciation. [online] Available at: http://www.elinabrotherus.com/photography/#/annonciation/ [Accessed 12 Sep. 2017]
Elliott, P. and Schnabel, J. (2008) Tracey Emin: 20 years. Edited by Patrick Elliot. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland.
Hall, S., 2014. This means this this means that. London: Laurence King.
Tarynsimon.com. (2017). Contraband. [online] Available at: http://www.tarynsimon.com/works/contraband/#1 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2017].
Tate. (2017). ‘Post-Partum Document. Analysed Markings And Diary Perspective Schema (Experimentum Mentis III: Weaning from the Dyad)’, Mary Kelly, 1975 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/kelly-post-partum-document-analysed-markings-and-diary-perspective-schema-experimentum-t03925 [Accessed 12 Sep. 2017].