Project 2 Masquerades Exercise 2

Brief:

Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way you wish.

  • Does the memory involve you directly or is it something you witnesses?

The memory is something I witness, something I feel. A memory of many events, many summer evenings spent down by that sea, on that green patch. I have taken a ‘nostalgic’ shot of one of my favourite kinds of feeling from childhood. I can remember one evening here in particular but this image sums up many evenings here as a child/young adult and the thing they all have in common is this one specific feeling which I still get when I’m down here. This particular memory that I have is of my brother and I, lying out on the grass after swimming all day in the river that joins the sea here. The air is warm, its the middle of the summer holidays and the sun has just set leaving the sky in pastel stripes, light blue and pink meet the darker line of the sea. It feels peaceful, we are tired from swimming and from using our imaginations to re-enact the last movie we’ve seen and all is right with the world. Time stands still for a while. An endless summer’s day ends perfectly.

  • Will you include your adult self in the image (for example, to ‘stand in’ for your childhood self) or will you ask a model to represent you? Or will you be absent from the image altogether? (You’ll look at the work of some artists who have chosen to depict some aspect of their life without including themselves in the image in the next project).

I didn’t want to use myself in the picture as I felt it would seem staged. I also didn’t want to use models because it might again looked staged and I wanted to pick up the mood of the place/time not just take a snapshot of some kids lying on the grass. It just felt right to do it like this. I lay on the grass to take the photo so I guess in some ways I was re-enacting that day myself and keeping the camera low so as to pick up the same view that we might have had – as kids lying out on the grass.

  • Will you try and recreate the memory literally or will you represent it in a more metaphorical way, as you did in Part Two?

I have definitely recreated the memory in a metaphorical way mainly. When I set out with my camera and headed down to that coast that is so full of memories I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do, I wasn’t evening planning to shoot the final image but something about it clicked in to place when I got there, the mood just felt really similar to that memory and many others that have merged in to one feeling.

  • Will you accompany your image with some text?

This is actually really difficult as I’m not sure what sort of text would do the image justice. I think maybe just a caption like ‘The end of summer’ or ‘Childhood I’ or something might help to contextualize it but the viewer can interpret however they like (and I would encourage this with this kind of image).

  • In your learning log, reflect on the final outcome. How does the photograph resemble your memory? Is it different from what you expected? What does it communicate to the viewer? How?

The photograph resembles my memory of the place so well, I don’t think I could have made a better image and I was lucky to have the right light and weather etc to create the right mood to capture how I feel/felt. I feel like this image is many different memories of the same place and throughout different stages of my childhood but it also perfectly sums up this one clear memory that I have from one summer when I was about 9 or 10 and my younger brother would have been around 5 or 6 years old. I think to a viewer that has not been told what this photograph means would view it as a pretty scene but I think they would definitely pick up some of the mood of the scene, it might be nostalgic to others too as I think this kind of evening light, the empty benches, the still quality to the photo would be quite effective at bringing up some of a viewers own memories.

It might be interesting to show your photograph to friends or family members – perhaps someone who was there at the time and someone who wasn’t – and see what the image conveys to them.

Unfortunately I had shown my mum the photo before I thought to ask her about its meaning so this wasn’t a very good experiment as she knew the idea behind it but here’s her thoughts anyway:

Mum:

“Even though I wasn’t there at the time of the memory that is suggested here I can remember many similar evenings when we were down by the sea here, as a family or just parts of the family. Hatti and I used to go for walks together when she was little and look for wildlife at dusk. This picture reminded me of that.”

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My friend was here when I took this shot but hasn’t been informed of why I took it or of any of my childhood memories here specifically. This was his take on it:

‘Through each passing day, regardless of where you may be, there is always calm after the storm. And with that new day there will always be a place for family, friends, togetherness and love.”

I really like this poetic take on my picture and I think its not too far out from my intentions. Definitely this sense of calm and togetherness.

 

 

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Project 2 Masquerades Exercise 1

Brief:

  • Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative?

Nikki S Lee

The Lesbian Project – Nikki S Lee

In this exercise I have been introduced to the work of artist Nikki S Lee who’s various identity based projects show an insight in to social and ethnic groups and in turn allow her to explore the depth of her own identity.

In a nutshell, Nikki S Lee transforms herself in to someone else, someone who would fit in to the specific social/ethnic group that she is currently interested in. By exploring the aspects of this new persona Lee is both highlighting the fluidity of personality/identity and questioning the validity of the photograph as a tool for capturing the truth.

After having watched an interview with Lee on Youtube where she explains her working process great detail, I wouldn’t describe her work as voyeuristic or exploitative as she is very honest and considerate when entering a potential project opportunity and if any one or all of the participants aren’t 100% keen on the presence of the camera she doesn’t push them to take part. As a result, her picture is taken with people who are relaxed and happy in her presence. I also don’t think that her interest in such a wide variety of social/ethnic minorities is at all sinister and I think by photographing them she is helping to bring awareness of smaller minorities and in turn this challenges viewers’ to review their own generalizations of the groups in question. So whilst Lee may be using them, in a way, to help find her true identity she is giving something back to them.

  • Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

Definitely both. Lee is commenting on the fluidity of identity, how one can take on the forms or characteristics of another individual or group, that they can blend in and ultimately become whoever they want to. However, she only allows herself 1 month of playing a different person as she wants to make sure she remains ‘herself’. In taking on a different persona Lee is finding out more about herself and others. Her work comments on the group identity of the people she photographs as well as she is taking the stereotypes and generalizations pinned to these groups and examining them before the camera. As the viewer studies each photograph in the series they will begin to spot a familiar face/figure/character within each family group in different guises but familiar all the same – this is Morissey’s self-identity showing.

  • Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach with your family? If not, why not?
From the series ‘Front’ – Trish Morrissey

Yes, probably as it sounds really amusing! As long as she was friendly and explained the purpose and intentions of her work then yes although I would find it totally weird I would most probably agree to it. I can see how the woman who’s role Morissey assumes and in the family photo could find the experience quite uncomfortable – as Morrisey seems to get in very close to the loved ones of the female she replaces. Even though the situation is fake the photograph could be taken as truth, it would be strange indeed to have a such an utterly fake version of a family portrait out there of a stranger and all of my loved ones – but also fascinating to examine, to see what the faces and body language of my loved ones might be showing in the presence of this stranger. Morrissey is breaking boundaries here, psychologically as well as physically, and its this that makes the series so interesting (and uneasy) to view.

  • Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

Seven Years –

July 14th 1974 (2002). © Trish Morrissey
Trish Morrissey, from the series ‘Seven Years’

Morrissey and her sister worked as a pair to recreate childhood memories, taking turns to stand in for their other family members (both male and female alike). The line between fact and fiction is blurred and the series is deeply self-reflective and nostalgia inducing. This series is similar to ‘Front’ in that it examines the family photo album but different in that it is much more personal – the family being examined is Morrissey’s own.

“The photographs in “Seven Years” are the awkward pictures: fingers in front of the lens, eyes shut, unattractive body language. Pictures that would have normally ended up down the back of the sofa, or burned so that they would never see the light of day.” – Trish Morrissey, LensCulture

One thing I definitely noticed about these images was the tilted angle of the horizon lines (sea etc), they really emanate an amateur picture taker – another family member and not a professional photographer. It just goes to show that imagery can be intriguing without being technically perfect – in this case the series is fascinating because of, not despite, it’s amateur qualities (and it’s strange and awkward models). Also, you can tell that the series was not shot, arranged and compiled by an amateur because of how much there is to explore and interpret in each individual image.

The Failed Realist –

A pretty Ogre
A Pretty Ogre – Trish Morrissey, from the series ‘The Failed Realist’

‘The Failed Realist’ is a very different project than ‘Seven Years’ or ‘Front’. It is still self-portraiture but Morissey uses her face as a blank canvas for her young daughter to express herself on to rather than using her body or face to act out a familial role. ‘The failed realist’ stage is a psychological term used to describe the stage all children go through when they are unable to express their thoughts as well psychically as they can verbally. Morrisey’s four and half year old daughter painted things that she was inspired by (a recent movie, a dream, something she’s witnessed/learned recently etc) on to her mother’s face. What is most interesting about the photographs of the finished face painting is that Morissey’s daughter didn’t paint motifs of butterflies, stars etc – instead the paintings are more abstract – blobs, streaks, dabs and patterns of colour that symbolise an experience she was relaying. When I first viewed the series without the context I found the images aesthetically pleasing as they are quite artistic and the rest of the frame and face is clean and uncomplicated. I was intrigued as to what the paintwork meant – as the viewer we are given captions such as ‘The tooth fairy’ but I couldn’t work out what this meant before I read the accompanying description. This collaboration between Morrissey and her daughter is not autobiographical for Morrissey, her face is merely the canvas for her daughters creative energy  it doesn’t comment much on Morrissey’s own self-identity -other than to offer a glimpsing insight in to her role as a parent.

On the series Morrissey comments on one of the ways that the work can be interpretted:

“Beyond the innocence of the child’s intention, more sinister themes such as clowns, carnival and the grotesque are evoked by these mask like paintings.” -Trish Morrissey

This was interesting to think about because I hadn’t personally interpreted the work in this way. I was confused by the different designs on the face but I hadn’t seen any of them as grotesque or sinister. Now that she has put that idea in my head I can see what she means but its interesting to note that I hadn’t felt anything other than a peaceful intrigue as to the meaning of the facial art.

 

References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMychWgKedA (accessed on 20/06/2017)

http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-sy/workpg-05.html (accessed on 18/08/2017)

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/trish-morrissey-seven-years (accessed on 18/08/2017)

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/trish-morrissey-seven-years (accessed on 18/08/2017)

https://www.lensculture.com/projects/228833-the-failed-realist (accessed on 18/08/2017)