June 29, 2021

PHO701 | Interdisciplinary Practice

Presentation Questions

Other than photography, what art forms and creative media do you take inspiration from?

I take inspiration from movies, the wider art world including exhibitions and books.
Recently I attended the British Library exhibition Unfinished Business: The fight for women’s rights this was a huge source of inspiration as much of my current interest in photography centres around how society impacts our identity, specifically female identity. This exhibition was full of magazines, videos, photographs and music as well as historical news archives, all of which I found hugely inspirational. On the same day, I visited the White Chapel Gallery to view the Surrealist exhibition and the Eileen Agar exhibition both of which I found interest in following a Citylit course on Feminism in Contemporary Art  (tonnes of inspiring art there from the surrealist illustrations and paintings of Leonora Carrington through to the performance art of Martha Rosler and the photomontage work of Hannah Hoch). 

The Eileen Agar exhibition was the most inspiring of the two for me as she worked across such a diverse range of media. Her photographic work included both collage and techniques in camera that I found inspiring for my own project. Her piece Ladybird was very interesting to me as she used a sheet of clear material to pose behind (in camera) and then used Gouache and ink on the final print.

The TV series The Handmaid’s Tale I found incredibly inspiring both in terms of the story and the visual content. This series again touches on feminism and although tells a story of a make-believe society it is at many points an exaggerated mirror of society as we find it today. I personally really enjoyed some of the ariel shots where the handmaids are in beautifully choreographed formations. The stills would make beautiful images.

I am also inspired by feminist and mother focused art. I follow accounts on instagram such as @artistmotherpodcast and also @spiltmilkgallery which showcases art made my mothers from around the world.

In literature, I again find inspiration from feminist authors and also art history and phsychology literature. Lately I’ve been reading the book Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser who looks at how ancient stories (such as Adam & Eve and Pandora’s Box) have shaped the world and society. She specifically looks at how the world could have been different if these stories had been told from a woman’s perspective.

I have also recently worked with a textile artist (photographing her artwork) and her work really spoke to me and inspired me. She uses old maps, photographs and found objects and weaves them into new worlds. To me this speaks of a sort of lineage, taking what we inherit and turning it into something new, a new world for the generations who follow.

I also find myself finding inspiration in newspaper articles and everyday life.

How have you directly drawn from non-photographic disciplines to develop your practice?

Yes, I think I amalgamate my ideas from a collection of genres. I often find that whilst reading say a book I will find myself being drawn to other works in different genres or disciplines that to me speak of a similar thing. For example, I was reading Cassandra Speaks by Elisabeth Lesser which discusses ancient stories and how they’ve shaped society. At the same time, I happened to be taking the course on feminism in art history, learning how art historians have omitted female art from the art history books [ref: Why have there been no great women artists – essay written by Linda Nochlan], and also watched the BBC tv series by John Berger, based on his book The Ways of Seeing (The male gaze, women seeing themselves as others perceive them & the way Renaissance art depicted women for the gaze of men). Then also at the same time, I was reading parenting books looking at repeated cycles and how we pass down certain things to our children by the way we are and how we parent which is a generational psychological lineage, based on what our children see, hear and experience. It occurred to me that they all had the same underlying idea, of how the stories that are told impact society (and individuals) both in the current moment and how the future evolves from that current moment. The trajectories that can shift and change based on the stories and histories told. I find it fascinating that what happens now, what stories are told now, could alter the course of the future history of society and the individuals growing up in it.

How would you describe the distinctive, essential qualities of photography? Are any of these characteristics the reason for you choosing it as your mode of expression?

For me the fact that photography stops time and freezes the moment, it allows the viewer to also stop and take a moment to ponder and consider the image, slowing down and having time to think and reflect, which isn’t always possible with say movies and moving images. I think also that photography, in the genre of portraiture, brings a very personal and reflective element to the viewer, the subject is relatable as if looking in a mirror and finding parts of yourself looking back. It is this stopping of time and reflecting upon ones own inner world and interpretations of what they see that draws me to it as a mode of expression.

Activity/Forum

This week we would like you to consider your work in relation to disciplines outside of photography.

Tell us about how and why your current practice relates to particular disciplines. Please include some examples and reference sources. 

If your work is about quite specific subject matter, then how your photography relates to other disciplines might be fairly straightforward.

I think my current practice relates a lot to social theory, women’s rights and psychology. 

Recently I attended the British Library exhibition Unfinished Business: The fight for women’s rights (Links to an external site.) this was a huge source of inspiration as much of my current interest in photography centres around how society impacts our identity, specifically female identity. This exhibition was full of magazines, videos, photographs and music as well as historical news archives, all of which I found hugely inspirational.

On the same day, I visited the White Chapel Gallery to view their Surrealist exhibition and the Eileen Agar exhibition (Links to an external site.) both of which I found following a Citylit course on Feminism in Contemporary Art (tonnes of inspiring art there from the surrealist illustrations and paintings of Leonora Carrington through to the performance art of Martha Rosler and the photomontage work of Hannah Hoch). 

I found the TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale, incredibly inspiring both in terms of the story and the visual content. This series again touches on feminism and although tells a story of a make-believe society it is at many points an exaggerated mirror of society as we find it today. I personally really enjoyed some of the ariel shots where the handmaids are in beautifully choreographed formations. The stills would make beautiful images.

I am also inspired by feminist and mother focused art. I follow accounts on instagram such as @artistmotherpodcast (Links to an external site.) and also @spiltmilkgallery (Links to an external site.) which showcases art made by mothers from around the world.

In literature, I again find inspiration from feminist authors and also art history and psychology literature. Lately, I’ve been reading the book Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser who looks at how ancient stories (such as Adam & Eve and Pandora’s Box) have shaped the world and society. She specifically looks at how the world could have been different if these stories had been told from a woman’s perspective.

Reflection:

Think about your creative practice – your photography – and also maybe aspects of your life beyond or outside of this: 

How have you allowed the input of others to shape your photographic practice?  

I love to learn new things and listen to different or new perspectives. I think that’s one of the things I love most about photography, the ability to see and consider a different perspective of something you already thought you knew. Currently the questions my daughter asks is shaping a lot of my work as it is through her eyes and her questions that some of the things I thought I knew and understood about the world start to jar with me.

What is your attitude towards drawing on the ideas of other people, or their work?

I think drawing on other peoples ideas can spark creativity and set you in a new direction that you’d not yet considered. It is another way of seeing something from a different perspective. The way someone has done something can spark a completely unrelated idea in yourself because our brain can see something in their work that perhaps they hadn’t even considered or intended. For example, Ana Mendieta’s series really spoke to me in a way I’m sure she never intended. Her work was a personal exploration of how she felt as a Cuban migrant living in the US. For me the absence of her body in the images spoke to how I felt as a mother, grappling with a new identity. Her work has inspired ideas in my own work particularly the work I’m doing on invisible labour, even though her methodology and message were very different to what I am working on.

Where do you see the line between ‘collaboration’ and ‘plagiarism’? 

Personally if I am going to take inspiration from someone’s work I think it should be work that is very distinctive from my own. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking inspiration from someone working on a similar topic/genre as myself as to me that would be crossing a line and feel disrespectful towards the other artist.

Personally, I like to look for inspiration in different genres and disciplines as it also removes the risk of any comparison or measuring myself against another creator. By looking to different genres I can find things that spark an idea without me needing to be concerned that I may be in any way copying or mimicking their work.

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