Assignment 5: Making it up
I felt that there is still scope for continuing the type of imagery I’d started with earlier assignments in Context and Narrative. This would include looking further into memory and how our memories aren’t particularly accurate. I also like the idea of placing the imagery in the environment that I’m taking it and going back to record what has happened to it.
Having looked further into artists out-with photography who use the landscape for sculpting or placing photography in the landscape, such as Richard Long or the Schengland series by Alan Knox, I’m toying with the idea of some type of sculpture within the image along with photographs. I’m just not sure how this will work or take shape.
Having looked at the work of a number of the individual artists suggested in the latter part of this section. The work of Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson are certainly inspiring, although I’m not sure how realistic it would be for me to produce work on that scale. I’m also not sure the vernacular style of photography I use would work with the large stage Crewdon uses, although I’m sure it’s just that I’m not aware.
I find the work of Tom Hunter’s http://www.tomhunter.org/living-in-hell-and-other-stories/ the most inspiring and accessible. The small stories Hunter plays out in the images I feel will help with the idea I have for this assessment. Although not entirely the same as what I have been attempting, the series deals with perception over fact with the images being inspired from headlines found in the artist’s local newspaper. This ties in with the ideas I’ve been trying to convey, where our memory isn’t as good as we think it is – witness testimony being the lowest form of evidence. The series even becomes a headline in the newspaper in question – life as art, art as life.
Whilst taking the images for this exercise and looking back at family images, it struck me that the family picnics I had photographs from, we all tended to wear jackets and thick jumpers. When I thought about it, the picnics would have nearly always have been around Easter time, which means March or April. My recollection was that of long, hot summer days. The reality was spring time in Scotland, which could often mean snow, rain, wind and cold temperatures. I do recall one picnic where the sleet fell most of the time we were out and my cousin’s blue, spay-on hair dye running down her face. I’m sure I also recall runny red noses snuffling the whole time!
I’ve still not managed to ascertain where Hobseat actually is. I am certain it is in the area of Hobseat Hill, but I’ve not managed to find out exactly where. I have been in contact with Forestry Commission Scotland, but their response was some information that there are a number of forestry roads that can be either walked or cycled, nothing specific. I have also spoken with my parents, but they’ve been able to direct me to the area. I do intend to find it, but I think I’ll wait until the weather improves and try and find the area on bike. Having said that, I thought about setting up the display at other places we would have these gatherings but decided that this wouldn’t necessarily be required.
The final choice for staging the images was made easier for me when I realised that I didn’t have to place it where the events took place, as this was an exercise in memory and its fallibility. I felt that there should be some connection with the images I was using as the basis for the series of images, so I set about finding an area that included open space, grass and trees. In one of the images you can see that the cars of the subjects along with posts that mark the boundary between the car park and recreation are. I there is a an area at the edge of Glenury Park in Stonehaven that could produce a similar background, although the building of a 3G astro-turf pitch has changed the look of the area. On surveying the area I felt that it would fit relatively well for the images.
Now that I had the location, I was to decide on how I was going to compose the images. On reading the brief I noticed that it was suggested if any props were to be used in the imagery should be of the time the image is representing. This was an issue as I was to be recreating an image from the late 80s, early 90s. Having decided on a picnic theme, the next step was to try and find deckchairs that were similar to those in the images and had been available at the time. I searched around my family, but only hd the larger, reclining chairs you get now, so I required another source. I checked on-line, but the prices for second hand along with postage was too much. I remembered that just down from where I live there’s a yad called Steptoe’s yard that sells just about everything. I had a good look round and finaly found what I was looking for. The design and colours even matched what you’d have found back then, so I’m guessing that they are from that era. I also borrowed a couple of wooden stools from my parents. They have been with us since I was a younf child and I recall the plastic covering they once had. Mum and dad spruced them up some years ago and would have looked as they did at the time I’m looking to re-create, so they would fit in well with what I’m doing.
I didn’t feel that I’d require clothing from the time period I’m re-creating as I’m putting myself, as I am now, into the image. But as I’m looking to play the different characters from my family it was important to have different clothes to represent them. Although the day was cold and windy, I chose to wear t-shirts for a number of the characters to reference my memories of warmer, sunny days. For one of the images I wore my coat in a tribute to my dad who was/is always cold. I don’t think he’s that keen on the outdoors as there’s always the chance of rain. This also applies to my maternal grandmother who was always the voice of doom regarding weather – we used to think she did rain dances before such gatherings.
In the image you see a number of paper sheets taped to the seating and covering the plates, bottles and cups. The grass is also dotted with crumpled up pieces of paper. This was the image printed off in black and white then each copy photocopied until the original image was not discernible. I was surprised at how long it took for the image to not be recognisable and was equally surprised at how much the first photocopy had degraded.
I used the photocopies that were closest looking to the original image to tape to the seating and cover the cups, plates and bottles with the most degraded of the copies fanning out to the sides and back of the image, with those that were the most degraded being farthest away. The reason for this is that I felt that those closest resembling the original image should be closest to my characters as I’m trying to re-create my memory. As you move farther from the event your recollection of events becomes corrupted, just like the photocopies.
The tree I felt held significance as it is something that appears permanent to us due to their long life in comparison to our species and our picnics always tended to be in places where there were trees. The tree is also symbolic in cultures around the world with the Sycamore tree (the tree in the background of the image) being associate with the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor.
For me the tree in this image symbolises, as mentioned, a longevity in comparison to our life span. The paper with the faded image mimics the leaves that are on the ground and symbolise the passing of time and fading memory. The tree also symbolises regeneration with the leaves falling, decomposing and subsequently nourishing the tree and the images on the paper having 4 generations of a family, also representing regeneration.
The second image has a copy of the original image placed on top of a deckchair with further photocopies of the original image. I photographed this later in the day with the sun low in the sky, casting shadows over the scene with the background of the tree only just visible. The reason for this was to make the deckchair and image stand out as a representation of me without me physically being there. Once I had taken the image I left all in place and didn’t come back to the scene for a week as I wanted to see what would happen to the items. I decided this should be a standalone image so to have less presence of life compared to the previous image. I can’t actually re-create the images of the past because some of the people in the photographs are dead and we’ve all aged and moved on.
The final image is a return to the diptych style I used for the first image. This was taken a week later so I could record what had happened to my little installation. I spent a good half an hour walking around the area looking for evidence of it, but wasn’t having much luck. I finally found one of the photocopies amongst some leaves and at the foot of a rather sparse looking bush. The paper was wet and muddied, but still in decent condition. I found the deck chair next to the brickwork from a rail viaduct that is at the back of the area I used as the setting. As the day was dull I had to use the on-camera flash to bring a bit of life to the images.
The image of the paper works as it ties in with the first image with the paper looking like a leaf that’s fallen and been left to the elements, it also represents the transient nature of our existence and how quickly it and our memory degrades over time.
I was surprised to find the deck chair in one piece, although the second arm had been broken. I was pleased to see that it had been placed next to such a substantial structure and something that has been. The Glenury Viaduct was opened in 1850 and rebuilt in 1883-4 and carries trains from Aberdeen and further north to the south. The solidness and permanence of the viaduct legs are in contrast to the fragility of the deck chair, with the deck chair representing the fragility of the human mind and memory. The flash used is quite harsh and shows that this image is in the here and now, the memories are exposed to the cold light of day with very few elements of the original image left, not unlike memory.
The three images have been titled with the grid reference of where they were taken, however the title of the project is Hobseat. This allows people, if they wish, to research the grid reference numbers and see that the images weren’t actually taken at the location mentioned.
I am happy with the overall result of the images although there are a few things that could have been done differently. The first image could have had the white balance tweaked to warm it up, a sort of ‘’rose tinted’’ element as I was looking back at and re-creating past events. The standalone image could have been doing with the paper photocopies extending out to fill the frame. I had wanted them to remain closer as a representation of me, but visually may have had greater impact had they extended out. For the final image a cooler tone added to the two representing the present may have been a better choice.