Having restarted working after a break I was surprised to see that I was just one exercise away from A2. I had encountered the Cottingley Fairies once again over Christmas – that hoax made by two young cousins in 1917 (one of whom worked for a photographer). The photographs sparked the attention of Conan Doyle, and the girls made further work using cameras given to them. The work was submitted to various technical experts for feedback, and one of the photographic companies commented that it was indeed a true record of whatever was in front of the camera at the time. Following on from Two Sides of the Story, this really made me think. The work was a true record of what was in front of the camera at the time, but that may or may have been fairies.
Like many others I would like for the reputed Housework Fairies to be a reality. I had worked on FiP with a child’s torch that projected images of the solar system, and was intrigued to find that there was a pink (obviously) version that projected images of unicorns and fairies. I tried it out at Imber at Christmas, but at minus 4 degrees it was too cold for my brain to work out how to focus it. Back in a centrally heated house, I started to play. There are the projections, but there’s also the possibility of using fairy lights within domestic appliances.
There are some challenges – the work has to be done in low light, for the images to show. So I need a tripod for the camera and a stand for the torch, as I can’t hold it still enough for the longer exposures. Problem 1 – finding a stand that can do the job without intruding either directly or via shadow into the photographs. Problem 2 – composing in the dark. Problem 3 – getting the exposure right so that the context to the fairies is visible too despite being in the dark (I think I need to run bracketed exposures for this and then merge them in PS). I ran the idea past an OCA open hangout and the result was generally positive with the proviso that I needed to improve the quality of the images, and that I should also consider a less neat and clean background otherwise it is simply a domestic shot.
Again, thanks to OCA input I have ordered a couple of flexible “arms” with clamps/clips that will allow me more flexibility in positioning and stabilising the torch, and hence the tripod, especially in smaller spaces.
Contextually, there is something to dig into here. My Grandmothers and their mothers would have laughed roundly at me complaining about housework, given that I have machines that do so much of it, a small family that was entirely of my choosing, and I am currently in the fortunate position of being a most-of-the-time student and some-of-the-time amateur musician whilst my young daughter is at school. I have a partner who’s happy to share some of the load, particularly cooking. My two northern grannies would have looked at the flashing LEDs and jingles on the various appliances and pointed out that I have no need of fairies.
The fairies are unseen, but so is much of the housework done in the UK – often by women who are working full time plus jobs as well as looking after shopping, cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, often for more than one household. A quick online search suggests that the Daily Mail believes women are now doing less housework than ever and that those women who do more housework will live longer. Other sources (eg the Guardian article below) are quoting weekly workloads of thirteen hours a week or more, on top of other paid work. In Sweden, you can deduct half the cost of services such as cleaning, cooking, gardening from your tax return, a policy that has created many thousands of new jobs.
Housework is invisible – we do it when the house is empty, it’s something that we have to get out of the way before we can do the other stuff. It’s always there. Even now, women are judged for the quality of their housework, by people who have never seen the homes in question. Who remembers Godfrey Bloom of UKIP, telling a group of three female politicians that they were “sluts” because they admitted to not cleaning behind their fridges? Hillary Clinton, more recently, was told to get out of the public eye and back to her knitting. We’re held to impossible standards of cleanliness, freshness, sterility, minimalism against a barrage of products aimed to fill our homes, handbags and time. Woman, know thy place.
Below a few of the trial images, some are from my mobile. Shooting will start once the clamps are here but I’ll continue with test shots in the meantime and work out what and how I want to photograph.
This is not one of the assignments that cheerfully almost does itself while I chase behind with the camera. It’s Thursday, study day, and once again I’m struggling to get up and off the kitchen chair. There are images on the camera from a bit of work last night, the new clamps are working well and it’s work that although undoubtedly not great at the moment has a lot of potential. It’s a theme that resonates with and is relevant to so many others, so why is it so hard? Answer, I think, is that I’m photographing things that I’d rather not be looking at, and that certainly I’m uncomfortable with sharing. Yesterday I found my nine year old furiously pointing out a trail of cat poo nuggets up the stairs topped by one of those unidentifiable cat fluid stains – our 17 year old cat is poorly – and I was caught between the need to clean up and disinfect immediately and the slightly creepy and disconcerting desire to leave it another hour til dusk so I could photograph it with a fairy.
Anyway, now that’s out of the way (I compromised – cleaned up the poo and left the fluid which may or not have been cat sick for later) – it’s time to make a coffee, put on some music and crack on with photographing more of the things that I’d rather weren’t seen…
Note – there’s a feeling of trappedness coming through here – of something that was in the dark being forced into the light. Fits nicely with the Photographing The Unseen, but rather more discomforting than I expected. #houseworkfairiesofinstagram ?