Very happy with this feedback – it’s detailed and helpful with lots to think about.
Returning to this sometime after the rework was largely done. This is the piece of work that changed a lot for me. After looking at the grid of images I booked in with my GP, the result several tests and scans later was a trial course of (utterly fantastic) HRT and most likely a full hysterectomy in January 2019 followed by HRT. So I only have two or three periods left before starting a new phase of my life. That’s made it hard to come back to this work, even though I am positive about the future.
I was interested by Andy’s discussion of the merits of making the work with my phone compared to the more formal portrait methodology of Roni Horn (You are the weather) or Rineke Dijkstra’s series of women post childbirth and matadors post bullfight. I suppose the contrast is that my series is not post anything, but during, in the midst of, and my work was self portraiture rather than me photographing someone else. I do admire the precision of Horn’s work particularly. I think the mobile format worked for me – especially considering the very small size in pixels of the app screens compared to the large image size made by my dslr. Even the relatively small image size from my iPhone selfie camera was much bigger than the app screen grabs.
I was happy that the grid conveyed the idea of moving through the cycle, of exploring and creating an image for every day of the cycle. It was liberating not to have to worry about one good image, or no good images or five good images. When I consider Andy’s question about my favourite images, I agree that not all of the images are equally compelling. That’s fine though, not all of the days were equally compelling either. I very much like the layout of day 25, the geometry of it, but the image that I think sums everything up for me is day 24, when I stepped out of the back door into a snow storm mirroring the inner turmoil of PMS. I also like the juxtaposition in day 5 – International Women’s Day with feeling completely washed out.
It was interesting to follow up Andy’s suggestions of artists to look at. The Nick Turpin reference delighted me – his Night Bus series inspired my series on red telephone boxes for EYV A4. I was intrigued by how Andy saw “a connection in dramatic ambiguity” between his work and mine – distortions through glass and “constantly casting doubt”.
Lucas Samaras is an interesting reference too, though it’s been challenging to find high quality versions of his work to look at. He worked with Polaroids, amongst a vast range of other materials, and had an exhibition titled “Unrepentant Ego: the Self Portraits of Lucas Samaras” that contained 400 works. He manipulated his Polaroids during development by hand or stylus, resulting in Polaroid initially asking him to stop doing so. This moves his self portraits away from the idea of a self portrait photograph as a record. There’s an essay abut Samaras’ Polaroids in Grundberg’s Crisis of the Real where Grundberg opens by saying that Samaras’ work is “unruly, impulse and emotional” and this did ring a bell with me. The Polaroid allows him to be both observer and observed, and the format’s intrinsic borders, and the grids that he then arranged the images in, then serve to contain the work. He subverts the friendly, all American Polaroid into a way of making cathartic work.
I found the Sarah Lucas book through a second hand seller. The work made me think – I was not comfortable with all of it but I suspect that’s the point, and it’s worth considering that some people probably have the same response to my work. I find her work crass and clever, the book is hard to read not just because of the pictures but also because it’s not the kind of book I can read in a crowded cafe or whilst waiting at one of my daughter’s after-school clubs. This is more a problem with me than with the book. I’m also uncomfortably aware that the reason I can make my work is because artists like Sarah Lucas have pushed back the boundaries of subects that we can make art about. Her self portraits are assertive and bold, uniformly framed, which makes me think of the credibility that a frame can add, even to an image of her sat in just a t-shirt on the toilet, holding a cigarette. I think I will keep coming back to this book.
Finally Jenny Saville. I am engaged by the exhuberance of her work, the refusal to make people smaller. Looking back at her work as I edit this post for assessment, I am reminded of how important it was to me to show the photograms at life size for A5. Her work shows everything, in huge detail. It’s quite swamping, even when just seen via a laptop computer screen.
Crisis of the Real Andy Grundberg, aperture 3rd ed 1999 p114-117