I’m very aware that this blog is currently light on reflective writing. My practice seems to have changed over the last couple of months and a lot is going on with it that hasn’t really been documented here.
About three months ago I approached some of the women whose work, approach and thinking all inspire me with a view to setting up a small collective. There are four of us, a number which works well for the moment as it is a commitment that needs time in order to deliver benefits, and that time has to be balanced against life and study. We interact over WhatsApp, share resources via Evernote and have shared activities such as reviewing the same video or making work on the same theme. It’s difficult to quantify all the benefits arising from it but two are becoming increasingly apparent for me.
Firstly, the need to start saying yes to the right questions, to start putting my work out there. I can always find reasons to say no, and it’s easier to say no than to say yes as saying “yes” inevitably involves a risk of some sort, a step outside my comfort zone. I’m not the only woman in this position, but in order to start putting my work out there, I need to start putting my stuff out there and I’m more confident that with the support of others who are making that journey too I will be able to do this.
Secondly, one of the reasons I end up saying No is a lack of technical savvy. For someone who was all about the materiality, I was never making my own prints unless they were squirted out of my Polaroid. I’m now starting to make my own darkroom prints, and bought a Canon A3+ printer, which is invoking a massive learning curve. It’s not just knowing how to print, it’s knowing about having the most appropriate colour space to begin with, understanding not just to set up soft proofing but also how to spot the problems and then fix them. It’s learning about calibration and calibrated monitors, printer profiles, and papers, and pulling back from all of that and working coolly on just changing one thing at a time. The peer collective gives me both support and technical guidance when I need them.
So some of the time away from this blog has been because of stepping away from the ideas flow, the “working though the course” flow and spending time getting my hands dirty, working on the things that I always thought I couldn’t do. The end of C&N is in sight and I can afford to take some time working on the skills that will enable better work.
One of the areas that I’m starting to think about more (because of the group work and because of the Reading Group Hangouts that I attend) is that of the gaze – male and female, and representation. As my daughter approaches her teens it is so interesting to look where she looks for her influences, and to make sure that she realises that she has choices in her identity and her actions. Ironically, digging into Photoshop to improve my skills reminded me of the ubiquity of the male gaze, as I flicked through Scott Kelby’s Photoshop CC 2014 book and saw dozens of perfect images of perfect young women engaged solely with the camera and nowt else. Brides, several of them, always with no partner. Beautiful women gazing out above the title “Little Problems” subtitled “fixing common problems”. Which makes me wonder if it’s not just strands of flyaway hair that are regarded as the “problem” so much as the entire woman. There is one woman over fifty shown in the entire book, and she is walking with her back to us, with a stick and a shopping bag. Her image appears adjacent to a title “Wet Streets and Cobblestones” and for the purposes of the tutorial she’s entirely irrelevant. There’s only one older man in the book too, but he is wearing a cowboy hat and is the main focus of the image, facing the camera. I should probably point out that there is a small handful of chiselled stubbled jaws in the Kelby book too, plus Kelby himself in the video section. Personally I wish that Julieanne Kost would write a book on Photoshop, I am impressed by the way that she can demonstrate techniques without using images that are hackneyed tropes. When companies like Adobe are starting to introduce diversity into their stock images it would be good to see that diversity extended to the learning materials that bear their name too. At least now I know why I always picked up Kelby with a sinking heart, he has missed an opportunity with his selection of images. Hopefully the new edition will be better, but I suspect that until Kost writes a book I will just update my Evening textbook which has, in my view, a more engaging choice of images.
I need to start gathering in some of these strands of thinking and condensing them into blog posts.