Notes for hangout 2/12/18

My main issue is with my A2 Photographing the Unseen, final presentation thereof for assessment. I photographed projections of fairies and unicorns in a domestic setting – title is currently “the Housework Fairies” although I know my tutor thought I could improve on this. The thing I need to consider is the feminist aspect of the work – although I presented it as about fairies there is a substantial aspect to the work too which can be strengthened without becoming didactic. Tutor feedback is provided at the end of this post.

I have been following a two-pronged approach for presentation. First off was prints. I’ve made these on 8 inch square lustre paper, the actual images are 5 inches square so there’s a deep border all around. I’m very happy with how they are turning out. The second prong was presenting images as a viewmaster reel in a viewmaster machine (it’s a contemporary version labelled Retro-View). I understood from a question posted on the OCA board that it was ok to submit both as long as it was clear which was the primary.

Un-bordered print
Contemporary version of View-Master

However, I preferred the prints to the viewmaster. They seem to carry a surprising amount of authenticity as documents., surprising given that they are not authentic documents. I think they must inherit that authenticity because they are prints. They carry detail, the Retro-View images carry novelty, a toy like quality. The prints referenced the Cottingley Fairies. The Viewmaster felt shiny and temporaneously confused by comparison.  I think both approaches are valid but neither can tell the complete story on its own. I wondered about the prints as family vernacular archive, and though about how we present the archive, and ended up with a 1950s biscuit tin.


So we have prints in a biscuit tin, but that’s not adding a lot to the feminist reading. Then I looked at the tin and its foregrounding of choirboys, with women tiny in the background. I looked on ebay at vintage View-Masters, saw this image and for the first time appreciated the gendering implicit in the name, reinforced by the packaging.

ebay viewmaster
Vintage View-Master, image credit @timewarp14 on

From there it was a short mental leap to Berger’s comments “Men look at women . Women watch themselves being looked at.” But then I wonder if I’ve added 2 and 2 and made 5, or if I’ve simply identified the male gaze in very clunky terms. Then I think of that common female experience of being watched doing the housework and I see how the open feminist loop can be closed here.

Moving back to the practical, I can put the prints in the biscuit box along with a vintage View-Master and a modern reel perhaps in an original sleeve. I can pack the box with tissue paper, and pages from old women’s magazines. We then have three elements – fairies, feminism/the male gaze and the family archive, that hopefully will feel less constructed in real life than describing it does. I’m still not sure though, I think I might just have to assemble the whole thing and see how it works in practice. Whatever I put together will have to work in the cold light of a Barnsley day at assessment next March, and anything more than a simple set of prints will have to justify itself.

Tutor feedback on this assignment : Kate Aston assignment 2 feedback.doc

11 thoughts on “Notes for hangout 2/12/18

  1. Andy December 2, 2018 / 12:01 pm

    Really appreciate how much time you put into considering presentation (I’m a little thin when it comes to this). I do think it will appear less constructed in real life. Also, thought about the Berger reference as I read (before you mentioned it). I guess that’s a good thing?

    • Kate December 2, 2018 / 4:06 pm

      Thanks Andy. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of Berger… wonder what that seventies boy is doing now? The presentation is integral to the work for me… sometimes that’s a mixed blessing.

  2. sarahdandrews December 5, 2018 / 6:57 am

    As ever, so imaginative Kate. I do wonder whether this whole argument re housework and feminism is becoming retro? I know a good many men who do all the housework these days, of all ages. Whilst I am sure Berger was correct in his time, but today may it also be true in reverse, And what about GLBT?
    For years I have referred to the “mistress copy” of documents and tapes …Just musing. Your work is brilliant, and as the choir’boys’ are in dresses I am sure the asexual fairies can keep their skirts!

    • Kate December 6, 2018 / 3:27 pm

      Thank you Sarah. When I started doing the research for this, ages back, I though I would find that it was no longer a thing. It is though, even though there are more men sharing the housework or doing more of it than used to be the case. I took one of my rejected prints to give to a friend who has just taken a full time job 30 minutes from home and has the school run to do too (she used to work locally part time). Her partner is between contracts, but she still lost an entire weekend to laundry, ironing, and cleaning. There’s an interesting article about it here – .

      I honestly don’t know about LGBT. Something to think about!

      • sarahdandrews December 6, 2018 / 7:20 pm

        Thanks so much for thinking about my off the wall comments Kate. And for the Guardian link. I think I knew the stats really, but on the personal front I also know things are changing.
        I do know professional colleagues of all ages who have male partners/husbands who really do do their share. I have been incredibly fortunate , I do the laundry through choice but Nick does the housework. Quite a coup in 1972! Our son certainly does the housework and half the ironing.
        My paternal grandfather did the housework when I was a child, which must have been most unusual! Perhaps this has something to do with having Suffragette grandmothers?
        LGBT and transgender, especially in children is a growing issue which leads me back to ‘choir-persons’ in dresses and bisexual fairies?!

      • sarahdandrews December 6, 2018 / 7:21 pm

        Thank you!

      • sarahdandrews December 6, 2018 / 7:30 pm

        Interesting how we have moved on since this article was written. Especially re legality of relationships. Great to be reminded of Jan Pahl. She and I worked together back in the day around elder abuse.

    • Kate December 6, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      Thanks Sarah! The View-Master arrived today and it’s definitely a boy 😀 I think they did make some with impeccably well-groomed women on the box too.

      • sarahdandrews December 6, 2018 / 6:56 pm

        Thanks Kate! Have you noticed the universal label “Masterclass” related to photography?! I have for years referred deliberately to “Misstress Class” to provoke!

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