A5 Big girls’ pants – rework

The physical photograms are the submitted work. The prints below are a tighter crop than the originals.

This has not felt so much like rework as like evolution. My tutor feedback was terrifically useful, when I viewed it in conjunction with other peer and hangout feedback I had a clear way forward, the most pressing feedback was to investigate making the work on larger paper than the original work. I decided to go back to the darkroom and remake the work on larger paper. I had used 12×16 Ilford RC Satin before, I talked to the darkroom owner and he kindly reset the darkroom with larger trays and a modified washer so that I could use 16×20 paper. He also ordered in larger paper so that he could make some larger prints too and I could benefit from the bulk price that he gets. We also had to mark up the enlarger table for correct paper positioning and ensure the head was correctly positioned. The reason for using larger paper was to give the images space to breathe on the paper. There is a tension in the smaller images as image and border fight, it’s not necessarily bad but I was curious to see what would happen if I used larger paper. I also wanted to ensure a greater consistency of background blacks across the photograms (or at least a narrower range of inconsistency). The differing blacks arise because photograms of much finer lace require less light in order to get a detailed image but you still need a long enough exposure length (the paper needs at least 10 seconds as a rule) without getting too much light, so you use a much narrower aperture and increase the magenta filter setting to boost contrast. This can result in a slightly lighter background black though, because of less light. I therefore worked with 25 second exposure at f22 and m=100 for the most delicate garments.

I worked with a smaller subset of garments, mainly ones that fitted well within the paper. They worked well on the larger paper, I loved the sense of isolation of the items on their velvety dark backgrounds. It did introduce the issue of centring the item on the paper, which hadn’t been an issue beforehand. One pair of pants could do with being more centred, but it was time to stop. I was then able to review my images with a peer to help identify a strong edit. At this point, I was happy with the idea of getting the numbers down. The prints are big, and will be a hassle at assessment if they don’t all contribute to the work. Looking at the work with Holly we omitted a stocking image and also the two bra images – this did hurt a bit as I loved the English Rose bra print. This meant that the set came down to four images of pants, which sit nicely in a (giant) grid. It also means that I have the opportunity to return to the original name for the work – Big Girls’ Pants – which works both in a literal and figurative sense.

The title has been something of a struggle. Here are the various titles that the work has had:

Big Girls’ Pants (this wasn’t liked by Jesse Alexander, who suggested “From Fox Talbot to Fetish”). It’s been well accepted by many viewers of the work, including women who tend to have very positive reactions to the phrase and who don’t see it as overtly sexual.

From Fox Talbot to Fetish – it took me a while to work out why I was uncomfortable with this title. It introduces the idea of the lace always being looked at and I think implies being looked at sexually probably by a man. I know that fetish has a wider meaning than underwear, but I think it’s hard to separate the two in this context. When I started the work I was inspired by Fox Talbot’s images of lace, but also by the real-world nature of underwear, that for women it’s a fact of life and a practical obect first and foremost that is rarely seen at life size. Introducing other people’s underwear to the work has muddied this intention – not for me, but for the viewer.

Smalls (this was the title for the handmade book that I showed at OCA Showcase and is also the series title for the two framed images that I’m showing at the Thames Valley Group exhibition in February 2019). People understood the title, with its reference to underwear, and it seemed appropriate for the small test strips in the book and the large matted and framed images for TVG.

A variety of other titles were considered – Full disclosure, Exposed, Over exposed.

Although this work was resolved by making the photograms bigger, the overruling direction has been to simplify. I took out the initial border and replaced it with a larger piece of glass. I took out the separate adornments. I stopped cutting the pants in half and the gussets out of the pants. I stopped using the glass, as suggested by early feedback. I only presented pants.

I am continuing with this work through my next course, UVC. I would like to print some of the work on silk or satin and perhaps sew that into handkerchiefs, silk scarves or even underwear. I’m intrigued by the idea of a coffee table book as suggested by Clive White on the forum, but I dont know if the images are now too large for that or not. I am excited by the idea of framing more of the work – pants and bra images that are individually framed and hung one above the other could really work. I also like the idea of showing the images at life size on a large screen and allowing viewers to interact by swiping across to see the next/previous image and by zooming into the detail with their fingertips. I don’t really know where this work wants to go next but it’s definitely not done and I look forward to exploring it further.

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6 thoughts on “A5 Big girls’ pants – rework

  1. Emma December 14, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    They look so good and it has been inspiring to watch this evolve. I love the fact it has come back to ‘Big Girls’ Pants’ it’s a phrase that has just wonderful imagery and memories for me from living in a house of 10 girls at uni.

    • Kate December 15, 2018 / 8:01 pm

      Thank you Emma. It has been a satisfying piece of work to make and I’ve been so grateful to everyone, yourself included, who’s helped to shape and refine it via honest and helpful critique.

    • Kate December 15, 2018 / 8:02 pm

      and yes, the title feels right. “Pants are coming home” 😀

  2. sarahdandrews December 20, 2018 / 1:04 pm

    Here I am , late again. I love this work and the way it has (and maybe?) will go on progressing. I especially like the background to the grid laid mostly on the carpet, but partly not. Difficult to explain why though. Something to do with the exotic and mundane? I need to think about it.

    • Kate December 20, 2018 / 2:52 pm

      Thank you! You’ve reminded me that I need to replace that placeholder image, when I can find sufficient December light in my north facing kitchen. Interesting point about the contrast, I hadn’t spotted that.
      I’ve signed up to UVC next so have given myself permission to carry on with this as a side project. It’s not done yet.

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