Inspired by: Tracey Emin

During lockdown, learning different ways of being creative is especially important to me, and so when I saw dotdotart had nominated me for her Tracey Emin themed Insta gallery this time around, I wanted to take myself out of that comfortable photography box that I am used to. This time using Photoshop as my main tool of creativity.

A little back story on Tracey Emin, is that she’s – in a nutshell – a jack of all trades, from self-portraits, to artistic experimentations with everyday objects, all the way to abstract sculptures. Her work has a minimal relation to my current study, looking at sexually provocative pieces of work, and is also, an autobiography of her own life and lived experiences.

Emin’s neon artistic displays were what influenced my imagery on this particular occasion. I remember seeing similar work in the Tate in 2018, and I am always completely mesmerised by the beauty of something so simple. It really does bring you in. I am a big fan of the pop of colour, with minimal detail. Not only this, but her choice of words throughout her practice is particularly striking, sometimes humorous, and also intriguing. Emin, in my eyes, really has no restrictions on what she says or does, which makes for a powerful, impacting body of work.

So I knew there was no way of being able to make sculpturistic light displays, so instead I needed to learn ways to do this on Photoshop. I firstly used some stock imagery to produce some practice displays, that would curate a simple neon light, similar to that you would see in a bar/pub, which I could them co-operate in to my own photographs.

So once I had learnt the logistics of being able to curate a realistic enough style, I then chose to experiment with the imagery. Starting with a photograph I had already take during lockdown, to see how I incorporate something in a busier image:

This, I felt did not look how I wanted it to, it didn’t have much of a realistic look to it. Very much a boring image with some text stuck on the top of it. This made me realise the image needed to be something new, and staged to produce the neon light effect with in it, which is why I photographed quite a plain area, adding a bit light here and there, making for an easier edit, and cleaner photograph.

Inspired by: Andy Warhol

As mentioned in previous posts, @dotdotart (the lovely Léa Jackson) on Instagram has been keeping people entertained, and more importantly creative during the course of these tricky times. Her artist themed weekly Insta gallery have definitely been something I have looked forward to each week.

Week 2 was a theme surrounded by the marvelously, talented Andy Warhol, the leading creative of the Pop Art movement, a monumental change in the art world. From Marilyn Monroe diptychs to a photograph representing the Civil Rights Movement, Andy Warhol was, and still is an inspiration in the art world. As nominated by Dotdotart, I decided to experiment, and produce work that was completely out of the norm for me. I was toing and froing all week, ‘what am I going to do?’, ‘can I even represent this artist?’ but I realised that I was thinking too much on it, as it was a bit of fun, something people can enjoy, but also something people can use to bring back some positivity and excitement. So instead I just tested out different images.

Alike to some of Warhol’s work, I chose to use self-portraits, however these were ones that I had previously taken for my own experimentations. With these portraits, I wanted to learn how to curate a Pop Art vision through Photoshop. And although, very rough in imagery, I quite enjoyed having a bit of fun with the images, playing around with colours, and learning something new.

The one below, was a failed attempt – a bit scruffy, and almost as if a child has done it:

However, these next ones look a little better (I think I tried to distract your eyes from the scruffiness) by using them all together as a diptych:

A week of self-portraiture

I say a week, I got sick of looking at my face and only did 5 or 6 days…

Self-confidence, self-assurance, and admiring your own beauty is extremely difficult, and for some almost impossible. I am, unfortunately one of these people who finds it impossible to be okay with myself, which I guess is why I stay behind the camera, rather than in front. This isolation period has for some allowed people to become comfortable in their own skin, and I wish that was the same for me, in fact I have become repulsed with my own body, uncomfortable, and disturbed by what I see. I don’t know whether my indulgence of social media, the impulse to find new content, often including beautiful photographic sculptures of the body, or just my critical mind has taken over everything. All I know is it’s tricky, but facing these faults within myself using my creative outlet of photography could help.

So, using themes, personal experiences, and explanations about myself I photograph over a couple of days. I firstly, based the images on myself, and my looks in general, photographed multiple versions of standard self-portraits, and hated all of them! I decided to think about the way I can obscure myself, which I guess reflected that of the opinions for myself. So, the conversion from faced self-portraits, to the observations of body negativity, trying to obstruct that, became more impactful and important to me.

My following experiments was the exploration of my relationship with food, often great, often awful, however during lockdown horrific. One of the unattractive elements is to be photographed in the midst of eating, and I brought both together, which I felt not amazingly successful, however something to look for, in use of improvement.

Next was my preferable shoot. I wanted to explore themes of my clumsiness, and just be a little artistic, after watching Cat Garcia’s talk with Leica Akademie‘s Robin Sinha, and Garcia’s explanation of the importance of the use of light. I decided to photograph myself being more conscientious of the light around me. I never use artificial lighting, but I have also never photographed only myself before. So, this is where the problems arised. I knew that during specific times of the day I had the light hit inside my flat perfectly, but also at the times when it would be easy to project certain lighting on only specific areas of my face. I used a multitude of liquids on my face, exploring this disastrous side of me, and looked at it more artistically.

I have been trying to learn a little more about editing for collages, digital manipulations, and crossing imagery, so the next set of imagery was looking at these elements.

Week 1: Trying to be creative during lockdown

As everyone will know we are now in lockdown, and are now (I believe) on week 6 of being confined to our homes. Yes, I have been going slightly insane, and feel as though I have done everything I can possibly do, in this small flat, however, one thing that has helped me, has been the power of creativity, and the ability to experiment with my work.

I am ashamed to say that since finishing my Master’s in September last year, I have not picked up my camera. I didn’t fall out of love with it, I didn’t get bad grades, I just stopped photographing. Maybe I needed the break, but this current (stressful) pause from real-life, full-time employment, and trying to juggle everything, has allowed me to ‘get back on the horse’ as they say! I have used this time to produce work that maybe has no meaning, work that does not aim to be published, produced for a gallery, or as a professional piece. Just work that I am having fun with, and doing because I love the art form, and not because I have to do it.

It took me a while to even think of what to shoot, but Instagram was the perfect source for my influence, and guidance accounts such as: @eolhcsheppard has created the @isolationartclub which gives daily themes to help people to keep being creative.

Here are a list of other accounts producing either weekly themes, or accepting submissions for creative work during isolation:

  • The wonderful @dotdotart produces online art exhibitions weekly, via her Instagram story, based on specific artists, so keep an eye out for that!
  • @rankinarchive produces themes on a weekly basis, so that you can submit work at the end of each week.
  • The renowned Martin Parr Foundation @martinparrfdn, also sets weekly challenges, all selected my the legend himself.

I imagine there are hundreds more, and it’s incredibly refreshing the amount of new creative work I am seeing online everyday. I really hope it stays!!

So for the work I am producing myself in the first week of isolation, I have decided to just photograph my surrounds, mainly within my home, but the areas of life that are mundane. Below are a small selection of the photographs I took. Light being my main attraction throughout, I wanted to experiment with a natural light source, and produced this imagery.

The Photographic Theorist

This is more of an appreciation post than anything, but this talented, hardworking individual has been my guidance for more than likely a year now. Not-only has she provided me with the graft it takes to produce successful writings and work, but she has given me insights in to the life of a London-living sex worker in the 21st century. But most importantly she is undergoing her PhD, in an intellectual, and strong piece of work, that will give people insight from an honest perspective, about the sex industry, and how imagery depicts sex workers.

I want to use this post so that people can follow her research and understand the lives of those in the sex industry. Keep an eye out for her amazing published articles soon to come.

Not only that, but I recently came across Camille’s blog, of which I believe is an absolute insight, but also produces such an intellect on her research and personal stories of being a sex worker.

You Paid For Me…

As a social difference, and a split within opinions, sex work, and it’s relationship with society is somewhat rocky. These are the relationships I investigated heavily through the last year of both Academia, and my practical experimentations. It is a project I have however been unable to talk about for many unfortunate reasons: one being the negative reactions caused by my research, often the stereotypical objective comments, but also more importantly for my subjects safety, and privacy. Despite this, I wanted to use this post to acknowledge my project as a whole.

With sex work labelled in many areas as: dirty, disgusting, so on and so forth, there are a small amount of sex workers, who live in the same depicted setting of ‘Sex, Drugs and Murders’, using it as a device to survive, and abusing the novelty of drug culture. When in actual reality you might have walked past a sex worker taking her child to school this morning, you’ve probably stood behind someone from the sex industry, in the queue in Tesco’s, who knows, but, what I am trying to explain is the idea that sex workers are just like any other person, doing a job like any other, and trying to live a life like any other. As a body of work suggesting these points, having individuals to represent these values was especially important, but what was more important was the way in which they were being viewed. I want to show everyone else what I have learnt from interacting with my subject, not only that they are normal human beings, but they all have interesting stories to tell, and their opinions themselves are divided to how the sex industry is affecting the society surrounding, using imagery, videography, and interviews, which is represented in my dummy book ‘You Paid For Me’.

I think this post is not only trying to introduce my topic, but to remind myself that I am beginning a practice that opens mine and others minds, but also produces a unique body of work, so to carry it on with my best intentions. London is the best place for me to produce more content, and work, establishing new subjects, and hopefully producing a network of individuals willing bring themselves onboard with my project.

Should I be embarrassed that I work in hospitality after just receiving my MA?

When beginning the next hurdle of my life – starting a job – I convinced myself that I NEEDED to find a job in the creative industry, otherwise I am a failure. In my mind it would not work. If I found something different, that would be my dreams lost completely.

But here I am anyway… working in hospitality, on full-time work, hourly wages, and rota’d shifts, the complete opposite to my initial plans. But I have come to realise that it’s not that easy, you don’t just get a degree and suddenly a job comes with it, you have to put the time, effort and determination in. I know for certain I am not the only one with these worries, because most individuals I know have the same concerns as myself, which ultimately should stop me from being so downhearted about my situation. However, the reasonable thoughts get blocked out, and you start to presume everything to be the worst it could possibly be. Realistically it actually couldn’t be a better predicament.

I have been able to present myself into a new environment, and meet completely new people, who some of which, are also going through the same motions as myself, which is comforting. I have moved to a brand new city, so I have enabled myself to curate a small group of like-minded people. Not only this, but I have given myself the time out of work, to ensure I stay in contact with professionals, educators, or successful creatives to envision where I will go next with my career. I have been able to work on my portfolio, assist photographers, and also have a relatively calm job whilst doing-so, and these are aspects that make it so much more worthwhile.

All in all, the answer to my question ‘should I be embarrassed – or even ashamed – to be in the workplace I hadn’t initially planned to be involved in?’ Is absolutely not, I am still using this as my learning curve, and I know I am determined to progress myself. I mean, I got through University didn’t I? So, what’s stopping me after that mindfield!!

Starting something new

I am a month out of University, and have come to the decision that I am going to record and track my experiences of being out of University.

It is common knowledge that there are struggles when leaving university, whether you are looking for creative work, or experience problematic differences of full-time work from full-time education. This is why I have chosen to reflect on these experiences and hurdles that I may come across. I will however, discuss any up to date exhibitions, work I am making, who I am working with and also how I have done this.

I wanted to use this post, to share some of the websites I have used, to network with other creatives, find jobs and ask any valuable questions. Here are some really good resources for people in the same position as myself:

Drawing to a Conclusion

The Empty Shop Project brief was an eye-opener to working alongside other creative professionals, although I was put with an amazing, cooperative group, I need to get used to the concept of working with several individuals, as I am very much used to being creative by myself. I was lucky enough to be put with 5 other creatives whom have different backgrounds and cultures to me, and we were able to bring all of these aspects together, to create something unique to any other concept.

Not only this, but working with mainly graphic designers has helped me learn some new aspects of different softwares, however it might have also been slightly more beneficial to have some individuals from other departments involve with us, such as: fashion or textiles, to give some input on styling and the fashion side of our concept. Despite not having the professionals for this side of the module, the group however, did an amazing job making something that could definitely pull itself off as something legit.

We struggled to meet up outside of lectures, because of personal timetables and commitments with other modules. Although, I feel as though we pulled through this and successfully communicated other social media, and the occasional meet to discuss updates. We were particularly successful in giving each other a heads up on any working progresses, or anything that was finalised to ensure we were all in agreement, and this is why we did so well to produce the work we did.

Presentation and Pitching

Throughout the course of this module we practiced pitching and presenting our ideas. This was in the run up to the showcase and a final presentation, and although these practices have helped it was still particularly nerve-racking knowing you will be stood in front of the rest of your peers, presenting the concept you and your group have come up with.

Despite all the nerves, I feel as though it was a successful presentation this week, and I am very happy with how we presented our idea to all of our tutors and peers. We organised the pitch in a way that would be presentable, and understandable. With Uzeaf making the presentation because he is handy with InDesign and his graphic design knowledge allows him to be able to curate professional presentations, we looked like we could really do this. The feedback we received was positive, and I feel we all did amazing to keep our cool. Well done team Sk8ers!