Research

There are a number of image makers I looked into when working on this project, some of which I already knew of and others were new discoveries.

Richard Billingham

Billingham created a photo series named “Ray’s a laugh” (2000). These images document life in his family home with his alcoholic Father and Mother and all of the trials he faced there every day. It is extremely honest and real and offers an insight into parts of life which aren’t always photographed.

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During my research and investigations into this very personal documentary Photography, I discovered a book created by a previous student here at Plymouth College of Art. It is titled “The Private Life of Victoria Davies” by J.C.D and seems to document the life of the Photographers elderly relative.

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Sian Davey

Another Photographer who has been an inspiration to me from the first time I discovered her work over a year ago, is Sian Davey. She documents her relationship with her Daughter Alice who has Downs Syndrome and the family dynamics surrounding them. I think her work is beautiful, honest, raw and touching and speaks to everyone in a different way. She is also currently working on an ongoing project about her step daughter, Martha and her relationship with her throughout her adolescent years.

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Don McCullin

McCullin is famous for his long career in Photography, particularly as a Photojournalist. When he was called up for National Service with the Royal Air Force, he took with him his twin reflex Rolleicord camera and photographers is friends and comrades. Although these people were not direct family, they must have became like a sort of dysfunctional family and these images were a window into such hardship but also relationships.

High Alert, Friedrichstrasse Crossing, Berlin 1961 by Don McCullin born 1935don-mccullin-the-guvnors-web

 

Final Publication

In terms of my final publication, I had an idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like. I wanted to create a photobook which was hard back bound and had a simple leather look cover.

I decided I wanted to find a local business to bound the book so it felt a bit more personal and I could have more control over it. Previously I have used blurb to create a book and it felt almost too easy to do. This time, I visited ‘The Art Side’ in Plymouth and had a discussion with them, looking through sample books and then booked in an appointment. They were happy to help me create the publication I wanted and also were able to emboss the front cover of my book.

In terms of a title, I found it surprisingly easy to come up with one. I knew I wanted it to be something that made the reader thing ‘what does this mean? what is this book about?’ so it wasn’t immediately obvious to everyone what it is about. I also wanted it to be about my Grandma obviously. She is half welsh and spent a lot of her childhood in Wales and her maiden name is very welsh ‘Olwen Morgan’.

I decided to google the Welsh word for Grandma which is ‘Nain’. It felt perfect because it’s simple and intriguing and defines the whole publication well.

It was very simple to do and I was involved for a lot of the process. I sat with the staff and talked him through the order of the images and all the finer details. It only took a few hours for him to make it and I was able to come back a few days later and collect it. It cost around £25 and because I didn’t need shipping, that lowered the cost a lot.

The following images were printed in the publication.

 

Silent Crit.

As part of the critiquing of our work and receiving feedback from the rest of the cohort and programme leaders, I was involved in a silent crit.

This meant that we were put in a small group and we all laid our image selection out on a table. In silence, we all had to look at each others images and take a note of our initial reactions to the images as well as our after thoughts (what do the images mean? what feelings do we get from them?) and following this, we were allowed to voice these to each other but the image maker in question was to remain silent until the end.

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I found this whole concept really helpful. Not only did I receive some interesting feedback but I was also able to increase my confidence in speaking in a group and critiquing other work.

When I was listening to the feedback I took a few notes of comments that stood out to me. I was pleased to hear that a couple of people felt a sense of mystery from the imagery as this is subconsciously something I wanted to put across. I wanted viewers to ‘read’ my Grandmother and come up with their own interpretations. I guess that’s what happens when you observe other people you don’t know. There is always a sense of mystery as you wonder if they’re happy, what they’ve been through in their life and how it differs from yours.

They also discussed the ‘timbre’ of my images and how they felt wholesome/ happy. I was also glad about this because I believe my relationship with my Grandma is very wholesome and loving and positive.

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Project progress

I continued making images towards this project of our daily routines, things we like to do together. I tried to include the monotonous with the more stand out images.

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I always kept my camera with me so that it was easy for me to grab it and take a photograph. The above image was of a meal I made for her and left in front of her chair on a tray. We often eat together in the lounge with our dinner on trays. I wanted to capture that and all the underlying facts such as she always likes a glass of juice with her dinner, ‘her’ chair which has the look of being used as the pillows are left with evidence that someone had been there. It is exactly how she left it.

81091112131516The above images are from a walk up to Devils Point, Plymouth. This is just a short walk up the road from my Grandmothers house and is somewhere she is very proud to live by. I have so many memories of going here as a child, swimming in the sea pool, getting ice cream from the cafe and playing football and tennis in the courts. Grandma has many links to this area, from visiting Nazareth house (the retirement home over looking Devils Point), her marriage to my Granddad and their naval links and her history of over 30 years here in Plymouth. She brought up her four children here (amongst other places) and then her 11 grand children, formed her Christian faith, made many lasting friendships and found a career she loved.1718

I also wanted to in some way capture her history in this publication and very conveniently, one day she was going through her extensive amount of boxes and photo albums. These boxes contained photos of her childhood, her children and grandchildren. Many images I had never seen which brought back a lot of memories and we had a really special evening looking through these boxes together. She also had letters from her family including a letter from her Mother which she received 3 days before she passed away.

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I wanted to include the above two images. The first is of my Grandma and I when I was very young. It symbolises our relationship then and now. The constant unconditional love and support as well as the fact that my Grandma has always been fun and although she can’t physically do everything she did back then, she still tries and at the age of 87 (following two hip replacements) still plays football with my 7 year old brother!

The next photo is a cut out from a news paper in the 70’s. By chance, she was offered the job at the nursery in a time of uncertainty for her and it became a huge passion for her. She is still in contact with many of her colleagues from these days as well as some of the parents of the children she looked after. She obviously had a big impact in lots of these individuals lives, just like she has in mine.

Initial thoughts.

When I first began this project, I had a number of ideas and so began in the same way I do with most of my projects and collated all my thoughts into a mind map.

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I basically wrote a note of everything that interested me, or future project ideas I have waiting for an opportunity to pursue them. Mainly, they are documentary based pieces of work as that is what I have found I am passionate about. I wanted to be able to create a publication that tells a narrative, an important thought to bring to the viewers attention.

Last year, I made a series of images documenting my Grandmothers house and the memories those walls hold.

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At the end of February this year, I decided to leave my student accommodation and move to the other side of Plymouth, to live with my Grandma. She welcomed me instantly, with all of my belongings and has been a big support to me since.

I have sort of taken over her house, with my extreme quantity of clothing and camera equipment but theres a lot of positive things that have come out of this move. I make her dinner and cups of tea most days and help out as much as I can. Before this year, our relationship was very different. I would visit her frequently and we’d spend a lot of time as a family on special occasions and for holidays. It is hard to explain the change that has happened, but its almost like we’ve become dependant on each other now that we live together. I don’t know where i’d be right now if she hadn’t taken me in or if I’d even still be pursuing my degree and I also hope that I make her life a little easier. Her boiler broke recently and this caused her a lot of anxiety, something which most people wouldn’t get so worked up about, really caused her a lot of stress. As well as this, a few of her friends have passed away in the last few months. I’m really glad that I have been around more for her during this time as we have had some really important conversations and I’ve been able to support her through the grieving process more than just a chat over the phone of over a coffee.

As soon as I realised this is what I wanted to do with this project, I instantly began photographing her and our life.

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To me, this is my life and is very much ‘the norm’ for us now. Evenings spent watching quiz shows on her small TV with a cup of tea but this is what I wanted to document. I also had the idea of keeping a diary of events or quotes made by her.

We had a book binding workshop, where I made a small hard back perfect bound book. Last year, for my complementary studies module I chose book binding and learnt a variety of techniques for hand binding books which resulted in making a publication. It was helpful to have a workshop to refresh this in my head and I’m very pleased with the outcome. I decided to use this small bound book to create a scrap book diary for this project. I think it will be something I will be doing for many years to come to continue documenting our relationship and how it will change and develop over time as I’m sure it will.

The following images are the techniques I learn last year, from mini books to perfect bound books. The technique practiced during the work shop was slightly different but gave the same outcome.

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I purchased a roll of brown paper which I tore and stuck into the book. I wanted it to seem quite hand made and rustic in a way. My thought was that I would scan these pages and add them to the publication at the relevant stages of the book.