Reclaim the River – prize

Uncategorized

2022 got off to a good start, as I won a commission in a design competition for Woolwich. I responded to a brief to make something for Myrtle Alley that explored women’s safety at night. It’s funny because I was expecting to be making something about the history of Woolwich, the old and the new, which really intrigues me. But, I was always avoiding this particular alley after dark, even if it was only 4pm, and I had never given that a second thought to that until this brief came along. Why should I have to avoid this convenient shortcut? I wondered if other women also avoided it.

At the same time Greenwich Council launched a map where women could drop a pin at areas where they felt unsafe. You can fill in the survey and make suggestions to spend money on lighting, cameras, etc … but it finally dawned on me that it wasn’t the “space” itself that was unsafe, it was the predators that might lurk in the dark corners that make it unsafe, and no amount of cameras and lighting will get at that root cause.

At the same time Greenwich Council launched a map where women could drop a pin at areas where they felt unsafe. You can fill in the survey and make suggestions to spend money on lighting, cameras, etc … but it finally dawned on me that this wasn’t addressing the root cause of the violence, and we will be still walking around scared, because there will always be some dark corners left.

My idea for “Dark Alley” just came popped straight out of my head, like all the best ideas do. I would photograph women passing by and ask them what they thought of the alley and take a photo of them. I’d been working with boxes a lot in 2021, there was Deptford X where I painted on cardboard boxes, and the commission for London Alternative Photography where I cyanotyped the inside of a Ilford paper box. This time I wanted to use the wooden crates that I would sometimes see discarded in the street, and around the market stalls.

I wanted to light up the alley, so it wasn’t so dark and scary, and so it stopped to make people think. I decided to put lights inside the photo boxes.

Of course when you make a pie-in-the-sky design like this, you never dream that you will win and end up making it ! So here I am today on the 5th day of sawing, glueing and assembling those crate ‘frames”, splinters in my fingers, solder burns from the wiring …. it was not as easy as it looks ! Let alone making transparent sunprints in January from fast street portraits.

The hardest part was that I had photographed about 12 women and had to narrow it down to only 6 for the final installation. But I will be posting each of the women a nice print. I am so pleased by my own bravery with street photography that I might continue this into a larger project – the light , the people , and the changing architecture are very special in Woolwich. I have known the place for 30yrs and when I compare my memories , with the post-pandemic town, there is a massive difference that I learn so much from, you can see how the future might go.

I am really proud that I’ve used mostly recycled materials. Including some red drapes which I made from netting from a building site. The fronds will drape down and tickle you as you go through the alley – a bit like the ghost train at the fairground. I remember feeling so scared when I was a kid on the Ghost Train, and its exactly the same feeling I get when I reach the bend of this dark alley. Fear is funny thing, you imagine the worst things that can happen, the adrenaline comes, and then when you exit the alleyway you breathe a sigh of relief. You were one of the lucky ones.

Its been great having the support of Resolve Collective and Lison, who have been working really hard getting everything ready for the opening this Saturday 12th Feb. There is another prizewinner Evie painting silhouettes onto the alley walls – so we will certainly be brightening up this neglected space that the locals call “piss alley”.

I am really grateful for this opportunity to have made something site-specific and sculptural – it certainly stretched me out of my comfort zones. I am proud of what I am creating.

On Saturday 12 Feb the organisers are leading a tour around the artworks dotted about Woolwich town centre. I will be there. There are 2 further walks on Sunday, I am not sure if I will be at those, but contact me if you are going and I will do my best.

The following Friday I am doing a photo walk around Woolwich – mainly for film shooters, but anyone is welcome, I will take you past some of the artworks then too.

Mistress of Photography

photography, Uncategorized

So I was playing with the “FaceApp” on Instagram that gives a very convincing gender swap effect ! And I looked at the male version of me with my camera and thought “how would this guy be regarded if he walked into a room for a shoot? or to impress a gallery owner?” . I think he looks a real hotshot doesn’t he? (Of course we are both in need of post-lockdown haircuts!) He looks like he is confident, artistic and accomplished … whereas I look at myself and I see a flakey housewife or multi-tasking mum. This has made me examine my own prejudices. Women are prone to ‘imposter syndrome’ and I still have to pinch myself when I get an award or commission.

Darkrooms and camera clubs have long been the territory of mainly men. But I am pleased to say our group darkroom The Gate has a large number of women at the helm, and the local camera club (Woolwich Aperture) also seems around 50/50 so we are doing well in this region.

In colleges there are many more women studying photography than men. And yet at the professional level men wipe the board.

Its all food for thought. When I look up to “Master Printers” and “Magnum Photographers” they are almost exclusively male. I’ve always aspired to be a “Master Printer”, but is that even possible? Perhaps I would be a “Mistress Printer”?! How many men do I know that print photos on fabric? Zero.

I come from a background in TV when I was often the only woman (except for the PA and makeup artists) directing crews of up to 50 people. Then I didn’t think anything of it, and I never faced prejudice. But when I look at the guy above, I can’t help thinking what life would life have been like if I’d been born a boy? I had a brother who died as a baby, and I was adopted shortly afterwards as a boy wasn’t available. Growing-up I remember being pushed towards teaching, nursing, sewing, cooking while boys were encouraged to take metalwork, woodwork, farming, science and run businesses. Makes you think. Hopefully the playing field is more level now for my daughters – one has just gained a first in Physics. Gender should be an irrelevance, as should race and age.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences

Above pictures I took on a recent photowalk with the SheClicks group, thanks to Karin for organising the meet-up.

Experimentation

Uncategorized

I had the urge to look closely at light today. Photons (particles of light) are the main ingredient of photography. It is mind-boggling that the quantum particles can exist in 2 places at once. I do a lot of reading on this subject. One possible explanation is that the particle in question is existing in both the past and the future at once. The observer makes a difference to the final result.

Like a crazy scientist, I set up a double-slit experiment of my own and managed to record interference on a light-sensitive sheet of my cyanotype paper. I am not sure where this will lead, but it had to be done. An Artist looks for answers just like a scientist does.

Anthoypes – My Garden Darkroom

Uncategorized

Exploring the Anthotype process was one of the best things to come out of Lockdown for me. This process was ‘invented’ by John Herschel around 1841 as he was trying to pave the way for colour photography, it even pre-dates Cyanotype. Up until then the only photos were rusty-coloured black & white . Over a century later, I am branching out from my own rusty-looking black & white to try some colour! In summer, when the darkroom was closed, my little city garden became my darkroom.

Herschel used natural dyes from flowers and vegetables. I mainly used extracts from plants I had grown. Some plants work better than others, and many plants I tested do not work well at all. But its a Eureka moment when they do !

I will run a workshop on Anthotype in summer 2021. Its great to bring people closer to plants with a 100% eco process using plants and sunlight alone.

New – Online Shop!

Uncategorized

UPDATE : My online art sales are now closed as work was sold out, and galleries are re-opening. I am working towards 3 real life exhibitions. Get in touch for commissions.

With exhibitions cancelled this year, I am listing some recent works for sale online. These would make unique Christmas presents. There seems to be a move towards buying local and from small businesses, which is great to see.

I can deliver next day to SE London postcodes, and many items will fine for posting.

I am sometimes commissioned to make artwork that matches interior decor, or to a specific theme. If that is of interest, get in touch for a quote.

Cyanotype Kimono

Uncategorized

I printed a large amount of fabric using the cyanotype technique with sweet peas (that grow wild in my London garden) and ferns. During lockdown, my collaborator Tabby G took the fabric and sewed it into this beautiful kimono.

I make lots of cyanotyped garments – its great to work in 3D opens up new dimensions of photography. I currently have 2 places left on my upcoming Zoom workshop with fabric.

Painting in Lockdown

Uncategorized

When we weren’t allowed to go out of the house, I borrowed some of my daughter’s paints and did the “Paint-a-Long” sessions with Sky Artist of the Year.

I was interested in the first sitter as he was photographer Rankin, he had some interesting banter. He said “photographers can’t paint” which I suppose is true to an extent, but we do paint with light, and I find than any exercise that makes you examine light (and hence colour) is very worthwhile training. I would argue that every good photographer can paint, perhaps they just haven’t tried it yet.

As a Portrait photographer, you have to be able to notice every shadow and highlight, every nook and cranny, on the face. You have to get to know your model fast, get some of the 2-way chemistry flowing in the room. The same goes for painting a sitter. On-line you don’t have the same rapport, you have to work even harder to find the personality that you want to bring out.

Judge Rinder was the next sitter. He was chatting about how, in a law court, faces can lie. Under the most innocent of faces can be a serial killer. This peaked my interest. As a portrait photographer you have to get beneath the skin of the model, somehow the camera is the instrument that enables that. Its like having X-ray vision.

These were painted on boards that I found on a walk , dumped in my street .

My fledgeling paintings got some good feedback on Instagram so I put myself forward for the #PortraitsForNHSHeroes project.

I had several takers contact me, some with harrowing tales and working all hours. I accepted the first to contact me, Kirsty , a physio from St.Thomas hospital. It was hard to paint her from a dimly-lit selfie in mask and visor, obviously taken on duty. But when I look at the other NHS portraits they are all so similar. There’s a media blackout on cameras in wards, but looking at a feed full of masked nurses and doctors you get an impression of what it must be like. I wonder if I can see fear , fatigue and bravery in their eyes.

UPDATE

I posted Kirsty’s painting and she loves it.

Now as we enter Tier 2 in London, its time to dust off the paintbrushes again. Portrait Artist of the Year paint-along on Insta recommences Sunday 18th Oct – have a try.

Online Cyanotypes – a success !

Uncategorized

I was trepidatious to try out an online workshop via Zoom, us artists sometimes find that technology is the opposite end of our spectrum! But I was delighted that we had attendees from the Midlands and here in South London, plus a representative of World Cyanotype Day joined us from Florida! It was interesting that exposure times for paper in the Midlands were about 30% longer than here in London , and it was a grey drizzly day everywhere. The class was a lot of fun. Stills from the afternoon are here

As the workshop was oversubscribed, I am running another on 24th July, details below:


This workshop is now FULLY BOOKED. See here for future workshops.

Bringing it online

Uncategorized

At the beginning of lockdown (after the initial panic) I started trying to think of ways to bring my photography practice online. I tried a live “Cyanotype” (sun printing) demo on different days via Instagram Live and got quite disheartened by the quality. I ditched that and tried my first Facebook Live demo from my garden ! Quality was better and a few people tuned in, but I got some of my words muddled up and after I’d stopped recording I muttered some expletives – oops! Lesson learned – the live stream runs on for a few seconds after you hit Stop! So I deleted that video and made this edit of it for Instagram:

My online workshop is now full, but please follow this page for future workshops that you can participate in from the safety of your own home.