Mistress of Photography

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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 !

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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

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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.

Online Cyanotype Workshop- Fully Booked

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THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW FULL

I am taking my popular cyanotype workshops online via Zoom. You will learn to make cameraless photographs “photograms” using this non-toxic process that originated in the 1800s. Join me for this fledgling session, which is essentially free, but each of the 5 (max) participants will need to purchase a specially prepared Cyanotype Kit via the link below so we are all using the same materials. The cost for the kit is a bargain at £29 inc p&p, it contains :

Kit Contains :

  • Basic A4 printing frame
  • Hand-coated A4 paper
  • Latex gloves
  • Pegs
  • Recycled black bag and packaging
  • Postage or hand delivery

You will also need
– Indoor space with good Wifi, or Data, and the Zoom.us app on your device
– Outdoor space or windowsill for exposing you prints to sunlight
– tray at least 2″ deep and A4 size, or a sink for rinsing your prints . Water.
– Washing line with pegs, or cardboard or plastic surfaces for drying prints
– a few flat plants, leaves or objects up to 6″ long

This will be a fun and relaxed workshop suitable for adults of all levels. People will be attending the event indoors and popping in and out with their prints for expose to sunshine (it will also work on a cloudy day). The workshop will run from 2-2.40pm and then we will have a break for people to do some solid printing. Part 2 of the class will resume at about 3.20pm and we will finish at 4pm approx.

There will be ample opportunity to get 1-to-1 feedback and tips due to the small class size. I will be indoors demonstrating the process and telling you about the history and science of Cyanotype.

Don’t worry if it is an overcast day – we can still get results.

If this introductory workshops goes well, I hope to follow it with more advanced sessions : coating paper, printing on fabric, using negatives, toning etc .