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Over the last 18 months I have had the opportunity to photograph some really interesting events and people. Some of my work has made it into magazines and onto educational and commercial websites.
The latest article featuring my work is in this week’s edition of the LONDONIST.
Please feel free to check it out!
“One’s back is vulnerable, unless one has a brother”
from the Saga of Grettir the Strong
I recently had the pleasure of doing an amazing photo shoot with a group of Viking re-enactors in the fantastic setting of Epping Forest. We spent an entire day creating battle scenes and shooting portraits. The men and women of the Jomsborg Ulflag wear authentic, handmade Viking clothing and armour, and many are trained in the art of fighting with steel swords, axes and spears. Their battles are spectacular to watch and their skills extremely impressive.
The Viking life is not for the faint-hearted but it is fantastic way to experience living history at it’s best.
I was recently asked to join their ranks as their Viking war correspondent and was very happy to accept this great honour.
I am looking forward to documenting many more battle campaigns in the future!
We were also extremely happy to be mentioned in the blog of well-known historic novelist Clifford Beal.
“No matter how much we scorn it, kitsch is an integral part of the human condition.” Milan Kundera
As a child, I liked to spend rainy afternoons looking through my grandmother’s postcard albums. My granny was born in 1900 in North Germany and collected, like many girls her age, the prettiest postcards she received from friends and relatives.
I loved those old-oldfashioned soft focus images of ladies in corsetted ruffled dresses, gentlemen in black suits and top hats and the lavish flower postcards.
The flower most featured was the rose. In many culture, the rose is the symbol of love and beauty and therefore a very popular design element on greeting cards for all kinds of emotionally charged occasions like weddings, birthdays, engagements or even funerals.
Around the turn of the last century, the style of those rose images was usually muted colours with soft focus and light vignetting. This was largely due to the photographic technology at the time, which meant analogue black and white or sepia images, which were hand-coloured afterwards. They were then printed in the same style for mass-distribution as commercial greeting cards.
I have to admit that I have not had a great interest in flower photography in the last few years and that I used to think of it a bit as a nice safe and boring subject for middle-aged hobby photographers (no offence!). How wrong was I!
I think my perception had been shaped by in-your-face bright and garish photography in gardening magazines and catalogues, where it is not about subtlety but selling the promise of spectacular blooms to outdo the neighbours’ efforts.
Recently, I received a beautiful vintage-style bunch of flowers for my birthday containing some amazing greyish-purple roses, which instantly reminded me of the Victorian postcards I loved as a child. The roses themselves had the faded soft look that used to make those old cards so special and slightly removed from reality.
So I decided to photograph my birthday flowers. I then went around my neighbourhood where there are some lovely specimens currently in bloom. I particularly liked the ones that were already a little past their prime and remind us of the end of summer and the inevitable beginning of autumn.
I tried to recreate the image style of my most favourite cards from my grandmother’s albums…Some might call it Kitsch, I call it September Roses…
“Last Night I Dreamed Of Manderley…”
Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier, the film tells the story of a slightly naïve young woman who falls in love with and marries a rich widower, Max de Winter. She follows him to live in his Cornwall country mansion called Manderley.
As soon as she arrives, it becomes clear the house is haunted by the memory of Rebecca, the deceased Mrs de Winter. The place is decorated to her taste, the staff don’t really care about the new wife’s wishes, but do everything the way Rebecca would have liked it, and the husband doesn’t seem to find much joy in his new marriage, as his first wife’s ghost rules most of his thinking. During the course of the story, things get stranger and more and more oppressive for the young Mrs de Winter as the ghost of Rebecca begins to take over her life and drives her into despair. In the end, the whole mansion goes up in flames as Mrs Danvers, Rebecca’s obsessively dedicated former maid, sets the place alight. The viewer is left the image of the smoldering ruins of the gothic Manderley estate.
Rebecca’s ghostly presence is one of the big themes of this movie, and this is what interested me when curating this exhibition. I wanted to bring together images of places that were abandoned by their former inhabitants and left to go to ruin, but the spirits or souls of the residents were still clearly present.
The circumstances of this abandonment can be manifold. Sometimes, it is a decision about economic viability that makes people move away and abandon whole towns and cities, sometimes the reasons are more dramatic, like in the case of New Orleans during the hurricane Katrina in 2005, which devastated huge densely populated areas within hours thus giving the residents no time to gather their belongings. The scenes left behind in and around the houses were reminiscent of the abandoned properties of the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear disaster.
The aftermath of Katrina was documented by journalists and photographers one of whom is Canadian Robert Polidori. I first came across him at Paris Photo in 2013. He travels around the world and photographs (among other subjects) places devastated by disasters. He uses a cumbersome large format camera, which allows him to create images with extreme detail and clarity.
His pictures of New Orleans houses After The Flood are eerie and haunting depictions of destroyed homes, hopes and dreams. Often there are many personal belongings left in the rotten moldy houses, graduation pictures on the mildewed walls and clothes neatly hanging in wardrobes that no longer have walls around them. The ghostly presence of the former residents is tangible in his photographs.
The second body of work I selected images from is that of French photographers Ives Marchant and Romain Meffre. They have documented the decay of buildings and flats due to economic circumstances rather than sudden catastrophies.
They published two books: The Ruins of Detroit and Gukanjima, which show places of work like a hairdesser’s salon, a police station or a public library with books, papers and police photos still strewn all over the floors of long abandoned buildings. After the economic decline of the car industry in Detroit, many houses, factories and other public buildings were just closed and are sitting there to this day slowly falling apart.
Gukanjima (or Hashima) is a small island off the Japanese coast near Nagasaki, which became densely populated in the 1950s because of a mining project run by Mitsubushi. In the early 70, after an accident, the mining stopped, and everybody eventually left the island. These days the place is a ghost town badly damaged in places by the aggressive sea conditions.
Patina, rust and mold on peeling wallpaper make an otherwise abstract concept like time a visible, touchable thing.
The interiors of public buildings and private houses Marchant and Meffre portrayed in Gunkanjima and Detroit very much feel like the ghosts of the past are very present to this day.
My third chosen photographer is Rania Matar, who was born and brought up in Lebanon and now lives and works in the US. Her work shows abandonment of flats and personal possessions due to war rather than natural disasters or economic cirumstances.
She visited Lebanon after the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel to find many places desolate and empty of humans but still with their ghosts inhabiting the houses.
She describes this situation very well in the project statement of her series What Remains: “…I was also moved by the eerie absence of people in certain places, by empty homes left in a rush for safety, living rooms, kitchen shelves, broken portraits and the simple mundane objects that exist in every home and in every life, all now left behind. People lived there, now they are gone, but those remaining spaces and scattered personal objects that were once theirs are now left in the debris unclaimed, a bittersweet reminder of a life that once was. The spaces were left eerily quiet and frozen in time, as a towel still hangs over the counter, ready to be used; a woman’s portrait still smiles on a paint-peeled wall; a fan stubbornly hangs from the ceiling, its wings broken. The rubble everywhere came to life through scattered objects: little bursts of color popping out of the grayness, random things one finds in any home and takes for granted. They stayed on, eerily delicate, quiet, human, and persistent…As I walked over the debris and in those quiet empty spaces, the reality of loss became very real; and whereas one eventually gets used to seeing destruction everywhere, these precious remains of a life interrupted and lost memories frozen in time kept bringing back the destruction to a very human and personal level. They were the remnants of people’s lives, memories gone forever, memories of a previous home and a previous life.”
In the hand-made catalogue to this exhibition I decided to organize this exhibition into 3 sections: Places of Work, Houses and Personal Spaces as they represent three levels of loss to me. A work place is very important to most people and sometimes a home from home, but often a new job can be found if the old one doesn’t exist anymore. Houses are the shells in which we create our home and family lives. Loosing a house and the related displacement are traumatic and in many cases economic nightmares. However, I feel that the loss of personal possessions like family photographs, clothing, heirloom furniture, children’s toys etc. have the worst impact on a person’s life as they represent who we are and where we come from. Seeing these items destroyed or being forced to abandon them is the ultimate material loss. That’s why interiors with personal items in them are the home of ghosts, no matter how long these objects haven’t been used or touched.
I created an analogue catalogue for this virtual exhibition. I wanted this book to look and feel like it had been through fire, floods and buried beneath rubble itself. This is the result:
The copyright to the images depicted in this catalogue/book/post belongs to the photographer or artist and/or the artist’s representative, agent or publisher. This work is expressly not of a commercial nature and where possible, each image has been credited with the artist/photographers name, image title and date. The images are shown for illustrative purposes only and to accompany text. I claim no ownership or rights to the images shown and a full bibliography to the image sources is to be found via the links in this post.
Please join us for our National Diploma in Photography Show Private View on Thursday the 17th of July 2014 from 6.30pm at KCC in Chelsea!
“To me in my childhood, elves and fairies of all sorts were very real things, and my dolls were as really children as I was myself a child.” Annie Besant
Having grown up as the daughter of antiques-collecting parents and spending many Saturdays exploring flea markets during my childhood, I developed an interest in old beautiful things very early on. I am fascinated by the history that is ‘contained’ within an item from a different era.
Some years ago, I bought a few small dirty and damaged porcelain dolls at a car boot sale. It turned out they were from the late 19th century and had been excavated from the grounds of disused doll factories in Thuringia (in the former East Germany) where people were now digging them up from old spoil heaps. This was such an interesting story, that it sparked off a collecting passion for me, and I started looking for more. (2 pictures below from: http://lemoncholys.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/german-dolls.html)
I started picking up the dolls and doll parts (you can get arms, legs, torsos and heads for articulated dolls too) wherever I came across them. I am fascinated by these little objects that were intended to be loved by some German child but never went into sale. Many of them were produced in the 1890s and around the turn of the previous century.
To me they are almost like little orphans that never found a home, were never adopted because there was something a little wrong with them.
Every single one of these dolls has some sort of minor or major damage, and often they come still caked in mud from the excavation. No two are ever the same. The are all broken in different places, the glazing didn’t work (often the case on the doll’s bums, funnily), or their faces were painted by someone who obviously wasn’t very good a it (maybe an apprentice), and they ended up on the reject pile. The all-white stiff Dolls are known as “Frozen Charlottes” after an American folk ballad called “Fair Charlotte” in which a young girl freezes to death.
I originally started collecting them to use them in art projects and for jewellery (which I still do), but I now have hundreds of them, currently living in some box frames and a display cabinet in my flat.
To me, the Thuringian dolls are beautiful little porcelain orphans that just needed rescueing. I chose to photograph them as a typology because they are all the same but all different.