Memories from Home No 6: Music
Welcome to my 6th blog on Memories from the Home: I’m (Blog No 5) continuing the theme of sounds in the home; this time Music evoking memory and supporting connections to deceased loved ones.
Action for happiness day May 2020 shared this picture recently and it seemed and appropriate time to share my thoughts about Music and its importance to me, within the context of memory, grief, connection and the family home.
Music has always been an important part of family fun and socialising. My Nan was a keen piano player, playing by ear, ‘on the bontempi‘ as Grandad would always say, as children we would always make up our own radio shows, put on plays, and singing performances for our Grandparents. My family are now in bands.
In organising my Grandparents home after they had died, at the time I didn’t have the storage for their vinyl collection, but knew I wanted to keep it. A lot of the vinyl was the likes of Bing Crosby, other readers digest collections of the time, plus other big band swing music such as ‘Are you listening’ by Harry Roy and His Orchestra -why not have a listen here.
Nan had a great love of big band music, and there was a lot of military bands in their collection, as well as other music that I don’t recognise. Those of you who own Vinyl records know, there is such a beauty in the tangibility of the whole process, taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, ensuring not to touch the surface of the vinyl to ruin it in some way, preparing to play. When I want to listen to them, the process, the action is potentially the same as if when my Grandparents were listening to them. I love the crackle of the vinyl, the little jumps every so often, the gentle whir of the turn table, the click of the resting arm. I don’t recall them listening to this specific album, but I now always have that tangible process to imagine them going through the same actions as me and listening together in their home, perhaps remembering dancing together when they were younger. Through music and the physicality of these objects I am making new meanings and continuing connections explored by such writers as Unruh and Riches & Dawson. The collection is now organised in my home, with those I’m more likely to listen to on display, and others safely stored away.
Do you have a music collection, gifted to you by your loved ones?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how we use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief at home. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved in my research.
Memories from Home No 5: Sounds of the Tick Tock
Welcome to my 5th blog on Memories from the Home: this time I’m connecting with sounds in the home.
Clocks are often a present sound in our homes, the grandness of them depending on the house and person. From our mobile phones which are often our music listening devices, as well as alarm clocks, and voice recorders, to Grandfather clocks, wall mountable or little carriage clocks on the mantlepiece. All clocks modern or traditional have identifiable and unique contributions to the sound of the home.
These ticking trinkets, just as the presence of photographs, give us markers in time (as noted by one of my favourite authors John Berger)and a continual reminder of the passing of time.
This wall mounted Abbey Quartz clock belonged to my Grandparents, hanging in their front room, near to the edge of the colour change in the wall paper, just above another symbol of time – that years calendar. This one chimed on the hour, I can’t recall if it had the sound of the ‘tick tock’ pendulum. Looking back on the photograph of it now, I can see (please look closer) that the circle on the pendulum still has the protective film of green on it to stop it getting scratched. It could have been forgotten to have been taken off when hung, or purposely kept on to keep it nice, something I think my Grandparents would have done.
Wall clocks and their ticking and chiming was always that traditional sound I associated most with visiting my Grandparents, they had them for as long as I remember. It prompted me to look through old family photographs of my Grandparents front room with the clock in. I came across this one:
The photo shows a previous clock, in the same spot, sometime in the early 90’s, not too far from the mirror that now sits within my home, and has been symbolic of many reflections throughout my research and in navigating my grief and understanding my continuing connections to my Grandparents. The clock symbolised the rituals when we used to visit them, the time we would arrive, the 12 o’clock chime for their lunch, the chiming for the time for us to catch the bus home. As a child it was something in the background, counting the chimes when they happened.
As I got older and when taking photographs of the clock, I have stopped it in a moment, like the newer clock left after the death of my Grandparents, as if time did stop at that moment, but equally painfully obvious knowing that it continued, but without them. The sound of the chiming became a symbol of living in and being aware of the moment and moments past.
It therefore wasn’t surprising to me the reaction of warmth, I felt when an MA research participant’s clock, that was originally her Fathers, struck during our interview. I became fixed on the sound of the mechanics, sitting peacefully with her listening to the knock of the mechanism, and subsequent chime. I’m glad we paused for a second to listen, appreciating that moment listening to the passing of time together, being captured by my I-phone, please do listen to that recording here. The participant said that her Father would have been happy that the clock and its sound was bringing joy to others in this way.
In Back to the Future III Doc Emmett Brown came back to the future to meet Marty and Jennifer after the DeLorean was destroyed, he said ‘Your future is whatever you make it‘ and how we mark time, moving into the future, and in remembering the past, is individual to each and everyone of us.
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how we use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
Memories from Home No.2: Touch and Tin
Welcome to my second post of this little series of ‘Memories from Home’ blog.
In my Masters research it was important for participants to have items that they could physically hold such as photographs, and other objects in their homes, as well as using other senses (smell for example) when remembering a loved one. These interactions through touch sometimes fleeting in the everyday, were important in maintaining ongoing memories and connections to their loved one. The object or photograph either gifted to or bought by the participant, was often kept in prominent or useful places in the home maintaining a sense of their loved one in their everyday, a tangible presence in absence of the person.
I became fascinated through my visual recording of the interviews, how objects and photographs brought to the table for discussion (literally in some instances as we spoke over coffee and dining tables), were touched and presented, often with fondness and care. The way items were presented to me supported participants anonymity, enabling me to take photo’s of the objects either directly on tables or held in someones hands.
The Pudding Tin
Fray Bento’s is a Scottish food brand whose pies were a staple of my Grandparents. This tinned delight of Steak and Kidney or other meaty varieties (or now I’ve looked into being a vegetarian they now have Veggie Balti and Cheese and Onion Pies now -going to give them a try!) graced the lunch time plate, with a healthy dollop of mash and veg. My Grandparents were a traditional couple having a ‘big dinner’ at lunchtime, so when my family and I used to visit, usually arriving around this time, we were greeted by these kind of smells of hearty filling dinners. Food in big tins or plastic pudding containers is something I will always associate with my Grandparents. When organising their home after they died, I was gifted their white and blue tin plates, and a tin bowl, something that would be desirable as vintage now! My Grandparents would use this tin bowl for collecting the scraps ready for the compost bin, good home made mulch for the runner beans. I now use this tin bowl everyday in my kitchen for the same purpose, it’s battered, the colour faded, and dented, but still fit for the same purpose.
The tin bowl is not in a prominent place in my home, or in a cabinet for display, it is a functional item, that is touched, emptied and washed everyday, but none the less is an important touch connection and ritual as a reminder of my Grandparents.
What items do you have in your home from a loved one, that you use everyday?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and in the everyday use grief as a way of creative expression. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
Memories from Home No.1: Mirror
My Masters (and now expanding to PhD) focussed on everyday home objects and photographs that are kept after a bereavement in a family. I’m interested in what memories and stories, objects and photographs evoke, and why people choose to keep certain items around them in their homes.
I’d encourage others to share home photographs and objects in a similar vein that we have in our home now, that may relate to a loved one, or kept as a memento of a holiday for example. I’ll be sharing items from my home and archive and will include a little story about the associated meanings, memories and anecdotes I have, occasionally linking to readings that I’ve found useful, and you may too.
In the current global climate, many of us are working from and spending more time in our homes, and thinking this would be a good time for us to come together online as a community, sharing our memories, stories, objects and photographs from our homes. Connections to everyday objects and photographs that are important, valuable (not necessarily in a monetary way) as well as enriching our lives.
Those of you who have been following my blog and Masters journey, will be familiar with this mirror:
It belonged to my Grandparents, gifted to them as a Wedding present back in 1958. It has 12 sides, held by a short chain and circle, with clips attaching the mirror to the backing, something vintage now, definitely of the time, I’ve done some research into the manufacturer, most likely to be G-plan:
It was always a feature in my Grandparent’s home as long as I can remember, in the house they lived in from when I was young until I was 36. As kids we would dance and sing in front of it, put on Nan’s scarves and put makeup on in front of it.
I’ve been reading Brian Dillons ‘In the Dark Room’, and in his ‘Things’ chapter he talks about the wider associations to a kept object, going beyond what it is at face value, similar to the writings of John Berger who wrote about memories being non-linear. Objects and photographs allow us to focus on recall of memory, however not always working in a linear way, i.e different associations to an object or photograph at different times.
Sometimes the evoked memories through the object or photograph go far beyond the initial memory;
The mirror for me is symbolic as reflecting our family life, sharing the laughs and the sorrows, birthdays, the room in which it was hung, the other objects and photographs that surrounded it like a shrine of my family history. The smells that filled the room, the pie and mash dinners, fish and chips, tomato ketchup that sat opposite it on the table, the sweet smell of cake, hairspray and atrixo hand cream. Beyond the room in which the mirror was hung, was an ordinary terraced house that sat in an estate, in the early days had a conifer in the front garden, a short walk to the river. The mirror, now over 60 years old now sits in my home, reflecting my life, in my terraced home. It shares and reflects the people in my life, those who visit, the couple who visited me during my Open House, who had lived in my house some 40 years earlier. What memories the mirror could tell if it could speak.
I’ll be writing a blog soon on my Masters Research, and those wanting to join me on my journey through PhD; the focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and in the everyday use grief as a way of creative expression. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
Until next time.
MOSAF19….& the end of the Masters is in sight
Wow! It’s been such a while dearest readers since my last blog, plenty of things keeping me busy. Medway Open Studios and Arts Festival (MOSAF) 2018 was a great platform for me at the start of my Masters, working through my initial ideas for the photo part of it and getting some fantastic feedback and critique from my visitors.
MOSAF 2019 was a ‘taster platform’ of my final batch of photographs to exhibit before choosing the final 4 for submission in September (formats have been chosen, more of this to come!). I had some great conversations with visitors around my research subject of exploring Personal Loss, Memory and Family, with photographs and objects after a bereavement (more info about it here). I am interested to see if there are any common themes shared that reflected my own experiences of loss in the family, and if there were any similarities in which objects and photographs we keep and the memories we share. My research has helped me navigate my own grief and the whole process has been, (as my research participants have told me), a good thing to ‘Hold space’ for others to also have that time for dedicated conversations.
The exhibition included 10 photos of both my family photos and others from my research participants, accompanied by their written memory about each object or photograph. Here is a taster of one of my exhibited photos:
Vase with wilting Flowers
A Vase sitting on the sideboard that was bought as a Wedding Gift for my Grandparents. The flowers wilting, losing their glorious bloom, the room lays silent, soon to be empty, a whisper in the echo of a memory.
[Grandparents home 2016]
I am also pleased that visitors to my MOSAF19 exhibition felt able to share their memories if they wished they could leave their thoughts on my memories corkboard. I loved chatting with all my visitors about this subject as I had done interviewing the participants for my research. A big thank you to all my MOSAF19 visitors and participants. If you would like to get involved in my future research, or just want to get in touch to share your views then contact me here.
In the week of MOSAF19 I was interviewed on BBC Radio Kent as part of their ‘Phone Tracker’, (2.28 in) this gave me a great platform not only to promote my exhibition but to also talk about my research. It’s amazing what points you can get across in 4-5 minutes!
So, what’s next?
I have the summer to write up my research and prepare for my MA exhibition, and very happy to have the ‘time off’ I’m quite enjoying this final stage. I don’t think I’ve had this much time off in summer since I was 14 years old, so I’m going to make sure this happens with much self-care as well as study. I’m also going to be enjoying taking more photographs, joining up with a few like-minded ‘togs for some photo walks, and may treat myself to a new lens or two!
I am, as ever, passionate about living well and ensuring that we have great photographs to keep along-side our memories, this is what our loved ones will cherish, I know I do.
On reflecting my research which I have really enjoyed doing and so passionate about someone said to me recently ‘Nikki you won’t get time like this again, so make the most of it’, and I plan to do just that.
Thanks to one of my visitors for this photograph:
MOSAF18, Masters and everything else in between
What a summer it has been!
A wonderful mixture of teaching, training, exhibitions and getting full steam ahead once again with my Masters.
Over June and July I went along to a short course at The Photographers Gallery London (TPG – a great space if you haven’t already visited). Part of my Masters year 1 review was that I needed to include more critical analysis in my literature review and to develop how photographic theory relates to my practice (yep I was a bit stumped too!). What I have found studying Photography and Sociology at Masters level particularly through research is, I’ve had to develop a quick but intense way of learning. Undertaking a Masters by Research is largely self directed learning (no lectures which is a bonus!) with some elements of knowledge sign-posted to you by your supervisors, both subjects not being my Undergrad focus has also been a nice little challenge. The short course on ‘Photography as artistic research’ came at exactly the right time. Led by Wiebke Leister provided weekly readings specifically on photography and the analysis and criticality to practice. Readings focussed on such visual artists/writers as Dion, Flusser, Barthes, Rose, Richters. These sessions gave me a greater understanding of the artists reasonings behind the projects, not just what they may have appeared to be on face value, using such theories from Berger and Barthes in the ways of seeing, that part of the overall understanding/appreciation of the project was mainly in the eyes of the viewer not the author, sometimes the initial intentions can be misinterpreted, not in a negative way but that ‘art’ can be a very subjective thing and varying interpretations will naturally be made by different people. Hey but isn’t that the fun about it?
The final session provided an opportunity with the group of like minded photographers and photography enthusiasts to critique any projects we were all working on. This is where I took along my Medway Open Studios exhibition work, which was a visual pit stop of where I was with my Masters research.
The work I presented was a mixture of archival family photographs and photographs I had taken either in response to the archive or interpretations of my need to remember my family. These were presented in either large 16×20 black frames, or the majority in 6×4 prints in cardboard frames, assembled on a rope washing line with pegs. I later thought of the washing line as being a private and public domestic item, where the private (items of underwear for example) become public (in the garden), this could be said for the photographs that I presented in that they are private family photographs being display in public, hanging out the laundry for all to see!
I am in the process of finalising my research title which will be on the lines of ‘Personal Loss, Memory and the family’ this will give some context into the following feedback I received from the group:
- they (the photos) aren’t all taken by the same person
- it represents two sides of a family (this was the case of the Main (my maternal side) and Price (my father))
- there are flowers at the start and end of the line (poppies)
- the artist is remembering something
- there are self portraits, and photos of the artist
- there is a strong maritime link
- there is a sequence of growing up along the photographs
- there is a sense of growing up alone in the photographs
- a sense of the artist being alone
- the Facebook screen shot of the ‘missing father’ on fathers day
- a suggestion of removing the frames, to see more of the photographs, and move from domestic to exhibition
- a suggestion of including other members of the family to put this work together, using a red piece of string to represent the umbilical chord connecting the family
- a suggestion of having 3 family photos within one frame to change the aesthetic (move from domestic to exhibition)
This was a great experience to have such critique from peers, especially as I was mid way through my Medway Open Studios 2018 (MOSAF18) exhibition. For the final weekend of MOSAF18 I decided to take the suggestion of the group, and remove the photographs from the frame. I felt a bit strange doing this as I didn’t want the photographs to become misshaped and dented by swinging freely with the peg at the top of the photo. I know I was probably playing it too safe, protecting the photographs from damage, but I later thought this is part of the photographs journey, the photograph as a changing physical object.
MOSAF18 was very similar to that final session at TPG, in that it is always a great experience for visitors to share their thoughts and ideas on your work. Throughout my exhibition I was pleased to see how open visitors were about sharing their experiences of family photography and artefacts following a bereavement. I also appreciated having a small dialogue to accompany the photographs (even if it was just my oral story), the photographs became a platform that opened up that conversation. I was conscious however to not offer up too much information about the photographs when they first arrived as I wanted to get their immediate raw responses. To include some theory here, many of my visitors showed responses to my photograph to that of the ‘Punctum’ (as coined by Barthes), something within the photo that pierced or connected to them and evoked a memory, for example on seeing the photograph of my Grandad, one visitor commented on how the photo ‘reminded her of her father, in that he always wore shirts with high collars and a tie’. I was quite taken in that visitors weren’t afraid to have an emotional response to my work, was this something to do with my home environment, and I wondered would the photographs have evoked a different reaction if I had displayed them in a gallery?
Some visitors searched for something of a ‘Familial Gaze’ (Hirsch), that familiarity in how families are represented within photographs (in contrast to the idealised portrayal of family) for example many could identify with the ‘father and new born’s home coming’ photograph (below) as typical of a familiar scene within a family album. The same visitor appeared to combine both Hirsch and Barthes theories in connecting to the photograph and remarking how her family ‘used to have that fireplace’. Are we automatically making connections (through links to memory) and generate understandings of our life within the act of looking at photographs?
MOSAF18 was a great experience for me, although daunting at the start, and probably was the most nervous I have been for any of my exhibitions, it has been a reaffirming experience. I am proud that private (family) photographs help stimulate conversation about others individual experiences following a bereavement. It is about the stories and the memories of and about those who have died, which can be an emotive subject, but my hope is that it is more about us thinking about our legacy, the symbols, icons, objects and good memories we make now, to be left for others and cherished when we are no longer here. I am also so thankful for those visitors who are interested in being interviewed as part of my research studies next year.
Over a few months before the summer I had the opportunity to do some informal photography teaching within a school. It was such a privilege to share my knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for photography with young people. It was also a good opportunity to try out ideas for workshops with adults that I am developing this year. The young people loved Sun printing, comic book writing and then acting out their ‘scenes’ with each other then photographing them, chalk drawing scenes and photographing themselves, making a face mosaic’s similar to the Queen project, macro photography, ways of seeing nature (bit of a nod to Berger’s Ways of seeing there!), and working with them to develop their own styles and thoughts about photography. I had many thank you’s from the young people as well as some incredibly sweet conversations with some who ‘really appreciated learning about photography and will carry on taking photo’s’, this really hit home to me as my interest in photography started when I was around 7 or 8 years old.
It was so heart warming to know that my interests have gone full circle this summer in where I am now with my family photography research and leaving legacies, it starts with young people (and adults) having an interest in and being enthused by the possibilities that photography gives us for recording, making memories, remembering stories, rethinking our approach to the world.
Flower Photography at home
I was delighted to be contacted by Julie Davies to collaborate on a blog. Julie lives up to her name of being The Florist that teaches, providing online tips for you to do exactly the same in the comfort of your own home, or face to face in workshops.
It felt very natural for me to write this blog as a way of my skills sharing series, with top tips to enable you to take photos of your floral creations at home. There are a variety of other scenarios in which to take photographs, for example out in landscape with wild flowers, in workshops, sheds, markets etc, perhaps this is room for another blog!
Although the photos you see here have been taken using a Canon 6D, the following will give you some pointers for ‘point and shoot‘ cameras, or using a smart phone, both of which can work just as well, particularly if you are uploading small versions of your photos onto websites or social media.
- Position your flowers next to a large window; this will help maximum natural light which is better than using the orange tinge of household lights, (there is always the option to shoot outside).
- If you have a macro / flower symbol setting on your camera, use it! It will let you bring out the finer details of those gorgeous blooms.
- Don’t forget to ‘set the scene‘ if you are wanting to show how you work on your flowers through your photos, pop some scissors, oasis, ribbon etc on a wooden block (a kitchen chopping board will do just fine if you have one), everyone loves a story.
- Keep the background to your photos simple, after all you want to highlight how beautiful your floral creations are, white (or black) card can work and help with bouncing the light into those harsh shadows.
- Take the photos using interesting angles, the rule of thirds can be helpful, however, be creative and use a variety of angles in your shots to show off those blooms.
- Using your macro setting on your camera, shoot ‘through‘ a bouquet to focus on one particular flower that takes your interest.
- Similarly as above; take one flower out of the bunch and make it the star of your show!
- A little post production may help bring out the best in your photos, so if you have photoshop, or other editing software, don’t be afraid to use it. Photoshop express on the i-phone is fab.
I hope these tips have been useful and if so I would love to hear from you, so why not drop me a line through my contact me page.
National Trust: Red House
Red House is in a pretty residential road in Bexleyheath next to the vast Danson Park, not as a spectacular setting as Castle Drogo , but no less impressive. Originally owned by creative William Morris, Red House is a nice little haven in the middle of the other residential homes.
The guides were very welcoming in the ticket office, which was originally a stable block, the original blocks had been kept, even the hay feeders. At the time i visited there was a ‘bread crumb’ trail around the site, with little post labels tied to various things such as trees, each with an individual poem or inspirational quote.
Exploring the Garden was a real treat, being in a residential road, you would think that the garden would be fairly small, however it was about the same size as the house either side, just enough to think you were in the middle of nowhere. As well as kept lawns and flower beds, Red House has a vegetable and flower patch at the rear of the house, well protected by the resident Scarecrow, pumpkins grown far better than my ‘un-green’ fingers! The little potting shed reminded me of my Grandads Shed, the familiar smell of potting compost and general musk of the shed, the little spiders making their homes in the corners.
I fell in love with the house as well as the Garden, definitely a place I could live in. The wooden floors, the stained glass windows above the grand front door. A fabulous little find was in one of the bedrooms, apparently occupied by Lizzie Siddal and the Pre-Raphelites at one time, the National Trust had found a painting of Lizzie Siddal in the walls behind a built in cupboard. Following my visit there, more paintings were discovered behind the wall paper, the uncovering these gems still goes on.
If you visit Red House I would also recommend a trip around Danson park which is close to the house, with vast greens, trees and friendly squirrels.