Medway Open Studios 2022
What a lovely sunny start to Medway Open Studios 2022 that runs from Saturday 2nd July to Sunday 10th July. A fantastic opportunity to explore the creativity that the Medway holds, whether in a gallery, studio, or behind the door of someones home.
As in previous years my offer Medway Open Studios this time round is different. I decided to kick start a project that I had ruminating in my mind for a number of years now…..to capture a moment in time in where I lived. This developed into inviting my neighbours to have their portraits taken outside of their home and sharing a short story of their time in the house, and the community.
I was pleased that many (21 in total) homes came forward and wanted to be involved, highlighting the creative and community spirit that ‘Bishops Square’ is made up of, all 120 houses of them. The area has always been supportive and welcoming and especially so during the lockdowns of 2020-21, much like others in the country we were checking in on one another.
The 12 portraits for the duration of Medway Open Studios are hung in the front windows homes, and by scanning a QR code you can link to their stories on my website. I was a pleasure to take the portraits and get to know my neighbours more as fellow ‘Square Dwellers’.
I was outside my home Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd to have a socially distanced chat with visitors and here are just some wonderful comments from them:
‘What a great idea’
‘We should do something like this in our neighbourhood’
‘What a great community arty initiative’
‘Such a lovely idea – there is something about living in a square. We just walked round our old home territory and saw all the portraits- and their stories are brilliant.‘
It has also been great to introduce Medway Open Studios to new visitors, lovely to know that they have seen the marketing across Medway.
Feel free to contact me to share your views on my project.
Thank you to everyone who scanned the QR code and had a socially distanced hello this weekend. Enjoy the final week of this great event on until Sunday 10th July.
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.
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:
Photos through my door – Rochester West By-Election
The Rochester West by-election is coming soon, and I’ve had a number of promotional leaflets through my door for our local parties. Before I put them in the recycling bin, I thought it would be fun to see how the different parties are using photography to promote their candidates. I have tried not to look at their policies or political views or read the content in the leaflets. Instead I have attempted to give a rounded interpretation and analysis of their use of photos.
Conservative Candidate: Alan Kew
The Conservative leaflet shows a tilted, informal headshot taken on St Margarets Street. Alan’s stance is slightly turned to the left looking direct at the camera. Although not confrontational, as it might be if he were facing straight on to the camera, he has a relaxed smile. It seems to have been taken on a smart phone, giving a wide frame and low picture quality, he is also slightly out of focus. It does however give a leading line drawing the viewers eye down St Margarets Street, metaphorically enforcing that Rochester is the focus of this campaign.
The off-set fold of the front page invites you to explore the inner content. Inside are a number of posed and informal shots. A mixture of ‘in situ’ or ‘in action’ photos demonstrate the candidate supporting various campaigns in the area. The photos in green spaces suggest Alan is ‘out-and-about’ and active in his local area, however some, for example the photograph of the candidate in the green space with his foot on the white barrier, feel somewhat staged.
The last page shows three further ‘in situ’ photographs of the candidate with a local shop keeper and former candidate for the area. This contrasts with the informal layout of the first page. The catalpa tree photo is perhaps the most relaxed photo with Alan in a traditional male pose standing off centre with his hand in his pockets. This could either be interpreted as being relaxed or disinterested.
Overall the photographs within this leaflet are relaxed and informal and although they connect to build a story of the areas the candidate supports, it feels visually overloaded.
Liberal Democrats Candidate: Martin Rose
Martin’s front page portrait echoes the informality of the Conservative candidate, this time taken in a green space. Although I would not advise standing straight on to the camera, he has something in his hand, which somehow breaks the barrier, making it seem less confrontational. He is positioned at the centre of the photograph, the leading line is a path in the middle, which similar to the Conservative candidate, leads the viewer’s eye back to central Rochester. He is centred between two trees, nicely avoiding the foliage sprouting out of the top of the head look. Martin has a relaxed and friendly smile. I would surmise this was taken on a smart phone or basic digital camera, on an overcast day, as it slightly out of focus and quite dark. It would have been great to see the photo a bit brighter. Martin appears to be ‘out-and-about’ as he has his Liberal Democrats badge on and the photograph is taken by someone else. It is also good to see a younger candidate. There is one other photo on the page linking to a support campaign, and a stock photo from the Liberal Democrats, suggesting more of the overall aims of the party as opposed to the achievements of the individual for the community, as illustrated on the Conservative leaflet.
Overall, the portrait on this leaflet is the most friendly, relaxed and welcoming, with a smaller number of other photos indicating the wider party views.
Labour Candidate: Alex Patterson
The first thing that struck me about the Labour Candidates leaflet is it is well thought out. The front page is dominated by the River Medway with a ‘hero’ shot of Alex looking into the distance. I would suggest this has been taken by a professional photographer, due to the framing and use of depth of field.
This photo reminded me of a promotional leaflet for a theatre production (not dissimilar to the poster for David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho last year). The candidate is the focus of the promotion. Alex appears well groomed, wearing professional dress. I would, however, liked him to make a little more eye contact with the camera. This appears to be from an organised shoot, rather than an ‘out-and-about’ campaign shot.
Overall the photographs in this leaflet are of higher quality that the other candidates, and a case of quality over quantity. However, from the visuals I am unsure from this what campaigns the candidate has supported.
UKIP Candidate: Rob McCulloch Martin
Rob’s portrait is also informal, it appears to have been taken as a ‘selfie’. It has been taken from below which doesn’t result in a very favourable angle, this main photo on the leaflet appears to have been stretched giving a ‘fish eye’ appearance, with a better smaller version on the reverse. The candidate is ‘in situ’ at a polling station, with additional photographs on the reverse indicating some issues the party are supporting locally. As with the Liberal Democrats leaflet there doesn’t appear to be any direct visual link to the achievements of the candidate.
Sonya’s leaflet was the last to arrive. I wasn’t sure whether I would receive one, given the Green’s environmental concerns, however was pleased to see it has been printed on recycled paper. Similar to the Conservative, Liberal and UKIP candidates, her portrait is informal and slightly off centre. She is looking directly down the lens with a slight head tilt and relaxed smile. It appears this has been cropped from a larger photo used on the Green’s website. In the source photo her pose looks stilted, but the crop on the leaflet is much more favourable. The exposure of the photograph is spot on the website, however it hasn’t translated well on the leaflet, which could be due to the paper. As this headshot is the only photograph, like the Labour leaflet, there is little visual information about the campaigns the candidate has supported.
All the leaflets use photography differently their candidates displaying their party colours. Each puts their own twist on their photos, using hero shots, snapshots, informal, ‘selfies’ and ‘out and about’ photos. A leaflet is an easy way for candidates to get across their messages, the photos used create the immediate visual connection with the person behind the campaign. The parties have put forward four white male candidates and one white woman, I would have liked to have seen a bit more diversity.
Given the timescale for this campaign it is understandable why some of the photos may appear rushed, this highlights a need for a quality stock of photos, taken at events and regular organised photoshoots.
Top tips for election candidate photos:
- When possible use a good quality digital camera. A smart phone is great for those ‘out and about’ shots, but not selfies, always ask someone to take it for you.
- Consider using one of the many basic editing software apps to get your smart phone photos just right.
- Take photos in the location you are representing. Even better in a green space, they create and healthy feel and usually have better light.
- Remember to take photographs when your campaigning or supporting events. This will help you to build up a ‘bank’ of stock photos, to use in your promotions and help you tell your story when needed.
- Natural light is a must, most candidates have used outdoor photographs, however ensure you are making the most of your chosen light conditions
- A relaxed genuine smile always brings life to your photos and helps you connect.
- If you are unsure about what pose styles work for you, try them in a mirror. Ask a portrait photographer or search for some tips on the internet.
- Add interest and creativity to your photos by using leading lines and being creative with depth of field.
- Don’t be afraid to play with the layout of your photographs, cropping when necessary. Sometime a badly framed photo can be saved by a good crop.
- Where possible work with a professional photographer whose work you know and like for those quality shoots.