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.
Body Image my beginnings & #altogether reflection
I began taking photos of nudes as part of celebrating our bodies without photoshop in 2013, models consisted of friends and I took part also if I wasn’t prepared to be photographed in this way, how could I expect anyone else to be?
I wanted to make my models as comfortable as a possible, so in doors (whether that was at my home or theirs) under studio lights (interfit) with a plain background was my preferred shooting style. At the beginning I think I was more obsessed with getting the lighting right, and using a ‘stock’ of gathered poses for all my models. I was quite apprehensive to start, I’d never photographed anyone this way before, and I wanted to ensure that my models were in a safe and relaxed atmosphere. As a photographer I think it isn’t just about the technical aspects shutter, its about rapport with the people you have in front of your camera, and a vision to be thinking of the next great shot.
I am unsure how I feel about those 2013 photos now, it was undoubtedly a great stepping stone to get me into thinking about this project more, but that is the good thing about the start of a new project you can develop it, and it will often lead you to places you hadn’t thought of. Models volunteered for various reasons; not only as they believed in the cause; but to also visually share their journey with their body at that moment in time. It was truly humbling to hear about their stories from eating disorders, mental health and post baby body to name a few.
Not just women: Perhaps the most prominent thing about the start of this journey was men volunteered to be included, having strong feelings about the way mens bodies can often be misrepresented in the media. One of my favourite actors Wentworth Miller was sadly subject to a body shaming meme in 2016, this upset me with social media hounding the guy when he wasn’t feeling his strongest mentally, I needed a response to this.
My volunteers said they were very nervous before, but after the shoot they appreciated that it was a very empowering experience.
In September 2017 my ‘Altogether’ exhibition at Sun Pier House Tea Room was in full swing. This was a collection of pieces of positive body image, using everyday (non model) nude subjects, photographed in non-traditional places. This exhibition seemed a natural progression for work that I have been producing since 2013, the pieces for ‘Altogether’ have been taken over the previous 18 months, and include locations such as derelict buildings, marsh land, nature reserves, and in the studio. I want to portray an image that individuals could relate to, ‘real’ bodies without the furnishings of Photoshop or designer clothing, taking it right back to the basics of who we are fundamentally underneath, Human. I have found this series of photographs a real balance, of ensuring the importance of the message, affirmation of my own skills, sympathetic to my subjects and the audience eye.
“Didn’t have time to write a comment in the book but here’s some thoughts. What struck me most about your photos (apart from the lovely pictorial qualities – lighting, composition etc) was the way that the people in them seemed relaxed and confident – happy in their bodies. This gives the pictures a calm, self-contained feeling at odds with the fact that here are naked people in places where otherwise they wouldn’t normally be naked. I’m guessing that this probably comes from your relationship to them, their trust in you and your approach as a photographer. This makes the photos very different than just nude figures placed in unusual places and takes it away from what you might call “art” photography into something more personal and much more interesting.
So, just as well I didn’t have time for the comment as I seem to have written a short essay. Looking forward to where this takes you.”
-Dick Perrin Film maker and Photographer
“I don’t usually like photography Nikki, but love what you have done”
-Peter Reed Painter
“Nikki Price is, in my opinion, is one the major talents to emerge from the Medway scene. Her visual images show a genuine love of humanity.”
“I’m not a model in this series but have modelled for Nikki before and can 100% confirm she is a wonderful photographer to work with, she really makes you feel at ease!”
Some of the responses from the comment book from my #altogether exhibition Sun Pier House
‘Viewing the photographs still provokes old feelings that conflict’
‘Incredible honesty…amazing composition too’
‘Very rich we are so programmed’
‘Really beautiful work’
Thank you to everyone who participated, supported, and followed my work on this topic so far.
Watch this space as there will be more on the topic of identity in the future, and next week I’ll be doing my usual yearly round up of photographs so stay tuned!
Opening the Other Box…the finale!
This blog post follows my previous blogs here and here of me getting together my ideas for the Exhibition of ‘Skin’ for Pandora’s Other Box.
During July and August, I also had my Medway Open Studios Exhibition of ‘Hidden Forms in nature and other stories’ (more about that in another blog – I promise!), which extended the exploration of ‘The Nude’ into forms of nature, mainly faces, and the suggestion of body parts mainly in the trunks of trees!
I am also preparing for a larger exhibition in 2017, where I am documenting interesting locations in states of decay, or change, with the addition of a nude figure to capture how everything eventually declines.
Whilst working in these three areas I organically came to what I wanted to submit for consideration for the Skin Exhibition.
Nature, Mother, and Grandad – three photos I was so immensely proud of, and was delighted to be accepted for exhibition of all three! The following words accompanied the photos whilst on display:
Nature – this photo is part of a series exploring nature and its hidden forms. Bark on a tree enables preservation, and encourages us to look at familiar views on ourselves, linking to the concepts of body image, and just as we come in all fabulous shapes and sizes, so does nature and we should embrace it.
Mother – this photo is part of a series which started in 2013 exploring the concepts of body image through the nude. This photo in particular on the brief of skin is acting as protection for our children.
Grandad – a tribute to a wonderful man who sadly passed away in July 2016. This photo forms part of a series over the last year where Nikki explored the concepts of self and family documentary photography, preserving a moment in time, life, and ultimately with the ones we love.
The Private view took place on Sunday 29th August; and here are a few photos taken celebrating all the wonderful artists who were included, in particular a live performance from Laure Meloy who responded to the art pieces in the form of Opera, and Clair Meyrick local poet and performer.
It has been a very personal, and heart felt journey from the first meeting to exhibition. I have felt that as a photographer, you put so much more into a photo, it’s not just about pressing the shutter, having a technically great result, but it also has a part of you, your thoughts your ideas, your creativity, your view on life is what makes your photos and what you do so unique.
Here’s to the next one.
Opening the Other Box………
Through a friend of mine, I noticed a post on Facebook inviting women to an informal talk about Whitstable Womens Art group Pandora’s Other Box.
A little apprehensive to start I drove to my favourite sea side place, I was’t sure really what to expect but I suppose that is the great thing of going slightly out of your comfort zone to learn about something new. I’ve wanted to expand my art based photography more along side the commercial side and felt that this would be great opportunity to do it!
The women at the meeting were very welcoming and the wide scope of the exhibition title ‘Skin’ was the focus, explained that there will be a series of meet ups, and enrichment workshops to lead to exhibition at the Horsebridge Centre Whitstable what a great focus.
Feeling totally inspired from the session, I hurried away making notes and sketching ideas on what I wanted to focus on, my initial thoughts were around Macro Photography, focussing literally on the skin capturing all its wonderful blemishes. I’d focussed on The Nude in a previous project so feel quite comfortable around this subject. Another thought is around tattoo’s and piercings as a form of body armour/expression, another part of me wants to run off and make something in clay!
A visit to the British Museum was great to bring my focus back and great to go as a group as well helped the sharing of ideas over cake! I’ve only ever been to the British Museum once before, and how many of us can say we have been inspired by Japanese, Egyptian and Mexican art in one day!
The second meet up was a great leveller, I was very conscious that I hadn’t ‘played’ enough with my project ideas and getting into a bit of a spiral of lots of thought and no action. It was reassuring to hear that many women in the group felt the same.
My conclusion to this part of the process is that I need to play more and be confident that the outcome may not be the final piece, its more the journey we take sometimes.
Just loving documenting things
It has been a while since my last blog back in July. I thoroughly enjoyed the Medway Open Studios and the feedback from my Mindfulness exhibition was fantastic, some more filming to come I think.
As well as being busy with commissions, event photography, workshops, photography courses and personal projects, I wanted to share with you that as a photographer I just can’t resist the urge to document things!
Everything I see and experience I want to capture in my memory as well as my camera, seeing everything from a pleasing angle. It is very easy these days to capture anything at any time (if you have a smart phone on you). Some of my most wonderful moments have been on a relaxed woodland walk with my Woof, taking the odd photo on my I-phone, which I would urge you to do as well.
My photography is such a mindfulness act, being right in the moment with my clients, friends, loved ones, continuing to see things in the best way possible, capturing that smile, the laugh of the audience, seeing the confidence grow in people who have never really done any photography before.
Documenting things has become such a part of me through my love of photography, helping me to capture those wonderful moments in life.
I just wanted to share that with you. Happy Snapping x