This page is fully dedicated to my Final Major Project and contains following:
Final Major Project initial idea and “six hat thinking”
Research and historical background
Relevant artists, photographers and practitioners
Project Proposal re-visited and re-written
Documents and descriptions about project progress, development and work process
Exhibiting – Degree show planning and progress
Imagery – research and final
FINAL MAJOR STAGE 1
SIX HAT THINKING
The direction of Final Major is people, places, communities in Hull. I have had thoughts of what I want to work with and who I will contact to make my project possible.
In big words – I want to find people and places, communities and organisations that are super special and different, extraordinary stories and people that can change the world. Because I want to change the world with my photographs.
One project that is run in Hull is HULL 2020 CHAMPOINS. It is aimed at people in Hull. Local people working together and with the Hull 2020 partnership on the issues that matter most to create a better future for Hull. Organisation is based on needs off communities, people ect. Finding what is missing in communities and what can be changed.
Another partner and guidance could be eskimosoup.co.uk. They are group of people and quoting their website: “eskimosoup works with a devoted internal team and highly skilled delivery partners. This approach enables us to have the right talent on the job with impressive turnaround time that often cannot be achieved by agencies that limit themselves by their salaried capability alone”.
Asset base can be find good communities, be part of social movement and step outside the comfort zone.
I know that Hull is amazing place, full of potential and that we have great people that can change the world.
I need to find out where to look for them. And I have a few people in mind who can give the information I need.
My feeling about this project is positive so far. The idea has developed through my experience living in Hull and believing that there is more under the top layers of what we see every day. And then I met particular person, who has similar goals in their own way of living and working who made it look real and possible to find everything I have mentioned above. I think that documentary could be a good starting point into serious employment in the future, I believe that I can develop my skills and build up my experience.
My gut feeling is also slightly nervous, this needs to be big [go hard or go home] and I am worried that I a not skilled enough, brave enough or I might not be able to deliver what I have planned.
Feelings probably will change after taking the first steps into the projects.
- research process through visiting communities, build up some trust and get to know subject matter
- hand out disposable cameras to people [I have planned to give cameras to homeless people, people that might be up for the job] as a research to what day see on daily bases and what they consider worth photographing and story telling. Use images as research and not as my own work. Maybe develop the idea further and use these images productively.
- invite people into different environment to learn more about their characteristics – studio, cafe, parks ect.
- Look at other local people work – writing, performing, building, volunteering ect. and see what I can use for that experience.
- See what I can learn from these people and what can people around me learn from it.
- Exhibiting is a big part of my plans, but this is very fragile at the moment, because I don’t know what the outcome will be.
I have an idea for social groups I would like to work with and each one is an alternative to another.
The positives are more than one: I can do what I am interested in, I can learn about the place I live in, city and people. I might have a good response from people in Hull, because I could positively effect their lives. People could also back me up and help out if they recognize good cause.
The idea is useful. They say “you have to love yourself first, before you love someone else”. That directs to this project. I have to get to know Hull better before I expect anything from it and move forward. This project could be an investment into my future in Hull as a photographer and could change something [keep believing that].
The benefit is clearly the need for this project, even on a smaller scale than I planing this. The focus on local will be relevant in the future, 2017 will be there year when Hull will be able to shine and I might find something that suits to the City of Culture.
It will work. Because a lot of people believe in Hull. And those who not yet see the potential or feel let down by Hull, could change their minds.
One of the first worries are the scale of the project – is it too big for a small person like me with time running throughout my fingers, struggling to find time for projects and job ect.
I am thinking big, because I have to at first – after starting this project I will see on what capacity I can work at and how it will develop. But the worry is there and will remain until I have first successful responses and images.
Difficulties will be the time-my worst enemy. To fit in the time scale of people that I will work with will be difficult, but doable if I plan ahead. But also I have to consider circumstances that I wont be able to control and how that will effect my work. Few risks – people saying “no”, health and safety, equipment errors [the length of borrowing lenses] and other not yet recognised risks.
The big issue might be that everything written above is no good and project is not making sense.
I am thinking about the project constantly, because I have started to be involved in some events and activities with Hull 2020 Champions and Eskimosoup. The Comedy festival as well might be part of it and it is coming soon [November 2015]. So thinking about the thinking process has already started.
As everything above is part of Six Hat Thinking process and I have a rough Rich Picture, as a plan, this stage has developed too.
I will have to bring my best guns out-time management and pre-planing. These have proven to be the key elements in a successful body of work or everything that I do.
I will start to work on Weekly Reflective statements to track my development and keep me working.
Hull Gems, Hull Gene, Hull- people and places…rough ideas, but so far Untitled
Final Major Project will be about people, places and communities in Hull. It is sounding mighty and grand, but the whole idea is to find the interesting and extraordinary in the city I live in and hopefully with small steps change the world, someone’s life, work of community. I am hoping that my body of work will influence people that see it and recognise the issues that local communities have, rise questions of what is going on around us and how we can change things locally first and then extend it further, to make a change where needed.
In every part of social group, community, work place and others there is a problem underlying. It can be personal or external, can effect one person or group of people. I cannot respond to this question as I need to look into the subject matter first. But the main focus will be to recognize people, communities, places that are extraordinary in their own way and see what is missing and what can be done, how we can raise awareness and bring people together to make whatever issue, place better. In this case the problem will appear once the project starts.
The project will be research and discovery based. Informative can also be the project aim meaning that I could inform our society about issues ect.
I am interested in the underlayer of Hull, I have always had a good feeling about living in Hull and I always thought that there is a reason why I moved here, not somewhere else. In other words – I have faith in Hull, Hull is great and I always wanted to find out why it is great, who is making Hull a great place [those extraordinary people]. And I just happened to meet a person who told me he can help, he can show me where to go and I believe that this might be a starting point for bigger documentary based project that might mean something.
I can’t title the project just yet, it is early days. The title might unconsciously effect the project in the wrong way, if I don’t get it right.
Related work and inspirations are slightly different from my current idea. I have been effected by Martin Parr’s work and technique, Peter Dench story-telling and image making technique and H. C. Bressons Decisive moment. All these things collect some sort of documentary photography technique set, but either of these people have purposely changed the world, by focusing on communities and issues as such. The power of their work has naturally made a change of how we see the world.
I haven’t so far looked at local photographers doing something similar.
Other aspect of this Final Major will be to take part in local community activities and read papers, books or other publications to know more. I have some projects that I’ve come across in the internet that have inspired me to take certain steps.
This idea is a development from my sudden love for documentary photography. Last year I worked with Hull Animal Welfare Trust, elderly people, comedians and street photography. I can see myself working with similar projects in the future, I feel like it is challenging enough. I have also gained few skills during the last year in documentary photography, as in my first year I was more studio based and documentary and outdoor photography was my weakest side.
My objectives is to start the project, contact people and attend any important events, gatherings and things that might help me to kick off the project. My task is also to research what is missing in the medium of photography about Hull. What is Hull Daily Mail covering often enough that it has become known and how I can avoid that sort of story-telling style in my project [no disrespect to the paper though] and see how I can be different with my photographs. The aim is to be open-minded about everything I do and use every way of researching possible.
If problems will emerge, I will have to evaluate why something hasn’t worked out and if that is out of my hands, I have to move forward. Luckily my idea is diverse and I can have alternatives. This is the aspect where patience, dedication and strong attitude needed. This is the challenging part as well, because not a single “no” can put me down, I have to stay strong and accept “no” and be able to move forward.
By trusting my gut feeling and what I’ve done previously I can see that this project is worthwhile. The importance is the interest and passion that I have at the moment and if the feeling will disappear, I will narrow down my project to one particular subject matter and see how I can work further. If I will have ten people saying to me that the project is waste of time and I can’t help anyone with my photographs, I will consider something completely different.
Resources – contacts, people and access to locations, books, publications, internet and talking to people. Equipment – camera and lenses, Speedlight and tripod, plus voice recording device to have exact “facts” if I speak to people, interview people.
I will need some money for travelling, but later one expenses for exhibiting [printing, framing, hanging] will come in, also if need a venue, some money will be needed.
RICH PICTURE coming soon…
For Links to Edgelands, Elicitation and John Bulmer’s exhibition reflections click here:
“END OF LIFE”
From “celebrating people, communities and places” Final Major Project idea to CELEBRATING “END OF LIFE” Final Major Project.
“Challenging” becomes the word that I use often and mean it every time. Since the project theme changed, my life and photography changed a little bit.
Reading through this page might seem overwhelming or chaotic, sometimes repetitive, but always honest and straight forward.
From the moment of generating this project idea onwards, I have overcome many obstacles, gained confidence and found a project that will carry me through the depressing process of becoming a none-student practitioner. Or maybe I even have “THE PROJECT” that will help me to understand in which direction my career path should go..
RESEARCH AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
DEATH and END OF LIFE
For three years during this course research and historical background are highlighted as essential part of your own development as a educated practitioner. Looking back at history of chosen genre or project idea gives you broader knowledge about your subject, gives you chances to reflect, learn and borrow.
Research in its basics allows to search for information and visual examples about other practitioners, art exhibitions or installations relevant to your subject. Also research gives the project or subject a background, supports the idea and shows the broad knowledge that person has gained through working progress and gives understanding.
This short intro is basically a quick reminder why all these three years I have gone through countless numbers of books, articles, magazines and websites in search for the information to answer these questions: WHO/WHY/WHAT/HOW/WHERE.
The idea for the project has come from personal experience and a hunger for a challenge, I guess.
It seems like the research about genres, history and artists I have done through out past two years, would be enough. Around this period, I already know about rule of thirds and other compositional aspects, I know that the first photograph ever was taken in 1826 and I have a favourite photographer for each genre that I’ve more or less done my studies about.
The “END OF LIFE” project seems like common sense when researching for artists – Joel Peter Witkin, Sally Mann, Colin Gray and definitely Victorian era when the “death” was a really common thing to deal with within a society.
The whole process of thinking how to persuade this project and start photographing was more to do with legal side of photographing places like morgues, hospitals, hospices, grave yards, cemeteries and funerals.
The focus of the project is to live the project and photograph it, challenging yourself and others, but there was few other focus points and I call them “END OF LIFE” RESEARCH.
When I had to submit my project proposal and back up my ideas, search for relevant studies, photographic work and written pieces, I did a quick search and that was my start in finding material about death in photography and end of life.
The list of sources and artist/photographer names was quite long. Unfortunately time has been my enemy during the second semester, so I have looked at those artists that seem to be adding the challenge to my project. Artists like Walter Schels, Frieke Jannssens and Colin Gray have been carrying me through the project, I have referred back to them numerous times, but I haven’t been through a process of doing the case studies.
But I am not worried, because I am continuously expanding my research and resources in order to justify the reasons for my project.
Also, if I can’t draw the finish line by the end of the semester, I have time to re-visit the list.
On of the biggest regrets is not being able to find time and read Audrey Linkman’s book “Photography and Death”. I was so excited to get that through the letter box and really thought that the book covers everything I need to know about photography and death relations.
This is the reading material for me over the summer, cannot justify just have few lines from the book in my Final Major Project.
I had to refer back to my first year and CATS – I had to write a comparison essay on two photographers. I chose to compare and study Duane Michals and Joel Peter Witkin.
The reason why I am mentioning this essay is because that was the first time I out-shined other students and choose Joel Peter Witkin – photographer who takes dead bodies and makes art out of them, treating the body just as a piece of flesh.
Unconsciously I have had Joel Peter Witkin in the back of my mind whilst thinking about how to approach the death and specifically – what is body and if people understand that the body is only there to get us about to complete our mission.
I thought I’ll share the essay and give an understanding of Joel Peter Witkin and his strange working methods.
“Turner, Badger[p.155, 1988] In simple words he pushes viewer to use sight to unnerve and instruct us [Charles Mann, love and redemption], and be conscious about potential suffering, reality and uncomfortable situations that human is going through in spiritual level being in human body.”
Yes, Joel Peter Witkin had many deep meanings behind his work, he was dealing with himself and his “demons” through the imagery, sending important messages across…
But what fascinates me is that he goes to a Body Farm, picks up a dead body and creates artwork. Just as easy as to pick up a old frame from charity shop and frame a new picture- makes a completely new artwork.
He also approaches people that are still alive, but because of their physical looks are pushed out from society “BBC documentary Vile Bodies shows him finding legless and forlorn man, to invite him to be photographed. He used dead bodies, midgets, people from circus and often himself and he exploits his subjects. His images reflect not only attitudes towards his subject, but attitudes to himself.”
This is where I thought that some Victorian England historical research could give me another approach to the dead body – lasting memory of a loss.
Post-mortem photography (also known as memorial portraiture or a mourning portrait) is the practice of photographing the recently deceased. These photographs of deceased loved ones were a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
So…Joel Peter Witkin was one of the first “weirdos” who brought the trend back, with different intentions, therefore not very popular and acknowledged.
The invention of the Daguerreotype in 1839 made portraiture much more commonplace, as many of those who were unable to afford the commission of a painted portrait could afford to sit for a photography session. This cheaper and quicker method also provided the middle class with a means for memorializing dead loved ones.
Photographs of loved ones taken after they died may seem morbid to modern sensibilities. In Victorian England, they became a way of commemorating the dead and blunting the sharpness of grief.
Victorian life was suffused with death. Epidemics such as diphtheria, typhus and cholera scarred the country, and from 1861 the bereaved Queen made mourning fashionable.
The death rates were high, therefore the popularity and demand for such services was accordingly high.
Trinkets of memento mori – literally meaning “remember you must die” – took several forms, and existed long before Victorian times.
The earliest post-mortem photographs are usually close-ups of the face or shots of the full body and rarely include the coffin.
The subject is usually depicted so as to seem in a deep sleep, or else arranged to appear more lifelike.
Many of these subjects were also clothed in their best apparel. After all, these photographs would serve as their last social presence.
Children were often shown in repose on a couch or in a crib, sometimes posed with a favourite toy or other plaything. It was not uncommon to photograph very young children with a family member, most frequently the mother. Flowers were also a common prop in post-mortem photography of all types.
Some of the photographs differ from their painted predecessors by depicting their subjects as if they were asleep. The concept of death as sleep has am extremely long history. It appears in Homer and Virgil, in medieval Christian liturgy, and in common parlance even today, when reference is made to the “repose” of the dead. It had a sentimental appeal in the nineteenth century, as it corresponded to the urge to symbolically maintain the presence of the deceased person within the circle of the family. Someone who is asleep may, after all, wake up, if only in the dreams or fantasies of the living.
Later photographic examples show the subject in a coffin. Some very late examples show the deceased in a coffin with a large group of funeral attendees; this type of photograph was especially popular in Europe and less common in the United States.
Post-mortem photography is still practiced in some areas of the world such as Eastern Europe. Photographs, especially depicting persons who were considered to be very holy lying in their coffins, are still circulated among faithful Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians.
This is explaining all the photographs that I have seen previously from my family archive.
Little documentation exists about how photographers felt about the practice.According to old newspapers, only a few photographers knew about the practice and therefore practiced it.Others believe that photographers in the late nineteenth and twentieth century were bound to have been occasionally commissioned for post-mortem photographs.Also during the time of noted interest, some attitudes that could be found among photographers was the sincere dislike or hatred of taking photographs in the likeness.It could also be found that a couple of firms made substantial amount of their income from the nature of the photographs.
The article below, explores the lost ritual of post-mortem photography and explains why it disappeared:
“The mass casualties of World War I — thirty-seven million dead — that sounded the death knell for Victorian mourning customs.” While the huge casualties of the 19th-century Civil War had thrown the United States into a passionate mourning, the first majorly brutal war of the 20th century encouraged more of a stiff upper lip. As for our mourning today, Lovejoy writes: “Memory is digital, not material. Grief is individual, not communal.”
Postmortem photography hasn’t entirely disappeared. Photographers still work on the banks of the Ganges, taking last shots of people before they’re consumed by flames, and some parents have portraits made of their stillborn children — the images, like many for the parents of the 19th century, are the only photographs parents will have of this person. What seems macabre now was at its core an act of remembrance and keeping the memory of that person’s face, even decayed or diseased, present.
This is where the research found previously about Remember My Baby comes in. See here:
When I was trying to narrow down the decades momento-mori and post-mortem “trends” I did come across some interesting findings.
Whilst researching for Victorian post-mortem-photographs and understanding the reasons behind the photographing the dead, I keep thinking if we society would accept this kind of approach.
Researching for reasons why the trend ended, I found this disturbing image:
By looking at this it feels like whoever took this picture strongly mirrored the 19th Century style, forgetting that we have changed as human race – we no longer have to work with limited tools to capture this tragic moment. And still – this image is available on Pinterest, as 21st Century example of post-mortem photography.
Although I should be intrigued by this image and all the Kitsch elements within, I feel really sorry for the poor girl- it is a horrible way how to celebrate ones life.
One of the other sources listed below has given me a lot of information about death, momento mori, funerals and life after death.
Sally Mann is another artist that is not afraid of death – it intrigues her.
Sally Mann “Proud Flesh” is her personal project that investigates the bonds between husband and wife.She photographed her husband Larry. Beautiful, textured, and provocative, these unprecedented nude studies neither objectify nor celebrate; rather, they go far under the skin to suggest a relationship between man and woman that is profoundly trusting: sensual, sexual, sometimes painful, often indescribably tender, and always unblinkingly honest.
Although her husband was not dying, the images are intense and personal and
Source: Aperture Sally Mann Proud Flesh
Sally Mann also have visited Body Farms for one of her selected works.
Mann has a gift for provoking strong reactions (“I like pushing buttons”) and her pictures of rotting corpses certainly do that. She took them at the University of Tennessee’s anthropological facility at Knoxville, aka the “body farm”, where human decomposition is studied scientifically. The bodies are mostly left in an outdoor setting and lie there for months or even years. In Steven Cantor’s 2006 television documentary about Mann, she is observed happily wandering from cadaver to cadaver, prodding this body part and stroking that one, unfazed by the maggots and reek of decay.
“Death makes us sad, but it can also make us feel more alive,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to get there. The smell didn’t bother me. And you should see the colours – they’re really beautiful. As Wallace Stevens says, death is the mother of beauty.”
Mann called the series What Remains, her point being that death is not an end, that nature goes on doing its work long after the body has become a carapace. When her exhibition of that title opened in Washington in 2004, most reviewers got the point: “But not the woman in the New York Times, who freaked out and called the photos gross.” Mann was surprised to see an art critic using the vocabulary of a 10-year-old, but not by the underlying prejudice: “There’s a new prudery around death. We’ve moved it into hospital, behind screens, and no longer wear black markers to acknowledge its presence. It’s become unmentionable.”
More remarkable was the fact that no one questioned her right to publish the photos; there had been endless sermonising about her portrayal of her children, but this time there was none. “If there’s any time when you’re vulnerable, it’s when you’re dead. In life, those people had pride and privacy. I felt sorry for them. I thought if they knew I was taking photos, without them having a chance to comb their hair or put their teeth in, they’d die of shame. So I expected critics to ask: is this right?
“I was ready with my answer: all these people had signed release forms. I’ve done the same now, donated my body for research. But then I discovered that some of the corpses were street people who hadn’t signed releases. And of course even those who did sign probably thought the photos would be scientific, not artsy-fartsy. So though I was given a free hand – ‘Go on,’ they said, when a fresh batch arrived, ‘unzip the body bags and get them out’ – I decided to keep the subjects anonymous. I didn’t want to aestheticise them, either. It was important to treat them with respect.”
Could Sally Mann be “my girl”?
There are various sources for Mann’s preoccupation with mortality. The shooting of an escaped prisoner in the grounds of her farm in Lexington. The death of her greyhound, Eva, whose bones – retrieved from the cage in which Mann had buried her – she later photographed (“That was when I learned how efficient death is. After 14 months, the skeleton had been picked completely clean”). Or, years before, the death of her father, for which she was present and which set her wondering, “Where did all of that him-ness go?” Even the photographs of her children are littered with memento mori: a dead deer in one, a dead weasel in another.
In truth, though, Mann’s lively obsession with death – her capacity to be unsqueamish about it while seeing its thumbprint everywhere – originated way back in early childhood. Her father was a country doctor who had seen his share of death and who liked to say there were only three subjects for art: sex, death and whimsy. He was himself an artist in his spare time, and his whimsical creations included a man with three penises (Portnoy’s Triple Complaint) carved from a tree trunk. It was an unconventional, rural childhood, middle class but bohemian: no church, no country club, no television. Mann describes herself as a “feral child”, running naked with dogs or riding her horse with only a string through its mouth.
It might be the recognition she gained from the Immediate Family or her specific style of etching photographs and creating the surreal look, that has given her all these opportunities to get access to these facilities and even feel like it is worth exhibiting.
I plan to do study cases on her work, when I get closer access to funerals and death related photograph opportunities.
But she is worth looking at when I feel like I need an inspiration. Her story is interesting and I can definitely relate to her to some extent.
FRIEZE.COM was the first source I looked at.
Frieze is a media and events company that comprises four publications, frieze magazine, frieze d/e, Frieze Masters Magazine and Frieze Week; and three international art fairs, Frieze London, Frieze New York and Frieze Masters; a programme of courses and talks at Frieze Academy, and frieze.com – the definitive resource for contemporary art and culture.
The article was reviewing an exhibition held in London gallery Paradise Row.
Eschewing spectacle and explicit representation, the exhibition takes its title from the 1978 book by Primo Levi recalling the small and often unspoken gestures encountered during his imprisonment that restored a sense of humanity in otherwise inhumane circumstances.
Moments of Reprieve was first exhibited at the Tallinn Kunstihoone, Estonia in October 2011.
The review was written by Brian Dillon.
The review was highlighting the group exhibition, discussed different artists exhibiting.
The review was quite harsh I thought, quoting: “Perhaps the oddest aspect of this glib show was the impression that one really was looking at some kind of loss, or at least debilitating absence: to wit, the curators’ failure to notice that their subject was cruelly passé, their unwillingness or inability to be more precise or more ambitious. Instead, the whole felt half-hearted, hubristic and, well, lost.”
It was useful that the reviewer gave an insight in each artists background and project taking on “loss”. There are many kinds of loss, each handled differently and perhaps it would be really good if I could time travel and visit the exhibition.
From the imagery provided on the website, I think that it was well laid out interesting to view. Representing “loss” in airy and bright space slightly confuses and challenges the viewer as “loss” seems like a dark topic, but I find it quite intriguing and interesting.
The artists and projects mentioned:
Quiet studies of personal effects – related to her father’s mysterious death in Lithuania.
TateShots: Indre Serpytyte – The mysterious death of her father led Indre Serpytyte on a photographic journey through Lithuania’s history.
The project about her father and finding the truth feels really personal from the viewers perspective.
Her project explores different aspects of “End Of Life” and is single items of someone’s life and things left behind.
David Birkin is a contemporary artist/photographer who “started out photographing subjects on the periphery of conflict, before starting a non-profit lecture series on art and politics” By a quick look at hisd website and work, I think he focuses on political issues and uses reproduction a lot. He’s work is not dark, but certainly has got the sense that he is searching for global truth and tries to fight against system.
The work he exhibited in Paradise Row, was about “photographed himself performing ‘stress positions’ from the CIA’s torture repertoire.”
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
“The Day Nobody Died 2008″
In June 2008 Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin travelled to Afghanistan to be embedded with British Army units on the front line in Helmand Province.
On the first day of their visit a BBC fixer was dragged from his car and executed and nine Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide attack. The following day, three British soldiers died, pushing the number of British combat fatalities to 100. Casualties continued until the fifth day when nobody died. In response to each of these events, and also to a series of more mundane moments, such as a visit to the troops by the Duke of York and a press conference, all events a photographer would record, Broomberg & Chanarin instead unrolled a six-meter section of the paper and exposed it to the sun for 20 seconds. The results seen here deny the viewer the cathartic effect offered up by the conventional language of photographic responses to conflict and suffering.
Broomberg & Chanarin
There are many abstract ways how to represent death and life. These artists have chosen to expose paper to the sun to represent the day when there was no death in Helmand Province. But is that photographic art, if no camera involved? Would this project would even be considered as photographic work if no photo paper?
I question the work and its execution, even the true purpose, but I must admit, that by reading the background story I appreciate the visuals. They remind me of the life line in hospitals that record the heartbeat…
The reviewer although was in different thoughts and is missing the “loss” saying that: “The resulting photograph, mottled and irradiated-looking, makes no sense reduced to an instance of indeterminate ‘loss’.”
Jane and Louise Wilson
“For over two decades, British artists (and sisters) Jane and Louise Wilson have meticulously documented the architectural ruins of twentieth-century modernity. In specific, their focus has been directed towards the dire fate of obsolete military-industrial constellations. Like many artists coming of age after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, their work seems irresistibly drawn to the decaying skeletons of modernist utopias. They sift through debris to uncover present-day resonances that also happen to produce eerily beautiful photographs, films, and installations.”
It is interesting subject -derelict buildings, abandoned places and lost presence feeling.
But these kind of images can be applied to many social/economical and political topics. In this occasion it is the Soviet Union marks left behind and the environmental changes – that can be related to previous studies of Edgelands. The land once occupied by people, dies slowly or vanish in to the ground. Question to answer – what this really has to do with death and end of life?
“Despite the Wilsons’ reticent documentary style, the photographs have a distinctive painterly palette. Broken and decaying modernist grids are portrayed as lush gradations of golden light, warm rust, and cool shadow, their lack of human presence all the more pronounced for being public architecture. The images could be understood as memento moris, the still life tradition of decaying bowls of fruit and flowers that admonished good Christians to “remember that you will die.” But the effect is hardly imperious. Their form of address is collective and political rather than theological, and in our current moment of overweening nuclear ambitions, ever-increasing environmental disasters, and persistent amnesia about the events and prehistories that brought us here, we would do well to heed the invitation to reexamine these pasts.”
The interesting factor is the colour, shadows and light – they have turned these derelict buildings with horrible past into “Tropical” coloured visions of past.
I like to approach my project with some colour, a bit of joy and fundamentally – celebrate the past, life left behind.
So therefore- the only reason why I exceptionally like Atomgrad (Nature Abhors a Vacuum) is the colour and remembrance presented in the style of momento mori.
Overall I quite enjoyed the criticism from Brian Dillon, I enjoyed the challenge that he could potentially give to any other artists that would like to deal with death or end of life through photography. As if that is my work that gets the criticism and allows me to reflect.
I also have new artists to look at when seeking inspiration or ideas, maybe even contact them at some stage.
My dissertation main topic was Martin Parr and Kitsch. I love both and I wish to be both at some point in my life.
As I was reading through Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste by Gillo Dorfles (Studio Vista, 1968) and few essays seemed interesting to my Final Major Project. Although it would be wrong and bizarre to apply Martin Parr’s style of using saturated colours, obvious presence and impudent attitude and seek for Kitsch within funerals, hospices and morgues, I feel like the knowledge gained through writing the dissertation is in my advantage.
As long as I am respectful and sensitive, the style of photographing “End Of Life” project is kind of up to me.
Religious trappings by Gillo Dorfles was discussing religion and its relationship with art, in 1960’s and 1970’s contemporary art of KITSCH.
“fear that anything “new” in art may lead the faithful away from religion.” (Dorfles, 1969, p. 142)
Although the connection with the essay about religion and “End Of Life” project doesn’t seem very distinctive, I can see the Kitsch coming into the cemeteries and grave yards, arranged items around grave stones – without even searching deep, I can guess that part of that is plastic flowers and fluffy Teddy bears.
“Even in the case of extremely famous examples of architecture, kitsch always manages to creep into furnishings and all sacred iconological material.” (Dorfles, 1969, p. 142)
The Kitsch at its peak was everywhere, so religion, churches, cemeteries was not an exception.
If I would explore the British culture and compare it with Latvian culture of burial methods and graves “life after the funeral” I imagine to see Kitsch objects, just different to each culture.
Grave stones themselves is a plain surface for any kind of art if chosen in addition to type..
The essay is not changing a perspective, it is giving me another thing to think about.
Christian kitsch by Karl Pawek is the second essay from the book.
Again it discusses religion, Christians and the relationship with kitsch.
I consider myself a none religious person, in some cases religion is really annoying topic to be discussed or considered to be valid, but I understand that my project in some cases will be closely related to religion. Different cultures and religions celebrate “End Of Life” differently, even the tone of the funerals contrasts between different cultures.
“When you consider what a high percentage of population – judging by the windows of shops selling furniture, lamps, wallpapers and china – live in tasteless surroundings, it is not surprising that the religious pictures and objects which Christians have on show are also tasteless.” (Dorfles, 1969, p. 143)
Pawek also states that Christian kitsch is in the line of any other types of kitsch.
Interesting fact is that I can remember that Orthodox monastery in Valgunde, Latvia where my dad used to take me when I was a kid, was filled with kitsch. Only now, having the “academic” knowledge I see religion as another victim of Kitsch – cheap garnishing that pleases everyone’s eye. Even the religious symbols and figures are potentially made out of cheap plastic from China…..
Now working on ramifications of the “End Of Life”project such as grave yards, cemeteries and chapels, I will be looking out for kitsch presence and objects.
This is making me really excited about visiting “taboo” places [for a photographer with an intention to photograph] and point out through my photographs that nothing is “sacred” and we live in consumerism era.
Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction, Routledge, 1998 was another book I was looking at when researching for the dissertation.
Photography, Birth and Death.
Photography’s particular ability to objectify the body associates it with death – this is expressed by Susan Sontag: “All photographs are momento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.”
Roland Barthes has argued that our horror at photographs of corpses is related to our faith in photographic realism. Since, according to Barthes, we tend to conflate the real and the live, a photograph of a corpse seems to attest “that the corpse is alive, as corpse: it is the living image of a dead thing”.
“The living person photographed may subsequently die, but remains preserve in the photograph, while the dead body photographed is ‘horrible’ since it is given the same immortality”. According to Barthes, photography “produces Death while trying to preserve life (Barthes 1981/1984: Jay 1993: 450-6)
The chapter also talks about current attitudes towards post-mortem photography. “Everyday death is among those aspects openly represented in medieval carnival but is increasingly relegated to the private realm in the modern era. The practice of photographing dead relatives or friends was a publicly acceptable practice until about 1880, with photographs of corpses displayed openly in American homes”
There was two artists that can be added to my list – Andres Serrano and Sue Fox. They both explore types of morturary photographs, each using different styles. Sue Fox is focusing onmore “horrific” documentary style, whereas Andre Serrano are “lush, large scale and, highly staged using studio lighting techniques.
This source clarified [well, not entirely] some aspects of post-mortem photography, but findings like these need to be studied in more depth, if to be understood completely.
Notes on Photography and Death: Mourning, Spectacle, Evidence by Anthony Luvera, BLOG
This article was one of my favourites to dip in. It seemed educationa, but nteresting at the same time.
The inevitability and unpredictability of death is a fundamental part of what it means to be human. With much of the project of living spent seeking security and attempting to obtain and sustain control, it is the unknowingness of the timing and experience of death that makes it so confronting. Yet, attitudes to death are culturally constructed and coping mechanisms are formed through the meaning systems of social institutions.
The social theorist Chris Shilling has argued that ‘conditions of high modernity have made the modern individual’s confrontation with death especially difficult…
As the sociologist Norbert Elias observed, ‘never before have people died as noiselessly and hygienically as today… and never in social conditions fostering so much solitude’ (1985: 85). Where once religion provided a ‘sacred canopy… a shared vision of the world, the body and self-identity’ (Shilling 2003: 154) the increasingly secularised formation of Western societies has marginalised the communal spaces for death that once anaesthetised dread about the meaningless of living in the face of the unknowable event of death.
Susan Sontag likened to the indexicality of the photograph to a death mask, writing ‘all photographs are memento mori that enable participation in another’s mortality’ (1977: 154).
Photography is a past tense medium. As they can only ever be seen after the actual moment depicted, photographs will always intimate death.
As society has become increasingly secularised since the mid-nineteenth century – corresponding to the arrival of the photographic medium – space for Death is now primarily carved out in various forms of production and consumption of photographic representation. Communal responses and collective rites and rituals for death, dying and mourning have been tidied away while the hunger to view representations of death and dying has grown: reality programmes set in accident and emergency departments, documentaries about war, websites set up as spaces for memorialisation, and exhibitions in art and photography galleries – not to mention the deluge of violent films and television series that has arisen in recent decades. The forces of consumption that drive the production of the spectacle of death in contemporary culture might be likened to a fissure that forges its way around a blockage, as public audiences continue to seek out systems and spaces to try to obtain knowledge of death.
To view images of or about death may not necessarily get us any closer to the truth of death, but the sting of their temporality is acute as they evoke the deathly riddles of the ontology of the photograph
This essay is answering quite a lot of questions that I have had and I have asked to others who question the reasons behind my project. I would like to believe that I do this project because I find it interesting and challenging, but deep down, there might be another reason.
I quite like that the writer is pointing out the hunger for death to be publicly available – there is so much going on in the media and the trends in film making..
At least every news edition will reveal another tragedy, murder or crime involving death, for us to remember that we are still alive and feel thankful that it was not us that had the bad day.
Latvian mourning traditions/Funeral
This article was one of my first research regards to Latvian mourning traditions and funeral traditions. Final Major Project in its basics has started from my Latvian heritage and how I was growing up – often my father took me to funerals and I have grown up having that as part of my life.
The article is focusing on the Ancient Latvian traditions and ways of saying goodbye.
The article is also revealing that only recently Latvian Folklore researchers have discovered that Latvians did not had traditional songs suited to mourning. “Beru Raudas” is something that was more popular in Russia, Lithuania and Balkan countries.
Ancient Latvians were not Christians and had their own mythology and religion.
Ancient Latvians used to play different kind of music at the funerals – folksongs and when Christianization took place around 13th Century – church chants.
The article discusses that in Latvian mythology in parts of different cultural groups, it was not appropriate to cry near the dead. The belief was that if you cry, the defunct won’t be able to rest in peace. If the mourners cry or have an emotional brake down near the dead, they are disturbing their relationship between the dead and alive and will be haunted.
In some parts of Latvia, like Kurzeme region, it was appropriate to have joyful funerals. Scientists believe that it is an interesting phenomenon. They are pointing out that joyful funeral did not mean that mourners danced and laughed around the coffin, but the wake was the part where people celebrated the life of that person and remembered the happy times.
In the occasion of a tragic death, nature of the funeral and wake obviously changed, but if the if the person have had a great life, Latvians celebrated those great things.
The main religion traditionally practiced in Latvia is Christianity.Lutheranism is the main Christian denomination among ethnic Latvians due to strong historical links with the Nordic countries and Northern Germany, while Roman Catholicism is most prevalent in Eastern Latvia (Latgale), mostly due to Polish influence.
Other Latvian funeral traditions:
- Traditional name for funerals “bedibas”
- traditional food at the funeral – peas and beans.
- The moment the person dies, all windows and doors are opened so that the soul can go to God unhindered.
- Only invited guest can attend the funeral [so by crashing a funeral you are really are in the chance to get in trouble]
- Symbolic tree for funerals – spruce
- The deceased was traditionally dressed in white, white sheets on the bed and the white padding in the coffin.
- According to tradition, the deceased favourite items were placed in the coffin.
Funeral is usually separated in two days. The first day/night starts with a meal, candle burning (to light the way), talking about the deceased.
On the second day funerals starts early in the morning, because Latvians believed that the door to the Heaven is open till noon. At the funeral everyone tries to fulfil the deceased person’s last wishes. Special care is taken when choosing horses and decorating them. Latvians avoided white horses as they believed that the white horse can be seen from afar and will distract the soul on its way to Heaven.
When coffin is brought to the grave a priest is giving a speech, usually contains verses related to passing away. During the speech coffin is put in the grave.
Everybody, starting from the closest relatives, drops three handfuls of sand on the coffin.
If the deceased person was not married, the ceremony symbolises wedding.
Mourners return home singing, have a meal and even dance and play games.
In Latvia it is tradition to have Mourners Day/Candle Day on the first Sunday of Advent.
Culturally important is the Grave Festival, usually held on the weekends between June and September.
GRAVE TENDING AND CEMETERY FESTIVALS
Cemeteries are one of the visible expressions of Latvian cultural heritage. Over time, they have changed, but the graves received regular visitors and the tradition of their care has been sustained over several centuries.
Looking at this tradition of gravesite care, a study by archaeologists shows that both the Cours’ fire graves and Selonian burial mounds show respect for the deceased. In the 16th and 17th centuries, in the Duchy of Courland (Kurzeme) and Swedish Vidzeme, the landlords, clergymen and other outstanding individuals were buried in cathedral arches and courtyards. Farmers were still buried into burial mounds into the 18th century, when the Great Plague felled many residents of Kurzeme (1710) and Vidzeme withstood the Russian pillaging during the Northern War, turning the land on both sides of the Daugava River into a huge cemetery field. It took two to three generations for people to recover somewhat. Only in 1773, when Vidzeme was under Russian rule, the Governor ordered the cemeteries to be marked off by a fence or surrounding rampart. Burials in the churches or churchyards was prohibited, which explains why Vidzeme developed vast cemeteries. In Courland, after the abolishment of serfdom in 1864, many acquired economic independence and could purchase land for their family and relatives and homeowners arranged small cemeteries on their newly-acquired land. Over time, these evolved into parish cemeteries.
Covering the grave with flowers was apparently first practiced by Herrnhutters – members of the so-called Brethren congregations around Valmiera and Cēsis at the end of the 18th century. In Courland fishermen’s villages the tradition was to carve ornaments into the cross or adorn it with ribbons and cords. Tombstones with words cast in them, coats of arms and commemorative plates, had already started to spread in 15th century in Riga. When the law was adopted that provided for establishing burial places only outside the city limits, in 1773, the citizens of Riga obtained the so-called Great Cemetery. In 1910, the Riga City Council granted a nearly 100 hectares to install a suburban cemetery in the forest. The Forest Cemetery, which is over a hundred years old, has now become a very large “city of the dead”, whose territory was originally divided into religious congregations. The cemetery developed around the gravesite of Latvia’s greatest national poet, Rainis, was the first to be independent of denominational influence. The two world wars covered the territory of Latvia with the graves of soldiers.
During the summer, from late June to early September, cemetery festivals takes place attended by the relatives, friends and neighbors of the deceased: they congregate to commemorate the dead even if they live far away and even outside Latvia. This cemetery festival tradition has not existed for more than a hundred years, but it is strongly rooted and maintained by people belonging to the local community.
In preparation for celebrations, the cemetery is decorated with vases of flowers on the graves, candles are lit and fresh sand strewn around the graves; flowers are planted and decorative shrubs trimmed. Latvians care for the cemetery as if it were a garden, and landscape architects recognize that the Latvian cemeteries may be considered parks of sorts.
Cemetery festivals include a pastor-led church service or lay ceremony with music poetry, speeches and celebrations that take place either in the family circle by the cemetery if there are no relatives living nearby, at the nearby family home, or in the wider local community — village or town celebrations tailored to the cemetery festival period.
This Latvian guy here has an interesting WordPress blog that includes photographs from his fathers funeral and the preparation for the funeral.
I quite like his honesty and ability to talk openly about the sad occasion of his father passing away.
“I wish I had been able to spend some time with him before he passed away – his hearing was quite bad this last year and so he didn’t like to talk on the phone but kept telling me that we’d discuss all that when I got out here in August, however I am grateful that his death was quick and relatively painless, and saved him from what would probably have been an unbearable paralysis – none of us can imagine him as a good patient, he just wasn’t that type of man. I’ll write more about him and his life in future postings, he was quite an amazing man (although we had our many differences) and had a number of lives, the final “life” being his last 15 years as a farmer in Latvia, something he had never expected.”
“The grave is hand dug, no machinery involved, and although we didn’t dig it our selves we did fill it in afterwards, each man in the family pitching in to help out.”
Among our guests was a distant cousin and 4 other men who sing in a very good men’s ensemble. They sang both at the graveside while we were filling in the grave as well as at the wake. At one point they couldn’t resist and had to try out the acoustics in the barn, and were very impressed.
“Much like the Irish, Latvians celebrate a life rather than mourn it at the wake. We ate and drank (lots of cold beer, it was a blazing hot day), sang songs, listened to speeches (not many) etc. all in all a good party, my father would have enjoyed it.”
After reading the whole story, I felt this bond between us Latvians and the slightly “chilled out” attitude towards this very sad occasion.
The only thought in my head is if I could do the same thing, if that would have been my family member or friend. Could I still write about it, posting pictures that I might not even be able to capture…
Going Back to my roods – childhood, teenage-hood and today.
4 Days in Latvia
Funeral directory visit in Latvia:
I was in Latvia for few days in February. Someone that my sister works with, was the son of funeral directory owner and I thought that this is an opportunity that cannot be missed – so we arranged meeting with him. His funeral directory is called “Velis-A” and that raised a few giggles between me and my sister as you can translate it and interpret it as “rolling down the hill”. I did not ask is that intentionally taken title.
The guy at first seemed approachable, easy going, friendly. Offered us a coffee and we started the interview. My problem of not having the exact project definition, rolled into a slow and awkward start, but he seemed to understand what I am doing, taking in account that he works in the business for a long time and nothing can surprise him. He started off telling about himself and bragging about the success his business has, which I thought at first is sarcasm. As the conversation went on, I suddenly realized that he is an asshole. He told me that he owns funeral directory, he has got his own morgue and range of modern hearses. The hearses as discovered at the end, was nothing more than Mercedes vans, which came as a slight disappointment.
The camera I had, Speedlight and lens for him seemed like another moment for a brag, as he told us that he is a photographer himself and his gear is similar. Therefore we discovered that his business offers photography at funeral, videos and photo books. Later on he showed his two hard drives with images for the dead (?) and for the live (family). He stores them in the safe and offered me to have few of his photos. He also told that he stages special performances with native music and native traditional Latvian dances and offers that at the special costs. That seemed like a fresh and decent addition to the funeral, works quite nicely if the person who has died has a distinctive Latvian heritage. But the way he presented that was really disturbing. He told us how much that costs and that it has been so popular that he thinks of himself as the “God of the Funeral Services”.
When I asked if I could photograph his “hotel” (nick name for morgue), he said definitely no, because I am a competition to him and I can also intrude someone’s private space. I understood the last part, as the subject is sensitive and you need to build the relationship between the family and the funeral directory to be able to photograph body to be prepared and dressed.
Next question and suggestion was to attend one of his funerals [in the time scale of four days he had 2 planned] and as a research material, photograph parts of it. He seemed OK with that, but did not miss a chance to brag about the fact that this is the funeral of well know companies Accountancy Manager and that he is the only person in the town who has the access to these high-brow people. He promised to give us a call once his got a confirmation from the family and told me when/where and what time it will be.
I asked him if he could help us to get in the city’s main hospital Pathology Centre (morgue), but his response was to try that myself, with a note that I have no chance.
I left slightly disappointed, but I learned a few things:
One – as much as I hate the fact that I have to have a permission to photograph funeral, I have to be able to ask, face the family and explain myself. Funeral crashing would be too difficult to handle.
Second – funeral directory service is there for a reason – they are an important figure in organising funeral and have someone to guide you through, as the last thing you want is to handle the hassle on your own. The legal side of things is emotionally difficult because you expect to have sympathy for your loss, but bureaucracy has no feelings or heart.
Third – funeral directory is a tough business that will never go out of fashion or demand, as people life cycle ends with the same every time – death. So when approaching, I need to make clear what my aim is and how photographs will be used.
Funeral and Grave Yard
As I was left with a vague promise of getting the call from the funeral directory director about the funeral the next day, I flicked through the local paper and the funeral announcements. I discovered that there are few funerals going about the next day and the day after. I decided to pay a visit to one of them, as that was a teacher that used to teach in the same school I went to many years ago. At arrival I learned few things: this is the graveyard where my mum’s side relatives are buried, but I have never been to visit any of the graves, not sure why….Also I discovered that the funeral is directed and photographed by the same man I saw the day before…..meaning that he lied to me about the high-brow accountant funeral in general, also missed to tell me that this funeral is one. The last thing I learned – it will be hell of a difficult task to photograph funeral without a permission from family, because as soon as we parked on the side of the road opposite the place [there was a fair distance though] where the action was one, more than one head turned around to have a look, like they smelled my intentions from far…also him being there will make it difficult to disappear in the background as he remembers my face.
I was at the grave yard with my sister, but she was relaxed and not bothered, but as soon as we both approached the hot spot where people gathered around the grave, she started to feel the same anxiety.
We kept a fair distance, but neither of our clothing helped us to disappear in the crowd or blend in with trees. I started taking photographs from a fair distance and straight away regretted not have decent zoom lens such as 70-300 mm.
As we slowly moved closer to the crowd few people turned around and looked, as if they have big and wide eye in the back of their heads. I was panning the camera and took a few more. It generally felt wrong and exciting at the same time, there was adrenaline in my blood until one distinctive moment.
In between the crowd I notice this very old grandma sat on a chair, wrapped up warm, holding bunch of yellow flowers and looking sad and quiet. And it sort of cleared my head and I started to feel very sad and understood where I am. I am crashing someone’s funeral, in the crowd there are children left without a parent, someone left without a best friend or a teacher.. and this old grandma is crying over someone younger than her, left this world early. I took a picture of the grandma, as a turning point in this experience and decided to leave.
It felt really real at that moment, that my project will be difficult to handle from a personal perspective, as I am lucky to have most of my family with me and my funeral experiences in the past have been about looking at other people cry over their loved ones, visiting graves that you need to keep tidy and free meals after the funerals. Do I really understand the true feeling of loss and can I handle photographing these sensitive moments in the style I want – bold and shocking. Or is the bold and shocking terms that can be related to this ordinary process?
I decided to have walk around the grave yard, just to see the latest trends in graves, headstones, flowers and also have a general feel of grave yard, as I always find it as one of the most peaceful places in the world – no fighting, wars, politics, crisis or money problems.
As I was walking through the grave yard, I discovered that there are no new trends, everything is as it was 10 years ago. Depending on the persons background and nationality, graves vary – Russian nationals usually have impressive headstones, crosses and full colour photographs of the person buried. Plastic flowers is also one of the things only Russian nationality people tend to have – and why not? Always looking fresh and colourful, but too tacky for Latvians. Latvian graves differ with the headstones, much more down to earth and simple, but with a line from poem or Bible engraved to signify personality or life. Latvians like to say last final words and sound beautiful and certain, but remain calm and quite at most of times. Latvians attend to be awkward and not big fans of emotional talking, heart to heart conversations are not a common thing. Latvians also prefer live plants and flowers. That explains my childhood experience of being left in the grave yard for two hours to pull weeds, water flowers and rake the area. I used to panic and cry as I was left there on my own and my home too far to walk back home.
I took some panoramas and other interesting photographs, that seemed to be useful later on.
The top panorama is inspired by AJR Photographs and her Constable painting re-creations using panoramas.
We decided to leave, but we did pick a bad time, as all the people from the funeral where leaving and looked at us, questioning our presence.
There was few other funerals the next day, but I decided that this is enough funeral crashing for this week.
Family grave yard visit
Every time I go back home, there is a birthday, anniversary or something else for someone from my dad’s side buried. My dad is one of those people who love to torture himself and others, go to the grave and have silent cry over life gone past…So he never misses an opportunity for me to go and do that with him. It always feels like he is trying to make a point – live your life in the way that you worked hard and gave birth to few children so they can look after your grave once you’ve died. It is like he is surprised about the death of relative or friend every time and it is a punishment. I have never agreed with him, but always silently stood next to him, trying to say some wise words to soothe his sorrows.
This time it was my aunties birthday, she died when I was 6 years old from kidney failure due to heavy drinking. She was a proper farm girl and had a boyfriend three times her age. She used to be my best friend, as much as I can remember. Her funeral is not saved in my memory though.
So my dad asked if I can go and place some flowers. So I did. I bought yellow tulips, because I wanted to brighten up the dull grave yard with true natures beauty and I thought she would love them too.
The visit was without my dad, so I felt comfortable to take my camera and have a mess about. This grave yard is familiar to me, I feel save when there, so I thought that photographs could reflect that and also I can record something that is cultivated in my consciousness and is so familiar.
Images I took with the grave yard, belfry, graves, view from the grave yard to the high road is like taking a portrait, or image of what is recorded in my memory. It felt weird, but good.
I also wanted a self-portrait near the belfry, so I asked my sister to stay there so I can set up light and flash. And the test photograph turned out as headline image of our attitude towards dying, funerals, death and mourning. My sister yawned and the flash laid shadow from the flowers she was holding on her jacket, when really there should be no shadows, just clear and smooth light.
None of my portraits looked good enough, as I was trying to be that person that visits the grave yard with decency and dignity. It seemed false, therefore not good.
The lesson learned – I do have personal experiences with funerals and death, but it is not as sad or sensitive, because it either happened too long ago, or there have been different highlights [free meals and drinking with grownups after the official part].
This visit truly reflects the cultural aspect of the funerals, so the next step is to visit exact same environment in UK and compare and contrast.
The visit to the morgue was just an idea that become more like a need. I rang the local hospital and they directed me to the Pallative care unit, than to the morgue. The receptionist/nurse was slightly confused, but she made us an appointment for the next day 9 am.
I slightly changed my story – I told the director that I am doing my Masters Degree in one of the Latvia’s universities in psychology and just want to have an interview of how it is like to work in the morgue, see the daily routine, job description and personal views…to this day I cannot believe I got through the visit without getting in trouble, because I was not prepared and was clearly too cheeky about the death and my own opinion. I was really trying to see if they think of the dead bides just the way I do- just a piece of flesh that carries our souls.
I was also cheeky enough to ask if I can have a tour around the facilities and take a few pictures for a research material.
I think that what makes a true professional, as he was not bothered about me taking pictures, he just told the true and official story about the work he does.
There was three dead bodies there when I walked through. One was just arrived and the family was still there to sort out the documents.
I took a picture from the edge of the room just seconds before I noticed that there is a family member.
I hid my camera and continued to walk, as I felt the sadness and sympathy for their loss, but at the same time I was curious as I have never been into a morgue.
The walk around the morgue was interesting and I did not feel fear or disaffection towards the place that is not the best place where to deal with grief – it does have that “cold” and official look, but it is not as bad as we might have imagine. It was also not could at all. The big doors that you can see in the image are the refrigerators where they keep the temperature cold.
Two different types of editing – one to show the reality and one to add mood. This is the table where they prepare the bodies for examination and burying.
I feel like I had the most luckiest and unexpected experiences for my project. I have gone to the worst place for the end of life. The place that is the darkest and most scariest for the family and others who have to go through the loss.
It was valuable experience.
In the interview, the director also said some interesting things.
- Different cultures and people deal with this differently. For example, gypsies don’t allow the morgue staff to wash and prepare the body. They do that themselves, because that is how they culture and religion works.
- He has learned through the years of working at the morgue that people don’t like to be there and he has to deal with a lot of negativity.
- Morgue is sometimes the place for the truth – sometimes people die suddenly and they come to the morgue to find out why.
- For him this is a day job, but sometimes he finds it difficult emotionally.
He also gave me suggestions of were to go [considering my made up Dissertation topic – taboo of death and talking about death]. That was for other hospitals and care homes.
But the most difficult part was to answer his question: What is your aim, what do you want from this project. Because I can’t change the fact that death is negative experience…I had to look for the answers within my project.
The only regret, that doesn’t really count as genuine is that I did not take any portraits of the dead persons face or staff embers preparing the body. I might be expecting too much for the early stages of my project.
SO WHAT IS THE PLAN?
Link to the plan that was my guidline for creating work and developing Final Major Project:
Project proposal re-write
After coming back from Latvia, I was ready to write a project proposal for my new Final Major Project. It first worked as a introduction sheet, when I started to think about contacting funeral directors, people, hospices ect.
This is the original document, the turning point in my project and from this I was able to re-write project proposal:
My project hasn’t developed a title yet, although I would like to call it funeral photography/funeral crasher/end of life. The whole idea is to gather wedding photography concepts and adapt them to funeral, as acceptable and ethical as possible to create a body of work within a certain frame.
If gained access to funeral, in between take pictures for my Final Major, focusing on death and life. Images probably will be not suitable for clients, they might be to de-sensetive.
Another important aspect is to clarify how such idea was born and why it is important for my professional and personal development. That will be the cultural difference perspective and how society differs in Latvia and UK.
Project background and aims, why have I chosen this project:
I come from a different culture (Latvian) and one day I remembered the photograph of my grandma laid in the coffin, her long nose poking out and face just being pale, but she was dressed as usual. People are stud around crying and in the background you see the new-built white brick house and great treasures of Soviet Union – Volga and Zhiguli.
And then I realized that this might only be a Latvian thing – bold and straight forward photographs of the last day of your loved one being in the daylight, because such a non-artistic, fact recording approach is never seen in the UK. Farewell Photography or Funeral photography exists, but is different to what my perception of Funeral photography is. Really – more like wedding photography, but instead of bride and groom, the main focus point is the detail of the funeral – flowers, memorial, horse carriage, coffin from the distance, more flowers and Church/Crematorium if permission is given. When it comes to people photographs and portraits, as this is the sad and emotional day, only faded in the background gathering around, or few odd portraits when people have a faded smile, because something good was said about the defunct.
My first research shocked me ever so slightly, as I never imagined that someone can call themselves full time funeral photographers and make a living out of it – because it is so unethical.
There I said it. But some discoveries are comforting me for having this idea. Funeral is an occasion where most of the family and friends gather, that one day when you see everyone. Another aspect is the vision of the funeral – family and friends say last “thankyou” for being there for them, raising children, working, achieving or simply being a great person. So funerals attend to be beautiful, gracious and full of appreciation.
My project is looking at the aspect of cultural differences in how funerals are recorded, if they are, what are the traditions, what are the reactions to the presence of the photographer and how people perceive death.
It is essential to remind that this project seemed interesting because it was different, challenging and difficult. When proposing the project, I never thought I will go ahead with it.
At this stage – the more challenging it is, the more I want to succeed. Also I am able to reflect on previous research done for CATS – Joel Peter Witkin, Sally Mann, Peter Dench and Martin Parr.
This project does require numerous of skills – be able to work with different genres, styles and approaches. Studio and location photo works, different mediums…skills that I have gained through last two years.
Questions to answer:
Can a person who just lost a mother, daughter or a friend face a camera and remember the life?
Can I photograph the body in the coffin? Is that appropriate?
Is the face of the loved one a reminder to every one of the life lived? Or is the dead body a reminder of the end of life [illness, struggles, financial aspects, unsolved relationship issues ect]?
Can people accept the fact that the body is only a machine that we maintain during our lifetime to “complete” or mission?
What are the “taboos” in the decade we live in?
How far can I go with this project in terms of personal attachment to the funerals, terminally ill, life coming to an end and physical things left behind. The attitude I had at the initial stage – relaxed and consider this project to be a bit funny and sarcastic, and to use Martin Parr’s approach of close ups, direct flash and saturated colours – how far can I go, before I am being disrespectful to life.
There are two approaches and few photographers in my mind.
First approach is the documentary style – this is the natural way of how too look at this project, by using tools of documentary I can definitely record a funeral and people. Focusing on ethical approach, I can photograph around funeral and if allowed – photograph people and coffin.
Photojournalism is the style that I am going to aim for. In my mind the difference would be colours and selling points within the photograph. I would like to use Speedlight against all odds, and keep photographs I colour. Also photojournalist approach is more straight forward, I know what to look for and not wonder around trying to capture something “shocking”.
Photographers in mind – Martin Parr and Peter Dench. As I have studied both of them in depth this year, I know exactly what is they are looking for within a scene and when they decide to make a photograph out of the scene. There is wondering around involved, but if I put one Parr’s or Dench “hat” on, I could handle the wondering around the funeral.
The plan is great and seems like I know what I am doing.
There is a point in this project, where I will realize where I am and what I am doing and the guilt, sadness, shame and fear will sneak in.
Nothing can really prepare me for this, the only way is to do this with the clear head and right mind set, as I am not trying to take a piss out of someone’s unfortunate and life changing moment, I want to celebrate the end of someone’s life, therefore the life of that person. Also to look at cultural differences and funeral traditions and compare them within the culture and life in Latvia and in the UK.
Rich Picture, as part of the Project Proposal:
In addition I had to think about other aspects:
Health and Safety.
…or ethical and sensitive handling more likely.
I have to be aware of the legal side of things and rights to a public space when going to funerals, hospices, care homes. I have to take images with peoples consent, if I can’t be invisible and not to disturb someone.
If Going to grave yards and other Council Owned Lands, I can work my way around to get peoples permission. Regardless, I have to take good care when working on this project.
If looking at Health and Safety- if I decide to visit grave yards in dark hours, I have to have a torch.
What are the main problems with this project?
It will be difficult to convince people about the aims and objectives within my project. I will have to be sure to have answers to their questions, meaning that I have to find answers before the questions get asked.
I will struggle to find people that will allow me to be present at their personal and sad times.
Also if contacting Cancer Care Units, Dove House Hospice and others, I need a really good plan of how to approach them. They are professionals and won’t give me a permission to do what ever I like, or even access to the patients.
The self-confidence and good communications are essential and I will have to get over a lot of obstacles and definitely – step out of mu comfort zone.
The only way how to solve the problems that occur for this project is to work on the project.
I need to speak to people, get my name and the project out for a discussion, follow my initial plans and create images that are technically and photographically outstanding.
I have to look at other artist photographic projects related to death, end of life, illness ect.
Part of my research should be critical writings and essays about death and end of life, so I can back up my ideas as genuine and relevant to the social issues, or human race struggles in general.
Why is it worthwhile?
After the early stages in the project have been digested, I have started to feel a good gut feeling about this project. I feel like I can go with the flow with this project, witness my own personal development as photographer, who’s able to act professionally regardless of the subject matter. I also answer some personal questions about my young days in Latvia, why my family is not an average family.
It is also interesting to see my diverse cultural views, how I have been adapting in British culture and hopefully that will make this project interesting not just for me, but for people that are looking for extraordinary projects and imagery that rise questions and require thinking.
It is a lot, this project is overwhelming, but I have to embrace the potential and do my best to succeed.
Tutor set milestones.
Therefore through out the last year and Final Major Project I will be relying on tutor’s encouragement, ideas and emotional support.
I will show my work on a weekly basis, reflect on feedback and work towards better image content and project progress.
Research – internet, books, magazines, journals, video and audio materials, primary resources.
Equipment – camera, range of lenses that cover different angles and distances, tripod if photographing in low light, medium format camera for studio/location, studio lights.
Locations – grave yards,cemeteries, hospitals, hospices, care homes, elderly people homes, people homes and personal spaces, morgue, funeral directors office and others. Also important if want to persuade cultural differences – occasional visits to Latvia.
Cash – petrol money, 120 mm and 35 mm film, 24-70 mm lens purchasing possibility, printing costs, complimentary gifts if asking a lot of favours to people.
Humans-my project cannot work without humans, my project is based on communication. I hope to collaborate with John Gilbert and eskimosoup, hope to contact Hull Daily Mail for advertising opportunities, Funeral directors and so on..long list of potential human contacts.
My project is looking at various aspects of end of life and death, therefore I have plan B within the plan A, I have plan C within the plan B.
When the opportunity of going on the BBC Radio Humberside David Burns show appeared on the horizon, I had to re-visit the project again, this time the focus had to be on the Funeral Photography and celebrating/reflecting life within the ceremony and all aspects connected with that.
I wrote this document as an application for the radio show.
Off course, my plan was not to become a professional funeral/farewell photographer, but I really wanted to get public reaction and get the discussion going – is that OK to photograph funerals?
Yes, it is to some extent, but if someone like me starts to build this project and potential business idea right in front of the community, right in front of everyone, will that still be OK?
Stage 1 – The idea.
The initial idea started with a group discussion at lectures about social photography – wedding, christening, engagement shoots, pregnancy and family photographs. These concept are defined over the decades and is a norm. But these genres of photography celebrate new beginnings, new life, happiness and future. What about the end of the life???? Because eventually every life expires, the life cycle is obvious and will end. Can the concepts mentioned above be used to record the end of life?
These questions started a flashback to my own childhood and I started to combine the memories and my photography [history, contemporary, theories] background to create, as initially thought to be an outrageous idea.
There was a strong turning point in the process of taking this as a serious project – I remembered one particular photograph of my grandmother in the open coffin, her long nose [family thing] poking out and the headscarf that I clearly remember her wearing. She died when I was about 6 years old and I can remember her being lovely, her smell and smile. The photograph is the last recording of her and the photograph defines my memories about the way she looked. It is important to note that the photograph is framed in my living room in Latvia.
The photograph elevated questions mentioned before in a different perspective. As I have been living in the UK for almost six years, I am no longer single culture-driven person, I have adapted to the English culture, sometimes I think too well, and the way I see the world, my Latvian heritage and my relationship with UK is a pallete of so many different things, thoughts and feelings.
So the project seemed like a massive challenge of combining both cultures, personal experiences and rise questions that are uncomfortable to talk about through the medium of photography.
As a photographer, I speak through photographs, in the past taking projects on that are commercially based, personal interests, documentaries and people based has helped me to build my relationship with the “Englishness” and blend in with the British culture, that sometimes is too astonishing to watch.
This project seemed difficult, because of few things.
First – I am lucky to have my loved ones with me, in the 2,500 km distance, but they are still living on this wonderful planet. So I have no recent personal experiences to relate to and reflect the feelings.
Second – I often struggle to communicate with people, at least taking the first steps into the new relationship that is professional based. So the subject of death and funerals, terminally ill and end of life, seemed like the most difficult subject to talk about with people that will judge you by the first sentence…and to make this project happen, communication is the key element.
Third – to bring across the cultural differences from Eastern Europe without being judged as an intruder, cheap labour or benefit seeker is a challenge.
I had a lot of interest in my project from fellow photographers, tutors and they have encouraged me to continue this interesting and sensitive project.
This project is already turning into something more than just a single university project and could potentially be a business idea.
Stage 2 – Cultural differences
The background of my personal childhood funeral and death experiences is the key element in this project.
Growing up, I seemed to have a funeral based social life, because my dad used to drag me to every single funeral that was one. We lived in a fairly big estate of two villages close together, so there was numbers of neighbours, colleges, distant relatives that died and my dad used to be a well-known person in the villages, so he was always invited to pat the respects. The excuse for me going with him was simple – I can carry flowers, keep him company, free meal at the wake and most importantly I can learn how life ends and that we all die and we are forgotten to even exist, it is just the grave left.
My dad’s personality is a mystery, he can be very strange and tough, but cute and special at the times… Still to this day he just loves taking me to family grave yard and moan about life and that our generation is messed up. He even has a guessing game, who is buried where and I have to play it every time.
There are photographs from my family archive that showcase the tradition from early 60’s of photographing funerals in none-artistic way. Imagery is bold and straight forward and does the job – my dad and me looked back at these photographs and he remembers old family farm, people, cars, his childhood.
Sharing these photographs is an honour and does not bring back any sadness or bad emotions.
These photographs basically explain why to me personally and culturally there is no “taboo” in photographing funerals in this explicit ways.
One of my recent visits to Funeral Directors has exposed new trends in the decade’s trends.
People still require photographs, but most of the time it depends of their budget. If they can afford a professional photographer, they will add that to the services. If the budget is tight, family members that have any type of camera will be in charge of taking photographs. The relationship between the Funeral Directory and clients is very discreet and having a photographer around with a camera flash is the result of trust that comes with the name of the company.
The particular Funeral Directory that I visited also can provide with a theatrical performances with Latvian native music and dances to pay the respect and say goodbye’s in a very “Latvian” way. These services however are expensive and only wealthy families can afford that.
The truth behind the funerals is the expenses and the services. The costs of cremation, post-mortem, coffin, priest, grave yard, grave stone, car services, grave digger, flowers, wake and other, is no different than preparing for the wedding or christening, only the occasion is different. But family and friends are still trying to provide with best, taking in account finances available.
The funerals can be very simple and focus on saying goodbye, but they can be extraordinary and ceremonious.
The difference between Latvia and UK is that in Latvia – the funeral will be photographed regardless of its scale, but in the UK it may vary. If the funeral is photographed, the family has got a good reason to hire a photographer – it might be the person, the cause of the death, legacy left behind, social status.
From my research so far ,in the UK Farewell photography services are available, but I would not say that it is a complete funeral recording. At most of the times, images contain detail, flowers, horse carriage, memoriums, rare snap of family member or a friend and some photographs from the wake. The Farwell photography provides an esthetic owerall feel of the funeral as a remembrance and family get-together, but there are no tears, coffins or negativity.
I think the main difference is between two cultures is the avoidance to talk openly about the death. Personal and private experience of death and moaning is a taboo in the UK. People don’t like to talk about death. Although the media is openly talking about well-known people death, or crime related deaths, so there might be aspects that I haven’t fully understood yet.
I believe that an average citizen in the UK, would most definitely avoid my presence
at the funeral of their family member, as in the UK photography as a business is developed highly and people have perceptions that photographer is an artists that makes living by taking pictures.
In my project and imagery I would like to express all things discussed above, raise a question and open up this subject.
Stage 3 – Questions to answer
- What is a body?
- Can a person who just lost a mother, daughter or a friend tolerate a presence of the camera? If the photographer captures the last “ceremony” and goodbyes, with all the elements that celebrate the person passed away?
- Can I photograph the body in the coffin? Is that appropriate?
- Is the face of the loved one a reminder to every one of the life lived? Or is the dead body a reminder of the end of life [illness, struggles, financial aspects, unsolved relationship issues ect.]?
- Can people accept the fact that the body is only a machine that we maintain during our lifetime to “complete” or mission?
- What are the “taboos” in the decade we live in?
There are questions that are more difficult to answer, such as “what is the purpose for photographing a funeral and who is gaining the most – family of the lost one or the photographer?”
At this moment I can answer that the family is gaining a selection of images, bounded in beautiful book as a memory of the persons last day, family getting together and organising a beautiful “goodbyes”.
And the photographer is gaining knowledge that can be translated in other projects that are raising an awareness of social issues, taboos and show how powerful imagery can be.
Here is the original document that was sent to the show producers.
I could give myself a good feedback about this document, for the first time I had clear ideas and a vision.
You can read more about the radio show here:
WEEKLY REFLECTIONS #17
Researching more photographic opportunities
Body Farms in the UK
As one of the potential resource for the subject matter and photographs of human body, I decided to look up for Body Farms in the UK.
Interesting finding is that Body Farms are illegal in the UK and the rest of the Europe.
To define what body farm is I have used numerous sources, one of them describing it as “it’s actually the most bizarre and one of the most interesting research facilities in the world, where the gruesome effects of decomposition of the human body are studied.”
What is Body Farm and what is the purpose for it?
Facilities for human taphonomy, the study of what happens to an organism after its death, or ‘body farms’ as they have become colloquially known, are unique outdoor laboratories where forensic scientists can monitor the processes of human decomposition in a variety of different situations
The facilities are also used to monitor physical, chemical and bacterial changes in rotting bodies, as well as for training archaeologists, anthropologists, police officers and ‘human remains detection’ dogs.
The reason why there are no Body farms in the UK is due to the potential public outcry and disputes about where they would be sited.
The source also states, that there are many people wanting to donate their bodies for forensic purpose.
The discovery is quite disappointing, because that could be an interesting photographic material for my project. My main interest would be to photograph faces, as the main feature of our body, throughout human life it is used to communicate with the world – brains, eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks. It could be potentially a very scary and “loud” imagery, and if photographs could trick the viewer into thinking about something else then death, but about the facial features and what is left after our mind and soul is gone.
As the source describes “so there are bodies sitting in cars, hanging from trees, wrapped up in duvets, wrapped up in bin bags, so they can see how they decompose.”
That is showing what the actual body as a physical combination of bones, skin, muscles and organs in the future can change something for other fellow humans.
Some people have the trouble of accepting the fact that their achievements during their life haven’t been life changing and Nobel prize winning, but donating their body to the Body Farm could be that last thing that you can do towards making the world a better place for someone.
The source and Dr. Anna Williams brings out an important point that seeing the first dead body is like losing your virginity.
“You can’t go back,” she says. “You are different. I remember the first body. I was doing my Masters and was with about five other students. Afterwards we were ravenous and couldn’t wait to get to the nearest greasy spoon for a huge bacon sandwich. Why? I think it is about being confronted with death and your need to be alive being so strong.”
Because at the end of the day, human body is only a machinery that helps your mind and soul to achieve whatever is your life goal, it speaks and moves and is controlled by one of the most complicated feature in this world – human brain.
There are similar farms for pigs in Cranfield , Huddersfield and Preston at the University of Central Lancashire worth contacting, just to get more info and research images.
Contact info and website:
Tel: +44 (0)1772 894153
An important part of finishing three year BA Photography course is to organize and curate an exhibition that takes place at the end of the third year in Hulls School of Art&Design facilities. Every year exhibition summarizes student best work and experience and is a fairly big cultural and artistic collection of Arts and Design student work.
As for the photography students this is a good learning experience of how to set up an exhibition, taking in account that it will be viewed and valued by tutors, artists and members of public.
In the year two our group decided to exhibit outside college and it was such a massive learning experience that prepared us for this year.
Here you can see all information about last year’s exhibition “Lasting Impressions” @Heaven Independent Café.
At the beginning of January the ideas generation started and since then we have had numerous group discussions about the exhibition. We are in good progress of planning the exhibition, the only thing being unclear is the exact image content.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- Already at the beginning of the year we were talking about last year’s Final Major Exhibition and that it did not really reached the expectations and wasn’t as good as other years. Therefore our group have a chance to set the bar high again and create a stunning exhibition, surprise people and show what we are capable of.
- We decided as a team to go big – we have made a decision have prints no smaller that A1, but ideally A0. Also we have made a decision to change the way how students have exhibited previously by framing photographs. Taking in account our experience last year, we know that image can be presented in different ways. Last year we choose to have foam board prints and it worked well. There were a few quality issues, but LUCKILY, having that experience we now know which printing company not to use and how we need to prepare our digital files, and make sure that we see the product before it arrives at the venue. As a group we believe that “no frame” policy will benefit the feel of the exhibition.
- Our exhibition, as mentioned before, needs to be GREAT AND BIG, we want to deliver outstanding photography content and present it in the best possible way. The “feel” of the exhibition needs to be current and as an important role in today’s culture, also we need to deliver outstanding quality regards to the prints, attention to detail and crispy clean environment for people to be able to engage with the artworks. I think so far we are doing great, we work as a team and we all have the same goal, which is described above.
- As mentioned before, instead of framed photographs we have decided to print on 5 mm Foamex and have A0 sizes. As regards to the space, the Foamex prints fit in well with the overall feel of the space – white walls, continuous throughout with no major obstructions. The space is quite airy and clean and that works in our advantage. We will be using other methods of presentation to extend the experience. We have decided to have big TV screen in between both sides of the exhibition and two MAC screens on each side. The content of these screens will be a continuous presentation of our photography work. The presentation will include photographs that are different to the ones in the exhibition for two reasons – not to be repetitive and give visitors a chance to see our photographic background, skill set and overall style.
- For printing services we have chosen Ditto 4 Design, local printing company. I have used them previously and printed A2 3 mm foam board and I was super happy with the approach, prices and quality. Last year we planned to use Ditto 4 Design to print the photographs, but they had technical issues and therefore we had to find plan B.
We have contacted them already and they are happy to print for us. They have also given us pricing.
A0 Vinyl Prints mounted on 5mm Foamex – £30+ Vat each
841mm x 2,378mm vinyl prints mounted on 5mm Foamex – £75 + VAT each
Colour matching and small proofs if required – £10 + VAT
700 A6 d/s 300gsm Postcards (7 x 100) – £44 + VAT (Price quoted is based on 7 types supplied at the same time)
Delivery to Hull College Reception – £10 + VAT
We obviously need to think of plans B and C, in case things go wrong.
Other places locally to print with:
Plan B – RMC Digital Print
RMC Digital Print is a local option that we used last year for printing Foam 3 mm prints. The experience was overall good, they were approachable and quick, but some of the prints were damaged or wrongly printed when unpacked. Straight away we contacted them and they re-printed everything that we asked without any extra cost.
Plan C – Envisage Professional Printers
I have used their services before, but not for large printing. Envisage are less likely to provide us with Foam board or Foamex prints, but we could print photographs with them and attach them on Foam board ourselves.
Envisage could be good for postcards, posters and flyers, as they are local and prices are pretty good too, if bulk-order.
- As we have seen the space and have rough size of the space, the group have negotiated that each person will have 1-2 prints, maximum of three, depending on the format (landscape, portrait, square or panorama)
- We have chosen to use Ditto4Design therefore as seen above we have contacted them, required and received pricing. Alison has agreed to be the main person in charge, but as she is not living in Hull, I have offered to be the assistant for contacting them and picking up prints/samples when needed.
- The file size for printing is 300 pixels per inch, as usual digital files are prepared for printing.
- We have selected deadline dates for numerous things on the “to do” list. As for the delivering the prints to the printers, the deadline is 12th of May.
- As a group we have negotiated to have A0 size prints. There are few good reasons for making this decision. Last year the Final Exhibition in Photography was average and did not impress me personally, but a lot of people have a similar opinion. The exhibition was lacking in impact and creativity, therefore our group has a chance to bring back the “wow factor” and make an outstanding entry in the whole Final Year show across HSAD. A0 prints will look stunning, as so far the expected image content will be very good. Our group would like to allow all viewers to engage with imagery and have a good feedback after leaving the exhibition. The other reason is “no frame” policy that we would like to stick to and frameless prints need to be at least A1 to create the effect.
- We have chosen to use Foamex as our material to present our photographs. There have been some other options such as foam board and metallic prints from GF Smith.
- Foamex is selected because of its qualities – thickness, finish and liability.
- As previously discussed, we need to have an airy feel throughout so prints need to be standing off the wall. Ideally without any strings or other attachments visible to the viewer.
- We have discussed hanging/attaching methods in the group sessions and there is one particular method that seems to do the job perfectly. That is a hanging system that works behind the image. It has got two parts – one attaches to the wall and the other to the print and at the end they friendly clip on to each other.
The idea comes from Steve [workshop Steve] and Andy [tutor]. The attachment is glued with glue STICKALL and has already been purchased. The glue is strong enough to hold large and heavy prints and won’t burn or damage the print.
The bits will be attached to the print either on each corner or top and bottom.
To specify what we need:
- STICKALL glue
- Wood material
- Air level
- Clean cloths and white glows for handling
- Something heavy (!)
- Patience and precise work
- We have already discussed the space and going back with a sample image, we have confirmed that it will be 2-3 prints each.
- Viewing distance for A0 size prints needs to be fairly big, to be able to see the print fully. The space we have allows viewer to step back at least 1,5 m away from the print unless we place some obstructions such as walls, tables ect. There is an formula that helps to calculate the viewing distance in a relationship with ppi, but as we are photographing and printing at 300 ppi, w are less likely to use the formulas.
The formula is ppi = 1/((distance x 0.000291) / 2)
- As we are trying to exhibit in high standards, there are few things that we need to take into account. One of them being the standard gallery height for hanging the prints.
- This website provides step by step guide how to hang framed prints http://stellersgallery.com/blog/archives/hanging-art-tips#.VwOqXaQrKUk
There are a few sources online, but most of them give you the information about framed photographs and focuses on correct wire hanging.
As we have discussed, 1/3 from the top is the average height, but it might go in the middle, depending on the size.
- As for labelling the work some discussion has went one in the group sessions and we have negotiated the Vinyl Letters. The labelling needs to work alongside the prints, presented in a professional way. To have esthetical look, Vinyl sticker letters is the best option as it will blend in with the wall.
We have looked at some options, Natalie from our group is taking charge in finding the right supplier and we will get quotation soon.
- The group have also discussed that we will have name of the artist and title of the photograph under the image. We still are in the process of deciding on type face and font size, but we need to have the same throughout the exhibition.
In addition to individual labels, we will have a few sentences about the exhibition presented in the same way, somewhere in the space and potentially floor sticker in the middle as well, to have an impressive entrance to the exhibition.
- To be ahead of the preparation process for the opening night, we are planning to glue all attachments [hanging system] at least three days before, so we have arranged a room in college facilities to store the work, ready for hanging just few hours before the opening, so that the exhibition is not seen before [spoiler alert].
- The Final Year Show is a product/event that needs promoting and advertising, it is our group’s brand.
As we have had a test exhibition last year, we know how important it is to have a public face to our exhibition.
We are very lucky to have last year’s experience and we have chosen to use the same title and branding for this years as continuous project.
Last year we named our exhibition “Lasting Impressions” and we have transformed the title by adding “2”
- It is solving a problem of starting something new and introducing potential visitors with something completely new. The brand fairly successfully reached the audience and we have social platform to build on. Last year we created Facebook page and used that as the main promotion platform and invited people, continuously posting updates and introducing each artist [member of the group]. The person who took charge was Alison, using her experience in marketing and we, as a group, have picked up the main key skills for this year, so the social networking is the job for each member of the group. We have already updated the page with the new logo and few informational bits.
We still have to work on it and start posting current updates. We also haven’t chosen the title image as the exhibition content is still a mystery.
In addition to social networking we eventually will create a poster and flyer designs and will post them around Hull.
We mainly will invite through social media, but there will be mutual invitations.
As a group we need to consider people that have impacted our three year experience and people that we have worked with. Also personal favourites should be invited.
- Exhibition is a place where you are introducing yourself as an artist to all visitors and just having prints on the wall is not enough. As we have visited other artist exhibitions we know that there is more to just hanging prints.
Few things that we have considered –
- Postcards that will work as business cards. [ Postcards will contain other photographs either from the Final Major Project or anything else each person thinks is important to show].
- Portfolio video [more info to come]
- Our presence at the opening night and throughout the exhibition.
The third point is an important part of the exhibition, because the presence of the artist is always a valuable experience for people that come to see the works of emerging local artists. They might want to ask any questions or express their opinion [good or bad]. As seen in previous years, some students have set up stall, where they are selling either their work or souvenirs with their art work on them [t-shirts, mugs, posters ect.]. Being part of exhibition is to engage with viewers and spread the word.
- The curation of the exhibition contains several parts. We are looking what is the target audience and through social networking and mutual methods reach the maximum, introduce people with the exhibition and our work. As we have heard, there are a lot of people that come to the Hull School of Art&Design Final Year show every year, they might be artists, people from education, people from Arts Council ect. We need to maintain these people to still have the interest to come. We also have to decide who are the people that are relevant to us, and to who we need to show the capability to exhibit and deliver such event. Through social media and our Facebook page we will try to reach that audience.
As we are hoping to have large amount of visitors, we have to think of the space available for hosting. As the downstairs hall is fairly big, we are sure that we will have enough space. We have to make sure everything is safe and clear, not to clutter the rooms with tables and chairs and maintain the place tidy and well aired.
The location is well-known to most people, but we will have to think of adding the map and directions to flyers and also in to the Facebook page.
- The exhibition will contain beautiful imagery, but also a little bit of information about the group and each individual. There are three ways how to present the information – at the beginning of the exhibition, at the end of the exhibition or scattered around the exhibition. The exhibition is like a trail of artists and imagery, and we need, first of all, show visitors where it begins and where it ends [methods to be discussed]. The group have decided to have all information at the end of the exhibition, but it might end up being the middle, as we are planning to have big TV screen in the middle accompanied with table that hold all the postcards, dissertations [to be discussed]. The portfolio videos with the info and imagery of each individual will be showcased on the big screen and two Mac screens on each side of the exhibition.
The information and portfolio group video will potentially go on the Facebook page. Also some information will be attached on flyers and posters and will go into Hull’s streets.
In addition, we have decided to write a short statement about ourselves each and have that added to the exhibition info [might go next to our photographs or alongside postcards. To be discussed]
- Portfolio video is a great and additional option to showcase more photographs and we have chosen to go ahead with creating one.
As we have access Mac’s and large TV screen, we can avoid large amounts of printing and potentially damaging the whole feel of the exhibition by having printed and boxed portfolio. As the exhibition contains just a few images from each student, it is important that we are giving the chance to the viewer to find out more about the work we do, images we are creating, clients we worked with and the most important – skills we gained.
The video will contain images of our work produced in the last year, we have decided on six images each, and have slide show of few seconds for each image and have a continuous video that repeats. The task to create and produce the video has been given to Erin, but it is up to individuals to prepare and send images to Erin within the deadline. The deadline is 12th of May.
- Our group is communicating through Facebook, we have Uni Group chat and also we discuss relevant topics and issues within the lecture hours. The communication so far has been successful, no major disagreements or problems. Everyone seems to see the end result clearly and communicate according to our needs.
- So far everything is going smoothly and within time scale, we have had plenty of discussions and decisions already made.
But as life is far from perfect, we are prepared for problems.The main problem could be the printing and having to go with plan B. It is up to individuals to have everything ready by the set deadline, but problems [individually] can occur, as well as printers might be broken or unavailable. The positive aspect is the early deadline and we will have a bit of time to go ahead with other plans.
Other problem could be hanging system not working as expected and that the Steve [workshop Steve] is busy with other things. In that case we have to come up with alternative hanging methods, even if they are not what we would like to use [Velcro, wires and hooks ect.]
For each student the problems could be the image preparation in time, all work being ready and edited before the deadline.
There could be other few problems such as damaged prints on arrival, not enough materials [glue, wood], no postcards, technical issues with Mac’s and big screen and other things. Also there is a possible problem of people not taking part in preparation process, lack of commitment.
Taking in account last year’s exhibiting experience, we understand that we cannot please everyone with the decisions made, but we are committed to work alongside each other and try to compromise as much as possible.
- We understand that the costs and timescales for printing are important aspects to think about when handling prints so we are planning to use white cotton gloves.
- The list of duties so far:
Me – arranging hanging method and communication with Steve [workshop Steve], also getting the glue and take charge in testing it on a print. Deadline 12th of May and 23rd of May for print preparation.
Also I am committed to help Alison with communicating with the printers and get the prints to college.
Alison – communicate with the printers and get quotes[quotes received already]. Alison will also monitor the social networking and will do some marketing and promoting bits- so far she has created a new logo for the exhibition and created a space layout with designated areas for each student.
Erin – creating portfolio video. Deadline 12th of May
Nathalie – sorting out vinyl stickers/labels 12th of May
Gina – not specified
Laura – not specified
Aimee – not specified
Phil – not specified
There are several things that can be done by any group member, such as social media, poster designing, flyer designing and spreading those across the city and other promotion/marketing aspects.
- We have discussed and negotiated the majority of exhibition related subjects, exhibition feel, arrangement, placing and group working have been discussed and work progress is ongoing.
We have also discussed other exhibitions and how photographs are presented, framed or hanged.
My tutor mentioned Martin Parr’s exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield “Rhubarb Triangle” which I actually did visit and could reflect on.
Images from his recent body of work around Wakefield and themed around rhubarb. As you can see in the photograph above, Martin Parr is artist who can afford exhibit his work printed on photo paper and pinned to the wall.
It obviously did not spoil the viewing or indulging in his work, but when looking back, the way he exhibited his latest work is “different”.
Also if I compare the work quality and content he was offering 10/20 years ago and today – Parr clearly tries to make rhubarb look interesting using his style. But can we compare it with “The Last Resort” “The Signs of the Times” and “This is England”.
Further down the exhibitions was a lot more closer to why I love Martin Parr so much – wall full of his self-portraits, framed in random and different frames.
And of course “The Last Resort”….
Well, Martin Parr can do whatever he likes, I will still like his work and so will a lot of his fans.
But if I look at the exhibiting work, I would have to have a good reason to pin photographs on photo paper to the wall…
Another example was the recent visit the re-opened Hull International Photography Gallery in Princess Quay.
Exhibition by Oshami “Close to Abstract”, really interesting and engaging work displayed, but most importantly – the presentation is just perfect. Frames, size, layout, overall feel, even the lights, each light points down the print and in enhances the area.
It was pleasure to be there for 10 minutes.
Also whilst there I noticed a lot of people commented on the beauty of the exhibition[not the images].
So therefore – conclusion – This exhibition, including gray walls and the carpet, is a great example of how a good exhibition looks like!
GRAVE YARD HUNT
End of Life project already had more than one focus area. So far it included morgue, funerals, momento mori and people portraits, but there was few gaps to fill in.
Grave yards and cemeteries are big part of death, end of life and celebrating life, they are also beautiful places with their own characteristics, so I decided to visit few in East Yorkshire. I was inspired by one of the grave yards on the way to Withernsea and obvisouls my families grave yard in Latvia.
First step was to create a map and plan out my journey.
I started with tracking down the graveyard on the way to Withernsea.
Next step was to go to other end of East Riding and spot the one I’ve seen few weeks back in South Cave.
In order to have more than two I used sources to locate others.
I total I found seven that I would like to visit. But the ones in outskirts of Hull seem more attractive and also less crowded. First three [as seen in the map below] are my priorities for the day and others I will visit if have time or the research process is mind blowing and interesting and helps towards developing the slow-going project.
The outcome hopefully will be more than just research images and will lead me into finalising some of my project points, such as cultural differences and trends in cemeteries.
The top image recreation would be a dream come-true, but I more expect images shown below.
The list is ready, I plan to set up early [around 6/7 am] and the kit – Canon Mark III, 24-70 mm, 85 mm and speedlight [just in case].
NOTE: When preparing equipment I started to think if taking a photo-bag would make me more noticeable. Interesting point for a consideration.
Once the journey was planned, I was keen to start a new path in my project.
Here you van read more about the planning:
WEEKLY REFLECTION #18
To find out how it went you can read weekly reflections:
To see ALL Weekly Reflections click here:
Reflecting on the past five months and going through all images – I feel proud, but I don’t feel like I have finished the project or photographed that one striking image that is defining my project. The vision in my head for the finals was different than the final selection seen above, but I had to have this kind of a conclusion to get to my vision eventually.
I feel like I have focused more on the life after death, final images contain a lot of grave yards and what is left behind, rather than people emotionally dealing with the “End of Life” of their own or a family member, friend.
There is one thing I am really happy about – none of my images are dark, discoloured or sad. I have kept the colour, contrast and composition and my images CELEBRATE THE END OF LIFE.
Although I was actively taking pictures after Latvia visit in mid-February and not from the beginning of year, I think I have a decent number of different kinds of images from different aspects of “End Of Life”
The final images are actually serving their purpose – people talk about the taboo topics, uncomfortable conversations about death, funerals and life lived…everything is happening. I have published a lot of the work on my blog, on my Facebook page, the exhibition – it feels like, even though the content is not as bold and disturbing as I was hoping it will be, images are interesting and “taboo” enough.
I have also made some people minds change about the main questions like – why don’t we like to talk about death and why we don’t want to see funeral photographs? Or is that OK to capture people mourning?
I might not have broken the silence about dying and openly talking about this subject, but I have definitely explored the options and offered them to the public.
I have my three favourite images:
This is also part of the exhibition.
The image is mixture of numerous things – my experience at the grave yard that morning, the composition and contrasting light/shadow and the fact that there will be a lot of people that can relate to this image.
This image is definitely showing my personal and cultural attitude to the funerals and grave yards. This image has the sarcastic nature, but it is translated from my own experiences of visiting the grave yards to celebrate relatives passed away in the past. And I always wonder what people think of this image. Can they relate to this image?
It is hard to describe why this image is so appealing to me.
There are so many images taken from grave yards, but this one is different. I feel like it represents the End Of Life” and the place where the people rest for eternity. The colour of the grass, flowers and the yellow, old grass surrounding the grave stone. The fact that the image is taken in a wide angle and you can kind of see that the planet earth is round…A lot of these elements beautifully represent why I was going to the grave yards and re-visited them as part of searching the answers for my project.
“End Of Life” video
Just day before the degree show, I decided that I have to publish final images, as previously I have kept most of them to myself and tutors.
But as I did not had a lot of time, instead I decided to create a video with all finals, so that everything is in one place.
I used Windows Movie Maker – pretty basic, but does the job.
I also added bits of text to tell a short story about “End Of Life”.
Unfortunately, my WordPress account is not cool enough to support videos [upgrade needed] I can’t show the video on this page.
You can have a look at the video on Anete Sooda Photography Facebook page here:
The video is reflecting the project, so I am happy. I have used the same type face and style, so that this fits in with my postcards, Facebook page and other bits.
And I was really pleased that my Facebook comes handy for this video.
The exhibition was amazing and overwhelming experience.
The Final Major Project end product was:
The “Lasting Impressions” at the Hull School of Art and Design Degree Show 2015/2016
Here you can read the full reflections and report about the whole experience of the Degree Show, Lasting Impressions and opening night:
This year has been fantastic. FANTASTIC AND UNFORGETTABLE. For Final Major Project I have gone for the difficult route, but it has been the best decision I’ve ever made regards to photography.
I have gained new skills, new experiences, met so many amazing people and change the way I look at myself as a person and professional photographer.
The start of the year was quite vague and slow, as we took on some little projects to warm us up and generate some ideas for Final Major. From working on the Edgelands project I discovered that I would like to photographically celebrate Hull, Hull’s people and communities, find the extraordinary within ordinary and everyday.
I wanted to use Martin Parr style for it, even writing my dissertation about Martin Parr to explore in debt the reasons behind his style and approach, study his work and look for ways how to adapt them to the decade we live in.
After meeting Peter Dench at the Hull International Photography festival, I was even more dedicated and excited to get my project started.
But something happened, something changed….
In one of Creative Futures lectures, I came up with a silly idea. Use wedding, engagement and christening and other social photography concepts and adapt them to dying and death – different kind of celebrations.
The idea made me laugh and I decided to test my tutors patience and opinion about my “new” Final Major Project.
From the moment he read the proposal and gave me a feedback, suggesting that if planned out properly, it could be something really interesting, everything changed.
My blog and weekly reflections are honest reflection and difficult, but fantastic journey that has defined my last year doing the BA (Hons) Photography as unforgettable.
I wish I’d started the project sooner, but I was trying to focus on dissertation and the whole process was delayed.
But things happen for a reason and I think I had to go through every struggle, discovery to be at this point where I am now.
And interesting thought just days before hand-in came in to my mind.
The meaning behind these three obvious words FINAL MAJOR PROJECT.
FINAL – The project is meant to be your final project for the three years of the course, not your final photographic project ever. As we don’t have an exam in its usual form, we have to have final body of work that will reflect all skills gained throughout the years.
MAJOR – The project has to be major. Major for you as a photographer. Yes, for your Final Major you can take up fashion style photo shoots, but will they have a life after the project? Will the images and everything that you’ve been through whilst creating the work, will last?
I believe [and even before I took on “End Of Life” project] that on the third year you are given the opportunity, freedom to find the project that will carry you on after you have finished, you have the chance to leave a legacy behind you.
And I am so proud that I have done that. To leave this fantastic place to be – Hull School of Art&Design with all the amazing people working there, leave your student years behind is frustrating and little bit upsetting, sad and terrifying. But having this project, knowing that I have so much ahead of me..it is making me truly grateful.
I also feel the pressure to finish and come back in a years time and show my teachers, people who believed in me, the finished result..
PROJECT – well, this word is general and allows you to expand your work in any direction. If the title of the end product for the course be FINAL MAJOR TYPOLOGIES, we wouldn’t be able to spread our wings and explore the topic we have chosen.
Project can be anything – photo series, a book, typologies, essay, film…as long as you achieve the goals set for the project – you are on the right track.
I think I am ready to go out in the “real world” as a photographer, but not ready to leave as a person, I have had the best three years of my life and I feel like an emotional wreck, when I have no next enrolment date ahead of me.
THANK YOU TO MY FAVOURITE PEOPLE – Nathan Pidd, Alison Field, Mark Terry, Anna Bean, Matt Winterlich and last, but not least Andrew Gillatt.
It’s been a pleasure.
My project is ongoing and cannot be finished just yet. I have so much more to photograph, learn and discover, that I can’t really see the end.
The next upcoming and quite exciting event where I will be showcasing and talking about my “End Of Life” project will be in Manchester on the 18th f June.
The event is organised by Red Eye, the photographic network.
Redeye, the Photography Network, is a not-for-profit Community Benefit Society set up to support photographers at every level, and build networks across photography. It is based in Manchester, UK, and has subscribers and users across the UK and globally. It aims to form a clear picture of the ways photographers and photographic artists are working now, and give them access to events, opportunities, advice and information that are relevant to their work and difficult to find elsewhere. Alongside this it works to bring photographic and other organisations together, to encourage ethical and best practice, and to build a voice for photography.
“Redeye is a leader among a strengthening body of nationally significant photography-focused organisations that address career development for professionals.” – Arts Professional
There have been many suggestions from tutors in the past to showcase my work and get my name out there, but I never had a body of work that summarise me as an artist, as I have never found that one thing that I am truly passionate about.
When this opportunity came along, I decided to give my Final Major Project a chance to be something more than just a assignment led project.
I have put my heart and soul in this project, it has really changed the way I feel about myself as a photographer, I have gained a confidence and started to consider myself as a professional capable of great things.
The project itself has proven to be interesting to others, challenging the society and raising taboos.
In my application I wrote:
My name is Anete and I am a photographer.
I am currently in my last two months of completing a BA (Hons) Photography course at Hull School of Art&Design.
I am submitting a body of work or a project that is also my Final Major project.
The project is about life and death, celebrating life lived and life left behind. The starting point of this project was to explore the concept of Funeral Photography, photograph funerals in the same way it is accepted to photograph weddings. Project is evolving into a ongoing body of work and the subjects are ranging from crashing funerals, visiting cemeteries, photographing momento mori, photographic visits to the morgue and reflecting my own vision of how I see the subject, taking in account my multi-cultural experiences and thought processes.
In the past few moths I have learned that the subject of death is taboo, but as I keep approaching people and speak openly about it through photography, the interest is growing and people start to share their personal experiences.
By the 18th of June project will have reached a different level and I will have more photographs.
I included 12 best images from Final Major Project.
I got a positive response and was excepted.
Here are the application guide lines and requirements:
Thank you for your recent application to present at the Manchester Hothouse event at TheStudio on the 18th June. I am pleased to say you have been successful and we would now like you reply to this email to confirm your attendance. I would like to remind you of the details of the event:
DATE: 18th June
TIME: 10:30-16:30 (We ask all speakers arrive at 10:00 to ensure you are familiar with the venue and the event set up)
LOCATION: TheStudio, HIVE, 51 Lever St, Manchester M1 1FN
To speak for 10 minutes about your own photographic project which you have submitted in your application. The most important thing is to tell the story behind the project, and maybe any relevant anecdotes, locations, technical information etc. You may also want to give a bit of background information about yourself but we strongly suggest this lasts only one or two minutes. Please note there will be a printed biography on each presenter in the programme.
Please note that due to timings of the event, the 10 minute time limit is strict. We strongly suggest you practice your presentation to ensure you complete it within 8-10 minutes, this allows time for audience questions and change over between presenters.
In order to meet print deadlines for the programme I require the following to be sent to the email@example.com email by 9am Monday 30th May. If you do not send us this information by this date we cannnot guarantee you will feature in the programme.
– 1 medium resolution image (1800 pixels in the longer dimension)
– 50 words describing yourself and the project. (This normally works out to one sentence about yourself and one about your project)
– Twitter Handle (if you have an active Twitter account you use for photography)
– Link to website (again, if you have an up to date site)
I require your presentation to be sent in advance. Please send finished file in the preferred format of Microsoft Powerpoint to be played on a MacBook to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not have Microsoft Powerpoint please get in contact with Charlie to arrange an alternative. Please also indicate if you will be requiring audio with your presentation. This presentation has to be sent to Charlie by 9am Monday 13th June so she can collate all presentations in to one presentation in advance of the event.
This was the image I sent across for the promotion
and here is the presentation:
The project will become even more exciting when I start work with Dove House Hospice. Toy can read about my future plans with them here:
I believe that my radio/paper/TV debut was worth every bit, just because that gave me the opportunity with Dove House Hospice. By working with them, I will be able to explore the “End Of Life” in more debt and hopefully will make a great change in how people look at End of Life and death.
Other plans is to continue exploring British culture of burials, cemeteries and funerals.
I still would love to get on with momento mori, maybe try to get an access to houses that someone has died and everything is left as it was. I would also like to continue searching for elderly couples and photograph them in order to celebrate life shared together.
In July I am going to Latvia and I plan to re visit photographs taken in Britain in the past few months and capture the same concepts, but in Latvia.
My main goal and outcome is to have an exhibition when the project is finished, or some aspects of it concluded.
To be discussed…
I hope that my good gut feeling about this project has been genuine and will take me somewhere.