Sustainable prospects Coursework week 3 Forum
In June 2019 I started my MA with Falmouth university as part of an accredited education programme.
Wednesday 19th October 2019
For this week’s topic work we were asked to discuss in the forum how we as photographers mixed art and commerce, to reflect upon our current practice and how well we thought we were managing to work in both realms. We were also asked to share the work of photographers we admire than we thought were moving from art to commercial work in a way that resonates with us. Below is my reply from the 5th October.
This was one of the main reasons I decided to do the MA. I had been working as a self taught, successful photographer for years, and 4/5 years ago started to do personal projects that were related to the paid work I was doing, I never really saw them as personal projects at the time though weirdly, more me just working for freestrange that I never even really thought about it. In my head I just hated that I was working for free, but I was obviously looking for something I wasn’t getting from my paid work at the time.
Before starting the MA I took 10 months off work. I had embarked on a personal project to photograph the births ( my paid work is in pregnancy & birth photography) of ten women across Cornwall to draw attention to our birth services in the county , which I found from my working across the UK in different hospitals and birth centres, quite progressive in their approaches to being hands off, and allowing the natural process to happen with minimal interference in the biological process if it is not needed, this is something that is rare in todays medicalised birth environment, and a story I wanted to tell . Anyway, I started the project and did 4 births in quick succession, and had another 4/5 lined up. I then had a bit of an epiphany moment that all this time I was spending on this project was time away from my own ‘babies’ (not that they were that anymore), but that I would wake up one day when this project was done and regret having spent all that time away from them. So I contacted all the women, put the project on pause, and had a 10 month sabbatical from work, and ‘just’ focused on family life and home educating our children. I then nearly a year later, instead of restarting the project, started the MA. I had reached a point in my practice where as much as I wanted and needed the paid work, I was needing more from it than just money. The birth work is extremely rewarding, and I am so passionate about it, but I still needed more , more focus for these projects. I had 3/4 finished or partially finished projects, that I had no idea what to do with them, what their purposes were, why I was doing them. So, I came to the MA hoping in part it would give me direction in this.
Now, I am only taking on minimal work commissions as between the MA work and home educating, I just don’t have time for the paid work anymore, it seems balance is an issue for me ! As I am sure it is for many people. But at the moment, I am totally committed to the alternative education project I am doing here, and I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can take a step back from the paid work to give me the breathing room I need to focus on this at the moment.
As for the future, I will definitely continue the birth work, as it is really important for me that I continue to tell these stories for ladies. I just see myself doing more personal work intertwined with it, and whilst the idea of shooting for relevant magazines to my practice , such as Milk magazine https://www.milkmagazine.net/ (Links to an external site.) would be wonderful, I have no idea how to even begin to make that happen.
I’ve only got two photographers who’s work that I would like to share.
The first is Natalie Lennard with her birth undisturbed series. Birth undisturbed came about from the birth of Lennard’s first child who was stillborn, and the subsequent birth of her second child, both of whom were born at home. She also does commercial fashion work as well. Birth undisturbed has now been exhibited across the world, with images appearing in portrait of humanity, the houses of parliament , saatchi gallery , and many press articles. So , how did she move from commercial to personal in a way that resonates with me? She didn’t ! She threw caution to the wind, and threw her whole self into her new project of birth undisturbed, and it most definitely proved a good decision for her ! Here’s the blog post to where she explains how birth undisturbed got started, and her decision to do something, how in her own words” I wanted to start something no-one in a million years would commission me to do. How about taking on my own client – my own rabbit hole mind?” ( Lennard, Natalie. 31.12.2017. Review of 2017 : The year of Re:birth . Birth Undisturbed . Accessed 05.10.19 ) https://rockstarlavender.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/2017-the-year-of-rebirth/ (Links to an external site.)
White witch awakening ; Natalie Lennard .2014
The creation of man. Natalie Lennard. 2017
Royal Blood. Natalie Lennard . 2018 .
The second photographer is Manuela Franjou who combines personal work of photographing her four children on their farm in Spain, and undertaking commercial commissions for magazines such as milk, junior style london and babiekins magazine. She originally came to my notice with an Editorial she shot for Junior style called Unplugged memories https://juniorstyle.net/editorial-unplugged-memories/ (Links to an external site.)
and I then started following her on instagram, and noticed that she had shot quite a few of the editorial pieces I had ‘liked’ in the past, without realising they were the same photographer shooting them. What I really like about her work, is that you actually can’t tell the difference between her editorial work, and her own personal images of her family at home. Her lighting and tones really stay constant throughout all of her work, and her style, once you know her work, is instantly recognisable . Obviously, this work resonates with me because she has four children, who she seems to be raising in a way consistent with my own, and her images at home reflect that. Even that original editorial I saw resonated with me, in the theme as well, as I have a constant battle of ‘electronics, screen time, whatever you want to call it’ and it’s balance in our lives. It seems the brands and editorials she chooses to work on , definitely relate personally to her own life and practice, something I think is very important. I have to be able to connect to my work in some way, even if it’s something I wouldn’t normally buy for example, I would still want to be able to personally relate to the story I am telling.