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Generation Pink

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I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time, and then I watched Interstellar. The film has the words of Dylan Thomas at it’s core, from his poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight’. Matthew Mcconaughey gives a brilliant performance, but it was Thomas’ words that grabbed me and pulled me wholeheartedly into the film. In my photography, other people’s words have become part of my way of working. Often, other people – writers, can better articulate what I – a picture maker, am trying to say. Their words give me a better understanding of a subject, reinforce my original ideas and expand on that idea. I use them to get to the bottom of what I want to say, which is not always easy to figure out.

In my book project – ‘My Favourite Colour Was Yellow’ I found the words of two people especially useful. I read Jo B Paoletti’s book ‘Pink and Blue – Telling the Boys from the Girls in America’. The book traces the history of the colours pink and blue in children’s clothing. Jo’s research reinforced some of the hunches I had and helped me to understand how this phenomenon had come about. A greater understanding of a subject is going to lead to better pictures. Jo has since written an essay for my book, and she ends it on a posssitive note, hinting that a change is in the air. A sentiment that I share and have echoed in the photographs towards the end of my edit.

There is also a quote that helped in the making of the portraits. It’s from W M Hunt (if you don’t know him, look him up) “Insist on engagement. Wrestle with what is difficult. Pretty is boring. Seek intensity.” This was ringing in my ears when I was making photographs. It helped me to get away from making pleasing pictures, that the girls parents would approve of. I was guided towards making more interesting photographs of each girl, that was more true to each of them. I was dealing with what could be a saccharine subject matter, and these words steered me through.

At his talk in Bristol last year David Goldblatt spoke about the influence of South African literature in his practice. I was reminded recently (via Colin Pantall’s blog) of Ken Grant’s mantra to ‘rush slowly’ the borrowed words from Josef Sudek.

We can’t do it all ourselves. All work is collaborative. When we find someone else that can articulate our feelings for us, whether its through a song lyric, a quote, novel or poem – we love them for it. The people who help us to feel and to understand. Whether its Dylan Thomas, John Martyn or Nabokov.

Don’t forget about the words when making pictures.



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IMG_8252I have just completed ‘the big edit’ with Victoria Forrest, who is designing my book. I knew I was going to write about this process. Working with someone else on an edit is still relatively new to me. It’s only the third time I’ve worked in this way. So much of the time photographers work alone and the edit becomes a series of your favourite shots. There is so much more to the process – it can transform the work, take it in different directions with other meanings, and in this case translate it into the book format. Unless you have worked in this way the process remains a bit of a mystery.

I started by sending Victoria all 2,802 files in total. She got this down to her larger edit of 196. I then added 8 back in, and from that she prepared a provisional edit of 60 images. Victoria sent this to me the week before our session, so I had the time to digest the work she had done. And I needed that time. I get fixed on how my work should be and I need time to help me to readjust. When I received her provisional edit I liked how she had ordered the work. She had given it structure. I had been lost in it. However it was still a big shift and that week helped me to make the adjustment.

On the day we worked together, the structure remained, we tweeked the beginning sequence, making it stronger. She worked from top to bottom – not left to right, as I feel inclined to do. We kept most of the double pages, as I could see that together these images became stronger – even though I had always thought these portraits in particular needed the space of a single page. I really tried to listen. Victoria is very skilled at editing – she knows much more than I do. She has many systems to pull from. She is quick too. It was a balance between listening and remembering what I needed to say. I had to ensure my message came across. The main change I wanted was to make the edit more political, to crank it up. I want to be heard loud and clearly understood. We changed the mega pink section to reflect this and I was happier.

So for now the edit is 90% complete. I need to live with it for a bit longer. The ending still needs a bit of work. For the longest time I have wanted to complete this project. To draw a line under it and to get it out there. Now I am so close to this, but I can’t stop just yet. I have three more ideas in my head that I need to get down onto film. Then I’ll feel that I can finalise the edit, whether we use them or not.

Above are some shots from the edit session and below one of the important photographs that I am saying goodbye to…

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https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1960930891/my-favourite-colour-was-yellow

 

It’s LIVE! I’ve just hit go on my Kickstarter campaign. I’m announcing it here first, before steadily rolling it out.

You can be one of the first to pre-order the book, back the project and help me spread the word.

I’d love to hear what you think about it.. You will already know how much this means to me.

Kirsty x

 

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I’ve made a start on the design of my book with Victoria and the editing process is about to begin. I still have a few unfinished ideas floating around in my head. If they are to stand a chance of making it into the book; I have to pluck them out quick and get them onto film. The book is all about a single colour and as an end shot I like the idea of using a rainbow to emphasise the full spectrum. I took a picture about six months back on my phone. It’s of my daughter with a rainbow of light over her eye. It was a quick snap, as the sun came into the bedroom one morning, and bounced off the edge of the mirror on my jewellery box. It was early summer.

Now it’s mid January and the sun no longer reaches around to the bedroom window. I’m desperate for some direct light. In deepest darkest winter my window of opportunity has decreased drastically . I know that the back of the house gets direct sun from about 1-4pm. I know because each time it comes out I watch it, in envy. By the time Ruby is home from school the light has gone. To stand a chance of getting a shot we are down to weekends.

And weekends have a habit of getting filled up with life. But I am desperate for this final shot. It’s Saturday. The sun is out. I grab the jewellery box and find a tiny pool of light coming through the bathroom window. I make Ruby sit there on the bathroom floor, trying to catch the rainbow on her face, but I’m seven months pregnant, my body awash with hormones, tiered and with no patience. I’m short with her and command her into different positions. I’ve lost it. I’ve lost the skill of making the process any fun. She sits, grumpy face, but still there doing this for me, to help her mum. I feel dreadful, and shoot one frame before the sun goes in behind a cloud. The light has gone and I give up.

Later the light shines through her bedroom window lighting up a doll’s house. I curse it. The next weekend I ‘book it out’ for photography. I tell Tony this is what I need to do. It’s my sole focus. But will the sun even come out? Saturday after lunch we have sun! I leave the lunch stuff and we run upstairs to the bathroom. I muster all my patience. we talk about her, about how strong she is, about what a fast runner she is. We catch the rainbow. I exhale.

I don’t know if I’ll use this shot. It doesn’t matter. I did it – we did it.

 

7 days till my Kickstarter campaign… if it all goes to plan..

 

 

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I’m dragging myself back into work mode after the Christmas break. The past couple of weeks have seen me concentrate on filling my belly and emptying my brain. As I prepare for the onslaught that is crowd funding and book design. The first stage of this process is a change in title. I am working with photo book designer Victoria Forrest. Her first input was the tentative suggestion of changing the title.

This work has been on the boil for the past 4/5 years. I’ve called it ‘Generation Pink’, for a long time. It started off as ‘Pink Pricesses’, but as the work developed Gereration Pink became more appropriate. I always name my projects early on. Some projects get names, but never even make it to the photo stage, they stay as an idea, but don’t work to be taken further. I find the process of naming a project really useful. It is labelling. It helps me to decipher what the project is really about and why I am interested. Giving work a name also helps me to see it as an end product, whether it will be a book, an exhibition or a series on my website. It enables me to see the work as a whole. So Victoria’s idea to change the title is a good place to start. It’s the first step in the process of translating this work into a photo book. ‘Generation Pink’ is too descriptive, gives too much away, too soon. Victoria has suggested “My Favourite Colour was Yellow’. It comes from an interview I recorded with one of the girls I photographed. Her name is Rosie and I photographed her a couple of years ago when she was 14. She told me how her friend had asked her favourite colour. She felt under pressure to say pink and purple, even though it wasn’t. “My favourite colours were yellow and orange. When I took the pens out of the pack I took the yellow first, always and then the orange”.

The new title places an emphasis on a lack of choice, and that’s what is at the core of this. I am looking forward to working with Victoria over the next few weeks. We’ve made a good start and she has already helped me see this work more clearly as a book.

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With Christmas fast approaching these recent images will be amongst my last serious photographs for this year. I have been working with book designer Victoria Forrest. Even when I thought all the work for my book was done – Victoria told me to keep shooting. So there is more in the pipeline, but now that will have to wait until the new year.

For now my attentions are set on planning my Kickstarter campaign. I am on a mission to self publish my book, in time for a launch at Photo Book Bristol next June. I am aiming to raise £12,000 over the next few months. People have told me that I am a quietly confident person. I am confident about my photography work and even the process of making a photo book for the first time. With other people’s help I have gained enough confidence to embark on self publishing. However the thought of raising such a small fortune, by crowd funding, is seriously worrying. If I don’t reach my target- I won’t get a penny.

I have the confidence in my own work, but somehow I need to turn that into other people having confidence in the project, enough to want to preorder a copy, with their own money. From what I’ve learned, crowd funding campaigns are all about momentum, and people having faith that it will be successful. So what can I do? I have never taken on such a huge challenge as this before. All I can do is to research and plan. I have been talking to other photographers who have run successful crowd funding campaigns and self published. Asking as many questions as possible, trying to gain tips and advice and and understanding of the whole process. I have been compiling a mailing list, planning a video shoot for the campaign, gathering endorsements etc etc. All I can do is be prepared and give it my best shot. I will be launching the campaign towards the end of January. Look out for it. You’ll be able to pre order the book or back the campaign. I need to move a 12K mountain and I won’t be able to do it alone.

Big thanks to Rudi Thoemmes, Rosie Barnes and Tom Groves for their generous help.

 

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