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My Favourite Colour Was Yellow

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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