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I have been working on another edit of these portraits from Cardiff. They’ll be part of a group exhibition in Stuttgart, and last night Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ was on. This clip reminded me how I felt, in May 2013 when I set up my make shift studio, on the streets of Cardiff. I photographed 110 willing participants, each one a beautiful creature.

Have a great summer. Over and out x

 

 

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In a flurry of activity one Sunday morning, as the baby slept on her dad’s chest and daughter number one played upstairs… I finished my book. When there is a window these days it’s grabbed. Being mum to a small baby makes you increadably productive in short spaces of time. Spaces that are snatched, at anytime around the clock. So in my dressing gown early in the morning, assisted by Steely Dan on Spotify… I finished my book. It took only a couple of short hours. Images were cut up & additions made to the edit, text – most of it discarded but for two quotes and the essay, cover image in the bag. The End.

I’d thought about it for so long that when I had the opportunity it all flowed. Having a break from it, long enough to have a baby, helped too.

This week the dummy is being printed & bound. Throughout Bristol, and no doubt much further afield, book dummies are being made – all in time for this weekend’s Photo Book Bristol. Last year’s festival was the first. No one knew what to expect from it, but this year we do.

Anticipation is high…

 

 

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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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I’m one week into a Kickstarter campaign to self publish my book. (You can see it here). There have been highs and there have been lows.

What I am enjoying most is that it has forced me to contact people in the photography community that I have known about, but never had the guts or specific reason to do so. Having such a well defined deadline, and the make or break set up of Kickstarter really does make you put your work out there. It nudges you to make new contacts and get in touch with old friends.

It helps to clearly define your work and become more articulate about it. Writing a short description of your project, and one in 140 characters or less, forces you to focus. Talking to other people can draw out of you what you actually want to say about the work. I particularly enjoyed the interview for Fotografia magazine. (Read it here). Graziano’s questions probed to the heart of the subject. He managed to get out of me what I had wanted to say about this work. Sometimes you need the help of others to do that.

I get me up early in the morning. I’m up at 6am and do at least an hour before breakfast with my family, which is important as I am a distracted mum and partner right now.

But it’s hard going and I wish I had a PR agent. I’m spending a lot of time at my desk and eating way too many chocolate biscuits. Only 3 more weeks to go…

If you’d like to preorder a book or make a pledge, take a look at the Kickstarter page here.

 

 

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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 have neglected my blog of late and that’s mostly due to being pregnant.  It’s not that my head is already full of parenting dilemmas – which pushchair to by? To swaddle or not to swaddle? My brain is still firmly focused on photography. The arrival of another member of the family looms large as a clear cut deadline for getting my work done, in particular – my book published, while I still can.

This lack of writing is due to many things, tiredness and lack of motivation in early pregnancy, concentrating on the work that really needs to get done, but I blame it mostly on a lack of caffeine. Caffeine has always been my friend when I need to write. Of course I can still write, but its not as much fun. I’m less sparky – its more like hard work.

With the role of being a new mum again on the horizon, mixed with the excitement, contentment and anticipation is a sadness. As I know that my work will stop. I know this from experience with child number 1. I know that when you care for a totally dependant human being that it is all consuming. There isn’t the space left in your brain for the creative thought necessary for making decent photographs. When my daughter was 18months old she started to go to a childminder one day a week. This gave me some thinking time and only then did I get any ideas for my work. My work gradually got stronger and more prolific as she went onto nursery and then school.

I will still be able to get on with the office based work and setting up the Photo Bristol network. That doesn’t require the same kind of thinking. But the work.. the ideas… and making photographs will go. I’ll miss that.

I’ve always disliked the phrase “Having It All”. I’m not greedy. I don’t want it all. I want two things and they are to have a family and make photographs, because if I can’t do those things I am only half of what I am. I don’t buy into this picture of perfect parenting that I see all around me. As with all the good things in life having a baby is full of mixed emotions. I already love this baby, but I will miss my work. I live in hope of a baby that sleeps and an extended 1 day a week paternity leave.

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13-12-13-0002These are my last photographs of the year, taken last week in Cardiff. I’ll be putting my camera down now and giving in to the mayhem of Christmas. I’ll be having a good long break, which includes experiencing the moments over Christmas, without incessantly capturing them. Now that we all take more photographs than ever, it’s even more important, to know when to put the camera down. Happy Christmas!