Andrea Allan

University: Sunderland University & Manchester School of Art

Graduation: 2009 & 2014

Websitewww.andreaallan.co.uk

Statement: Through my work I explore the real and imaginary and the gap between subject and object in an attempt to better understand the links between our past, present and future. Combining photography with the written word I am able to weave the ideas of past narratives into the fabric of present places

the Village photobook

the Village photobook

The series the Village grew out of my own disconnection to the village I’ve grown up in. The idea of community in the village has started to fragment. Its identity has come under threat over the past decade as its boundaries have become blurred by the influences of infrastructure, technology and expansion.

What university did you attend and when did you graduate? I graduated from Sunderland University in 2009, with a BA (Hons) in Photography, Video and Digital Imaging. I then progressed on to an MA in photography at Manchester School of Art, graduating in 2014.

From the series the Village

From the series the Village

What is your favourite photo-book by another photographer? There can never be just one favourite so I’ll list my top three in no particular order. Burden of Freedom by Emina Djukic. I picked this up last year in Motto Berlin. At that time I was just starting a new project, the images, layout and narrative really spoke to me. Cosmic Surgery by Alma Haser; I featured her degree work in the first issue of my online magazine Entitle, I’ve been a fan ever since. Finally, Rachel, Monique… or any book by Sophie Calle, her work is a constant inspiration to me.

From the series the Village

From the series the Village

Direction: I’ve always been interested in narrative, often writing short stories as a child. This eventually became more visual, but the idea of using text still lingers, and has become integral to my work. Some people feel that the photograph is lacking something if text needs to be included, but I’ve always believed that it can enhance the image, there are some things that photographs cannot say. 

The opportunity to learn book binding on the MA was one of the main attractions of the course. It was something that I had been wanting to do for a while. It’s definitely been one of the areas I have continued to develop after graduation, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have the Village selected to be part of the Baltic Book fair by NEPN (North East Photography Network) and most recently Impressions Gallery book fair.  

From the series the Village

From the series the Village

Considerations: Audience interpretation and experience is integral to my practice, and I’m very interested in how the book format can act as a container. The content is fixed, whilst the audience’s interpretation becomes a variable element in the sense that every time they view the work they have changed in some way, a different mood, experience, the space in which they read, all altering the final reading.

The paper choice was G F Smith, the texture and weight of the paper are high quality encouraging you to hold it between your thumb and forefinger whilst reading, becoming a very tactile experience.

Deriving inspiration from the cookbook Polpo; the book is without a spine; this was a very conscious decision. It not only shows off the hand stitching, it means the book can lie completely flat, meaning you don’t lose a few millimetres of image in the fold of full-page spreads.

Installation image of the Village

Installation image of the Village

Interior: I wanted the book to reference the exhibition piece, whilst at the same time become an object in its own right. The indication to the exhibition layout was achieved through the design layout of the photographs on the pages, full-page spreads tie in with the large-scale prints, and smaller images take reference from the clustered photographs. I wanted this layout to act, in some ways, like the exhibition work, to challenge the viewer’s perception of what is being offered. A viewer in a gallery can skim through work that is presented in a linear fashion, so to can a reader, by breaking up the flow of imagery and text I hope to provoke a physical and emotional response, asking the viewer to reflect on the work that is presented. 

the Village photobook

the Village photobook

Inspiration: The works of Sophie Calle, Duane Michals, David Lamelas, Lorna Simpson are heavily entrenched in narrative, and at times quite didactic, I find these to be my main sources of inspiration. Work I can repeatedly come back to, retracing past ideas or reinterpreting the work in light of some new personal experience.

Since graduating I’ve found myself going to more artist book fairs, independent book stores that hold zines and self-published work. I don’t limit myself to photo-books. There is a lot of inspiration and ideas that can be drawn from other art disciplines.

the Village photobook

the Village photobook

When developing the Village I found myself reading extracts from Mary Douglas’ theory on social pollution. With the photobook there’s a physical connection, whilst social in its implications, it becomes individualistic and personal, tying in with Douglas’ theory that pollution is based on what we, as individuals, conceive to be moral and immoral which bows to personal experience.

Advice and Future Goals: I’m currently working on a group show in book format. Taking note of Seth Siegelaub's Xerox Book, which was a culmination of 7 artists work contained with the pages of an artists book, I want to build on this initial attempt. I’m looking to work with a designer to really drive forward the layout aspects and hopefully have it as a touring exhibition.

From the series the Village

From the series the Village

In relation to my own work, I’ve started the final design stages of another photo-book entitled Please do not touch. The idea stems from Ryan Gander’s Night in the Museum, a combination of sculptures and wall based artwork, the words ‘please do not touch’ lined the gallery floor whilst the upstairs gallery actively encouraged visitors to engage with the materials in the space, it’s an interesting juxtaposition, the book consists of images and tactile structures the reader can interact with.