Melanie Letoré: Hothouse Birmingham

As you probably know, we've been in touch with a few speakers from the line up at Hothouse Birmingham. This time around we spoke to Glasgow School of Art graduate, Melanie Letoré, who told us about her series Rectangle Days and her experience of talking about her work. We hope you enjoy what Melanie has to say.


Series Statement: I presented Rectangle Days, a blog on which I try to post a photograph a day, and which came into existence on the 1st of January 2014. Initially it was a blog I shared with my brother. We lived in different countries and wanted to show each other what we were seeing. As neither of us have a smartphone, this systematic online posting was a way of saying “I am thinking about you”. Furthermore, I was interested in seeing how he would take photographs, what he would include in the frame, which subjects he would choose. I was already familiar with my visual language, and I was curious to see his. 

Quite quickly, the blog became mine only, and has been for quite a while. It keeps me visually awake in my daily life, always searching for interesting subjects, colour, light, places and actions. At the end of each day, there is an editing process to choose my daily image. One day I will take a single image, another day three hundred. At the end of the year, a more extensive editing process takes place, from which other projects are born. The first year, I made a publication, and the second, a hinged photography installation requiring the public’s interaction, whereby the audience could touch the photographs to see the full exhibition.

From the series Rectangle Days

From the series Rectangle Days

Rectangle Days is an open-ended recording, a live contact sheet and an endeavour to better understand the world. 

In 2014 there were 272 images, in 2015 there were 244, and 2016 currently has 208. This is probably due to a stricter and more critical editing process.  

You and Your Work: My name is Melanie Letoré and I live in Glasgow. 

I am interested in all the following and much more: places, people, objects, hierarchies, narratives, histories and stories, processes, systems and parameters. When I edit and sequence my images, they talk to me of curiosity, intimacy, memory and light. 

Because these photographs are diary-like, I often wonder if my images are autonomous single entities, or whether their backstory should be revealed, and what dimension this adds to them. If people do not attach my specific personal memories to images, does it matter? How does their reading of my output differ from what I expect it to be? 

From the series Rectangle Days

From the series Rectangle Days

I have been considering exploring how my images could work with text for a long time. I enjoy writing. I am scared of failing and of creating something meaningless by adding text. I have also been playing with photography’s preciousness and quietly attempting to dismantle it as a way of better understanding the medium. 

For Rectangle Days I use a Canon Powershot G16 or anything available if I don’t have my camera on me (four images in my three years of output were taken on friends’ smartphones). Otherwise I use a Mamiya 645. Truthfully, I haven’t used the latter in over a year; nothing has seemed suitable to it. Since graduating I have let images come to me through my daily activities and at times my photographing has anxiously felt like aimless wandering. For now, I have learnt to accept this meandering; the time will come for me to start hunting for images again. 

From the series Rectangle Days

From the series Rectangle Days

The Talk: I was attracted to Hothouse Birmingham, organised by Redeye and GRAIN, because it was a forum. People are at the core of my creative process; exchanging, discussing, challenging, engaging photography have been the most crucial part of my learning. I really wanted to attend and speak at an event where those things were key. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to meet and listen to other makers in a new context, away from the community in which I live. It was extremely eye opening to listen to the multiplicity of unfamiliar voices, see another network function and hear about difficulties faced by another photography community and the good things within it. 

Preparing for Hothouse was extremely beneficial, because I had to construct a logical, structured talk and organise my thought process. I have ease and experience in public speaking as a tour guide and a dance teacher, yet I became extremely nervous for this talk – perhaps simply because I was talking about my own work. I thoroughly enjoyed the breadth of questions I was asked, most of which I had never been asked before. I like the fact that I couldn’t quite answer some of them, and that I have been pondering them since the talk.

From the series Rectangle Days

From the series Rectangle Days

Future Plans: Last year, I was invited to be on the editorial board of the re-launched Scottish photography magazine called NOTES; our first issue came out in November 2016. It has been a joyous adventure, and I am working hard on the second issue.

For my own work, I will continue Rectangle Days, as well as start planning another project. Last June, I biked alone from Glasgow to London. This experience has catalyzed long-standing thoughts around fear, journeys, the body and personal narratives.