University: Birmingham City University
Genre: Therapeutic Self-Portraiture
Artist Statement: My distinctively dark and evocative self-portraiture is a reflection of my natural melancholic temperament. I feel that to bury this mindset deep within would only allow it to thrive, but my use of photography as therapy I am offered a sense of catharsis. Wallflower depicts traumatic memories and emotions, exploring a sense of psychological entrapment experienced since childhood. A central theme of the work is the merger of my body in relation to its surroundings, often heavily distressed they become a metaphor of my pain. Within Wallflower this merger suggests an unsettling disturbance between the physical and the psychological boundaries of the interior, alluding to the suggestion that my body could be physically devoured by its surroundings. I am particularly interested in photography of the Victorian period and because of this influence many of my photographs are intimately hand coloured.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I would say the stand out moments were access to the black and white darkroom and film processing facilities. This opportunity enabled me to create my aesthetic and really discover who I am as a photographer. I was very lucky to have such supportive tutors; it was their support that I feel really encouraged me to continue with my work after university.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? My work explores my natural melancholic temperament; though much of the work is based upon current emotional states, Wallflower, my most recent body of work, explores my childhood. Wallflower was created during a residency at Birmingham City University. The work explores a sense of psychological entrapment experienced since childhood, focusing on the portrayal of traumatic memories and emotions.
Why/when did you turn to photography as a form of therapy? I first began taking self-portraits at college; though creating the work made me feel better, it was not until studying at university and going through an emotionally difficult time, that I consciously began to use self-portraiture as therapy.
What is it about photography from the Victorian period that you find interesting? I am particularly interested in the photography of Lady Clementina Hawarden; I like the evocative nature and the gothic undertones of her work. Most of all I am interested in the technique of hand colouring photographs, which was at the height of its popularity during this period.
What other visual or theoretical influences did you have whilst making the project Wallflower? Wallflower was deeply influenced by Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s Victorian novella, The Yellow Wallpaper. A gothic novella, that tells the story of a women’s descent into madness after she is confined to a bedroom. She becomes infatuated with the wallpaper, with this becoming a metaphor of her emotional entrapment. I feel a strong emotional connection to the novella with it being an ongoing influence upon my work. Visually, I am interested in the work of Francesca Woodman. Her haunting depictions of the female form, within an abandoned and decaying interior have had a strong influence upon my work in general.
Your work is deeply personal; how do you hope for the viewer to engage with it? I feel that although my work is deeply personal, it explores universal emotions, aspects of the human condition that we can all relate to. I hope the viewer can engage with the work on the most intimate of levels, with my vulnerability drawing them in, evoking emotions and possibly memories within them.
Talk us through the process of hand colouring your work, for anyone interested in trying this technique. Hand colouring is a tactile and sensory experience that allows me to add further layers of emotion and pain upon the surface of the print. Over the years, I have experimented with various materials and paper types, but prefer the look and feel of watercolour paints. Most often I use a semi-matt darkroom paper with lots of texture as this allows the watercolour to physically become part of the photograph, rather than sit upon the surface of the print.
The text on your website states that all the work was made in your bedroom, but the images appear to be set in an abandoned location that doesn't seem homely. Why did you choose to style your bedroom in this way? Yes, my photographs are all taken within my bedroom; the room I feel is the keeper of my trapped and repressed emotions. I often distress the interior/my surroundings enabling them to become a metaphor of my emotional state. My work is deeply rooted in the idea that the places that we inhabit become an extension of self. I feel the process of constructing the interior as an integral part of my use of photography as therapy.
How do you find the process of editing personal work into a series? Do you seek advice from others or work independently on this? I work independently on this and find the process of editing such personal work incredibly cathartic. I feel the work can be seen as a kind of novel, each series an ongoing chapter in my exploration of self.
How was your experience of putting on a solo show? Do you have any tips for photographers that may be preparing their own exhibition? It was a really enjoyable experience, and was really lovely to have my first solo exhibition at the university I attended. For any photographers planning an exhibition, I would say really consider the viewer and in particular the emotions you would like your work to evoke in them.
How do you see your work progressing? Would you ever consider photographing other people in your work? At the moment I could not photograph others, as emotionally I need the physical act of being in the photograph. But I am open to how my work might develop in the future.
Do you have any new photographic projects planned? If so, tell us more. At the moment I am concentrating on developing my ongoing projects Melancholia and Wallflower. When those projects naturally come to an end I plan to create work that builds upon the exploration of my childhood.
What advice would you give to a student about to graduate? I would say have confidence in your ability and make the work that makes you happy.