University: University for the Creative Arts, Farnham
Genre: Constructed Documentation
As a young lady entering what seemed like a forbidden territory, Barber shops are an unfamiliar space to me. I discovered that these parlours are particularly used for gentlemen who gather around to socialise, to be offered a beer during their shave or to receive a shoe polish as they repose in the leather reclining chair. The clarity of the barber shops creates a sharp and prominent aesthetic, there is a strange warming comfort that feels welcoming from both the interior and the barbers.
There were a few moments of patronisation, neglect and humiliation stepping into an environment strictly for a gentleman's use. I felt the urge to blend into a space I am deeply fond of documenting, a sense of homeliness and comfort was quickly established by the Barbers and clients. The empty appeal of the distantly spaced chairs and illusive mirrors was regardless to this type of energy as this brought myself fondness, despite the fact of being a lady.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Bending the rules. I received a wonderful variety of feedback from fellow tutors and peers, but I found that going against their word helped me adapt and develop my work.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Over the past two years my practice has evolved into a series of Constructed Documentation. By shooting on an analogue camera, capturing a subject flows at a slower pace. I am a patient person when it comes to finding the right moment.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? My eye is attentive towards detail, whether that is shown through garments of clothing or as a piece of furniture. I would not classically claim that my portraiture work as ‘fashion editorial’; I find that my practice underlies a value to myself, each subject I photograph contains a significant alliance.
What visual and theoretical influences did you have whilst making this body of work? Short, Back and Sides was inspired by one of my previous series titled Portraits of Gentlemen’s Backs, created in 2015. I chose to use Barber shops as an environment to work in as I had only just skimmed the surface of using men as my subject matter. The works of Dennis Stock during his time with James Dean influenced my desire to document this particular subject. Mr. Porter Post has been a regular read of mine, the aesthetic and clarity of the Gentlemen’s lifestyle is something I have become envious about.
Why did you feel compelled to document this unfamiliar space that seemed like “forbidden territory" to you? The start of this project was the first time I had stepped into a Barber shop, I believed that this was a space where women did not enter frequently. Maybe that was why I felt inclined to document the surroundings of the Barber shop, I have always admired the steps of gentlemen’s grooming. The territory quickly turned into a place where I felt welcome, the barbers and clients were eager to share their memories of the social and technical side of barbering.
What are your creative plans post graduation? I am in the early stages of starting a new project, a continuation of photographing men as my main focal point. My photographic practice ties in with bookbinding, I would like to explore new techniques and discover the value of publishing in the city.
For the series Short, Back and Sides, how did you overcome the initial awkwardness of stepping into a place where, in theory, you shouldn't have been? How did you approach your subjects, and do you have any tips for students or graduates that may be anxious when planning to photograph people they haven't met? I started to photograph for Short, Back and Sides during mid Autumn, as I wrapped up for the weather my style evolved with the use of tailored trousers and leather brogues. I believe that my subjects were intrigued by my masculine look, perhaps it was because they could tell that I seemed interested in getting to know the background of men as Barbers. The clothing was coincidental, but I would always suggest choosing a subject that you feel genuinely at heart with. The first time I met with my subjects, they knew I was passionate about mens lifestyle because of the questions and comfort that I shared with them.
Why did you choose to shoot this work in black and white? Shooting with black and white really allows me to play with the depth and contrast during my development. The Barber shops that I documented all shared a similar strength of dark textures, especially in the interior; pieces such as leather reclining chairs. Black and white really took away the distraction from every day mundane objects, with the mix of cables and labelled bottles lying around they bring a sense of present times as I viewed the surroundings. Taking away the colour removes the time of capturing the scene, this series creates a timeless feel and a sense of nostalgia.
As you've categorised your work as 'Constructed Documentation', could you elaborate on what this means to you? The process of my work always starts with making sure my subject feels at comfort and ease before I take my camera out. I feel that have a connection with the person in front of the camera allows them to feel natural and without force. The beauty of using an analogue camera means that there is a much slower pace involved, during my documentation I may ask the subject to suddenly pause and hold their position. There are so many memories where I wish I was able to capture that moment in time, but I do not regret missing it as sometimes it is best to stand back and admire the subject / moment for what it really is.
We understand that currently you are working as an intern at the Francesca Maffeo Gallery. Can you tell us more about the role you're involved in, the expected duration of the placement, and what you've learnt so far? I have a three month placement at the Gallery, Francesca Genovese has given me so many opportunities while working as her intern. My assistance to the curator has been led by writing a variety of posts on social media, promoting the exhibition work and print sales while focusing on appealing to our audience. My role varies each week, I have met many new artists and learned the process of curating and hanging a show.
All of the work on your website has been shot using a Hasselblad; why do you favour this camera in particular, and why film over digital? When I first rented out a Hasselblad from my university I loved the experience and outcome. With medium format film you suddenly become restricted with 12 frames per roll, I never really understood why I was taught to take several shots of the same thing when it came to digital. You either have the eye for what you see or it’s not worth photographing. Using film gives me more awareness about my surroundings, I am very careful as to when I take a photograph.
Can you tell us more about your recent series State of Serenity? During my studies at UCA, I possessed many psychoanalytical books that discussed the gaze, that particular look you receive from someone that conveys their frame of mind. State of Serenity follows the lives of young women in their day to day routines, I was influenced not only by the female gaze but how the position of the body also expresses the current emotion from the subject.
How did you find making a book for this work? Short, Back and Sides contains three different layers of still life details, exterior decor and portraiture. Since there were many photographs in the final cut, compressing this series into a book allows the viewer to admire the clarity at their own pace. I have been very lucky to have been taught by book artist David Rule, without him I would be hopeless at book binding.
With State of Serenity I wrote small poems on my typewriter, I paired up my work and titled each set of two a word that defined part of the routine. Examples such as attire and devour were used, I love that I can exhibit a simple narrative with the combination of image and text.
If you could undertake any project possible, what would that be? I feel like I would like to make the impossible, possible! A close friend and photographer of mine, Claire, writes letters to a pen pal inmate. We used to sit in the canteen as I read about the life of a man behind closed walls. I have developed an interest in documenting innocent and guilty men in a prison environment. We forget that these people have their own characteristics and traits. I want to photograph the significant style they have managed that is distinguished from their uniform.