I have been doing a lot of reading and research for Assignment two and it felt like I needed to balance that out with some image making and started sketching some different ideas about what form the assignment might take. I have decided that it will consist of a series of diptychs with a family album image on one side and an image on the other side that links to the stories of the Australian child migrants.
One pairing I thought of was my family images alongside the Australian flora and fauna that must have seemed so alien to children already confused and frightened about what was happening to them. I remember how different the environment seemed in new South Wales and in Queensland from the depths of Surrey. I can only imagine what these children thought. Initially I thought they would be straight photographs but I decided there was a danger that it might look like a travel brochure.
Like assignment one I spent some time thinking about what it was that was drawing me into this project, why did it feel important to try and address? I decided that what I was trying to uncover was – ‘what must it have felt like as a child of five, six or seven to have arrived in this strange land with everything being so different, a cruel version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?’ For me it was a kind of Wonderland but I had my family with me and we knew at some point we would be going back to England as a group.
This led me to thinking about more abstract images that might evoke emotions. So having collected some found images of Australian flora I experimented with filters and the warp tool. What started to emerge were images that had softness but also some sharp edges. They were no longer recognisable as the original images, perhaps symbolic of the dislocation caused, I also felt they were starting to work better in exploring feelings of loss, pain, confusion and abandonment.
I am not sure if they will work alongside the family album images but will test that out when I pull everything together for the assignment. If nothing else I have found a technique that I think I will keep developing. They have had a very positive response from people I have shared them with.
I couldn’t decide whether to name them or not so for now they are just called Lost, I may revert to giving them only numbers to reflect the loss of identity of the children.
Part One: Project two. Exercise 1.2 part b (page. 25)
Re-make an existing work of at using photography. This can be a simple re-staging or a more elaborate tableau.
Orange Field, 1964, James Rosenquist
Orange Field resemblance
Initially, my approach was going to be still life influenced by one of the early female still life painters such as Maria van Oosterwijck (17th century) or Rachel Ruysch (18th century). Their work has been a source of inspiration for some time partly because of their quality but also because of their place as women painters and the fact that it was the only genre they were ‘allowed’ to work in by the academy of the time. For me still life is in part a political act.
In the end I decided to take a different approach and try out something new but that still had a depth of meaning. Stimulated by some of my research for Graphic Design One I decided to look at still life in pop art and came across ‘Orange Field’ by James Rosenquist (1964). I really liked its sense of ordinariness and mundanity, a simple bowl of spaghetti with a single fork; nothing fancy, no food styling or complex staging, just spaghetti. Orange Field sits within the Pop Art commentary on consumerism and capitalism, it speaks to me of my concerns around what has become of food production in the West and how distanced many of us are from where our food originates.
Orange Field setup
Orange Field processing
Initially I set it up as a food shoot, imagining I was going to get something close to the original. Unsurprisingly, even though I got the light in about the right place, it was clear very quickly that this was not going to be a copy. Echoing Zahalka’s series it was going to be more of a resemblance, drawing on, rather than recreating the piece. Having taken the shots I made some changes in Photoshop, mainly adding a white mask and tidying up some of the spaghetti.
It was fascinating to do this exercise, and even though it could be said I chose something very simple it became increasingly multi-layered for me as I worked on it. I found myself thinking about Rosenquist’s motivation, about our relationship to food, the fact that while he painted it in 1964 Heinz spaghetti had been on the market since 1926, the implications of this for wheat production and a drive to increasing yields and monocultures that have been so environmentally devastating, and so on. I am also very aware that others looking at the image may see little more than a bowl of spaghetti.