Find out about a community that you don’t know much about and tell their story. What window into this world can you access through your role as photographer?
Marlborough Open Studios is an annual collaborative event in which forty local artists open their homes and studios over four weekends to allow the public access to them and their work. It is a selling event, but the artists are all happy to talk about what they do without any commitment to buy. Over the course of two weekends, I was lucky enough to see the work of twenty two artists; two were photographers, and the others used a variety of media including printmaking, glasswork, sculpture and collographs. I have discounted the photographers from this project, as I did not feel comfortable about asking them if I could photograph their work. Men were also discounted, being in the minority (less than 30%) in what turned out to be a very female event. Other artists were happy for me to do so and were very willing to explain their techniques for me.
The background work which informed this assignment is outlined in the following posts:
Assignment 3 – Home is Where the Art is
The 20th century rise in woman’s autonomy based on their increasing presence in the formal workplace, and the consequent financial authority this brought has begun to allow women to demand the same amount of personal space within the home that men have always had, whether it be their own study for private contemplation or a larger space to explore artistic pursuits. It also brings into focus how women and their partners view the work that she does in “her” space. Allocating a specific, unique room for her creativity gives the undertaking a legitimacy which has previously been absent in the historically gendered view of art pursuits. As a woman, the possession of a personal studio in the modern world takes art from being a plaything to being a serious undertaking, which indicates independence and personal autonomy as well as financial stability. And for a woman, her own studio is a strong representation of her identity and the value of her work to herself and to her partner, if she has one.
This project is based on a series of visits made under the umbrella of the Marlborough Open Studios Art Trail. Each artist in the Open Studios has been selected by her peer group as being worthy to be a part of a group which showcases the best of what North Wiltshire artists have to offer. My thanks go to the following artists who allowed me to photograph them and their work environment:
- Arran Miles – arranmiles.com
- Susie Whimster – thewhimsters.com
- Sue Lashmar – suelashmar.co.uk
- Rosalind Hewitt – ros.glass
- Belinda Harding – belindasalmonharding.webs.com
- Julie Smith – juliesmithart.org
- Rebecca Spicer – rebeccaspicer.com
- Mary Wilkinson – marywilkinsonartist.com
- Jacqui Melhuish – jacquimelhuish.co.uk
- Jane Renwick – janerenwick.co.uk
- Mary Thorne – wagonyardartists.co.uk
- Arty Pumpkin – artypumpkin.co.uk
- Kim Pethbridge
- Lisi Ashbridge – itswritteninstone.co.uk
- Meriel Balston
- Bryony Cox – bryonycox.com
The purpose of this assignment was to reveal either a mirror of a community one knows and how it affects the photographer personally, or a window onto a community that the photographer did not previously know. A review of my blog posts for this assignment reveals that I have struggled to settle on a subject for several months, and tried out several different options without success. My initial idea of using mirrors in the literal as well as metaphorical sense using photography en abyme is something I would like to return to later, but I was advised by fellow students that the next iteration using my village’s annual carnival was not working. Thanks are due to fellow student Kate 513940 for her suggestion that I look at the Open Studios for a more revealing subject, and something upon which I could base a windows project.
This was not a linear project, in which the order of the images was important. Of more interest to me was the question of whether to include some of the artworks or to focus purely on the spaces themselves. I decided on the latter because it was better reflective of my background research. My original plan had been to produce a series of diptychs, each showing the artist and one of her pieces, but this seemed too static , on reflection. I also looked at the possibility of showing the artists directly relating to me, the photographer, as the process of capturing the images was so voluble and enjoyable but did not have enough good quality images to produce a series. Like all events of this type, one is having to work “on the hoof” and allowing other visitors to speak to the artists, and so there was a limit to what could be achieved. However, the organiser of the event asked me if I would like to produce some photographs for next year’s catalogue, and suggested that it might be mutually beneficial for me to go back after the Open Studios was over and to spend some time watching and photographing individual artists at work. I may do this over the winter as part of my rework for assessment.
Looking at the series I have produced, I have particular concerns about two images. No. 7 has a slightly yellow cast from being taken in artificial light and this does not fit the visual palette of the other images. Despite considerable effort, I cannot seem to remove this without losing detail in the image. The focus in no. 6 is not quite as sharp as I would have liked, but I think the image should be included as the composition and the artist’s expression are revealing. Conversely, I am pleased with nos 1, 2 and 4, which I feel capture the person as well as their environment. Regarding possible gaps, the inclusion of some painters would have added another element to the series, and I will try to achieve this over the winter.