The Boy & The Twins – Åsa Johannesson

I saw Åsa talk about her work recently and I couldn’t wait to share it on here. The Boy & The Twins is an absolutely fabulous piece of work and her work in progress series Aryan looks absolutely superb also.

The way she interweaves the staged posed images of the boy against her own autobiographical images of her and her sister in their tomboy childhood is so beautiful and works so well. Coming from knowing quite a lot about and having experienced from others the issues and feelings around being transgender, I’ve felt in my own experiments how difficult a subject it is to tackle as an artist, as we are surrounded by imagery and projects on gender that I feel sometimes almost work against the feelings and reality of being transgender.

As far as I can see; to be trans is not necessarily to be flamboyant or loudly self-expressive, nor is it to comply to strict social rules on gender purely to blend in. It’s the ability to be yourself and be happy with that, much like everyone else. It’s not ABOUT becoming something else, it’s purely about being (and sometimes, becoming) yourself and being true to that. Anyway to move on, I love how she gently juxtaposes the two halves of boyhood. There’s a time in some trans individuals’ lives where they almost return to this boyhood or girlhood they perceive to have ‘missed’ and follow an accelerated version, returning back to secret dreams and desires they may have repressed (either consciously or subconsciously) from their childhood and perhaps adolescence. This idea is what comes across so strongly to me in the juxtaposing of the two images.

There’s an awkward sense of reflection on the part of Jacob, the boy; where it’s almost like the images of Johannesson and her sister become projections of his own subconscious past as perhaps two halves. Some might feel this split is about gender directly but others feel this split is between the physical body and the inner identity.

The Johannesson sisters are almost stalked by Jacob across the images, like he is observing them; perhaps their behaviour, perhaps just their twin-ness; much like one would observe animals on safari or in a zoo. Jacob’s poses suggest a sense of frustration and boredom which I feel is very telling of his own life story; there is always a lot of waiting and seeing involved.

Jacob holds a banana skin with a semi-clenched fist, his eyebrows sense a certain agitation, whether it’s because he is being photographed in the first place, play acting for the camera or if the image touches in on a subconscious frustration at the time. The banana’s reference to absence of full male genitalia is interesting especially as it appears like knuckle dusters, another subtle reference to masculinity.

Jacob and his partner stand on the path together; their clothes echo one another and they stand together staring out at us. The path looks fairly derelict and just behind them lies the remains of a broken children’s treehouse, once again whispering suggestions of boyhood. The image is named The Path, naturally echoing Jacob and many others’ journey ahead.

David Hockney RA Exhibition

I had the delightful opportunity to see Hockney’s new exhibition at the Royal Academy. I’m a big fan of Hockney, not all of his work but I feel he has something like no one else especially in regards to the photographic. His portraits are my favourites so as you can imagine I was slightly worried going to an exhibition of his made up solely of landscapes. However, I should never have worried as there were so many surprises.

I’d studied Hockney’s early work at school, especially being fascinated by a book in our library of his photo collages which after seeing a few times became a gimmick. Yet to be confronted with an image I had picked apart so much let me relive that first discovery. That first moment where you realise what he has done. It was wonderful.

I realise the exhibition has been blogged and spoken about by anyone and everyone but I’d like to use this opportunity just to say what jumped out to me the most. In this piece above his use of colour to push you away from others yet keep to the naturalness of the scene is genius. The delicate pink of the flowers in the shadows of the trees and the red orange of the leaves and earth in the light work beautifully together for example. I’m intrigued by his use of 6 canvases in one, when in the exhibition for me they just worked so well. Splitting up the painting like his previous photo collages yet never disturbing the eye. Amongst seemingly natural paintings were ones like the first I have listed on this blog where he moves between fantasy and the real, almost Van Gogh, back to the psychadelic sixties… it was something refreshing.

Walking into the Spring Room you are confronted with two large walls covered in beautiful prints of Hockney’s iPad drawings/paintings, I was spellbound by these. Walking up and down, walking closer and further away. They are at once completely and totally Hockney and yet you are still drawn back to the tool itself. Muchlike all hockney’s work, I like looking at them at a distance. I’m more concerned with the composition, use of colour and form in the paintings as opposed to the brushstrokes and the actual creation of the paintings.

The biggest surprise and probably my favourite element of the exhibition was Hockney’s use of moving image. You walked into a large dark room with 3×6 screens, where hockney had attached 9 cameras to his assistant’s car and had moved through the landscape slowly at different times of year. The cameras aren’t completely ligned up like his collages and so there is a disjointed relationship with the tracking of the movement and yet it is the best sense of 3D I’ve ever come across. It works a lot more like our eyes in that our eyes are not like cameras who can only focus on one view but have peripheral vision and can see much further. The silence of the video is haunting but works beautifully as the snow falls or the wind blows. He also had another surprise as with these landscapes he made some films in his studio with the same technique. I’m a big fan of dance, especially tap dancing and there was a fantastic tap dance routine with dancers in his studio where the bodies of the dancers were pulled and pushed together with the different viewpoints. It was like watching paint come together on a canvas before your eyes.

So there you have it, one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen in a while. Definitely worth negotiating the crowds.

Annabel Elgar

Annabel’s work was a fascinating find at the recent exhibition at the Wapping Project: Bankside ( I kept returning to her work more than any of the others as they were dark and beautiful, reminiscent of fairytales and full of strange narratives.

The exhibition had this to say about her work:

Annabel Elgar stages her work in imagined places that might initially appear idyllic, but contain unsettling details that suggest otherwise. Her photographs recall strange fairy tales and cultish activity, but their subject matter is real life torments: relentless s truggle between the rich and the poor, the home as a site of poverty and ruin; the family a source of treachery and despair.

Hellen van Meene

Perhaps I’ve illustrated this post with too many images of Hellen van Meene’s work but her work is both exquisite as well as huge in quantity. Hellen’s way of portraying her subjects (often female as well) from what seems all sorts of backgrounds is something unique. The images are just as much about her than they are about the subjects themselves, yet I’m still mystified by her.

She also has a sense of boredom and playfulness in the work, plus she has photographed pregnant women (by the looks of it adolescent pregnant girls), which is naturally of interest to my series. Perhaps there is something in the fact that all her images are in square format, is this what makes her stand out and for images to be so much more recognisable. Personally I think it comes down to her subjects, the ones she chooses as they all have a certain strange quality to them. I know there is something to be said for her use of natural light over artificial light which is what I like to focus on myself. In this project I have solely used natural light so far because it lets you focus on the model and the composition and the results are so beautiful.

Some of the portraits, they clearly have experimented with exploring the surroundings in the most subtle gestures but they make the portraits all the more beautiful. There is something to be learned in her work about light, her guiding of the model and colour palette.

Justine Kurland

I’ve been aware of Justine Kurland’s work for less than a year and I’m still astounded that I don’t see it more often. Her landscapes are exquisite and her portrayal of these all-female utopian communities are superb. More than most artists I know, she explores the female as powerful and at one with nature, be they groups of pregnant women and mothers or young adolescent girls taking on the world together, escaping from our modern world. For me it echoes Lord of the Flies, like a parallel of it, where instead of a strong undertone of despair and madness, there is one of hope and togetherness. I haven’t seen another photographer approach the idea of pregnant women as groups in such an inspiring way without even a hint of cliches (apart from maybe the fact of their nudity). In my work, I keep thinking of exploring the same approach of women in groups in a landscape, together… However, with Justine’s work so strong, I’m going to have to push it further, to give my own touch to it. Kurland’s work is so much more about them as a solid group, as a community together facing the odds whereas I’m still looking at the waiting, the carrying, the isolation despite being part of a group…


Sarah Jones

The photographer that has inspired me probably the most through photographing these women is Sarah Jones. I know I had written a blog post including her work previously ( I wanted to ensure I’d made a blog post specifically looking at the work, my views on the work have probably changed since a year and a half ago.

The work, if you don’t know it, focuses on the environment’s these Home Counties adolescent girls live in despite them feeling uncomfortable with it. She captures awkwardness and boredom beautifully and with such detail to colour and composition. As I am personally looking at this waiting and boredom surrounding the final stages of pregnancies as well as the anticipation of change, her work is so relevant and I feel a great parallel between the two.

What governs my thoughts with this work now is what these women are doing now. Have they distanced themselves from this world or have they now embraced it? What do they think of the work now? What did they think of the work then? It’s interesting to think of all these questions, it helps me see how my work might be seen and viewed in the future.

Made Up Love Song – Bettina von Zwehl

I had a rather productive week in my research, I got the first piece of feedback on the work from Mauritius, so who knows when you’ll get some sort of finished edit. It’s still very rough so I might give a peek on here at what I was trying to achieve. Anyway, back to the original content of this blog.

Yesterday afternoon after a lecture, I decided to go see some exhibitions to get my creative juices flowing and visited three, which I will talk about individually. Today I will talk about Bettina von Zwehl’s piece Made Up Love Song, which is currently showing at the Purdy Hicks Gallery, Southwark.

I had had the pleasure of visiting Bettina whilst she was on a residency at the V&A earlier this year, where she was beginning to create this work. As 15 of us (being students) crowded around Bettina, she told us about her previous work such as her series shown at the Museum of Childhood and how she had come to start this piece of work.

Made Up Love Song is a series of portraits of an employee of the V&A, stood infront of a large window which inspired Bettina to return to continuously. This returning to the same place, the same pose, is a trait or at least a theme that runs through a lot of her work. As is her use of profiles. Her images have a delicasy to them which lends beautifully to the concept and execution of miniatures, it was no surprise that she was inspired by the miniatures collection at the V&A.

In miniaturising the portraits, I felt closer to these people, even though I felt like I was looking through a window myself into a world of miniature people. It felt like they were approachable, that you could let yourself read their emotions. Among the photographs of this beautiful woman, she had other portraits created in the same style.

What surprised me about these portraits is that my favourite photographs out of the selection shown at Purdy Hicks were when the subject is slightly turned towards the viewer. For me it was the same feeling as when you think something is a statue and then they suddenly move and you get the shock of your life, it’s that shock and drama in just including them that got me very excited.

Studying at London College of Communication, I get the priviledge of hearing her speak in a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see what she’ll say about how the work rounded off, whether it is in fact rounded off. To have seen the start of something and then the finished product is a wonderfully rare thing and I’ll be looking out at what Bettina gets up to next.

I would definitely recommend visiting Purdy Hicks (7th October-7th November 2011) and experience these photographs for yourself. Due to the nature of them, experiencing the prints in front of you is the only way you can really appreciate the depth and intimacy of them.

There is one quote I want to post from the press release which I thought was beautiful and really summed up the nature of the portraits and the relationship between photographer and subject.

When the Residency was all over, and I’d packed up all my things, I went back one last time to see if there were any traces from the broken glass, scratches in the stone floor. All I found were the scuffed out chalk marks left by Sophia and me. Two separate marks; Sophia’s position and mine.


Related Links–picture-prevew-2365901.html

Edith Maybin’s Study of Mother & Daughter

Beautiful work about Mother and Daughter, there is something about this work that makes sure I could never forget it. The first set of photographs are called, The Tenby Document, where her daughter and her create these narratives together and enact them out in M&S undergarments, relating back to the generation before these two. Her inspiration comes from Vermeer and Lady Clementina Hawarden’s photography.

See more at Edith’s website:

Then in the next set called The Conversion Document, she studies the space between reality and dreams, using fancy dress as a way to represent this in her little girl’s interests.

Lastly The Garden Document, is debatably my favourite of the three sets so far. Here she takes her daughter outside and like in the first set, they together play out these stories about growing up, of mother and daughter, of being on the brink of change… She addresses her daughter’s youth and her now being 8 and being on the brink of change as I mentioned before. She photographs her similarly to the first set but she photographs her when day becomes night, this gives the light in the photographs such an ephemeral feel. It’s absolutely stunning. Her daughter and her blur together in some of the photographs, suggesting that her daughter is becoming more than just a girl, showing signs of being the woman she will become.

This is a very special series, and as you can see, a very special bond between mother and daughter. I can’t wait to see what else comes from Edith’s work. I am blown away.

Sage Sohier Photography

I found Sage’s work not too long ago and fell in love with the way she portrays her subjects in their environments. There are so many reasons one has to love Sage’s work. Below is a series called Perfectible World.

And lastly her series, Peaceable Kingdom, where Sage photographed people with their animals. Once again, another brilliant series.

Is photography art?


Is photography art? Well it’s more like, does/should photography have a status in art like painting, sculpture etc? It comes under the big title of art, to me that’s a long gone question, but is it worthy of being identified separately?

Both photographers and critics alike have differing and divided views on the subject. Personally I’ve come to the conclusion (if one could call it that) that it does deserve that title and now I’ll tell you why.

Photographs are different from anything else in art, they are a hybrid of science and art. We are past the photography is for science nerds phase as it engulfs a lot of our daily life but people are still uneasy about it’s relationship with the history of art.

I like to think of it as a little like USA and Europe. Photography is a relatively young country who had inhabitants for many centuries but only just flourished fully. Then there’s painting/sculpture etc who is an old well established country/area, very cautious about who is considered fine art yet very comfortable in their status in the world. Of course the USA doesn’t want to be part of Europe etc, and perhaps that wasn’t the best analogy but it makes sense to me. I’m certain that’s why photography was integrated into the way of life of America so beautifully. I’m not an expert on American history but that’s how I see it in relation to photography.

There is something that bothers me in big art galleries with photography, they make a huge fuss about separating photography shows from the rest of fine art shows. For me that makes it sound like the establishment is saying that the two cannot be together in a gallery or exhibition naturally.

This is something that I find often in delicate equality issues like that of art, such as feminism (I seem to be big on analogies today). I get irritated that we have to point out, stand out and make a fuss. Then I think to myself, this is a huge international campaign for the progression of humanity and/or of art itself. I remember that without shouting/talking, change never happens and ignorance flourishes.

Lastly I’ve found when explaining my work to people, there is a strange distinction between ‘artwork’ and ‘photographic images’. People assume I do documentary work or pretty images of people only, I’ll explain how they are different and get a blank look. Then I try to explain that perhaps I’m an artist rather than a photographer and I get an even worse glazed look. Then comes the, ‘But you take photographs…’ comment. Therefore leading me to give up.

Enough with talking about my fight with photography and art, as you can see from my ranting it is a complicated topic. University students and upcoming photographers alike are having these questions and thoughts crammed into their brain, but how long until a collective conclusion exists? I can’t see it being anytime soon quite honestly but I am enjoying a lot of the work being made which is adding to the debate.

Over and out!