Authorship & Collaboration: A Response to The Nation’s Ode to the Coast

Exploring authorship and collaboration opens a whole can of worms in many respects but has also broadened my understanding of collaboration.

While I find it troublesome that works involving ‘found’ photos such as that of Schmid seem to sidestep questions of consent – both of the original photographer but also the subject – contest does also play a part. Pieces made for the art gallery naturally have a more limited audience than those, for example, appropriated, amended, edited, re-purposed or simply recirculated without consent – but does that actually change the moral principle at stake?

Interestingly the types of collaboration touched upon with Ewald, Meiselas and Azoulay broaden the definition of collaboration further as well as raising other questions around authorship, introducing the concept of archiving. Arguing that the act of looking at images is as important as the taking of them, that the presentation – or re-presentation – in itself is a collaborative act with or against the original authors.

Looking at these questions, our collaborative group came together over the poem Nation’s Ode to the Coast – itself a collaborative piece of work with Dr John Cooper Clarke. Crowd-sourced to an extent the poem was crafted by Dr Cooper-Clarke from contributions by members of the public.

Our collaborative group sought to add another layer to that collaboration -without explicit, but within the context of the piece already being collaborative perhaps implicit, consent from its author/s. Having agreed the poem had a very British seaside feel to it, and using Meisalas’ archival approach, we each explored our own archives to find images that sought to add a visual element to the spoken words of the poem. Choosing a stanza each we agreed five images, each to represent the words and tone of the stanza to create a new collaborative series.

The mini project fits neatly with my own project on the Call of the Sea examining our relationship with the sea and the emotions it elicits as well as exploring the transitions and thresholds between sea and sky, land and sea, city and coast and the various ‘personalities’ of the sea and the coast.

Collaborative project members:

Rachel Rimell, Jessica Roberts, Claire Sargent, Alexander Ward, Lucy Worrall

Nations Ode to the Coast collaborative series

References:

AZOULAY, Ariella. 2016. ‘Photography Consists of Collaboration: Susan Meiselas, Wendy Ewald, and Ariella Azoulay’. Camera Obscura 91. Volume 31, Number 1. Duke University Press.

COOPER-Clarke, John, Dr. ‘Ode to the Nation’s Coast’. National Trust. Available at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/our-coastal-poem [accessed 15/02/21]


Identity and transitions: methods and meanings

I’ve been reflecting on the themes, methods and methodologies that run through my non-client work of late. Much of my work has focused on identities and I realise transitions.

My Motherhood and Identity: Tattooed Mamas Breaking the Taboos was very clearly aligned with these themes exploring the transition from an individual identity to one as a ‘mother’ and how this skewed the way society perceived individuals in ways that were unexpected to new mothers. I was also interested in subverting traditional and stereotypical mainstream images of motherhood – a homogenous soft focus perfection of nurturing. This meant my reasons for selecting tattooed mothers in particular was twofold: firstly as a visual representation of individuality literally etched on a woman’s skin; and secondly to elevate images of ‘non-traditional’ mothers, in a time where actually a large percentage of the population now has tattoos as the norm, as yet not reflected in mainstream images. My choice of juxtaposing environmental portraits in my subjects’ own homes in their role as ‘mother’ and how they were seen in society first and foremost, with more formal studio portraits of them alone displaying their very individual tattoos underlined and highlighted the contrast between the transition from individual to ‘mother’.

As I dug deeper into some of my other projects I realised that the concept of transition was also in there too as well as identity. My project on what makes a home a home when its occupants are absent is also about the transition from occupied family space to empty family space.

My project on windows – which started as a simple appreciation of the colours, shapes and abstract forms viewed through the early morning light falling through my condensation obscured bedroom window – morphed into an exploration on thresholds and transitions – the transition from night to day; dark to light; inside to outside – the focus always the window, the barrier or the threshold between the two.

And the two projects I have whirling around waiting to settle into form – again I can see these themes emerging from the miasma.

In The Call of the Sea I hope to explore what it is about the sea that calls ordinary folk – not those dependent on the sea for their livelihood but those who are drawn for artistic or recreational or spiritual purpose. What is it about the transition from land to sea, from sea to sky that has such pull?How does the sea air differ from that inland? How does our emotional state change with proximity to water?

For the coast to coast mini collaborative project that I’m running with photographers around the world, we aim to document our perspective on the sea each month. In January I was forced to think more laterally, and more deeply about the subject due to lockdown restrictions prohibiting an actual trip to the coast. I found myself pondering the water cycle and how the snow that fell in my garden that month had once been water molecules that were part of the sea. It led to an out of the box interpretation Memories of the Sea: a vignette in snow, looking at the water molecules trapped in another environment to the sea from which they once came.

the imprint of a child's seaside bucket and spade and a fishing net in the snow
two white deck chairs in the snow with falling snow
red child's bucket and green spade with green fishing net lying in the snow alongside a pair of orange woollen mittens

Surrogate, the project that may or may not happen, documenting my friend’s journey as a surrogate mother, is deeply rooted in the concepts and themes of identity. What identity does a surrogate mother have, the woman who grew and birthed an individual to whom she has no biological connection. How does she relate to the baby growing in her womb? How does she relate to the baby she birthed? How does the baby relate to the surrogate’s other children? How do the surrogate’s family relate? How does the non-birth mother relate to the surrogate? What is the non-birth mother’s story and maternal instinct that led her down this road to motherhood? How does the surrogate relate to the non-birth mother? How does that transition feel from growing a baby and birthing him/her to the non-birth mother taking the baby home to start the next phase in their life for all parties?


On windows and mirrors: Photography – a window on the world or a reflection of the soul?

The mirror/window analogy in photography is an interesting perspective – are we documenting the world around us and providing the viewer with a window on that world, much like the popular early stereographs of geographic landmarks, depicting aspects of the world the viewer doesn’t have immediate direct access to, or providing an insight into our inner world, projecting our own subjective interpretation or attempting to reveal our inner world to an outside audience? Is our audience ‘out there’ or ourselves.

Read More