Hi everyone, Calum Heywood here for the last time this week. For the last post of my takeover I wanted to share something a little different with portraits of myself that other people had taken from a social distance. This almost brings the project full circle and shows the behind the camera. This acts as a sort of behind the scenes to the project framing the photographer as the subject both images are shot on the same camera as the rest of the images which give a consistent style. The first is by my partner on a trip to Wales and the second is from Daniel Oyegade
As Greater Manchester heads towards Tier 3 of the Governments new set of lockdown restriction, I find myself asking how much worse 2020 can get. I’ve also started looking forward to 2021, albeit with the same level of trepidation as a first time skydiving student, who finds themselves in that ‘arse-twitching’ moment between pulling the ripcord, and the parachute opening. Hope, it would seem, is an essential requirement during strange times that we live in.
I find myself reflecting on how 2020, and how it started with such promise; I was able to shoot the Pixies gig, and as someone who’s a fan, it was an absolute pleasure. It was one of the busiest pits I’ve been it, so you really needed your dancing shoes on, as not to get knocked over, but great fun all the same. As a photographer, I love shooting live music. It’s the energy that I feed off. The buzz that comes from the crowd behind you, and the artist in front, it’s a real adrenalin kick.
In the pit for Lewis Capaldi was great fun, as he has a great interaction with the crowd. He doesn’t just come on, sing his songs and then leave. There’s a real element of fun in his show, which is great.
Covering Morrissey at Leeds arena was a strange one, as we all thought we would be let into the pit, then suddenly we where led to the sound & lighting desk, and told that we had to shoot from there. Keeping in mind that the S&L desk is about 50 metres away from the stage, with a crowd of about 5000 people in front of you, you realise you just have to deal with it. Thankfully, I was able to stand on stand on the barrier that surrounded the desk, but I still had to crop into the image to get something from the frame. That’s one of the small mercies of using a Hi-res DSLR.
In the pit for The Stereophonics at Manchester Arena, for what was to be my last gig of the year, was an absolute blinder. We had been taken right to the end of the runway and told not to move. Just as I was worrying that I’m gonna have to shoot on a long lens, the bands tour photographer, Hans-Peter van Velthoven, leans over to me and says “Wait for chorus. That’s when the lighting really kicks in”, and he wasn’t wrong.
2020 suddenly decided to rogue, and before I knew it, it was national lockdown. During this time, as for most other working photographers, all the work disappeared. No gigs, no editorials, no fashion, no nothing.
Then, with the murder of George Floyd in America, there was this ground swell. Anger, disgust, and an overwhelming feeling that ‘enough is enough’, people from all walks of life, using social media, email, word of mouth, came together to protest. I now found myself documenting people power. Covering the first 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Manchester started as work. It was very much a case of, get the images, file them to an agency, and then hope that they sell. This was also the case for the XR (Extinction Rebellion) protests.
Now this is where I get all a bit ‘Hippy’, but I honestly believe that 2020 as a year, is not about Covid-19, but that it’s actually about change, and that it’s an opportunity for us all to do things in a better way. The only problem is, that a lot of people don’t like change, and so they fight against it. But without change, we don’t progress, we don’t grow, we fail to learn the lessons of the past, and so subsequently, we miss a golden opportunity for something better.
By the second BLM protest, and various other protests that began to take place, I realised that something changed, and I started to feel that for me as a photographer, it was much about ‘documenting the event’, rather than just feeding the media. Don’t get me wrong, I still file images to the agencies, but that’s not the driving force behind the process. So, I started to spend more time looking for specific images, talking to people, engaging with your fellow humans, and you soon find that, it’s the interaction that lays the groundwork for getting the images. This process allows for new connections to be made, and in time this leads to other images being made, such as the portrait of Rap/spoken word artist, Jay Chambers. Which brings me back to taking photographs of musicians, going full circle if you will.
These images are a collection from a photo walk around Hebden Bridge with Naomi Lee Voss. We planned the walk as a way to connect with other creatives. I set myself the goal of approaching people and asking to take their portraits from a social distance as a lot of the people I had shot into this point I already had a prior connection with.This turned out really well as everyone was happy to get involved and interested in the project. I definitely plan to explore this style of shooting further in the future.
You can read more about Naomi Lee Voss and her photo walks on her blog post here: The Photo Walk Project: Naomi Lee Voss on Photo Walks as a method of creative inspiration
Images above taken by Naomi Lee Voss, Burnley July 2019
There was a time when I once thought failure was creativity’s kryptonite, but over the years I’ve come to understand that doubt is the secret supervillain that framed failure. Doubt often blames failure (or the thought of potential failure) for lack of progress, when in reality it’s doubt that ultimately wreaks havoc beyond all possible progress. Failure after all, is an essential part of progress; embrace it, cherish it, it’s a sign your going in the right direction. Doubt however is fear in disguise (we’ve all done it), doubting our ideas, doubting our skill and ability, doubting our place in the creative industry, until we are so full of doubt we often cease to create anything.
There’s no real way of permanently expelling doubt, but it’s important to understand when your feeling stuck and in its grasp, how to redirect that energy into something more constructive. When I feel it creeping up on me, I find the best thing to do as a photographer is to grab my camera and walk. I started this process last year, observing and interacting with the area and people in my home town of Burnley. Some days I would take one or no images and others I would feel a type of synchronicity in the process and ask stranger after stranger that I’d encounter throughout the day if I could take their portrait, after all and this is important, so take note… the worst thing they can say is no. Of course approach is important and mindfulness of subject, situation and location are all essential but the point of these walks for me was essentially not to have a point, not to overthink and to get out of my own head.
Images above taken by Naomi Lee Voss, Burnley July 2019
The walks started to slowly give me confidence and kept the debilitating doubt monster at bay, whilst also steadily and subconsciously keeping creative output flowing, even if at the time it wasn’t for anything beyond my own enjoyment. Earlier this year, after conversations with other creatives, I began to realise most of us often have this feeling of being stuck due to being filled with doubt, not knowing where to turn or how to move away from it (many I realised were graduates like myself).
This got me actively engaging with others and putting out an open call for anyone interested in one on one photo walks based in the North West, utilising photography as a means to explore, chat and shoot. The idea was to help build on confidence, whilst also creating a safe environment when exploring areas and people out in the open with varied photographic equipment (expensive or not). This intimate set up created an atmosphere that wasn’t overwhelming for myself, the other participant or the public. Such a small way of working then became particularly important during the pandemic and when lock down eased up, keeping the walks to a one on one system made more sense for more reasons beyond a laid back un-invasive approach.
For those that have taken part in the Photo Walk Project so far, it has been a great resource for collaboration and interaction and I hope that each person I have explored with and each person that has gone on to explore with others, has taken something away from their experiences that will help them in some way. Below are a range of images (all credited accordingly), that have been taken during the Photo Walk Project so far. This project will be continuing in the future, so if you are reading this and want to join in, feel free to message me on instagram @lee.voss for more information or make it your mission to arrange a photo walk yourself with others, either way, don’t stop creating.
‘Photo walks are a great way to mix with other creatives, I have will continue to arrange more in the future’ – Calum Haywood
‘Photography can be quite technical so it comes as a welcome change to be able to talk to people about some of its nuances, specifically film photography’ – Daniel Oyegade
The lockdown and the random waffling’s of a multitasking mother;
I think that like most life-changing events, you always remember where you were. For me I was sat watching a live bulletin on BBC on the days leading up to lockdown making sure I was up to speed on what to expect! Well, so I thought. That night we went into lockdown as a nation together “we were all in this together”. The school was shut, the university was closed, and we had to stay home.
Like so many others, I hopped straight on the internet and started finding ways of planning our lockdown together. Making a timetable of home-schooling and what we were supposed to be doing, even down to walking the dog. However, ‘the best-laid plans and all’ I think my own personal plan lasted the equivalent of two hours. The pressure that I had put on myself to be a teacher, PhD student, mother and wife were unachievable, and it made everyone in the house miserable.
This is where my creativity came in a while trying to give my son some kind of home-schooling education and I did it the only way I could by being creative. Letting my son and I just go out for walks and giving him a camera to document his lockdown. This turned into a really lovely project, using only his images we decided to frame each image like a instagram grid. He also had to experiance his 5th Birthday in lockdown, like millions of people we took to going over the top and hosted a zoom party, you can imagine the fun of a class of 30 plus, five years old on zoom!
While doing this, I also started as a PhD student full time. This began in April, in hindsight this may not have been the best way forward during a global pandemic. My research topic is predominately working with my local communities, especially the older generations and this coupled with the worldwide situation severely scuppered my plans. I must be honest my motivation and confidence therefore, took a considerable hit. Like many others, I was logging on daily try to complete tasks that in the long run, didn’t work. This was a turning point in my mental wellbeing and looking at how I work with my family.
Working on the Two Forty Four Network over lockdown helped me focus on other things like my personal practice. Having network meetings, talking about photography, creativity, projects and even just seeing and talking to others was a big help for my own emotional wellbeing.
As a PhD student, I found that I wasn’t running at the capacity expected of me and with the approch to my first significant deadline, I got a fear of not making my upcomingdeadlines. This, for me, was a defeat I never wanted to come across, especially at the begging of my PhD journey. I have now had to change to Part-time studies and push back my deadlines until December. This has though it felt like a defeat in my progression but it has been a blessing. I have now accepted that I was holding myself to unachievable standards. I think we all do this at some point in our lives and this only came to the forefront of my my mind during the lockdown.
This post, as you can probably tell by now, is not about a particular project but more a personal account of my lockdown. I have worked with my newest addiction, a Mamyia RB67 and Cyanotypes processes. This kept me enjoying my photography practice and be more creative rather than working solely academically. Learning how to use cyanotypes on fabrics, making connections and sharing a lot more of my work and method. So, the point of this post (no it’s, not just the waffling’s of a multitasking mother) is that the lockdow,n as terrible as it has been for people’s livelihoods, families and health, I’d like to think that we have all learnt something about ourselves. Whether it be that we put too much pressure on ourselves, don’t spend enough time with family or even just the need to be kind to ourselves. We should use this reflection time that we have been given to learn these things and progress through them productively.
At Two Forty Four we have tried to be there for our members not only professionally but personally. Please remember that Alistair and I are here. As we are looking at more lockdowns and a confusing and insecure future our doors are always open with the kettle already brewing.
From me and my crazy family I hope this little read makes you feel a bit more human and helps you realise whatever you are doing you are doing a cracking job!
What it seems the family album does is to tell the story from the adults’ point of view, particularly from a patriarchal point of view… it’s telling the story in that way, all the highlights and ideal parts, that creates a whole set of gaps and absences, that you can’t fill the rest in.’Jo Spence
It seems fitting to discuss this project of Lockdown as we teeter on the edge of a similar circumstance. I myself have found myself having to suddenly had to juggle a self isolating child due to a school Covid positive within his ‘bubble’.
This adapted ‘counter’ photography series looks inward at us as a family during the covid-19 pandemic, using the couch as an anchor. The series portrays re-photography in linear time and highlights newly forming identity, new rituals merged with old, along with the narrative and performance of everyday family life. Reflecting on the adaptability of this new normal way of forced domestic family living. A concept of three chosen images of a possible five that were taken was soon decided and to carry on, until life regained some normality. Little did I know how massive this undertaking was to become. Starting on Thursday the 19th of mach and carried on until Thursday the 3rd of September, equating to 504 final images.
The final large collection shows the highs and the lows of family life. The title idea ‘Limited Focus’ struck almost immediately into the project. I was setting the camera and tripod and taking test shots, and struggling to find the best way to keep everything in focus. Furthermore, discovering that I liked the accidental effects of the sporadic blurry images. The parallel of the blur and limited focus of the camera, along my own limited hazy focus of the unknown seemed apt.
People/families always have a level of habit and rituals in life, but after 24 weeks of the severe and enforced restrictions to life, these rituals are undisturbed and ever so more apparent. Somedays they are totally to be in-braced and relished, other times it feels like you are trapped in arut of our own making. A surreal mixture of the films Groundhog Day, 28 Days Later and Rear Window. As Dr Katrin Joost suggests ‘The shrinking of our space and the forcing of people being together, but also the taring of people being apart globally’.
‘My entire life seems to have been founded on conflict. Both within my family and through wider social contexts, it felt as if there were a continual war going on just beneath the surface, threatening to break out if certain rituals were not observed.’
‘to better understand how, through visual forms of representation, our subjective views of selves, and others, are structured and held across the institutions of media, and through hierarchical social relationships.’Jo Spence
Conceptually and theoretically the work has been underpinned with Jo Spence’s foundation of what she coined, ‘counter photography’. Looking into the idea of the family album being non representative of realistic family life. Family albums do indeed show the good and posed side of the domestic setting, but omits the realities. The same could be true for peoples social media feeds today. The final out come of the project was to address this, showing both the highs and lows of this pandemic. The banality of life, sometimes in performance. The image of me hoovering, it suddenly struck me to say ‘feet up’, something I have never said before, but my own mother has in the past, and I assume My husbands mother had, as he did exactly what I hoped he would do.
Although my husband is very hands on in the house and we have a very equal domestic ground, I felt being torn as the dynamics changed to me being the one working from home. Therefore leaving most things up to Andy. I felt ‘conflicted’ a ‘bad’ mother and wife, that working was utterly selfish. Unlike Andy my work has always had to fit into my domain of motherhood and this switch even as a ‘feminist’ was difficult because of as suggested in Spences quote above ‘ through hierarchical social relationships’. Society has drummed it into me that this was not acceptable.
I had been planning to shoot Nathan’s portrait since the start of the project but I was unable to till a couple of weeks ago because he was still studying in Middlesbrough. Similar to the style I shot with Daniel I wanted to be more creative and test out new ways to take portraits. The first is a spontaneous natural photograph of Nathan at home with his cat Otis. The second is a set up shot of Nathan in the sea on Lytham St Annes beach. Personally I prefer how the first image came out because it fits with the rest of the project and explores the subjects personal space whereas the second uses a more sterile and contrived environment which although making for an interesting shot does not really give the view much information about the subject.
‘Home is where the heart is’ explores the efficacy of the pursuit of the ownership of land, specifically homes. The project asks why we seem so preoccupied with private land at the cost of community. Whereas, earlier humans lived communally and shared recourses, it seems as though people are retreating more and more into their own separate social bubbles. Until around 10,000 years ago, there were few, if any, permanent homes or villages. People constantly moved around from place to place. The nomadic life of a traveler meant that the people had few possessions. They only took what they could carry. With the proliferation in agriculture, humans traded the life of a hunter-gatherer in favor of growing crops. As time progressed, amassing land became a priority since the amount of land one owned was proportional to their standard of living.
Rather than living communally as humans had done previously, we developed concepts such as private property, further excluding ourselves from others. The project asks if our attachment to the ownership of homes is irrational. There is not necessarily a need for private property perhaps it would make more sense to live communally sharing resources rather than working for years to own a home. As the recent and ongoing lockdown has shown many of us, catharsis is found not found in maintaining one’s own personal bubble but rather, in venturing out and connecting with others.
The project is in essence, a thought experiment, illustrating how life might be if we were to take the preoccupation with privacy to its absurd conclusion. The project consists of twelve images and a short film, using visual storytelling to start a conversation about the way in which the lust for privacy may be increasing instances of loneliness and other such emotions.
I decided to use the familiar backdrop of isolation to frame the ideas. The central character remains dissatisfied with her surroundings, despite her adornment in numerous luxury garments. Her pretence of being content with this lifestyle is gradual shattered through the introspection that comes writing notes to herself.
The year was going exceptionally well, students preparing for their end of year shows; the feeling of accomplishment after two years of hard work coming to an end. Students began to create their final pieces and talk about their parents seeing what they have achieved over the past couple of years and their excitement for their future grew, all the stress leading up to their end results was starting to feel worth it.
But that’s when it hit, the 16th of March 2020. Students told to go home with the real possibility of never coming back. Never having closure, the feeling of fulfilment snatched from them, their exam dates unknown, their grades thrown into turmoil and the real possibility of their health being affected not just now, but in the coming months and possibly years.
I remember it so well, the panic as the college closed and students were told to go home and study online, many ways of working disrupted, and new ways of thinking and teaching expected over night. Teachers had to think on their feet and come up with a new way to teach the arts without support and guidance, without the hands-on experience that they were used to providing.
How do you teach photography without being able to show a student how to work a camera in person, how can you show the process of developing their first film without the resources for everyone? It took careful planning, patience, forward thinking and a lot of home videos! The teacher I work alongside prepared small tasks to complete with the available resources they had, and I provided technical support where possible, creating a YouTube channel with helpful videos that students could watch and gain inspiration or knowledge from, with even a few documentaries thrown in for fun.
But even now after the lockdown restrictions been somewhat lifted the challenges still continue and many staff feel as though they are working on the front line with many schools and colleges closing due to the high increase in covid19 cases, students must wear masks and gloves while handling all photography equipment and they cannot even put the camera up to their faces! This means our students are having to learn a different way of seeing, through live view; which has its own challenges. Not only does this pandemic challenge us, it also restricts us, for example; students cannot currently use film cameras due to their hands-on nature, which is a major aspect of learning the basic tools and skills of photographic practice. For many students, whom are currently only on site one day per week, we have to achieve as much as possible from that one day of practice. Whether this be learning cyanotypes, photograms or digital negatives in that one hour we try to pack in as much in as possible.
There has been one notable change in students, that we have noticed; students are developing quicker and their outcome seems to be improving faster as they first research the technique, then practice it in college. This seems to make the students into better photographers as they know what is expected from the technique before trying it, and they can see how other photographers have achieved their final outcome and learn from their successes. Photographers, like many people, are adaptable and as teachers of photography we will continue to find the best way to make learning the art we love fun and informed to give our students a step in the best possible direction for their futures in the industry; with or without covid19.
Emma Spencer is a 2018 Uclan photography graduate, Emma became interested in photography from a young age and began her career as a freelance wedding photographer, She spent 3 years developing these skills and then decided to pursue her passion further by studying photography at degree level, after developing a passion for education Emma undertook an internship with Uclan and then finally began working as a photography technician, Emma has won several awards for her photography and has had work published in books and magazines. If you are interested in working on a project with Emma you can contact her through her website http://www.emmalspencer.co.uk
Written by Emma Spencer
Edited by Alistair Grimley
I shot Daniels portrait on a photo walk we took together around Manchester after the end of the first lockdown.
I was being more experimental at this point in the project and trying to work more with scenery and experimental techniques. Rather than the more natural style I was using in the beginning.
Both images are shot using Kodak Portra 400 set at 200 ISO to create the dreamy blown out look.