Every Day Thoughts

In this section you can find out about my ‘every day’ goings-on and how it relates to my MA.

August 17, 2017

I think that’s me done. I truly feel as though I have found my photographic voice during this module and can’t wait to get on with the next ones. I will be treating myself to a few days off but during the assessment period I plan to make contact with potential advisors/collaborators, while also researching funding sources to support future work. Harena Now has the potential to make a difference – even if it is in a small way. And that’s a start.

July 21, 2017

There are plenty of expressions to describe the way I feel at present. You will know by now my frustration at trying to squeeze so much other stuff into life so hamster wheel or, in the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”, are appropriate ones. With losing Milo, and for a while losing my MA way, the first half of this module didn’t see me at my most creative. Now with a three week deadline looming my fighting spirit is back. I am probably nowhere near as ready as I could be but imminent deadlines and challenges have always been the spur I need. With a to do list slowly getting ticked off, I think I’m getting there. Just need to finalise some work in progress pieces and create the portfolio; write my oral presentation script, film footage and edit it; run four workshops and create an exhibition; keep my CRJ populated and hopefully readable; make contact with potential project supporters; try and train our new dog to be left alone; buy a house; and hold down a full-time job. Easy. Time is overrated:-)

June 12, 2017

Already into week three – how is this happening? I need a means to slow time down or expand it at will. This week we are working on a peer project to create a zine. Through WhatsApp and the uni software we are slowly getting to grips with pulling this off when we are all based in various countries around the globe. But now I need to focus on my own production plan too. There is so much I want to do but I have to be realistic – this is not a pessimistic outlook, simply a means of ensuring I can achieve what I set out to do. I have had some thoughts on where I want to take my work next, including ways in which I can leave my comfort zone and expand on the techniques I use. In module one I wanted to somehow use the geology and natural environs of my local coastal area and I feel I am back full circle with that thought process. My intention is to start getting back out in nature to conduct various process experiments, perhaps utilising the found items on the beach and coastal paths to share stories of its history, myths and environmental needs.

May 22, 2017

It’s taken a while to build up to getting back on the MA ‘horse’. As you know (if you have read my Everyday Thoughts before) one of my inspirations and great loves of my life has been my dog, Milo. He died on May 11. For those of you who don’t get the bonds between human and animals, don’t read on. Not having Milo in my life has proven to be the hardest thing I think I’ve dealt with, and I’ve dealt with plenty of crap in my past. What it has made me realise is that when it comes to my creativity I simply lose all inclination to create when dealing with such raw emotion. I know that time will make the way I feel now pass, and that my love of photography will provide a means of healing too. In some way, the brief we have been set to complete during the assignment marking break has perhaps already provided me with that – more under Surfaces and Strategies. Losing Milo took the shine off passing my last module a little but I’m pleased to have done so and even more pleased to have a good mark; I really thought I had taken on too many commitments to juggle with other responsibilities this time to do as well as things turned out. Not having Milo around has also made me question whether or not I chose the right subject for my Masters. In module one I was torn between my passion for the environment and my love of dogs. I plumped for my environmental interests but I do feel as though I will at some point need to address my photographic pull towards human and canine bonds. One thing I do know for sure is that I have always been prepared to face life straight on, and so for Milo’s memory it’s time to face the next module straight on, get focussed and build on the work so far and the support of my lecturers.

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Milo – always have the sand beneath your paws xx

April 15, 2017

Well it’s nearly here. Time to hand in this modules assignments. In the past few weeks I feel I have gone from one idea to another and if nothing else I’m definitely realising that I need to pull focus on one of my current four themes. Writing the Critical Review has most definitely helped with this. I have spoken of my ‘magpie’ nature before but by continuing to consider the four strands under my human impact umbrella, I finally feel confident in letting go of some of them so I can delve even deeper into the one that remains. This will not mean I can not continue to consider the other ideas, just that they will take a back seat or continue as a separate project. I am feeling more and more confident in the approach I have decided to take. Looking back at the proposal in the first module, there are now elements that are new but with a constant from my first ideas. The opportunities this term have provided; an exhibition and a residency, have been fabulous but as I continue to work full-time and have honoured pre-booked wedding commissions, I have realised that I may not be able to do everything I wish to. It is a case now of priority for my chosen MA theme. Working full-time in a photographic arena is my main aim, and to achieve that it will have to be head down to the process.

April 8, 2017

I had a tiny melt down this week. There were tears – not my usual style. But I guess when something means a lot to you, it really gets under your skin. Thankfully, a chat with my tutor, and a subsequent pep talk to myself, I felt encouraged that I can do this. I will do this. Already with Spring on my doorstep and the chance to be outside this week making some more new week has been reinvigorating. And my plastic dolls turned up too – all part of the my Nature’s Goddesses series; trust me, I’m a photographer. Just look at how pleased I am.

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April 1, 2017

Phew. I am slowly feeling as if the treadmill of juggling commitments is slowing down. It’s not a complaint and I have been enjoying it all but at the same time I am realising that I’m not superwoman and I do need to find the time to take a break, if only to allow for the creative juices to be restored.

This week I spent time at Hestercombe Gardens on a three-day residency, Garden Leave. This was a fantastic opportunity and in part I would have preferred a little longer (well, maybe next time when the rooms are ready and I won’t have to bunk up with strangers (albeit lovely) in a dorm room:-)). It has provided me with inspiration for ongoing MA work and hopefully a collaboration or two with other attendees.

I will be getting back to promoting my 6000 Flowers exhibition too and contacting potential collaborators/advisers for future work or MA support. I am also tidying up this CRJ ready for its first marking, putting together my Work in Progress portfolio and writing the skeleton outline for the critical review. Not much then:-). One day I will work full-time on my photographic practice and this process is giving me a fabulous grounding to do so – when it feels like it’s all too much that is what I remind myself of; dig deep and get on with things.

March 16, 2017.

Just about to collect the framed anthotypes for the exhibition. Already been to collect the postcards to tie-in to the project and received some great feedback and comments from Olly at the wonderful Monkey Puzzle Repro Arts in Porthtowan. He said he had been quite fascinated by the work/process and mentioned a friend of his had been trying it out too – she’s a textile student – so I told him to go along and see the show with his friend, and for his friend to contact me in case there’s an opportunity to collaborate. It’s great what potential art can instigate.

March 5, 2017.

Wow, what a hectic few weeks. In the past two weeks I have been working on and developing my artwork for the 6000 Flowers project. Last week though I was wiped out with a flu-type bug, which zapped me of energy but fortunately didn’t stop the mind cogs from spinning.
I have had moments of panic relating to the commissioned project – something I feel is only natural given that when you someone puts their faith in you, you want to ensure you deliver on their expectations. The support from those behind this scheme has been fantastic and their understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the chosen processes, anthotype and cyanotype is reassuring. I am not a photographer that can work to strict technical rules (although I know what they are) and will always embrace the “happy accident”. For me these two processes allow for freedom within them. No two exposures will truly be the same. And it is this that I also feel adds to the synergy between my work and that of 6000 Flowers. By using processes that are created by nature but are also at the mercy of it, the work reflects the need to be considerate on an ongoing basis to support pollinators, and by doing so our farmers and our food supplies.

Find out about the project at Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The exhibition is planned to open from March 21. I will add the press release here shortly but here’s an example negative for now.

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Feb 16, 2017.

Quick update. I have been commissioned for the art/enviro science project. Will share full details soon.

Feb 16, 2017.

I have felt recently as if I was losing my photo mojo. But, having taken a visit to Falmouth Uni today and poked around the photo stores, the darkroom and the library I feel inspired again. My interview went well for the art/science project and hopefully I will find out early next week if successful. Even if not, the project is fascinating and I will be keen to see what they do – I will share the outcome either way. Applying has helped me to formulate ongoing ideas for my MA work too. It was also good this week to get back to my dog photo project Humans and Dogs of St Agnes – here’s the latest image; and a lovely story too:

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When I initially started the MA, this project was a potential for my course work; I wanted to delve further into the bonds that bind humans and their canines. I do still sometimes wonder if I made the right choice but I know that my environmental photography has the potential to reach a much wider audience and it is also something I am passionate about. Time to start making and creating. I can’t believe we are in week four/five already.

Jan 29, 2017.

Before I can give my full concentration to the new module, I feel I need to share some images of my cat, Betty. Yesterday she died. She has been part of my life for 17 years. Some may not think my CRJ is the right place to share such personal details but for me it is times such as these that impact me most as a photographer. As we dissect more and more the context and characteristics of a photograph, and evaluate the multitude of meaning they can convey, for me the photographs of Betty have always been a subconscious response to knowing that one day she would be gone for good. My work is tangled up in ideas of creation, time, and death; a continual evolution. I do not believe in any religion or afterlife but I do hope that, as with other loved ones who have died, Betty will return to the ebb and flow of the natural world. And I will always have these photographic keepsakes.

Jan 15, 2017:

Brief update about Milo – he is responding well to his antibiotics for the liver infection, although his calcium levels are still raised, which indicates it is possibly a cancer. But he is currently pretty much back to his usual self and so, for now, that’s the best I could hope for. It has meant that even though I’ve been reading and researching, I haven’t spent as much time making images. But yesterday I whizzed up a spinach solution for the next stage in my experimentations. Click the link below to see a short clip and keep a look out in the gallery for the results next week (hopefully).

Spinach Anthotype

Jan 10, 2017:

I had planned to have written quite a bit by now – we are after all 10 days into 2017. It’s not that I haven’t been having any “every day thoughts” about photography, I have and I’ve been busy researching and reading. But the year didn’t start so well as my dog was taken very poorly. This coming Saturday he goes back for more blood tests but the prognosis isn’t too hopeful. Therefore, on this post, I want to indulge a little. Milo, my dog (and my first dog) is so interwoven into my life that I simply am not ready to imagine him not being around. When I started this MA course, I struggled to decide between my environmental project proposal and one that focussed on the relationships between humans and canines. My passion for pooches has already led me to create Humans and Dogs of St Agnes. This has been hugely influenced by Milo who accompanies me when we go out collecting stories and photos and I am now wondering if I have made the right decision. I am committed to my other proposal, but perhaps it is the emotional bond I have with Milo that is making me question my choice. I feel I need to do something to honour him photographically – above myriad photos I already have which will become even more precious with time. So just for today I am going to put aside the MA research and indulge myself a tad and share a few of the photos I do have of Milo – to me he is the best dog, ever.

Dec 17, 2016:

Having taken a few days to ‘re-group’ ahead of the looming festivities, I decided to try and collate all the things that have inspired me during this module. The list is pretty long so I’m still working through a number of online articles, to add to the reading list, but I’ve chosen my  ‘Christmas No’ 1′ – cue humming of chart countdown tune.

And it is this: http://hyperallergic.com/267866/the-hand-mounted-photographs-that-illustrated-19th-century-books/

Not only has it helped with research but yet again a member of the Herschel family has proved to be an inspiration. But more than that, it has provided a title for my project and another layer to its meaning.

As writer Claire Voon says in this article about the Getty Research Institute’s project to collect hand-mounted photo books, it is “the touch of individual hands” that make them worthy of preservation.

It is this aspect that I connect with. As my project looks at human impact on the natural world and aims to use antiquated processes that have a minimal impact on the environment, I am curious to consider making handmade books to accompany my work. By creating a product that is unique each time and is only one of a few, for me, makes it feel a little more alluring. It isn’t coming from an economic sense, that if I create less I can charge more, although rare items will naturally over time become more valued, it is more about those words “the touch of individual hands” and the idea that they will be created by me, perhaps with other contributors, and held in the hands of many others. It could even be something that is sent out into the world, like a five pound note, that I can ask viewers to log where it travels as the story is told, making its own travelogue about how it gets where it goes and what the people who receive it are doing, or will try to do, to lessen their individual impact on the earth.

More thought needed but I think something like this could be part of the ultimate plan.

Dec 5, 2016:

This week I’ve been pretty inspired by the work of Lauren Redniss. In particular, her use of the cyanotype process in her second book and that she describes her third as a “stealth climate change” book. I have felt a definite connection to her work and her views on it, what motivates her and what she wants those who see her work to feel.

Listen to her talk about her work here:

And, the Marie and Pierre-inspired Radioactive (which uses the cyanotype process) here:

It’s great to hear about serendipity and the use of accidental images being used too, and the story about how Prussian Blue originally came about. Just find this fascinating and hope I can make my work as interesting and intriguing.

Nov 24, 2016:

Arghhhhhhh. How can I give up the day job and do what I love full-time? The leap from security to insecurity when it’s not just you to consider is so frustrating. I love the life my day job enables me to live but at the same time I sometimes resent it. It can be quite a full-on role, with copious amounts of information to digest and deal with, and when all your brain really wants to do is think about photography it can feel like information overload. ShutterPod was created to start the crossover period. That good old Catch 22 keeps popping up though. I guess I want it all and I’m going to have to face making some sort of major change in the next two years so that when the MA is drawing to a close I will be in a better position to make a regular income from the work I create. The illusive well paid part-time job in Cornwall would be ideal. A three-day week and taking home about £22k would do:-) Yet despite the daily battle with time and headspace, this course is opening my eyes once again to what I love, while introducing me to new ideas and work.

This week in an interview recording, Colin Pantall spoke about an author who had used vintage photographs to inspire his fiction book. This really hit home; mainly as I have been toying with a book idea for some years that revolves around old photographs (inspired by the hours as a child, and teenager, and then adult, spent in rapt fascination looking at my mum’s black and white family photographs and imaging the lives of the people I did not know) that intertwines untold secrets and unknown lives. The author Pantall spoke about was Ransom Riggs. I went straight off to a well-known bookstore and purchased his first book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Having rated the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings as my all time favourite book this was surpassed by Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (I didn’t think that could be possible – I’ve now read it 10 times in two years). But, being only on the first few pages and already learning that the ‘home’ is in Wales (born and brought up there by English/Italian heritage parents) I feel an even closer bond to it than I did when I simply heard the author had used vintage photographs to influence the story.

It may not be an intellectually challenging book – and, to be honest, between the MA and the day job I don’t think I could cope with anything too complex – it speaks to my love of folklore and fairytales, mystery and magic.

I don’t believe in fairies; I don’t believe in gods but I do believe in the magic of the human mind, the power of storytelling, the beauty and rawness of nature and the flexibility and factuality of science.

This book has given me more food for though about my long term project and how I may reflect the environmental story I want to tell through my work.

Nov 20, 2016:

Definitely feeling back on track. I think I’m getting to grips with critical theory and perspectives. It’s not so much a lack of understanding, more a multitude of answers that have been a tad bamboozling. As a former journalist, Plain English was key. But so was unpicking complex information and I do feel as though that’s starting to happen. I’m also quite taken with a fellow student’s suggestion that critical theory is perhaps a “grammar” for photography, which definitely ties in to my journalism.

Today I’ve created a number of images for my module portfolio, and considering the horrendous weather and my need for UV I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. I’m also starting to consider options for my MA portfolio online. There’s a couple of websites I want to explore in more detail, including the ones I already have. To add to this my list of must read photography books, websites, blogs etc. is ever expanding but I wouldn’t have it any other way as it’s a pretty exciting time when you discover new ideas, new work and new inspiration. I was really taken with the cyanotypes (and other work) of Rosie Emerson. In a way they remind me of some of the work I have already created and most definitely inspire me. I will be sharing some of this work soon so you can see for yourself if they compare.

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©Rosie Emerson

Nov 07, 2016:

I’m a little frustrated today as a bout of what was probably Norovirus has wiped me out for the past four days. Not only have I lost my usual healthy appetite with no indication of its imminent return, but I have also lost my window to create work for my module portfolio and prep for my first one-to-one. It is what it is though and I know that once back up to full energy levels I can catch up and get back on track. That’s all (for today) folks.

Oct 25, 2016:

My head is definitely spinning this week. I have been researching a number of techniques, artists, photographers, processes and more. I’m still not sure I’m through my “photographer’s block” yet but I did had a mini lightbulb moment in relation to one of my photographic proposals (I still have two).

For the project that is focusing on the environment, using natural resources from/in my immediate vicinity/Cornwall and as environmentally-friendly processes as possible, I will consider further the idea of “take only pictures, leave only footprints”. The processes I am considering have an inherent short lifespan, fading away if left out in UV and I am looking into producing large scale nature-inspired displays made up of a multitude of postcards that viewers will be able to take away piece by piece, potentially giving the work a longer lifespan. Not sure that’s quite making sense yet but I think I’m getting somewhere. It’s all to do with regenerating and reusing. By creating work with as little damage to the planet that then finds life as a postcard that can be framed or sent (with a note about how to protect from UV), or that ultimately, as it is made with “natural ingredients”, can be left to decompose in the nature that created it, it becomes almost a circle of life.

I’m keen to get on and start creating work to visually explain my thought processes. As we are heading to winter and our UV in the UK is not as bright as summer months, I may need to rejig how I create these initial pieces. I do own a UV lamp but want to produce my final imagery with the natural elements alone. Perhaps a little artistic licence for the initial stage is something I will have to accept.

Oct 20, 2016:

It’s eight years since my dad died today. I was so busy trying to sort out in my head what I am doing for this week’s oral presentation dummy run through that I forgot until I saw my brother’s Facebook post. Feeling pretty sad about that; but at the same time I’ve never really been one to dwell on ‘deathdays’ and I know my dad would be happier with me for getting on with things. This Every Day catch up is for him.

It’s been pretty hectic this week, although I’m not sure it’s because I am over thinking things, doubting my ideas, getting the equivalent to writer’s block for photographers, and generally being indecisive or simply because I’ve been a tad busy. I believe my thought processes are coalescing into a semblance of structure and purpose, which is what I wanted from the MA – to find some focus for my work.

Breaking away from course work for a moment, I made another nature-inspired triptych. I’m calling it Road Map. Hope you like it.

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©Josie Purcell. Road Map. 2016

Oct 3, 2016:

Second week done and into the third. I’m discovering so many new ideas and work and feeling incredibly inspired. Not one for lugging DSLR gear around, I’m a fan of my iPhone and my 1955 film camera and this weekend I went off on my travels in the new campervan with just the iPhone in tow. Oh no I didn’t, I did take a DSLR for some night shots that my husband worked on with me but for everything else it was the iPhone.

I love working with mobile cameras, particularly for creating image transfer via the Impossible Project Instant Lab. Light to carry and with a few inexpensive add-on lenses you can get a great variety of shots.

In fact, the image I ended up using in my Week 3 work (below) has inspired a series of images of nature’s little creatures. More to follow I’m sure.

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Sept 26, 2016:

Learning how to fit in a 35-hour ‘day-job’, keeping up with self-employed PR work, finding time to create photographic work  and starting my MA is an exciting yet slightly daunting adventure. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; luckily for me I’m always up for a challenge.

And the biggest challenge is that I’ve never been to university. I have no experience of academia-speak, I’ve never had to write a dissertation or spend time researching (in great detail) my passion for photography.

I did go to college and have worked in various photographic disciplines (medical, commercial, portrait etc.) but this is very new to me – fortunately, so far, all I can say is “bring it on”. With a natural inquisitiveness (probably why I qualified and worked as a journalist too), I’m finding that finding out about my peers work and that of other contemporary photographers, artists, writers, filmmakers etc. is a joyous past time, while also delving into a world of ‘other’ is proving pretty fascinating.

Discovering stories and images you didn’t know existed, and discussing unfamiliar viewpoints, is invigorating and reminds me of something that happened this weekend. We had taken our newly acquired camper van out for a trial run and, being the good student I am,  I started to read Why Photography Matters by Jerry L. Thompson. In it he writes about William Henry Fox Talbot and a caption he includes in The Pencil of Nature that alludes to “one of the charms” of photography in that the person making the photograph may see something in it on examination, even some time later, that he had no notion of at the time.

This put me in mind of this photo I took of our van – although perhaps a simplified explanation.

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Concentrating hard on getting the attention on my dog, who can be seen if you look very carefully in the passenger window, I simply did not see the beautiful rainbow. But when I did, it made me feel as though the van, which, having had vans previously and being rather attached to them, is going to be our ‘end of the rainbow’. It was a lovely discovery and I hope reflects my on-going learning on this course.