Conversations; Record and Stimuli

For the most part, photographs are born from conversations (if they are not conversations themselves); internal or external, with strangers and with close friends. Conversations can be seen as peaks of life or reifications of thought…

In this workshop task you are asked to first record a conversation with a stranger – this may be done through images, written text, audio – transcription etc. You should then use this record as a starting point for a small series of 3 – 7 images. 

Work from…

Steve Pyke
Laia Abril (Epilogue)
Peter Miller (Vermont People)
Pierre Bessard (Chattanooga, the Green factory)
Shaun Usher (Letters of Note)
Leonie Hampton (In the Shadow of Things)

May help form ideas or provide questions


Leonie Hampton – In the Shadow of Things
From In the Shadow of Things LeonieHamptonWeb007 LeonieHamptonWeb009

This book, In the Shadow of Things, is Leonie Hampton’s way of responding to her mother’s Obessesive Compulsive Disorder and depression. For over a decade her mother could not bring  her self to empty or unpack the boxes which had been in her new house since she had moved into it after the break down of her marriage. In 2007 the artist said to her mother that she would help her to unpack the boxes and organise the house but only if she could document the process. Hampton spent months with her mother, working with her to empty the boxes which were filled with constant reminders of her ongoing OCD and depression, in a way that would help to fight the irrational rituals that her disorder forced upon her; and this book is the result. It is a combination of photographs taken by the artist, found family images and perfectly annotated transcripts of conversations, arguments and monologues that took place in detail throughout the months that they spent together. Although the book is about OCD it is not what you would expect when your here that term; because the images are documenting the process as they went along, the images show the mess that was there before, however, I think that this is yet another way that the artist has tried to tackle her mother’s disorder. She had looked it straight in the eye and shown it to the world in an attempt to get rid of it for good, not only for her mother’s sake but also for her own. The use of the conversations allows us to see what her mother was going through within this process, not just images of the before and after, and with the combination of the different mediums we get to understand her disorder a lot better than if it was just stand alone text or images.  The use of the family photographs helps us to see the family as well as just the artist and her mother, which shows us that the disorder has affected them too. The conversations also allow us to make sense of some of the images and it gives it a bit more depth than if we were to just see the images because it almost stops us from taking what we want from it; it tells us how her mother feels and how the dominating disorder has affected her life in a way that not many people would understand – this book is a way of showing us that, in the words of the artist and her mother.

As someone who has struggled with OCD since I was young, I know that it is something that needs to be dealt with and this book has made me think about how I can tackle it to make my life better. I have only recently began talking to people about it and it has already made me feel a bit better but the rituals have not subsided so this book has shown me that maybe I could tackle it through photographs and maybe if I see it from an outside perspective, then I could stop myself from thinking that I need to do the things that I do.

Ula Wiznerowicz – Behind The Curtain

I came across this project when researching for this week’s task and it has stuck with me ever since. It portrays a personal journey of the artist’s, investigating the affects of alcoholism in her home town in Poland. Not all of the people within the series are actual alcoholic but they have all been affected by the disease, whether it is through family or friends. Within the images we do not see any signs of alcohol but once we are given the context of the work, we can see exactly where this comes into it. We see bleak landscape, interiors with a lack of human presence or interaction and stoic portraits which allow us to imagine just how the alcoholism within the town has affected each image in it’s own cruel way. The images really allow the viewer to feel the loneliness, alienation and claustrophobia that the disease brings along with it. It can destroy a person, it is a living thing that can take someone’s life and I believe that this project is a beautiful way of addressing such an ugly subject. The fact that she spent time there and spoke to people, especially in the addiction therapy sessions that she attended, means that the images are informed and we get to see real images instead of overly set up pieces that would not have been possible if they artist had not had a relationship with the people and had not had these conversations.

This photo film is just a sort of preview, an artist’s statement, about the images. It shows some of the still images from the series but doesn’t include any moving image. Instead it uses audio to give us a sense of what the project is about. The film has a backing track that, although is questionably depressing and over-dramatic at the beginning, helps to set the mood for the images which to be fair have a bit of a depressing subject. The artist talks throughout the whole film and I feel that this helps us to see just how personally invested she is into the work and how much it has affected her, along with the reasons behind the photographs and the series itself. The series tackles the artist’s own personal experiences with the disease, we are not told, however, if she had it herself or if it was someone close to her. She mentions that she saw drunk people everyday of her childhood and teenage years so this makes us think that she has created this project to tackle the idea that this is okay. As someone who has been affected by alcoholism in my family, I was wondering how she managed to separate herself from the strong imagery that had filled her head for so many years, to create a series that tackles the exact problem that i’m guessing to leave her home town. The answer is that she couldn’t; not fully anyway. She began to have nightmares after doing the project for a while because of the horrific scenes she had to see, which must have brought back old memories, and this caused her to take a break from the project for a while to allow her to gain some perspective.

Laia Abril – The Epilogue

This project is something that has affected me both on a personal and conceptual level. The Epilogue shows us the story of the Robinson family and the life that was left for them after they lost their 26 year old daughter, Cammy to bulimia. Abril went and stayed with the Robinson family and documented her time them as well as collecting evidence of  Cammy to use in her own research and the creation of the book.

Conversations and relationships are important to Laia and she tries to get close to her subjects when she works and because of this she tried successfully to gain a very close relationship with the Robinson family and she lived with them for a few weeks, contacted them nearly every day for a year and is still in contact with them now.
The finished book seems like a sort of connection to Cammy for both the family and the audience, like a dedication, as it seems as if the family wanted Cammy’s story to be told so they would give Laia anything she needed to make the book as honest and comprehensive as possible to try and get her story out to both the world and for the family to see and cherish as a part of Cammy and her life and struggle. She involved the family in the making of the images, selection of the materials used and the making of the book; this collaboration again supports my theory about the book being a sort dedication to her memory as well as a piece of Cammy for the family to keep and the audience to see.
Laia spent time getting to know the family, Cammy’s story and electing the images, as well as making the images and trying to get the story of Cammy just right. She then spent about a year constructing the book and making sure that the story telling element was in there for the audience to see. Considering this is the first project that Abril had created about someone she had never met, and technically would never meet, I think that this book is something that will be relevant and effective for decades to come.
She got to read Cammy’s diary and really understand her to an extent that she could tell her story properly even thought she had never met her. Although this could be seen as a sort of invasion privacy, I believe that this was completely necessary. We are supposed to be able to get to know her and her family as well as her story and this is the only way that she could literally hear Cammy’s own voice and not just see what she has left behind and the memories that her family has of her. I believe that the family was so open to letting Abril into their world and into Cammy’s memories because they wanted to tell her story; not only to have something to remember her by but also to let others know what it is like through the struggle that they have gone through – they know what it is like to lose someone to the disease and I think that this book is a way of letting people see how hard it is, maybe as a sort of piece to make us think about our own problems and if we know anybody that has anything like Bulimia that we need to support them and not dismiss them.
The interactivity of the physical book allows the audience to make their own story and relate to the narrative within the project, compared to just having the film which, although incredibly thought provoking, is something that gives us just a snippet of the family and not Cammy herself. The reader is very important to Laia because she wants to tell them a story and make them awaken from something or take something from her work in which she constantly tries to show people who her subjects are as both people and as social issues. It isn’t a complex book, in the sense that the simplicity basically shows the story and doesn’t relish in the confusion that these stories can sometimes cause. It just shows the story for what it is and isn’t hard to read at all, which I feel makes it more relatable, but instead allows the reader to take from it what they want without them missing out on the actually story by getting lost in any complexities.
Abril describes Cammy’s life as a sort of timeline; this perhaps could be because there is a beginning and an end to there story in a sense but could also be about the different stages in her life. She describes Cammy herself as a character, which seems to distance her from the audience slightly, but also gives her an allowance in privacy as it makes her seem like something that we cannot fully know because she is no longer around for us to experience but the book is something that portrays her life; sort of like how we read about character’s lives in novels. The book, along with the film, shows the audience her family and the space that she left behind instead of her when she was ill and doesn’t try to shock us by showing us this. It makes us think of our own families even if we do not have a personal connection to the illness that Cammy went through. The book includes family photographs along with the video above which shows some interviews which gives us sort of a preview of what the project is.
Both of these projects, which use photo films and moving image, have  inspired me to maybe create photo film for my final project, or at least as part of it. I would like to include conversations between myself, my mother and maybe some of her siblings because I feel like when you look through family photographs, you need that conversation to understand them most of the time and it gives the images more meaning than if they were just stand alone without any context.


For this task I was really nervous because I don’t really like talking to strangers. I have photographed strangers before and it didn’t really make me any better at it so I didn’t really expect much from this task. However, all things considered I am quite please with my images. I had a conversation with an elderly lady walking her dog near where I live one evening; we spoke about numerous things but the ideas that really stuck with me were the fact that the cold affects her in ways that us younger people would not necessarily think of like making her joints painful which is something that is common in older people, and the idea of the mornings and nights being harder for her since she lost her husband a few years ago. I tried to portray this with the idea of a cold, almost monochromatic, colour palette along with using quite bleak and dark subjects that I feel fit well with the idea of sadness that I think of when I think of losing someone close to you.


This image is from the feeling of loneliness I got from the whole conversation and isolation along with the idea of when she told me that the mornings were the hardest since her husband past away. I think that this piece is very strong because of how simple it is and the light making the image instead of making an image based around the light.  Cold Outside

These two images are the same but shot with different points of focus, one inside and one outside. I created these two images in response to when the lady said that she finds it hard to walk when its cold and wet because of her bad joints. I wanted to make this image to make the viewer think about how much we take advantage of our bodies. We don’t have to think about whether it is cold and wet outside to decide if we go out or not, we go out no matter what and don’t even think about anything like that as younger people. The cold palette in both of these images is supposed to portray the isolated and lonely feelings that often are accosted with old age.

Rejected Images
Bed Night
These are the images that in the feedback session were seen as the weakest images that didn’t really work with the other ones within a series. I think that this is because of the colour palette in both of them not matching the almost monotone effect of the first three images.

I would like to continue this theme by speaking to someone in my family that I have never met. I am from a very large family and because of this I have not actually met everyone from my family, especially on my mother’s size. I would then like to compare this to a conversation with my mother who I know very well and see how they differ; both in how comfortable we are with each other and in the actual subject matter. I think that this would be an interesting way to look at familial relations but also at how we construct ourselves depending on who we are speaking with.


One thought on “Conversations; Record and Stimuli

  1. Pingback: Relationships; Fixed and Fluid | lucyjohnsonphotography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s