Research – Kev Hawken

‘Kev’s work highlights his frustration, despair and sense of isolation from living with anxiety for the past twelve years, using his student accommodation as the site for Disorder.’ – Fragmentary.org.

I relate straight away to the work of Kev Hawken, which highlights the feelings that come with suffering from anxiety. The fact it was shot within student accommodation is especially relatable to me, as this is where my own personal anxiety became a lot worse.

The mix of colour and black and white photography is something that is not often seen, yet I feel works well in creating a feeling of unease. As previously mentioned I want to combine self portraiture with landscapes/objects, which is something that Hawken does well within his work. Not only does he directly use himself to represent these feelings of unease, but creates abstract landscapes combined with documentary shots to show the effects of living with a mental illness.

Personal Experimentation

After being inspired by James Schofields work, I wanted to experiment with the idea of using objects to portray a feeling, rather than using people.

I chose to use flowers, looking at the something that will deteriorates over time. For me the two images together represent the idea of having hope and loosing hope – a constant battle that those suffering with mental health face. I used a muted colour palette, inspired by photographers I have previously mentioned as I feel it causes little distraction. It also gives a feeling of solitude, especially when looking at the second image of the dying flowers.

Research – James Schofield

James Schofields work uses abstract photography as a way to express his struggles with mental health. When describing the work he states it ‘explores and reconciles my own struggles with mental illness and the ever increasing notion of feeling disconnected from the world’.

His work is inspired from the feelings associated with mental illness, such as solitude. He interestedly photographs in black and white which I feel adds to the feeling of loneliness and solitude. He claims that it doesn’t date like colour photography – trends with colour photography will change, yet black and white does’t date as quick.

He chose to represent the book images in the format of a book, which means that the images are read as a narrative and as Schofield describes – ‘everything can just be part of what’s going on in this little world I’ve created for myself’. I’m looking myself to produce a book for this module, for a similar reason to James Schofield. I want the images to be viewed in a sequence rather than individually, showing a ‘narrative’ of what it is like to suffer with a mental illness.

I’m massively inspired by the way James Schofield doesn’t necessarily use people within his work to represent mental health, but instead used objects to hint at the idea. This is something that I have previously done myself, using landscapes to imply a feeling. I want to experiment with this idea further, as simply producing just self portraiture could become boring and repetitive.

Research – Gabriel Isak

Gabriel Isak cleverly combines landscapes with his subjects to give the impression of loneliness throughout his work.

‘I work a lot with self-portraiture, but it’s always anonymous and abstract, for the reason that my work is so personally inspired that I know exactly how I want the subject to look in an image.’ The above quote is taken from an interview on fragmentary.com, with Isak describing his reasons for using self-portraiture. I relate to this quote a lot, using my myself because I can easily express what I am trying to portray.

He also talks about how he doesn’t give away the meaning behind each image as he wants each viewer to make up their own mind and have their own option on the concept of each image. The subject is always anonymous, often similar to my work. Muted colour tones have also been used once again which gives the work a dream like feeling, but also plays on the feeling of loneliness further.

Research – Rekha Garton

Unlike Kirsty Mitchell and Brooke Shaden, Rekha Garton’s work is simplistic, yet still manages to portray emotion in a similar way.

The muted colour palette used throughout her work gives the photographs a relatable feel. Unlike the bright tones used within Kirsty Mitchell’s which gives the work a editorial ‘set up’ feel, the colours here portray a calming scenario. The landscapes have clearly been carefully chosen. Not only do they continue with the calming aesthetic, the clothing has been chosen to blend into the background, creating a feeling of harmony.

Traditional photography expectations have been challenged within the work, for example – the girl is out of focus in the bottom left photo, with the background being in focus. It not only adds a sense of movement, but means the subject becomes absorbed and one with the landscape.

I feel that the work is less fashion based, unlike Kirsty Mitchell’s and the simplistic tones within the work means there is less distraction. I want my photography to continue in this direction, remembering the message I want to portray throughout the module.

Research – Brooke Shaden

Self Portraiture is at the heart of Brooke Shadens work. Her fine art style is driven by her personal battle with social anxiety, using the process of capturing the photos as a way of coping. Her reason for using herself within her images comes from being more comfortable photographing herself than others.

Also being a motivational speaker, Shaden uses social media as a platform to get her message across. Often, she pairs the images she takes with writing describing the reason for constructing the photograph. Quotes she has read influence her work massively, resulting in a fantasy style throughout her work. There appears to be a ‘darkness’ to her work, with the images often feeling uncomfortable to view. However, this is something that appeals to me and is a technique I have previously used within my own photography. As I am portraying what it is like to suffer with social anxiety, I intend for the viewers to feel on edge.

Shaden’s work is heavily edited, which is something that I do not want to do within my own work. Although I do find her work visually appealing, the concept and reasons for producing her work inspire me more. The combination of nature with the body is something that I feel works strongly, often looking to combine the two within my work which is something that I have previously experimented with a would like to do so further.

Research – Kirsty Mitchell

Kirsty Mitchell’s work has inspired my work since college, combining aesthetically pleasing images with a personal reason for producing them.

The work started out as a distraction from her mother’s death. When describing the project on her website she states – ‘This espapism grew into the idea of creating a storybook without words, dedicated to her, that would echo the fragments of the fairytales she had read constantly to me as a child’. Her drive to produce work on a personal level has inspired my own creative journey. My work is strongly based around my own personal experience with anxiety, yet I also want to produce images that are visually appealing.

Kirsty Mitchell’s work is full of colour, using the colour of the lavender fields as a running theme throughout her images for example. I have started thinking about colour more within my work, considering how certain colours portray a particular emotion. Within my upcoming work I want to combine the colour of the landscape, with make up, clothes and accessories to create an image that is visually pleasing to its viewer.

Mitchell’s’ background in fashion design allows her to create elaborate costumes and accessories, which is something I need to consider when planning shoots. On both a tight budget and small time frame I need to ensure that the ideas I plan are achievable.

Proposal

Proposal

For this module, I intend to continue with the work I have already been producing so far on the course. The subject of mental health and my personal battle with social anxiety will remain a strong focus throughout the work, however I want to add more of a fashion element to the work so that I use it once I have graduated from the course. I hope that the work will appeal both to those suffering from mental illness themselves, but also aesthetically to those who simply want to view the images. Using text to accompany the work been a strong theme throughout the course, and is something I want to include within this final module. I feel that it gives the work a much more personal feel, as well as expanding on the photographs themselves.

As I previously studied a course within make-up, I want to use these skills to create interesting themes. The colours I use within the make-up and clothing is extremely important within the work. Having previously started to use colour in a creative way within my images, I want to play with this further. I will consider how colour creates an emotion, linking this with the idea of social anxiety. I also want to use colour to create visually appealing images, linking it with choice of location. I feel that shooting on location rather than in a studio means that I can add more emotion to the images, using the outdoors as an intriguing background. I feel that I also have more access to things which will allow me to be more experiential such as using water for example.

Kirsty Mitchell and Brooke Shaden have been big influences for the module as they both use their own personal battles and issues to create a body of work which helps them deal with their problems. Brooke Shaden’s image are clearly heavily Photoshopped, which is not something I want within my work, yet her concepts and reasons for producing the work is something that influences me. She is also a self-portrait artist and justifies her reasons for this because of her social anxiety. She claims that using herself a model allows her to feel comfortable when producing work, very like my reasons. I also want to use myself within the images as it allows me to shoot at any time, and not rely on models.

I feel the work would work well presented in large prints, as well as creating a book to go alongside the work. Having produced a mock-up of a book within the first module, it was something that interested me and I want to carry on with. I will into to creative ways to present the book, looking and image placement and the physical design on the book to make it interesting and unique.

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