By now, you know I hate my birthday. I have always done so and every year, I go on a self-questioning journey, trying to find out why, to make amends. I have decided that this year will be different. I have a strange relationship to gifts, to presents, not letting myself be pampered and always wondering if I deserve it, if I will be required to give in the same way. I worry too much and I am not grateful enough. I love but don’t let myself be loved very well. This year, my birthday has reached its peak of spoiling-ness (no, it is not a real word but it will work).
Everybody is conscious of my interest in photography and is giving me related gifts. It is very nice to feel heard, paid attention to. My husband is giving me the best present, testing my ability to let go. I am dining at the most luxurious restaurant in Glasgow. I am also getting a magazine of my choice each of the next 12 months. Well, rather, 11, as for my first month I have chosen an extravagant new publication called Eyemazing, lush, beautiful, moving, but as expensive as a coffee table book. This is surely worth 2 months of my concession… What I like the most about this present is the process of choosing, which is a double edged sword of course. Where does one start with magazines, these days? There are hundreds, all with high production value, some with excellent content. This is a present I am going to learn a lot with. After I made my choice and got my magazine, I returned to the shop to browse more, to look again at some images that caught my eye. There was a Mark Abrahams portrait of Marisa Tomei in V Magazine, some incredible compositions in Exit, the always reliable Bon, and some surprising shots by Bryan Adams, the singer — who I very much dislike but may have to re-think as a photographer, in Photographie n. 45. By far, though, the most surprising image I have seen this morning comes from Art World Magazine. It’s from Vanessa Beechcroft, and just look at it:
It’s just because I have picked up a little about mystics that I have no use for mystagogues. Real mystics don’t hide mysteries, they reveal them. They set a thing up in broad daylight, and when you’ve seen it it’s still a mystery. But the mystagogues hide a thing in darkness and secrecy, and when you find it, it’s a platitude.
From The Arrow of Heaven, in The Incredulity of Father Brown
I have uploaded the paper Sharon Kivland and I delivered at last year’s Research into Practice Conference. In it, we tried to answer the question of interpretation in Art and Psychoanalysis, through a different approach to one expects in this sort of conferences. To me, it was a great learning exercise. Every time I read this it fills me with energy as I realise what it is possible to do with words if one is free enough (that refers more to Sharon’s contribution, but I am learning). It is my favourite conference contribution, one that I enjoyed preparing for and delivering and one which, whilst in the midst of a difficult chapter which I don’t know how to approach, provides me with a glimmer of hope.
I had a retail impulse and went for the Nikon D40. A strange choice, as this camera was not in any of the shortlists, but, in hindsight, it makes sense. I do not want whatever piece of kit I buy for my photography work to end up like my video camera, having not seen the day of light for about 3 years now. And when I bought it, I went as top of the range I could. What for? So, with the D40, I bought time to test my commitment to digital photography. It is the right machine for that, lightweight and entry level, so I have no excuses to take it out everywhere.
The pixel ration is not great, but I want to see how the enlargements work. After all, the most successful images in my last show were the small framed ones… My PhD submission will be an A4 book of images (with a twist, of course) so 6.1 is OK for the time being, saving me thus far about £300 which will get put into my next camera fund.
I have had it two days and have taken a fair amount of images with it already, most of which are far better than those obtained with my point-and-shoot. This is really a camera for dummies, so all I have to do is think about the picture. It is a real pleasure. And a light one, assuaging my biggest fear. What a delight not to have live view, either. Looking through a view finder changes your relationship to the image, as Serge Tisseron pointed out. It helps to conceptualise the world and understand it, rather than just represent it. Almost a mystical experience, one I knew about from using the blind Mamiya.
Here’s my first self-portrait, à laFriedlander. Bonus point to anyone who can guess what the background is.
The first realisation I had during my PhD was the fact that what I was looking for, the objects of seduction I longed for, were already out there. I did not need to spend unfruitful hours trying to re-create, imitate what industrialization, and capitalism had already achieved. To compete, in terms of seduction, what I had to devise was a way to capture the relationship, to apprehend what was going on, to replicate it in order to study it in depth. Photography was my discovery. Four years later, photos are the works of art that titillate me most in an art gallery, as you may have noticed from the way I write on this blog. Photography makes me look twice at things, whether I am in front of a printed image, of behind the viewfinder. Even more if the two conflate and I show what I saw behind the viewfinder. Soon, my image — not the one I have taken, but, rather, me as a model — will take hold of a gallery, and I am looking forward to a new way of seeing myself.
I have been particularly taken by fashion photography, by its glossiness and its fearlessness, by the new language it has created and how it has seeped into the close-knit, inbred fine art world. I found it a breadth of fresh air, especially this show, which I saw on my last visit to New York. I even feel I finally understand Terry Richardson and the Vice Magazine culture! But Fine Art Photography has also had things to say outside of the fashion discourse. I might have been less observant (as fashion photography is all about seduction, and so grabbed me) but interesting things such as this have been going on around me. And then, there are the blogs: from Sartorialist to Belen Cerezo and Neil Scott’s FOTO, I always find inspiration in those pages.
Then, onto the title of the post. I want to commit to photography. It is embarrassing to think that everything I have done has been with a point-and-shoot or a borrowed medium-format camera. I know, I know, the camera is not important, it is what you do with it, but I feel ready to take the plunge into DSLR-world now that my least favourite time in the year is approaching and I may have some disposable cash (she says, wishfully). The problem is, of course, which one. The information out there is dizzying, and everyone has a favorite and an opinion. I am fed up with it, so I want to make this short and sweet. The shortlist is between Canons and Nikons, semi-professional range, moderately light so I don’t get lazy about taking it out with me. Remember I always carry books for comfort… What do you reckon? Do you have camera experiences you want to share with me?
And finally, not to forget what all this is about, I leave you with some images, which are what matters, really (even though none were, I think taken with the cameras mentioned above).
Dan Graham – Slide
Santu Mofokeng, Dove Lady #2, Diepkloof Zone 3, Soweto, (2002) Black & white photograph on Baryth paper, 70 x 100 cm
Terry Richardson, Skateboard P
Keller & Wittwer, I knew some of you better than others, but I miss you all (self-portraits)#2, 2007, b/w Fine Art Prints, edition 6 + 1 ap, 57 x 43 cm
Steven Klein, Untitled, 2008
Michael Thompson, Ruffled Neck, New York City, 2007
On Monday, I taught my session on Supervision for which I use Lars Von Trier film ‘The 5 Obstructions’ (and for which I have to thank Dr Malcolm Quinn). The movie is compelling and work as a teaching tool. At the beginning, students don’t know what to make of the relationship and the works produced but, by the end of the second obstruction, something falls into place and the blank stares and silences turn into comments, opinions, ventures. They change from the role of student to the role of the supervisor. And thank God, what good a silent supervisor would be?
Anyway, I have watched the film dozens of times, as some years, I show it to 3 different groups. Imagine. This time, however, the second obstruction looked different to me, sadder, more vulnerable. This not only due to the Valium stuff Jorgen Leth talks about (I am more receptive to addictions and compulsions since I teach psychoanalysis). The films depicts the meal scene from ‘The Perfect Human’, with Leth as Nilsen, and I had something to relate to the experience.
My recent trip to New York was filled with high points, but like any trip there were also low ones. Only one time, I went out to dine on my own. I don’t get to eat many seafood feasts at home, since my husband is allergic to most so I decided to treat myself only to feel like sobbing by the time the starter came. It wasn’t the starter (although that was not too cheerful either). There was chatter all around me, celebration, encounters between friends… And there I was, alone, unable to lose myself in the partner I had chosen for the night (Ernest Jones’ biography of Freud’s early years) as Newyorkers tend to eat in near darkness. I regretted ordering starter and main, also the wine, the whole thing. I felt being watched, pitied by the waiter, rushed, wanting to go home, confronted by my own solitude. Such a sad story. The subsequent take-aways with on demand episodes of House, MD fed my body and my soul better (I did only finish the wine at the restaurant) but the experience forever changed the way I look at that second obstruction. And what good a supervisor von Trier is…
I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.