Showcase Portfolio: Hannah Wright

Hannah Wright

“A family album holds a profusion- a confusion – of pleasures and pains, as pictures old and new offer themselves up with depictive innocence. Family collections are never just memories”. (Holland 2000: 1).

 

The intent of Detriment (2016) is to unpick the family myths and reflect on a personal journey of loss, with significant memories from my childhood. Photographs from my childhood are haunted with memories of conflict and abuse, or as Barthes would refer to as the ‘Punctum’ of a photograph, a personal response that ‘pierces’ or ‘pricks’ me (Barthes 1980). My pieces are a response to the past, and elaborate on the referent, which haunts my family album, by combining elements of past and present. This project is similar to the workings of a family album in that I am bringing new perspectives, new understandings and new forgetting’s (Holland 2000: 1).

Letters of Expired Devotion (2017), is a progression from my previous project, Detriment to a Family Album; Where I continue to explore identity, memory, absence and metaphors for the process of remembering and forgetting. In a response to the absence of my own family album, my practise pieces together fragments of family history with my own memory, by creating reconstructed archives, with the aid of my Grandparents love letters. I created this project with the intent of placing my own identity within existing family archives, and shift personal details of family, loss and conflict into a public space. My practice enabled me to gather and piece together these fragments of family history, combine them with my own memory, to create a personal response to them.

“The archive oscillates between embodiment and disembodiment, composition and decomposition, organization and chaos” (Spieker 2008: 1)

My practice works in a similar way to an archive, in that I am organising, and piecing together fragmented memories, preserved in the form of photographs, files, objects and stories. My work has taken the shape of a reconstructed archive, as a substitute, to make up for the absence of the family photographs of my childhood that are in the possession of my Dad. An archive can become a haunted place, as they do not simply reconnect us with what we have lost. Instead, they remind us (Spieker 2008: 4). My practice recycles and reinvents family treasures, showing present family perspectives, such as my own, to reveal the time that has past. In Freud’s terms, the unheimlich can be connected to archives, as “Heim” meaning home in German, and “Heimlich” means secret, or hidden; Marking the unexpected return of an object we recognise as familiar.

George Wright, My Granddad, survived the sinking of HMS Sikh off Tobruk, 1942, at 20 years old. During a two-year interment as a prisoner of war in Italy, he became friends with a fellow prisoner, Bert Cottrell, who later became his Brother – in – law. The letters between my grandparents began when my Granddad was sent to Lympstone, Devon, to recover in a rehabilitation centre after falling ill with dysentery and malaria.

“Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.” (Benjamin 1969: 61)

The letters were passed down to my mum and I when my Grandparents passed away, precious memorabilia to cherish and remember them by, as a part of their lives are preserved in writing. My starting point began with a running theme of Melancholy and absence throughout my practice.

Follow Hannah Wright on Instagram

Acting the Part

Out of Character / Into Character: Photographic Chameleons

‘the mask offers a powerful disguise that gives photographers the chance ot redefine themselves, and to challenge the ways in which identities have commonly been represented and understood’ (bright, 2010, p.101)
Claude Cahun (1928) Self-Portrait

This session encourages participants to consider the nature of the performed portrait, and the construction of the self into a ‘disguised’ personae. This use of masquerade transforms the photograph into a stage. Lighting, props, costume, styling and location are also important considerations,

 

It is a theatrical reminder that identity is a construct, a mask we wear. ‘Under this mask, another mask’ Cahun wrote. We could even think of her work as a comment on race, as she frequently inverts colours and plays with contrast in one photograph. With her head shaved, holding her collar as if to hide from our gaze, seemingly tanned or edited to seem so, with her image duplicated by the mirror next to her – reinforcing the duality or multiplicity of identity, and the roles we play. (Emelife, 2016)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Hippolyte Bayard (1840_ Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man
‘A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows they’re being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks’ (Avedon in Fuqua & Bivar, 2010, p.149)

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to explore the nature of a performed’ and disguised self. Is is all a mask?
  • For participants to respond photographically to identified personal / political issues though the act of masqerade
  • For participants to consider the different ways in which the self might be represented. Do we have multiple selves? Are we stereotyped?
  • Participant Outcome: 1 10 x 8 digital print
Man Ray (1920) Rrose Selavy (Marcel Duchamp)
‘i pose, i know i am posing, i want you to know i am posing, but…this additional message must in no way alter the precious essence of my individuality’ (Barthes, 1981, p.12)

You will need:

  • Participants may identify and define thier own ‘characters’ / disguises /scenarios or you could use a list of Vladimir Propps characters as a prompt:The Hero / The Helper / The Villain / The False Hero / The Donor / The Dispatcher / The Princess / The Princess’s Father
  • Any props you might need
  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • Flashguns (or a Studio) to practice lighting techniques
  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
Shigeyuki Kihara (2013) from Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
‘Portraits are representations, not documents’ (West, 1997, p. 53)

Preparation Work:

  • Ask Participants to read Sean O’ Hagan (2010) ‘Self Portraits as an Art Form’ in The Observer 8th August 2010 available here
  • Ask participants to explore the Tate resources and select one feature of thier choice to read available here
  • Ask participants to independently research the work of Cindy Sherman and watch Hal Foster (2016) Under the Gaze: The Art of Cindy Sherman available here
  • Ask participants to identify bring a selection of props they might need
  • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
  • Make sure you have access to computers
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
  • Decide whether you will introduce location / studio lighting
  • If you are printing it make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
  • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors
Aneta Grzeszykowska (2006) from Untitled Film Stills

Research: The work of Cindy Sherman

‘The desire to ‘become someone else in front of the camera, if only for a moment, is often irresistable. masqerade in self-portraiture may allow an artist to vicariously act out fantasies or address a political issue through someone else’s voice, which is both liberating and transgressive. Such tactics can also be used for fun or to indulge personal vanity’ (bright, 2010, p.101

Presentation ideas: Acting the Part

suggested Session Outline:

Postcards from Home

the Photogenic or the real?

‘A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into a souvenir (Sontag, 1977, p.9)
Paul Reas (1993) Flogging a Dead Horse, Constable Country, Flatford Mill

This session aims to consolidate ideas of the Picturesque and introduce ideas of the ‘image world’ / simulacra through critical analysis of vernacular tourist and postcard imagery. It encourages in depth research into Corrine Vionnet’s practice and the recycling of photogenic imagery as it ‘becomes’ the truth. It asks participants to be critical about the presumed truth of such imagery and position thier own practice accordingly.

 

‘Every day the urge goes stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of it’s likeness, it’s reproduction’ (Benjamin, 1936, p.23)
Martin Parr (1990) from Small World
‘It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indesputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had’ (Sontag, 1977, p.9)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

Jennifer Bolande (2017) from Visible Distance/Second Sight
‘Postmodern culture is often characterised as an era of ‘hyper-representation’ in which reality itself begins to be experienced as an endless network of representations’ (Mitchell, 1995, p.16)

Aims & Outcomes:

  • To consider vernacular / stereotypical postcard representations of the land / local environment / landscape
  • To investigate the relationship between postcards and more subjective photographic practices as it applies to representations of place / landscape
  • To understand the nature of the vernalular postcard as it ‘tames’ and transforms the land into an advert
  • To introduce the idea of an ‘image world’ / simulacra
  • Participant Outcome: 1 10×8 digital print
‘It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real’ (Baudrillard, 1994, p.2)
Corrine Vionnet (2006 – 2019) from Photo Opportunities
‘Photo Opportunities tries to speak about our collective memory and the influence of image through films, advertisements, postcards, the Internet, etc. It attempts to raise questions about our motivations to make a photograph and our touristic experience. It tries to speak about our image consumption and how ubiquitous images actually are’ (Vionnet in Jones, 2013)

You will need:

  • Digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) *This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras
  • Card readers
  • Access to computers (or laptops)
  • Tripods
  • Flashguns if you plan to practice lighting techniques
  • An Introductory Brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
John Hinde (c.1965+) from The John Hinde Collection
‘Hinde hoped to create a visual rendition of happy holiday memories – seen now, the postcards seem to indicative of a breezy post-war optimism’ (smythe, 2018)

Research: The work of Corrine Vionnet

‘Famed landmarks appear to float gently in a dream-like haze of blue sky. Each construction espouses the ‘touristic gaze’, its distorted visual referent functions as a device for memory transport by funneling many experiences into one familiar locale.’ (Yale, 2018)

Preparation Work:

  • Find a number of postcards / tourist information / vernacular representations of the local environment / landscape / place
  • Ask participants to read Gregory Jones (2013) ‘Corrine Vionnet and the Democratic Snapshot’ in The Inbetween 23rd February 2013 available here
  • Ask participants to read Diane Smythe (2018) ‘Picture Postcard Perfection with the John Hinde Collection’ in The British Journal of Photography 29th August 2018 available here
  • Ask participants to read Jonas Larsen ‘The Aspirational Tourist Photographer’ in Either / And available here
  • Ask participants to watch Tony Ray Jones & Martin Parr: Only In England (2014) in National Science & Media Museum available here
  • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
  • Make sure you have access to computers / image editing software
  • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
  • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
  • If you are printing it make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
  • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors

Presentation Ideas: the Photogenic or the real?

‘The most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us a sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads, as an anthology of images’ (Sontag, 1977, p.3)

suggested Session Outline:

  • Show participants a number of postcards / tourist iconography of famous / local scenes. Have they visited them? Why do they recognise them?
  • Give the Presentation (above). Invite participants to compare the tousist work with its reality. What are the similarities and differences?
  • Provide participants with a list of local areas / and postcards of these (or they can think of thier own). Identify the key elements of the scene and its aesthetic. Is it authentic?
  • Identify how these might be translated in new / more realistic ways
  • Sketch out / brainstorm initial ideas
  • Location lighting induction. How does light colour / black and white / aesthetics influence the scene?
  • Shoot the image individually / in groups
  • Print / Project and critique the images with the original tourist ‘scene’ in mind /  on view and considering aspects of a subjective response / aesthetics  / audience respsonse
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Advert (c.1940)

Splitting Image

The dual worlds of John Stezaker

John Stezaker (2012) Muse XII

This is an adaptable session which aims to introduce participants to the construction (or confusion) of meaning using simple / dual collage techniques. It encourages in-depth independent research into John Stezaker’s practice and its positioning within wider ideas regarding collage/montage and the nature of photographic representation.

‘Since the 1970s, the celebrated artist John Stezaker (b. 1949) has created distinctive collages using found photographs and illustrated ephemera, particularly mid twentieth-century film stills, press and publicity portraits. His minimal, but impactful interventions in these works – cutting out, slicing and splicing images – create uncanny and psychologically charged results, which challenge our ways of seeing and interpreting images’ (National Portrait Gallery, 2019)

This Session could be run in conjunction with:

John Stezaker (2007) Pair IV

Aims & Outcomes:

  • For participants to explore the construction / confusion of meaning in photographic representation.
  • For participants to consider scale, composition and juxtapositions in the construction of dual collage portraits.
  • For participants to conduct in depth research on the work of John Stezaker and apply these ideas to thier practice.
  • Participant Outcome: 3 (edited) final 6×4 digital prints

Research: the work of John Stezaker:

‘Montage is about producing something seamless and legible, whereas collage is about interrupting the seam and making something illegible’ (Stezaker in O’Hagan 2014)

You will Need:

  • An introductory brief & Presentation (below) for participants to outline the ideas and provide examples
  • A booked room to critique participants work (either via a projector or via print)
  • Blue tack to pin the work
  • Costings and Risk Assessments
  • *If you are running this as a physical / craft session you will need: A selection of magazines, Glue, Scissors, A photocopier
  • *If you are running this as a digital session you will need: digital cameras for all participants (and appropriate memory cards) This session can also be run using Camera phones or Lumix cameras, Card readers, Access to the Internet, Photoshop and computers (or laptops)
  • If you are running this in conjunction with a Portait / Studio session you will need: Portraits of all participants, A booked studio, Access to the Internet, Photoshop and computers (or laptops).

Preparation work:

    • Ask participants to read John Stezaker in conversation with Sophie Cristello (2015) in The Seen available here
    • Ask participants to independently research John Stezaker’s practice and watch the video John Stezaker In Conversation (2011) for the Picture This Exhibition at Laurent Delaye Gallery available here
    • Ask participants if they have thier own digital cameras and cards
    • Make sure you have collected magazines / have access to computers
    • Make sure there are enough team members to support participants (never assume thier prior knowledge)
    • Decide whether you will project the work or print it.
    • If you are printing it (6×4) make sure the Photo Lab are aware and be aware of timekeeping so they have space to print the work.
    • *If you are running this session off campus, make sure there is access to printers or projectors

suggested session outline:

Part 1: splitting image / dual portraits

Presentation ideas: the Neutral Portrait

part 2: splitting image / the photographed and the found

Presentation ideas: The constructed collage