After a grand amount of artist research, research into phototherapy as well as mental illnesses, I have followed my first main studio shoot with a number of additional shoots. However, they were not the most successful, which made my work ship into a bit of a different direction. I have decided to create more documentary style piece of work, still keeping the mental health in mind. To do that, I have done some further research and artist analysis.
RICHARD BILLINGHAM – RAY’S LAUGH
Richard Billingham’s ‘Ray’s Laugh’ orientates around his father and his family’s everyday life. The photographs were never created for the purpose of publishing therefore Billingham did not proceed to create images of high quality, adequate presentation or conceptual meaning.
The project exposes Billingham’s family, their relationships, habits and problems, focusing on his alcoholic father. Ray.
The first photograph is of Ray and Richard’s brother. It is a snap of an everyday situation in his family. The two subjects are sat on the sofa. The photograph does not focus on any purpose, it was simply taken, ‘capturing the moment’. Ray is drinking out of the bottle of lemon water (?), however, the viewer can quickly assume that the liquid inside of the bottle is not water and can possibly be an alcoholic beverage (which does not necessarily must be the case). Richard’s brother is playing around with the tennis ball. The angle creates a perspective where the ball hits Ray, which is most likely not the occasion at all.
The second photograph is a darker one, not only based on the lighting and aesthetics, but the focus of the image itself. Its subject is Ray, lying down on the bed with an empty facial expression. It can only be assumed that the subject is drunk or in despair for a drink or, possibly, the opposite – the image can be representation of Ray’s realisation of what a dark place he is in and despair for help, to get him out of that dark place. This photograph may seem to have a very deep, important message, but can also be just another snapshot of the artist’s father.
The third photograph is, yet again, focusing on Ray. The image is a straight, slightly angled, portraiture. The image is of artist’s father looking up into the camera with a tired, irritated face. The reason for the facial expression can only be assumed. The possibilities are infinite. It could be irritation of Richard and the constant presence of the camera, or tiredness caused by the abusive relationship Ray has with the alcohol and himself, or the facial expression can be caused by a situation that occurred that caused the artist to capture this moment, or simply Ray’s tired. Nevertheless, based on the focus of the project, one assumes that this snapshot is a window into Ray’s life and troubles, allowing the viewer to see the real subject and possibly pity him.
The last photograph is of Richard Billingham’s parents hugging and laughing which, based strictly on the story told by the series, was a rare view for the artist. The photograph showcases a real, happy moment of two people that love and care for each other. It is a nice change for the viewer to see Ray smiling, without a drunken irritation on his face.
Overall, the project focuses on the everyday life in Billingham’s house and showcases the ‘real’ rather than the staged family snapshots seen in family albums. It emphasizes the real problems and brings to attention that life is not always full of happiness and sunshine.
TRISH MORISSEY – SEVEN YEARS
Morissey’s work is highly performative. The ‘Seven Years’ project focuses on recreating memories and past experiences. The title of the project hints at the age gap between the artist and her sister who is one of the main subjects (next to Trish herself) of the series. The images revolve around the two sisters, their relationship and the, always visible in family snapshots, tension between relatives. The photographs recreate the found pictures from Morissey’s family album, mocking the idea of creating the ‘happy memories’ by, often staged, family snaps.
The first image is of the artist and her sister, standing side by side, posing in front of the camera. The outfits emphasize the age difference between the two and the facial expression point at the childhood memories. The artist’s expression suggests that she was annoyed that she was forced to pose with her sister and would more likely prefer to be playing rather than ‘capturing the family outing’. Her sister, older in age, seems happy to be able to stand with her sister in front of the camera. The photograph itself, possibly reminds many of the viewers of their own personal experiences as the subject of the family’s disposable camera snapshots.
The next photograph is staged in more details as the previous one. The first image was a recreation of the same shot of the same people. In this photograph, it can be seen that, very likely, the two subjects are posing as males rather than the sisters themselves. It is possible that the staging was done to mock the family album in general or possibly to showcase the difference between the two genders and how different the relationship between the two sisters would be if they were brothers.
The last photograph was staged to look like a ‘behind the scenes’ shot. The artist is posing in front of the camera, but not the camera we are assigned to look at her by, but the camera her sister is holding in front of her. This photograph is a recreation of, not necessarily a particular moment and time, but very likely of a certain activity that occurred in the sister’s childhood. Many of the viewers would probably remember ‘playing in’ runaway, photoshoot and dressings. However, based on the title of the image (and the previous images) it is probable that all the photographs are, indeed, pure recreations of the exact moments in time that were once captured in a form of family snapshot and put inside a family album for later melancholy.
Overall, the project focuses on the family snapshots and recreating the moments that are meant to be happy and memorable, with a hint of humour and a reminder that the staging is not only in the recreation, but in the original ‘family snapshots’ themselves, emphasizing the very thin line between realism and surrealism.
HANS EIJKELBOOM – WITH MY FAMILY
‘With My Family’,1973;
Eijkelboom’s work is a performative work of role play. The ‘With My Family’ project is a humorous project that focuses on a performance, the everyday and irony of a family album. For this particular project, the artist contacted a number of housewives when their husbands were at work, and photographed himself with the women and their kids, as if he was the head of the family, as if he was creating a family portrait of his own family. The series raises an interesting issue of the roles in the family and gender differences that were much more emphasized in 70s-80s.
The project was presented as a series of family album – like portraits, with a different family on each photograph. Looking at the images, it looks like the people are quite natural with each other and the awkwardness is caused by the camera. If one saw only a single photograph from the series, without knowing a background story, it could be assumed that it was just another family portrait and there is nothing strange or unordinary about it. This proves the irony of the family album and how easily it can be manipulated and turned into something it is not.
This project creates the ideology that anyone can act in front of the camera and, in fact, all photographs can be, and are, performances created for the eye of the camera and what we see as a final outcome, is not necessarily the reality.