Click on the following link to see my Review of Ahmeds work
As I look deeper into the lives of everyday people, in particular the close members of my family, I begin to discover things I had never noticed about them, or better put, had never acknowledged fully. Lately, I have been learning more about my mother and what her everyday life involves. Prior to recent times, she had been unemployed due to several operations she had had on her arm that had failed to re-correct a frozen shoulder. As a younger woman she had worked as a nanny and I could tell after numerous conversations on the topic, that she would refer to those days as some of her best.
My mum had always said that all she wanted in life was to be a mother and although, she would sometimes struggle in telling me and my brother she loved us, she would always remind us that she would ‘do anything for us’. I think there are many mothers out there, probably almost all of them, that would say this about their children. I couldn’t help but think that when my mum said this she really did mean anything. A few years back, like so many other women, my mum suffered from a miscarriage which I truly believe scarred her in irreversible ways. Since I moved out to go to university, my brother has been the only child left in the house and my mothers defence mechanism for him has led to countless issues in her marriage. Yet still, although, both me and my brother are adults, she still would always choose us. Loss has forced my mother to look for comfort and love from a different source. Most of us are familiar with ‘crazy cat ladies’, i’m not saying she is one but she now has many cats.
After years of not working, my mother has now been working as a School Crossing Patroller or ‘lollypop lady’ for the last 14 months. Inserting myself back into the life of my family, made me learn a lot more about who they were as people. As I observed my mother, I started to realise why she would hardly ever stay inside the house. It always puzzled me why she would always go out of her way to please others. Foremost, she was a people person but ultimately, her passion was children and I began to notice that all of her friends, who she visits regularly (everyday), all had young children. When she wasn’t at work looking after children, she was around her friends who had children and if she wasn’t doing any of these two things, she would be at home fussing the cats or having the repeated argument about my brothers current circumstances.
I think my mother has always tried to ignore the bad things that have happened in her life, partly, I believe the house held many of these memories. I think she can see beauty and innocence in young children, but more importantly, hope. She is always trying to improve the lives of children, in hope that they will grow up and be happy. A happiness that she didn’t fully have through her childhood, a happiness that I often wonder if she will ever have.
Different people, follow different paths and have different passions in life. My mother’s passion, from my point of view, is children. When watching her do her duty as a lollypop lady, I saw that she was content, if not happy because she was able to protect the lives of our next generation. Her job isn’t brilliantly paid as she doesn’t receive many hours of work, for obvious reasons, however, her job is a very worthy one. As the government continue to cut School Crossing Patroller jobs, we continue to lose the contribution from brilliant workers who are keeping your children safe. Some of them are not well qualified, such as my mother, and would therefore struggle finding another job working with children. Realising the characteristics of my mum and her passion towards her job has made me want to congratulate her and many others. As they continue to fight to keep their job, proving that is it a valued job within a community, I realise that they wouldn’t be doing the job unless they loved it.
As I started a new module at university, I began to start thinking about the direction my work would take in the future. I looked back on my previous work and the topics I had touched upon. I asked myself how my work all began and what lead me to take a political take on my work. When reflecting upon my practice, I realised that ultimately my work had been influenced drastically by my transition between living at home in Leicester to moving away from my family to a much larger city (Birmingham). I had always been fond of Leicester but since moving to Birmingham, it has become even more likable. My lifestyle has changed so much over the past 2 years, Birmingham has made me want to engage with politics and become more conscious of my surroundings and my actions in everyday life. I have always tried to better myself as a person, from deciding to continue in education to becoming a more eco-friendly consumer. This need to become a better person, I realised was at the heart of my work. My upbringing was filled with love but I have always been different from the rest of my family, I have always wanted to do more with my life and ultimately to live a happy life – away from money worries and a repeated schedule.
After discussion with my tutor, I was encouraged to look at the work of Richard Billingham. Based in the West Midlands and brought up on a council estate, Richard Billingham used education as his way out. His mother Liz is an obese smoker and his father, the centre of his photographic series ‘Rays a Laugh’, is a alcoholic. Though my mother and father are not smokers or alcoholics, I found similarities between Richard Billingham’s story and my own. Billingham’s work is real – he explains that he never intended the photographs to be as popular as they are today, he was simply taking photographs of his life, of the environment he knew. The images are homely, they show the everyday occurrences of his family’s life. They also capture characteristics of his parents beautifully, but also show a tragic side of their being. A online lecture by Billingham revealed that though his mother and father argued, and Liz left Ray on a few occasions, they both needed each other. Richard would always take photographs of his family, this shows in the images as they are not conscious of their photograph being taken, showing a true depiction of how they live their life.
I have been so inspired by the truth of the series, but also by the contrast between Richard Billingham’s and his parents life. Similarly to myself, he had used education to move away from the council estate to pursue his interest in art. The series made me realise how interesting individuals are and that I have always been interested in people. Richard Billingham’s work was ultimately what made me study my own and my family’s life. Before hand, I had dismissed my past, trying to move on with my life. Below is a wonderful image of Liz, shown in a floral dress with her tattoo’s on show and a box of cigarettes, putting together a puzzle. This image stood out for me as it shows who she is as a person, it is not depicting her relationship to Ray, it’s a image of her and who she is as a individual.
In my research, I have also looked at activist artists such as Sue Coe who has revolved her life and her art around animal rights. She is a English artist, based in America. Her work is incredible and she is an amazing voice for all those rooting for animal rights, she is a inspirational woman. If you have time, I recommend you to watch this talk by her: http://vimeo.com/53189773. Another monumental artist and philosopher in my research was Roland Barthes. In his book, Camera Lucida, he talks about the ‘studium’ of a image – what the artist has intended to depict, and the ‘punctum’ – the other element in the image that tells you more about the subject, a arguably ‘truer’ element. Barthes talks about The Winter Garden photograph of his mother. His mother had passed away, this had deeply affected him. He speaks about the struggle of finding a image of his mother that was true to her being. He says that this image of his mother, was the only image which showed her true self. Her expression, was how he remembered her. After reading Camera Lucida, I understood why the image of Liz appealed to me so much.
In my portrait images, I am trying to show the true identity of my subjects, through their expression, their surroundings and their gesture . In all of my latest images, myself and my family have been the subject. Whilst aspiring to a better life, I am trying to look at my past and my family to understand, and come to terms with who I am and who I want to be. The photographs also reference the private image being made public. My image below captures the bed of my brother, Ryan. Though I was aware of artists such as Tracey Emin and Felix Gonzalez-Torres who too, have used beds in their work, I did not directly reference them when taking this image. However, I am interested in private moments and how they are perceived in a public environment.
A series of images depicting the life of my brother Ryan. The images reflect on the differences between our current lifestyles though being brought up similarly and only being a year apart in age. The images also touch upon unemployment amongst young people, how they live their life and spend their time.
To see this images and other images of mine, follow this link : //www.flickr.com/photos/107448245@N06/sets/