I continue to work on this project, always being influenced by the work I’m seeing, either directly connected to UVC or elsewhere.

I think I am documenting two things:

  • internal semi-conscious and unconscious object relations in particular with reference to self-femininity (and all that entails) and male Other
  • subjective view of external social place of women as young girls, structures that shape them (us), relationships with Others (male and female), expressed through gestures, expressions, projected interpretations

I am trying to work out what feeds into the work & what should be in the work (I know I won’t know that for a while)

Different threads

  • Portraits of girls up to the age of 16 (the age I left SA and came to the UK, and left my girlhood behind)
  • My diaries written between 1983-1987.  There are only 4 of them and I think there must be another one somewhere – I think I stopped and started quite a lot.  I thought it had begun as a school project where my first diary quickly became very private and I no longer handed it in to my teacher, but I now I’m not sure – I have not reread them for years and years, I’m not sure I can face it. But I have dipped in and out.  They are to a greater or lesser extent filled with magazine pictures of women either alone, in groups or embracing men, plus some of Princess Diana – who my father once suggested I should try to be more like.  There are also headlines from magazines.
  • I have also kept letters from my father, mother, a Great Aunt and friends –  and the thing I picked up from reading all of them is longing.  The first set of letters is from a boy who kept asking me why I didn’t write.  He must have been lonely.  He was 13 or so, a pen pal who I liked writing to but found overwhelming once I met him.  The letters from my parents in the earlier diaries were written to me because I was sent to boarding school when they got divorced and my father who travelled a lot received custody of us. Later I was taken out of boarding school (my brother was not) because I  wasn’t happy there.  But then my father left SA and my brother and I went to live with my mother in a situation that was less than ideal.  The letters from my father are very sad.  And difficult.  There is one from me which I decided not to send because I dind’t want to burden him. Some of the sentiments in the letters from my father are unhelpful.  He longs to see his children again.  And I talk about longing to see him  a lot in the diaries.
  • Memories – fragments of, famously unreliable things.  But augmented by photographs.  Below is a small collection of documents/images from each strand.


I was not sure about simply copying and placing pages from my diary in their entirety and instead think it’s more interesting to look at fragments – not sure…will keep working on this aspect as I think it is important (or maybe not!) – whether anything from these documents end up in any final work or not.

Above are letters from my father which I have included as fragments.  I am thinking about whether to do something physical to them and then to photograph that.  The words are important but I don’t wish to display them in full – I don’t think.

The cropped photo is of a well known person kissing me in 1974 – he has since been convicted of some not very nice crimes, and is currently serving time in prison.  He taught me to swim when my father worked with him.  I was not harmed by him in anyway, I hasten to add. But my association with people who display disordered and troubled behaviour started young. Later my first ‘grown-up’ boyfriend used to yell at me for letting the towel touch the bathroom floor, carried me kicking and screaming back to his flat when I tried to leave, refused to let me break up with him, and followed me when I finally did, sitting in his car, watching me as I caught the bus to work. I think this aspect of my history is important to this work I’m doing.

These are images that I am considering from a selection. “I am interested in gestures and actions, expressions of an internalised narrative handed to girls by media, society, and environment.”  – students interested in seeing other images and commenting (which I’m always very grateful for) please get in touch so I can send you a link.  Thanks.

Images and words (c)SJField 2016


17 thoughts on “Personal Work: Girlhood project

  1. I’m pleased to see how this is building up so thoughtfully and those fragments seem a good idea – hinting at stories yet leaving them open to interpretation.You don’t look too happy to be held by that unknown well-know person. I remember I posted something on Facebook some time ago about the way that adults hug children without seeking permission, treating them as objects. You in the larger image – looking very precocious – and I’m wondering how you learned that gaze. A lot of material there and such a wide field to explore.


  2. I like the way you haven’t limited yourself to anything specific yet – in terms of a line of investigation – it will allow you to keep making work and seeng where it leads. Lots of potential and a lot which overlaps with my work. I’m finding it very interesting.


      1. I’m thinking performance/manipulation, perhaps veering towards performance. Also something about a learned response, perhaps uncanny?


      1. Interestingly I’m just revisiting my Ass 2 and remembering how I got drawn into my fictitious “Paul” and so kept a diary to keep track of myself and also listened to different songs when I was being him, myself, and a reader of his blog so that I could hang on to my own sense of self. It worked quite well thank goodness.


      2. Well, you strike me as someone with a relatively robust sense of self. It would probably become more difficult when people have a flimsy and wavering ‘self’. When I was acting I began to feel myself go properly bonkers at times and that is probably one of the reasons I had to leave it behind.


  3. I forgot to mention. Spencer Rowell is a member of the Uncertain States collaborative group. he was earlier known for a famous Athena photograph of a father and child. Now he is a psychotherapist as well as a photographer and studied for a PhD on mirroring in childhood and links with self-portrait photography. His website for this is at http://www.spencerrowell.co.uk/index.php


  4. My browser is uncooperative today and didn’t let me to sent the comment correctly.
    I like all your pictures but the last one is really striking. The simple grey background helps to concentrate on the girl and her activity. I played the same game when I was little. In my opinion, the message (girlhood) is not only clear but also international. Cropping is interesting, too, and it adds something unusual or uneasy. On the one hand, I can see in you photographs innocence, carefreeness, serenity, on the other, anxiety, concern, uncertainty.
    All the best!


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