I am incredibly pleased to have some of the work I’ve done in Calais chosen for an exhibition at Bank Street Arts. And grateful to all the people who’ve been encouraging and supportive and helpful – by suggesting submitting the work in the first place to making decisions about what to show and how to show it.

I have chosen one image for print and will, I think, have a slide-show of further images alongside. There are several reasons for choosing to do things this way but one of the main ones is time, or rather lack of it, and cost at this point. Prior to submitting I had not thought about how I would show the images but suddenly when it became a reality I had to answer all these questions about how to, which I’d not even considered previously. This has been a really important learning process – not that I should have thought about it earlier, because I think it is right that I didn’t. But that you need to carefully consider what is communicated with each and every little detail.

In the past I have put pictures up in local coffee shops and restaurants, and I have been aiming to publicise myself a bit and also sell some prints. Frames and paper are sort of obvious – you could choose to  get all artsy in a coffee shop but you’d have to accept if you started pinning fragile bits of paper up all over the place, for example, they might be tugged by a 4 year old, bashed by a busy serving-person or have ketchup inadvertantly chucked at them. Plus people just want to buy pictures that look like pictures, which they recognise and understand as ‘PICTURE’ in that setting.

This time, choosing how to print and frame, or not, has been less obvious and required lots more thought. The learning has also cost me a small fortune as I make mistakes and then come to subsequent decisions about reprinting etc.  The irony of being in a position to be able to rectify those mistakes while I’m working on a project that is essentially a story about people who have very little agency, are perhaps not afforded the chance to rectify mistakes, and live on the barest minimum has not passed me by. (Calais Kitchens who supply food have cut the budget for a single meal from over £2 to £1 due to a combination of increased numbers and donor fatigue)

From an art point of view this has been an important process and one that I hope will ultimately help me in the future with this project if I ever have an opportunity to exhibit more images, as well as any other projects I work on.

For this single image I have in the end printed on Hahnemühle German Etching, and it will be block mounted on di-bond with a sub frame (a frame that sits behind the image rather than surrounds it, which means the print will be 20 mm away from the wall but you can’t see the frame).

My reasons for choosing this combination is  –

  • When I saw the print mounted traditionally it felt completely wrong (I nearly cried! Although the person who did it did a great job – it just wasn’t right for various reasons)
  • I had thought about a tray frame as it encloses the image, and makes it sturdy too which I felt the story warranted, but when I saw an example of that type of frame in reality, I thought no, that’s just ‘trendy’ and so not right at all
  • A frame and traditional mount creates a boundary – a border, and that seemed wrong for this. Borders, not only the sort that demarcate pictures which hang on walls, but also the sort that demarcate people are an important element in this image (borders, labels, categories are the things that so much of the tensions in the UK and elsewhere are currently about – there is a conflicting tension in the ether – To Demarcate or Not To Demarcate (gender, countries, actual words – see new IOS texting ability,  you can just send a feeling if you prefer)
  • If I were to do more images from this series I would think carefully about the material used for the subframe and have had further thoughts too about where/how images would be positioned but more of that another time….
  • I’m happy with the paper  – it works well with the image quality, which was shot at very high ISO and wide as it was quite dark by the time I took it. The roughness of the paper combines well with those aspects and is true to the contents within the image too
  • The sort of paper and lack of glazing mean the final object will be fragile and could be easily damaged – it requires a good deal of care, which I think is right  – not that I want to perpetuate a western narrative of us lot swooping in to help unfortunate non-westerners (who in reality are perhaps far more resilient than many – not sure how long I’d cope living in the Jungle), but rather the message should be that the global situation for humanity is currently fragile and requires care, patience and delicate negotiation

I feel I should have used some ‘semiotic’ words in the above but I will need to think about that a bit more and perhaps come back to it later.

Image (c) SJField 2016 (not the one I’ve printed, incidentally)



8 thoughts on “Calais project

  1. That’s really exciting for you. Well done and congratulations again! The thinking behind the image presentation is well considered and I’m really hoping to be able to see it in situ.


  2. Congratulations again on having work chosen for the Exhibition Sarah-Jane.
    Thanks as well for sharing your thought processes around presentation, which is, in itself, a metaphor for the care you’ve taken with the people and the project.


  3. Well done and very exciting for you. I also very much appreciate you sharing your thoughts on how to present them. It’s really important when you feel strongly about the work as you obviously do in this case. Well done again.


  4. HI SJ – rather late but busy catching up on emails etc. Wonderful that you are invited to display your images. I was thinking of you this morning while watching the news and the removal of migrants from the Calais camp. Your write up on rationale for how to display is informative and well thought through. Well done – look forward to an update on the 6th.


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