Personal Project: Girlhood

Personal Project: Girlhood

I have continued with this project although over the summer months did very little other then let it settle in my mind. For one thing I felt a bit lost with it and wasn’t sure where or if it was going in the direction I wanted it to. I felt due to that, it would be best to leave it be, concentrate on other things and come back to it when I was ready. I had already put a date in the dairy for the end of August and was in two minds about it, but went ahead and was very pleased to have done so. It seems to me that this project is as much about learning a ‘process’ as it is about anything else. I have some fresh energy now and hopefully will be able to schedule in some more shoots in the coming weeks.

I talked about the project yesterday at the monthly TV meeting and thought I’d settled on a particular trope to concentrate on for the next few weeks, direct eye contact; and whilst I think it will be important to ensure I capture that in the coming shoots, I will also play around with other options since I came across a few images this evening when looking at the most recent shoot that I’d not have taken if I’d stuck religiously to that. So, as fellow student John Umney keeps reminding me – remain open and keep experimenting. I think I need to follow John’s advice as well as stick doggedly to my primary objective too, if that is at all possible. So what I’ve learned is that my process is a hive of contradictions. Which is fine too.

As suggested by Jayne Taylor yesterday I have made a provisional edit with what I’ve got so far and I have to say it is speaking to me, as it were. It’s been a really helpful thing to do.

Obviously I still don’t know what the project will ultimately be called although my eldest son who was peering over my shoulder for a moment this evening, said aaah, yes, referring to my work with a faux Swiss accent as, “The Growing up with a Vagina”.  He really does make me laugh a lot.

I think it was Fiona Yaron Field, who has been very helpful with some advice, who suggested I stopped thinking about what informs the work from my history and just get on with making it and I think perhaps taking the break has helped me to do just that. I look forward to seeing what I think about these images in a few month’s time.

Added later so I know where this is.

Images (c)SJField 2016

When I look at this it either feels horribly contrived or possibly spot on. Looking back at some of the earlier shots I am much clearer in my mind about which images work for me and which don’t, and I know that will be the same with these… but I shall have to wait and see. Editing – hard! And you receive so much conflicting advice about it. Everyone does it differently though and that is the point. As one person said to me, you are constantly editing and that to me feels the most accurate in relation to my own way of working. I am constantly returning to the images and looking through them again and dismissing things I’ve thought were right then finding myself returning to them again etc.
For me the simplicity of this is what I think I’m after often. I really like the head-on, nothing-overly-fussy thing about it, and many times it’s what I’m trying to do -pare things down as much as possible (although I’ve seen far more pared down work too, of course). This fits in with some of the earlier shots I’ve taken. But it’s very different from the one above. So I’m not sure how it will fit, if at all. As someone said yesterday, it feels like I have several projects within one project at the moment, and that is how it feels to me too. But that is part of the issue of working on something I suppose -finding a cohesive something. As an actor I would strive to venture down as many paths as possible during the rehearsal. It was only once we started pulling the production together that I would aim to settle on fixed points around which one could play and I suppose that is the same thing to aim for here. (and is happening)

Personal Work: Girlhood project

Personal Work: Girlhood project

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

Personal project: Research Romantic Love and & Anthropology

Is romantic love a modern Western concept? Is there only lust and then after that either a mutual deepening friendship, healthy dependency between two separate selves, a two-way sense of respect at one end of the spectrum and something altogether the opposite at the other end? I read the following paper about a year ago and it has stayed with me ever since and informs some of what I’m doing with the Girlhood project.  I suspect to read the entire paper (it’s not long) you will need to be joined up to  Here is a screen shot of the introduction,a paper by Charles Lindholm, 2006.  Perhaps I should email him with my project.  Incidentally, if anyone has old copies of Danielle Steel books I can cut up it would be great to receive them, or Princess Daisy; do you remember that one?  I shall dig through my mind and think of others I read at that time and am on the hunt for them – if anyone sees them in second hand book shops please let me know.

“sexuality and femininity – constructed as …” ? Mary Kelly

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Personal Work: Girlhood

Personal Work: Girlhood

I have mentioned this project briefly here previously, and in relation to the support  received from the members of the TV group I attended last month.  It is one of two concrete ideas I am working on at the moment (there are a couple of others but they have taken a back seat for now).  In many ways the project surrounding Girlhood is prompted by much that I have absorbed through UVC studies so far -how we are shaped by the pictures we see around us, how those pictures help to create a reality which is often dictated by commercial and consumerist forces, which in turn are motivated by more basic human phenomena such as sexuality, and all that entails – male/female dynamics, reproduction, attraction.  At the moment when people ask me what this is work is about I can say it’s about 2 things that I know of, (although I won’t really know what I am exploring or discovering here until I can look back on it retrospectively.) It is ostensibly a look at the development of young girls as they go on their childhood journey towards womanhood, how society has an influence on that, how that influence manifests itself, how those manifestations become internalised, and then expressed in gesture.  Of course, the project is also, as I have mentioned deeply autobiographical too.

A few weeks ago I remembered diaries that I kept from the ages of about 11/12 to 15.  I thought it was interesting to see that I had cut images out of magazines and pasted them into my diaries, effectively borrowing from Dubord’s spectacle and making a women’s magazine of my own, populated with my own words, which looked back at me and told me who I should be.  Words included, which of course, as Barthes’ tells us are the ‘ultimate readymades’ – so who was really the author of those words I used?  My diaries are hilarious to begin with but become progressively more upsetting.  I had been reading Danielle Steele a lot to begin with, a book called Remembrance, was the first one I along with the whole school became obsessed with.  The romantic dramas in those stories informed my idea of romance.  At that age, I absorbed ideas about love and relationships that came directly from that genre.  I also absorbed the very well documented, but still problematic, view that women should ideally look a certain way.  I cut our and pasted pictures of women looking skinny, supposedly sexually ‘attractive’ and pasted them in my dairies.  (In fact I remember  – maybe when I was 19 or so  – seeing women who were older and didn’t conform to the youthful ideal we are sold, and thinking that is a much richer, more attractive state than the anorexics in the magazines we are meant aspire towards).  As well as those I have letters from my father.  Our relationship was skewed by several factors and some of the things he says to me in those letters do not make for comfortable reading.

I am wondering if or how to include the diaries in the project.  I have had ideas about making a book now that looks like the diaries.  I could also photograph some of the words. Or I could simply include some of the words alongside pictures.  I think I will continue to be influenced by UVC course work and suspect the semiotic section next will have some important things for me.  I am nearly done with the initial draft of A2 and hope to have it submitted on time so can begin to get on with the next section, and see how A3 helps to shape my project and the images I am taking for it.

I have in the meantime added to my collection of shots to consider and subtracted ones I no longer feel fit, although I am aware I will have to go back and relook at everything eventually.  I recognise a changing style which may or may not be problematic.  There is more energy in later images, even in the static ones.  I continue to feel a little overwhelmed by the project but all I can do for now is keep shooting, adding images and thinking about it, and making the most of fellow student/photographers’ feedback.  I might also try and shoot some pages from my dairies but I’m not sure about it yet – try it, I guess, and see.

And I wanted to add that I looked at a paper last year about the anthropology of love in different cultures and will need to dig that out and post it here shortly as that certainly informs some of this work.  – added later;

Images (c)SJField 2016


TV Meeting 16/4/16 & Studio Time 22/4/16

TV Meeting 16/4/16 & Studio Time 22/4/16


On Saturday I went to the first TV meeting I have been able to attend in ages which was really useful.  Great to see how others’ work is developing and growing, especially work I’ve watched develop over the weeks and months.

I presented some work I am doing which has been inspired in part by the things I’m learning in UVC, especially about how structures inform our thoughts and shape our existence in subtle and not so subtle ways.

I had shown this work to two fellow students previously, or rather the beginnings of it.  And it was quite nerve-wracking showing it and talking about it to a group of people this time.  Comments I found particularly helpful:

Various recommendations of work to look at from people

I hope I have got everyone there and apologies if I’ve confused names about who told me to look at what (Do let me know!)

I have also been sent an essay title by Jayne – “Throwing lIke A Girl” by Iris Marion Young. I have downloaded the essay and will need to wait a week or two before ordering the book as I’m trying hard not to just keep ordering willy nilly – but this one (like all the others) looks like something I really need/want. (You should see my pile of unread books to attend to!)

We discussed the different levels of the work – autobiographical nature as well as social commentary  and Jayne very helpfully identified three strands within the work so far which gives me something to work with since I was feeling a little overwhelmed and engulfed by the project.  Talking about it and receiving feedback was really useful.


This morning we went to a studio in Wokingham as I was offered some promotional time there by Roger Goodwin.  Although I am working on the above project and the pub thing I’ve mention here before, I had no specific project that I would need to look at in a studio.  So I asked some fellow students if they’d like to join me and arranged to have a  slightly longer time there – for which we were all grateful.  Roger, the owner/manager welcomed five of us, Richard B, Holly, Dawn, Catherine and myself.  We all had a good introduction and play with the equipment, which was great.

I was a bit finicky when organising, which I felt a bit bad about, but I felt strongly that it should be as relaxed a possible, so wanted to avoid having people other than us lot there – i.e. no models unless we were working on a specific project that required one/them.  I also thought it was best to have some ideas to work with, as I felt to simply turn up and hope for the best was probably not ideal. I think I may have sensed some discomfort about having to model ourselves which I understand but I was happy to do so (my acting background makes me less uncomfortable than others might be, and in fact I rather enjoy it) but I also think it’s important to be ok in front of a camera when working with/helping each other out at this point in our studies.  There is something about being in front of the camera which seems to be an important part of the process for us as we study.  It can uncomfortable, but it’s also OK and good to know that.

I am really quite interested in capturing motion right now and have so far included some suspended motion shots in my unedited collection of images of the work mentioned above.  Having begun my studies with a very blurry set of images, I am now trying to freeze the action in some photographs and really enjoy the amazing expressions and magical, transformative moments that are possible.  Suspended motion in particular is full of possibilities.  So when it was my turn I asked Richard to photograph me jumping. I found the exercise really useful and was made aware of all the things I would need to consider if taking this forward as part of my current project or as a separate one that might grow out of it – as a further development.

I will add links to the other student’s work on this page as and when it becomes available.  It was great to work together for a morning and definitely worth doing again soon.

Here are a few shots from this morning.  Huge thanks to Roger Goodwin at – a fantastic space with acess to wonderful equipment.

Thank you to Richard B for taking the shots

Holly’s post 

Catherine’s post

Dawn’s post



(c)SJField 2016