I am stumbling around in the darkness at the moment.
- The Nomadic Community Gardens has closed completely and forever which means I need to make a fundamental shift in my approach to my BoW. This is not all bad, I was having niggling doubts about the rather tedious and shallow path I was going down and had not felt very enthused about some of the suggestions from my tutor about possible approaches. But this is a firmly shut gate on ever making any more photos inside the NCG. What I have is what I’ve got. End of.
- My first CS assignment did not set the world on fire for me or my CS tutor. The follow-up tutorial is on Friday and I feel no closer to defining a topic to begin my literature review research than I did a year ago. Everything looks interesting but nothing is a clear winner yet.
- I am already halfway through the time I can take for this part of my studies and am only 30% through the assignments. That doesn’t sound terrible until I am reminded that 20% of that work was diagnostic only, doesn’t count for anything and was basically the equivalent of that part of the workday where you make a cup of coffee, check the emails that came in overnight and ask your colleagues if they have seen The Two Popes yet.
- It is clear that one of my original ideas – of creating a portrait of a place – has kept this too broad and too big. There is so much material, so many characters to feature, so many aspects to how different parts of the local community and other Londoners and tourists engaged with the Gardens. Plenty for me to share with the community as an archive, and to show if I manage to get an exhibition at Rich Mix or somewhere else local, but way too much for a cohesive Body of Work submission.
- I don’t want my BoW to be photo-essay style documentary.
How I am feeling…
- Overwhelmed, when I think about how far I need to go and the challenge of creating what really should be the best work I have ever made.
- Discouraged, when I think about the time I have spent so far and I am still a million miles away from where I want to be (artists’ million miles obviously being different from human miles).
- Obsessed, when I think about how best to move forward, which is all the bloody time.
- Bereft, when I think about what we have lost with the Gardens closing and how much I miss the friends we made there and the creative charge I’d get from visiting.
- Regretful, when I let myself dwell on the missed opportunities and wrong turnings I have taken.
- Paralysed, when I try to make headway.
What am I going to do?
Um… do stuff? I need to make work, read, look at art, steal things – although only things that speak directly to my soul , print pictures, hold them, talk to people, move around.
One thing I really need to do is to stop resenting my day job. Indulging the negative feelings caused by the idea of being pulled in two entirely opposing directions is not helping anything.
Austin Kleon  makes some good points about this, reminding me of Bill Cunningham’s advice, “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.” I considered becoming a professional photographer in the past and am sure I could make it pay with a portfolio of jobs – some conference work here, a product shoot there, a heap of portraiture, the occasional wedding. I researched it. I planned it. I started to move in the direction. But luckily I understood in time that it is not what I want to do. I am absolutely sure. So we are where we are. Let’s focus on the positives.
“A day job puts you in the path of other human beings. Learn from them, steal from them.”
“Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time.”
“Figure out what time you can carve out, what time you can steal, and stick to your routine. Do the work every day, no matter what.”
“What you’ll probably find is that the corollary to Parkinson’s Law is usually true: Work gets done in the time available.”
“A lot of times it will feel as if you’re living a double life. The poet Philip Larkin said the best thing to do is ‘try to be utterly schizoid about it all – using each personality as a refuge from the other.”
“The trick is to find a day job that pays decently, doesn’t make you want to vomit, and leaves you with enough energy to make things in your spare time.”
I have worked hard to get over my tendency to wish my life away from Monday to Friday, desperate for the freedom of the weekend. It was a depressing mental state of affairs. Now I force myself to say, “Yay! It is only Tuesday, I have 24 glorious hours more ahead of me. Make the most of every moment.” It is bullshit most of the time but I have definitely noticed a more positive mental attitude overall. So now I need to reposition my day job. It is my choice (sort of). The job supports a lifestyle which means we can travel and do most of the things we’d like. And I should embrace the limitations imposed by my situation and channel the constraints creatively.
Sophie Calle talks about how her work Prenez soin de vous helped her to avoid dealing with emotion after being dumped by a lover. ‘I stopped suffering the minute I got the project…It’s not anymore about a man leaving me, it’s a project about a man who leaves a woman… The problem is not me anymore, the problems are artistic problems, how to show it, how to say it.” 
My CS topic – this should tie in with my BoW (but realistically how much?) and the two should – ideally – feed into each other. I would really like my academic research to overlap with my visual research. BUT I haven’t figured out what direction to go with my BoW. That will take time to consider and and do the work and then get a steer from Wendy. And I don’t have any time to waste on CS – already a good month behind where I was hoping to be.
Talking with my TSB, Rob reminded me of a couple of things I had lost sight of. Our tutors urge us to think about what we want to “say” and I often feel like I don’t have anything to say that would be worth foisting onto other people. Rob made the great point that a lot of art is about questioning. I don’t have to have a fully-formed grand statement to make but should instead focus on my concerns and interests and things that are personal to me. Maybe I should concentrate more on what I want people to feel? I actually find it astonishing that for someone as opinionated as I used to think I was, I have so little to say through art. Maybe photography just isn’t my medium. Maybe I am just an illustrator at heart and I should be drawing pretty pictures of magical worlds and fantastical creatures.
Or maybe I should master Photoshop once and for all and see where that takes me? I cannot currently unlock many of my ideas as my technical skills are insufficient. That is just plain stupid.
But it is always about priorities and how best to use the very limited time I have available. This means I need clarity: to identify my objectives and create a roadmap.
- I have to process all the remaining photos from the last few days at the NCG. I realise now I have been afraid to look at what I have, as I suspect there are very many fails (lack of light) and there is a finality that I am not read confront yet. But I do need to know exactly what raw material I have to help make decisions about my forward strategy.
- I need to spend a lot of quality time drilling down into my themes and concerns and be very clear on where to focus; what are the keywords coming up when I think about my work?
- I should develop a shortlist of currently favoured strategies for developing my BoW and just start working through it, step by step.
- Kleon, A. (2012). Steal like an artist : 10 things nobody told you about being creative. New York: Workman Publishing Company.
- https://www.ft.com/content/098e7b26-31a9-11ea-a329-0bcf87a328f2 (accessed 18.1.20)