More bird-like imagery produced for The Kick-About #54 by photographing a quickly-made cardboard maquette on various long exposures, with the cardboard ‘thing of feathers’ being launched through the air via the ‘ping’ of a length of elastic. What pleasure there is in taking such mundane constituents, and from them producing moments of metamorphosis and beauty.
A further set of photographs produced in response to The Kick-About #54, which saw me photographing a cardboard bird-form maquette on various long exposures, which I sent whirling about the rooms of my house on a length of taut, white elastic. There is a Turner-esque quality to some of these images and a pleasure too in de-materialising an otherwise solid thing into wisps and brushwork.
This photograph, taken back in the high summer of 2013, represents that high-risk moment when I carried my camera out into the sea with me as I bobbed about. It was one of those silvery, milky days, great light, slight haze, and the water suitably warm(ish).
In response to the bird-based ‘whirligig’ prompt of The Kick-About #54, I set myself the ambition of photographing the movement of a flapping bird in the confines of my house, in the knowledge that a) I didn’t have a bird and b) birds are difficult to manage as the subject of a photographic shoot! For sometime now, I’ve been rather preoccupied with the transformative effects of long exposure photography, so taking some of this experience forward, I built a cardboard ‘bird shape’ from packing boxes (imagine a confection of wing-shapes slotted together in a vague cruciform construction), sprayed it white and blue, then tied it onto a length of white elastic. What followed was largely comical, as said ‘bird-shape’ was made to swing from one side of the room to the other, or ping through the air like something launched from a catapult. That said, the combination of time, light and movement is nothing if not transforming, and very soon I understood I did indeed have the semblance of a ‘thing with feathers’ – and perhaps a little more than this in some of the most successful images. More to follow.
Developing some ideas first inspired by a previous bird-based Kick-About, I set about thinking about how I might release a bird into the rooms of my home and photograph it by which to respond to The Kick-About #54. Actually, I set about constructing a cardboard, bird-shaped whirligig that I could suspend along a length of white elastic, which I then sent twanging around the low-ceilings of our tiny seaside home and photographing on longish-exposures.
From humble ad-hoc origins (I spray-painted the cardboard bird-thing with cans of old car paint from the shed, and using our landfill wheelie bin as a spray booth…), I was able to produce some surprisingly transformative photographs. Some of them even left me thinking, ‘It’s an actual bloody bird!’. I did four different shoots over four different days – an hour-a-piece – and tried a few different things each time, with the resulting photographs moving quickly towards more impressionistic effects, and I’ll be sharing more images over the coming days.
Our last Kick-About together invited us into the spectacle of Toulouse-Lautrec’s circus paintings, and so to spin around for a bit in the company of clowns and acrobats. Thanks to Kick-Abouter, Gary Thorne, we appear to be turning in circles again this week, and departing on other flights of fancy…
“Having swam my way through sciatica, it seemed appropriate to channel that commitment into a Whirligig self-portrait. It is not quite pivoting smoothly on turning into the wind – so more engineering fun ahead yet, it was massive fun to make. Apology for the amateur film making!”
“I found myself with a bit of time for a 50 second whirligig video, made of junk I had, but not having touched Premiere or After Effects for years – and playing in Garage Band too… It was fun. Thank you very much! “
“I had no illusions I could construct an actual whirligig. But I figured I could do something that moved, with birds. As usual, not much like my original vague idea. And I had a very hard time finding a place to hang it where there wouldn’t be too much stuff in the background for a photo. As a result, the photos aren’t great, but they do give an idea of how it looks in motion. And now that it’s fan weather, it’s in motion much of the time.“
“Rowland Emett was a cartoonist and sculptor of automata. He created things that are whimsical, English and eccentric and which serve the purpose to raise a smile and be enjoyed (Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway Festival of Britain 1951). To me, his work is like a cross between early steampunk and Festival of Britain surrealism. I also wanted a theme to work around, and an illustration of the cross section of the (art nouveau/steampunk) Nautilus in a 1950’s Disney children’s book provided the theme. The first idea was to imagine a whirligig (generally a wind driven automata) for Captain Nemo’s garden. Unfortunately, he never made land and I am no mechanical engineer, but I did put one together and rough-tested it with white card model. However, a lot of time was spent in the processing and considering its movement, and I felt the fantasy and whimsical Emmet elements were getting a little lost, so in the late and last hour, to refresh, I returned to doodling and to the train idea. Times up and I have a beginning and some initial responses. It’s been another great Kick-About and provided a lot of material to mine….. plenty more left in this Kick-About to chase.“
“Developing some ideas first inspired by a previous bird-based Kick-About, I set about thinking about how I might release a bird into the rooms of my home and photograph it. Actually, I set about constructing a cardboard, bird-shaped whirligig that I could suspend along a length of white elastic, which I then sent twanging around the low-ceilings of our tiny seaside home and photographing on longish-exposures. From humble ad-hoc origins (I spray-painted the cardboard bird-thing with cans of old car paint from the shed, using our landfill wheelie bin as an impromptu spray booth…), I was able to produce some surprisingly transformative photographs. Some of them even left me thinking, ‘It’s an actual bloody bird!’. I did four different shoots over four different days – an hour-a-piece – and tried a few different things each time, with the resulting photographs moving quickly towards more impressionistic effects.”
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter (and cocoon-botherer), Graeme Daly, a new prompt and another complete shift. Looking forward to seeing you getting into your neo-expressionist stride! Enjoy.
Back in late December 2014, my husband took me to New York for the occasion of my 40th birthday. We had a really wonderful time and I’ve recently rediscovered a whole bunch of photographs from that trip, so you can expect a few more over the coming weeks and months. I really liked this image for its cinematic quality, though we didn’t eat at Fanelli’s Cafe that day, and I rather wish we had.
A blast of improbable pink against an improbably blue Spring sky from back in 2013.
You can thank Tod Browning’s notorious 1932 film, Freaks, for what follows, which is certainly one of the most vivid circus-centric narratives I know. The important thing about Browning’s unfairly maligned movie is where the director puts our sympathies – we are never in any doubt – and likewise the age-old question it asks as to the difference between men and ‘monsters’. I’m not going to say much more about the short story that follows, except to say it was written for The Kick-About No.53, and inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting of a clown performing with his black pig, and also this: The Greatest Showman it is not.
You can find a PDF version here
The last edition of The Kick-About marked our second birthday and two year’s of fortnightly creative challenges encouraging artists of all stripes to make new work in a short time. As such, it was something of a three-ringed circus, an eclectic, celebratory showcase with a little bit of something for everyone. How appropriate then our first prompt of the new Kick-About year should focus our attention on the circus paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec. ‘Roll up, roll up!’
“I was instantly drawn to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s line drawings that he produced much earlier in his career, and felt perhaps there was a way to capture the immediacy, simplicity and instinctiveness of those sketches with the modern digital tools I typically use. Channelling the spirit of an earlier Kick-About, Herzog’s Dancing Chicken, which also evoked manic movement and energy, I just applied the same techniques but attempted to reduce it down even more. I think there is an entire series to be made of these at some point!”
“I was about eight (late fifties) when, on a Saturday afternoon, the treat was a trip to the circus that had arrived in town. It was traditional in every way, clowns, band, ringmaster, plumed horses and glamorous riders, acrobats, contortionist, flying trapeze, performing chimps, lions and tamers, tigers and camels. My great Uncle Arthur was a forward agent for circuses, and I believe he supplied some free tickets. By that time, he had taken over a zoo and kept chimps and a lion called Sultan, amongst others animals. The zoo, and an accompanying Archery Stall, was in Ramsgate on the far end of the sea front, and at the time, part of the complex of amusements known as ‘Merrie England’ (later ‘Pleasurama’). I doubt if it was that merrie or pleasurable for the animals. Welfare and safety concerns were soon to radically change the idea of circus and zoos. For me, this Kick-About is about nostalgia, and the memory of Merrie England, the circus and zoo, and great Uncle Arthur…”
“Toulouse: What a great prompt. We don’t see a lot of his work down here but his use of colour certainly has burnt into my mind. I was a bit short of time, though I think I got the essence of what I was after – would benefit from actually being painted. I saw a man dangling from ropes cleaning an old brick building with a high pressure water hose – bit like an acrobat – with an audience at the stop lights. I was thinking of the figure with the ropes pressing around him and experimented with photographing a pillow tied up with string – not wanting to throw the images out, I put them in the background building’s windows (who knows what goes on in the buildings we walk past every day!) I kind of turned the image from day to night and took the photos to use as spotlights behind the dangling man. Anyway fodder for a later project perhaps.”
“A circus immediately brings to mind clowns, a disguise that has always seemed a bit creepy to me. But it also reminded me of a book of photos taken by Matthew Rolston of some of the ventriloquist dummies in the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. Haunting and aware, I’ve always wanted to try to capture some of the sentience of the photos in a drawing. And so I did, randomly opening the book to four different faces. One of the essays in the book says they are meant “to suggest life”, but any supposedly “inanimate” object so entwined with a human life is alive. Any child can tell you that. They may have been separated from their humans, but these faces remember them. Here’s a link to Roston’s photos.”
“Initially, I had the idea of loading up an old battered and broken blue iPhone that I didn’t expect to turn on, from which to rip some photographs from a circus I attended with friends, the circus standing tall on the iconic Rochester hill where I went to uni. Amazingly, the phone turned on with its red battery charging symbol loading through the cracked pixelated screen. The joy on my face when I held the tiny phone in my comically large hands… However in my many attempts to get all those photos off this ancient iPhone, technology somehow fucked me over and devastatingly wiped every single photo from the phone, including all the photos I wanted to use for this week’s prompt!
I ended up sitting and sulking on the idea for a while and contemplated coming up with something completely different, but stubbornly I didn’t want to, and I did have a handful of those very photos from that iPhone stored on my laptop that I never deleted. So instead of being a moody little shit, I decided to try and make something from them by duplicating the original photos and using previous creations and random photos laid on top to attempt to create some new compositions exploring the light, energy and disorientating weirdness of a circus. I guess with the recent anniversary of the Kick-About, in some ways it can seem poetic to use a bunch of outpourings from previous Kick-Abouts to create something completely new.”
“You can thank Tod Browning’s notorious 1932 film, Freaks, for what follows, ladies and gents, which is certainly one of the most vivid circus-centric narratives I know. The important thing about Browning’s unfairly maligned movie is where the director puts our sympathies – we are never in any doubt – and likewise the age-old question it asks as to the difference between men and ‘monsters’. I’m not going to say much more about the short story that follows, except to say it was inspired first and foremost by Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting of a clown performing with his black pig, and also this: The Greatest Showman it is not…”
You can find a PDF version here
With many thanks to Kick-Abouter and painter, Gary Thorne, we have our latest prompt. I can’t wait to see where this one takes us all! Have fun.