p.24 Dawoud Bey and Katie Bywater


Open Mind

Step 1: Tweeted summary of task.

Step 2: 
Visual Portrait of Artist.

Dawoud Bey photographed Harlem, New York in 1975 particularly focusing on the human subject, predominantly the African American community. Bey had a personal relationship with Harlem, his mother and father met there, it was the place of the Harlem Renaissance, and where black intellectuals and artists came together which began to reshape African-American culture. To create this visual portrait I have edited an image of him into a Polaroid – one of the forms he adopted in his career. I have placed his Polaroids around the image of him to portray the concept that his photographic work, and the African-American community frame who he is.

Step 3: Image in the style of Artist

He photographed Harlem to say something about the men women and children of the community to create a visual narrative that would stand alongside, or in opposition to, the more pathological ways in which the Black urban community has been represented. He was looking to identify and make photographs of those pieces of Harlem at that moment in time. To photograph in the style of Bey I have taken a portrait in black and white, the most common form he used, and documented this beautician had finished her day at work. This image explores the narrative of shops that exist everywhere in England.

Step 4: Completed Task.


Step 5: Critical Rationale.

As the task instructed me to go to a place with no preconceived ideas of what images I might make, I decided to ask a friend to drive me somewhere without telling me where we were going. I gave her no suggestions of places she could take me; therefore I had no possible way to plan the images I could create. This felt unusual for me, as I like to know what themes I’ll be working with.

I ended up in the edge lands between Knowle and Hampton in Arden. Using a film camera prevented me from looking back at images I had already began taking. This pushed me to react and improvise to the space around me, thus creating images almost instantaneously without planning. As I was not offered much chance to digest the location, I figured the concept would arise once I had my film images developed.

Once my images were developed I began to see a narrative from what I was photographing. It was clear the subject I was focusing on was a derelict area surrounded by nature. I was pleasantly surprised to realise that the task set by Dawoud Bey, which indicated that it would enable me to ‘make my images more interesting and meaningful to me’, was actually fulfilled. As I love photographing natural landscapes, I was subconsciously reacting to this predisposed interest in the natural environment. My images make a point that nature can always beautify an abandoned place that was once dominated my humans. I was reminded of Jonny Bark’s work Inhabiting Edgelands (2017) where he immerses himself in edge lands by camping to learn what these spaces mean to the people who surround them.

This taught me that bodies of work can be found in the most unlikely of places, and they are only worth exploring if there is meaning in the subject.

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