At the beginning of my Final Major Project I had a detailed vision as to what kind of images I wanted to produce, and now at the end of this module I can finally say that I have achieved what I had set out to do. The first big challenge of this project was switching from digital to film, I had used film extensively in the first year, but I needed to do a couple of practice shoots first to get myself used to the mamiya, and decide which type of film I wanted to use. I’d say that working with film also allowed me to slow down the whole process, everything was considered and checked as I couldn’t afford to make a mistake, it also felt a lot more intimate than working digitally, you couldn’t waste frames, so you spoke to the subject and directed them more than you would normally shooting digitally. I also had to work with available light, so it wasn’t just a case of directing the model into the best position to showcase the venues, but finding the best light which would highlight her and the venue to compliment one-another.
I feel that my first two shoots were a success, but didn’t necessarily portray what I wanted to say about my subject, I think I only really achieved this by the last shoot, this is why the majority of my final set of images are from that particular venue. Initially I was only going to use the images of the burlesque performers, but after I presented my images to the mentors, they explained that the audience played an important role in this act, so it would be vital to include them in my final images. I had taken quit a few images of the audience, but because it was so dark at the shows, and you couldn’t use flash photography, they came out either very dark or too grainy. This was my reasoning to only use one image from the audience, mainly because it fits in best with the others aesthetically, and I think it is also one of the most thought-provoking.
This project has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone, not only shooting film, but also documenting burlesque in a more gritty and realistic way. The majority of my images prior to this project were of burlesque performers in the studio, they were nice images, but too romantic for what I was trying to present. I have positive feelings towards burlesque, I like what it stands for, and I have witnessed the good that it can do, but this is something that I had explored before, so this project, for me was about documenting burlesque and the symbiotic relationship between performer and audience. Burlesque is portrayed in the media as glamorous and glitzy, but when you look closer and especially at some of the up-and-coming shows, some of the audience members aren’t glitzy and glamorous, far from it actually. This is something that I felt had not been explored before photographically, so it felt like something new and exciting for me as an artist, which I am planning to carry on after University.
I think that in terms of research, I have explored relevant texts and practitioners, people such as Lisa Kererszi and Sarah Schorr, who have influenced me, not only with subject matter, but their style of photography too. Texts such as Voyeurism and Exhibitionism by Maous Artiste which have changed my perception on ‘the spectator’ and how the audience are perceived. Finally my mentor Tom Hunter, who has given me a great amount of advice on my project; he’s not only helped with the final selection, but also my presenting methods, and where the best places for printing/mounting are etc. He has been a most helpful and inspiring contact, and I hope we stay in touch.
This has been a stressful, enjoyable, exciting and tiring project, but I have learnt so many things along the way, not just technically, but mentally too, after three years I finally have the confidence in my work to be able to show it to others and be proud of it. If I could go back and change anything I would have possibly looked further into presenting my images with alternative processes such as a medium format slide project, but unfortunately it was way out of my budget, but this is something I’m definitely going to consider in the future. Overall it has been a great experience creating my own brief and working to my own deadlines, and I feel this has helped show me what my own self motivated projects will be like when I finish my degree.