Photography

The red girls by ellie berry

 
 
 

This land felt cold, and never ending. It was worked for a purpose, and this was built just for passing. It was fen and fey and wild. It was wet. 

I heard the story of the red girls the second evening of the walk; they lived out here in the bog. We would pass their stretch of land soon, and we'd know we were there when the canal rose up above the wetlands,  showing the dismal greys and rich deep browns of the ground swallowing the horizons.
They had all lived together, these red girls, out in this empty place. They were called so for their burning bright hair. I was told they used to do their washing in the waterway, or just walk here, waiting for passers. The made others' journeys pass quicker, with wit and charm and chat as they wandered the banks. 

As we walked these long, open sections in a constant rain I thought of them, in such a monotonous and lonely place. My clothes were slowly being soaked through, drops rolling down the sides of my hood, falling off the ends of my sleeves. Yet after a while my lips dried out. The air tasted of damp acid. I thought of the red girls, and I daydreamed of leaving this banal place, of colour, of dance, of dried lips, and then of lipstick. I imagined colouring in this unchanged landscape, mixing it's textures and masking them with others. 

 
ellieberrytheredgirls
ellieberrytheredgirls

 

 

Fractured landscapes by ellie berry

 

There are many things I think about when walking - as I've said before, thinking is inescapable. In the past, I think a lot of my work has dealt with ideas of home ... and that was definitely a topic that I was focused on when we started. Finding a sense of place, but maybe more accurately, a sense of belonging. In stead of attacking all the images I've made so far, melding them all into one colossal project, I've started picking at threads, and working through some looser ideas.

 

Here's one piece I'm still working on, with the current title of fractured landscapes 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

90 days later - the connection project by ellie berry

 

This number game started a few months ago.

I'd moved back to Dublin after fracturing my foot while walking 4,000km around Ireland, and was delaying finding another part time job as, well I couldn't really walk for starters, but I also kind of just wanted to "try being an artist" for a while. With almost no money, and limited mobility I was struggling to leave my room and feel creative. Any creative sparks I did encounter I would quickly blow out in my hasty rush to catch them, my flailing, snatching hands overwhelming these fleeting moments and ultimately extinguishing them. 
The walking project wasn't finished, and after many physio sessions we set a date to return to life on the road. I made a wall calendar to count down the days, and counted them out.

90 days. 
Such a satisfying round number. What could I try to do for 90 days? 

The year before I'd put out an open call for people to send me words, the theory being that I would send them an image in return. Final year college plans changed, and I just put this project in a folder on a hard drive and mostly forgot about it (it's only purpose to make me feel guilty every so often for never getting back to it). 

If I just started making images and posting them somewhere, no one else would know what I was working toward, or was possibly going to happen in 90 days. I went through the images that I'd started making for the project in the beginning and picked out the ones I liked. It was enough to give me some time to shoot some more images - I'd decided to shoot film, just because I enjoyed it. 
The "somewhere" to post was also pretty easy for me to decide;  I'd created a second instagram account for my "Photography", so that I could use my regular one for just posting videos of me messing around in the climbing gym. In reality I'd just ended up with two out of sync accounts, so decided I might as well put one of them to use! 

I received 40-odd words for original project so I knew that I'd be posting a mix of old, new, related and random. I found it really enjoyable to slowly wade through old hard drives and find stuff I'd shot previously while at the same time make new photographs - I got to see some developments/shifts. In the end it took me over the 90 days to publish all the photos, but they're now all out there on that instagram account, if you're interested in the full 90.
One of the only struggles I had with this project was remembering that this was just to be fun, and not to worry about there being any deeper meaning. I am allowed to create work for fun, and when I do it gives me the breather to look at bigger topics with fresh eyes. But now I'm meandering, so let's get to a point. 

Below are the 40+ images that were responses to words sent to me. This small project is called Connection. 

 

 

"YOU SEND ME A WORD, AND I SEND YOU A PHOTOGRAPH"

"You send me a word, and I send you a photograph"

This project originally started two years ago when I put out a request for people to send me words, and in return I would send them an image. The project had to be put aside for a while, and I never managed to get back to it. 
I then recently had an unexpected few months living in Dublin, and I looked for a playful way to reengage with photography. Finding the old list of words, I went wandering. 

 

 

 

 

Holes by ellie berry

Farm Security Administration photo archive:
Untitled photo, possibly related to nearby photo captioned: Tobacco lands after the Connecticut River had subsided near Hatfield, Massachusetts. Photographed in 1936.

"Holes Punched Through History"

The Atlantic Article
"In 1935, Roy Stryker became the head of the Information Division of the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA), documenting work done by the government to help poor farmers and their families during the Great Depression... In the early years, Stryker himself reviewed and edited photographs mailed in by FSA photographers, and would often “kill” a photo he disapproved of (remove it from consideration for publishing) by punching a hole right through the negative. The photographers were unhappy with this destructive hole-punch method, and frequently let Stryker know, but he didn’t stop until about 1939."

This evening I was flicking past Twitter when The Atlantic's short article appeared. With barely any more text than what I've quoted above, the altered negatives were left to speak for themselves. It's clear these holes are not made at random, but attack supposedly specific parts of each image - sometimes the face; sometimes central; sometimes without logic, but aesthetically placed. 

Below are some of the images featured in The Atlantic Article, followed by more that I then found myself through the Library of Congress. 

Most of the punched negatives are "untitled", but reference other negatives within their description - such as the two below:

In my reading of the images, the hole goes from offering some comedic moments, to taking on a whole persona. 
I've a lot more I want to say on these images, but that will take time of me searching for the right way to say it. So for now I'm going to share these images with you, because they are too intriguing not to. 

Let me know what you think. 

On a side note,

When I was younger I used to read a lot - possibly too much. For one excuse or the other, the amount of reading I was doing pretty much dried up to nothing. To throw myself back in the deep end, I'm going to read a book a week. Last week's book was Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. This weeks book is Wanderlust: A history of walking by Rebecca Solnit. If you have any recommendations, pass them on! 

Life after college: the big decisions? by ellie berry

Above is a photo I made during my final year of college. I borrowed a camera from the stores so I could try my hand at some medium sized navel-gazing. It had been a long time since I had shot in that format, and wound on that kind of film - which as you can see, I didn't get quite right. So I ended up with a couple of oddly (and one that turned out to be unusable) exposed rolls. 

Looking at those rolls, and 35mm that I've shot since then, it's clear to me that I've been wandering without a purpose for quite a while. 

But I didn't start writing this entry with the aim of discussing the possible listlessness of recent work. That's only happened because I decided to use this image as the header or introduction to this piece.

I've come to ... I've forgotten. 

I've developed an interesting problem. Since finishing college I have lost my attention span. I spend hours flicking from one social media to the other, reloading and rescrolling through the same feeds. Ask me to read a real body of text, that isn't some horrible clickbait infested mess and I cannot concentrate. Two sentences in and my mind has stopped focusing on the text - instead I have music lyrics, book plots, random celebrity gossip, and trash shouting over my inner monologue reading voice. 

I currently have four different journal drafts simply because I get half way through writing something and my mind moves on, not willing to work through that awkward sentence I need to phrase. 

Having now admitted and assessed my problem, it is time to start working. Over the last few weeks of December, I am going to start re-writing my thesis "The Poetics and Politics of Imagery: National Geographic's misrepresentation of non-Western countries through Instagram." And! Actually, I would love to finish reading Edward Said's Orientalism. But the two of these go hand in hand. 

And now for an image to break up my words. I've typed more than planned. Apologies if I have shown this image before - it is from the same roll as the photograph above. 

I think it is time to finally get around to the title of this piece, "Life after college: the big decisions?". I graduated with a first class honours 24 days ago. This was as far as I had planned in my life. Up until now, it's been easy. I've followed the general path I've been planning since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. No one warned me how scary it would be reaching the end of it. Lots of parts of me want to run away to somewhere beautiful (New Zealand has been the fixation for about a year, but really anywhere far away qualifies) and kind of postpone or completely cancel this idea of making "big decisions". 

"Are you going to do a Masters?"
"Where are you working now?"
"What's the life plan?"
"How's the boyfriend? You've been going out a long time now."

I have been asked these questions a lot. My unfocused mind mentioned above has also been using these questions to distract me from actually living, and so I feel like I've been bombarded with this since the summer. Change feels like it is definitely needed, but committing to something has become difficult. 

Do these "big decisions" even exist, or is it just me asking myself these questions while I figure out what is actually supposed to happen? Eh. Life, aye? 

Recent Inspiration by ellie berry

"One Christmas Luke asked for a drill. I think that’s where this starts.
He got it too and a decade later he was making an ad up North and he saw a forest and he thought there should be something hidden in that forest. A library, maybe. A bothy, this turned into, like the Scots have, shelters you’d be glad of if you were caught out in the wild. A bothy but for artists not the groundsmen ....
George Mallory might have been the first man to climb Everest. We don’t know but he might have before he died on the mountain. “Because it’s there” is what makes us different from chimps. Now our bothies are done and tenner bets you won’t get to all of them. Going to find one of them is more important than all the reading and looking you can do here.
Get out of the gallery. Art’s not just soft hands."

4 Bothies is a project I came across a little while ago. It is the exact combination of the outdoors and the arts that has me extremely excited, motivated, and inspired each time I read it. 

It is the kind of inspiration that really clicks at the moment. I think I may have been a little apprehensive finishing college this summer - afraid that it would all come to nothing. So I kept my part time job - but decided to also take part in two exhibitions, volunteer for the PhotoIreland Photofestival, and do a CELT course.  

Now that the summer is over and I have sufficiently worn myself out to the point of wanting daily naps, I think I might take some time to decide what happens next. 

"The Library" - Four Bothies

Slightly linked to this idea of the outdoors and space is a blog I read about the most remote place in Ireland. 

I found out about the 4 bothies project from the Irish Times Article from 2013 about the "60 most creative people in Ireland right now". While it's definitely no longer 2013, and I've barely waded through the list, I keep popping back to find another new name to look up. It's nice to read about artists that are where you're from.  

Next up - the best, easy to follow Web Design in 4 Minutes that I've ever seen - and it even looks like it would only take 4 minutes! Beautiful websites for everyone! 

And finally, work by one of my friends from college, Cale Perrin. Technically this is a slightly adapted variation of her work that we used for the poster of a group show we did. It was printed as a blue risograph print and turned out so beautiful. I also really love the combination of photography and sculpture.  Her work, along with many others, has me thinking more about what happens with the image after it is printed.