For this assignment I will write a 1500 word account of a work placement that I completed with professional photographer/artist Althea Wilson. I will summarise my experience and briefly comment on how the role of professional photographer relates to the visual arts industry. I will also complete a short interview with her to get a more detailed insight into her working practice.
Interview with Althea Wilson –
K: Why did you become an artist and why did you switch from painting to photography?
A: I have been painting all my life and its all I ever wanted to do. I started seriously and had classes when I was eleven. Basically I switched to photography because I had a storage problem. I had 150 massive canvases and I realised I couldn’t store all this stuff. I felt like my stuff had gone out of fashion and I decided to reinvent myself. As an artist you do it all the time. I had been photographing crop circles for ten years and went from there. I started using a cardboard camera that I bought at the chemist for a fiver, I then progress to digital.
K: How would you describe your day as an artist?
A: It normally depends on the light. Often I start at seven in the morning and continue until half past ten, then I take a break and walk the dog. On my walk I pick up stuff like stones and flowers for my still life set. I then continue shooting through the afternoon and upload he images onto my laptop in the evening. I then do the days processing before I go to bed so everything is done in one day. The next day I can then look at finished files.
K: How much time to you spend on research?
A: I can spend up to a year. When looking for the crackle finish I was frustrated because the liquids were too thick and it made the Perspex too opaque. Sometimes it can be quicker. Things can take a long time to prepare, for example waiting for sheets of metal to rust. If it takes longer, it takes longer.
K: How would you describe your style?
A: I think of it more as painting but with a camera, its quite painterly. I’m not interested in having everything in sharp focus. I’m constantly changing what I’m doing. At the moment I’m working with in collaboration a ceramicist. Painterly still-life’s is the best way of describing my work.
K: Do you have any influences?
A: I’m well aware of other photographers. But I don’t actually copy them, I’m quite capable of inventing my own stuff. I’m just doing what I want to do. I do look at other things on line, I’m not totally insular. I know in the past everything. I love Caravaggio but I’m not trying to imitate his lighting. I’m using natural light with no reflectors. I don’t use anything its just as it is.
K: What motivates you?
A: I love doing it, its a challenge. For instance one day I was in Chiswick and a load of turf was dumped in a skip so I took it home and did some surreal photographs of that recreating an abandoned house. I’m very into nature. I picked some mushrooms and put them in the grass. Nature plays a big part in my work.
K: How important do you think the camera is to your work?
A: I have a Canon 5D Mark three DLSR. I was going to get a Hasselblad then thought why am I doing this. I’m not a highly technical person, but I really push the camera. I photograph in virtual darkness sometimes. I have always done that with paint and ceramics as well. I always push things a little bit further. I’m really happy with my camera at the moment. I don’t want to think about the technical and instead put my energy into the result. I do minimal Photoshopping otherwise you destroy the quality of the file. I shoot Raw for the best quality.
K: Can you describe your digital workflow?
A: Yes I upload everything first. I bracket so I go from minus three to plus three. Because what you see on the back of the camera is different to what you see on the screen. I set the aperture to 2.8, 5.6, 9 and 16. I very rarely use the middle two. I choose my favourites and convert them to TIFF then JPG.I use the jpgs for Instagram and stuff. I then dump all the other Raws I don’t use. I only keep the RAW, Tiff and Jpg of my favourites.
K: How do you promote yourself and your work?
A: I don’t really do a lot, its just really me time at the moment. I do get books made on Photobox sometimes not that it does a lot for you. I do Instagram and I have about two thousand followers. I don’t put stuff up everyday because its so much work with resizing images. I had one exhibition and I’m not sure if I will delay my next one because of the situation.
K: Do you have an ultimate goal when making a body of work?
A: I’m trying to get a Thames and Hudson book because I know them. But I’m just doing what I want to do. Now its me time. I’m going to go for the associate at the Royal Photographic Society. I need fifteen A3 photos and have to do a write up.
K: How do you see photography changing in the future?
A: I don’t know, people are doing really amazing stuff. Their is a man called Red Rabbit. His photographs are amazing and weird. Look him up on YouTube. He has a got a gallery promoting him now. His photographs are amazing and mad. He makes his own cameras, unfortunately I’m not that technical. He has amazing effects. As far as I can see people have been doing it, Miroslav Tichy is great, in his pictures there is nothing in focus and all of pictures are all really nice. I analysed his work. His makes his own cameras but I don’t know the technical stuff. I like that sort of dreamy layered look, almost abstracted impressionist painting. The work I’m doing now is virtually abstract. Things always change but I don’t want to do it on Photoshop. I prefer to do it in camera. You can polish a uv filter with ash and toothpaste to make it more misty.
K: Do you think working as an artist is more difficult now in the digital era?
A: I think its always been difficult, I have always had to diversify. I have managed to keep myself as an artist but I had to paint murals in restaurants, and worked for interior designers. I found painting huge murals challenging because their idea would be crap but I would make it look good. it was quite good fun. All those people were starving: Caravaggio, Raphael, and off their trolleys. Van Gogh was always penniless. They were either penniless or their families were wealthy and were kept by them. Orthey worked for the church and painted religious things.
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