Collaboration Review

I was a little perturbed by the idea of a collaborative project. I have not had a very good success rate with collaborations in the past. They tended to be fraught with argument, tussles over leadership and ego tantrums. That’s not to say I haven’t had some very productive one-on-one collaborations with models where we managed to get some very good results that pleased us both immensely but I guess I do prefer to have complete creative control and am rather possessive and controlling over my work.
It was also rather daunting to be working with two people I have never spoken to; to be doing this with such a short time-frame (effectively less than a week); with one of us on a different time-zone and all of us holding down full-time jobs at the same time.
Initially it did not look too promising either as none of us could get together at the same time to Skype for a decent brain-storm of ideas. I don’t know what Josie & Mandisa were thinking of in the way to go with ‘collaboration’, but I was looking at the work of John Dugdale (probably inspired by Josie’s love of Cyanotype). I do love the ethereal quality of Dugdale’s work and was thinking along the line of three of us shooting a self-portrait to merge together in the manner of a multiple exposure shot and possible printing it in cyanotype or maybe just giving a similar look via editing in Photoshop. Josie was the first to post anything into the forum during which she mentioned the idea of each of us submitting an image which another from the 3 would edit in their own way then combining the three in a triptych. I found the idea of a triptych appealing with it’s religious iconoclasty and visuals of altar pieces which made me think of possible going down the Gilbert & George route with the editing. I created a shared album & uploaded three shots which to me represented my text of “A Place For Broken Things” – both Josie & Mandisa were unsure where the quote was from & what the words meant, but the words were mine & I was hoping they might convert them to fit what they meant to them. Once I saw what Mandisa & Josie had put forward for us all to work on I was stumped. I really did not know where to go creatively in order to tie the three images together to create some kind of dialogue between them. While reviewing some of my old work for a different matter I came across a shot that I had edited with alternate bands being flipped to create a fractured effect. Taking mine & Mandisa’s image I overlaid them then deleted alternate bands to create a melded image which you puzzle to work out which parts belong to which image. I took mirror images of this to stand either side of Josie’s shot which I edited by flipping alternate bands to give the fractured look. The central point of Josie’s image was a fly so my triptych as a whole put me in mind of a flies vision which is (apparently) fractured so it appears to be looking through multiple hexagons. The analogy to me representing the fractured sight of a fly as well as the feeling of being fractured when you may be suffering with mental health issues & appear to be multiple things to multiple people while losing your true self along the way. All in all I was quite pleased with the final result as the image seemed to have evolved into a completely different entity which I had not imagined when I first took them all to combine.
I did not know how Mandisa & Josie would combine the results.
Mandisa created a very glossy stylised triptych with rich blues that made me initially think of a magazine advertisement – until you looked closer to see the gas-mask from my shot & the fly on the flower from Josie’s shot combined with Mandisa’s model hiding her face with a splash of water. This then intrigues and brings together a different narrative where you question the combination of elements and try to create a link between the three. The gas-mask connoting poison and the fly denoting dirt & decay, while the clear fresh water feels cleansing and hopeful.
I think I was most surprised by Josie’s rendition, but also by my reaction to it compared to Josie & Mandisa; both of whom see optimism and hope in the image. Josie using the yellow of the flower to represent sun, warmth, growth & light as a fight over the chaotic figures blurred into the background a metaphor for triumph over adversity. Whereas to me it has a distinctly sinister feel with the fly as dominant subject bringing disease, death & decay to the naked body and soul. Probably a metaphor for our differing outlooks on life.
As an experience in itself I must say I thoroughly enjoyed working with Josie & Mandisa and was astounded by the breadth of creativity that could be produced in such a short time and I am left with the inspiring feeling that sometimes the final outcome can be even greater and more profound that it’s constituent parts.


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