Extending myself: A journey with Matilda

Matilda and Jarvis, 1996

This semester I return to university and find myself being extended. Extension Studies. Preferred option? Creative use of the Camera in Developing a Personal Approach to Visuality. Ten weeks to find some way of getting the visuals in my head on to photographic paper. Ten weeks to conceive of a journey, to record without the simplicity of recording. To say more than here you are, this is is a record of a journey. To capture thoughts of something, somehow.

And so with the brief ‘You are to respond to the theme of how photography can create and convey a sense of a journey; external, internal, metamorphic or constructed through the photographic image’ I got thinking. I became realistic, rejecting trips to Dungeness, documenting drag queens de-frocked or representing the transformation a certain dear soul of mine makes when he hits the disco tiles. I started thinking closer to home. I focused on the journeys made by those around me and the lives they lead. I stumbled upon Matilda.

Matilda is the second child of our dearest Clare and Pete. She was yearned for. The consumption of Folic Acid fuelled breakfast cereals was rife. The day of arrival long wanted. And then she came, the second child so calmly received after the chaos and bewilderment of their first born. I called to check how the overdue mother was and was greeted by the words “oh I had her this morning, she’s here home with me now’. We visited pretty soon after to find a child in a wicker basket on the floor of a two up two down, silent and content as she lay amongst the noise and action only a three year old wonder boy could produce. We gave her Jarvis, a long eared stuffed dog who soon ended up in a vat of boiling carrots (that’s another tale) and from then on in this buddle of calm smiling joy became part of our life. And each and every year, like her elder brother, she surprises and impresses us. There was the odd tantrum, the occasional “make me do that and I’ll kill you in your sleep” stare but the woman she is becoming is one I’m constantly thrilled to know.

Inspired by Matilda’s blog What A Shenanigan and the beauty she finds in the things around her I thought I’d try and represent that journey. The journey all teenagers take as they embrace the world around them and find their own feet, their own way of being who they are. Matilda the giggling girl, the chatterbox, the photographer, the needlemaker, the blogger, the student, the performer. The teenager who has always engaged with me no matter how raging the hormones and how “unfair” the world was. The teenager I can’t wait to carry on watching as she moves further into the world. I want to explore the way teenagers record their thoughts in the 21st century now hardback paper diaries are no more and privacy is protected with passwords and blocks rather than padlock and key. How does a young person who no longer has to wait two weeks for 36 Kodak prints to be delivered engage with the visual? Are they saturated in image overload or is the ability to edit there?

Postcard Back No.1

I’ll take photographs of the things in Matilda’s life that she loves, that are part of her, that make her who she is and what she may be. I’ll reproduce them in postcard form, carrying on the fascination with the format I developed last year whilst working on Egglestone, Brandt and landscape; and photograph Matilda in various locations sitting with the postcards. Each postcard will be addressed to the person or persons she attributes meaning to the object photographed too and we’ll see where her journey takes us. The items will be her choice, the messages written her own whilst the photographic concept and the technical leaps needed to make this a reality will (hopefully) be mine. And the journey taken as the memories, influences and loves are explored will be ours.

It’s an idea. I’m kind of good at ideas. Here’s to making it click.