Title: Childhood Memories
Exercise: Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Approach the task in any way you wish but consider carefully the memory you choose and how it will be represented.
I approached this exercise by simply scanning some of the things around me and seeing if anything sparked any particular memories. I also looked at some family albums and it was this that elicited the ‘Bear’ and thoughts of my Mum and my Nan. After various attempts to capture something, possibly incorporating the old photographs, I decided on a more straightforward still life type representation. I had chosen not to include myself in the photograph partly because I was already thinking about the self-portraiture assignment and I wanted to keep that separate from this exercise.
I also used the exercise to try my first attempt at creating a triptych in Photoshop, it took a little experimenting but in the end I did manage to stitch the three images together on a single canvas.
Once I started the process a whole host of memories started tumbling to the surface; events at school, adventures with my brother and thoughts of people who are no longer with me. In my late twenties and thirties a large number of my closest relatives died and many of the pictures and objects I was exploring took me back to memories of them and their place in my childhood. Two of the images are about people who are still with me and one is in memory of my Nan – Nanny Osborne (known as Nanny Oz in the family).
Now I look at the images they are both about childhood and about growing up and leaving things behind. The nail varnish is concerned with my memory of biting my nails as a child. My Mum always had beautiful nails and I remember being envious of them as a small girl as they stood in sharp contrast to my own stubby finger tops. My ambition was to be able to see my nails over the top of my fingers when I looked at my hands from the back. The image includes the first ever manicure set I was given. I am pleased to say I achieved my ambition and now have my own extensive collection of nail varnishes. It was perhaps one of my earliest remembered experiences of goal setting.
The Bear was given to me by my Uncle and has always held a special place in my memory both as something I cherished and an early experience of change. It was given to me when I was three or four years old and I had a memory of it being huge, the biggest bear I had ever seen. At the age of five we moved to Australia for a number of years and when I returned, through some curious event, my beloved Bear had shrunk! I was growing up and it was a little painful to see that my recollection of the bear no longer matched my reality. I chose to shoot him close up to emphasise my memory of his size.
Finally, I have included the strawberries. They come from memories of hot summer days in my Nanny Oz’s long garden and picking the strawberries from beds caressed with straw. Nanny Oz had a cut glass sugar shaker with a silver top (long since gone I fear) and we were allowed to shake sugar on our plates bite the strawberries and dip them in the sugar (something that would surely be frowned upon today but I still occasionally do if no-one is looking!). We ended up with plates of mushy sugar streaked pink from the juice of the strawberries. The strawberries make me smile, and think of sunny days and laughter, and people I love and miss.
Evaluation & Synthesis:
As with many of the exercises the finishing point is never as I imagined from the beginning, it has echoes of those early thoughts but has evolved and developed in ways I might not have imagined. It is interesting to explore how many of my memories are bitter sweet; laughter and loss often intertwined. While I remember them fondly they are connected in some ways with grieving too. Something to consider for other aspects of the course.
I was pleased to have achieved the technical aspect of the triptych although it is not perfect and now I understand the process better I might reorder them with the strawberries on the left. I also underestimated the size of the file it would create so that is something to keep in mind in future. It might have been quicker just to upload the three images side by side in WordPress!