Every now and then Instagram gives us something interesting and positive. On Tuesday 26th June the media folk at Creative Review posted this intriguing photograph by a new young talented photographer, Annie Lai.
The post informs us that Annie (for those of you who might want to have a peak on Instagram she’s @annielai_) has only recently graduated from the London College of Fashion. She grew up in China, but spent her High School years in New Zealand, before taking up her place to study photography in London. I can see why Creative Review chose to feature her work as there is a hint of a retro quality about it yet overall it is most definitely new contemporary work.
Looking at this fashion photograph I feel I should grab my Art Historian’s hat and immediately delve into the world of Roland Barthes to consider why I am so taken with this image. Although it is not a blatantly emotionally charged photograph, I think its composition, tone and framing, and crisp lighting is engaging us more than the average fashion photo. I think it has both studium and punctum. Naturally, this is a subjective view and in Barthes’ musings on photography he suggests you can be interested in a photograph (studium) without it having that special quality/effect he called punctum:
A photograph's punctum is that accident which
pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).
from 'Camera Lucida - Reflections on Photography'1980
After considering why, for me, the photo has pricked me, I think it is very personal. Overtly, it has made me recall images of Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick that were splashed across the magazines from my childhood. Then, in a fleeting drift of linking memories radiating out from this recollection I arrived at recalling my childish thrill at wearing some new orange sandals. My sister and I had accompanied my mother on a visit to a home hairdresser. It had been a very hot day and she had dressed us in matching homemade turquoise and green paisley print mini-dresses. And, I got to wear my new sandals. Amongst the many events of childhood, a random moment on a random day was caught to become a poignant memory for me and it has been strangely evoked by this 21st century fashion photo.
As far as my own attempts at fashion photography go I think I have captured one decent shot in the last 1,000. Again, it’s all subjective, but I think this photograph probably works for more than just me as it is one of my popular pics on Instagram.
There’s been a delightful buzz and critical acclaim for the documentary film ‘Iris’. It is refreshing, no, it’s actually amazing to see that a film has been made about a 93 year old lady. Iris Apfel is an eccentric, New York born interior designer not only renowned for her work, but also famous for her personal style of outsized glasses and exceedingly bold accessories. I was hoping to go and see this film at a cinema, but despite living in a large English county popular with folks for their retirement not one cinema will be screening this film! All I can guess is that the film distributers decided nobody would be interested. It is available ‘on demand’, but a film showcasing such a vivid character with many shots of vibrant textiles, almost psychedelic outfits and rich interiors would be so much more enjoyable on a big screen.
Of course, it’s easy to criticise and it made me think more generally of how we visually represent older women and on the whole we don’t. Apart from the Queen (90 next year) and those sweet, fluffy grannies beaming out from residential/care home brochures, pictures of women over 70 years old in the wider media are notable by their absence. In an era when there have never been more photographs taken and every third image is somebody’s selfie why do we have this absence? Here’s hoping following the return of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ this week with the fabulous Mary Berry (80 years old) back on the telly, other active, articulate, interesting elderly women will become visible.
Sadly and guiltily, I have to admit when scanning through the many photographs I took during the last family get togethers before my mother died, I’d only photographed the children and the dogs, but fortunately my teenage daughter took a few snaps of her granny.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate the moments we are living and then with a blink of an eye they’re gone. We are lucky in our family as my late mother agreed to be the ‘star’ of a 3 minute video filmed by one of her grandchildren as coursework for a school exam.
I remember my mother saying to me that she was the last person still alive who could remember her Granny. Like many families we have old photographs some even of our Victorian relatives, but now with videos and YouTube a moving, talking memento is captured and shared. It brings a new dimension to memories as individuals along with the film-maker actively curate their lives. But there is still space for a single shot to capture the essence of the person.