Established practitioners and students alike may have, at some point, received the same line of enquiry into their field; more so with photographers and that is to define and label themselves within a finite medium. You can never be just a photographer; the inquisitive person wishes to probe further until you say something like ‘I’m a landscape photographer’, or other such title. But what happens when you explore and pursue creative endeavours completely out of your field, do you then answer by saying something like:
‘I’m a conceptual sculptural, portrait photographer that works with oils in a textual based form!!!’
Why are we so concerned with forms of classification and labels? Is it so we can then use these markers as a basis for comparative studies and judgmental critiquing?
I have labelled myself as a ‘Multi faceted artist that primarily uses photography’; a mouthful I know. Typically I stand strong behind my self-classification, then I believe people must just read that as a pretentious way of saying a ‘Jack of all trades…’ and guess what, I agree. I have explored many forms of expression and creative techniques to satisfy my thirst for making; I cannot say if it will end, only that I love my fluctuating practice.
Being multidisciplinary is not just about the final resolution; if we can agree on one label and that is we are all ‘Visual Artists’, including writers, as many great texts have the power to paint pictures in our minds. Our one common multidisciplinary element is that of our inspirations. We all consume the creative world around us, subconsciously storing these artistic nuances in our minds, then calling upon them to aid in our creations. For example, a high frequency of photographers are influenced by paintings, look no further than Tom Hunter’s ‘Woman reading Possession Order’.
However it is that conscious leap to physically engage in another medium and begin to create, that is what I’m investigating. I ask one of OCA’s current level 1 photography students, Jenny Ford – already an established Textile Artist – some questions to see how she explores different mediums…
1. Firstly how would you label yourself?
I describe myself as an ‘Artist’ (who happens to use textile media) but the label ‘Textile Artist’ is the term that is generally easier to use. I wouldn’t label myself as a ‘Photographer’ even though photography is important to my work. (I have a lot more to learn and research within photography before I would consider calling myself a photographer.)
2. Do you find your textile work influencing your photography or vice-versa?
My photography is beginning to influence my textile practice in a quiet way. By studying The Art of Photography I have been able to allow myself time to carry out research in photography as well as working through all the practical exercises.
There is a way of ‘seeing’ in photography that I am trying to follow in new concepts in my sculptural textiles. I am seeing anew form / vibrant colour combinations / subtle changes in light by looking through a camera lens. My recent sculptural work has been very labour intensive (with a lot of hand stitching). I am now putting materials together in a simpler intuitive way, and experimenting with form again.
3. Are there any benefits of being multidisciplinary?
Most definitely ‘yes’, as one field of study/practice can feed in unexpected ideas to another. For instance, since starting TAoP, I’ve taken a great interest in the genre of still-life photography. This has led me to reconsider how I present my own work and indeed how I construct an image of my work to convey ‘presence’ (I would like the photograph to become as important as the textile work itself).
4. Would you recommend to other practitioners to explore beyond their field?
Yes, as long as you don’t lose sight of your ‘roots’. As a mentioned above, a new way of working can follow from researching in a different discipline. I think all artists should push themselves in a new discipline from time to time, to keep ideas flowing and work fresh.
More of Jenny’s work can be viewed at: