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3 April 2011
how i learned to stop worrying and love levitation
Now Playing: elton john - dirty little girl
Topic: workshops

how i learned to stop worrying and love levitation

Model: Bella Grace

Two weeks after arriving in London, I ventured down to Eastbourne with Sarah Ann Wright to attend one of two workshops run by Miss Aniela and Brooke Shaden held that weekend at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre.

I had only just managed to get a place on the Sunday, but had been keen to meet Natalie and Brooke: to see how they work, learn about their processes and inspiration, and also have the chance to shoot in a venue that is at once lavish and rundown.

And the workshop ticked all those boxes: It was a great chance to see the similarities and differences between how each of the artists work, and relative to my own creative processes. Both Natalie and Brooke were enthusiastic and generous with their time, instruction and encouragement, as was Matt, Natalie's partner, who assisted them and the attendees where needed. The models were professional, patient (especially given the cold environs and their flimsy summer-weight outfits) and intuitive. The theatre itself was a character in its own right.

The set-up of the workshop allowed plenty of time for each photographer to create an image of their own as well as observe Natalie and Brooke create an image each, and the theatre allowed enough space and inspiration to ensure only a minimal amount of shooting over each others' shoulders. Though many attendees no doubt left the workshop with photos evidently from the workshop (same models, same outfits, same background), I would venture to guess that every attendee has some shots of their own that no one else managed to get.

For myself, though I love the surreal, dream-like worlds Natalie and Brooke create in their photography, both self-portraiture and portraiture, I have to admit I am a bit of a levitation-skeptic. I do enjoy a good trick shot when done well - whether levitation or clone, or simply a heavily processed image - but I am wary of the prevalence of these images, and also the prevalence of badly executed images using these techniques simply for the sake of it.

So initially I was reluctant to get involved in creating a levitation image, but later in the day I actually felt inspired to direct Bella in order to shoot the requisite images to make up this one. And I'm glad I did, if only to demonstrate to myself that I have the ability and skills with Photoshop to do so.

I guess my other hesitation in creating this image was that I do not have any wish to churn out works too closely akin to those whose work I admire. Though I can see my own style in the processing, composition, etc., of this image, as soon as the levitation element was added to the image, it felt like I was creating a counterfeit Miss Aniela™ [which in itself is interesting, as this was actually shot during the half of the day I was in a group led by Brooke].

Which I guess leads this post to my thoughts of the past few months: although I most certainly intend to create further images to complete my current series of self-portraiture, interior / exterior during my upcoming residency at Hospitalfield, I am looking forward to what other inspirations may await me there. Though I suspect it is unlikely I will move away from self-portraiture entirely, I am keen to find the next direction for my work, and am not sure what that may be.

Though I am often told my work is instantly recognisable, that I have a definitive style, I believe style is also something that constantly shifts and moves and develops. Otherwise artists and our work stagnate. Even after all these years, I strongly feel I am still seeking my style, my niche, in what I do. Not that I want to be pigeon-holed into a particular style, genre or subject matter, but I feel like a writer who is still looking for the right words to tell you how I feel.

A month of being immersed in creation, research, inspiration, new environs, a studio of my own? Yes, that sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

N.B. For those who helped fund my project, a quick update that prints and postcards will be in the mail to you tomorrow! Thank you again!

Posted by Bronwen Hyde at 19:41 BST
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