Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What Do Artists Do All Day?

I've been meaning to get round to seeing this series of short programmes, mainly out of sheer curiosity about my peers.  

Being an artist is such a solitary occupation, that it's actually difficult to know what they do actually do all day, and I have a suspicion that they're all sitting around with their feet up and a cup of tea reading Heat, before donning a bohemian outfit and going off to drink absinthe with the glitteratti...where did I go wrong?

However, last night managed to catch the one about Tom Wood on BBC4.  See it on i-Player HERE.

This was a profile of the acclaimed photographer who has taken photographs almost every day for the past 40 years, mainly around the streets, workplaces and nightspots of Merseyside. It's a unique record of British working class life, and reminded me a little of Vivian Maiers' work.

Ntlemen (c) Tom Wood

(c) Tom Wood 

The film showed Tom visiting Mayo in the west of Ireland, where he was born, and documenting  his encounters whilst photographing the landscape and the people for a new book. The people he was photographing were used to his presence, and in fact, some of them had been photographed by him over the course of a number of years. 
(c) Tom Wood

I was struck by similarities between his working process and mine.  I guess it's up to each artist to figure out what their own working process is through trial and error.  Tom likes to return to areas and people that he is familiar with, sometimes photographing glimpses from moving vehicles, where you have a split second to make the decision to press the shutter.  

'The journey becomes part of the process' he said, which is something I could really relate to.  When I visit a place, often somewhere that I return to again and again, it is, indeed, all about the journey, as you make notes with the camera.  You find out the meaning when you get there.

The most interesting part of the programme was when he returned to a shop run by Mr Hickson the draper.  Over years of visiting the shop, the owner had often gone upstairs to get items for Tom, and this time he asked if he could see upstairs, to the secret Aladdin's cave.  

See a clip of Tom's visit to the shop HERE.

What he found was a series of derelict rooms, with peeling paint, cobwebbed windows, piles of abandoned books, shoes, a tailor's dummy.  Tom was uber-excited.  So was I.  It was a dream of a still life, with a thousand images waiting to be taken, a thousand stories to be told.  The women in the shop downstairs couldn't understand his delight.  But it was something I could identify with exactly.

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