I made four prints from four photographs I shot of four tomboys.
22 x 15.5 inch in size - unframed and pinned to a white wall
two up, two down to construct a square .
I investigated what it means to be a girl by reading text of theorists who wrote/write about gender; the likes of Bulter, Rose, Mulvey and de Beauvoir.
I looked at visual artist who explore themes of identity, gender and the sexed body; Collier Schorr, Roni Horn, Warhol, Sherman, Claude Cahun, Catherine Opie, to name but a few.
I studied two of my favourite fictitious tomboys; legendary Scout from Harper Lee's
classic tale, To Kill A Mockingbird and mostly forgotten, shunned and ignored, Anybodys from West Side Story.
I asked myself, my friends and sometimes strangers, 'what does it mean, do you think, to be a girl?'
The next step was to find some girls who thought of themselves as tomboys. Originally i was looking for 8-10 tomboys, but his proved be a little difficult in the time frame i was working within.
I started by making a really basic poster, more as a curiosity to see if anyone actually would respond. I pasted it up onto lampposts and railing outside and nearby
primary schools. I skulk around in the school grounds photographing the playground
and sometimes i ventured into the schools and just walked around. This felt a little
weird and i was never stopped or questioned about what i was doing, which i found interesting to say the least.
I spoke to one school administrator, told her about my project and that i was looking for tomboys to photograph.
She suggested that i speak to the school principle and gave me the card; suppose i don't look as weird as i can feel at times.
The Preliminary Works
One Tuesday I received a telephone call from a guy called Andy who told me that his 11 year old daughter had returned home from school, handed him a tattered A4 piece of paper and proclaimed: 'this is me, can you call? I want to do it.'
Dharma had torn down one my paste-ups and brought it home. This was great, and not just that it's a great story, but because this girl had identified herself as a Tomboy.
The methodology changed from my proposal after preliminary shoots. I had proposed 8-10 portraits, head on, neutral backdrop, outdoors, uniformed aesthetically using a square format. I digressed from this to the inclusion of props, types of clothing, environment and animals. Semiotics which characterised the tomboy. I began to look at encompassing a feeling of what it is to be a tomboy, such as attitude, playfulness, strength, independence, courage, the gaze, the contained gentleness.
Unrealistic aspects to my proposal lay in the sourcing of subjects within the timeline. Working with children has it's challenges in that I am essentially working with the mum or/and the dad and on occasion their siblings. Trying to agree on suitable times to shoot was also an issue, and particularly because these people where essentially strangers to begin with. I still feel amazed at their giving me so much of their time.
Most of my frustration came from the fact that i was shooting on a new camera and therefore unfamiliar to me eg: i didn't know how to work it properly. Not a good state for a photographer to be in. This meant i could not be as spontaneous as i like to be. I took loads of shots, and off course more than often, the stand out ones, the ones I wanted, where out of focus or under/over exposed. In the end i had to work with this, which is not ideal since it wasn't my intent.
The solution to this issue is pretty simple: master my tools!
Did I Achieve My Goals?
Yes and no.
Conceptually yes, because through my photographs an embodiment has ensued of the tomboy. This was my intention.
Technically no, because I want more clarity in the photographs and the blur was not my intent. To know what i am looking for is one thing, but to orchestrate it is quite another. In working with children i have learned they are comfortable and at ease straight away and this is the window of opportunity. On the second shoot they usually became bored and wooden as a result. So, the lesson for me here is: be prepared!