My collaborations with Rossina Bossio

This past few weeks I have been sharing on Flickr the results of a collaboration with Colombian artist Rossina Bossio, who lives in Rennes, France. I have known of Rossina’s paintings and photographs for a while now, through her Flickr photostream. I started to share interesting conversations with her online a few months ago when I discovered to my joy that my fondness for her work was reciprocated…

Me – by Rossina!

I rarely get the chance to write in depth on my artistic endeavours here in my blog, so I am happy to sit down and give myself the chance to describe in some depth my adventure with another artist and the fruits of our weekend labour. It was by far my most enjoyable collaboration so far, because of the time we got to spend with each other, and the fact that the final products of our teamwork were truly ‘collaborative’; everything from the shooting itself through the processing and to the titling and captions with which we appropriated the images when uploading to Flickr.

The Female Self-Portrait Artists’ Support Group (argh!… FSPASG for short, but not an an acronym to be pronounced phonetically, as Rossina and I had a bit of a laugh about when we met) has zillions of members but within that large and ever-increasing community is a cluster of women who regularly engage in a dialogue with each other, and build such relationships, that physical meet-ups often ensue. A meet-up in Paris was being arranged between some ladies who were travelling to Europe from Canada: Mmaeb (Michelle) and Geekgirly (Sarah), and Rossina proposed to travel from Rennes, in turn I decided to splash out on a budget airline long weekend away and my first trip to Paris itself (bar the early teenage EuroDisney trip and the stopover on the way to Moscow in 2003).

The weird and wonderful thing about the internet is that despite its tendency to bring out the worst in people and act as a veneer to aid ill-intentioned anonymity and general arseholeishness, it can, to the contrary, be a great way to meet people and to actually get a quite accurate impression of them, even if you never hear their voice or see their live image. That was the case with Rossina. She met me at Charles de Gaulle airport looking just like one of her self-portraits, and we embarked on the journey onwards with the familarity of old friends (thanks Rossina… heh).

We knew we wanted to do several collaborative images and we had already discussed some of our ideas previously online. The initial ideas were mainly Rossina’s, which she’d roughly sketched out. I did mention the word ‘Balthussian’ somewhere in my contribution to the brainstorming, as I’d always imagined us shooting in a room something like what you see in her image ‘Red fur dream’. So that was on our list, alongside other ideas from phallic vegetables, to female nudity and censorship (Rossina had just had her account restricted on Flickr, and the issue of censorship – whether directly connected to the incident or not – was on our minds).

Booby traps
Inspired by Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of her Sisters, themed on Flickr censorship using the Flickr logo’s dots…

We did four main collaborative shoots each with one main outcome that we both uploaded to Flickr, with comments enabled/disabled on alternating streams. Thanks to Julie Seguinier, Rossina’s agent, we had a kitchen, a children’s room and an office to use as locations for our ideas. We also used her tripod – which was hugely needed, as I brought along a rather heavy Phase One P40+ medium format camera which I had on loan for two weeks, with two lenses, a 45mm and 80mm (I also had a fat 150mm which I left at home) to shoot our pics. The children’s room had plenty of toys in it which we took advantage of, including for the image Tough toys for tough boys:

For all images, we shot each other separately, and by keeping the camera in a fixed position, composited the other person in later. This was a great way to shoot because we could specifically direct each other the way we wanted the person to look (I have just realised that, for some reason, Rossina is to the right of me in all the images!)
Shooting ourselves in self-portraits, we are used to having to be a little unaware of how we look until we check the image afterwards. I found that we knew each other well enough to command a certain angle or pose. For example, I would ask Rossina to do her ‘trademark Rossina grumpy stare’, such as for Booby traps above, and Rossina would ask me to flickr my hair, as in Pathetic phallacy

Shopping at the local store for the props for that image was fun!

Clothing-wise we let each other recommend what to wear: Rossina had previously asked me to bring along my hand mirror, white gown and By the lake outfit (bringing only hand baggage, I managed just the skirt, as seen in The artists’ sketch below) whilst I asked her to bring along her Sortie pants!

I had to wait till I got home first to convert all the IIQ files (Phase One raw files) using Capture One, so I posted the converted Tiffs (3 DVDs’ worth) through to Rossina as soon as possible so we could have both gander at the results of all the shoots and proceed to the processing collaboratively. (This was all bearing in mind that I was set to arrive back in the UK late on Sunday night to commence a 2-day commissioned photoshoot early Monday morning, on the largest scale I had yet done. Needless to say I felt a little nervous! Full blog post on that shoot to come soon too).

Rossina and I spent the next few weeks working on the images, by sending the files back and forth to do our own spot of processing, and being honest about things we agreed or disagreed on. I think we found that throughout the whole experience, we have a lot in common with our artistic direction, our thoughts and intentions, despite our differing styles in our individual work. More importantly, we are good at communicating and negotiating with each other, which is the essence of any good relationship!

The artists’ sketch (above) started out as a photo composite, which incorporated my new cat/kitten Ruby…but we wanted to give it an extra dimension. We did several ‘wallpapered’ versions, complete with skirting board, but then decided to develop the ‘drawing’ theme instead. Rossina did a drawing of the image which I found very appealing, and suggested incorporating the photograph and drawing into each other. The result took some tweaking but in the end we got to a result we both liked.

Titling and captioning the images was another stage in itself. We shared our ideas on title suggestions and how to ‘theme’ the images through language without trying to necessarily restrict the interpretations of the viewer. With the last of the four, Pathetic phallacy, we were particularly cautious about pinning down an exact meaning or sentiment. We wanted to keep the image tongue-in-cheek, as with Booby traps, but without simply dismissing our image as a joke. For me, the ideal way I would like someone to appreciate these images is somewhere halfway between the amusing and the serious; something humorous but within an intellectual, psychoanalytical context. But that is just me ;) )

I enjoyed working with Rossina, and one thing that I have since mentioned to her (yesterday) is that through collaborating, especially when there is an element of intimacy involved (with the nude shots) one feels strengthened in their artistic endeavours as opposed to being ‘alone’ on Flickr showcasing and receiving comments on one’s work. In working with someone else, especially someone whose work you admire and whose opinions and thoughts you are very much in tune with, you are not ‘alone’ sharing the results. All artists inevitably have periods or even regular moments of self-doubt, but in collaborating with other artists, you’re evening out the highs and lows, and any of the ‘risks’ (if one thinks in terms of ‘risks’ with art) by being with someone else. It definitely can make the process of creation even more rewarding.

I also say this with another recent collaboration in mind: between sculpture and photography. I recently worked with a bodycaster/sculptor in Brighton to produce something we coined as ‘sculptography’, a bit of a an experiment (which we consider successful!) launched at my exhibition Neurotica at Impure Art Gallery last night (Friday 31st). More on that in my next blog post!

Rossina and I did find time to take some casual shots, especially when we went out to meet Michelle and Sarah (Mmaeb and Geekgirly) for a lovely afternoon and evening to take in, or, erm – crazily jump in front of, the infamous sights of the city….(processed by Rossina)

L-r: Michelle, me, Sarah

Thanks to Rossina, and to Julie and her family for being so very kind!
Hopefully there will be more collaborations to come!


See Rossina’s blog post here

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Posted in Collaborations & commissions, Inspirations - References to other artists on August 2nd, 2009 | 18 Comments |

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Comments for “My collaborations with Rossina Bossio”

    1. Collaboration with Miss Aniela | Rossina Bossio
      9:59 am on August 2nd, 2009

      [...] Hope you enjoyed the results of our work! Read more in >Natalie’s blog post<. [...]

    2. and
      10:51 am on August 2nd, 2009

      Great set. Congratulations. Waiting for more.

    3. Rossina Bossio
      11:13 am on August 2nd, 2009

      lol I just noticed Julie’s dog wondering in the second Pathetic phallacy pic u posted!
      love this Natalie <3 xxx

    4. Arty Fucking Smokes
      2:21 pm on August 2nd, 2009

      The two “classic” portraits of Rossina are by far the nicest photos on this page.
      You filled 3 DVDs with TIFFs? I don’t think you want to know my thoughts on that.

    5. Nick Podd
      8:54 pm on August 2nd, 2009

      Always love your work – you know that :)

    6. Lash in Virginia
      12:26 am on August 3rd, 2009

      I admire your commitment to working together as you have. It strikes me as a grand way to grow as artists, to push each other to new levels, and to keep up your courage. Good things are bound to come out of this. ….. Lash /

    7. Bradford
      2:29 am on August 3rd, 2009

      Thanks for the blog and written documentary on your collaboration. I really have to admit I found your last collaboration on the phallus theme to be a bit unsettling. I can understand the tongue and cheek of it and the humour you chose to portray.

      I once wrote Rossina a long time ago about feminism and if she regarded herself as a feminist. She told me she did not (to my surprise) and gave me the reasons. The themes, quotes taken from famous authors, and writings of the last posting or collaboration suggest otherwise. Just wondering.

      You two did great together. I hope you get together again and attempt another collaboration … the world will be in for a visual treat :) )

      Good night and good luck.

    8. Rossina
      11:07 am on August 3rd, 2009

      I insist I’m not a feminist. What is the rush of guys of labeling as feminist any woman who seems liberated and independent. Not everything that criticizes men’s ego is necessarily feminist.

      Most feminism’s theories bore me. I find them exaggerated, overly stiff and melodramatic.
      I recently found, however, the theories of dissident feminist Camille Paglia, who I quoted bellow ‘Pathetic Phallacy’ on my stream, and I agree with many of the things she says. For example: “Let’s get rid of Infirmary Feminism, with its bedlam of bellyachers, anorexics, bulimics, depressives, rape victims, and incest survivors. Feminism has become a catch-all vegetable drawer where bunches of clingy sob sisters can store their moldy neuroses”.

    9. Bradford
      6:11 am on August 4th, 2009

      Okay … I wasn’t expecting this response, but it does raise some questions.

      Rossina, I believed you when you told me that you weren’t a feminist. It’s interesting to note that I do remember your response almost a year ago. I deleted the email, but it was interesting to get your take on it.

      One of the cruelest realities in life is the existence of stereotyping and labeling (you can throw in censorship since you have vested so much time and energy in it).

      Feminist and “Feminism” are not a dirty words nor should there be any negative connotation concerning it. Back when you wrote you gave me two different definitions of a feminist. This did not surprise me because over the years the very definition has been mixed up in every way, shape or form.

      The one definition of feminism (my value system is in line with this) was largely concerned with issues of equality, fair rights, eliminating rigid classification of gender roles, and the ending of discrimination towards women.

      Unfortunately, in today’s world feminism has been regarded by the masses as a second “F” word. It’s sad because there have been some great advances and incredible progress for equal rights for women, but women in general do have troubles standing on fair ground with men.

      I truly believe that outside forces promulgated a backlash against feminism and to my knowledge the original premise of what it was all about in the first place has been lost. As if the term in of itself was turned around into something dirty, radical, or horrid. So, this has nothing to do with guys rushing to label any women who seems liberated and independent.

      Feminism now is something on the level of radicalism in many peoples minds, but lets cut to the chase here … feminism brought upon (real or imagined) a threat to the status quo. And to kill the message one must slaughter the messenger (not literally, but figuratively)

      Is it overly stiff and melodramatic? Yes and no. I think that really depends on what you’ve read, hear, or seen. I’ve seen some interesting films and read some great books that have enlightened me.

      I’m not some crusader for the cause here, but feminist films and literature have made me more aware and mindful (some of those films are the best I’ve ever seen too). As for feminism being boring I have to completely disagree. I found reading about the 1960’s Women’s Liberation and Civil Rights stories to be quite fascinating.

      I think I might have touched a nerve here and if I did I apologise. I do think that the definition of feminism has been muddled and mystified over the years when in reality it’s all about equal rights and the reality that men and women should all be on the same playing field.

    10. Lash in Virginia
      3:09 pm on August 4th, 2009

      Rossina, ……. I think that an artist should not get involved with political or ideological movements; to do so will lead to a lack of authenticity in the work.

      Please understand that I am not arguing for “originality” or “individualism.” They are beside the point. I am arguing for an honest reaction to what you see in front of you and what you feel inside of you. Such honesty (or authenticity) is what generates good art.

      Happily enough, I do believe that the two of you are shining examples of what I look for, which is why I follow your work.

      Keep it up, …… Lash /

    11. Arty Fucking Smokes
      2:47 pm on August 5th, 2009

      I think that an artist should get involved with political or ideological movements; to not do so will lead to a lack of substance in the work. :)

      Any woman that says she isn’t a feminist deserves to be treated like a doormat. Camille Paglia is a traitor to the cause of equal rights. She probably likes Balthus’ wank-fantasy pictures too, being a man trapped in the body of a lesbian and all that.

    12. Miss Aniela
      6:34 pm on August 5th, 2009

      @ Bradford
      As much as I agree with most of what you wrote, I equally accept and respect Rossina’s cool-as-a-cucumber statement that she’s ‘not’ a ‘feminist’. It strikes me as a sort of post-post-postfeminist refusal to enter into those blood pressure-escalating debates where it’s actually the meaning of the ’second F word’ itself that becomes more under question than anything else.
      Like you observe, sadly alot of people misunderstand ‘feminism’ and get unnecessarily offended by it or have their personal ‘feminazi’ associations with it. And then there are people who ‘get it’, but use it against women in as much an oppressive manner as the things feminism opposes. Sometimes it is desirable to just stop theorising/talking and just live – just ‘be’ the liberated person you so claim you have the right to be (that to me is Rossina, when she gave her statement), and be liberated enough not to be labelled – whether by ‘guys’ or even just by yourself.
      At the same time (with reference to Lash’s comment) I believe that an artist has the same right to talk, to have a moral and political opinion, and to share it verbally if they so wish. I don’t think there are any rules on how to be an ‘artist’.

    13. Lash in Virginia
      8:03 pm on August 5th, 2009

      Of course, anyone can get involved in whatever political movements that they wish to engage in; no problem there. But as an artist, one must have the integrity of that role.

      I spent most of my life as a professor; I was involved in politics; but I never carried my politics into the classroom.

      Arty claims that without political content, the work will be shallow. So said the apparatchiks of Socialist Realism. I don’t believe the claim.

    14. Arty Fucking Smokes
      11:09 pm on August 6th, 2009

      @ Lash: Which do you prefer – ‘Vogue’ or Guernica?
      By definition, beauty alone is shallow. You can create beautiful art, but without any meaningful concept, it’s shallow. How could it be otherwise?

    15. Lash in Virginia
      2:12 pm on August 8th, 2009

      Vogue doesn’t pass my authenticity test. The photos there are purely concept driven. So your comparison is a non-starter for me.

    16. Chessa!
      11:53 pm on August 10th, 2009

      So many times I’ve said this and it’s true…that I really do enjoy your blog for your thoughtful and articulate writing. You are right that the internet really is a wonderful place to meet people – I’ve learned that myself “meeting” some of the lovely and wonderfully talented and supportive women of FSPASG (mouthful for sure!) and via the blogging community.

      This collaboration is so beautiful…you really can see your individual strengths and collective talent and ideas. I really have enjoyed it.

      I owe Bron a response to her email of this morning but I do hope that we can all do something else together soon…

    17. ‘Girl with cradle and toys’ by Rossina Bossio
      7:07 pm on February 22nd, 2010

      [...] posed for Rossina last June when we met in Paris, see this blog post to see the photographic collaborations we [...]

    18. » Yishus: Have Your Art Professor’s Guy Call My Guy Beijing Cream
      6:35 am on March 12th, 2012

      [...] From Rossina Bossio’s Flickr, via Miss Aniela [...]

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