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).
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