Once the project was set I began reading and researching possible photographers for insights and inspiration. We were directed towards Nan Goldin, Elinor Carucci and I discovered Thomas Ruff’s work in Charlotte Cottons book. I was also already aware of Richard Billingham and Gregory Crewdsons work and felt this was a good opportunity to experiment with their styles too. I have detailed here a little of what I have learned about some of the artists I looked at.
Over a period of years Elinor Carucci documented the life of herself and her family through a series of deeply personal portraits. All the members of the family seem surprisingly at ease in front of the camera and there is no pretence or fakery and those involved bear all for the world to see.
The style of the images are really quite beautiful, there is no sense of seedy voyeurism just a profound feeling of innocence, like a fly on the wall watching quizzically as those around it lived their lives.
It was from Elinor Carlucci’s work where I drew my greatest inspiration. It was never the explicit imagery or the sexual content that bestowed this work with its deeply personal theme but the depth of feeling and emotion underneath. The bond between relatives, the shared sentiments and the unconditional and unbreakable connection between families make this a truly intimate insight into these people’s lives.
Hailing from middle class suburban America and driven by a family tragedy Nan Goldin documented the lives of her and her friends during a tumultuous time in New York. Changing attitudes began breaking down old prejudices and homosexuality began to find increasing levels of acceptance within American society. Freedom brought drink, drugs and promiscuity but it also brought a new horror, HIV.
Nan Goldin’s image making was prolific and her constant use of the camera in every situation slowly wore down the defences of her house mates who eventually became accustomed to be photographed all the time and once their guard had gone their natural selves shone through.
Deeply intimate throughout it charts the parties, the problems and eventually the deaths of some of those closest to her. Although heart-breaking these times were immortalised through Goldin’s work allowing others to share her life and friends with her.
Richard Billingham was an art student when he picked up a camera in his Birmingham home and started taking pictures of his family whilst trying to find inspiration on what to paint next.. His brutish obese mother, Liz and alcoholic father Ray were the least likely of artistic subjects that you could think of and yet these images brought Billingham artistic fame.
Once again he peels back the curtains and shines a light into the lives of complete strangers and this intrusive and intimate set of images make compelling viewing.
It is easy to be dismissive of his dysfunctional family but without their character and poverty enforced lifestyle there would have been just another set of family portraits.
I felt Richard Bellingham’s work brought another side to intimate life that was different from both Nan Goldin’s and Elinor Carucci’s images and I wanted to add his style to my own work.