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Making icons - a story in pictures

October 30, 2019

 

Recently we went to meet the artists involved in special exhibition that will be opening at the Old Fire Station on the first night of the festival to talk to them about the making of ICON.

 

ICON is an exhibition of iconic photographs, selected and recreated by photographer Rory Carnegie and artists who have experienced homelessness.

 

Answering questions here are Ryszard, Mark, Gavin and Anthony along with photographer Rory and Rowan, Jodie and Megan who work for Crisis and Arts at the Old Fire Station.

 

Q. Did you all know each other before this project?

 

(nods and head shakes)

 

Rowan: We knew people from different combinations of different classes and different activities. This was the first time that we had worked together as a group.

 

Q. Were all of you photographers already?

 

(nods and head shakes)

 

Ryszard: I do. All those sessions and activities and all that, I do photography as well

 

Q. Did you know these images before you started the project or, were they completely new to you?

 

Mark: We all individually were knowing some and some not. We had several sessions, where we first discussed what is an iconic photograph and what makes an iconic photograph, how are we going to choose, what criteria to use and we focussed on British photography or photographers. And then, some images were brought and people said ‘oh what about the image of this’ and then we would have a discussion about ‘why is this, why is that’. So it was a lot of discussion. A lot of looking at images and group discussions, cutting them or including them, whittle it down to a shortlist of about a thousand… And then whittle it down to the key important ones. It is difficult, because it is a subjective thing and it also depends on the demographic of the audience. Some people remember the images from the newspaper in the 70’s some don’t. Some people had recently seen the images from the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road, though not that many people know what the Abbey Road cover looks like for example. So yeah, it was a very … inclusive discussion.

 

Rowan: We actually had three, kind of, sections, didn’t we? We had Iconic, shortlist, well long shortlist. We had famous. And then there was kind of like a third suggestion which was ‘never seen that photograph before’ Completely unfamiliar to us!

So there was a real mixture. But I think that was a really good explanation and democratic kind of process of how to work through. But also considering, what makes a good exhibition. As well as what makes an iconic photograph. So we are talking about having a range of iconic photographs that cover different subject areas and times and some that were serious and some that were funny.

 

Mark: They all had to have a resonance outside of the subject. Recognisable immediately but not just for what that image means and what it’s come to mean.

 

Q. Do you feel that your idea of an iconic image has changed because of this project?

 

Gavin: Well my opinion might be different from all the guys here in the room. But I had experience of photography in my family, growing up with it, basically my step-dad pointing out to me what he thinks is iconic. That is the example I am giving. The different people that are on this project will have different ideas about what is iconic really. And what we can remember. Some of the photos and the impact they had, I hadn’t realised that they are iconic. To me they are just famous. It is an interesting project in that way, that we all have different opinions. We are still figuring out today actually.

 

Q. What was the process of re-creating an image like?

 

Rory: The idea was to sort of break down as to how one of these photographs was made. So you might have set building or location finding, or makeup, or casting, or lighting, all these different components that go into making a photograph. Those are the sort of skillsets that we were collectively hoping to learn and understand.

 

Gavin: I have always thought that photography is very difficult, at the beginning, in the past. But with the way it has become digitalised and what have you, I feel like that a lot of it is for more people now. If you look at it that way, functioning wise, it is a lot easier to do. You know just taking out a camera and not being in a dark room or anything like that. It has become quicker as well, hasn’t it? My understanding of it, it is all for more people basically, instead of a selected few people. They will find it a lot easier to understand in their own mind. All you have to do is think ‘I like that for a subject’. In the old days there would be dark rooms.

 

Mark: Or Bonusprint and wait for them to come back with a label on them saying that’s rubbish.

 

Q. What was your favourite part of the process?

 

Anthony: For me, all the preparation, yeah. As well as being on set, going to different venues, seeing the set-up, lay-out and also getting the right picture overall. To build-up to it, working together and getting to know each other more.

 

Rowan: I agree. It was the sense of comradery, wasn’t it? Within this room here, everyone pitching in with, helping with costumes, helping each other get ready.

 

Ryszard: The artistic is very important to me. I loved working with art when I was younger, I did black and white photography, but I didn’t make it to art school, but I still did lots of photography, colour photography, flowers and objects, these were my passion – music and photography.

 

Rowan: And now you’re a model!

 

Rory: I think we were having quite a lot of fun actually. You know, the shoot days, they were hard work.

 

Gavin: You didn’t see it as work.

 

Rory: I think that is quite an important part of the project.

 

Ryszard: I got so hot one day. It was hot outside; my costume was so hot. I forgot to take my clothes off.

 

Rowan: He had his suit on top!

 

Mark: Then Ryszard, on another day, there would be no costumes, you had nothing on.

 

Rowan: We should say that some of the photographs feature near nudity and others feature layers of costume.

 

Mark: All very tasteful!

 

Ryszard: The artistic is very important to me. I loved working with art when I was younger, I did black and white photography, but I didn’t make it to art school, but I still did lots of photography, colour photography, flowers and objects, these were my passion – music and photography.

 

Rowan: And now you’re a model!

 

Q. Is there a photograph in the exhibition that you’d personally like to keep?

 

Gavin: I would pick Churchill. And everyone else can probably relate to that. With the costumes, that is actually something I never did when I was younger, trying costumes on and stuff. That side of me, sort of came out a little. Yeah with Churchill it was quite an experience it really was. It was the first time in ages I can remember doing anything in that genre. We were looking at the photographs that we were going to do on the wall there and Jodie just says ‘Gavin you’d make a good Churchill’, not even thinking about it. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, unexpectedly like this.

 

Mark: Yeah, a couple of the group shots. Probably the world cup. I have fond memories of all the shoots. I think that one, because just the day, the event, and it was the biggest group was it? Yeah, one of the big group ones, cause that snapshot on that day really encapsulates the moment.

 

Rowan: I think the world cup photo is a really nice, iconic photograph. You know, it is a photograph about a great achievement, and kind of team-play and the experience having gone to Kassam to re-create it and the staff there really looked after us.

I think that the atmosphere of the original photograph kind of penetrated the atmosphere of the group as well. It was a really upbeat day.

 

Q. Do you still see each other as a group?

 

Ryszard: Life goes on, so we are all in a different place.

 

Mark: That is true. We have made, ‘new friends’ here. Because, as was mentioned before we may be coming into Crisis for different classes, different activities. For example, you know, I didn’t know Gavin, I knew Anthony for a bit, Ryszard from art class, and other people involved in the project. Yeah, I mean the question… Yeah, obviously when we see each other there is more of a connection than there would have been perhaps ordinarily. The very nature of the building is that a lot of the time you’re like ships that pass anyway because it’s not ‘come for everything’ but you get to meet people.

 

Rowan: We’ve got the opening where we will be together and there will be a panel, discussion on the opening night, and then a workshop that these guys will be running for the public a couple of weeks after the opening, on Saturday 30th November from 11am.

 

Q. Is there anything you’d like the tell the public before they see the exhibition?

 

Gavin: I advise just to keep a clear mind, open, when you just walk in there for the first time. It will be new for us as well. I know we went through all the shots and what have you, but I don’t think many people go through this sort of experience. What you need to do is, not overcomplicate it and just go in there and keep an open mind and then just enjoy. Look at the photograph for its merits yeah?

 

ICON takes place on Friday 15th & Saturday 16th in Gloucester Green.