#10 Care2020 was a year of unexpected changes and challenges. A year which we were forced to stop or to pivot direction. For some, 2020 allowed time to think, to reflect, to experiment or to change. It has also without a doubt highlighted how we care; for each other, for ourselves and for our communities. This issue of Photography+ explores photography in relation to care. We have published an exclusive conversation between photographer Peter Watkins and writer Oliver Shamlou, a conclusion to Watkin's series The Unforgotten, ‘to some future place where the centrality of this trauma is moved aside.’ Meanwhile, artist Othello De'Souza-Hartley speaks to us about his practice and forthcoming projects, including a new self-portrait in his father’s empty bedroom. We are pleased to partner with Wellcome to bring you a creative writing response to their current commission The Covid-19 Anxiety Project. Read a new piece of writing by West Midlands based curator and writer Anneka French who, when looking at the images, shares how her own memories of lockdown are evoked, and poems come to her. We are excited to share new work by Murray Ballard, Zoe Childerley, Celine Marchbank and Helen Sear for CONNECT – the 3Ts hospital redevelopment public art programme at Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital. Finally, delve in and enjoy the final essay by our 2020 Writer in Residence Marissa Chen: The Many Faces of Self-Care.
Othello De’Souza-Hartley is a mixed media artist based in London. His artistic mediums include photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting. He received an MA in Fine Art from Camberwell College of Art and previously studied photography at Central St Martins. De’Souza-Hartley’s work explores identity, emotions, masculinity, gender, and the changing perception of the black body.
De’Souza-Hartley recently received a commission from Autograph for a group show which will open in January 2021.
We spoke to him about past and forthcoming work for this issue of Photography+.
“I’m a visual artist mainly working in photography but also work in other mediums, video, painting, performance, sound and drawing. In my work, I explore themes such as masculinity, gender, emotions, notions of beauty, socio-political issues and the body.
What motivates me is being creative, not just in my practice but also how I live my life. My motivation comes from various sources, this can come from conversations with friends, listening to music, cycling, a dream, reading, the news, going to see an exhibition, watching a movie or going to a performance. I guess for me it’s about staying open to all that surrounds me. This includes things that repel me.
My practice has changed over my career as I have opened it up working in other mediums (than just photography) as I never want to limit myself. Some ideas are more successful when executed through a different medium. My first interest in creativity came through performance. I have always wanted to merge performance with photography.
I was able to incorporate this whilst working on my Masculinity project and then continued with performative art videos. This year my work has changed and my approach to it has been influenced by the lockdown. I am a lot more relaxed about my practice and I have had thoughts about my childhood where everything was freer. I am enjoying what I am doing without putting pressure on myself and having a more playful approach to it – closer to when I first started. I am also loving the experimental process.
What I like about photography is it’s an accessible medium. I also like when I have an idea and seeing how the idea grows into fruition. I love that process. I usually work with a medium format camera. I enjoy the process of working with film. It’s almost like a ritual; loading the film which gives you time to think and it’s magical. Then, going to the lab and that unsettling feeling hoping everything has come out how I envisaged it.
In October 2020 I had a solo exhibition called Catalogue of Emotions curated by Eduardo da Costa at the Koppel Project, London. It was my first exhibition where I exhibited my paintings. They were displayed alongside my photographic work. Often in the fine art world, photography is seen as the lesser medium but with this exhibition painting and photography sat side-by-side without hierarchy. They complimented each other and, for me, highlighted how my ideas translated across different mediums whilst still maintaining a visual language connection.
I had a smaller solo show at Offshoot Gallery during the same month, Masculinity curated by Alexandra Steinacker Clark where I showed the first phase of my Masculinity project phase one and phase five which is a video art piece. I also received a commission from Pitzhanger Manor, a manor house in Ealing, where I had to produce two photographic works one was collaborative where I had to include an Anish Kapoor work within the image. For this commission, I worked with dancers as I wanted to create a body sculptural piece. The photographs are on sale to raise money to save the building where they open the door to local children and run outreach programmes as well as a gallery.
My current project is Blind but I Can See a commission from Autograph. For this, I worked across three mediums: photography, moving image and painting. I responded to the idea of Care | Contagion | Community by reflecting on the “treadmill of life that never stops’. Following the unexpected loss of my father to Covid-19, I created a new medium format self-portrait in my father’s empty bedroom capturing the unequitable stillness within it. Alongside symbolic moving imagery of a tree outside my window, the project looks at mediating grief through photography while emphasising the inevitability of change and seeking tranquillity in the beauty, especially amidst the personal and collective crises we are living every day. The painting was influenced by the tree. I created the painting using leaves and twigs instead of brushes and painting whilst the film was playing. The online exhibition opens in January 2021.
My ideas are developed in different ways. They usually swirl in my head for a while whilst I figure them out. I find taking a bath helps me put them into perspective. Then it goes on paper, followed by a period of research which is one of the areas I enjoy most and continue from there.
My next project, I have already started working on, is a photographic project called ‘Silent Key Holders of Power’. I am going to be working with about 50 dancers, looking at the female/male relationship and the patriarchy. I wanted to do it this year, but due to the pandemic and public funding bodies changing their funding policies, I had to put it on hold until 2021. I will also continue working on a video art project that I have been working on for four years called, ‘Fathers and Sons’ exploring father and son relationships conceptually. I have already secured the space to have the exhibition at 180 Strand. I now need to raise the money to shoot the film for which I am working on with a producer.”Learn more about Othello De'souza Read more Photography+ here
Interview: Nicola Jeffs