Ways of Seeing: A Portrait of Carole and the Photographer.

Just before the onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, alongside other volunteers, I became a ‘culture champion.’ Guided by Bury Art Museum project leader Gina Warburton, our task was to explore the nature of portraiture through a series of Victorian portraits of the Walker family.

Part way through the project I was commissioned to produce a response to what we had experienced and I chose to photograph one of the volunteers, Carole. My portrait photograph and video was exhibited at Bury Art Museum.

The exhibition finished last year, but here is the first time that the image and the video have been shared outside the exhibition.

"There is a moment in the film that words can't describe - a moment of human connection - where I see Carole's younger self for the briefest of seconds."
A Portrait of Carole and the Photographer

My idea was to film the photo shoot of Carole and break through the framed silence of a portrait by including the artist in the photograph and allowing others a privileged peek into the portraiture process.

A formal portrait holds powerful messages that try and set up or corroborate a particular viewpoint. The act of capturing the portrait process can reveal the reality behind the messages within the final portrait. In alluding to that I asked Carole to hold a mirror and captured myself in the image too.

At the start of our work into portraits, I had no idea how this project would impact my understanding of portraiture, or the strong bonds it would form beyond my work, especially with Carole.

Beyond that, I'm in awe at the power of art at drawing people together, creating the necessary conditions for human interaction and wellbeing. It also taught me about the human condition - our need to present a formal front that, in some cases, hides the realities beneath.

There are lessons here that teach us about questioning what we see and exploring what lies beneath. One surprising outcome was that it helped me understand and counter-act fake news in our modern age.

There is a moment in the film that words can't describe - a moment of human connection: where I see Carole's younger self for the briefest of seconds. I can’t define it. It was as if her ten-year-old self had popped up to say hello. It brought tears to my eyes. I stood back.

Here are some photos of Carole (with her family) on the first time she saw her portrait on display at Bury Art Museum.