My first week in my first partner school got off to a great start. My time at Greenfield Primary is longer than any of the other partner schools as at this stage it’s more about testing the model and easing into delivery in a school/community setting. So my first week was based around settling in, testing the put up and pack down of the equipment, introducing pupils to the project and road testing the suitability of the dome for the project process. At the beginning of the week I luckily had the help of a member of school staff, Arts Lead Julia Turner, which meant that the dome was built and weighted down in just over an hour (versus the two hours or so it took me to build the structure on my own). This is good to note as when I’m at the next venues I can be fully set up and operational in two hours, meaning I’ll be able to get to work with participants quickly. Given I’ll be visit those venues for one week only this is certainly a good thing.
Following the set up I spent the rest of the day setting up an outdoor office (the dome got warm in the sun very quickly!) and testing chemicals and the spread of the light in the dome with a few test prints. My following three days in school were given over to meeting and greeting all twenty-one classes in the school, introducing them to the dome and explaining to them what I would be doing whilst at the school.
The project has two practical strands, the dome acts as my artist studio in which the pupils will have sight of in the school grounds, thus seeing an artist at work, be that researching or conducting practical activity. The other strand being the pupils actually having a go at making their own cyanotype prints alongside me. Once the groups had finished having a look inside the dome in their respective class Covid bubbles we all sat whilst I explained a bit about the Cyanotype process and how we would make our prints together. This ended with me washing one of my test prints so that the pupils could see the “magic happen”! Another interesting aspect of the meet and greet sessions was allowing time for a Q & A. The pupils certainly came with a wide variety of questions over the three days, especially the younger members of the school! It felt like a good way for me to speak about my practice but also remind myself of why I do what I do as a career. A lot of the questions centred around how I started out being a photographer, or who or what inspired me to pick up a camera in the first place which was very grounding for me and I hope allowed the groups to realise that a career in the arts is a viable path.
This notion of the path or journey really came home to me in a quiet moment whilst I was mixing some fresh chemicals for test prints. The “recipe” that I refer to when I make my Cyanotype solution is a printout of a scan that I made of the original set of instructions that I was given the very first time I tried the technique. This was given to me at university by my second year tutor Tony Clancy back in 2006 and has turned out to be a very valuable resource indeed! I spent some time thinking about the person I was back then; a student photographer, searching for an artistic voice, willing to experiment and trying to be open to all things that came my way. Now more than ever I think I should hold onto aspects of that approach whilst building on all of the experiences I’ve had since leaving university. In my life I really see the power of art practice as a process and the way that experiencing art in whatever form can really stick with you. I really hope that this project will have lasting effects on the participants. Not that they necessarily need to become artists later down the line but that they at the very least hold onto the notion that creativity can play an important role in their lives and the lives of those around them.