all images copyright Deborah Parkin
I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not a tech head type of photographer. Sure, meet me personally and I'll tell you why I choose to shoot film, but I don't subscribe to the approach of preaching about it all the time. Digital technology is fantastic, as is shooting with a pinhole. But at the end of the day it's just the medium. No one says that Rembrandt created masterpieces because of the paint he used, and no one claims it was the cut of the marble that made Michelangelo's work's so incredible. I have the films I use that I love and know, I print in my darkroom, I know the quirks of my camera inside out and that's enough for me.
When I started photography aged 16, digital photography was a strange beast looming somewhere in the future that was going to cost a fortune and not be very good. Which was great for me as my studies in photography gave me the chance to learn all the analogue skills, most of which I still use to this day.
One great analogue process though, completely baffled me as Georgia will tell you. Large Format photography was a complete mystery to me. I wasted sheets and sheets of film by loading them back to front, I never could work out my bellows extension maths, and carrying the camera to locations nearly broke my back. In 4 years of photographic study, I produced successful 5x4 images a total of 3 times and that was enough for me.
Deborah Parkin, thankfully, is a much more patient and considered woman than I.I stumbled across her stunning series " September is the cruelest month" and am in complete awe not only of her photos but the process by which she creates them. Shooting a 5 and 8 year old with a 5x4 in the snow is admirable enough, but to create the images she has is nothing short of incredible.
Deborah's work centres around childhood and specifically some of feelings of loneliness and isolation so often banished to the darkest recesses of our adult memories. Her black and white images are at once haunting, touching and thought provoking. Her work is not typically candid in that it is not snapshots, but it does retain a series of spontenaity> that comes from working with children. The surroundings for her images are classically beautiful ( snow, woodlands, barns), but what i find so interesting in is that level of collaboration that has evolved through her work. Her children are aware she is photographing them of course, they allow there mother to tell them where to stand, maybe even position them. In so many ways it is similar to many fine art photographers working with children. But Deborah's children have ownership over there representation. They are not vacant models, each image belies the child's personality. And Deborah embraces that, it's as if she knows what she wants to photograph conceptually and the children take the concept and inject it with a strong element of truth. Her images speak volumes about her and her own childhood but somehow her treatment sees the photos ultimately being about her children. I do not read in her work questions about motherhood or her personal relationship with her children. Instead the viewer is given a gentle and slightly sad reminder that in the quiet times not often captured by a camera, childhood is often not so different to adulthood.
The final photos though, are not reliant solely on an artistic idea. Deborah's command of the format is masterful and she primarily creates beautiful pictures that hold up beyond the viewers personal interpretation of the childhood she has depicted. Her work never seems contrived nor forced, In this very post modern art world, it is wonderful to see a photographer shunning the trend towards the blase and instead using the power of the craft of the photographic medium to create work that showcases how magical a photo can be.
Deborah's website is here but i also strongly recommend reading her blog