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Fear

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

Fear. It’s quite stifling. It leads to procrastination which in turn leads to self doubt and more fear. A self perpetuating spiral of lack of achievement accompanied with a good deal of baseless excuses.


Ultimately there is only one solution; get the hell on with it.


I wasn’t young when I went to university and I studied with lots of young people who I admired (and still admire) greatly. At their age I was not brave enough to even think I was good enough to be considered for a place at university or college. I didn’t think I deserved the option of following a path of what I wanted to do, I just felt I had to be happy doing what I could to the best of my ability.


Do I regret any of this? Not too much. I can see that my life could have taken a massively different direction and who knows how it would have turned out but essentially I have never been one who wanted to ‘stand out’ or ‘rock the boat’. Until now that is. Having never been introduced to art at a young age with any meaningful insight into it’s power, it was never something that interested me. I had levels of creative ability in other fields, even an above average technical ability and flair for some crafts which was buoyed by my interest in the subject.


All this was without much import to my life as it never really occurred to me that it might be important to my soul and certainly never got considered as a means of trying to make a living.


So part of the reason I don’t regret many of my life choices is that it gave me quite a considerable set of life experiences - far more than my younger peers will have had and possibly more than many of them ever will have. On the back of this I have been able to create some work that I am personally proud of.






























These 3 images were conceived out of my experience with dealing with Domestic Violence and based on some extensive research into the subject in order to produce a system for law enforcement to ascertain the risk factors to victims of further or escalating violence.


I can probably say with a reasonable degree of confidence that not so many people will have dealt with someone whose idea of pleasure was to insert map pins into the breasts of his sexual partners and perhaps only those involved in the field will be aware of the implied risk factors of a partner mutilating cuddly toys. Yet when displayed in photographic form they feel to me as if they convey the disquiet that they genuinely should.


The project was a rather complicated mixing of the idea of creating portraits from shoes (the idea being we are somewhat born with our faces but shoes are mostly a conscious choice), the portrayal of Domestic Violence risk factors and the creation of a mise en scène narrative. It was inspired by a surprisingly high volume of photographers who have used footwear in their imagery but mostly by the daring and colourful Guy Bourdin and the equally ambitious and exciting Mert & Marcus.




Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) - 1970’s advertising image.






Mert (Mert Alas (b. 1971)) & Marcus (Marcus Piggott (b. 1971)) - Advertsing image from circa 1990’s.






So where is the fear in all this? I guess, rather foolishly, my fear comes from the fact that they aren’t ‘normal’ images. And I purposely set out to make them ‘different’ yet still the fear is there.


Yet my pleasure at creating them and even a degree of confidence in the fact they approximated what I had envisaged can’t settle the fact they aren’t what might be referred to as popular art. I don’t want to make popular art. I want to make good art that someone will appreciate and hopefully, eventually be prepared to purchase.


The problem here though is there is no yard stick to define whether my art is good. The preferred (and increasingly accepted) barometer of this might be considered social media and the number of ‘likes’ an image receives. I know this is completely spurious - there is a vast amount of popular work on social media with thousands of likes that I would be ashamed to be involved with. Not that there isn’t a place for it, just not in my studio.


The hard thing to swallow is that a lot of work is being referred to as art and quite clearly it is not - they are visually appealing photographs - they have no soul, there is no metaphor, there is no implied meaning, there is no conceived narrative, there is no pervading concept and most of all there is no thought as to what they are trying to say in a subtle and perpetual way. Surely a good work of art must continue it’s story beyond the contemporary musings of an unthinking hoard of people swiping past an ever building barrage of imagery at an uncontrolled rate of knots.


But you can’t help but be influenced by it. The fact that your work does not illicit attention. I know it’s not about quality, it’s a popularity contest that I don’t want to be involved in. The problem though is, that to a certain extent, you don’t really have a choice. It’s the way things are done now. If you want some kind of profile you need to have a presence. Unpalatable but probably true.


So to some extent I have to ignore this and carry on regardless. I reread, ‘Art and Fear’ by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They beautifully put into words the exact way I feel and offer reassurance and advice - it’s not easy advice and it doesn’t allay fears about whether I will succeed or not but it does reassure that the way I feel is not unusual. It suggests that being the flawed person I am is a necessary requirement to create art. It confirms that the process of making the art is the important part - something that I feel those instagram stars are clearly missing out on. And it confirms that as an artist you will spend a vast amount of time and energy creating art that no-one but you will much care about. Doesn’t sound too reassuring but it is. It’s reassuring that few people ‘like’ my work. It is reassuring that I have deeply considered the work that I made. It’s reassuring that I am happy with my work and that I got a great deal from producing it.


I’ll carry on, it’s the only way to go. It’s the only way I will improve or make the work that strikes the right tone with the right people. People who will, with luck, care about some of my work. Carrying on, complete with the fear and doubts, is all there is. Otherwise I can’t be an artist.


Lastly I say ‘Print’.


Images on screens are uncontrollable and somewhat valueless.


Photographic images need to be printed. Not as snap shots, unless that is part of the artistic interpretation, but as thought out works. As Grayson Perry recently said on his ‘Art Club’ TV programme - something along the lines of “There’s a reason we display art in art galleries….. because that’s where it looks best.”


It’s true. I don’t think you can truly appreciate an image until you see it printed as the artist intended. Back in 2019 (when we were allowed out) I attended ‘Photo London’ and I saw some of Tom Blachford’s work in real life. I had appreciated his work greatly from images online and in books but seeing it in person was a breathtaking experience and only then could you comprehend the scale, luminance and true impact his work has.

‘Enduro 1 - A Mid Century Modern Architecture Space Photograph - 2017. (35.5” x 53.5”)

Tom Blachford (b. 1987)

Price approx’ £3,000.


I have a desire to promote art and an ambition of mine would be to run a gallery to further the work of new and undiscovered art photographers (including myself I guess), this would hopefully allow a much needed expansion of the presentation of photography in its full scale printed form. I am at an early stage of researching this but with the currently economic climate it may be a while before there is any real prospect of proceeding.


Funding would be the main issue. Not the initial outlay so much but actually creating enough profit to continue. This maybe where grants from the Arts Council or similar come in.


That’s all for now.


Ian


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© All Images Copyright of Ian Kemp 2023

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