• Amber

'Found' - A Self-Portraiture Series by @gurlhoods

Updated: Feb 16

My name is Amber Marie and I'm a 21 year old photography student from Grimsby. Come September, I'll be entering my third and final year at Falmouth Uni where I'm studying BA Hons Photography (if you're trying to figure out the distance in your head, Falmouth is just over 400 miles away from my hometown so no, I probably couldn't have really picked a further place without moving country). Entering third year is one of the most daunting things ever and I'm constantly panicking about how underprepared I feel to enter the 'real world' after leaving! Being a creative student who missed out on work experience at the beginning of this year because of the pandemic, the concept of trying to find a career after leaving uni fills me with excitement but overwhelming dread at the same time.

Creating work during the pandemic has sometimes been the only thing that's kept me feeling afloat during such an anxiety-filled year or so but my lack of creative drive through lockdowns has also left me wanting to tear out my hair! One of the main things I loved doingthroughout the lockdowns was getting out my hard drive and looking back on all the work I've created since A Level, wondering if I could construct something new and fresh out of oldideas - this is how my little series Found came to be.

Found is a self-portraiture series compiled by photos from other work; the images were all taken during different times for varying projects (some even just spontaneously whilst I was playing around with my cameras) to begin with and all feature self-portraits created using mirrors or other reflective surfaces found in varying locations. The images are mainly taken using my Minolta camera (my first 35mm camera I bought for £30 on eBay when I started A Level Photography at 16) but if not they were still taken using some form of 35mm camera. This is very much still a work in progress - I like to see it as a project that will never truly be complete because I'll keep adding to it as I age.

Grimsby #1, 2019

This image was taken at the beginning of March 2019. The focus is shaky for two reasons - one because I was testing out a point and shoot camera I'd been given by my Photography teacher and two because I was in the middle of an anxiety attack. I've struggled with anxiety attacks I think from when I was around 15 and they had reached a new high in 2019. I was completing an Art Foundation Diploma ie. spending another year at college because I didn'tfeel ready to pack up and leave home for uni. This image was taken because my college work was getting a bit untidy and sloppily made. I hadn't really put 100% effort into my work for a couple months and was feeling so lost and helpless. I wanted to get off my arse and make some work but each time I tried to get out of bed, I ended up collapsing back onto mymattress, the weight of expectations of previously being an A* student pressing down on mychest; this was when I decided I was just going to take photos of me existing, how I appeared exactly in that moment, no sugar-coating, no post-editing, just me as me. And that's how this image was born.

I put this image in my sketchbook after I'd had the prints developed from this roll a couple weeks later and simply captioned it 'me, having a breakdown.' There was something that feltso powerful in being so raw and truthful to the camera for the first time that made me feel comforted. I stopped trying to perform for the camera and instead just began documenting myself and my life, which is something I've tried very hard to stick to ever since!

Grimsby #2, 2019

This next image was also taken during March 2019 but I'd reached a much healthier place with my self-esteem and overall relationship with myself. Much like many of the other imagesin the series, this was taken in my bedroom mirror at home in Grimsby. I've never particularly disliked living in my hometown but it's never really been my favourite place at the same time. There are lots of places that haunt me a little bit whenever I return - that Subway I went to on a really awkward date, the street my ex - best friend lives down, even the living room inmy house where I was dumped by my first love and sat with my dogs crying for hours. It's as if there are ghosts in the walls and sometimes they'll leave me be but other times they come out to taunt me. Sometimes I think it's best to approach them head on though because I've realised that the more battle with them, the less they hurt as time passes.

It's so funny to me that one photograph can remind me of all those things but I've always thought that's the beauty of photography and self-portraiture as its own genre - the portraitsshow a version of yourself that you once believed to be your truest self, a version that diminishes with time as you grow but will be forever encased in a glossy print. Isn't that just amazing?

In the background of the image, you can see hundreds of photos tacked up on my wall. I used to spend so much money on ink and paper to print them out, carefully organising theminto piles so they wouldn't seem repetitive if they featured the same friend multiple times. Once they were up on my wall, I'd sit on my bed and stare up at them, reminiscing on the memory that was carved into each singular image. Sometimes the most therapeutic thing after an argument with a family member or a friend would be to pull down all the photos thatcontained them. Sometimes there would be big gaps on the wall that would stay there for weeks because I'd be too lazy to print more photos out to replace those that had gone.

I took down all the photos before I moved to uni so now all that's left are blobs of blu-tac in uniformed squares and rectangles, little remnants of what was once.

Hull, 2019

During my Art Foundation Diploma, we went on lots of little trips, one of which was to Hull. For quite a small city, Hull has a surprisingly sufficient amount of creative locations. There's a little shop down Humber Street called Form which sells the most beautiful prints and Ferens Art Gallery is just gorgeous from the work on display to the pearly architecture of the building itself. I took this photo in a mirror at Beasley's vintage shop and I ended up buying the navy skirt that you can see hanging just behind my head in the photo.

It was during this trip that I began to realise I loved documenting the mundane and banal moments of everyday life, zooming in on them to give them their own little photographic podiums. It sounds silly, but this moment in the grand old city of Hull is one of those that stands out to me still, where I honed in on my tiny existence in a wide space containing so many other people, all unknown to me.

Amsterdam, 2019

We ended up visiting Hull again a month or so after that last photo was taken, but only for a short while to get a ferry across to Rotterdam. From there, we then got a coach to Amsterdam. I'd been to Amsterdam a couple times before going with college because my aunt and uncle live there. It was somewhat strange yet sweet to be the only one on the trip feeling familiar in a place that was alien to everyone else. I even got to squeeze in a quick coffee with my auntie which was so lovely as I hadn't seen her in so long.

I took this photo during my visit to Foam Museum (which I'd highly recommend you check out if you ever happen to be in the area because it always has the most beautiful photographic work on display) in the toilets. I thought that the strange honeycomb-like walls and the warm lighting made even the toilets feel homely in a weird way. I thought this photo would be much warmer in tone but the film has created an almost kind of green atmosphere,which has grown on me over time.

All of the colour portraits from 2018 - 2019 in this series were taken using Kodak ColorPlus, which works at ISO 200. At the time, I hadn't really experimented with different film stock and I managed to swipe myself a box of 10 from Amazon for £20, which was such a steal considering film is getting pricier and pricier by the minute at the moment! Since being at uni, I've found a true love for Portra 400 - the skin tones and warmth from Portra is just unmatched, but I'm always willing to try new things to experiment!

Spain, 2019

Another rather green looking photo is this one from Spain. I was a bit cheeky and went on a family holiday during my college Diploma (much to my teachers' dismay) but it was a well-needed time of relaxation from the day to day pressures of being a creative student; when I visit new places, it makes me fall in love with photography again and in the most natural way,not thinking about how I could make images that could get me the highest grade. It remindsme of how I felt when I was around 12 and picked up my little Nikon bridge camera, taking photos of my family and the horses in the nearby fields, trying to express my personal view on the world.

I do really love this image because it's just so playful and interesting to me - when I was shopping with my mum, I looked up and saw myself in the huge reflective light in the ceiling so, without thinking much, I lifted up my arms as high as they would go and snapped this photo. I absolutely love how I was able to capture all the shelves and the bottle tops, which seem reachable in this image but were actually much taller than me in reality!

I'm not too sure how much of an effect x-ray machines and other airport checks can have on film but the rolls I completed on holiday didn't seem to have been bothered too much whichwas a bit of a relief when I got them developed when we got back home. Thinking back now,that's the last time I've been abroad so over two years ago because of the pandemic and everything. Crazy to think that really.

York, 2019

I'm pretty sure this next one was taken during the Easter holidays in 2019. My mum and I were visiting my auntie and her daughters in York and spent a day out, wandering into different shops and spending money in the Easter sales. I remember taking this photo in the door of a restaurant we were contemplating eating at (I can't quite remember which one though). I was gluten free at the time so alongside my cousins being quite picky eaters, finding a suitable place for food was a challenge to say the least! I love how you can see aspects of both the interior of the restaurant and the architecture of the outside world, the glass placing me in the somewhat middleground, as if I'm floating in my own dimension.

I still to this day use my little Minolta the most out of all the different cameras I own (and I've got quite a collection going from all the years). I think it's because I've been using it for so long that I feel so comfortable shooting with it and it's really not complicated to use at all. Don't get me wrong though, I still panic that I've ruined a roll of film almost every shoot I do - I think it's something you do a thousand times over and over but there's still no way of knowing if it's really ended up how you wanted it to until it comes to the development process. That's honestly the beauty of film to me though - how you have an idea in your head of how the shot will turn out and sometimes you're right and other times you couldn't be more wrong! I think it's amazing when a shot that you weren't really that bothered about or even one you just took to start off the roll turns out to be one of your favourites when you see it.

For me, I love taking self-portraits on analogue cameras because when I do them with my digital camera, I spend so much time readjusting my posture, redoing my makeup or changing my hairstyle because of how I look in the images. When it comes to film, you've really got no idea how you're going to come across in the final image. It relates back to what I was saying at the beginning about trying not to perform for the camera and allowing the lens to portray you in your truest form. There's something so poetic and beautiful about that to me.

Thanks for reading and witnessing me get all soppy about how much I love analogue cameras and all that. I'll put a few more images from Found below but not prattle on anymore about them ;)

74 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All