It’s always interesting to look at the submissions and comments received on a project in a format other than the linear feed that comes in from the blog, my Facebook page and Twitter account. Here’s a word cloud from the very excellent Wordle. The larger words are the most frequently submitted. Here’s an insight; people tend to talk about the transformative aspects of reading. There’s very little mention of the ubiquity and even the mundane. I’ve become very conscious of reading, thanks to this project. It’s impossible to exist without encountering information in a breadth of forms that involves reading; train tickets, road signs, food packaging, the news, advertising…
Reading is everywhere.
Firstly, if you’ve submitted a response, thanks for participating! Your input and support motivates me and makes for a more interesting (and fun) project.
What happens next?
I’ll draw on your responses for inspiration and they’ll also feature in the final work. You will also receive credit.
Work on the master copy of the zine, which will be entered into the Returned To Glory art competition will begin in March. The competition is in June. The final outcome is an unknown due to the nature of the project. It’s dependent on the input I receive from people like you and until I stop gathering responses, that’s open-ended. I’m also working with found waste materials that relate to reading somehow. This means I can’t buy materials that I’m familiar with, so there’s less control and the results won’t be as predictable. I’m at the mercy of the process.
I’m targeting June / July for publication of a short run, limited edition of signed copies. The first 20 people who complete the sentence “Reading is…” will receive a free copy. (Actually, there might be a few more than 20 because maths is not my strong point but that’s not your problem). I’ll be in touch if you’re one of these people.
In the meantime, I’ll do some drawings and other works. Here’s a preview…
Help me get to 100 responses
My goal is to collect 100 responses by February 28. We’re off to a good start but We need more!
Spread the word. Share this link Broad and diverse input feeds the creative process.
And if you’ve already responded, you can continue to provide responses too. Don’t be shy!
Here’s a picture of a Goodness You artwork. It’s very satisfying to know that the postcards make their way safely to their intended destinations and even more so, to learn that they create a positive vibe. That’s what the project is all about.
Lara Prescott is a writer and her first novel (not yet published) is about the Owl House in South Africa, built by outsider artist Helen Martins (Miss Helen). You can see one of the owls from the house in the background on Lara’s desk, where she writes every day. I was delighted to learn that her GoodnessYou postcard has joined the owl, as part of her collection of inspiring things. Lara has a really nice Tumblr site and I’m looking forward to the day when she publicises her book on the site.
Sydney-based mobile street photographer Emily Chen uses her daily commute to create an impressive body of work. Her images are moments that tell stories, interesting compositions of light and shadow that draw the viewer into a way of looking at “the extraordinary in the ordinary”. For Emily, the journey to and from work is a rich source of artistic inspiration and a precious time to pursue her passion for mobile street photography. We caught up recently to share her experience and insights into the creative challenges and opportunities of creating art during the daily commute, the value and role of social media to emerging artists and the importance of taking time to develop an art practice.
Emily has been shooting consistently, twice daily from Monday through Friday for two years. When she started out, she was interested in photography but in her own words as “a happy snapper”.
At first, it was about improving my photography. I took lots of pictures and I can say it now; there was an element of luck involved.
Over time, her artistic vision developed.
By visiting the same places, repetitively looking at people, the light at the same time every morning and late in the evening, I got to know my camera, the light, what I was looking for in the images. These days, I am more selective. I still shoot every day but always with the goal of capturing that special moment. It’s almost like moving from digital back to film, where film is precious and that makes you conscious of what you’re shooting. You’re looking for that moment to capture, rather than snapping in the hope that you’ll capture someone doing something interesting by chance.
Light is Emily’s primary subject matter.
I leverage the sunlight, how shadows become interesting – composing with light. My images are light-centric, with minimal editing, often black and white and I have to think in black and white while I’m shooting. People feature but they are not the subject matter, they are what make the images interesting.
That doesn’t mean that people are not important, reduced to the role of mere props.
It’s important to capture people’s natural behaviour. I try to observe, to be discrete rather than be intrusive. People are usually in a world of their own, oblivious to my shooting. At the same time, I don’t want to post anything that’s invasive of their privacy or that would be inappropriate to share on the Internet. Very rarely have I been asked what I was doing – just once by someone who was curious more so than put out. I’ll happily share the image with someone or I’ll delete it if they prefer but that’s never been an issue.
While the routine of the commute presents an opportunity for regular, focussed creative practice, it can lead to motivational challenges.
Sometimes, I feel as if my inspiration is drying up. When that happens, I just click away – shoot, just get back into it in the same way I started out. Or I’ll change my route slightly – get off a stop earlier or later, change trains or jump off, shoot a bit, then get back on again. Introducing a little variety in this way is good for motivation. At the same time, if there’s too much variety, then the purpose can change and you have to be aware of that. Likewise, I don’t set myself projects – although I think about that from time to time – because that would change the direction. Although, I’m thinking about maybe shooting at different times of the day, like lunch hour, just to see how that’s different…
The convergence of social media, photography and mobile device technology has made it easy to share images and develop networks with other artists.
I don’t look at the images while I’m shooting. That happens later, when the time is there to reflect and critique. Curation and sharing is a very different mindspace to shooting. I make time every day to share some work and to look at and comment on the work of others through platforms like Instagram, EyeM, Twitter and so on. Sharing and getting feedback matters but I don’t find myself checking for reactions as soon as I’ve posted. It’s more about how the reactions play out over time, as opposed to an instant gratification, sort of like the Slow Web movement.
I’ve developed a network of other street photographers. Their comments and feedback have helped me to develop. We also share “light spots”, places where the light is particularly interesting at different times of day. And also, just being around people who share the passion for street photography and mobile, keeps me motivated. It can also lead to opportunities to get your work out there, which was my experience with the Format festival.
Emily’s approach has turned her commute into a source of subject matter and a creative context to develop as an artist. Establishing this routine and sticking with it over time, making the occasional adjustment to keep it interesting, and using social media to develop her creative network has enabled her to develop an impressive portfolio of captivating images.
Follow Emily Chen at
I discovered this quirky zine at Kinokuniya bookstore in Sydney. It’s a compilation of vignettes and illustrations of life in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. The stories are written in the first person, although I have no idea if they are autobiographical or based on real events – no context is provided. My guess is that some are, while others are inspired from observation.
It’s confronting and gritty (and the strong language may put some off), featuring a breadth of eccentric, sometimes threatening and dysfunctional characters and situations. Despite this backdrop, it’s quite an uplifting read. A sense of humanity, community, family, love of place and ultimately, faith in people’s inherent drive to get along, to relate somehow and do the right thing shines through. Acute observations are delivered from a slightly satirical and critical perspective but presented with respect for the subjects and their difficult circumstances. Anyone who’s ever felt slightly removed from their surroundings or who feels a strange attachment to a place or situation that doesn’t appear all that good from the outside will relate to the themes in this book.
A lot of care was taken over the finish, even though first impressions are casual, garish, a bit crude even. The fluoro colour scheme and low-tech, handmade feel give the impression of something designed to grab, rather than invite, attention. It’s a great of example of a simple thing done well. The paper choice, print quality and sewn binding make this little book feel special and they emphasise, rather than distract from the overall feel of the zine. It’s a really nice little work of art.