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NATASHA PARSONS CV
2013 – Present: The University of Salford
BA (Hons) Photography
2012 – 2013: University for the Creative Arts, Epsom
UAL Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Distinction)
2005 – 2012: Nonsuch High School for Girls, Cheam
Grades for A-Level Exams:
Drama (B), English Literature (C), Fine Art (A)
Grades for GCSE Exams:
Maths (A), English Language (A), English Literature (A*), Physics (B), Chemistry (C), Biology (B), Religious Studies (B), History (B), Spanish (B), Drama (A), IT (B), Art (A), Photography (A*)
2014 – Present: Customer Advisor at Schuh, Market Street, Manchester.
Whilst working at Schuh, I have developed great time keeping skills due to working in a fast paced environment. I have enhanced my ability to manage personal tasks and effectively meet deadlines and individual targets. I have also demonstrated skills of teamwork and flexibility whilst working at Schuh due to covering my colleague’s shifts and helping others if necessary.
2011 – 2013: Customer Advisor for the Decorative department at B&Q in Sutton.
During my time at B&Q I developed a variety of skills such as decision-making and problem solving. I am able to identify options, evaluate them and choose the most appropriate course of action along with identifying and using an appropriate method or technique to arrive at a solution. I also have a wide range of product knowledge along with leadership skills such as dividing tasks up amongst my colleagues and being able to motivate others.
2010 – 2011: Waitress at Post Restaurant, Banstead.
From October 2010 until it’s closure in April 2011 I worked at Post where I learnt the importance of uniform and presentation. I also demonstrated and developed skills in oral communication, which enabled me to give information and explain details effectively.
Summer 2010: Tinies Childcare and House of Flowers, Sutton.
During the summer of 2010 I was employed by Tinies Childcare based in Sutton, and House of Flowers in Carshalton Beeches. For Tinies Childcare my duties were office based, including setting up databases and inputting information, whereas at House of Flowers I was involved in more creative work such as window dressing, flower arranging, and helping designing the logo for the florist itself.
October 2010: During October half term in 2010 I did a weeks work experience with the Graphic Design Company, Omnicolour. I was introduced to the industry, the contemporary art world, and the concept of creating work for clients and events.
I was able to learn about different types of large format printing, types of software and assisted Graphic Designers essentially create work.
Summer 2010: During the Summer of 2010, I did 2 weeks work experience at my primary school, Seaton House School for Girls. I worked alongside the teaching staff, participated in activities, helped plan lessons and really got an understanding of the level of thought and organization that has to go into children’s education.
Student Rep: I have been a student rep since September 2014 for my course. I discuss issues that classmates have with the course and address these problems with members of staff so that changes are made, and the quality of education is guaranteed.
Volunteering: In June 2011 I volunteered at the Surrey Youth Games held at Surrey Sports Park. The children who were participating had a range of disabilities such as Autism and Down syndrome.
In 2012, I travelled to Costa Rica with an organization called Outlook Expeditions. Previously to the trip, I had to raise money, which I did by washing cars, bake sales, cleaning jobs etc to contribute to the budget for the group for the entirety of the trip. Whilst in Costa Rica, I helped build a school, worked with children, trekked through the rainforest and helped rescue turtles.
Stagecoach: From the age of six, I was a weekend student at Stagecoach Performing Arts School. I regularly performed at Fairfield Halls, NEC Birmingham and Her Majesty’s Theatre, London.
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This essay will discuss how photography influences our view of the world in relation to documentary photography. I will be concentrating on two photographers who document life in prison, Edmund Clark and Richard Ross. ‘Still Life: Killing Time’ is a series of work by Clark taken at Kingston Prison in Portsmouth which for eight years, was home to twenty-five elderly men serving life for murder, rape, child sex offences and other offences of violence (Brook, 2009). ‘Juvenile In Justice’ by Ross documents the “treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and occasionally harm them.” (Ross, 2013, para. 1)
My experience studying and shooting documentary photography has led me to believe that the genre’s central focus is exploration and exposure. Producing a photographic account of a specific way of life allows an artist to venture out of their comfort zone in order to provoke a reaction and make a positive change. “Documentary photography is rightly thought of as an art when it manages to aesthetically transform the human evils it depicts into valuable meaning.” (Friday, 2000, p.358) It is necessary to have a purpose and passion for change behind each image. A camera can be used as a tool to aid understanding of and gain access to a culture unknown. Wells (2013) explains how “the activity of framing, of rendering the world pictorial, becomes a method of avoiding direct engagement with that which might be unsettling, whether sublime aspects of the natural world or encounters with cultural otherness.” I disagree this statement, as it is not possible to stay hidden behind a camera; a relationship is always formed between the photographer and subject. Both Ross and Clark have been left with strong emotional attachments to the people, situations and environments that were involved with their shooting.
Photographer and professor Richard Ross documented over three hundred juvenile detention facilities in thirty states across the United States over a five year period. (Fritz & Brown, 2012, para. 1) The resulting publication, ‘Juvenile In Justice’ exposes the flawed ideology on child punishment in the United States and has been used as an aid to change national policy. Ross explains the importance of negotiation and connections in order to gain access into such highly guarded institutions. In an interview with Penn State University, Ross also reveals how he builds relationships with his subjects:
“I have discovered that the best way to get access to a kid is to sit on the floor of an eight by ten cell and spend half an hour with the kid above me, so that they have the authority and the power to realise that I am not the tall, old, white guy who is giving them instructions.” (2012)
Each photograph in the book has a story and each story provokes a strong emotional reaction.
Brook describes how the image above shows dorm room six of the Hale Ho’omalu Juvenile Hall in Honolulu, Hawaii. This boy who has been in and out of foster care all his life, committed residential burglary in seventh grade and has since repeatedly violated with petty actions like missing meetings or truancy. His father was deported to the Philippines and his mother is a drug-user. The only person who visits him is his YMCA drug counsellor (2013).
Ross has photographed this subject with the intention of portraying his situation as unjust. The image is taken from a high angle and almost mimics a CCTV still, which aids the viewer’s understanding in that this is a highly controlled environment. The shot has been cleverly framed; the windows have been cropped to highlight the separation from the outside world. The graffiti on the empty beds tell a story of immense boredom and isolation. This is unnatural for a viewer to witness as normality expects a child to be surrounded by a loving family or materials to aid learning and development.
Ross holds a strong view that the United States has created a set of procedures that criminalise, demonise and incarcerate juveniles when the majority of them are being normal teenagers. A lot of the children featured in the series have emotional and mental health needs that are not being addressed or come from poverty or unsupervised homes (2012). Everyone is the way they are for a reason, these youths are perceived to be horrendous and demonic when often it has not been taken into account what they have had to endure in their past.
Brook explains how the photograph above documents the Orientation Training Phase (OTP), part of Youth Offender System Facility in Pueblo, Colorado. OTP performs intake and assessment of convicted children and it operates like a boot camp. All of the children here have juvenile sentences with adult sentences hanging, meaning that if they fail in the eyes of the authority they will have to serve their adult sentence (2013).
As all the subjects were minors, it was protocol for their faces to be blurred, however Ross had a deeper reason for obscuring their identities: “I wanted to generalise, so that it was not just a caricature of that kid. You could see about the age of the kid, the gender, the race but you could empathise and you could relate more to all the times we screwed up when we were teenagers.” (Ross, 2012)
The use of colour in this photograph is effective; yellow is often used to symbolise warning which reflects the possible consequences if these juveniles fail to impress the authorities. Ross has positioned the officer in the foreground to represent his authority and power; the children are pushed behind as they have their rights and freedom stolen from them. The footprints work by creating an aesthetically pleasing pattern but also demonstrate the regimentation within the facility.
“Photographs furnish evidence. Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it.” (Sontag, 1978, p. 5) Ross is trying to give evidence as to who these children are in order to allow policy makers to make an influential change. He describes how he is already making progress as a sentence subcommittee have used his images as part of a discussion on federal legislation to prevent pre-trial juveniles from being housed with kids who have committed serious crimes. “While awareness is certainly great, we are turning the gallery into a laboratory for social change.” (Ross, 2013, para. 7)
Edmund Clark traces ideas of shared humanity, otherness and unseen experience through landscape, architecture and the documents, possessions and environments of subjects of political tension (Biography, 2013). ‘Still Life: Killing Time’ contains photographs of twenty-six elderly life prisoners who inhabit HMP Kingston in Portsmouth.
Unlike Ross, I do not believe that Clark intended for his viewers to feel compassion for his subjects, neither do I think he produced a body of work in order to provoke a change in prison policy. “I am not seeking to evoke sympathy for the prisoners who are, it must be remembered, guilty of some terrible crimes, but I am seeking to evoke the nature of their experiences.” (Clark, 2010)
The work was originally going to be a set of portraits of the prisoners but the more Clark worked in the environment, the more he became interested in the spaces around them (2010). I enjoy most, the photographs of the personal spaces within the prison; they talk about state of mind and the idea of disorder within an ordered environment.
The image above shows the power of text within a frame as a tool to set context; without the instructions, this photograph would have much less of an impact. As a viewer we must assume that this particular prisoner has dementia; a syndrome that causes a loss of cognitive ability. The necessity for directions on going to the toilet causes us to believe that this man is having to deal with dementia alone, I cannot help but think that this is totally immoral, if a prisoner has reached the latter stages of dementia they should be entitled to some degree of nursing care.
“Looking at the spaces in the prison, I could see that there was an awful lot that spoke about time. In a prison situation that means the passage of your tariff. Also, given the nature of these people – very old men – maybe how much time they had left.” (Clark, 2010)
These photographs work as documents of the environment itself but also evoke something deeper about the experience of being in prison. They combine large format, colour documentary photography with still life painting. Clark (2010) describes how as he looked at the environment around the prison, he was reminded of the symbolism of still life painting, particularly Dutch, seventeenth century Vanitas painting where organization of objects evoke a deeper meaning. For Vanitas painting, it tended to be about the transits of earthly life in relation to God and the transits of earthly pleasures in relation to the divine pleasures. Clark emulated this technique by conveying messages through symbols. The flower in this image represents life and the card signifies love and relationships. Clark has been able to humanize the prisoner and has made the situation relatable to his audience. At the same time, this is quite obviously an art work; Clark has used lines of the window and blind to create a dynamic and ordered composition. The frames within the frame tease the viewer with a glimpse of freedom and normality.
Ross and Clark approached similar subject matters in totally different ways; Ross documented juveniles in detention facilities in the hope that it would reveal the problems with the system and start a revolution in prison policy. Clark however, learnt as he went along, taking inspiration from his surroundings to tell a story of the constrictions of space and time. Personally, I prefer the work of Ross; it has a purpose and the potential to change the world’s attitude towards child discipline.
Documentary photographic practice is put under a lot of scrutiny for portraying a false, biased world; “photography, it seems, is experiencing a prolonged crisis concerning not just its role of depicting the world around us – through portraiture, reportage or documentary – but its form and its function, its very meaning.” (O’Hagan, 2012) Although some works should be rightly questioned, this generalisation devalues the inspirational projects done by photographers like Ross and Clark. Photography is an art form that is able to heavily influence our view of the world for good and for bad, but will always be important as a component in aiding our understanding of different cultures and experiences. “Images have extraordinary powers to determine our demands upon reality and are themselves coveted substitutes for first-hand experience become indispensable to the health of the economy, the stability of the polity, and the pursuit of private happiness.” (Sontag, 1978, p. 153)
Aspex Gallery (Producer). (2010). Still Life Killing Time – Edmund Clark [webcast]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/14422273
Brook, P. (2009) Still Life: Killing Time by Edmund Clark. Retrieved 23 December, 2013, from http://prisonphotography.org/2009/04/20/still-life-killing-time-by-edmund-clark/
Brook, P. (2013). Pop-up criminal record expungement clinic for juveniles in Philadelphia art gallery. Retrieved 23 December, 2013, from http://prisonphotography.org/tag/juvenile-in-justice/
Clark, E. (2013). Biography. Retrieved 23 December, 2013, from http://www.edmundclark.com/biography/
Davies, H. (2010). Edmund Clark: Still Life Killing Time. Retrieved 23 December, 2013, from http://www.somethinkblue.com/article_detail.php?article_id=211
Friday, J. (2000). Demonic curiosity and the aesthetics of documentary photography. British Journal of Aesthetics, 40(3), 358.
Fritz, M. & Brown, A. (2012, 2 February). Juvenile education: inside a confined world. PBS NewsHour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/american-graduate/jan-june12/richardross_02-02.html
Juvenile In Justice. (2013). What we do. Retrieved 23 December, 2013, from http://www.juvenile-in-justice.com/about-2
O’Hagan, S. (2012, 16 November). Photography: an ever-evolving art form. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/nov/16/sean-ohagan-photography-art-form
Penn State University (Producer). (2012). Richard Ross: Juvenile In Justice [webcast]. Conversations from Penn State. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVnVNdHuOuU
Sontag, S. (1978). On Photography. London: Penguin Books Ltd
Wells, L. (2013). We Were There. In T. Stylianou-Lambert (Ed.), Tourists Who Shoot (pp. 7). Nicosia: Armida Publications Ltd.
My journey with photography has begun when I got my first film camera when I was a kid, I had the camera with me everywhere, photographing everything I seen and liked.
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