For a while, I’ve had an idea to illustrate scenes of days off whilst suffering with symptoms of invisible illness. I personally have spent the last two years out of employment as I have not been able to physically or mentally partake in any work. To a lot of people, this situation seems ideal, but it is far from that.
When you can’t socialise with people, get a change of scenery or even partake in activities within your own home, it is frustrating, mundane and does drive you crazy. I want people who think that this is good to have a glimpse of what it is like; seeing the same things over and over again.
I remember researching “Boring Postcards” by Martin Parr during my BA in Photography and this collection stuck with me when thinking about this series of images.
This book is a collection of simply boring postcards, but together they provide an interesting insight into post war British culture, including architecture, fashion and identity. The scenes within these postcards are mundane and contradictory to what postcards are traditionally used for. Postcards are used to send to loved ones as a momentum of their destination. A majority of the postcards within this book are deemed too dull to make it to that status.
This notion fascinated me. As someone who spent their BA degree in photography fascinated with the mundane and everyday that largely goes unnoticed, I now have mental postcards of my own that are worthy of the boring postcard status. When off sick, and there’s nothing visibly wrong with you, it is easy for people to think of your time off as a holiday. So with this in mind, I had the idea to illustrate the scenes from my days off and present them in this manner.
In terms of content, I was also heavily inspired by Stephen Shore’s “American Surafces”, possibly my favourite photo book.
I realised that what I was looking for in the conceptual work and what I was trying to achieve my short-circuiting my own thought process, I really needed to approach in a different way. And some of that was simply at random moments, to put it into 21st century terms, take a screenshot of my field of vision, and thinking “What does it look like?…What does my seeing look like in my field of vision at this moment?”
This notion has always been of interest to me, previously creating film-like stills with photography, but now I can use illustration to do this. I had a pretty concrete idea of what frames I would want to illustrate, and tried to illustrate as many of them as I could from life, without using photo references. Examples include: the ceiling (as you spend a lot of time staring at it), messy bedrooms, inviting desks, closed curtains, watching tv etc.
Illustrating these instead of photographing them adds a new dimension to the affect of illness. Because I am drawing these by hand, my illness affects my skill level as an illustrator. Drawing straight lines is nearly impossible and getting perspective correct is very hard to achieve. Smooth lines are also tricky. But these factors add a distortion and shakiness that is an honest reflection of experiencing “sick days”.
What I love about drawing and writing together is an image, you know, you can read it in an instant, you know what it’s saying, and then when you put the words underneath, that can twist it around
I knew that words would be important in giving this project context and a voice. It is important that this work has a clear message and leaves less room for interpretation. I want to communicate a feeling of boredom, isolation and frustration, so will need words to create this.
I looked at writing this in the style of a postcard, as if I was writing from my holidays. To get mundane text down I looked at “Nothing to Write Home About”, a collection of postcards and their mundane writings.
This book forms the framing and style of what should be an interesting read, with dull content. This was of interest to me when I was thinking about text.
What I ended up doing though, was jotting down thoughts as I was drawing what I saw. These notes formed the basis of what became the text. Because I was working to a deadline (I wanted to get these finished ready for the zine swap), I had a day to finish the images and write the text ready to put into an Indesign document), the text was a little rushed. But in the end, I’m glad I worked this way. It pulled together really nicely and I’m happy with how the text accompanies the images.
In terms of production, I wanted a landscape format, so when I created the document, two would be printed on one A4 folded sheet, to then be cut in half and create 2 A6 landscape books. I used the same covers as my evaluation, a kraft card, and recycled paper for the inside, as it is off white in colour and not too glaring for those sensitive to bright lights and colours. I hand bound each one using a saddle stitch binding, to add to the personal and home made aesthetic. I kept the size small as I wanted an intimate experience when reading the material. I also rounded off the corners to avoid sharp edges when turning the page, as some chronic illness sufferers have sensitivity to touch.
I have also made the book available to read in full online. Because of the nature of chronic illness, it isn’t always possible to get hold of a publication. Having it available as a link to share also helps me collect feedback on what people think of the work and how it is of benefit to them and others.
I have already had some feedback from different groups of people and will blog about this in another post.
Abadie, M., and Beale, S. (2007) Nothing to Write Home About. The Friday Project: London
Parr, M. (1999) Boring Postcards. Phaidon: London
Phaidon, (n.d) Boring Postcards [online] Available at: http://uk.phaidon.com/store/photography/boring-postcards-9780714843902/ (Accessed 02 April 2018)
Present Plus, (2014) One Minute Wonder #56 – Matilda Tristram [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/108927870 (Accessed 02 April 2018)
Shore, S. (2005) American Surfaces. Phaidon: London
Spike Productions. (2012) Stephen Shore American Surfaces [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/32521780 (Accessed 02 April 2018)