Monday, 27 February 2017

Holly Burns - "Small, Fearless"

A very interesting and exciting opportunity unexpectedly arose through a simple request from my 7 year old son. During the opening night of Galloway Photographic Collective's November exhibition at Shambellie House, New Abbey, he asked me the question: "Mummy, why are there never any photos of me at your shows. Can I be in the next one?'

I was hesitant to say the least. My work tends to be very emotional and is an outward expression often dictated by my inner thoughts and experiences. Much of my work was created princibly for therapeutic benefit and I wasn't sure how I could integrate my son into this. As a brave hearted 7 year old full of innocence and little awareness of the big bad world, the only thing that I felt could possibly make him vulnerable was his small size.

I soon realised that the concept for an image based on him was staring me right in the face - I would create something that showed strength, rather than weakness, despite his small frame. The challenge for me was how to convey this concept of youthful strength within an image that suitably fits with my other work, as he wanted to be in the exhibition after all.

Just days later my friend told me he had come into possession of a taxidermy bear, not something that you often come across, and he immediately thought of me. I, in turn, saw my opportunity and swiftly captured those necessary shots of the bear. What better way to emphasise the small frame of a 7 year old than to place him in a position of authority next to this huge and wonderfully powerful animal. I wanted to show no matter how big and scary the opposition was, he could tackle it through his sheer bravery. In the GIF below, you can see the images that were collected and how I constructed them together to create the finished piece.

(refresh the page to see it again)

The work was completed and became apart of the collection for the current exhibition running at the Whitehouse Gallery, Kirkcudbright. Seeing his picture presented 4 feet squared on the wall has made him a very happy boy! Funnily enough, he was more comfortable in the limelight than I and was very open to discussing his modelling with visitors! Since then, he has also enjoyed seeing the image in print thanks to D&G life magazine.

On a personal level, nothing makes me happier than making my little one happy so I shall consider this image to be a success! On a professional level, this experience has opened my eyes to the idea of working in a manner that I wasn't very familiar with. I've realised that adapting my methods of working offer new opportunities to create and on this occasion it has proved very rewarding. As photographers we should always be open to considering taking different paths, be that on a conceptual or technical level. The outcomes of these endeavours can be very successful.

Holly Burns

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