Moths transition from caterpillar through pupae to their final winged form; a process which has long been associated with resurrection and rebirth.
Moth populations in Britain are decreasing. Over 60 species have become extinct during the 20th century. This decline is due to a range of factors including light pollution, habitat loss, climate change and the use of pesticides. In July 2015 the UK Government temporarily suspended the EU ban on two neonicotinoid pesticides. There is evidence that these pesticides are harmful to non-target insects and may effect other wildlife as they enter the food chain.
I use the traditional technique of cyanotype but introduce additional chemicals and allow them to seep into the paper. The finished works are unfixed and the traces of the moths gradually fade in the light. There is no way of halting this disappearance. The faded works will be replaced and left to gather on the floor.
You cannot resurrect the dead.
Throughout the course of the exhibition as the moths fade out of the images they will be replaced with new photographs and the faded work will be discarded, left on the floor of gallery.
Highly commended by The Jill Todd Photographic Award 2015.
The Jill Todd Photographic Award 2015 Stills, Centre for Photography, Edinburgh Photograph by Alan Dimmick
Final week of the exhibition, accumulated faded moths on the floor.
cyanotypes, Somerset paper, LED lights, 560 x 760mm, 2015
Out of the dark night, moths fly towards the light.
‘Phototaxis’ describes an organism’s physical response to light, moving towards, or away from, a light source.
British moths are important pollinators and are also prey, supporting a range of wild animals, plants and food crops. There are 2500 species of moth in Britain. Moth populations have decreased 28% since 1968, up to 40% in southern Britain, and over 60 individual species have become extinct during the 20th century. This decline is due to a range of factors including pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, and light pollution.
I have used the traditional photographic technique, cyanotype, to highlight the absence of moths in our night skies, being keen to examine how elements of a photographic process can become integral to the meaning of the work and act as metaphor.
The cyanotype process refers back to the work of Anna Atkins who was taught the process by its inventor Sir John Herschel. She made a scientific study of British seaweed and plants, which she published in a series of beautiful blue books, releasing the first in 1843. In many cultures, including our own, the colour blue is rich in representational meaning: the forbidden, things confined to the dark night, heaven, death and the infinite. Moths can see further into the blue end of the spectrum than humans and are particularly attracted to white/blue light.
By adding a light behind the pin-hole made by the moth’s pins during exposure, a sharp point to catch the eye, I am both representing the light that is killing the moths, and playing with Barthes’ idea of punctum. Where Barthes sees punctum as a point, a prick, a stab of engagement that the photographer cannot deliberately add, I am physically making them in the work. Barthes states that ‘A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).’ In French the word for bruise is also the word for blue: bleu.
Cyanotypes are contact prints; the direct contact made between the moth and the paper is essential to this process. The moths were there during the exposure, and now only their shadows remain. This sharp reminder of their absence directly references their disappearance from our night skies.
Project exploring the woodland/rural landscape, made during my Bothy Project residency.
You can see the project Rothiemurchus Church Katrina Valle and I made during our time there on the Bothy Project blog.
Studio 11D Murieston Lane
An artist's studio is a blank space. This space is modified and populated by each artist in a way which supports their creative process. The studio at 11D is an open space shared by four artists. Each artist has one corner of the space. They have all individualised their section in a way which reflects their artistic practice and sparks creativity, either deliberately or through their work. The differences in the way each studio is inhabited speaks a lot about the relationship of the artist to their work. The things which are displayed in their studio shows how they try to find inspiration. So much can be discovered about the individual, creativity, their art, and the importance of place, by exploring these spaces.
"My studio is where I can freely think, make, do and wander. It is only with this space that I can generate and develop the ideas which result in an output (drawings, objects, performances etc) that could be considered to be 'my practice'."
"... having a studio pushes me further as it allows me to make larger, more challenging work and feed off other artists in a shared space. I no longer sit in my flat making tiny pieces of work that are then put away in a drawer."
"Due to the way I have set up my studio it focuses me on oil painting, other work is made elsewhere. When I go to paint in the studio it's usually finished pieces that come out, it's a place where I try to put my thoughts into paint."
"... most of the room in my part of the studio is floor space, I make work to do with the ground and with the lower wall; so I tend to make things that free stand of lean, which are object-based, found and effected by paint."
"I respect my body, know that I’m looking after myself and enjoy my life hugely."
Lorna's Full Interview
"My journey with raw started in Fremantle. I came out of art college and I was partying a lot. I started looking at my mental and emotional health and it seemed I was living in a cycle of anxiety. I went to Australia and realised that no matter where I chose to live, all my thoughts and fears came too. I started working at a raw smoothie stall and was surrounded by positivity. I was working with raw food and doing massage and it was easy for me to adopt elements of the raw lifestyle, not just a raw diet. I felt great and realised there was a lot of emotional turbulence for me in Scotland. I decided to come back, deal with it and inspire others. I felt after 6months with my new lifestyle, I was in a good place to do this. So I returned to Scotland and started Ziggy's, making raw food and started practicing yoga too.
Some people find the concept of a raw diet intimidating & I have experienced an element of fear around this diet. I believe this comes from a lack of information & good recipes. I feel great eating what I do, and I want others to feel great too. I feel I have more options & creativity in my diet than ever before. I am motivated to eat what I do because it helps me achieve balance in my physical health, my mental health & not least, my emotional.
The standard diet in Scotland is so clever; E numbers and processed food really have an effect on the body and the mind. The raw food diet helps me achieve balance, feel happy and have a positive attitude. To me, everybody is the same and healthy living is a choice. Sometimes people forget that they have a choice about what they eat. Choosing what I want & how to have it is a big part of my raw food lifestyle. As is believing its ok to have what I want.
My diet is colourful, hydrating, minimal, fresh and clean.
When I eat raw food I feel like I've been switched on. I have so much energy after eating. I respect my body, know that I’m looking after myself and enjoy my life hugely."
"I see the diet as kind of political - the food we choose is affecting the planet."
Ronnie's Full Interview
“I was compulsive with sweet food from when I was young till I was a teenager. I wasn't interested in drinking or smoking but would eat tonnes of sugary sweets; refresher bars, wham bars, hearts. I was addicted - I always had sweets with me, I started to realise that I was having a big crash after binges. I thought I would cut out sugar. It took lots of willpower but my health improved. The cloudy hangover feeling which I always had in the mornings went away. It took six months to cut it out and then I stopped craving it. I felt like I'd solved diet! I also thought that because I'd given up sugar, I could eat anything.
A friend posted a vegan thing on Facebook and I thought - how do I do that? - I thought I should research it before I started, so I started looking on Youtube. I looked at more Youtube videos and got into raw. So I tried one week raw and I just ate anything uncooked. Just anything, like raw broccoli and cauliflower. The first few days, I felt awake, so clear, so full of energy, then I had a nosedive and felt really depressed.
I quickly became interested in a high fruit diet. I made a slow transition. It was really tough to change, it's hard to do just fruit, breakfast is easy, but lunch is hard, dinner is really hard. But on the low fat, high carb diet high in fruit, I was feeling better straight away, better mood, quite high naturally, I had a feeling of healing and I wanted to go 100% because I thought that some magic thing would happen. I felt, and I still feel, that I'm doing myself a disservice putting the second best food in me when I could be putting in the first best.
I'm a frugavore. The way I look at the world, it really makes sense, it's natural, we're attracted to sweet, brightly coloured food. We're naturally social, peaceful and smart. As are animals which eat only fruit. Fruit stimulates brain development.
I see the diet as kind of political - the food we choose is affecting the planet. Even bananas which have been shipped internationally have a lower carbon footprint that other foods - but it's always fruit which gets a bad rap.
You've got to learn not to be judgemental - even when you're hearing snippy comments about your diet. But people do find other reasons for their illnesses or being fat - might it be their diet? There's always excuses. It's difficult to question though, because food is tied in with emotions, identity and culture.”
"I just want to feel my best, I want to look my best and be healthy. You owe it to yourself not to eat shit."
Mhari's Full Interview
“I became vegan in January 2012 and raw in September 2012. It was the best thing I've ever done. It's helped me physically and mentally. I don't have panic attacks, no anxiety, no low moods. I've been 100% raw over the past few weeks and I'm so happy.
I'm a Community Learning Disabilities Nurse. Have been for 5 years. I work with children and adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues. As a nurse, I do health promotion which includes dietary work, I find that quite difficult - just seeing people with poor diets.
I feel so much better, I sleep so much better (I'd been on sleeping tablets for 2 years). I've not been ill for two years, except that two weeks ago I ended up with flu and a chest infection. I'm not invincible even though I live on bananas.
Planning is the biggest challenge. I always have to have fruit ripening and ready to eat. I always make a smoothie and bring it to work. I can't just go to Sainsburys and get bananas because they're green. If I eat them I'll get a sore tummy. Going out isn't too easy, but I will have pasta and know I'm going to have a food hangover. I have dramatically cut down my drinking and can't drink as much as I used to. As much as I love cider, I just can't drink like I used to. The hangovers are horrendous now!
I'm annoyed by arrogant vegans. People like that give vegans a bad name. You can't make people change. You can educate them and point them in the right direction. Be a good example. Be fit and healthy. Just don't be a dick about it.
I just want to feel my best, I want to look my best and be healthy. I used to work in neuro high dependency and worked with many patients who had suffered strokes, sometimes caused by the result of poor lifestyle choices and I don't want that to happen to me. You owe it to yourself not to eat shit.
I think if the health of the nation is going to improve we need to focus on nutrition in a big way. Food is the root of all health issues.
When I told her about my diet, my beautician said 'What about the poor monkeys? You're eating all their bananas. You're killing the monkeys!'”
Mhari runs a vegan dog grooming business in Edinburgh: Fairview Pets
"I'm so passionate about raw roods because I want to heal myself."
Claire's Full Interview
“I have a background in catering. I trained as a chef at 18. I was a manager in a variety of places. At the turn of the millennium I felt restless. I discovered life coaching, I trained as a coach but I couldn't make a living so I fell back on catering. I felt calm but my body was in a bad place. I loved food and I would over-eat and comfort eat. I was on the minimum wage. I got into debt, so much debt that I had to sell my flat. I was basically homeless, staying with my brother and with friends, trying to find my way. I went on a detox retreat in May 2011 in Somerset. It was a week of juicing, 5 juices a day, yoga and pilates, saunas, walks in the country. At the end of the week they gave a raw food demonstration, I couldn't believe how good raw vegan food could taste!
Now I'm 90% raw vegan. The other 10% is the occasional egg, cooked vegetables or cheese. Stuff that isn't good for me - that my body doesn't like. If I eat wheat or soy my face swells, I get palpitations, a rush of adrenalin.
Since being raw vegan, I feel much more energetic, I sleep less, my digestion has improved dramatically, I no longer have candida. I don't use deodorant or body lotion, my hair doesn't need conditioner. I've cut out all the toxic stuff. Raw foodists don't produce the odours that others do. I went from a size 20 to a size 12. I've become more conscious, calmer. I'm not taking on de-natured food vibrations. When you stop putting that vibration into your body you become clearer. You become a more harmonious being. Now I feel the pain of the animals that have been killed and I can taste the chemicals in processed food.
I'm still working on it. I was diagnosed with a melon sized fibroid in the lower gut. I'm treating the tumour with my raw food vegan diet. I've cut out the hormones which I believe created it. I believe that cutting out these hormones will reduce it. I'm so passionate about raw roods because I want to heal myself.
I want to live a long and healthy life. I'm about to be 50. Most people at 50 are bracketed into SAGA holidays, slowing down and giving up. I feel like I'm just beginning.
Health is everything. You cannot achieve your dreams without your health. This is the message that I'm promoting. I hope that I can do that with the cafe. People are waking up and realising that their health is in their own hands.”
"When I went raw I felt like someone switched a light on."
Susan's Full Interview
“I've been teaching yoga for about 8 years. As a result of following a healthier more 'yogic lifestyle' I'd played with being a vegetarian and vegan. In late 2007 I went on an Ayurvedic intensive detox retreat in India, it wasn't my first time in India, I'd been there to study yoga before, but it was my first time doing anything other than yoga in India. When I got back from 5 weeks of deep cleansing my mum took me out to a newly opened raw food cafe here in Edinburgh. I learned a lot about raw food there over the coming months. As it happens, I decided to stop cooking my food by default - I didn't even realize I was 'going raw', as they say, it just felt great not cooking my food! It was easy for me as I didn't have any rules to follow and didn't research too much. Like I said, I had this cafe as a new hang out and got a lot of my inspiration from there. I found it really simple and have tried to keep it that way. In fact, cooking was always quite complex for me! Raw was easy and again, by default I didn't have to think about the various products I have to avoid due to intollerences (such as dairy or gluten). Now, there is no aspect of my life which isn't affected by raw because food is such a big part of society and also becuase eating this way becomes more of a lifestyle and has an impact on the kind of things you want to do when you're not eating. You have so much more energy, a brighter outlook and limitless inspiration...
After some fine tuning through experimenting & exploring the raw food world, my diet is simple. Fresh and clean. 100% raw (give or take the few roatsed herbs I use for their more medicinal properties). I eat mostly fruit and vegetables with some simple fats and some superfoods. Oh and A LOT of juice. Juice is a very big part!
When I went raw I felt like someone switched a light on. Wow! I realized that I was really asleep before. You have to address any emotional issues before you go raw. I'd already done a lot of work on my mind which is why going raw was so easy for me.
In the beginning a lot of people were worried about me. They thought I was being extreme, I was obsessive compulsive, or had an eating disorder. Friends were worried that they were suddenly not going to be good enough for me.
The standard diet is based on convenience and beliefs we have built up over time. The word 'treat' comes up a lot... For me, a mars bar is not a treat, it's a fucking nightmare! I prefer some 100% raw cacao (un-roasted chocolate) to lift my mood. Raw food wakes you up and brings you to life. The standard diet can make you sleepy, sluggish and uninspired. It's the same as the difference in the feeling after eating some mashed potatoes compared to drinking a pint of fresh live juice.
Eating raw food allows your body, your mind and your food to work together. You become very aware of what you're putting in to your body and it's without doubt you'll wind up feeling amazing - like you're standing on top of a hill going 'whoa!' rather than lying flat on your back going 'ugh'.
I recently went and got my blood tested, just out of interest... All my vitamins and minerals were above average. I wanted the numbers to show people. Everything we need is in fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and berries.
Raw is as easy and simple as you want it to be. It's common sense. It's nature's first food.”