At last night’s Nicer Tuesdays, we heard about the trials and treasures of sisterhood, how to make a great comic, what a shoot for The Gentlewoman is really like, and the nostalgic 90s roots behind a recent stop motion hit. Here’s a few things we learned at our March event at Oval Space.
Photographers are often amateur therapists
Photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor spoke about her tender and insightful series Sisters, for which she shot 80 sets of sisters over two years. It began, she says, like much of her personal work – “a way to capture aspects of people that I can relate to… and often some sort of self-reflection.” Analysing her own connection with her sister, “because we always had a difficult relationship,” she started speaking to other sisters “to understand my own flawed relationship better.” Along the way, her analysis turned outward, as the sisters would talk and share stories – “they turned into mini therapy sessions”. The sisters are photographed in their homes, to add context to the narrative and to make the sitters feel comfortable, Sophie explained, and the aesthetic of the final shots are intended to fit “somewhere between formal family portraits and snapshots”.
Parody can come full circle
Comic creator Alex Norris shared the process behind making his adorable yet perpetually disappointed pink blob character, whose catchphrase “Oh no” is the punchline to every joke. Alex took us back to the origins of the hilarious panel series Webcomic Name; having studied English Literature and with ambitions to be a writer, he explained that he spotted an opportunity in panel comics because “not many people make them but lots of people read them”. In his early experiments he “tried very hard to be clever” he said, until he found simplicity and satire to have the winning formula. “It’s got a catchphrase, it’s familiar, you already know the joke. It follows the seven-second rule, as in, on a feed you need to get it in seven seconds.” In trying to parody relatable comics, he laughed that its success meant he had now become the parody. “I’ve become the monster!”
A shoot for The Gentlewoman is more lo-fi than you’d expect
With a distribution of 100,000 copies and widespread respect of the most high, many expect The Gentlewoman to involve vast production processes. Veronica Ditting, creative director of the magazine – just one of many esteemed projects to come out of her Clerkenwell studio – however explained that’s not the case. She took us behind the scenes of two recent shoots, one portrait series for an interview feature and one fashion piece, to show just how they come together. In the former example with Kim Deal, photographed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch, a team of three had half an hour in December in a rainy Fitzrovia, when the sun was quickly disappearing. To pull it off, Veronica explained, meticulous research and preparation was required. In advance, she looked into “how comfortable [the subject is] in front of the camera, if they need a prop or to do something while being shot”. In Kim’s case, that was a typical office chair, “which thank god she loved!” It also comes down to personality. “It’s about connection between the photographer and sitter. If they don’t get on you can see it in a picture, but luckily they did.”
Mr Blobby was a “pop cultural icon” who inspired Pombo
Having worked on a respectable list of films including Isle of Dogs and Kubo and the Two Strings, animation director Steve Warne has more than earned his stripes in stop motion, but his own film Pombo Loves You also shows serious talent for storytelling. “It’s the tale of a distant father forced to confront a heroic but tragic past life as a TV character,” Steve explained. The initial idea emerged from nostalgic conversations about the “feral chaos” of 90s television programmes Fun House and The Crystal Maze, and Mr Blobby, a “pop cultural icon” who is “instantly appealing and fun, but also sinister and dark, and a bit sad, because none of it exists any more.” From this, Pombo was born, and Steve’s film explores both sides of these emotions while employing a host of clever animation techniques.