Positions and Practice – Week 3

Collaboration – Reflection

Working with others, either in workshops or as an artist combined relationship has always been right up my street. I was incredibly excited when I discovered the next project would be based on connecting with my peers on the course and seeing what we could come up with in a short space of time and without the option to meet face-to-face.

The challenge required students to put forward in a forum a sentence or image that could form the starting point for the photographic collaboration, and from that the instruction to contact those whose words/images you felt resonated with your own.

I submitted: Rage, Rage against the dying of the light – a line from one of my all-time favourite poems by Dylan Thomas.
Dylan Thomas, 19141953 – poets.org/poetsorg/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night 

From the array of pictures and words submitted, it was Mandisa Mauring and Chris Northey’s text that seem to meld with my own.

Mandisa had chosen “To be, or not to be…” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – see Kenneth Branagh in action here: youtube.com/watch?v=SjuZq-8PUw0

Chris had chosen the words: A Place for Broken Things.

Fortunately, after Mandisa got in touch with us both, we all felt the same – our threesome was born.

My own interpretation of my suggested text relates to human determination in the face of adversity, not just the often used explanation of the poem that it is about facing your own mortality. For me, it is about hope and never giving up.

And “To be…or not to be”, in this instance, seemed to offer a choice; you choose how to live your life on your own terms, or not. With “A Place for Broken Things” I didn’t recognise it as a book, poem etc. but it intrigued me as the world is full of ‘broken things’; people, economies, the environment, but, again, I felt it resonated with my own sentence because if you choose to make a positive change things can hopefully be fixed.

I felt we were all rather conscious of the time we had available to create a ‘micro photography project’ and the idea to base our final output on a triptych was formulated. This was to be based on three individual images we supplied and, at first, to produce one triptych. After some email chats and example ideas we decided that we would allow each other to create a triptych each using the artwork provided. Three people – three images – three triptychs; yet at the same time working as one group. It felt important to us all, I think, that everyone’s voice was heard in the final submissions and an element of personal freedom was nurtured in the process.

Our chosen images are:


©Chris Northey
©Mandisa Mauring


I took my photo on the Sunday. I used my mobile phone and a macro adaptor. It so happened a fly was going about it’s business on a yellow flower. Right time, right place. The yellow gave me the hopeful and the fly provided a means of expressing something that is resilient to what the world can throw at it.

And here are our results:

© Josie Purcell with Chris Northey and Mandisa Mauring
© Chris Northey with Josie Purcell and Mandisa Mauring
© Mandisa Mauring with Chris Northey and Josie Purcell

The webinar was incredibly rewarding for me. The positive feedback, which included some people saying that could see my work in a gallery and in fact all of our triptychs working as a gallery piece was quite humbling. The question raised about each of us allowing someone we hardly knew to change and ‘re-mix’ (thanks Gary, great description of our project) our work was very thought provoking. Personally, I have never felt a burning desire to ‘own’ my work and am often guilty of giving it away or selling it without even taking a record of the work – it just goes out into the world. Therefore, I was more intrigued about what we could all create and bring together. I am conscious that this reflection is meant to be concise – there is so much more to say on collaboration and this mini project. I do hope that more collaboration will form from this.

The other group in our webinar produced a magazine layout based on the topic of Autumn. They had had a great time bonding and were incredibly enthusiastic, which was contagious. I think they produced a ‘useful’ interpretation of their own quite separate interests based on an autumnal inspired quote. It was very different to our process and output, offering a new take on what to come up with as a group.

My own final project proposal will include a collaborative aspect – as photographers today I don’t think our work can truly be created ‘alone’. There is always some form of collaboration – isn’t there?