Photographer & Artist
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SPECTRAL SHORES

A journal by photographer Jeanette Bolton-Martin
Collected field notes, thoughts & photographs

Boxing Day

Boxing Day my father and I went for a walk along the coast to Happisburgh. A space which fascinates me and terrifies in equal measure, where you can witness the sea reclaiming the land and leaving only traces of it’s existence. It was in this space that the reflection on this year I’ve been attempting to outrun finally caught up with me. 

This year has been a mixed bag, it’s also passed in a strange way. Feeling still and stagnant up until May and then suddenly it’s December. I started 2018 with a clear idea of where I was going, what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to be, now I’m standing at the precipice of 2019 and have no such clarity. But what I lack in clarity for my future plans I’ve made up for in a quiet confidence that has been absent for many years; more importantly, I feel confident in my work again which is a good place to develop from. 

For most of this year I was attempting to contort my work (and myself) into a certain mould of what I thought a commercial photographer should be. I put all the things that truly interest me in a box and ignored them in favour of trying to create an Instagram worthy ‘creative’ lifestyle and business, which was devoid of one key thing; me. Ultimately, if that’s your bag then great, different horses for different courses, but it’s not me as much as I try to fit that mould. After a couple of disastrous portfolio reviews that shattered my confidence in my work, a silver lining came in the form of Folio Friday at the Photographer’s Gallery. I signed up on a whim, the night before I didn’t sleep and on the train down I had anxiety attacks before drifting off due to exhaustion. 

There’s something profoundly scary about presenting your work for critique, but it’s a necessity because fresh perspectives are always valuable. It’s something you take for granted in art school. Turns out my fears were unfounded, this event was genuinely wonderful. It started with talks by Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Steve Macleod then we got the opportunity to talk with all the other photographers in attendance. Never underestimate the value of being able to form communities (even if they are temporary) with other creative practitioners; being able to share images, ideas and experiences with people who get it makes you feel less isolated . It was brilliant to see a diverse array of practices and having the opportunity to present my work to other photographers, gallery staff and the public. I walked away with some great feedback, more assured in my practice. 

There’s one piece of feedback though that has hung in my mind since, it was perhaps the most difficult to respond to as it was a fairly probing question to do with who am I and which version of myself is being presented in the work. I still don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure I will any time soon but it’s a project in progress and who knows, this time next year I might.  

In terms of my plans for 2019…well there aren’t really any. What I do know is that I want to take all the things that interest me out of the box and get back to making the work I’ve been avoiding for the last year because I miss doing weird things, like filling jars with oil and dead plants for the sake of photographs. The other vague idea is to start writing about these things again. 

To blog or not to blog, that is the quandary. For a long time I’ve wanted to write, about photography, about life, and a few other disparate subjects, but I’ve always been a deep fear of actually doing it. Concerned that my words would not be perfect enough, that there isn’t enough of a connecting thread between my interests or that it’s not niche or commercial enough to be worth reading. I’ve made a few attempts in the past but every time I end up deleting it because it’s it doesn’t measure up to the impossible standards in my head.
So this time around I’m being brave and throwing my voice into the void, imperfect, unpolished and dedicated to all the weird things that pique my curiosity and drive my practice.