Elizabeth Lyons is a fine art photographer studying Creative Practice at Manchester School of Art. In this post, she shares her experience of working with Special Collections and how she was inspired to produce her own Artist’s Book.
The research I did at Special Collections helped me to create PlatForm, a self-published artist’s book in the form of a newspaper that explores travelling to, from and through Manchester. It reflects ordinary day-to-day journeys made by public transport and on foot.
“On entering a new space, our sensitivity is directed towards a number of elements which we gradually reduce in line with the function we find for the space”
Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel, Penguin Books (2002)
For the project I made a conscious decision to note and photograph things while making everyday journeys to and from home, especially on public transport. Many of us seem to be absorbed entirely in our own worlds when making these journeys, frequently drawn to our mobile devices. We become blind to our surroundings, these journeys become a means to an end, to which we become habituated. While making the photographs, I found I became more receptive to overheard conversations. I started writing down these fragments verbatim, eventually using them to make a poem that runs alongside the photographs.
I visited Special Collections with the vague notion of making a photo-book or printed publication. I researched artists who used text and image as well as looking at zines, artists’ books and photo-books. There I found Port Glasgow by Mark Neville (2004) and Preston Bus Station by the collective Preston Is My Paris (2010). Both were of importance when considering how to make and present my work.
Port Glasgow is a glossy hardback book of beautifully observed social documentary photographs of Port Glasgow, a town in Scotland. It’s the kind of book you’d expect to find for sale in galleries and art spaces. However, it has never been sold conventionally. 8,000 copies were distributed free of charge to each household in Port Glasgow, the dissemination of the work being as important as the content of the book itself. Preston Bus Station is a photo-book in the form of a newspaper. It is tabloid size with minimal text, easy to make and distribute, with better print quality than a photocopied zine.
Influenced by these books and others in the collection, I decided my project was to become a photo-book called PlatForm, presented as a newspaper. A work of art that could easily be disseminated at its original source by being left on public transport, for people to find.
I’ve recently visited North: Identity, Photography, Fashion at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, co-curated by Adam Murray of Preston is my Paris, and I plan to visit Mark Neville’s exhibition Child’s Play at the Foundling Museum, London.
PlatForm is being exhibited at Faculty Fest, Manchester Metropolitan University’s Arts and Humanities festival, in the Geoffrey Manton building from 16-17 March 2017. For more information about Elizabeth’s work, please visit her website.