Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents

 

Alice Oliver

MA2 Photography RCA

Theme - Face To Face:

 

“An invitation to explore everything that separates us from others in order to get closer to them and to measure what needs to be deployed to forge unexpected, hoped-for, and desired alliances.”

This work is a lyrical exploration into human and non-human nature, examining and experimenting within the relationship between the ancient landscape that surrounds me and the materiality of photography. Uncovering the natural cycles and examining the fate of not preserving the base of everything; the soil from which we come.

 

The work I have selected here is two parts of a wider project about the rural landscape, mixed together. The first part focuses on the duality of our relationships with nature, its illusions, and existence in what is becoming an ever urban world. A study of Britain’s drifting and often conflicted relationship with its own landscape, whilst exploring some of the rural’s darker and more hidden histories or superstitions, and investigating how the rural is often portrayed to exist outside of modernity. Which led me to research concerning humans and the nonhuman nature that surrounds us, as well as the UK class systems’ impact on the ethics within the natural world, in regards to both land privatisation and the ideas around the right to roam, and also humans ownership or right to wild animals. 

 

The second part of this wider exploration investigates the intimate cyclical connections between women, celestial bodies, and the land, unveiling lost narratives by visualising the rituals and knowledge of the sexual and reproductive female body, ancient knowledge that was stripped from women in the face of modern medicine. The work seeks to awaken us from our latent and patriarchal origins that deemed the skills of healing, caring for, and maintaining women’s bodies, a threat to those in power.

 

In this interchange within the natural elements, cyclical traces emerge as I utilise the plants that were once used as contraceptives or abortifacients alongside the ancient light of the moon to shed light on and bring us face to face with our histories, as well as nature, that once ruled over us. Within a contemporary feminist discourse, I provide a retelling of the deeply intimate connections between human and non-human nature, a reclamation of the power women once had over their own bodies, by providing an alternate viewpoint, transcending what was once considered impermissible. Tracing the natural materials of the land, the moon, that women once used, I use tangible cameraless methods, to create ethereal landscapes that walk the fine line between art and science. Tying us not only to one another but also to nonhuman beings we find within nature, revealing how intrinsically interconnected humans are within the natural processes of the land and the stratosphere beyond.

The Wayside

Lunar photograms

 

Made by placing a series of 8' x 10' sheets of light-sensitive paper directly into the hedgerow/wayside, and exposing them to moonlight.  

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Petri dishes containing bacteria found in different plants that were used as contraceptives and abortifacients in the past. Including Pennyroyal and Rue. 

The dishes are then placed directly onto light-sensitive paper and exposed to moonlight

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Archive Image from the Wellcome Collection

X-rays of foetal head about to engage the pelvis From: The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire

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Lunaria

Lumen Print

exposed to sunlight

Dried seed heads symbolise fertility

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The Wayside

Lunargrams

 

Made by placing a large sheet of light-sensitive paper directly into the hedgerow/wayside, and exposing them to moonlight. The wayside is rich with plants that have been historically used as contraceptives and abortifacients, such as Artemisis and Queen Anne's Lace.

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Archive illustration

'The anatomy of the external forms of man' Fau, Julien, 1849, found at the Wellcome Collection.

With the natural spermicide, Gypsophila also known as Baby's Breath or Maiden's Breath, placed over the top.

Queen Anne's Lace

Lunar Photogram

Seeds are to be taken for seven days after unprotected intercourse

during the fertile period to help prevent fertilised eggs from implanting in the uterus.

The Wayside

Lunar photograms

 

Made by placing a series of 8' x 10' sheets of light-sensitive paper directly into the hedgerow/wayside, and exposing them to moonlight.  

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