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It was decided to produce six large photographic works and the members of the
Domestic Workers Support Group were divided into small groups, each responsible
for one image. The initial locations were sought out by Edel and myself. Various
rooms in each location were photographed and the images enlarged to
approximately A2 size so that each of the six groups of women could choose a
room to work with and decide on the issues they wished to address suitable to the
location. The women were then to make a collage to aid in the conceptual
development and visualisation of their particular image. Each group was also
presented with a suggested list of roles necessary for the planning and execution of
a staged work. These included selecting a model (a member of the group who
would appear in the final photograph), and making decisions around props,
clothing and hair, lighting and documentation. The group was also informed there
would be a professional make-up artist present for the model to ensure that she felt
confident that she would be portrayed at her best.
The scale and complexity of this project presented many challenges when it came
to the organisation of the photo shoots. Despite organisational challenges, the
photo shoots were really where the energy of the project came together and were
Untitled (Amelita and Mick) from Opening Doors (2006)
an extremely rewarding experience for all of us. As we had all been working
Lambda chromogenic print, mounted on Dibond, 110 cm x 163 cm
together for approximately eight months at that point, there was an intense
focusing of ideas and a huge amount of fun. Each day began with a group
We began the staged works after the editing process and two gallery visits. In the
discussion using the relevant collage as a starting point to refine ideas and make
early stages of the project it was decided that the staged images were to address
final decisions about props, hair and clothing. More importantly the discussions
various issues with a focus on the spatial tensions experienced by the women in
were about how to demonstrate their own responsibility and dedication to their
their everyday lives. At the same time it was decided that it was also important to
work and define how the relationship between the woman and child or older
express the position of strength they hold in their employment, the importance of
person was to be conveyed through posture, body language, facial expression and
their work and the respect that their position in the household deserves. My aim as
overall composition of the image. Given that the aim was to convey close
an artist was to facilitate. When it came time to begin the staged works the group
relationships between the carer and those cared for, it was during these group
felt that they had focused for long enough on the negative aspects of their working
discussions that it became fully apparent that the idea of the documentary portrait
lives through the quilt, and now felt it was important to foreground the value of the
aesthetic was now unsuitable to the concept.
work they do and the huge range of skills necessary to meet its demands. A list of
these skills and tasks was drawn up and they became the focus of the staged
The groups were taken through the stages of a professional lighting set-up and
photographs. Another priority for the women was the overwhelming need to
were consulted on lighting decisions through the use of Polaroids. The group as a
convey the loyalty and affection that was central to their relationships with the
whole then dressed the set with props, becoming intensely engaged with the
children and the older people in their care.
creative process and paying an enormous amount of attention to detail. Through
this attention to detail it became apparent to me just how dedicated the women
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