I was suggested to research Anna Fox for the next assignment by my tutor, Andrea Norrington. The first thing that strikes you is the vibrancy of her images – they are so colourful. She began her career in 1986 as a documentary photographer, when she documented town life in Basingstoke and then went on to publish ‘Work Stations’, a study of London Office life in Britain in 1988. Her work that presented a satirical take on contemporary Southern England was highly acclaimed. He later works In Pursuit (1990), The Village (1991-1992 Cross Channel Photographic Mission commission), Friendly Fire (1992) and Zwarte Piet (the Netherlands 1994-1999) are noteworthy for their innovative approaches and raised questions regarding the problems of documentary practice.
“I wanted to break the mould of documentary photography, and chose to photograph the ordinary and the everyday; things that were appearing as opposed to disappearing. I’m very interested in women’s lives, rural life, and the power of carnival/local ritual.”(Fox, 2019)
Her deep interest in presenting deeper set issues like violence against women through her work, led to a collaborative series with singer/songwriter Alison Goldfrapp between 1996-2002, called ‘Country Girls’, that narrated dark issues stemming from the problem of violence against women in rural Southern England, as a response to their experiences growing up in the countryside. The series is disturbingly violent, deliberately designed to unsettle the viewer and is part Gothic and part glamorous in style, and are metaphorical to the feelings of suffocation they both felt growing up in the countryside in the 1970’s. The strong colour and usage of flash is reminiscent of the production style of fashion photographer Guy Bourdin.
The large scale enormous prints in her work Resort 1 are inspired by the famous photographs by John Hinde’s of Butlins holiday camps in the 1970’s. Fox’s gigantic series of the same document the fascinating family activities and rituals for which Butlins is famous for and depict the theatrical nature of contemporary Butlins. The series have an engaging presence, inviting the viewer into the projected space and provide an important understanding of the present day Butlins holiday experience, still crucial in the present day context in the importance that it holds in the national imagination. Her series Resort 1 showcases families on holiday while her series Resort 2 presents adult weekends.
The Making of Resort 2 – How to Make a Schilt Book was particularly interesting and can be an important resource for students as a learning point for understanding editing. Her advise on the dangers of attachment with your own work and how an outsider’s view can really help it all fall into perspective is so true. The link is in the bibliography.
Inspired by one of the most popular TV programmes of the 1980’s and 1990’s, Spitting Image that featured caricatures of famous personalities from the Royal Family and international politicians, Andrew Bruce and Anna Fox were commissioned by the Hyman Gallery to produce Photographs, to coincide with the general elections of 2015. Spending hours in the studio working with the original puppets from the show, they were photographed against bright neon backdrops or covered in darkness. Each image depicted a former Tory party member presented in extraordinary detailing on a large format film camera, reflecting both studio portraiture and still life. Fox and Bruce say of their experience of making the work, ‘’Once we had them out of their packing cases, lying on the studio floor, the puppets looked broken, aged, decrepit and lacking any glimmer of life…”
“Anna Fox’s photographs, humorous and tender, ironic and identifying, are powerful in the way they offer art as a means to face this need (the need to identify the issue) head on. Her images avoid the two most predictable attitudes a project like this might succumb to: the endorsement of reiteration and the moralism of indictment”.(British Photography, 2020)
She explored and investigated the very personal and not so simple world of domestic households and relationships by early 2000, in her two autobiographical works, Cockroach Diary and My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words. These works were in the form of miniature books brought together images and text both. Her later series in 2003 Made in Europe, explored contemporary Europe through the eyes and voices of teenagers. With the exhibition Cockroach Diary and other Stories, Impressions Gallery 2008, offered her exploration into installations as opposed to classic ways of showcasing one’s work, thereby directing the viewer’s experience towards a more immersive and unconventional exhibition experience..
Greatly inspired by her tutor Martin Parr, her works reflect projections on daily lives and surroundings. I have been following her on Instagram where she is currently showcasing pictures from the house under lockdown called ‘Art in the House’, where she puts one picture everyday including works of arts, photographs or simple everyday objects in daily lives. Its inspirational to find new ways of creativity especially during these times when one feels constricted and restrained. Her project ‘Fast Forward: Women in Photography‘, in collaboration with her mentor Karen Knorr, which focuses on showcasing the best of emerging and established photography by women across the world, is admirable along with her constant new ways of exploring new things and methods. Fox’s work might not be particularly my cup of tea but the learnings that one can take away from her work and her methods and views are nothing short of inspirational and I have learnt a lot from her. She finds it incredibly liberating to be able to express her thoughts via photography and that is a great take away for me.
Key points and learnings from Fox’s works-
- Colourful & Vibrant
- Satirical & Humorous
- Bizarre & exotic
- Magazine journalistic style
- Disconcerting & unsettling
- Learning how to edit
- Get an outsider’s perspective on your work
- Be careful of the dangers of attachment with your work
- Images that lead to further thought and debate
- Using humour to raise serious and pertinent questions
- Looking inwards
- Highly charged use of flash and colour
- Fascination with capturing daily lives.
- Passionate about documenting women and their issues.
- Photography as an expression of personal thoughts.