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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Jocelyn Allen - Covering the Carpet

Sep 02, 2015

The female form is a hotly debated topic; it is constantly under scrutiny. Its naked state is the site of much political debate/contestation, particularly in reference to a woman's choice on the question: to remove or grow body hair? In July 2014, a painting was removed from a London gallery for showing a woman’s pubic hair. Though the pose was seductive, the woman was made with oil. If a painting can be deemed as ‘too pornographic and disgusting’, what about a woman in real life captured by light? These self-portraits are a performance in contorting, balancing and/or leaping the body into poses, in order to attempt to conceal this area.


Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

What some people think is revealing, others see as hiding. What some people think is hiding, others see as revealing.

Sep 07, 2015 - Jocelyn Allen

With my self-portraiture work, I have always felt that it goes between hiding and revealing. Reality of Youth Going Backwards in Vain was quite revealing, whilst I hid behind my family in One Is Not Like The Other. In The Many Faces of JFA at the time I felt like it was revealing and I wondered what people would think about me baring my shoulders in the photos. Also the individual pictures at time were quite unflattering. Your Mind & Body Is All That You've Got parts I & II went between hiding and revealing quite a lot. In some I was revealing more flesh, in some I revealed but hid my face, some pictures were unflattering, whilst in others I just hid. Showing diary entries in part II was also very revealing for me. I guess that 2013 was a turning point for me in some ways. My work has grown out of losing my confidence at a young age after moving from a city to a smaller town. I think that the majority of people find their teenage years tough for one reason or another (or several) and what confidence I may have had definitely went then,  but I wouldn't be who I am now without my past and using myself within my work has definitely helped me become more confident. I would have laughed at you if you'd told me 6 years ago that I would make projects with myself in them, let alone if you'd told me that I would make over 1000+ dance videos to post on YouTube. I'd applied to do an MA in Photography at the London College of Communication with the intention of making work based on my diaries. I spent a lot of time prior to starting typing them up and I realised how much I got yelled at in the street and how many people said things to me at high school about how I looked and dressed. True I went around in baggy bright green cords and purposely wore clothes to try to make myself look different, as I felt like everyone wanted to be the same. My friends and I were into rock music and so we got called names a lot. I had a weird haircut for a bit and after having to get it cut short in order for it to look 'normal' enough to get a job, I got the original taunts of 'are you a boy or a girl?' Anyways, I was going out in London by myself wearing an animal hat made of 20+ cuddly toy heads that I had made for another project to try to get people to say things to me. I chose a hat as I've always felt uncomfortable wearing them since I was about 9 and tormented by two younger girls for a hat I had then. A guy who was high on something whispered to me that I had a menagerie on my head as he was scared for me, I was shown a comedy routine that a guy had just performed at an open event, another guy asked me if I liked to wear leather trousers and a lot of people would indiscreetly take pictures of me whilst I pretended to read a book. I found it quite interesting that just by wearing a slightly weird hat people were more open to talking to me, whether they were creepy or not, and maybe I should have played with this more but I actually just found that it made me anxious about going outside. So I thought about what I could do where I wouldn't have to leave the house but people would say things to me. The internet. Youtube. (more…)


‘I’ve come to realise lately that…’

Sep 06, 2015 - Jocelyn Allen

'I’ve come to realise lately that all we have in life is our mind and bodies, well we might not even have them it may all be some crazy dream we’re living… But I feel a lot of the time that my mind and body aren’t connected and that my body is just a shell for my mind. I have more control over changing as a person with my mind than changing over my body. Yes I can exercise and eat differently to control my weight which in turn may alter my features, but I don’t have the power to make myself taller or my nose smaller (for example) without the aid of other sources such as surgery. So why bother loathing the bodies that encase our actual being? It just seems like a needless waste of energy… I don’t really see anyone as ugly, I don’t even find anyone incredibly attractive anymore. Yes there may be some who inhabit more aesthetically pleasing shells which make them nicer to look at but I’ve found those that do tend to let their shells do all the work and concentrate less on their personalities perhaps? At the end of the day I find it more satisfying being told I am interesting compared to being told I’m pretty or beautiful or whatever.' - 16th December 2008  


  In 2012 I somehow kept coming across articles by women who were in their 50s, 60s or older and were writing about learning to love themselves and their bodies later in life. For years, like a lot of people, I had been unhappy with myself and wrote things like the above at the age of 20 to try to convince myself (for the 100th+ time) that I shouldn't care what others think about me. It's like the advice you give to your friends but never take for yourself and you go round in circles. I initially began a project as I had started to get a repetitive strain injury from a new office job that I had. People were always mistaking me for being younger, and I knew I looked young but my body was starting to show signs of aging. I was working with this idea in mind but the project went into something else and so I thought that I should try to use photography more to accept myself and move in a positive direction. I decided to sit in front of the camera whenever I felt like I had something to vent or even if I was surprisingly empty of emotions. The end of the year for me was a natural end to the project as I would be starting a Masters in Photography at the London College of Communication in January 2013 and my Christmas break provided time to edit the work. I found that I had enjoyed the process of making the series, Your Mind & Body Is All That You've Got, and so whilst working a lot on video at university in my first year I decided to make a part II to the work. It was different in ways, but mainly for deciding to include diary entries from my teens. I wrote a diary everyday for around 5 years and then sporadically for another 2 (mainly because I was worried about housemates finding it), until I started to really get into self-portraiture. I chose to use diary entries from 2003 that give some hints as to why I might have had low self-esteem from talking about having small breasts to not being able to get a boyfriend to (like above) talking about having a personality over looks. I rewrote the entries as scans didn't show up well, so that I could remove names easily and for aesthetic reasons. I also made a video with the same title (Your Mind & Body Is All That You've Got) for a two person show at Photofusion, London in 2012. As I had been working with video more at university I wanted to make a video piece that again hinted at why my self-esteem was how it was. Listening to it now it makes me cringe a lot, but I think it was something I needed to do and having people react positively to it counted for something. I suppose it also gave me the 'courage' to include diary entries for part II. Looking back the elements of Your Mind & Body... were a good build up to making Covering The Carpet.


Confusing People With Spaceship Gazing Images

Sep 05, 2015 - Jocelyn Allen

Two self-portrait projects later I still felt weird about making work that included myself. I moved to London five months after going back to my parent’s house and stayed with an Uncle for a month to make sure I could find somewhere to live and get a job. Whilst I was there I figured out that I was staying 0.7 miles from three different cemeteries (though sadly not in a triangular formation as that would have been creepier). I made a series called The Squirrel’s Playground which was made up of photos from these three cemeteries. It was a short project but enough to get me settled into my surroundings and used to shooting in London. I applied for a Masters and submitted a portfolio of just self portraiture work. I was obsessed with the film Sliding Doors and consequently was working on an idea about parallel universes. I went to the interview with this work in progress and I guess I confused them with this straying of ideas. Needless to say I didn’t get in, but now I am glad I didn't. I was applying mainly as I was scared about the future and I wasn’t really ready to do one. Following this I ditched the parallel universes and my next project was self-portraiture (surprise!) and called The Many Faces of JFA, which was made between April 2011 and April 2012. I had started to experiment with overlaying images whilst at my parent’s house the previous year. I thought that I looked quite different in pictures and was interested in how a portrait is generally representative of a split second in time. I set up a camera and a light in the corner of my bedroom/studio and took a picture every day that I was around (I avoided going away for more than a few days and would leave things early to make sure I got a shot). I made eight photographs – seven showing seven weeks of images and then the final image showing all of them. Not long after starting the overlays, I felt that I should be doing other things besides self-portraiture and that I needed to get outside again. I did an online casting to get people (and some dogs) to pretend that they could see a spaceship in the sky for the series Double You Tee Eff. It was supposed to be part of a larger project that I'll perhaps revisit someday. I started to go to portfolio reviews and confused people with all my self-portraiture work and these spaceship gazing images. It came out that I was basically scared of being a one trick pony, but someone asked me if I see self-portrait photographers that I admire as one trick ponies. 'No'. 'Well there you go...' Another small self-portrait project made around this time was called National StatisticIt is comprised of passport-esque photographs that I had taken for a Christmas job application for a post office after another temporary job had finished. I didn't get the job. I had started to embrace self-portraiture more, shake off some of the doubts I was having and was beginning to see more of the advantages that it had for me.


If You Don’t Try, You Don’t Get

Sep 04, 2015 - Jocelyn Allen

Throughout my BA in Photographic Art I had little confidence but was driven by the motto 'If you don't try, you don't get'. I was very concerned about whether I would take another picture again after the course, even though I was always doing extra shoots outside of the project work. Would I be able to make work without deadlines? I had been in education since the age of 4 and I was now 21. Of course it's scary... I'd started to enter my work for competitions in the last year of university. Since leaving I have seen many people enter competitions and get their work 'out there' so much earlier than me, which I highly respect. Competitions are a controversial subject, and you should definitely think carefully about what you enter, but I'm not here to write a post about that though... I'd entered my work into a competition for Guernsey Photography Festival. The theme was identity and I hadn't really thought about it but my work definitely fitted the brief. I had gotten distracted around that time by final year show and the application was postal only, so I ended up sending it the day before the deadline (after doubting whether to) with the most expensive postage and hoping it would be received in time. Luckily for me it was. Part of the prize was to make a new series for the next year's festival on the theme of identity. Perfect. I was moving back home to figure out my life plan and started to think about identity in terms of nature versus nurture. Your genetics vs. your surroundings. I've always been interested in family as you don't choose who your parents are and it's a series of good timings (for you) that you are you. Your parents/guardians can bring you up one way, but then you go to school and you're exposed to a lot of different ways to bring kids up. I was interested in looking at myself and my family members that I saw the most (my Grandparents, my parents and two sisters). At the time I didn't feel particularly close to them and I was quite surprised that they all agreed to be in it. I thought that I didn't look like any of my family so I wanted to take their portraits somewhere where they would usually sit in their house (my Dad always lies on the sofa and my Mum has her chair in the lounge). Then I would wear their clothes and try to sit exactly like them. My Mum kept repositioning me. My older sister was living far away at the time and luckily was coming home to visit that summer. A lot of test shots were trying out the idea with my younger sister and I thought it would be more interesting to take pictures of both my sisters and me being each other as we all come from the same two people yet we are all very different. I exhibited the work, One Is Not Like The Other in Guernsey in 2011 along with my previous project, Reality of Youth Going Backwards in Vain. I'm sure without the prize I would have continued to make work, but for me the opportunity came at a time for me when I was really questioning myself and the future, and it gave me some much needed confidence. I wasn't planning to make another project that included me but I guess once I got the idea I knew that I really wanted to do it...


“Great!”, I thought, “now I can take pictures easier for my Myspace profile.”

Sep 03, 2015 - Jocelyn Allen

For my 15th birthday I received a 1 megapixel digital camera. "Great!", I thought, "now I can take pictures easier for my Myspace profile." Actually I'm making that up, but that probably did cross my mind. Music was my main escape for a lot of my teenage years and I took the camera with me to gigs. At some point I decided that after high school I would go to college and study photography full-time instead of doing the usual 3/4 subject route that most of my friends were doing. I'm still not really sure how I strayed from English and History, but I did... At college I was getting quite into fashion photography and my (terrible) final project involved people modelling dresses that I made from bin bags, electrical tape and cloths. My portfolio for a BA in Photographic Art was a mix of fashion pictures, photos of my younger sister and flowers/insects in the garden that I would take when I felt a need to photograph something. I chose the course as it sounded like you could tailor a project theme to whatever you wanted. The first project was identity and I must have been inspired by the work that my teacher showed us, which included Gillian Wearing and Trish Morrissey. Initially my project was me pretending to be pregnant due to the number of teen pregnancies in my town, but I soon changed it to food metaphors for pregnancy as I felt awkward and embarrassed by the work. On the first day of university I met Sarah, a girl who was in the same housing block as me. I knew that I wanted to photograph her and we ended up shooting together a lot over the next three years. I made inquiries into moving over to the fashion photography course but I didn't want to have to be a first-year again and my teacher made good points about why I shouldn't move. I'd started to photograph myself more as I often felt inspired quite late or when no one else was free and I hated bothering others. I generally didn't show them to anyone apart from the odd few that were just my profile photos for different things. Some projects had been personal to me but I had made them seem less so by covering them over with some other meanings, but by the time it came to make my final project I decided that I really should just make the work that I wanted to. I'd had a difficult time in my second year and so I decided to make a project about it as my friends hadn't really understood what was going through my mind. In December 2008 I wrote: 'To me this ‘life’ is a somewhat vicious cycle of youre born, youre educated, you work, you perhaps get married (not necessary these days) and maybe have children, maybe retire and then you die… Everything else in between is killing time.' Reality of Youth Going Backwards in Vain was a project to put the seven stages I mentioned into photographs. I decided that I wanted other people in the shots, with the number decreasing as the series progressed. They were there to represent the people in my past, present and future, with the idea that you are born surrounded by people until you eventually die alone. Charming stuff I know. Their backs were turned and luckily I had friends who were willing to stand in for me, but again I hated to bother people. If it wasn't for the fact that I would have had to reshoot the whole project if I didn't get people to be in the photos I might not have completed it. I felt very nervous showing the test shots in class, as I felt very exposed (I think that I cried in every assessment during the first two years of university). Then getting them printed and having them displayed in our show was a whole other worry; standing next to them made me feel very awkward.  If you'd told me at the start of my course that I would be showing self-portraits by the end of it I would have laughed at you. But it was somewhat therapeutic. Therapeutic because I hated looking at myself in the mirror and therapeutic because I had found my voice in a different way.



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