Anna Fox’s work My Mother’s Cupboards is an autobiography of when Fox’s father was ill and confined to a wheelchair. Her mother was the main caregiver. Fox made the work rather secretively, keeping a notebook with her and recording her father’s rantings, particularly those about her mother, grandmother and herself.
These quotes pointed to something desperately wrong going on, a terror of women and an attempt to squash the life out of us.
As a contrast to the wild, abusive rantings of her father, she photographed her mother’s cupboards which were always very neat.
I photographed the cupboards to deliberately exaggerate the neatness and that neatness became violent like the quotes.
Anna Fox designed her book in a similar fashion as a small prayer book, with light weight pages and pale pink covers. The text (structured like poetry) and images show through the translucent pages, layering on top of on another. The print is tiny and an elegant cursive font is used so the viewer is enticed in to read the text only to be confronted with words that shock them.
The front of the book bears the title “My Mother’s Cupboards” and the rest of the book’s title is on the back of the book “My Father’s Words” which is probably only read once the book is closed, thereby providing a lingering ambiguity which is never really resolved.
This is an example of work where the text and images just don’t seem to makes sense together in the ordinary sense, but could almost work in a standalone manner. However, juxtaposed as they are and presented in the delicate manner that they are, the text and images become interlaced and a fusion is created that is highly personal and autobiographical.
Anna Fox is a Professor of Photography at the University of Creative Arts in Farnham. She was shortlisted for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize in 2010 and in 2012 for the Pilar Citoler Prize and one of the organizers of Fast Forward: Women in Photography conference at the Tate Modern in 2015. She has exhibited at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and the Tate Modern. She has also published a number of photobooks – Cockroach Diary and Other Stories, Resort 1 and Resort 2 and is also co-author of Langford’s Basic Photography and Behind the Image.
I did attempt to watch the Anna Fox video that is on the OCA website, but unfortunately around 50 minutes the video just blacks out with an “Error in playback” message. However, I managed to jump past this mark and the video plays fine after that. Some of photos from Work Stations were discussed. One of the takeaways I got from the bit that I was able to see were that Fox research quotes as a separate exercise to put with the photos. After she has collected the quotes she quickly chooses which quote to go with the photos.
As Anna Fox states in the video, this series is a conglomeration of various styles that influenced her work, from Martin Parr and Paul Graham to the US colourists and other photographers she was studying while at college. I find it interesting that it was shot in a very snapshot type of style.
I was attracted to it because it’s such an ordinary subject and hardly anyone had ever photographed office life. We couldn’t find any photos. So it was considered a nothing subject. The subject with zero importance to photographers, writers, filmmakers must be interesting, because it’s part of our lives.
Anna Fox (FK Magazine)
It was important to Fox to use colour and flash for this project because of the feeling of immediacy that both give, she related to the ASX team in an interview. She also wanted to tell a story that combined images and text to relate the social conditions of the Thatcher era and she wanted to use humour to engage her audience.
I was more interested in politics, society and power structures within the working environment of the office and particularly in Thatcher’s Britain as the period later became known.
Anna Fox (ASX Interview)
The use of flash is on camera, creating hard shadows around the subjects, people’s heads are chopped off and various paraphernalia litters the edges of some of the photographs – all of which would be deeply censored at any photography club meeting.
However, it is these imperfections that make the photographs believable. Having started my assignment 3 and shooting in my work place, I too am finding it is pretty much impossible to have a clean background, or foreground as these spaces are cluttered at the best of times.
Above all, Fox’s images come across as honest, even though some of them may have been staged in that the participants knew they were being photographed. She has managed to capture real moments of office life.
The use of captions that she gathered from various business articles and magazines are not edited to fit the narrative, but loosely chosen to match the image. These captions help drive the narrative along and the sequencing is further aided by some time stamps instead of captions.
Fox was also kind enough to explain in the video that she does not mind people using her images especially for studying purposes or for blogging, so long as they are not used for advertising.