The Eye That Looks – University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology 2019

I was chosen to be part of this year’s University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology, which has for the first time, included visual arts as well as poetry and prose. This years theme is The Eye That Looks, somewhat very appropriate for the piece, Fire Escape Clarence, that I submitted while on study abroad at the University of Ottawa. This piece has been a large inspiration for the current projects of making miniature stairs, and photographing them with black and white film. I was invited to speak about my piece on Monday 11th February within the University, along with others who contributed to this years anthology.

Charlotte Abraham is a current third year Art and Psychology student at the university. She uses a wide range of mediums to make people see everyday objects and scenarios in a way they have never been seen before. Her recent work centres around the practice of black and white photography, shooting and developing all film and photographs herself. While on study abroad in Ottawa, Charlotte was inspired by the cityscape around her and photographed stairs, fire escapes and barriers, placing them vertical and creating the need to see them in the correct orientation.

Name: Fire Escape Clarence

Artist: Charlotte Abraham

Medium: Ilford HP5 Plus 400 Black and White Film on Ilford MGIV RC De Luxe Pearl Paper

Size: 8 x 10″ (20.32 x 25.4 cm)

Challenging stereotypes, one label at a time

Recently, in my term abroad at the University of Ottawa, I completed a collection of black and white photographs looking at breaking stereotypes. This work has now been published on the university’s website, along with a small written piece by Robert Greeley, for all to realise that ‘I Am Not The Label You Give Me‘.

“Is Charlotte Abraham a nerd? The third-year international exchange student included herself in a suite of photos titled “I Am Not the Label You Give Me” that challenges us to stop and question common stereotypes.

Abraham, who studied at uOttawa in the fall, recently returned to Britain to complete her degree in art and psychology at the University of Reading. However, toward the end of her semester here, she embraced the opportunity to take part in an exposition, hosted by International House, called “Don’t Feed the Stereotype.” The campaign took a pop culture approach to promoting diversity by debunking stereotypes.

Submissions could be in any medium, so Abraham decided to use the 35mm photography skills she had learned in a uOttawa art class. She loaded her camera with black and white film to create a collection of striking 8” x 10” images.

“‘I Am Not the Label You Give Me’ wants to get those who make stereotypical judgments to think about what they say and how it might affect those they are talking about,” Abraham says. “Pointing out that people are not always the stereotypical labels you give them is just a small step in the march to equality.””

I Am Not The Label You Give Me

Don’t Feed the Stereotype was a pop up exhibition with artwork by international students, and is continued campaign at the University Ottawa. This exhibition took a popular culture or religious approach to addressing issues of diversity, in an effort to promote a positive approach to diversity on campus.

I Am Not The Label You Give Me was my project response to this, showing how we are quick to judge people and give them stereotypical labels, even though these are often far from the truth. I chose 10 participants to write down a stereotypical word, phrase or question that they have been told or asked in the past. This could have commented on gender, sexual orientation, religion, career choice, and many other factors. This work was inspired by the six-hundred photograph series Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say by Gillian Wearing. Jo Spence also provided inspiration with her works that use found objects to display words. I wished to display it in a grid formation, such as the systematic formulation of Arnaud Maggs.

The photographs were taken with a 35mm camera and black and white film. I developed the film and photographs on hand, producing twenty 8×10″ photographs.

These prints are not perfect, and I understand that as there are scratches and marks on the negatives, and some needed a stronger filter than others. I would have liked extreme detail in my photographs, such as the ones Richard Learoyd produces, but I knew that this may not be the case. Despite these technical difficulties, I believe that the overall piece is still able to project the central idea, that people do not live under the stereotypical labels that we may give them.

I, unfortunately, had little say in the display of the prints within the pop up exhibition. I ultimately wanted them framed and on the wall, however due to the small space with no walls, the choice was to display them in a photo book. This allowed the piece to be more interactive than I perhaps originally anticipated, but did not have the same impact that I wished for. When displaying again, I will have them in frames and up on the wall in a grid formation.

Sans Camera Exhibition

The Sans Camera exhibition was a two-week long exhibition held at Galerie 5.6 at the art department, University of Ottawa. This was a student effort, collaborating to curate a themed exhibition. The work chosen was from out first photography assignment, using pinhole cameras as well as photograms and invented negatives. Working as a group, we were able to choose two works from each person, selecting out of the ones the student wanted to exhibit. The photograms and invented negatives were then displayed in a portrait manner, laid across one wall with the pinhole photography reflecting them on the other side. The exhibition even went around the corner and down the corridor, enticing people to see it when they were walking through the department. To further entice those in the department to take a look at the exhibition, the pinhole cameras were displayed on a wall upstairs on the main floor, with instructions to go downstairs and see the photos that these cameras produced.

Those who came to the exhibition reception, held at the end of the exhibition, found viewing the cameras very exciting as they were not anticipating cardboard boxes and coffee tins. Holding the exhibition in Galerie 5.6 also allowed those visiting to gain more of an idea of our process and areas that we work in, allowing them to somewhat appreciate the work further.

The two works I submitted to the exhibition were “to pytalise” , an invented negative of my saliva, and Churchgoers, a pinhole photograph of cars lined up by the nearby church. These suited the theme of the exhibition, but also stood out, especially that of “to pytalise”, due to its subject matter.

The exhibition has now moved to Paradigm(e) Gallery, which is the Dean’s gallery at the University of Ottawa until the end of February, where they are all on sale.

Reading Scholars 2018, Final Event Video

This was the final event for the Reading Scholars 2017/18, held at the University of Reading over three days and two nights. Such as the second event in Tate Modern, I was once again asked to create a video to display the activities that the Scholars got up to over this residential. Although all the strands were at the University, including Business, Biology, Maths, English, Art, Chemistry and Languages, the video primarily captures the events of the Art and Design strand. Activities here, included cyanotypes, photograms, clay, sculpture, instructional artwork, letter press and InDesign work. Each of the Scholars were able to take what they had made with them as something to remember the Reading Scholars by, and something unique to add to their portfolio.
I enjoyed creating this video, and look forward to working with the next cohort of Reading Scholars on some new and exiting projects and events.

Your Local Independent Training Provider

I was approached by Your Local Independent (YLI) Training Company after my initial work with Orchid Therapeutics. I worked with them to create a business card design, ready to print for when they have completed all necessary training. After much deliberation with them, we decided not to complete a website, although this was offered. I did create a basic one to show the customer what they were able to do on WordPress, but they decided to use GoDaddy.com for their website. I hope to work with them in the future with their website, and other business card and possibly, leaflet designs.
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Orchid Therapeutics

I have recently been working with a new start up business called Orchid Therapeutics who offer seated and normal massage, specifically targeting local companies and those with impairments. My role with them has been to offer guidance and advice on business cards, leaflets, logo design and a free, simple website. I found this experience to be very useful as I have not necessarily worked with customers directly before, and it helped me narrow down the possible questions and explanations that would be needed for future projects. This experience has also helped me with business lingo, and translating complex systems into something that someone non-technology based can understand. Through the minimal information given at the beginning of the project and constant communication with the customer, I believe that I have been able to provide the products and services that they hoped for.
The design is inspired by the calmness and serenity felt when experiencing a massage, as well as being clear and informative for future customers. A Twitter account and website were also created, and the artist helped to update the Facebook group.
There were some difficulties along the way, including spelling mistakes on a just printed business card, but the customer understood the situation, especially given that several people had checked over the design and wording. I was able to learn from this mistake, and I now double check spelling and grammar errors through Microsoft Word, before and after InDesign. Through this process, I believe that I have massively grown my InDesign skills and customer service. It was very exciting to work with someone so local, and to work with a local printing press also.

Reading Scholars 2018, Final Event

The fourth and final event with the Reading Scholars was a three day residential, where the students were able to stay in university halls and enjoy several other aspects of their time here that they may not have been able to experience without the residential element. Within the Art and Design strand, students were able to choose whether they wanted to partake in the Art or Typography activities.
Those who chose art were then split into two groups, where they completed an activity one day, and then swapped over for the second day, which gave the opportunity for more contact with the lecturers and mentors, and a larger chance to get hands on.
On the first day, we introduced them to instructional art, and produced several artworks that we very free, but still following instructions. There were a wide range of materials used throughout the day including clay, wire, small pieces of laser cut plastic and cardboard. Each of these were simple materials, however the instructions followed allowed for some interesting creations. I helped several student with possible ideas for the clay element, opening up new doors within their thought and design process. I also assisted some of the students to find other materials that were more challenging to work with. Lastly, as it was a particularly hot day, I ensured that they all had a sufficient amount of water at all times.


The second day was equally as interesting – the students were able to use our wet dark room to create their own photograms on light sensitive paper. They had bought some of their own transparent items, and used a whole table worth, to create unique and interesting designs. I was on hand if anyone had questions about the process or designs, as I have previous photogram experience. I was amazed at how many photograms were made, the detail within each, and the effect of the aperture and timing upon each of them.
There was a second part to day two, as the student were able to carry on with photograms in the dark room, experimenting with different light sources, movement and also photographs onto the photograms. The students weee also able to learn a new technique of cyanotypes. These are effectively outside photograms and use UV light. This is a unique opportunity to work with the special chemical that are prized and painted onto the paper. The process was very interesting and I helped each of the students to hold their print down while it was in the sun both while developing and drying. I was also able to stop the development of many of their pieces by washing them off, allowing the students to create more while they were drying. Again, as it was a hot day, I ensured the students had enough water, and were drinking regularly.

The final day of the residential was some information about applying to university, and taster sessions for other subjects that the students picked. This allowed them to see more of what the university has to offer.
Overrall, the residential element of Reading Scholars 2017/2018 was very enjoyable. I successfully aided students both from art and other strands with queries and situations. I found that some elements were difficult to deal with, namely because of the number of students that are on the residential. Although there were these difficulties, I believe that the residential and activities were a success.

Reading Scholars Event 2 Video

As part of the Tate Exchange, I was recording and documenting one of the days for the Reading Scholars Programme 2018, which gave over 20 Year 12’s the opportunity to experience a workshop at the Tate. The programme overall, gives a slice of university life and experience to those in several subjects, aiding them with decisions about higher education.
I was able to film many aspects of the day, including a manic clay workshop and iPad green-screen workshop, capturing the thoughts and ideas that came into life throughout the day – from wrapping people in pink shrink wrap, to using phones as strobe lights and creating clay monuments together while blindfolded. It was a full-packed day, with a final free entry into the Ilya and Emilia Kabakov exhibition.
Editing the video was interesting as I had no requests, only that it shows what we did on the day, with a bit of travel of the mentors to the Tate. I bought all of the clips together, merging them to create a seamless video highlighting the core aspects of Reading Scholars Art and Design strand participating in the Tate Exchange in Tate Modern, London.

Advanced RED Award

The Advanced RED Award is an extension of the University of Reading’s RED (Reading Employability and Development) Award, which I completed last year. The advanced scheme is more personalised, where you have to build your own goals around one of the available areas of development; Commercial Awareness, Communication and Presentations, Community Engagement, Digital and IT, Leadership and Networking.
At the beginning of the scheme, we were given a tick list of things you can do in each area, and I found that I had already completed many of these things, for example three different mentoring schemes, course representative, student voice member, as well as being employed by the university and getting involved in volunteering schemes. The area I lacked in the most was Digital and IT, which is a little surprising considering how much I use my phone and computer. But, I used them for personal use.
Through this scheme, I have tailored my LinkedIn profile, heading it in a more art-based direction, as well as altering the URL so it reads ‘charlotteabrahamartist’. I also had several meetings with careers mentors within the Universities’ Careers Department. These helped me to narrow what I wanted to do in the future a little more, and also allowed me to get advice on my LinkedIn profile.
The last part of my Advanced RED Award was to utilise Adobe more. When searching for graduate roles, or summer placements, a lot of companies and businesses wanted someone with experience in Photoshop, Ilustrator and InDesign, but there wasn’t a particular market for Premiere Pro. I then decided to create my own project around InDesign and Photoshop with videos and how-to’s, free courses and advice from the art department at university. I designed a complex and unique background for a laptop, and presented the design process on an InDesign interactive PDF, which also showcased my Premiere Pro experience.

I found the experience of the Advanced RED Award and my personal project to be challenging, however I enjoyed it because it stretched me to learn something that I thought I would never make time for. I also find the fact that I completed the scheme very positive, as I was only one of twenty five students in the entire university that has completed it so far. I am now using the skills that I learned in this experience to help some local businesses with flyer, business card and website designs. I also hope to complete another area of the Advanced RED Award in the up-and-coming years to boost my professional development.