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The Body Image Project

September 10, 2011

Nambucca Valley Writers Group is compiling an anthology called Food for Thought with all of our members asked for contributions based around food and recipes, up to 10 pages.

Instead of writing a short story with recipes, I decided to do something a little different, a little out of my comfort zone, a bit of a creative stretch for me. I decided to create a collage story.

The text was easy – once I started, it just flowed out. It became a story about body image, about the media’s schizophrenic obsession with body image, about how my body image has been shaped over the years. I had many food magazines I could cut up for background collage photos along with the usual gossip magazines and sensationalist headlines. But then I was advised new parameters for the artwork: everything had to be in black and white, so it would reproduce okay.

That condition vetoed my use of magazine reproductions – photos of food in magazines do not come in black and white. So here I was with 490 words of text, and nothing to stick it on. I’d even worked out the layout of the text in a visual diary, but I was still waiting for the vision.

I started thinking about an artwork I’d seen many years ago, most likely in a Biennale at the Art Gallery of NSW. It was by Barbara Kruger and called “I can’t look at you and breathe at the same time.” The text was superimposed over a black and white image. This long ago memory became my base inspiration.

I bought a new camera. I thought about the words, and I thought about the text and the images that would suppport or juxtapose the text. I decided to take photos on my trip. Surely in Melbourne I would come up with some great photos for the project. My photos of chocolate on the chocoholics tour did not meet my requirements for the backgrounds – something about the way handmade chocolate is laid out for sale doesn’t really make it photogenic. Nice in reality, but it doesn’t make the conversion to two dimensions.

On my first free day, I went to Queen Victoria Markets. I gazed wistfully at The Drunken Poet pub and remembered the night back in April when I had watched Chris Wilson play, and thought briefly about the matchbox accommodation I’d stayed in that night. I’d picked much better accommodation this time around. Then I headed into the markets, only mildly distracted by clothes, because produce was my target.

And I took photo after photo of yummy stuff:

When I got back home, I had the images printed in black and white, cropping so that they were all in portrait view rather than landscape. I ordered 5X7 prints as that is the closest to A5 – the format the anthology will be printed in. Then I printed out the text, cut it up, and laid the photos on the table, matching the text against the background images.

And it worked. I didn’t need any extra text cut from magazines. The food photos and the text are enough to make my point.

Now I’m wrestling with double-sided tape to get those words into place. Who knew it would take so long to stick the words down? Then I will scan the images and email them to our Food for Thought editor.

I have decided to consolidate all my creative endeavours on the Write on Track blog, so this is a reproduction of a post from my collage poetry blog. This post was written a couple of weeks ago:since then, the Food for Thought photo essay was submitted, very well received and will open the anthology. And I think I may experiment more with this photo essay form, especially as I’m in love with my new camera.

This afternoon, I will be presenting a ‘Sliced and Diced’ collage poetry workshop to Bellingen Writers Group. Later I will publishing ‘how to make collage poetry’ tutorials to my website.

Stay tuned and cut and paste!

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