Photographing Georgina Davy

"Photographing Georgina Davy"

These pictures are of my friend and artist Georgina Davy. She makes beautiful, often strange, but always wonderful costumes and puppets. I don’t think she realises just how excellent she is. The making of the costumes must be painstaking. The beasts she makes require not only imagination but also nimble-fingered wizardry and a monk-like patience I could only dream of having. 

In 2016, I had designs of starting a photo project about artists working in and around Sheffield when I lived there and Georgina let me take the first batch of photos of her. I remember it was a hot day, made hotter by the prominent skylight and extra bodies twisting round a camera in her workshop. But the light was brilliant and I hoped some of the magic I saw made its way to the the negatives. 

Taking pictures of Georgina was as far as the project ever got. Work and other excuses got in the way and I never took any pictures of anybody else. As the ambition slowly seeped out of the project as a whole, the photos of Georgina waited. And waited. Developed but wrapped up, never scanned, they moved house 2, maybe 3 times. But unfinished projects don’t disappear, they just wait, wait as little unticked box in my head gradually picking up more and more existential dust until the weight presses down precisely onto two parts of the brain determining either either madness or making. 3 years after taking them, I finally got round to making.

I’m not a photographer. In fact I’m jealous of photographers. I think photographers are rock stars. Filmmakers get 25 (+/-) images a second to tell their story. Over the course of a film, it takes hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of images for us to communicate. And yet a photograph can tell a story, convey emotion and more impressively, give the illusion of movement in a single, static frame. There are many holes to poke with this crude comparison of the mediums, but at its heart, I am in awe of how much a single photo can make us feel. I’m not photographer. But — I love pretending to be one for a day. I think for all my shortcomings as an imposter – – these are some of the nicest photos I’ve ever taken. Maybe just maybe, they have a thin slice of that wonderful communication I am in awe of photos of having. I feel like the costumes came to life in the light and Georgina’s spirit and love for her work live in the way she looks at her creations.

But it wasn’t until I sent the photos to Georgina that it dawned on me – or at least, reminded me – how powerful pictures of people can be to the people in them. I’ve always felt guilty as an image-maker, as a taker – taking an image and taking a person’s time. Though I do so respectfully, with permission, good intentions and all the usual spiel – I have always felt a guilt in it. But Georgina’s reaction made me see things differently – as image making as an act of giving. Specifically, giving the person in the photograph the chance to see what others see but they do not; their beauty and talent, too often denied or brushed off by them when said. But it’s harder to brush off what is seen and then felt. I’m glad that Georgina could see herself I saw her; talented, passionate and beautiful. This doesn’t settle the argument as image-making being inherently selfless. But it makes me feel less like it is inherently selfish.

I’m glad that unticked box in my head kept tickling me. Despite a three-year wait, I’m glad I’ve finally done something with these pictures. I’ll leave it with a few of Georgina’s words about the pictures.

“Looking at the photos is an outer body experience, a rare birds eye view on the thing you’ve loved most but that has also taunted you the most. Ive often wished to see my work through someone else’s eyes.”

“You’ve told the story of an only child’s imaginary friends coming to life in a Sheffield attic!”

Georgina’s Website: https://www.davycostume.co.uk

Camera: Nikon F3 Film Stock: Kodak Ektar 100 Film Format: 35mm / 135 Scanner: Epson Perfection V600. Editing: None. No colour adjustments, cropping, rotating, nothing, nada, zilch.

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