Images and reviews of Head Space appeared in the following magazines:
The Independent on Saturday Magazine
30th October 2004
The Big Issue Magazine issue No. 573
1st December 2004
Time Out London
December 1st - 8th 2004, No.1789
British Journal of Photography
24th November 2004
Eyemazing Magazine Issue 6,
Spring 2005 pp. 158-159
- By Diane Smyth, Features Editor, The British Journal of Photography
For his latest personal project Nick Cunard analysed the analysts, photographing psychiatrists and their surroundings for an exhibition at the Freud Museum. Diane Smyth finds out more
'I wish photographers would read a bit more and think more carefully about their ideas' says Nick Cunard. There's a lot of sloppiness. They need to focus.'
Brave words but Cunard has led by example, tightly controlling his project on psychiatrists and their consulting rooms and showing the resulting exhibition, Head Space, at the Freud Museum. 'I always had my sights on the museum,' he says. 'The original room in which Freud saw patients is still preserved there, and all the other rooms in the project are modelled on it.'
Cunard says that he learnt this focus whilst studying for his BA - in social anthropology rather than photography - but adds that it was driven by necessity as much as desire. A busy editorial photographer whose clients include The Guardian, The Independent and The Times, Cunard had to wait a long time before embarking on a major personal project and had neither the time nor money to waste.
'I graduated about 10 years ago,' he says. 'I got a job as a photographer on a local paper for a year and a half, went freelance, had to supplement it with a lot of dispatch riding, felt intellectually dissatisfied, did an MA in the history of photography at the London College of Printing, got more freelancing. I waited and waited and waited, then finally I was in a position to say: 'Right, I've got enough work, this is my personal project.'
Cunard had only £1000 to spend, which meant that he had to use his resources wisely. He only took about 40 rolls of film throughout the project, for example, and about a tenth of his shots have ended up in the exhibition.
But though driven by necessity, he says that this discipline also made for better work.
'I wanted to keep it tight,' he says. 'You don't need to take thousands of shots. And in fact I found that my best shots were taken when I didn't have much time.'
Cunard also kept his costs down by only photographing London-based psychiatrists, his professional base since 1994. But this necessity also became a virtue, as he thought through the ethics of documentary photography.
'I like doing things in my own backyard,' he says. 'I feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of travelling around taking photographs. You can put it in a colonial context, in which every one's there for our gratification.'
'But I also think I should be commenting on my own culture', he continues.
'You aren't as objective but you are in a much better position to take something good because you know about it. Photographers such as Martin Parr and Stephen Gill have taken incredibly profound images in that way.'
Some of the psychiatrists Cunard approached were unwilling to join the project, a reaction that he found interesting. 'I began to wonder why they were so unwilling,' he says. 'How was I posing a threat to their clients by going into their rooms? Some suggested I was doing the project because I wanted therapy but that just made me wonder why they couldn't accept my enquiry as legitimate.'
But Cunard also sympathised with their concerns, and his choice of exhibition space was partly influenced by that. 'It's just about sensitivity', he says. 'I wouldn't display the photographs in a pub where people are going to be really off their heads.'
Cunard managed to secure a guest appearance by Will Self at his opening show, the London-based author reading a piece written to accompany the images called 'A Room of One's Own - for an Hour'. Self's involvement has helped propel Head Space into a different league, as Cunard is astute enough to realise.
'Self was invited to guest-edit The Big Issue, and asked if I'd get involved', he says. 'He said he couldn't pay me but that he'd write a piece to go with the images.'
'And as soon as Will got involved, The Independent got interested and asked if it could publish my pictures,' he continues. 'That's the power of celebrity.'
Head Space: Photographs of Psychotherapeutic Environments is on show at the Freud Museum until 12 December 2004. The museum's gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 5pm, and entry is free. For more information visit: www.freud.org.uk.
I used a film camera for Head Space, the Mamiya RZ 67 and a 35mm Nikon F100. I used film purely for the quality - if I could have done it with a digital camera I would have done.
I used a different lens for the headshot and room shot - a 65mm wide angle for the room and 127mm for the head. I only used lighting in one room because I wanted to keep it natural. I wanted to document the room, and see it as the client would, not add lighting.
I use a Nikon D100 for my professional work, and it's great. Digital teaches you so much because you get the immediate feedback from the camera.
I don't have to take the Polaroid, which is always an approximation (and costly), and I don't have to write down what settings I've used - which I always forget any way.
Copyright @ British Journal of Photography, 2004.
"Nick Cunard, Head Space"
- by Siobhan Wall
Nick Cunard's recent exhibition of photographs at the Freud Museum was a rare opportunity to see inside the rooms in which psychotherapists and their clients meet at least once a week. Cunard photographed interiors, passageways and a number of therapists who agreed to participate in this project. Looking at photographs can't reveal the often fraught and difficult relationship between therapist and client. Instead, we are offered images of therapists without their clients. The writer Jacqueline Rose offers a succinct description of this arcane process; "Psychoanalysis is there to help you look at sides of yourself which you feel are driving you, but which are too painful to look out on your own". The final words of this apposite quote are crucial -- no one is alone in the therapeutic session (although, of course, both client and practitioner may feel this is the case). Nick Cunard doesn't really investigate what happens in these private spaces, however, and there is no indication of the complex relationships being unearthed in these middle-class homes. He states “My aim is to use photography to document a series of psychotherapeutic environments and to discuss how a broad definition of photography, that takes into account the encounter between the photographer and the photographed, can underline the significance of these environments on psychotherapeutic practice”. Cunard's photographs are simple and unpretentious. The photograph of Laurie Slade, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in West London, is quiet and reflective. Often, the therapeutic relationship is rife with misunderstandings and projections. Frustration, anger, fear and, of course, desire all play a role in exploring one's relationship to oneself and others, but none of this can emerge in these photographs. Cunard's interior shots of hallways and doorways are similarly understated. He deliberately chose to avoid showing a sense of mystery, entrapment or the fear of confined spaces. Instead he seems to be exploring the idea of ordinariness. Perhaps representing the psychoanalytic relationship is an impossible task but these images invite consideration about how photographers in general have managed to hint at what lies beneath the surface of these extraordinary encounters. Cunard writes; “…visitors to Head Space will experience something akin to the client in therapy since both involve a personal response to the therapists and their therapeutic environment.” As the exhibition was hung in the Freud Museum, Cunard's work acquires a particular authority. Freud's former home is perceived by many to be a unique shrine to psychoanalysis. In this context, one wonders how prospective clients and therapists responded to these photographs.
- Copyright @ Siobhan Wall, 2005.
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