Laura Pannack (UK 1985) photographs people she approaches in an empathic and direct manner which gives her work an apparent honesty and openness. I have to say apparent because, especially in the light of recent course-directed research, it is clear that what the image appears to communicate can easily be the result of manipulation. But Pannack’s images as found on her website are accompanied by a detailed blog-based account of her photographic endeavours and the extensive travels which produced them.
In these accounts she is disarmingly open about her struggles with the nuts-and-bolts of photography, travel and personal organisation. Her readiness to declare what she sees as her failures, along with her modestly acknowledged successes, provides an engaging insight into her process, to me the most interesting aspect of a photographer’s work. Her work sometimes involves the use of a large format camera which she admits she has yet to master – her problems with keeping track of darkslides, for instance, has led to disappointing losses as well as serendipitous double-exposures.
Young British Naturists
Pannack came to the attention of the photography gate-keepers with her series Young British Naturists (which she now sensibly refers to as YBN), a project which took three years to research, coordinate and shoot. It was slow and painstaking work; she had to develop a trusting relationship with her subjects, who were unsurprisingly cautious about even being photographed, never mind exhibited and published.
Young British Naturists — LAURA PANNACK. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from Web site: https://www.laurapannack.com/young-british-naturists/
All of this work seems to have been made with natural light. It is posed rather than candid and often the subjects look directly out of the frame at the viewer. Is this a challenge? An “I’m looking at you looking at me”? I don’t think so – if anything it places the subjects in a superior position. Differential focus is often used to isolate the sitters within their environment. The final image format is very close to 5×4 so I wonder if she battled with her cantankerous view camera to modify the plane of focus.
“Nakedness is usually reserved for the private realm. We make sure the curtain is pulled before we undress. On the beach, we wriggle awkwardly behind towels to preserve our modesty and a dropped corner is cause for deep blushes. We keep our private parts hidden from view, known only to ourselves or given as a gift to a lover. It is about more than just skin. Nakedness is a concept as much as it is a state of being, and one wreathed in paradox. With it are bound notions of privacy, self possession, jurisdiction. It can connote innocence or sexuality, purity or depravity. It can signify both power and vulnerability, used to liberate or humiliate.” Young British Naturists — LAURA PANNACK. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from Web site: https://www.laurapannack.com/young-british-naturists/
Pannack further explores her interest in portraying teens and early twenties in this project. Empathy with her subjects plays an important part in her approach:
“Perhaps young people rely on relationships to ease the burden of the frightening time of handling adolescence and all its uncertainties; finding support in someone who will not judge but share the experience. Who will despite any fears or insecurities we have, accept and love us.” Young Love — LAURA PANNACK. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from Web site: https://www.laurapannack.com/young-love/
Young Love — LAURA PANNACK. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from Web site: https://www.laurapannack.com/young-love/
Once more the need to gain the confidence of those she photographs is important. She recognises adolescence as a ‘frightening time’ so needs to gain the trust of her subjects.