Trish Morrissey

Trish Morrissey’s project Front is an exploration into culture and boundaries. For this project she approached various groupings of people on beaches in Australia and the UK and asked if she could become part of their family or group temporarily for the purpose of making the photograph. People tend to act differently on beaches; they tolerate less personal space and behave in ways they normally would not. For instance some women are quite conscious about dressing age appropriately for the majority of the year, but come summer holiday at the beach they rush to don their little bikinis when really that is the last item of clothing they should be considering for their age or figures.

Morrissey set up her camera and then had the mother or a woman in the group take the actual photograph, while she borrowed an item of clothing from her to wear and took her place among the family members for the photograph, masquerading as the missing woman. Each photograph bears the caption of the name of the woman Morrissey replaced.

Morrissey states in an interview with the Guardian that “it takes a lot of bottle to ask strangers to do something like this.” However, because the person pressing the shutter button was familiar to the group, the photographs look natural, some even finding the performance quite amusing.

As with Nikki S. Lee’s work, it is only when one views the photographs as a series that one begins to find the similarities and then begin to question the identity of the person and the boundaries that have been crossed. As Morrissey states (Bright 2010, p 209) ‘ideas around the mythological creature the “shape shifter” and the cuckoo are evoked.’

Her image Hayley Coles, June 17th, 2006 is the most successful of the Front series. In this image Morrissey sits on a fold up chair holding a newspaper facing the camera, flanked by her African ‘husband’ and ‘son’. The man is sitting on a large rug with an African print with his legs drawn up to his chest, his arms wrapped comfortably around them. The little boy is standing on the sand with a long towel wrapped around his waist. In the background are beautiful white cliffs and waves breaking on the beach. The family’s poses in this photograph are different than the rest of the set where family and friends merely echo each other’s pose in a typical snapshot fashion.

Reference List

Bright, S. (2010). Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. London: Thames & Hudson

Phillips, Sarah (2013). Trish Morrissey’s Best Photograph: Infiltrating a Family on Kent Beach [online]. The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jan/23/trish-morrissey-best-shot [Accessed on 29 October, 2015]

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