The White Picture
Chapter I
2012




This series of images documents aspects of life for female British soldiers in Afghanistan. The soldiers were part of a unit known as a Female Engagement Team (FETs). Each woman spent six months or more in Afghanistan and often spent long periods of time in a forward operating base working alongside infantry units.






Crossley joins a patrol to see whether she can access a local Afghan compound, in the hope that she may meet women and children.
 
These women contributed to what the military describe as the white picture; a term for the information gathered on the assumed daily life of the local population, attempting to understand their needs, motivations and perceptions with the aim of improving relationships between the local community and the British Armed Forces.



This feature aims to visually represent the women who served within this role and some of the more nuanced roles taken by the British Army in the context of the war in Afghanistan.


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The White Picture was exhibited at The Oxo Gallery, London, in 2012.





Above
Karri

Soldier — No Man’s Land
Chapter II
2014 — 2018


When you type the word ‘soldier’ into a search engine the following description appears - A soldier is one who fights as part of an organised land-based armed force. A soldier can be an enlisted person, a non-commissioned officer, or junior-commissioned officer, or an officer.

If you move onto an image search over 90% of the images depict men, in uniform or with weapons, posing or in action. This stereotype is translated through popular media across the world. Why is gender a factor of how we present the image of a soldier? Where did the masculine association of the uniform become prevalent in the photographic interpretation of the image of war?



Top Row
Baljit, Alex, Louise   
Second Row
Jessica, Kathryn,
Curator Dr. Pippa Oldfield 
Below
Donna


Above Soldier on display as part of No Man’s Land at Bristol Cathedral, 2018.


The idea of using photography to highlight the historical context of women in uniform can be seen as far back as the almost androgynous image of a young Russian woman of the Savage Division atop a horse in 1917 evokes much discussion about the gender of the soldier. As Susan R Grayzel, a Professor of History at the University of Mississippi writes in her essay for the British Library, “even as women made visible contributions to the war and garnered praise for this, wartime media often signalled that what women did was somehow extraordinary and quite separate from their male counterparts. Despite debates at fairly high levels of government in both Britain and Germany, for instance, about compulsory labour for women, every task that a woman performed was in some sense voluntary in the way that the conscripted male labour of soldiering was not.”
As a photographer I have been researching and producing an ongoing series which aims to document and present the day-to-day realities of life for women in the British Army. Being a former member of the military has left me with an understanding of the nuances of army language and nicknames and being able to talk to the women in a way that makes me less like the other and more like one of them has helped to spend time with the women in places ordinarily inaccessible to the main stream media. However, there are many elements of this project that have challenged the need for neutrality and how to present this work that detaches from my own personal experiences, while also accessing those to inform the work. Whilst the wider media narrative is important I think the story beyond this goes some way to challenge stereotypes are perpetuated by the press.


Solider is currently on display as part of No Man’s Land, a touring group exhibition presenting rarely seen female perspectives on the conflict of the first world war. Showcasing the work of three historical and three contemporary female photographers, the show will visit Impressions Gallery in Bradford, Bristol Cathedral, The Turnpike in Leigh and Bishop Auckland Town Hall between October 2017 and April 2019.

For more information visit the Impressions Gallery website.



Women Create Change
Chapter III
2016



Taking inspiration from the work of WWI photographers, such as Olive Edis, Horace Nicholls and Christina Broom who documented the contribution of women to the war effort and their changing social roles, Women Create Change looks at modern social changemakers 100 years later to reflect the links between these pioneering women of the war and individuals who contribute to continuing developments in the role of women today.












The series captures moments with 21st century pioneering women with a connection to Oxfordshire in all walks of life, including Bishop Libby Lane, soprano Emma Kirkby, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, MINIPlant apprentice Philippa Napier, racehorse trainer Henrietta Knight and Martha Lane Fox, founder of lastmniute.com. With divergent interests and backgrounds, these women are united by their passion and drive, and push the boundaries of our expectation in their respective fields.

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Women Create Change was commissioned by Oxford Festival of Arts for a major open-air photographic exhibition which took place at Frideswide Square in Oxford, June — September 2016.









Fulton Street Subway








Medium Format
Chapter IV
2018


New York, New Process








Nicole
Rockaway Beach



  

Lions Den
Bushwick







Manhattan Bridge



Skateboarders
Brooklyn Bridge




















Quincy Avenue, Brooklyn

















Maria Hernandez Park, Bushwick


Cracked Pot, Harlem

Xavier & his son Houston
in the doorway of the Harlem Haberdashery






Plant Stall, Harlem









Patrick & his dog Ingu
Bushwick



I used to love meeting new people and hearing their stories. The intensity of the past few years has dampened this passion a little. With only 12 images per roll, medium format has helped me make slower decisions about what and when to take a photo. This chapter is open ended, no image count and no story as such. It will change, adapt and may even disappear as I learn more about the process. Often we want to show the best of the work on a website, but I also think the process and the journey is as important as the end piece. New York was about making the step to focus on my film camera and an intentional act to change the way I use photography as not just a way to produce work for people but to start more self initiated projects. Less based on productivity and more focused on slowing down and spending more time on the process. This chapter is a mark in time where I can share where the work started, and what it may become.

 


© Alison Baskerville 2019