Thoughts on: Amy Mae's "Hard.Back"

Two months ago I took myself down to a local hip festival we have running here in Edinburgh every so often called the Hidden Door Festival. Hidden Door is a volunteer run and led festival of local artists, musicians and performers who take over disused spaces and turn them into something beautiful/dirty just for a little while.
Composite from Amy Mae's Hard.Back 2015, Image belongs to Amy Mae 

This year the festival was held in the old traffic department buildings for the municipal authority (otherwise known as City of Edinburgh Council).

The festival was busy, buzzing and exciting - there were some moments of great sunshine and good vibes in the courtyard space, some stalls full of tasty food, music, theatre.. but what I was there for was the art.

I wanted to see what was new and happening in my city. Working for 'the moolah' as much as I do at the moment I barely have the opportunity to work on my own projects, let alone get out there and see what is going on - so having the Hidden Door barely five minutes down the road from my desk was an opportunity far to good to miss!

That is how I came across Amy Mae's project: Hard.Back. Burrowed away within the sprawling abandoned office spaces and garages she spent the duration of the festival photographing people's backs (both naked and not) and developing the prints in an improvised cupboard-sized dark room.

The set up was simple, involving a darkened room - the daylight blocked out out by an old beige vertical blind, drawn tightly shut. On an old desk sat a book rapidly filling with the prints she was creating and there: straight ahead, three and a half rows of misty photos.. with plenty pre-marked gaps for more.

Her work stood out to me at once as bold and ambitious, picking up and taking forward the mantle of the great nudist painters before her, squeezing it through a the semi-modernist medium of photography, pulling it back from the digital realm unto which it has lately fled and coming out, at the end, with something completely of her own.

If it is right that it is not necessarily the subject of your art which is the most important, but the methodology and the idea - then I would say that is what caught my attention. Any other artist using the space even with the same intent would not have produced the same effect, the same atmosphere, the same results. So much of what I think made the space and idea a success in my eyes was Amy's approach to her subjects, her passion for her work, her open-ness about her work, her honesty and friendliness.

If at first when you walked into the abandoned office the set-up seemed underground, dodgy, even a bit too Terry Richardson-esque, as soon as you met Amy you were completely put at ease. By the end of the week long festival her enthusiasm for the project had pulled a vast array of people through the narrow entrance-way into the slightly disconcerting, but at once completely normalised action, of taking your clothes off for a complete stranger.

You can purchase a copy of the Zine here, and visit Mae's website here.

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