“My studio is not glamorous; no canvases or sculptures, just mounds of paperwork and books.”
A day in the life of London Group member Amanda Loomes as she work on her latest video project.
Over the last 15 years I have been making films with and about other people at work – predominantly people that work in industries that are often overlooked. Much time is spent at the computer researching. My studio is not glamorous; no canvases or sculptures, just mounds of paperwork and books; and from here I make the initial, tentative contacts to go out into the world to get to know people.
I am currently working on a commission for Surrey Unearthed – a programme of ten linked art projects – exploring the natural materials of the Surrey Hills.
I began by looking to see if any raw materials are still produced in the Surrey Hills and discovered two huge working sandpits providing material for things such as glass, toothpaste, football pitches and washing powder. I then had to persuade the quarries to let me film – people are often busy with targets and are sometimes wary of letting an artist into their world. Much of the early stage is about gaining trust and endeavouring to understand what exactly it is people do so that I can carry out coherent conversations. I always try to keep an open mind about what might be interesting and let the workers make suggestions. With each visit I gradually become more embedded.
Filming in this sort of environment is not easy. I have to pass safety inductions, wear quite a bit of protective equipment, and sometimes climb ladders hoisting the camera up behind. Keeping you and your equipment clean and safe is not always easy. I also have to manage expectations about what it is that I am doing, explaining that I am an artist rather than a documentary filmmaker.
I have been filming at the two quarries for a few months now, often at quite short notice if the weather is half decent. Filming has slowly become more involved and last week I spent the day in Tim’s 40 tonne dump truck which he usually drives on his own for 10 hours a day. I am keenly aware of how my presence distorts his everyday but try to use this in a positive way to acknowledge his skill and accomplishment. Tim has worked in the industry for over 30 years and comes in on his own time at the weekend to clean his machine.
My work always oscillates between the extraordinary and the ordinary and I am aware of the push and pull of this during the filming process. During the interviews I have been asking the workers if they played in sandpits when they were children. Many did.
I have now retreated back to the studio and the computer to edit the material. In many ways this is where the real work begins for me. I am battling with the dialogue between the visual elements, which are compelling, and the more everyday conversations with the workers.
“There’s nothing pretty – it’s just a sandpit at the end of the day. But we are proud of our quarry, we are proud of our hole in the ground”.
I feel a huge responsibility to the people I work with and want to do them justice, whilst at the same time wanting to make challenging, thought-provoking art. If it all comes together, I aim to show something of the frailty and resilience of human endeavour.
Amanda Loomes, 2018
The ‘The Moth Effect’ was made as part of the project.