To the memory of my Dad
Allan John Stow
To the memory of my Dad
Allan John Stow
Portraits and Poems – Women and War
By Lee Karen Stow
Exhibition 1 to 30 November, 2014 at The Space, Hull Central Library, Hull, UK
By Lee Karen Stow
The poppy grows and survives where everything else has been destroyed.
The poppy grows tall when its seed, often dormant for years, is exposed to light due to great upheaval.
The poppy refuses to disappear, no matter how many times it is uprooted.
Exhibition opens Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, UK
8 November to December 31, 2014
Commemorating those who suffered has become a legacy of the First World War. During the centenary years we also remember the famous war poem In Flanders Field, written by Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander McCrae in 1915. Largely forgotten is the moment in 1918 when, inspired by this poem, American woman Moina Belle Michael conceived of the poppy flower as a blood red symbol in silk to forever remember the victims of war.
Poppies (Women and War) remembers more women in times of war, from the First World War to the present day. It combines a portrait series of women whose lives have been affected by war with a botanical series of the red poppy flower (Papaver rhoeas) in its natural environment. For the red poppy despite its delicate appearance, is able to generate new life when everything else has been destroyed, as is the orange poppy, the yellow poppy, the pink and the burgundy poppy, included here to represent women worldwide caught up in war. The white poppy too, while rare it flourishes if we look for it hard enough. In the 1930s this poppy was also immortalised in silk, by women, as a symbol of peace.
Poppies & Postcards
By Lee Karen Stow
Exhibition: The Ropewalk Gallery, Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincolnshire
Feb 22 to April 6
During WWI, the postcard industry reached its peak, as thousands of soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe sent postcards to mothers, wives, sweathearts and friends back home, and postcards with messages of love and support were sent from home to the frontlines.
Lee Karen Stow brings together postcard-sized botanical images of the common cornflower poppy with a series of WWI original postcards exploring the roles of women during four years of conflict, after which the accepted perception of what women were capable of changed irrevocably.
Poppies & Postcards forms part of Stow’s major documentary project Poppies (Women and War) sponsored by Arts Council England which tells the stories of women affected by and involved in wars and conflicts, from WWI to the present day.
A heartbroken tribute to Raymond Kamara, age five, who has died of malaria, in Sierra Leone. The only child of Rebecca, and also my godson. ‘Little Ray 0f Light’ you taught us so much, yet we have so much more to learn. With hope for the future of Africa’s children,
Auntie Lee x
We welcome Gladys Cole on her third visit to the region for October’s Black History Month. As guest of Women with Cameras and The Freetown Society, Gladys will be doing all sorts, from work experience with Hull City Council, delivering school and community talks in conjunction with (WISE) Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation and a one-off presentation at Creation Fine Arts in Beverley on the subject ‘Fabrics of Freetown’. Gladys has just completed her final year studying for a degree in Public Sector Management in Freetown, having worked extremely hard in quite challenging conditions. She’ll be heading up to the Yorkshire Dales towards the end of her visit, to establish further cultural and friendship links, and somewhere in her busy schedule she’ll be pampered with good food and cakes which she loves. We’re having a few socials of jollof rice and music, in celebration of Freetown Day, so get in touch if you want to come along. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped raise funds and sent donations to make Gladys’ visit possible and to help continue our work with the women in Sierra Leone. Your support and kindness is tremendous.
Two images from the work-in-progress project entitled Poppies (Women and War). The first is a silk poppy on wood, as I wait for the real wild common cornflower poppies to flourish in the hedgerows of England, and also in the fields of Flanders. Warmer weather has finally arrived, and soon the meadows and fields will be alive with colour.
The other image was sent to me by my relative Barbara Jordan. It shows my two aunties, Irene and Kate, aged 18 and serving as Land Army Girls during WWII. Look at those socks! Sadly, Auntie Rene and Auntie Kay are no longer with us, but their story survives here in black and white.
The Poppies project is bringing me into contact with the most incredible stories from the most incredible women, which I look forward to sharing when the exhibition opens in Cambridge in 2014 and then tours the UK. It’s still early days, and there’s much work to do. Will post pictures as and when.
After time away from photographing people and their lives, I am returning to documentary photography and the recording of personal stories with a new project entitled Poppies.
As we approach the centenary of World War I, I am dedicating Poppies to the women of all wars. We are also approaching the centenaries of the creation of both the Flanders Field poppy poem and the time when two women created the notion of the poppy being forever a symbol of peace and remembrance. Poppies has been granted support and funding by Arts Council England, a long-time supporter of my work on contemporary women’s issues.
The Poppies project will symbolise the stories of the women in times of war, and combine a portrait series of the women affected by war alongside a botanical series of the cornfield poppy in its natural environments. Each year thousands of women suffer as a result of war, and their stories are often lost behind the bigger stories from the battlefront. The poppy flower, despite its delicate appearance, is able to grow, as a sign of new life where everything else has been destroyed.
A selection of photographic portraits will be launched as part of a major exhibition for Remembrance Weekend in November 2014 at the Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. The exhibition will then be available to tour other interested venues as required.
I became inspired with the idea for the project after working with women in Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa, who shared their experiences of being caught up in one of the most brutal civil wars in recent history. Through these stories, perhaps I can convey an optimistic message of hope and peace. Working with the women of Sierra Leone I am continually struck by the sheer hope that many of these women possess, despite what they have been through, the hope that life for them will one day be better. It is very powerful. I believe that these stories, however painful or indeed inspirational, should be recorded in some way.
Affected further by how war impacts on women, directly or indirectly and its consequences, I went on to photograph other women of Freetown involved in war, and throughout the UK such as pilot Joy Lofthouse who flew Spitfires and Hurricanes for the Air Transport Association during World War II.
I have also begun a very important local angle to Poppies, focusing on the stories of war and conflict that have affected women living in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire, my home patch. This smaller project is called I Remember …. and was inspired by Iris Newbould who served as a Land Army Girl during World War II, and who wrote a beautiful poem about what the poppy symbol means to her. Images from I Remember … will go on show at branches of the Hull Libraries throughout 2014, sponsored by the James Reckitt Library Trust.
It is a challenge for any woman affected by war to talk about her experience, let alone share her story in a public way, but I hope that some women would be willing to talk to me and agree to be photographed, even anonymously if they wish. With their courage, involvement and their wish to speak out, I hope Poppies will continue to grow.
A frosty still life from the East Riding of Yorkshire to end the year, and warmest wishes to everyone I know, especially my family and friends here in Yorkshire, and my friends and colleagues in Africa, Canada and the US. I hope to see more of you in the coming years. Thank you to all the female boxers from Girls in the Ring and everyone who helped make the project and exhibition such a success. Also, thank you to Gladys, Francess, Rebecca, Julie, Alison and the rest of the women in Sierra Leone for staying in touch, for working so hard, and for being hopeful for our future. As always, we have much more to do and your support is always needed and appreciated.
New work from me will be exhibited during 2013 and a series of open edition fine art prints are being launched. In the New Year, I begin a mammoth four-year project about women and war, ready for showing at the University of Cambridge in 2014, then touring until 2018. Will post details nearer the time. Until then, enjoy and be merry x