Blue Bag

Marysa Dowling

2007 - 2018

Blue Bag is a long term international photographic project based on the simple premise of passing an ordinary, banal object: a bright blue plastic bag from one person to the next with the intention of connecting communities, people and response in a particular place.

Alongside a set of instructions the bag is used as a collaborative prop and bounced between the project participants and myself. It shows up in the images like a radar dot on a screen, moving around the city or town. By the time the bag reaches the third or fourth pair of hands a stranger to the first recipient has taken hold of it. The blue bag both traverses and establishes a community where IT is the only necessary, common element. The group formed by this process is not a collective community that shares an identity or common culture but a new community that transcends political and social boundaries, existing only because of a collective involvement in the project.

Blue Bag begins in each new city through the identification of an existing connection between an organisation and its known audience. Any communication and discussion about project participation is based upon the privileged relationship between the organisation concerned and possible project collaborators. Any first participant will be sourced on my behalf through these initial dialogues. From that point onwards the project direction is in the hands of the participants in collaboration with myself. The first person is asked to select a specific location as a backdrop to their image and to consider how they will use the blue bag in their portrait. Their first meeting will discuss and explore their options in this collaborative process before being rolled out to new participants following the guidance and choices of the last participant. During the meeting at each chosen location a portrait is made collaboratively before the blue bag is then passed on to the next person and moved from person to person in this way.

As a photographic artist I am fascinated with each unique gesture and use of the blue plastic bag as a gestural prop. Collectively my work collates and organises these performative acts for the camera into a broad body of work to illustrate choice, variation and personal interpretation of the use and manipulation of an object in the context and confinement of a single photograph. This project has continued to engage and excite me for 10 years due to the privilege of working collaboratively with unique individuals who enjoy the process and offer so much to the discussion about contemporary photographic portraiture.

I have taken this project to London, Los Angeles, Havana, Cape Town, Beirut, Kochi, India, 7 locations in Mexico and Ekanas, Finland, making portraits with around 450 people over the last decade.

Currently I am working with Stuart Smith of SMITH DESIGN (London) on producing my first book - BLUE BAG. Creating a book of this project is the ideal output, as well as an essential platform to share my wider practice.The book will have around 60 portraits from this 10 year project. Accompanying texts have been written by Caroline Molloy, Sarah Butler and Helen James, with an introduction from Janice McLaren of The Photographers Gallery.

I have been working on commissions and self directed portrait projects for around 18 years.

Creating this book comes at a time when it is vital to raise my profile and create new opportunities.

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  • Blue Bag, Adel, Beirut Lebanon 2010

  • Blue Bag, Albin, Ekanas Finland 2016

  • Blue Bag, Karla, Zinacantan Mexico 2014

  • Blue Bag, Alejandro, Havana Cuba 2009

  • Blue Bag, Axel, Ekanas Finland 2016

  • Blue Bag, Beirut Lebanon 2010 #53 Rayan

  • Blue Bag, Devaki, Kochi India 2016

  • Blue Bag, Ester, Havana Cuba 2009

  • Blue Bag, Janet, London UK 2007

  • Blue Bag, Jessica, Los Angeles USA 2008

  • Blue Bag, Jose, Oaxaca Mexico 2014

  • Blue Bag, Kristina, Beirut Lebanon 2010

  • Blue Bag, Los Angeles USA 2008

  • Blue Bag, Maki, Monterrey Mexico 2015

  • Blue Bag, Maria Claudia, Havana Cuba 2009

  • Blue Bag, Nathan, London UK 2012

  • Blue Bag, Pallavi, Kochi India 2016

  • Blue Bag, Sharif, Beirut Lebanon 2010

  • Blue Bag, Umar, Kochi India 2016