There is a group of us in Bristol who meet up every now and then to connect through our shared pursuit of very diverse photography practices. It began more than a year ago in a cafe, just four of us having coffee and hogging the table for about three hours. It has gradually expanded to be a group in which there must be more than 12 women on the email list, although it’s generally no more than a handful of us that meet at any one time. There is no pressure to turn up, and no agenda.
Mostly we’ve met in a cafe near the train station, which was borne out of the fact it was central and a couple of people live a relatively long way away. But this time, we met in someone’s house one Saturday morning, at the kitchen table.
It is an amazing thing, a kitchen table – it never just means meal-time. It is an object that sees partners splitting up or repairing painful wounds, that looks after piles of clutter, watches children having tantrums, that witnesses friendships affirmed or broken. I vividly remember the kitchen table of my own childhood – it had a split down one side where the wood-join a quarter of the way in had long given up, darkened with both age and food, the top scrubbed sometimes with bleach. I worked in an antique shop for six months in my early 20s and learned they were actually dubbed ‘scrub-tops’ and always went for a good price – that rustic feel which promises Ma Larkin is just around the corner to make everything all right.
Although the group of us who meet up mostly know each other’s work it was the first time we all actually got something out to share and get feedback on. I’m sure it was the influence of a table….the lack of pressure, the home, the familiarity of what a kitchen table means. It is a far cry from a formal ‘crit’ – and all the better for it. There’s a time and a place for that. And there is a time and a place for this – following in the long lineage of women sharing: quietly, at a kitchen table.