Thursday, April 18, 2013

Yet More Introspection

An unusual blog entry, listening to Nirvana, drinking a glass of wine, 33,000 feet, and about 45 minutes into a flight to Singapore.  I never cease to marvel at the juxtapositions that modern life and in particular air travel creates, we move from place to place in the blink of an eye, from ice to sun, from never ending winter to perpetual summer.   However, long flights provide a gap, a space, in which to ponder where I am and where I am  going.  For 12 hours I am absent and unavailable, in an undefined transient space that whilst not terribly comfortable is somehow comforting, a cocoon insulated from the world.  So here is some random musing on photographic themes.

As I progress in my studies I am increasingly realising that art is not a theoretical study, an impersonal assessment or creation, but very much a reflection of the self, the individual.  Roughly a year ago I was closing up on my landscape course, ending a period of study that whilst personal was a lot to do with developing an understanding of place coupled with shape and form.  As I progress in social documentary I find that something of me must enter the photography, the problem I continually face is what and how.  Too much introspection and my work might become unintelligible, too little and it is banal and bland.  Recently I have gone back to shooting stuff that interests me, independently of whether I think it a subject worthy of "ART". (Metallica) Travel has become a theme, simply because I am traveling so much, but it is a part of me and one that I need to get into my work.

I feel that I am thinking too much about my work, not trusting enough in my own intuition.  This drove me into a dead end with my study of the Fest, the project that almost undid my course.  With Fest I thought too much about the outcome and not enough about the meaning.  I started hunting imagery that would meet a specific need rather than discovering photographs that carried their own message (Stone Roses).  This somehow lost me, I was shooting to order, my order, but not my soul.  Where am I going with this, I guess what I am trying to say is that I can only produce art if it reflects me and not the genre I am currently studying.   I can work within the confines of the course, I am a student after all, but I must produce stuff that I actually care about, there is little point otherwise.

In another 10 hours I will arrive in Singapore once more, a few weeks after I left, but this time it is a short stop off on a longer trip to the island of Negros in the southern Philippines, our annual 3 week vacation (Blur).  Seat 35A, Heidi in 35C, Mum in 35D, a 3:3:3, config 777 belonging to Singapore airlines.  Why, the detail, because it is relevant, it is where I am and where the people I love are.  In a sense this is what photography needs to be about, the little details that record the life we lead and document something trivial that might become meaning at a later date.  We are creating a progressive record of today, not tomorrow or yesterday, but today, this becomes more important to me as I get older and realise that time is a very finite element in my existence.  This is the essence of photography, the now, that becomes then!

Philosophy aside, this is also my annual opportunity to practice a form of photography that led to the OCA and then became secondary, underwater imagery.   For a change I am not pursuing any agenda with this trip, no assignment to follow, no world view to pursue, I want to get back to my roots and simply enjoy the challenge of capturing the majesty (too big a word, not sure) of the ocean (Lynyrd Skynyrd - new album?)  My mantra is colour, pure and simple, saturated, mad, obscene colour, but natural and real.  Recently I have tried to find meaning in my underwater photography, now I just want to enjoy the experience and create some memorable photographs.  I have new lightweight kit, very pleased so far, but it is not about kit, it is about finding the situation, the animal, the angle, and the light.

Really not sure about this trip and what I will find, but for once I really don't care, I am open to whatever comes along, documenting the dive base, maybe, the people of southern Philippines, possibly, odd looking slugs, well that is a given - I am a slug hunter, although we give them a posh name, Nudibranchs.

I will post this monologue when I get to our hotel in Singapore, I hope it makes sense, I do not plan to edit.   Oddly, though, I think this is where I need to be in this blog, less academic, more about motivation and soul.  Somehow the art gets lost in the technology and the critical theory!

Monday, April 1, 2013


It's the first of April and the snow continues to fall outside, the longest and coldest winter on record for my part of Germany seems to continue unabated.  It is not that it has been excessively cold, we have had much colder spells, minus 25 being the worst I can remember.  It is simply that it has been cold for such a long time, since the beginning of January we have had snow on the ground almost all of the time.  On the 24th December I recall the sitting on the bench in front of my house in a T-shirt enjoying a coffee basking in the 20 degree sunshine.  We joked about the winter that wasn't and the green rather than white Christmas. Well, it changed,

If I had been studying landscape this might have been a boon, although even a course based upon the landscape needs some variety in the weather.  For Social Documentary it really began to limit what I could do, it just was not the right conditions for spending long days wandering the streets in search of the decisive moment.  I took a break waiting for spring and Easter when people emerge from their houses and the beer gardens open.  Some hope.

I did, however, take a few photos during the snow, many reflecting the rather bleak mood that I found myself in after Christmas, the recent shock of a family death descending into a melancholy that reflected in the photographs that I created.

I was interested in using the snow to change the landscape of my images by taking away most of the usual detail that fills the world we live in.  To do so I heavily overexposed the pictures at the time of exposure and then in post processing pushed the contrast to the limit and dropped the saturation.  The result was a washed out appearance coupled with patches of dark colour.

The photos became progressively bleak ending in the one above with its almost total absence of any detail, just a photograph of a snow field with tiny tonal variations in the white.  Although this was a very introverted activity it oddly helped me to portray visually how I felt and in a sense was a way of mentally emptying the waste paper basket.  In parallel I started to point my camera at people, again using the same bleak aesthetic, but allowing the people to become little points of colour and form in this barren world.

I found myself becoming attracted to the dog walkers and the relationship between dog and person.  Children playing also made for some interesting patterns of interaction.

Finally I started to enjoy myself and took a few photos that attempted to capture the simply joy that children have in the snow.