Lessons in love

The previous post A kiss seems perhaps a great departure from the work I was making previously, and after discussions with my tutor about this new work it was agreed that I should try and explain how I came to this place, and indicate any connections for the creative direction of my studies.

In my literature review, assignment two for CS, I wrote: “Geoffrey Batchen’s introductory essay to ‘Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida’ entitled ‘Palintode’ provides an explanation to the title of the critical work in the original French title “La chamber Claire”: An instrument, patented by an Englishman William Wollaston, provided the user of, what the English call a “Camera Lucida” an image directly onto the receiver’s ‘…retina. Thus, the image produced by a camera lucida is seen only by the draughtsman (as it was designed for) and by no one else…Here, then, was an apt metaphor for Barthes’ own text’ 1.  What Barthes, and by implication Batchen, is agreeing with, is that the viewer/reader re-situates the narrative of the image in their making, and that the “Punctum” ‘…that accident that pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)2 is a very personal reflection on the narrative contained within the frame.”

The work in Purgatory was to try and find imagery within the frame – not in the landscape, if that makes sense and whilst not entirely in a haphazard way, at least without the trappings of traditional landscape photography – tripod &c. I attempted, and to some extent succeeded, in finding imagery that punctured my sub-conscious and revealed to me narratives from my past. Which is interesting as Purgatory has no connection to the past I was considering, but nevertheless I purposefully became ‘open’ to it and by doing so found it. This latest development is about how I can develop imagery in front of the lens to purposefully reveal – and in this case illustrate the feelings that I hold to be the most important of all feelings. In Purgatory I went outside to find what I was looking for in my relationship with my father, now I don’t feel that urge, here I can purposefully work close to home, in my home even though I don’t feel limited by any geographic place.

I had always wanted to write about love, the last work that I did in the Documentary course was largely a reflection on love  – in an ‘open’ way – and the work that I am putting up for the Memory exhibition will be a new presentation of that work.

On a morning stroll recently I found, under a newly blossoming magnolia tree, a part of the bud that had protected the blossom through its infancy and development into maturity. It appeared to me to provide a metaphor for familial love, that nurturing force that conceives, develops and releases humanity into the world. I felt the tenderness of this discarded protection that must be both strong and tender to resist the worst of the weather and yet caring enough to nurse the bud from conception through to adulthood. And it reminded me of someone – the subject described the The kiss.

Sharon suggested that I develop the metaphorical potential of the magnolia bud, but having looked at it, it appears to have lost a good deal of its previous vigour and so I may have to come back to that a little later. Purgatory as a space was overcome by love, I don’t mean the spiritual discourse provided by Catholicism – Dante’s journey – I am talking about my personal departure led by the love of, and by, someone else. The weather has changed. “The Kiss” a very short exert from a longer piece which was influenced in it’s structure by Calvino’s ‘Difficult Loves’ 3, a series of ‘open’ texts that enable the reader to develop a way forward. This will be very important to how I develop my work as I feel there is no single truth in life only stories about truth.

Purgatory still radiates with potent allegorical strength, my visit there earlier this week found me dismissing the place as I walked right on by, focusing on the land before I reached there and on the arrival of Spring as I left it, on the hour or so walk home. If Purgatory is about life and afterlife then the images I made on that walk were about birth and decay, where decay is but one part of the continual organic process of life that includes birth. I don’t see this project morphing to a comment on ‘green-ness’. It will however, be about love.

1 – Batchen , G, 2009. Palinode. In: Photography Degree Zero reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pp 10 – 11.

2 – Barthes, R, 2000. Camera Lucida. London: Vintage pp27

3 – Calvino , I, 1996. Difficult loves. London: Minerva.


6 thoughts on “Lessons in love

  1. John, I read and thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Kiss’, yesterday; and I’m glad to read this contextual piece today. I found yesterday’s ‘words’ more powerful than the images – but having read today’s post, I sense that this is a balance and a process that you’re exploring (as you have done at times in the past, I think). I’ll continue to watch (and read) with interest – thanks.

    • Thank you Stan. Happy you enjoyed The kiss and yes, you are right, it is the early stages of a process to develop/explore – long journey ahead to look forward to.

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