Slowing down

Love me

This event in Bristol organised by Colin Pantall, Jesse Alexander and Max Houghton has struck a chord with me. Slow is becoming a ‘thing’ at the moment and no bad thing it is too, I’m very aware that I need to steady the pace and to focus on less in order to move on. And so I aim to try and attend, it looks interesting. However this sentence struck me particularly in respect of my studies “It’s a day of sound and word and image and how they all tie together, a day where we go beyond photography to understand what it is that makes a place look, sound and feel the way it does, and how we can use these ideas to represent the landscape and the way we walk, sense and remember it.”

I’m wondering about this particular phrase “..making a place look and feel the way it does..” because that is precisely what I have been trying to do in Purgatory, which is to attempt to construct an image in the frame that describes what I feel about something. To say that I am a landscape photographer would be to greatly stretch the terminology; rather I have wanted to use the land to describe how I feel not how the land makes me feel. I have wanted to use the viewfinder to frame not what I think the land represents, but what it represents about me. Self possessed probably. However the imagery I have been striving to make is about some strong emotions within me, about how I can describe and come to terms with them.

The photograph that practically ‘flew’ off the wall at Artweeks, within a very short period of the opening, was the one above (without caption). It accurately describes my relationship with my father. I went searching for unspecified imagery that would become specific, to see if I could find through the sub-conscious, a ‘punctum’, fully aware that the context of the image is rested within only one person and perhaps could never resonate elsewhere. And whilst I had been focused solely on that bondless father and son connection I have now widened the work in the course to reflections on it’s meta-narrative, love. Some time ago I wrote some very short stories on that subject, the project was somewhat arrested by the talk I attended with Johanna Ward, who quite rightly suggested that if I wanted to be a writer I should enroll on a writing course. However the turn towards tattoos has reinvigorated, perhaps inculcated by repeated attempts to ‘open-up’ the work, the desire to tell stories.

Nathan 92

Tattoos are stories, and are stories that get told repeatedly for the life of the narrator. They are embedded into the proclaimer for whatever reason. Perhaps noting the love of one for another or for the lost love of one for another. Perhaps the loss of one or the arrival of another. There are of course multiple designs of tattoos – texts – that deliver all kinds of messages, football teams, affiliations, badges of allegiance &c, but my focus will about love. And so I’ve started to collect them. I have seen them, asked to see them, enquired about them, although I haven’t decided on whether I should photograph them, at the moment it doesn’t seem important. I have wondered about whether where on the body the tattoos are located would affect the ‘reading’ of them. These texts that are vital to the bearer, determined to be forever but which are “Open” for interpretation on the discourse of love.

And so back to the ‘slowness’ of photography. It has that ability to hold time and to present a narrative for consideration and musing which is perhaps unique. The mutability of a fixed image that flux’s for each viewing dependent on personal circumstance and cultural contextual references. Reflexive and reflective. Wonderful.

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9 thoughts on “Slowing down

  1. Think I might enrol for the event myself. Reading your post reminded me of Robert Adam’s idea that landscape pictures fall into three categories: Geography, Autobiography and Metaphor. Jesse refers to this in his book. Your thinking seems to lie somewhere between autobiography and metaphor.

      • John, I think that might be a whole category of art on its own … perhaps even a characteristic of all art! Don’t know whether your “off the land and into the studio” comment is a serious one or just an aside – but I feel it has worked for me!

      • You may well be right Stan 🙂 I don’t really consider myself a landscape photographer – actually I’m not sure what I categorise myself as! But I know/feel that I will need to include people sooner or later – hopefully before the 20th June!

  2. I’ve found that walking amongst trees and also concentrating on still-life images definitely slows me down’ puts me in another place. The walking event certainly looks interesting – apart from the fact that it’s in November! I started to think about Jesse, his relative youth and how fast he walks, then I reminded myself that it’s to be a ‘slow’ walk.

    Is there a genre named contemplative photography? If so that’s the one for me.

    • Well, that’s the prerogative of youth! I’m making cyanotypes at the moment, that’s contemplative at 13 mins an exposure – then washing, then drying..

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