Thursday, 19 November 2009

Trying Out

It sometimes occurs to me that the only way of resolving work is trying out ideas and permutations for real. I know that many creative people rehearse their concepts over and over in their heads before committing them to paper, canvas or whatever - and that some of them have the clarity of vision to enable them to pull off a success in a seemingly effortless way. American artists often convey a little of this approach though whether it's genuinely the case or not who knows? I was reminded of this earlier this week when the eminent photo historian Mark Haworth-Booth gave a lecture at Uni (for the new MA in Photographic History) that by agreement those of us on the Photo course were also invited to attend. His excellent presentation was focussed on the relatively little regarded French photographer Camille Silvy. Part of his talk made mention of taking the American photographer Stephen Shore to a spot where Silvy's most famous picture was taken and that MHB was surprised at how quickly Shore made his image. It seems to confirm my suspicion - I imagined a contemporary English photographer, say Jem Southam, taking the same shot. Though to counter my thesis think of Thomas Joshua Cooper doing the same thing...

However at our most recent session for our course we had a workcheck afternoon and this relaxed and informal opportunity to share work in progress initially prompted me to try out several 'idea' containers for selections of pictures made at my chosen location. Besides some reasonably decent images from the late spring in 2005, until this summer I had not taken any serious photos of Dimminsdale but since early June I have amassed over 1000 images. Quite a few are unusable for a variety of reasons but even so there are perhaps now 200 to 300 pretty solid pictures to work with - and over the next 6 or 7 weeks more will be taken. From what is currently to hand I had tried out three thematic containers - and produced A3 prints to exemplify these. The review threw up some strong responses. In particular a brief but illuminating discussion with the Course leader made me realise, fleetingly at the time, but resonating with me over the hours that have followed, that I have to draw on my background and experience as a painter. That might seem obvious to others but I have, until now, unconsciously been denying myself this - indeed looking back now I feel that I have actually been avoiding the conventions of my practice, particularly as regards form and colour, in favour of a fiercely indexical, formalist approach to photographic recording. Where I have toyed with the use of other media interventions these have more often been allied to the photograph rather than more straightforwardly incorporating them into the photograph.

Coming back from the session and thinking ahead I now realise more clearly what I need to do now to progress the initial investigation. Firstly taken the best of the images selected to date, secondly revisit the totality of what I have and select those images where my innate and learned painterly vision did intrude on the choices I made when shooting (paradoxically probably those moments when I stopped thinking about making a photograph and reverted to simply looking and shooting) and finally reshaping and cropping images that reinforce my perspectives on the subject to strengthen the selection.

I am also resolved to hold back on the use of my filtering device until after the first semester submission - maybe it will come into play in the final push towards the major project alongside the cast objects - but for now I want to try and discipline myself in using only the direct photographic record, albeit filtered through my own vision as described, and perhaps with the briefest addition of text. This last element also resolved in discussion at the session. I had tried out a notion of an 'Annunciation' and also one of 'the Humours' both I suspect as a way of trying to reference back to historical impulses? I'm not clear what - and that was bluntly pointed out! So I am returning to my initial notion of a journey, utilising verb titles (Entering, Wandering, Leaving) but underpinned by two other temporal 'journeys' through the day and the seasons. Taken together - the reassertion of my formal painterly understandings of the picture making and the notion of these journeys - I hope to be able to assemble the resolution of the project brief for this current negotiated study over the coming few weeks.

The picture here is the one that I produced as 'Sanguine' from The Humours - and that seemed to be the more popular of those that I had printed up for the crit.

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