We are living in strange times, admonished to isolate ourselves within the narrow territories of our homes and gardens. As photographers, how might this change our way of image making? Thinking of this I realised that for the past forty years approximately ninety percent of my photographs have been made in my domestic space, my house or my garden.
I know from talking to fellow photographers on workshops, at university, that the idea of working for long periods in confined spaces is repugnant to many. Photography is about being out there, confronting reality, discovering new places, not confining oneself to the familiar mundane.
So, in the light of forty years, until now, voluntary immersion in photographing in my domestic spaces I thought that I could usefully share some thoughts on the acceptance, the celebration, of working in limited, intimately familiar yet generally unnoticed spaces.
I am planning a series of blogs exploring different aspects of my work, beginning with a consideration of LIGHT and of ideas of FAMILIARITY
Our domestic spaces are so familiar, so known, as to be almost invisible. Task one then, is to recoup a visual awareness of our surroundings. To make the familiar once more strange, once more of intrigue. Let the vehicle for this exploration be light. For photographers how could it be otherwise!
Significant to my thinking about light has been the book ‘Catching the Light’ by Arthur Zajonc. In particular one sentence has become my mantra, the basis of my thoughts about my image making :
‘what is the nature of this invisible thing called light whose presence calls everything into view – excepting itself?’
I became intrigued by the realization of light’s invisibility, fascinated by those fleeting moments when light became manifest, became visible.
So, begin to watch the light intensely. The torrent of light that enters a window, how it disperses around the space, slides over the surface of a table, caresses the edge of a chair, gleams for a moment on glass or pottery, lights a shelf of books, travels through the space, flecks the walls, disperses.
Observe changes through time as the sun moves, as the day progresses as the seasons change. Look for the unexpected, the unexplained patch of light on a surface, how did it arrive there? Track its journey.
Watch and learn, make images, think of your image making as an exploration, as a visual record of your growing awareness. Don’t seek the elusive masterpiece, see your exposures as links in a chain, some of lasting significance others as necessary moments in a process of learning to see. Note similarities between images, begin to group, to sequence, build constellations of images. Look at your images often and intently.
Warning, this deliberate intense observation of light, of its fleeting presence, of its constant metamorphosis can become obsessive!
Don’t resist, sometimes obsession is necessary.