‘Fictions’ three sets of images linked by my thoughts during the period of their making. First ‘Chimerical Landscapes’ then ‘Amergen - The Garden in Winter’ and finally ‘The Garden, Fragments of a History'
All photographs are to an extent fictions, the world of the image changed from the ‘reality’ observed through the activity of picture making, elements wilfully edited, new relationships suggested by the manipulations of frame and viewpoint.
The idea of ‘fiction’ in this collection of images relates not to the above but to the processes of construction, the collection and arrangement of objects, to a manufactured ‘reality' and to the thought processes that may accompany that activity.
The process began with a series of four images, their subject the decaying stems of decorative thistles. In the summer of 1990 I had two such plants in my garden, tall, imposing, and about to seed. Planning to go away for a month or so I worried that the garden of next year might become engulfed in thistles, I cut the plants back storing the resultant debris in a rubbish bag to await my return. Revisiting the stems on my return I was fascinated by their silvery texture and by their subtle decay. I began to photograph them. The first images disappointed, I had imagined images that invoked process , decay, the stems returning to the soil. In my images the stems remained obdurately separate, distinct. I must think again, I finally decided on multiple exposure, a method I had used often in the landscape but not until this point in my still life work. The resultant images conveyed the mood that I wanted, ground and stems melting together, evoking decay or renewal. My working method was simple, just two exposures, one of the constructed still life, that removed and a second exposure given to the ‘ground’. In fact a tree burr I was to use in many later photographs.
On considering the prints I felt that they suggested not still life images but intimate details of a small and complex landscape. I titled them ‘Chimerical Landscapes’ landscapes produced in the process of photographing and relating to no preexisting, no seen reality.’
In early 1991 I was in Ireland, staying at Amergen, the home of my then partners mother Chris, she has a beautiful and extensive garden. During my stay Chris and I began to collect the detritus of the previous year, seed heads, birch bark etc. I returned home with shoe boxes of this material, I decided to make a still life to thank Chris for her help in the activity of collection. The result was the image ‘Amergen - the Garden in Winter’. Like the ‘Chimerical Landscapes’ it was a fabrication but unlike those photographs the objects and the title linked it to an actual site, the shift intrigued me. I remembered that a couple of years previously, whilst terracing my own garden, I had unearthed and kept a objects of interest to me, old rotting tools, coins etc.I recovered them and began to photograph them, and began the series which became ‘The Garden - Fragments of a History’. I began to think of the objects as evoking layers of time, hinting at the lives of people who had occupied the space prior to my own occupation of it. I began to collect things relating to my own life in that environment. Pieces of pottery, the skull of a favourite cat, buried and accidentally exhumed. and plants to evoke a particular season, a layering of past and present. In the final image I wanted to evoke a larger, an evolutionary time scale, the fossil, the bird skull and finally the precariously poised manikin, a figure without hands or eyes threatened, made vulnerable, by the fecund swirl of ‘nature’.
All the images were made using double exposure as detailed above, a methodology I continued in the later tulip still life. The triptych ‘The Garden - Fragments of a History’ won the Fox Talbot prize in 1992
All prints are signed.
Measurements given are approximate and are of image size with an additional border of at least 2.5 - 5cm. If dated, the date refers to the date of the negative and not of the print.
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