There is this rising sense of creative frustration I’m experiencing lately that needs breaking with some urgency.
The time I freed up when study finished has been sucked up by things I could say no to or defer when I was studying. I do get little things done but there are no blocks of time to commit to more and that’s the reason I have not put up a new project lately. Carrying a DSLR daily and not getting time to use it simply adds to this friction I feel. I just can’t get it together and make something happen and since I was looking forward to doing that it feels like the goals are being moved further away.
The simplest action is to take some leave but that is too complicated at present. It would be easy to stop but that’s not my way. I will wait, chip away at the edges of things and do what I can to go further.
I have several ideas around this theme but they are not fully formed. One is industrial and I would be looking at large machines, the another is micro and involves dismantling broken pieces of electronics or other equipment and exploring the insides. The last one is some kind of merging of nature and machine and it’s the one that I’m having difficulty visualising the images I want and how they can be produced. I’m thinking of a classical still life approach in terms of lighting and mood but beyond that I’m still a little stuck.
Getting unstuck is part of creativity that I hate during the process but get pleasure from afterwards…
The process of helping tidy up my parents house sparked one project around the worn down tools I found there but it also may have led me back to my roots from a photographic perspective.
You see, a small bungalow at the back of the house had become a free family storage facility, particularly for my nieces, many of whom are have only just started settling down. Among the various old furniture and other items were several boxes of darkroom equipment and an enlarger, most of which I had bought 30 years ago when I started out. I had given them to one of the nieces when she took up photography but she has no time now and they wound up being stored.
So those boxes came home, the contents were carefully inspected and the trays and other wet gear cleaned. While doing that I made another discovery. The room I was using for this task did not exist when I first moved in. It was a bathroom but got converted to a washroom for my Wife’s ceramics studio (a story for another time). It has two very large sinks, an exhaust fan and no windows, making it almost the perfect darkroom.
This combination of discoveries opens up the possibility of more hands on printmaking once a few small hurdles are overcome. As my studies come to an end soon, there will be the time to invest in this as a project. It has certainly given me something to think about as the current project comes to a close next week.
Sorry but today’s post is brief. The candle has been lit at both ends this week getting a paper done and that took priority over everything else.
I missed sharing this image last week and I quite like the black background. Once this paper is dispatched, I should have time to get some lights set up to work inside and that will give me more flexibility (and air conditioning).
The work is at a point where I can start on the series of abstract macro images. The previous posts give an idea of what I’m looking at doing but I may get even closer. The only problem with that is minimum working distances get smaller and lighting is more tricky. The title image this week was very close up and will need more light when it comes to the final image. That light needs to be soft enough to reduce hard shadows but bright enough to allow a smaller aperture and get a sharper result.
The second series of images is proving to be more difficult. What I saw was each tool being held to add a human element. My hands lack the necessary character to complement the weathering and rust but they are what I have to work with so I have a couple of ideas to try out. First will be to get them pretty dirty, the second will involve an in camera double exposure. Sure, I could do two images and merge them in post. I may still go down that road if it leads to a better result.
This is more of a general update on how things are going and how the project will roll out over 2015.
Normally I would be posting some results and announcing new themes for next month but unlike previous years I won’t be putting a rigid time limit on project themes. The original intention behind that was to motivate me to make more images but now I want to focus on better concepts and technical execution with fewer themes.
My plan is to keep working on abandoned and worn as a primary activity until March rather than rushing to get something completed each month. This month has been just about looking at the objects I collected and thinking about options. One approach is a series of more abstract images and what I have shared in previous updates will give you some idea of what the final results could be like. I also want to take an almost environmental portrait approach and have images that include some context along with the complete object. I expect to have this planned out so I can start work on the final series of images from February.
Ideally, this more relaxed schedule will work out as one theme per quarter or four for the year. There are six themes and two I consider to be ongoing and useful for filling any gaps between themes. The “Textures and Details” theme is something I am always looking for wherever I go. Likewise, “Places” is a regular subject of previous posts. Having both of these in reserve gives me something to go to if I get stuck or exhaust all the options for a theme before time is up.
This week’s title image from the same initial session as the previous images. It’s a handle from a smaller hand tool found in one of the old garden beds. By the time I got to look at this item it was late in the day and the light was failing. I had the aperture wide open at 2.8 so I could still hand hold the camera. I think the right lighting will help bring out the tiny cracks and wear and allow me to use a smaller aperture and improve the sharpness. That said, I like the shallow depth of field in this image.
These images are of another item I recovered when I was cleaning up. I found this old file on a window ledge where perhaps it had been misplaced years ago and left to the elements.
Like the previous update, these images are just for reference right now, all I’m doing is placing the items on an outdoor table, using available light and noting what I want to revisit later. I still need to look at lighting to bring out the colour and texture. I’m also thinking about backgrounds that contrast or compliment the object. Then there is composition. So far the focus is on macro but there is scope for other approaches.
As I spend time with these objects the engagement is taking place on two levels. There is the detached observation competing with the personal recollection of my father using these tools. Deciding how to incorporate that connection as part of the context of the final images is probably the greater challenge.
Following on from last week I wanted to share one image. At this point I am spending a lot of time just looking at these objects to work out what their potential is but I also made some images as visual notes and this one stood out.
Last week, there was an image of a pair of handles for a spade and shovel. This is the same pair of tools but shows the edge of the spade with the shovel as background.
Anything that is worn down has a story behind that wear.
The physical appearance may simply be the natural actions of time or exposure to the elements but then there is a story about that object or place before the years of repeated use, the rust and the rot changed it.
The idea for this project began in my parents backyard during a cleanup. I came across tools and other objects that had seen better days. A shovel my father had used for decades to tend his vegetable patch. The remains of an old clay pipe half buried in a garden bed. A small hand fork with the tines worn down to almost nothing.
At one point these were all useful things and they were valued and looked after. It was difficult to see them like this, knowing my father was not here to clean, oil or sharpen them. He was loath to throw away things that could be repaired or repurposed. Many of the things he built used recycled timber and nails that had been straightened after being bent on a previous job.
This is a different world. The mass-produced object has little value and is discarded and replaced without a second thought. It may not even have been worn or broken, just obsolete.
Restoring any of these objects was at best impractical but they had value to me as a physical connection to my father and I wanted to retain that somehow. My thoughts turned to what other purpose they could be put to but even that was limited.
The idea of photographing them should have been obvious.
Less than a week before this project reboots for 2015 and things are starting to come together. To be honest I’m anxious about the next six months as my time and focus are still in a 3 way tug of war with work and finishing my studies in late May. Then there is Christmas with family and the New year.
I’m also concerned about waiting for the right time and place to work and not making anything. I don’t want to produce work that I’m not satisfied with either but getting the time and freedom to engage with and unpack subjects is difficult and I have to work within those limitations. To do that I went with a range of general subjects that I can use for single images or grow longer term projects around. Here they are;
- Locus – Places
- Naturae – Nature
- Populus – People, Faces
- Mechanae – Machines
- Singula res – Details
- Relictus – Abandoned
- Tactio – Touch, Texture
I chose to go with Latin titles for something different but that may change before the week is out. Besides, my Latin is shaky at best and those terms may have other less appropriate meanings. If you happen to be a Latin scholar and wish to advise please leave some hints in the comments!