Sunday, 6 July 2014

Where do you start?


Beginning a new body of work for a photographer must be as scary as a writer starting a new novel. We don't have blank pages to stare at but sometimes, in my case, staring at a landscape and attempting to form both an idea and an image in my head feels the same. 
52º 06.765’ / 4º 01.459’ Looking east,  2014

Those first trips out to a new environment can be both exciting and frustrating at the same time. Long experience has shown me that I tend, in the early stages of new work, to 'borrow' from past projects as a starting point for arriving at a photographic strategy. This might be in terms of the arrangement of the various motifs within the frame and certain compositional devices that I have used previously. Like a writer, the harder task comes later when you have to ruthlessly weed out those images that don't work or that you think may be too similar to past images to have sufficiently satisfied the need for developing a new approach. 
52º 07.486’ / 3º 59.514’ Looking North West, 2014

While we understand that some writers make a financial success from churning out similar 'potboilers' year after year, most hanker for the next book to be different and maybe groundbreaking. Some even use different pseudonyms for writing in different styles or genres. A good photographer will also, while remaining faithful to a style that has worked for them will wish to make each successive body of work move forward in some way.

After the preliminary research, planning and thinking time is over, the first field trips are usually a tentative foray into the chosen geographical area to make a start. You need to be familiar with the topography in order to begin to generate themes and ideas that fit both the location and what is being attempted in terms of the ideas being expressed. It's sometimes a long, gradual process. 
52º 06.380’ / 4º 01.054’ Looking South, 2014

Again, like a writer, scrutiny of the work as it progresses and a critical approach to editing will, sooner or later, yield maybe just one image that appears to 'work' for one reason or another. This is usually a critical moment in the project, as a breakthrough has been made that inevitably shapes the direction of the project and also gives you a confidence that you may have arrived at a strategy that is working. 
52º 06.439’ / 4º 01.123’ Looking South West, 2014

I can remember such moments in almost all by bodies of work. Sometimes just one image that seemed to form the key to the whole project. The one image that then stood as the touchstone for the ones that were still to come. If there was a simple formula for arriving at this then I would apply it every time, but there isn't. In a sense you have to suspend the notion of trying to impose a strategy on the landscape and your images too early on and let it happen of it's own accord. It will, given time, sooner or later.

It hasn't quite as yet with this new work but it will, given more time more critical analysis and many more field trips.