Post first published on FB immediately following the Australian Spring Equinox
Nearly midnight, dog refuses to come in and wants to sit on the back verandah armchair in the moonlight. The magpies are twerbling like they do on full moon nights, so they will be too knackered to swoop on the village kids tomorrow, well the kids hope so, me . . .
A few days ago I asked the questi0n WHY on a page on a popular social site
WHY = Having asked the question it is only right I state my WHYness as well. I doubt these thoughts will come in a coherent form at this stage, but . . .
I have an utter fascination with clear seeing. This comes from having lived in the horror of a Monetesque blur until I was seven years old and I saw nothing clearly until I went to an eye examination and saw through a phoroptor. The moment the wheels went to a sharp image was a moment that will resonate with me forever. It was the first time I could see
As a child my main interest was in the natural world, not the big noisy boring things like birds. I was enthralled by the animalculae that inhabit ponds and in plants I sought out bryophytes in preference to big ugly flowers. As soon as I could I pestered for a microscope at I suppose about ten years old, I still have a Beck compound microscope to check my compost heap and home made liquid fertilisers to see the little buggers in there are doing their work
A camera followed later, a Braun Paxette, a horrible 120 thing. This fed almost instantly into the matter of photography, the subject and its treatment, first through the 1960s with Photography Magazine and in the 1970s Creative Camera Magazine. Here were shown, amongst some very straight and some very odd stuff, work by the second wave of American modernist photographers, Minor White, Brett Weston, Paul Caponegro, Wynn Bulloch, Larry Colwell and through them the first wave, Strand, Weston and Co. This hit a resonance within me and I was on the hunt for clarity. To show the things that mattered to me, or affected me emotionally, with the greatest possible clarity. I bought my first view camera, a 1/2 pt wooden Thornton Pickard in 1966 and my first monorail, an Arca, in 1972). This desire for clear seeing has stayed with me ever since, well sort of. I have played with lots of things over the years, but abandoned them, especially squirmy stuff like gum bichromate, fairly quickly, ‘though I continued to teach odd processes when needed. (Now Rae has seen these archaic processes I am working with them again, but as Rae’s darkroom boy)
BODIES OF WORK, I have made portfolios of images since about 1970, sets of prints around a single theme or idea. Exploration of things in depth. I still work in this way, but with the addition of snapshots as a kind of continuum of notes and stuff
PRECURSORS amongst the portfolios were always odd images, pictures that made no sense in the pattern of things. Later, much later, often years, I would start an new body of work and when chasing back through the neg’ logs for other stuff I would find reference to them and see these oddities and realise they were unconscious precursors to future work
INFLUENCES, in addition to the modernist tradition within photography has been poetry, which has had a probably deeper effect on my seeing than other people’s pictures. The first epiphany was the discovery of Kenneth White, a Scottish landscape poet influenced by earlier Sung Dynasty work, and Neitche. Another was A R Ammons and through them to translations of Sung Dynasty landscape poets. Later Basho and the C17 Japanese poets. Also paintings by Japanese sumi-e and earlier Chinese Tang and Sung Dynasty painters, with their simplicity and oddity of vision and their utter economy of means, a few black lines on white paper. I hate most western painting, especially the impressionists. Some newer painting I adore, not so much Pollock, but Mark Rothko and the graphically inspired work of Franz Kline
ENGAGEMENT, subject engagement to me is the most crucial aspect of photography the one single thing which I demand. By engagement I mean the feeling that the photographer is truly connected with the subject to the point where photographer and photographed merge. This could get a bit old-hippy, so I will end this paragraph with the observation that the moment I get bored with a subject I stop working with it. The boredom becomes visible in the image
I also feel my best photographs are gifts, images that are placed in front of me and that I pick up, rather than owning them. (Well, until someone nicks one, then the full fury of the Eumenides is invoked to punish the copyright breach. In the middle of one at the moment that might pay for a lot of work on the shed). Returning, there is a quote from Minor White, from Octave of Prayer or Mirrors, Messages, manifestations “Spirit stand still long enough for the photographer she has chosen”, anyway enough old hippy stuff
Dog is barking at something, perhaps a male ‘roo has come into the garden, so Grub will protect the mother and joey that live here. She has stopped, but the magpies are still twerbling
FUTURE WORK, I have almost finished the Southern Ocean Littoral work and the Limnal series and about to print them to 16 x 20 and 28 x 32 inches. The upper limit is fixed as I dislike excessive magnification where the limit of resolution, seeing, is reached. This does not apply to big prints from 35mm, where image quality does not matter providing the grain is sharp in the print, often the rougher the better
The two next portfolios will start, re-start, in November and go through to the end of December, when the light will become hash. I normally work from equinox to solstice, not out of any kind of philosophical thing, but because the light from the solstice to the equinox is generally unuseable, hot high sun or continual overcast until the next equinox
More later, or not . . . “