From my earliest years I was intrigued by the magic of my father’s camera, as it fixed moments in time – as you can see I still have it.
The sheer cost of chemical photography in those time deterred me from venturing early into photographic practice, but my appreciation and consumption of the world of images continued apace: still, moving, natural, surreal, transforming, dissolving, merging … especially in the world of the cinema and experimental film-makers.
How I wished I could make that magic. Eventually I could afford an SLR camera of my very own, and again within the meagre budget of a teaching-fellow funded postgrad experimented with framing and capturing the world around me. But the expense, limitations and complexities of analogue chemical photography (not to mention my limited experience and expertise) constrained my ability to engage with the image ‘magic’.
To experiment in that direction I turned to collage in my idle moments after arriving in Sydney, snipping and overlaying images, to allow one to ‘breathe’ through the other and thus to explore serendipitous and fortuitous emergence. I was also attracted to the way that the street edited the images plastered up on posters and billboards around the inner city – portrayals of contemporary obsessions, randomly overlayed and then stripped back, both by the action of people and the environment. I captured a number of these on Polaroid, but again, not an inexpensive exercise! This was in the days of the rather sterile debate about whether photograph was art – a question rather settled in the affirmative today I think!
Eventually it occurred to me that if I wanted to engage with images more fully in this way I could do so by creating the representation from scratch – oh, wait, isn’t that what artists do as a matter of course? Indeed, but this created the imperative to confront the idea implanted in me at high school that I was not artistic, could not draw or paint.
So I did, largely self-taught, but with a couple of community college course thrown in. After getting a handle on naturalistic portrayal and figuring out I could indeed draw (passably if not brilliantly) I started to use paints and canvas to create and combine images – looking at the emergence (or is it submergence) of the iconic Marilyn image,
delving into the Polaroid project for street-edited wall art,
and then into more abstract work with possible self-portrait dimensions …
Then the miracle of digital happened – and of course photography is now a bit like breathing – commonplace but nevertheless of vital significance!
Firstly image-capture was democratised in the early noughties and I used the technology to document many a street image. I recently posted to Facebook as digital archaeology, after logging in to Flickr for the first time since forever, an image posted there in October 2006, one of the first taken with my then new FujiFilm camera … titled as ‘Face of an Urban Dryad’, I had noted on Flickr that it was: “A gentle spirit – beauty emerging from abrasion and decay”.
Interestingly at the time such work felt a bit commonplace and at times scarcely worth doing, but over recent years the streets have become much more regularised in what is postered up, where, and the supply of interesting images has dried up considerably. So I value my archives that much more!
And then image-processing software has become widely and cheaply available, while processing power has continued its inexorable Moore’s Law fuelled march, now allowing sophisticated image manipulation in the palm of your hand …
I am reminded of a similar remark by the Tabernacle to Zed towards the conclusion of the 1974 movie Zardoz … oops, sorry, that was a lapse into complete obscurity
… but this is my blog after all 😉
I have the movie on DVD if you’d like to watch it sometime.
That technology has led me to my most recent experimentation with the ‘blank canvas’. Using a wonderful but free Google app called SnapSeed it possible to take an entirely tactile approach to photo editing – essentially finger painting! As examples I have completed the blank canvas with a wall art image captured on the backstreets of Marrickville,
and then with an earlier photo-montage piece, ‘Terrigal Rose’, in which I had combined and morphed digital photographs using PC-based tools. You may notice Marilyn looking on …
My ambition now, as well as continuing to use the digital tools, is to re-connect with the world of paint and drawing, taking an almost ‘slow cooking’ approach to image construction and re-construction, paying attention to different details and layers. Using the most immediately available subject I am reacquainting myself with the simple tools (not so simple actually) of pencil and paper, and I am then interested in re-interpreting my Polaroid project image once more, onto a smaller canvas.
Then we will see what might emerge …