Making an image Part I

Kia ora tatou:

A number of you sent in comments pointing out how you like looking at the images I make with one or two suggestions that I talk about how I go about doing so.
Blush. Gulp. Well OK.
Assuming that, I will put up a few of my own and talk about what went on in my head. If that enlightens, wonderful. If I get recommendations of how to contact a suitable psychologist, so be it.

As a number of you know, I like to photograph the street at night, to walk around shooting what comes to me or reflects what my picture-making concerns happen to be at the time.
I did a body of work (what a pompous description) on the Christchurch streets about 4 years ago for my PSNZ fellowship. Actually I did it for me- the fellow thing came to me only later. I was fascinated by a number of things;

  • How close I could get to the action without affecting it ( a variation on Heisenberg’s Law)
  • The effect on film of artificial lighting and the idea of recording what the eye sees before the brain filters it
  • Life as it happened
  • Social mores and interactions

I beavered away at it for about a year, until one night, I shot an image of some women on a Girls’-Night-Out. As I pressed the shutter, I knew that series was done. I rattled off the film and sent it in for processing. It sometimes happens that way. I remember David Hurn telling us that it was important to know when a project was over.
The issues I had worked with were settled to my own satisfaction. However unlikely it might appear in the finished image, it is impossible not to affect the image in some way. Heisenberg was right. Observation of an event changes both observer and observed.
And then I walked away.

But I kept going back. I was still drawn by the colours, the noise (music, traffic, voices) and the way in which Christchurch, a staid Jekyll by day, turns into an amoral Hyde by night. I became interested in how my digital cameras would see the scene.
And then I started looking in the shop windows. I noticed the mannequins looking out the windows, and the way in which the reflections enabled me to look simultaneously into and out of the scene. I began to imagine that they might be alive, constrained witnesses to the arcane ritual of the street, thinking their own thoughts, participants without a voice.
And the layers of light that spattered them, sometimes leading my eye away, sometimes adding extra chapters to a surreal story. A kind of metaphor for Life and all its apparently disparate threads.

To this image then.

Fast forward to one Friday night, around 10 pm. These 2 girls were in the window of J. Ballantyne & Co., a wonderfully blue-rinse shop in central Christchurch. I made the image almost subconsciously, along with about 20 variations. It was only when I was later editing it that began to nudge me. The supplicant positions of the mannequins somehow suggest a ritual or conversation.
What it is about I have no idea. But there is room in it for me to invent all sorts of stories, all manner of possibilities.
Its open-endedness makes me keep coming back to it.

Oh yes, the gory details:
Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II, 16-35/2.8 lens, RAW, ISO @ 1600, WB set to Daylight (I leave it there all the time since I shoot RAW and I want to see things as they are), Program mode (‘Cause I want to make photographs, not fiddle around with my controls).

Ka kite ano

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