From the workshop…John speaks

Hanmer Plain, from Lochiel

In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.

Leonardo da Vinci

Kia ora tatou:

Last weekend I had the joy of working with a number of photographers here in Hanmer Springs, spending time on the creative process and new ways of making images.

We talked about the continuum which has photography at one end and digital art at the other end. We talked about  the fact that photography , whatever we do to it, has a documentary aesthetic and no matter how we tweak it, we are working within a convention, within a tradition which has established mores. In  this part of the continuum, the photograph is a document. At the other end we have the possibility to fabricate.

We talked about giving ourselves permission to fabricate our own narratives, rather than restate one before us. In the same way that a sculptor releases an image from a piece of stone or wood or whatever, so we can release whatever we need to; we can collect, assemble and regenerate from our mind’s eye.

And our greatest resource is ourselves.

As usual, I tallekd too much and allowed too little time for practice. But a few of the crew have out fingers to keyboard and allowed me to share their experience.

John wrote this:


The Big Picture

Let me start by saying that I believe that a most important aspect of life is about movement. Here are what some others, much wiser and eloquent than me, have to say.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it.” Dale Carnegie

“You can either take action, or hang back and hope for a miracle.” Peter Drucker

“Talk does not cook rice.” Chinese Proverb

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” Frank Zappa

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass …….it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Wayne Gretzky, Canadian professional ice-hockey player

So ……. When I saw this one-way sign in Soho NY on a very busy Saturday with people walking briskly in all directions, I snatched it while walking across the intersection to ponder its significance later. Tony’s workshop provided that opportunity. (Part of the gathering activity Tony.)

If I, or anybody else, is going to move forward in life in general or in an aspect of life (such as photography) I need to address the question of what direction or path do I take. Sometimes the options are mutually exclusive and we can choose only one way from the alternatives before us. In that case, in terms of that sign in Soho, we have to choose which is the one way to get us to our ‘correct’ destination.

But probably more often than not we can be well down one path and have enjoyed that scenery (or, if not enjoyed, then learnt a lot about it that we can take forward into other experiences – danced in the rain) but begin to realise that we still have not seen enough of the country. Without any regrets about the journey we have taken we decide to travel some other paths to enjoy other aspects of the countryside. So looking at the sign in Soho, we go back and travel down the other ‘one way’.

I like the concept  of choosing between various ‘one ways’ because without sufficient focus on the direction you are going there is the danger that you try to go in all directions at once. Then you get lost and stop moving (status quo, stop taking shots etc) and get bored with the same scenery. Inertia has set in.

Me  Now – Tony’s request for a Self Portrait

If I have expressed myself adequately in words and visually with the attached image, the reader will see a significant part of who I am so I am restricting comments in this section to paths John Suckling sees for himself with photography.

The image is not a brilliant visual design and will never be presented that way. It is only presented here as a part of a story. Speaking to the image …

The underlying feature of the image is the four paths leading from an intersection – symbolising different ways we can choose to go.

Those who know my work identify me with abstract and/or architectural images. I am very interested in design and am attracted to the concept of “less is more”. This area of interest  is symbolised by the image on the left hand path. While this is a high contrast image I have also chosen to show it as the most dominant because it is the path most travelled. I have enjoyed putting my own artistic twist on this topic and will continue to do so.

But another ‘one way’ I have started to explore is to include people in my images more often. An obvious avenue for someone with my interests is to explore the relationships of people to buildings or other structures. This is represented in the image on the path on the top right of the image. Note that this is a fainter image than the one on the left because this path has at this stage been only lightly travelled.

Yet another ‘one way’ I contemplate travelling is to explore more complex images that have more detail. And that increased detail could include colour which would be a change from the heavy dominance on black and white in my path on the left hand side. This is represented in the image on the bottom right hand side – reasonably faint because it is a path even less travelled than any of the others.

You may note that the path to the top of the image has a little more debris (actually leaves) and stuff (manhole covers) in the way and has no appeal to me. I will not walk that path. It represents the areas of photography that I have no personal interest in pursuing.

Footnote: in the workshop Tony talked about Gathering and Revealing and these have already become very powerful concepts for me. It reminds me that I don’t always have to achieve everything in one foul swoop when I am squinting through the viewfinder. Great if I can do it all in one. But otherwise I just gather without being too tough on myself – just collect and later review. This is liberating.

Let me illustrate with reference to the image I produced. The image of the paths intersecting is the only image I selected from hundreds I took in Hanmer – but it was there to serve the purpose despite that, when it was taken, I had not properly  formulated the approach I would take for the self portrait. The SOHO ‘one-way’ sign was an image I took only because of the message – the rest of the image was a mess and was not appealing on its own. The image on the left was taken in Christchurch on a CPS workshop. The top right hand image was taken on my way to my son’s wedding in the USA. The coloured image was taken in a diner when we took our grandchildren on holiday. Message: gather where ever you are and review at least occasionally. I could go on about the role of the subconscious in this process but that is another story.

2 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    Oooo what an insightful response to a very interesting exercise John – thank you for sharing. The constructed image says plenty and I’m glad I had a good look at it before I read your analysis – your imagery is very clear. The multiple “one way”s spoke volumes but I’m intrigued that you see the leaves and manhole as a barrier to further exploration… I see those things as enticement to go into the dark at another level and see what comes… I hope that we get to see and read more 🙂

  2. Roger says:

    Hi Folks

    I’ve enjoyed reading your comments. After the workshop I traveled as far as Riverton in Southland and made all sorts of photos of things that caught my eye. First time I have been so liberal with my shooting for a long while. I thought a lot about the gathering and releasing but I also felt empowered, given permission to take whatever seemed desirable.

    The workshop made me address my decade-old indifference to landscape photography because I suddenly saw the landscape in a worthwhile perspective. There are no objective photos and landscapes are cultural artifacts quite as much as buildings or events. I was quite taken by Tony’s developed landscapes (using PhotoShop to bring out the latent image) and by the concept of complex or dense images extracted from landscapes. So I started trying to make pictures that were not scenes per se, but were made to react in a cultural context to the view under consideration. We’ll see how that goes.

    Looking forward to seeing and hearing more from all of you – Roger.

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