Photographic Journeys…allowing the man in the Technicolour Dreamcoat
Lately my journeys and the photographs I make have begun to overlap. The pictures inform my journey, the journey informs my images. And as will happen when we begin to look in the rear-view mirror, a trend will emerge. Sometimes this will be a radiant butterfly or a long winding road, mapped perfectly. Occasionally however, it will be a departure, a stepping off.
And that can be frightening.
My departure has been creeping up on me for some time, skulking in the long grass of my artistic hopes and fears, largely held at bay by the urgent need to make photographs. But I have sensed it shuffling closer, its green eyes and furtive breath drawing ever closer, its claws ready to shred the pride of my achievement, as need gives way, it comes ever closer.
A day will come when I no longer need to photograph.
And each image in the back catalogue, as the counter rolls through two hundred thousand, is drawing me ever closer to that day.
What then when I realise that using my camera for the simple pleasure of doing so no longer holds any great attraction, when I no longer need to photograph?
Having built the castle of my purpose on the sands of need, what will I do then? When I no longer need awards or recognition and, even more frightening, when I no longer need to search around the next technical corner, what will I do then? Will I take up golf and get a job in a service station to feed a new addiction? Perhaps.
I have worried about this for some time, awoken in the cruel hours of early morning, when Truth arises from the subconscious and neatly sidesteps any illusions, when I know what really is. One day I will not need to photograph. One day the journey of necessity will be over.
Fortunately progress is a matter of overlap, of one journey blending into another and as one door closes, another opens. It is not a neat step from one room to another, shutting one door and opening another. Rather it is a progress down a room without walls (paradox is the battery which powers the universe), and a flowing from one thing to another. And the realisation that need is the Door which denies Freedom.
Now I can stand on the side of a hill and watch the light drift and merge and reveal without being pressured to get out my camera. I can plan and execute a landscape in my heart and in my mind without ever needing to get out my camera. I can stand beside acquaintances, friends and fellow photographers, vicariously experiencing their delight. That gives me as much joy as labouring with tripod, remote release and exposure. And often as great a sense of achievement. Without the need to win awards or my colleagues’ approval (or even my own), I will often salute God for the perfection of his creation.
And leave it at that.
Now that is freedom.
Freedom to do what I want, to photograph what moves me.
As many of you know I am travelling a bit these days, and a new methodology has begun to find its way in. Now I let go. Now I allow the inner voice which I have come to trust more than my rational mind, to have its head. Intuition is the mother of my artistic child.
I want my equipment to be as intuitive as possible, as light and unencumbering as I can make it. A small bag with the lenses I use most, a space for my phone, wallet and passport. A clamshell of memory cards, perhaps a small flash.
And curiosity. Especially that. A desire to know. I do not however try to pigeon-hole or assign categories to that curiosity. I cease to think, to plan, to forward-project my achievement, plotting the image which will win me a shining bauble from the table on Final Night (which, oddly, happens every year). I let go, I surrender and follow my instincts. A burst of conversation, a smell out-of-the ordinary, a trick of the light may direct me down this alley or through that arch. I generally set my camera on A, f8 and Auto ISO, and leave it at that. The less I have to think, the more space I allow myself to feel and listen. And photograph. Or not. It is about allowing the Man in the Technicolour Dreamcoat to emerge from the shadows.
If a piece of graffiti on a wall draws my attention, I make a photograph of it, forget I have done so and move on. If light falls on merchandise in a shop window, I document that, and move on. I have become the archetypal tourist, taking photographs of this and that, appropriating as I go. Will I use them? Almost certainly at some point. I do not attach to any purpose, because the minute I begin living forward, I am screwed.
Then I wait.
This composite called itself into life early one morning. I knew it was coming, but had no idea of what it would be. I chose not to attach to any outcome. It would find its own path, as most of my composite work does.
It took over 10 days to resolve itself.
The mannequin with the transparent head and the watch were in shop windows in the terminal at Sydney airport. The watch really WAS that big. I was bored, waiting for the double-decker to Dubai, so I turned off my mind and went wandering through a viewfinder.
I knew the close-ups of fish in the market in Dubai had a purpose, but it was a calendar event without detail. I photographed and moved on. Yes, they are there in the composite.
The first three images hopped onto the bus, chose their seats and waited for lift-off.
As did I.
For eight days.
The black space at left signalled that another component had yet to arrive.
The image sat idling in the depot, waiting.
Then the Prodigal Passenger finally arrived, fresh from a shop window in the Alexanderplatz of Berlin. He jumped confidently aboard, arranged himself, and the bus got underway.
Still under discussion.
Published on Thursday, January 5th, 2012, under Thinking about Photography and Art