25 Aug 2019

happy returns

Well it's a little fraudulent to celebrate a tenth birthday  - we had a three year hiatus along the way - but I'm proud to still be writing this blog and staying true to my original intention to use it to think about how and why.
My Ambiguous Project posts drew the most visitors. I've even managed to generate the odd comment along the way too. But I'm also conscious this has become very much an interior conversation and you, dear reader, must be complimented on indulging me. 
Committing to writing regularly has been really rewarding, for me at least. It's helped me think about my work. Before then I thought that would obstruct my natural, intuitive style. But hey even Barcelona need a plan. 
I've enjoyed joining the dots or hyperlinking, to use a technical term, my thoughts across the years. James Burke's Connections was perhaps my favourite TV show growing up (well along with The Goodies) and he's embraced the web in the same way. Spanning time and space. Not a bad way to describe my work if I think about it. 
Bakerloo Book Cover
Coincidentally it's my own birthday around this time and I was delighted to be given a book by my family of the work of a London photographer I was shamefully ignorant of. 
Bakerloo by Harry F Conway is a vital record of Londoners in their moments of passing through one of the West End's arterial tube lines. The images achieve a remarkable balance of both confrontation and compassion. I really admire this work not least because it's diametrically opposed to mine in many ways. He engages with the people in his pictures, forming momentary relationships that are complex and disarming. He's a visible presence going about his business in an constricted space in an open and transparent manner.
He puts it so well
...fleeting moments of pure humanity were shared, deep underground with complete strangers. 
Where people see an monotonous system to merely transport them, I saw life in all its ridiculous beauty.

18 Aug 2019

street reverb

I've just read a great conversation between two people I've enjoyed following over the years, Blake Andrews and Brian Formahls
I was so happy when Blake contributed to the Ambiguous project. His blogging was a source of inspiration and Brian's LPV has been a great resource to find about new street work. It was fascinating to find out more about his recent thinking on urban walking and I must share them 
For me, when I’m on a long walk time tends to slow down and feels more abundant. Four hours can feel like a week. It's that hyper focused attention mixed with the ability to allow your mind to drift, that allows you to enter into a different perceptual space. When you add photography with meditative walking, then I truly feel that you can enter new dimensions beyond our normal perception. Or I should say photographic seeing because I don't think you need to actually make the photographs but there's a lot of reverb when you see the actual photos.  
I love that last sentence.   
The first part corresponds to an approach I describe as a five act production of making photographs... 
- The initial sense of a possible picture. 
- Choosing the moment to release the shutter. These two happen in quick succession for me.  
- The revelation of the resulting images on the contact sheet. Some weeks/ months later, we're talking analogue here folks.  
- The selection and making of a print. Eventually. After the Interval.  
- Re-looking, editing and sequencing those prints into a book or, even, a zine 
Each act is just that. A set of separate actions that have their own worth not just part of a process but greater than their sum. I could go on about actors, narratives and drama but I think you're already there :)
Regents Street image
Secondly the word reverb captures both a visceral response, not purely intellectual, and also a kind of echo rippling out from the original act. It's also a musical reference I enjoy. I've compared street photography to jazz in terms of technical words like standards and improvisation as well as the spiritual and soulful. As an aside I was fascinated to hear Mark Sealy talk recently about how he now looks to John Coltrane as he once did photographs for that quality of experience.
Oxford Street image
So what about the act of walking itself. Can the definitive act of the flaneur/euse incubate those conditions of meditation, of the satori moment? I certainly recognise the state of attentiveness, of being immersed in my surroundings to a point of invisibility. I remember reading Cartier-Bresson's thoughts on Zen archery and recognising the reference. Interestingly enough it surfaces obliquely in the conversation too. Here's Blake 
It’s strange to comment on Soth because he actually made a direct comment on this thing years ago, that photography was NOT a Zen Buddhist activity. Photography involves wanting, and acquisition, and collecting, and all the little things you're supposed to let go of.   
It's a salient point and I'd only counter (between you and me) that the wanting/acquisition/collection desire can be satisfied by simply connecting with the world around us - in this case the streets - by focusing the mind on people on proximity, how we move, interact, dream. On rare occasions it can be an overwhelming experience. Even at an every day level there can still be a common bond of emotion...simply if it's crossing Oxford Circus before the timer runs out and the 159 bus bears down on us.  
OK reverie over. There's work to be done.