Due to the pandemic in 2020/21 which resulted in the impossibility of travel and great difficulty meeting people, much of my longer term project ideas were put hold.
In the intervening time while we all had to spend a lot of time at home I used the constaints to experiment with techniques that were new to me. Alternative printing methods, pinhole shots, macro photography and gaining a better understanding of the movements of large format cameras amongst others have all been tried.
Much of this has overlapped; I started making prints from existing negatives but as I lack the ability to make them any larger than those from my 5 x 4 camera this limited the final print sizes to being relatively small.
In an attempt therefore to make much bigger prints and make the best use of available light I built myself a larger pinhole camera out of a cardboard box and an aluminium can. This could then take sheets of 40 x 30cm expired x-ray film, resulting in a truly huge image to work from. The downside of this method was however that aside from the regular diffraction problems inherent to pinhole work the effective working aperture was aroud ƒ512 and the image required either massive amounts of light or very long exposure times.
The sheer size of the negative has made it difficult to develop and the x-ray film is extremely temperamental. Just keeping something that size flat while printing is another new consideration but I have after much work started achieving some results.
There are still many problems to overcome with this method of making both negatives and prints but it’s something I am actively working on at the moment to iron out as many kinks as possible.
I also took one shot every day for the first six months of 2020, the results of which I have posted on Instagram as a good place for more ephemoral images.
Beyond was the Sea
I went back to the Isle of Sheppey, an island in the Thames estuary 2016. It’s a place that was taken to for walks often as child and I was struck how different the landscape was to how I remembered it. As I walked along the beach, taking photographs of the remains of World War II sea defences that are still scattered along it I was struck by how many layers there were to the place.
I was struck by how the sea had slowly worn away the earth underneath fortifications that had been abandoned seventy years before and caused the pillboxes to slowly start to fall into the sea. The concrete remained, though it had been thrown about by the surf and grew lichen, the mud and sand stuck to my boots and was washed away.
In the years since I have returned to different parts of the south east coast as part of an ongoing project to document the sea. At first other locations that had been built on by the military, then moving on to broader human changes to the coastline. This time has coincided with my first experiences in large format, as well as developing colour film. Having time to set up, compose and take a shot of objects that are battered by the sea but otherwise change slowly has been both rewarding and cathartic, being able to alter and modify the results with no intermediary also has felt oddly appropriate to the process. Result and methods in this case extending and reflecting the subject.
Each photograph contains some element of coastline, combined with a human alteration to it, often in a state of decay or abandonment. As I have taken more images they have started to become more focused on fewer objects within the frame. Specific key aspects have been singled out. The sea has garnered more attention in recent years with the realisation that as a species we have been treating the animals that live in it with increasing contempt. With my photographs I do not think I can necessarily change people but I hope that in some small way if I can encourage others to protect this scary but also wonderful part of our environment.
As a personal development of practice, this has been the most consistent project I have worked on and has spanned the largest amount of time. It has driven me to learn new skills and try new things, though it has now reached point where I want to either bring it to a close or radically change its form. This will bring an end to four years adding to it and is a part, alongside applying for a Masters, an movement to be formal with the presentation of my work.
Pieces of Nowhere
Single objects, distinct from their surroundings. Colour, shape, attitude, some small thing that felt like a single, coherent and balanced frame.
This project came out of carrying a camera with me everywhere. I started to look harder at the things that I passed and began to notice objects that stood out as one thing amongst an otherwise cluttered surrounding. Be it bicycles, dropped toys or single windows in otherwise faceless walls I started to pick out individual entities from their surroundings as I found them.
I began to enjoy finding symmetrical compositions and particularly enjoyed how things fitted into the framing of the particular camera I was using at the time, taller objects into 3 x 2 or squat buildings in 6 x 6.
To start with I was somewhat self-conscious about this, the shots were unplanned and often lacked a coherent form. They were, indeed still are, usually of things that most people would walk past without a second thought. There is always though something specific to each one that appealled to me and as I have taken more I have become more confident in my choices.
I often find portrait photography uncomfortable. It requires balancing two things; having to consider what image I want to capture tempered with finding out how to guide my subject into the form I want to capture but also one they are content to be in.
When I started consciously taking photographs of people (as opposed to casual and unplanned images) I stood far away, with as long a lens as I could. I behaved like a paparazzo, taking photographs as if I hoped I would be far enough away that people wouldn’t notice.
As I took more I slowly learned to get closer, to engage with my subjects and not to look at the time with them as something to fear, but as an encouragement toward something that could be not only creatively productive but actually enjoyable.
Portraiture is something that I keep returning to despite my dissatisfaction with the results I have had doing it. I am inspired both by people who manage to capture the essence of people in their pictures and those who use them within crafts such as fashion to create a whole look and feel through an image. As such I think it best represents my desire to challenge myself, to work outside of where I am comfortable and most importantly, to provoke myself to attempt work I am uncomfortable with.