What is the relationship between subject, photographer and audience? Is it more than just keeping a record of a scene or is it about sharing something much more personal??
The experience of seeing a scene through the choices of the photographer sets up an emotional connection between the two parties. The photographer is not simply creating a record of what is in front of him or her but is, in fact, opening a dialogue with the viewer.
Thoughts, feelings and observations become a shared response to a specific setting and context transforming photographer and audience together. A collection of images presented by the photographer can over time represent a deep level of personal disclosure and vulnerability.
It’s not often the sun shines on a bank holiday weekend. Ilkley was as busy as ever today with crowds flocking to the riverside carnival. The woods were quiet which was surprising as the Bluebells are at their best.
Taking pictures of Bluebells is quite tricky. Often the blue is wrong or they are so small in the picture it’s hard to see them. The colours change through the day with the softening afternoon sun making them a richer shade of blue.
I love the mood of the late afternoon when there’s no-one around. Everyone has gone home and the light is fading. It becomes a private space for slowing down and taking notice of the smallest detail. The pool of light in the sky and the soft shadows in the snow, the gently muted colours.
There are two spaces for contemplation – the place and the memory. What I actually I saw and felt at the time and the later recollection. This image helps me re-connect with that experience; it is not perfect or transferable (you will see something different), but in time it will become more precious as the time and place become more distant.
There’s been a lot written about seeing. On the face of it the act of seeing seems quite straight forward, but the state of mind that allows us to actually notice what’s in front of us is the point of interest.
The discipline of Contemplative Photography draws on the idea that we can see both conceptually and perceptually. The conceptual mind sees categories of things and is preoccupied with ideas, while the perceptual way of seeing is to register what is actually in front of us.
To be perceptive is to suspend our preconceived ideas about what we might see, what we want to see, or any kind of thing that has a label or tricks us; We are not looking for someting.
How does this idea relate to the prejudices we have? Can we suspend our conditioned way of looking at things? Imagine if the filters can be removed and we begin to really see?
Why we take photographs is something for each photographer to answer in their own way, but it is often about self fulfilment and the urge to make something other people will appreciate. It might also be about learning a skill as a means of building self esteem and achieving something. For many people it’s just a way of keeping a record of people and events. At its best though, photography is about watching and waiting to be captivated by something mysterious – to explore and discover images we hadn’t planned or expected to see.
If we go into the field with a preconceived idea of what we are looking for, the ideal photo, then there is a good chance we will not see what is actually there. We are conditioned to see the world in a particular way and to filter out anything that doesn’t conform to our expectations. This is deep stuff because what we think is true about the world may only be what we allow to pass through our particular coloured lens.
So, it seems to me, photography is about submitting ourselves to the possibility that there is more – more than we expect or can imagine. To make this shrouded world visible we have to be open to nature and not control it, to be willing to spend time getting to know it.
When I search the Internet for inspirational landscape photos, as I often do, I am mostly disappointed. It seems to me that many people (including me) are striving for the textbook photo – a well composed shot of a classic vista at dawn in the style of a celebrity partitioner. I picked up a small book recently offering a guide to classic Yorkshire landscape locations. The guide is full of information about location, time of day, composition tips. It makes me wonder whether this isn’t more reflective of our desire to be accepted and feel we belong to the club.
If our creativity doesn’t challenge and disrupt our normal patterns of feeling and seeing then it is simply a nice piece of decoration.
And so as I sit in the wood near my home I am waiting in the silence to be found by nature and introduced to something I haven’t seen before. I am looking for a connection not just with the natural world but with its creator and longing to be immersed in that relationship.
Heber’s Ghyll Woods is about 10 minutes walk from our house. It’s a lovely walk up some steep steps beside a tumbling beck – Black Beck according to the map. You climb through trees and criss-cross the beck over a series of bridges leading up to the edge of the moor.
In the last few weeks the falls have been wonderfully energetic.
Everyone usually heads for the Cow and Calf Rocks or to Middleton Woods, but I think this spot deserves more time and attention. more photos
I have taken out an online subscription to www.onlandscape.co.uk which is brilliant I have to say. On the site there is an interview with David Ward who’s work is terrific. In it he said he is always looking to simplify his images. I heard a similar thing from David Bailey who said he was always working towards a blank sheet of paper.
Walking in the woods it has always been the complexity that has fascinated me and so the idea of trying to simplify what is already complex seems to me to risk losing something of the nature of it.
Another quote from someone is that “for every complex problem there is always a simple solution, this answer is usually wrong”. In fact I would say the “keep it simple” mantra has become something we no longer ever question in almost every creative field!
So as I walk though the woods today I have been thinking about complexity and how to embrace it.
Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo’s laurel bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man.
Faustus is gone; regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendfull fortune may exhort the wise
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practise more than heavenly power permits. [Exit.]
(Scene XIV. Marlowe, Christopher. 1909-14. Doctor Faustus. The Harvard Classics)
It doesn’t seem long since we were enjoying blossomy trees and children were playing amongst the bluebells. Now, life is retreating again and the sun is muted by washed out skies.
The wood is not yet dead just preparing for rest, and this clearing is like a house strewn with the remains of a riotous party. It is a place recovering from the excesses of time well spent.
It is peaceful here where the smell of decay is sweet. There is not much sound, only the crunch of leaves and a lone crow’s call stabbing onto into the cold air.
The wood is not yet dead and the glorious shades of yellow and red seem to insist that in even in the dark seasons is something to celebrate.
The beauty of the wood never ends, but it also never stands still. The wood is not yet dead.