This is an odd place in the forest not far from where I live: Swampy stagnant water in a small pool surrounded by dead and dying trees. You wouldn’t want to drink the water, but there are definitely things moving just under the surface. You wouldn’t want to stand for long close to the edge lest something reach up for you. I have photographed this place many times… but never at twilight.
Shot at Willows Beach in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, May 14 — a couple of days ago. Despite movement in the cloud caused by a moderately long exposure, there is a sense of stillness that attracts me in this picture. In some ways, the photograph reflects the location where it was created but in others, it has a life of its own. It may sound absurd but, as the maker of the image, I immediately notice the absence of sound. There are people on and near the beach and there is some vehicular traffic in the background. These things don’t form part of the experience of the photograph. Perhaps that is why pictures often seem a world away from the place that gave rise to them.
I read somewhere recently that May is Street Photography month. I have no idea whether that is true and I normally have little or nothing to do with that genre of photography. However, it inspired me to take a walk with a camera, which was something I had not done in quite a while. It is funny how things present themselves to you — as if they knew you were coming. At first, I was attracted by the two mannequin torsos in an alleyway. Only later did I notice the clever box of hands emerging from the shadows. Once seen, they take over the photograph.
April 6, 2019: It was a dim afternoon ferry crossing to Salt Spring Island. The sky spat rain from time to time. The only sound came from the boat’s rattling engines. I was following the path of the sun as it came near the vent/exhaust stacks. The dark cloud was a bit of a surprise. It resembled wings hovering above the ocean. It was one of those moments in photography where things fall into place in front of (or above) the camera. Processed dark to match my mood at the moment.
Perhaps nothing says ocean more than the sky above it. In the absence of giant crashing waves, in periods of lull between the drama, the ocean rocks back and forth with the slow movement of the tides. What happens below the surface remains invisible to those who remain on shore.
The sky, however, is spellbinding as it passes, ever forming and reforming clouds above the surface of the deep.
Photography is known mostly for its ability to depict fine detail. Detail is the most exploited property of the medium (think photos from space and ever-increasing digital resolutions). However, it isn’t the only reason for the medium’s existence. Some early photographers valued the aesthetic experience of blurred or manipulated images.
Of course, there are no absolutes in how things are depicted. Blurred images can explore interesting territories, such as memory and Jungian symbols. Freed from the matter-of-factness of sharp images their power lies in allusion and suggestion. Less is more. Whether it is done in camera or in post-processing, the defocused image is more universal than the factual depiction of the things in front of the camera at any given moment. It is a general description as opposed to a specific description.
This is not to say defocused images enjoy exclusive domain in exploring archetypes. It is just that they lean in that direction. These two pictures rely on backlighting through a defocused lens to suggest (to me) waking from sleep on a sunny afternoon — in essence, transitioning back to the world from some other place where things are less defined. One picture is darker than the other and conveys a slightly more serious mood.
In another life, these flowers scented the dining room. Now they are transformed by the passing of mere days. I planned these as specimens and photographed them over two days using a single bounced Elinchrom light to flatten them. Isolated on paper and by the white framing, and devoid of significant colour, they possess a certain beauty — a statement, perhaps, on the nature of time and transformation.
All good stories begin with a river. The river is life and also death. It is motion and passage as it flows by us. It can feed and it can poison. Sometimes in the story, there is a body in the water or close to it. I’m pretty sure this image, a combination of photography and drawing, has such a story within it. It just needs to be revealed.
The Hieronymus Bosch-like bottom of this composition was constructed from seaweed photographed at low tide on a grey morning in Esquimalt. I am always surprised at what awaits the camera lens. When it comes to the future, red seems to be the Pantone Dystopian Colour of the Year.
Rolling waters create a sublime instance of the emerging shadow of the subconscious. Does the light struggle out of the darkness or is it being consumed by it? It is impossible to tell, which is only right because this turbulence is a dance that spans most of our lives.
Much of photography wrestles with the idea of symbols that emerge from the subconscious and require our attention.