I am constantly asking myself ‘Why?’ I make my work. I feel like i’ve even blogged about this a few times and i’m still on the subject! Seriously, what is wrong with me, this should be easy right? But never the less, I keep coming back to the ‘why’. There are of course the obvious reasons, I have to, I love it, I like doing practical hands on projects. But none of these reason make up the content that is my work. Recently I was able to do 3 things that, I feel, have helped guide me down the path of getting closer to answering ‘why?’. The first influential act was driving to Taranaki for the opening of the Emanations; The art of the cameraless photograph. It is the first real survey of cameraless photography in the world. There I was lucky enough the meet and hear the curator, Geoffrey Batchen talk. The second event was then being sent all the research done around this exhibition over the 2 years of preparation for the show. One of the first articles in the research was one called Ruination, by Geoffrey Batchen, which talks bout the ” the fabric of the world ” being at a state of “collapse”. And the third event was hosting an open day at the Pah Homestead Turret to introduce people to my work and to a Camera Obscura.
So why have these 3 events helped me towards answering the dreaded ‘why’ question?
Emanations was a huge insight into seeing process driven practices that are more than the images they produce. There is a lot to be said about intent and chance and the reaction a subjective image can give with very little descriptive elements in the actual image. The works are smart and never over complicated. The works on show also displayed a timeline of progress in photography and the progression of technology and how it has undeniable influenced our industry. This is what brings me to talking to people about my works over and over again as new groups of people came through the experience. This alone was a new and very interesting experience, in that I realised what I said definitely depended on where the audience was at in the understanding of what I was doing, some knew a lot and some I was unsure if they had ever seen a camera. On the Thursday I had a group of Pah Homestead Volunteers through and it was between that run through and the actual open day on the Saturday that I really assessed what I was thinking and saying to people.
I am not a political person, I am not outspoken when it comes to world events, war, history or any news in general. I believe this is due to my lack of being able to retain the information leading to a real lack of knowledge to the point where I would say i’m ignorant. But it was between the Thursday and the Saturday open day that I realised that there is one thing that keeps coming around for me and I am finding myself able to quiet about less. I am not convinced that the digital age as we know it is doing or going to do 100% good for this world. On the Saturday I started saying this to people that this way of working is me putting my hand half way up to say stop and think. What I mean by that is to think about the way we interact with one and other. For a very simple example, it used to be that if we were meeting someone we would sit and wait till they arrive, now days we are instantly on our phone texting where are you. It is this need for instant response for everything that I think we are missing a lot or an element of unknown that often comes with patience.
So how does this translate to my work?
For me personally, it is the physically slowing down of the process, the hands on, the figuring things out (with your own brain) how to get around problems (rather than googling the answer, as every room, every space comes up with its own unique problems). The final image is then there to take the viewer on a journey, a slow pace access into an image. You need to stand close, take it in, think beyond a landscape or the literal and consequently, you too, start to slow down and (hopefully) appreciating the small things. There may be many questions that come up. Why is it red? How did you do it? Why (!)? and what I like about this is that these are conversations to be had, . Not something to google for answers. You could do this but you are much better off talking with peers, strangers or myself to see what is happening for you and for others. Because the work has a broad reading and should mean different things to different people.
So then the article, Ruination. The third piece of this puzzle.
“Everywhere, we look, the fabric of the world seems to be in a state of collapse” a clear sigh of this collapse is the melting of the Antarctic. Yet we humans continue to consume more than we need and waste with out worry of consequences. This is well represented in the camera obscure I took in Rarotonga last year. Things are built to be bigger and better, yet as demonstrated by the locals in Rarotonga, there does not seem to be a lot of consideration to need or practicality. Of course this is not a new thing, humans have been wasting for decades. It is more that, in this growing world of technology and all the worlds information at our finger tips, we still can’t manage to protect our world from waste. My work is not here to change this, in no way am I making claims that I am a world solider here to make people think about the way we use and waste. Like I said earlier I am simply putting my hand up and asking people to think beyond what is simple and explanatory. Even though everything I present is depicted from real events, my goal is to question exactly the way we view the world.
Okay, this has been a little all over the show (welcome to my brain) but I think what I am trying to show is, how important it is for me, to work in this way and why going up to the turret, or where my work may take me, would not share the same emotion or subjective and sublime feeling as if it were shot on a digital camera. I am privileging the photo that represents the event itself, the hand-made and the abstractness of inward-looking images.
Batchen, Geoffrey. Ruination. Art Monthly Australasia, Issue 288 (April 2016); p38-44