Tuesday, 28 October 2008

La Nuit Americaine

Our family has had a barrage of bereavements over the past two years. It's been a very strange time. Part of my response has, naturally (narcissistically?), been photographic.

I've been working on a set of photographs which are considerably more "manipulated" than anything I've ever permitted myself before. It's odd how you can internalize the rules that other people have set for themselves, or have proposed as a standard to which everyone should aspire, especially when these have a puritan austerity. (OK, fair enough, substitute I for you in the previous sentence). "No cropping", or the whole "previsualization" thing, for example, are part of photography's original push to establish its legitimacy as Art -- "I saw it, I captured it, I didn't fiddle around with it; this is my vision, not the camera's ..." So last century...

One of the photographers I most admire, Thomas Joshua Cooper, set himself a rule of "one camera, one lens, one exposure," which worked magnificently for him from 1969 until he broke the thing in 2004. However, as most creative people learn, the constraint of choosing a restrictive form pays dividends that the freedom to do anything never does.

These photographs have the working title In Darkness Let Me Dwell. The title belongs to a song by the English composer John Dowland (1563-1626), written in the spirit of the Elizabethan cult of melancholy (for a contemporary interpretation I recommend the ECM recording John Dowland / In Darkness Let Me Dwell featuring John Surman on saxophone, ECM New Series 1697). Some, but not all, of these images are not what they seem, but this is part of their point. The clue, as ever, is in the title.

These ones were taken early yesterday, looking across the allotment gardens next to the car park at the university.

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