Saturday, 31 December 2011

Resolution in the Head

Look out, here it comes again, that strange moment when one year tips over into another. I like the fact that, unlike some calendrical celebrations I could mention, this is not an entirely arbitrarily chosen date, but one tied intimately to life on planet Earth. A new cycle really does start round about this time, if you accept that a poetic truth (an endless cycle of decline, death, rebirth, and flourishing) can give meaningful shape to an astronomical truth (the movement of the Earth round the Sun, and the Moon round the Earth). How could you not? Well, by being Chinese, I suppose.

I'm not so keen on New Year's Eve, viewed as an annual excuse for a noisy, vomit-spattered booze-up. Drink really has become a problem in this country in the last decade (not a sentence I'd ever thought I'd watch myself write). I keep well out of harm's way, these days, but that's just my age showing. I do like hearing all the ships' foghorns go off at midnight in Southampton Water, though, accompanied by volleys of fireworks and, last year for the first time here, flying Chinese lanterns. I also like New Year's Resolutions. They map nicely onto that spirit of "fail again, fail better" (© S. Beckett) that is the only sane attitude towards the "two steps forward, one point nine nine steps back" experience most of us have in our lives.

So, how do I intend to fail better in 2012?

Well, for a start, I keep meaning to update my website, but keep putting it off. My problem is that I like to write my own HTML code but -- if the site is to be an adequate platform for the work I intend to display on it -- that means getting fully up to speed with all the Javascript, CSS, Flash, and whatever else has come along in recent years to improve the appearance and user experience of websites. That prospect just makes me feel tired, though, not excited as it once would have -- age, again, I suppose.

But all I have on the Web currently is this blog and my Blurb bookstore. The blog is great for showing bits of new work as they happen, but terrible for showing coherent bodies of work. The bookstore is great for showing work that has made its way into printed form, but not for sets and sequences that haven't. As showing coherent bodies of work is what I want to do, this is not ideal. Even if I did get my website back up, keeping it updated would be a real pain.

The answer is obvious, of course. There is a reason why image-sharing sites like Flickr and Tumblr are so popular: they make a complex and tiresome job easy. So, Resolution Number One is to set up a Flickr account, and start filling it with pictures.

Resolution Number Two is to shift the boundaries of my photographic comfort zone, in two ways. I love photographs of people, and I take a fair few of friends and family, but I've never got into that state of mind which regards "people" as the ultimate, true and most challenging subject. I may change that, this year, if only as a way of shaking up my "practice" (sorry, I must stop talking to artists). I'm not a huge fan of so-called "street" photography, where the consent of the subject is taken for granted, and their dignity regarded as disposable, but some sort of portrait project may be on the cards. The category "Angels" keeps popping into my mind (though I'm thinking more Rilke than Robbie Williams).

I also intend to shift those boundaries in a more literal way: my characteristic approach in recent years has been to get in close and fill the frame. Nothing wrong with that -- it's a good way to get strong photographs, has served me well, and I'd recommend it to anyone. In the words of Robert Capa, "If your photographs are not good enough, you're not close enough". But I'm increasingly aware of the missing context, and I have a desire to deliberately include those extraneous elements that I have previously rigorously excluded. This means stepping back and letting the lens and the camera sensor do the work. Whether my kit is up to this -- it's the traditional strength of large-format view cameras -- we'll have to see.

I have other resolutions, too, but most of those are of the tedious "housekeeping" variety, both literal and metaphorical.

But here's a rather random thing which I have just discovered. Do you dislike that mannered, over-decorated, arpeggiated vocal style that is so inescapable now? It was cool when Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin did it, but now it has just become really annoying; almost as annoying, universal and pointless as the words "Belgian chocolate". Well, it has a name: melisma. Sounds like a disease, doesn't it? If I were in a position to do so, I'd launch a campaign to "Stamp Out Melisma in 2012!" But first I'd have to go round explaining what "melisma" means, which sounds like the definition of a lost cause.

Happy New Year to you all. Let's hope for better things and less Interesting Times in 2012.


Dave Leeke said...

I'm still thinking about possible resolutions but am glad to say my 19 year old son seems to be taking it all quite seriously.

Let's see, play more guitar, write more songs, record demos of them, mark pupil's books more regularly, eat more fruit and veg, drink less alcohol . . . that's last year's list isn't it?

Mike C. said...


Hmm, I wonder if reversing the order of that list might be a good way to tick them all off this year?

[Don't mind me, I'm grumpy about drink today, having been kept awake until 4:30 am by drunken yahoos a few doors down the road... Did I say I hate New Year's Eve?]

Happy New Year!


Paul C said...

I'm getting around to this a bit late, but you may want to have a look at for your website. I knew nothing about web design and had a site up within a week. With your html skills, you could probably use it to make a nice website.
And with indexhibit you get lots of traffic too.