Friday, 30 May 2014

You Again

Certain images in certain places have a personal significance that it is difficult to convey without explanation, and yet one is compelled to remake and revisit them over and over. They appear to be mere repeats of the same old same old, with minor variations: I expect musicians feel the same way about certain scales, chords and arpeggios.  The scene above, for example -- a tapering, convex island of organic debris emerging from a still, reflective pool, like the back of a whale-- is a picture I have taken dozens of times over the past 20 years.  It speaks to me, eloquently, but is probably fairly silent to you.

I can be pretty certain that no-one else will ever "own" the way I do the 80 square metres of water I came to call the Pentagonal Pool, and which formed the subject matter of one of my first coherent photo-projects in the 1990s.  Making this series of photographs, using colour negative film in a Mamiya C330f twin-lens reflex camera, was the first time I had really pushed through the barrier that separates boredom and over-familiarity from the deep and enduring fascination of a true engagement with the mystery of "place".  It may sound a little mad, and perhaps it is, but for a year or so I lived for the moment during my lunch-hour when I could revisit that pool, to see what new disguise it would be wearing today.  I still pass it most days, and still sometimes take the same pictures from the same place.

Similarly, the puddles that form on a particular expanse of car-park tarmac and gravel have become a benchmark for me.  I have often stopped on my way to or from my office, and made a quick photograph of whatever mood was reflected in the illusory abyss of sky opening at my feet.  Again, there are dozens of such pictures in my files.  To another person, they are simply many very similar "puddle pictures"; to me, they are a kind of diary.  And, like most diaries, they are compelling to their creator, but impenetrably cryptic to anyone else.  Trying somehow to bridge this gap between what is intensely personal and what can be shared is, I suppose, what the creative impulse is about.  To leave one's diary open on the table isn't enough; some art, some disguise, some reworking is required.
Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!
Charles Baudelaire

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