Tuesday, 19 November 2019

The Long March

Mottisfont Abbey, March 2015

Spearywell Wood, March 2015

I arrange my digital files primarily by the camera used, then by month, then year. For example, any pictures taken today on the X70 will be uploaded straight into a folder "images\fuji_X70\nov19". Then, those raw files that get processed into TIF files will end up in a sub-folder under that, named "...\converted". This may seem an odd sort order, but it works for me. It's not particularly logical, but that's the order of collocation I like: camera, month, year. By using abbreviated names rather than numbers, of course, the sequence is also alphabetically-ordered by month, just to mix things up some more. (Have I mentioned I used to be a librarian? This is why you can never find anything without our help...). Still, at least I do have a working, easy-to-use system with its own idiosyncratic rationale, rather than chucking everything into one pot and promising myself I'll sort it all out one day, or relying on some clever software package to do the work for me. Let's not even mention "keywording". There is nothing – literally nothing – anyone can tell me about the principles of indexing, or the usefulness of metadata that I don't already know: I just choose not to bother with it at home.

Periodically, I like to open one of these folders, more-or-less at random, partly as a nudge to my memory, and partly just to see what's in there, and whether anything worthwhile may have been overlooked. Recently, I happened to open the folder containing files taken on a Fuji X-E1 in March 2015, and was surprised by how much Good Stuff had gone unprocessed. Perhaps not so surprising: it was just six months after my retirement, as well as an exhibition and residency in Innsbruck, but also just a few months after undergoing a debilitating surgical procedure, so I was in a very mixed and muddled state of mind. It was hard to tell whether things could only get better, or only get worse. Significant landmarks and thresholds had been passed or were approaching, not least the looming reality of old age. Something of this is inevitably reflected in the pictures I took at the time, many of which have an eye for the incongruous and minatory, and a fascination with the grotesquely tangled and truncated shapes and colours of winter woodland, and the semi-chaos of "edgelands".

Hollybrook Allotments, Southampton, March 2015

Hollybrook Allotments, Southampton, March 2015

Bus shelter, Lordswood Road, Southampton, March 2015

Why March? Well, perhaps because – if we make the calendrically asymmetrical assumption that the "winter" months are December, January, and February – then the current month, November, stands in the same relative position to winter, seasonally, as March. Even if they are not proper twins in terms of the solar year, the two months are nonetheless mirror images of each other: one marking the gateway into the bleakest months ("Abandon All Shorts, Ye Who Enter Here"), the other marking the way out. It can be hard to tell the difference, after all, between an entrance and an exit. Part of the wisdom of age, it seems to me, is not so much learning to tell the difference, but to stop caring which is which. Just take the damn photograph.

I'm not surprised I didn't pay proper attention to these particular photographs at the time – they're austere, a bit disconcerting, not exactly reassuring – but now they speak to me quite clearly of a certain "mind of winter". At the risk of sounding conceited, I'm pleased to say they also look pretty good to me: there's nothing quite like the passage of a few years to enable you to see your own work as if through third-party eyes. And it's a bit of a boost, after several years of setbacks, near-misses, and frustrations, to realise: I'm a lot better at this photo-lark than I sometimes think. Carry on, there! Who knows? The best may yet be to come. Which, along with a flu jab and a recently-serviced boiler, is a good way to enter the upcoming cold months.

Mottisfont Abbey, March 2015

Mottisfont Abbey, March 2015

Burgess Road, Southampton, March 2015


DM said...

Those 5 years have sped by, Mr C! Glad you're still musing, writing and curating. Keep on pointing out all that nonsense.

Mike C. said...

Thanks, DM: there's so much nonsense around at the moment that, wherever you point, there it is...