As August is a good time for reflecting on your creative practice, when you have the time and energy to stop for a bit and examine how things are going, I thought I'd continue looking at my own creative practice here on the blog. I regularly write about what I'm up to, creatively, I find it helps me when I get stuck or it allows me to consider things that usually happen spontaneously that I don't necessarily pay much attention to. I genuinely believe it benefits makers to really consider why they make things, as well as how. I recommend that people try to write about what they are doing with their making, regularly, unguardedly, as a way to understand what is happening. These thoughts are not necessarily meant to be essays in the formal, academic sense, but they are essays in the etymological sense - they are trials and testings, an attempt at figuring things out.
Am I a photographer? she asks. Quite a reasonable question to ask someone who is attending a photography even run by photographers for photographers. I don’t hesitate in saying ‘no, I’m a maker and a writer’. After all, that is what I am officially trained in, I have a degree in making stuff and an-almost-lifetime in writing stuff down. And yet, photography is the medium I find myself turning to more often than not. Through the camera is how I have started to see the world. It is how I remember the places I have been, it is how I catalogue the experiences and the objects. It is my cypher for actual memories, or for drawing, or some other method of remembering that people use. I find the image I took becomes the shorthand, the shortcut in my mind of where I was, when. The image becomes everything.
I want to be a photographer. It feels a natural companion to the writing. Words document, words represent, words translate thoughts and feelings into re-producible moments. Photographs do the same, visually. My viewpoint, as with the words. My framing, as with the words. But instead of a picture that I create in your mind, using your imagination and letting it go free how it wants, a photograph is a picture I take that where you can experience what I experience verbatim. Well, almost. I still need words to help you to sense what it was like, to hear the sounds, to feel the weather, to taste the flavours of the moment. So, an image allows me to present to you what I saw in that moment, but it leaves much up to you to fill in. You are working quite hard, viewing my image. When I write, there are also things left unsaid. I could never describe an experience perfectly, so in that there is interpretation. The pictures that arise, unbidden, in your mind, are yours – I can’t control that. And so, my words, my images are functioning in a similar way allowing you to experience something of what I have, but not all. Open and yet vague, revealing and yet cryptic. It feels like a balance, using words and using images.
So I have set myself a task of expanding the photography into the writing, reconciling the words and the images. Seeing what happens when I write about the image. I wonder, is it too bald to write about the images? Is that even necessary? If I tell you what was going on while I took the picture, is the picture necessary? What am I leaving up to you? I don’t subscribe to a one-interpretation approach, and I enjoy the multiplicity of voices and experiences that life allows. But if the image comes from me, and the words, am I proclaiming authorship or ownership? Does that mean I can tell you what it is? What it means? I’m not sure. And so, proceeding with caution. Perhaps not a reporting of the situation of creation, the surroundings, but more a companion.