The start of a new module… and the meaning behind my work in progress, recently exhibited as part of Landings:2019 under the tentative title ‘Dirty Paradise: in search of a lost photograph’, is still elusive and as yet unfathomable. Every time I try to put my feelings about this project into words, I always find the ensuing descriptions of the work limiting, short-sighted, reductionistic and wholly unsatisfying. Indeed, I have been carefully nosing my way, and, canine-like, relying on pure instinct while wading through the sloughs of aesthetic phenomena that come my way daily, carefully picking wheat and discarding the chaff.
Talking about her previous years as an intern, Lydia Pang states: “a process of elimination I think was like my thought – do as many things as you can to try and make sure you know what you don’t want to do” (FLETCHER 2019).
I do know what I do not want to do; I do know what should not find its way into this body of work… and, like a painter, I stand every time in front of the bare canvas unsure where to lay the first brushstroke.
Commenting about the art of writing, Geoff Dyer points out: “you don’t have to know what kind of book you are writing till you have written a good deal of it, maybe not until you’ve finished it – maybe not even then. All that matters is that at some point the book generates a form and style appropriate to its own needs” (in READ & SIMMONS 2017: 222).
I find the above words by Dyer extremely illuminating. What Dyer says about the process of writing is equally pertinent to the process of building a body of photographic work. Arbeit macht frei – work sets us free… and pushes us to explore new avenues, greener pastures, and produce more and more coherent work.
Shirley Read states that “the work may start from a few words, a feeling or question and be a process of discovery, a working towards something which feels right, true or authentic” (READ & SIMMONS 2017: 222). Maybe, the reason for Marshall McLuhan’s statement that “the medium is the message” (MCLUHAN 1964: 7) having stayed with me since I first encountered it in writing many years ago is that it is subliminally indicating or revealing to me how projects whose signifiers are heavily tasked with emotional import, such as the project I am currently working on, come to be.
During this module, I would like to lose my control over the image making process as is technically possible. I would like to take this risky path to test whether the resulting images would still somehow manage to align with my implicit vision for this project. This blog post thus serves as my mission statement for the current module of studies.
FLETCHER, Gem [Presenter]. ‘The Messy Truth: Lydia Pang – On Commissioning’. Apple Podcasts [online]. Available at: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/lydia-pang-on-commissioning/id1459128692?i=1000442904984 [accessed 29 September 2019].
MCLUHAN, Marshall. 1964. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. UK: Routledge.
READ, Shirley & SIMMONS, Mike. 2017. Photographers and Research: The role of research in contemporary photographic practice. New York & Oxon: Routledge.
Featured Image:SIMONE CANTARINI [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons