Ellie (my daughter) asked me if she could take my old drawings to school. I didn’t feel safe doing that so I agreed to photograph them and post so she could show them that way.
I must remember never to rush a job as the photos don’t do the drawings justice so will have to do them again over the weekend, but here’s one for starters…
A beautiful sunny day and lots of time to spend but I didn’t feel as if I managed to ‘get in the zone’ as in previous visits. Felt a little deflated on the journey home wondering if any of the images would be good and beginning to doubt whether I could sustain a reasonable quality of output in the next few months. I managed to suppress further negative thoughts and reserved opinion until I’d seen the pictures. It’s a dangerous cycle I’ve found in the past, when doubt creeps in and you start to take it seriously – best to avoid the doubt and wait until the negative feelings have passed. They are rarely a real reflection of the truth.
Looking at the images I can see where I’ve been unfocussed but there are a couple of images which are amongst the best I’ve done so far. Some of the others I see as transitional, where the idea behind them needs more development. (is this another way of saying they’re crap?). Maybe.
I found out on Facebook earlier that the clay bird I photographed on Sunday at Martineau Gardens and mentioned in my previous post was actually made at BITA Pathways (https://www.facebook.com/BITAPathways), an ogranisation who work with people with mental health issues and offers training and work opportunities. I have worked with them as an external moderator for one of their courses and as a mentor for one of the staff who does some wonderful work teaching photography there. I’m wondering of the person that made the bird has done some gardening work at Martineau.
Visiting Martineau on Sunday and having a longer time than normal at the site gave me pause to think.
I had just spent an hour or so photographing and the experience itself was interesting. I started, as usual, with getting equipment set up and looking around to see where I would concentrate my activities. The first few shots were very much about warming up – to get my eye in – to get over the ’empty canvas’ feeling I always get at the beginning of a session. I am always feeling fear upon arrival at the gardens. Will I be able to make images which match the more successful ones from previous visits? Will I be able to make images which reflect my experiences of the gardens?
A while later I find myself sitting having resurfaced from my reverie with the camera. I have walked around the gardens or sometimes crawled on my hand and knees (I have learned to wear old clothes when I photograph here). The closeness I feel for the subject, the childlike sense of discovery draws me further in. I find myself making – not making just recording. The tripod I started using at the beginning is left behind, the camera bag on the path as I’m pulled by the next interesting thing, the next image I must make.
As I’m sitting I’m wondering if I’m going to have enough time to finish the project, to cover all the possibilities I’ve seen. Is a year going to be long enough?
I feel such a sense of calm after the first session. Photography is for me like meditation. I become so deeply involved I sometimes don’t remember what I’ve done, and I worry I’ve not done anything good at all.
Looking later at the results is like remembering the past. The close examination of the gardens also reminds me very much of myself as a small boy, discovering my parents’ back garden to the smallest detail. I’ve just been photographing some leaves touching the plastic from inside a poly-tunnel. I was waiting for a spider which was crawling on the outside and hoping it would give me the chance to include it in my picture. Would I need to get the spider to sign a model release form?
Some of the photographs evoke complex feelings. I was photographing a table where the seedlings were covered by gardener’s fleece to protect them from the weather. Someone had used a clay bird to weigh the fleece down, to stop it from blowing away in the wind. The bird reminded me of illustrations I had seen in Children’s stories I had read decades ago. The simple representation was very similar to the birds in those stories. Someone had also made the bird and (maybe the same person) had made a decision to use it as a ‘paperweight’. I felt the sense of will, of purpose, of the gardeners who had been in the gardens in recent days helping to promote the growth of new things.
My intentions with my photographs is to keep them simple. I don’t want a sense of artifice, the obvious use of technique to get in the way of people engaging with the images. As much as possible the photographs should present the smallest barrier between the gardens, my experience and someone looking at them.
As I’m sitting I also realise that I am ending up taking a lot of images at close range. I need to spend some time looking at the larger space. Maybe I’ll spend a couple of visits in the future concentrating on this and try to force myself to avoid getting too close. Maybe not.
My photography over the past few years has involved selecting a location and developing a series of images which hopefully reflects both my experience and also projects something of the personality of the place. This has included Kidderminster town centre and the upper platform at Smethwick Galton Bridge train station.
Martineau Gardens is a place both beautiful and fascinating, a real jewel for visitors to experience, especially so close to the city centre. In part I hope to celebrate that with my photography. I also see Martineau as an opportunity to develop my recent work further. I plan to visit the gardens over the next year or so and photograph through the seasons.
I have become to focus more and more on memory in my work. Some of these go back to childhood experiences. Photographing at Martineau Gardens reminds me of some of these experiences. Childhood times were often spent in back gardens looking intimately at the flora, discovering the insect life and even gathering spiders’ webs in folded over twigs. This was a time of wonder, where the world began to open up to a very inquiring young mind. I hope in part to re-discover that wonder and make images which reflect that experience.
My first few visits to the gardens have thrown up other fascinating possibilities. I am enthralled by things which have been left by gardeners, volunteers or visitors to the gardens. Looking at these and making images creates echoes and leaves a residue of human involvement. Watching the gardens through the seasons is an exciting prospect. The beginnings of the project have opened up a few paths, I’m sure other possibilities will arise as time passes.
There are many people who work in and visit the gardens throughout the year. Some have a very intimate relationship with the place, maybe more than I can express in my photography. I hope my photographs do their experience justice. I will also attempt to balance a personal response to the gardens with something which relates to peoples experiences generally.
Starting a new project at Martineau Gardens in Birmingham.
Initial mood board – http://www.pinterest.com/adrozd0196/new-ideas/ hope I can do it justice.