Martineau Gardens 30th March
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.