Friday, 22 February 2013

Barbara Hepworth

Whilst in St Ives I paid a visit to Barbara Hepworth's Sculpture Garden.  It was pouring with rain so not ideal conditions for photography. In any case, although I like her work, I'm not that interested in just reproducing her sculptures in two dimensions - you can look online for that! I was fascinated by her studio which has been preserved just as it was left on the day of her death - 20th May 1975. You can see the calendar reflected in the mirror.  There is something fascinating about seeing an artist's place of work - the tools, the props, the bits and pieces of work in progress or unfinished and discarded.  It is as though we are being allowed into the artist's very personal space, their inner sanctum, a place of creativity and innovation.  In this case, I like how the outside world, in the shape of the garden, melds with the interior to create an almost double exposure.

Wandering around the garden, I was struck by the forms and shapes of the natural world - trees, plants, snails, rocks.  Hepworth's work is full of organic curves and swirls and her work was inspired by the beauty of the Cornish landscape.  There was even a beautiful grey cat which guided me round like some smoky familiar!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Picture the view

I've just spent spent a week holed up on the north Cornish coast at St. Ives. The town, rightly famed for the quality of its light due to its particular situation on the coast, is both quiet and particularly inviting out of season. The beaches are empty save for the odd dog-walker and the surrounding cliffs offer bracing walks and miles of uninterrupted, windswept views out to sea.

It's always a tonic to get away from your everyday surroundings and particularly for a photographer, to be able to point your camera at something completely new. I am very much aware, however, of how easy it is to fall into the trap of cliché, especially in a holiday destination. There is pleny of opportunity for reproducing picturesque harbour scenes, brightly coloured boats, an impressive lighthouse, cobbled streets and pretty fishermen's cottages and I certainly have no shortage of such photographs! The diversity of the surrounding landscape - waves crashing on the rocks, vertiginous views down the cliffs to the swirling waters below, vistas of the distant horizon, all bathed in an ever-changing light - offers endless scope for landscape photography. Yet when confronted with my efforts, they somehow seemed to fall far short of the reality of the actual experience. For some reason the straight landscape photograph fails to capture (for me, at least) the scale, sense of space and the exquisite chameleon nature of the light. In the end it becomes just a facsimile, a mere imitation, at best a souvenir of my experience.

It led me to experiment with other ways of picturing the landscape, which although hardly innovative, do at least try to conjure up some of the magic of the scene in front of my eyes and play with ideas of seeing and looking, illusion and reality. Photographer Duane Michals pretty well sums it up with these words:
 "Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or to reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?"
It is an idea which I hope to develop further, although trying to find these opportunities in my day-to-day life will be a challenge, to say the least!

I have started a Tumblr blog called The Magic Toy, focusing on this illusionistic, magical side of photography. This is in addition to, not instead of, this blog - both old and new work will be showcased, as well as some work and words by other photographers who have inspired me. You can find it under My Links on the right-hand side of this blog.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Consider the lily III

Further studies of my everlasting bunch of lilies.....They have proved to be one of the best value bunches of flowers ever, lasting well over a month but now it is finally time to say farewell! En route for the compost bin I made a few studies of their final death throes, their dessicated petals petrified into strange gnarled shapes, the last vestiges of their beauty starkly outlined against the snow.