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.

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