This was an interesting piece for me, and a hard one to feel like I can fully describe because of the sheer volume of thought and material involved in it.
I think the simplest way to talk about this piece is to first physically describe it and the work I did to complete it, talk about my thought process leading up to it, and finally talk about some of my thoughts on the piece as I was “doing” it. Finally, and this will likely be a separate post, I’ll include some of my favorite images and transcribe all the writing.
This piece consists of a little over 200 pictures and 50 notecards. The images come from an entire day of walking with my camera, walking from sunrise to sunset and taking roughly 10 pictures every half hour. I walked a total of 28 miles, leaving my dorm at 7:36 (sunrise) and ending up at Chimborazo park a few minutes before the sunset at 6:10. The note cards were written at intermittent intervals, basically as a thought worth writing down occurred to me. The prints are laid out in a -roughly- left to right chronological fashion in a similar arc to the sun on that day.
Leading up to this Piece
The prompt for this assignment was an introspective diagram of our lives. We had a half assignment due partway through which involved 10 studies (which I have pictures of and may write up at some point for this blog). I had an idea from that set that I kind of liked, and I decided to go with that one just because it seemed like it’d be easy. I never really got excited about it though, and decided, sort of, ‘maybe I can’t always have stellar ideas, this is good enough…’
Then I had the idea, and I can’t even remember what sparked it, “what if I followed the sun for an entire day and took pictures of sunlight related things?” I knew I had my idea to get excited about.
The two weeks leading up to the actual creation of the piece were basically planning and brainstorming, including laying out the route and thinking about some of the ‘how’ this was going to get done. I got the sunrise and sunset times. I got a route that led out of the not to sketchy part of Richmond and got out into the country quickly, and I thought could be done in the time the sun was up. I figured out the layout of the pictures. I half laid out the pics on photoshop to make sure they would all fit. I decided to add in a narrative element with the notecards, and I decided it would be important to have the actual cards I wrote on while walking as a part of the piece. I got my date picked out, I’d walk on Saturday November 2nd. Finally, I figured out all the “why” of this assignment.
- As a photographer, I intersect with the sun but never study it for the entire duration of its path through the sky. When doing landscape photography, I get very concerned about the sun for a short period of time. I’ll go out during “golden hour”, or step out of my car for ten minutes and wait for favorable light then drive off and think about other things or look around the landscape from the comfort of my car. The fairly long duration of this piece was me thinking, “what can I do to get more insight and connection into how the sun moves through the landscape in a day?”
- I love to walk, and I love being alone. One of the cards said “Being alone makes me realize how much I need people, and being around people makes me realize how much I need to be alone.” I’ve always needed both extremes, and after a very taxing couple of weeks I decided it would be good to simply be alone, do something physically grueling and artistic on my own as sort of an introspective as well as physical journey. This thought was originally where the notecards sprang from; I wanted some way to record my ideas and incorporate them into the piece.
- Other bits. The two reasons above form the foundation for the imagery and the notecards, however there were several smaller reasons that sort of ended up incorporated into and between those two components. I wanted more insight into the idea of distance and the amount of distance one can cover in one day. I wanted to study the transition between city and country and how quickly and in what manner that happens. I wanted to carry my food and water for an entire day, I wanted to do something hard, and I just wanted a bit of adventure. Nothing wrong with that.
“Doing” the piece.
One of the questions my surface professor gave me for consideration while working on this was, where does the piece exist? Is the piece the walk itself which the pictures serve as documentation of? Am I collecting photos and thoughts to make a piece on the wall, or does the piece exist somewhere between those two physical locations? It’s a question I still can’t quite answer, and if i had to I’d probably say it exists in between the two spaces. I don’t feel that I was affecting the landscape such that the piece was out there, and I don’t feel like the end product on the wall is the most significant manifestation of this work. I suppose the piece was how the landscape affected me, and what’s on the wall serves as a physical manifestation of that, since I have the artifacts of the journey as well as the “secondhand” imagery of photos I took along the way.
The other interesting thing about this piece was how its meaning changed and the new things I picked up along the way. If I transcribe all the cards that will be much more evident, but I’ll write about a few thoughts I had now.
- The piece became, to me, an interesting metaphor for aspiration vs reality. I had originally intended to make the loop back to my dorm in the time that the sun was up. I ended up at a park about 40 blocks east of my dorm, but when I got there I was able to witness an absolutely stunning sunset, and now I can’t think of a better end point for the whole trip. Throughout the day (and even as I was mounting pictures) I was constantly having to react to how things were actually unfolding vs how I planned them and then slightly adjust my plans and expectations in order to fit reality.
- On that note, I realized the piece was very reactionary. At first, I had limited myself to only taking any given picture once. That is, once the picture was taken, it was set. I would only take 10 pictures every 30 minutes and I couldn’t delete bad pictures. I made exceptions to this many, many times and finally ditched it formally 3-4 hours in. I realized that the “reaction” to the picture in which I took a picture and adjusted the camera settings and took a new picture and deleted the old one made sense within the context of the project; the whole idea was to be affected by my surroundings and be changed by them as I moved through them.
- I couldn’t settle on how to take pictures. The project was conceived as a sun study, so as I left the dorm I figured I was going to force myself to take pictures of only sun related things, such as compositions with primarily sky, shadows, things dramatically lit by sunlight, etc. However, midmorning found me taking pictures which was more documentary of where I was going. Around midday I just started taking pictures of things that were interesting or pretty to me. In the late afternoon and evening I got really hung up on taking pictures that fit the themes that I saw coming up in my head, in the cards, and which were coming from the images.
- There was this interesting undertone of setting lifetime goals. I think the connotation of a day as a lifetime isn’t a foreign one, and the sunset/death connections aren’t giant leaps to make. As such, as I walked throughout the day, I couldn’t ignore the idea of setting goals before death; in the project, the goals were where I wanted to walk to and death was sunset, simply because I couldn’t take pictures justified by the assignment after sunset and yet I really, really wanted to get back into the city before the sunset. With this and what felt like the very literal deterioration of my body towards the end of the walk, I felt like death metaphors were easy to make.
That’s about the short of it. I could probably talk about this project for another thousand words, but I think this is pretty good overview of what this piece was and I’ve hopefully answered the question of “so wait, you did what?” You walked 28 miles in a day? Why???”