I liked the picture that I took of that dog so much a few days ago that I decided to try to photograph more back alley fauna. I took two photos and then realized I was taking cat and dog pics and decided to table that photographic inquiry for another day.
To be honest, I really didn’t want to shoot anything, and not shooting is a more attractive option in my mind (especially before trying to shoot) than going out and taking what feels like bad photos. I started taking these pictures and they felt forced, it felt trivial, I didn’t know what I would say about them, and so forth.
Another way to think about it is that I have a vague notion of what I’m trying to say, but I had absolutely no mental energy to put into making the photos that articulate it well. It’s like trying to ride a bike quickly when you’re already tired- which I’ve also been trying to do over the past few days.
I decided to go back to a project I’d already spent some time on earlier, in the spring. It’s been tantalizingly sitting in the “in progress” section of my website, and I’ve had every intention of continuing it.
As you can probably tell, these are photos taken around a graveyard of fake flowers. Specifically, there’s a graveyard a little ways from my house that falls off on two sides into dense tree and shrub cover as well as some hiking trails. It’s pretty easy to find fake flowers that have blown off the edges of the graveyard into the brush, and I’ve been setting about the business of photographing them (as well as some of the fake flowers in the trash cans, though I didn’t take any of those photos today).
This is a strange and charming instance in which I still really don’t know what I’m saying, but I’ve got the aesthetic pretty much down, and the pictures are so fun to make that I really have no problem continuing to make them. Oftentimes I know, basically, what I’m trying to say, and the photographic process pushes and prods at what I’m thinking as I try to organize the things I see into photos, and the photos into a logical sequence.
What’s interesting to me is that these photos have so few component parts that I’m really not sure why they’re still so ambiguous in my mind. They started, and have continued, as a technical exercise: the project was started in our location lighting studio. However, I guess what’s confusing is that they feel kind of pessimistic or snide, but I don’t feel that way at all when I make them. In the gut, they feel light, easy, and fun to make, but my mind is telling me the parts add up to a rather sad whole; photos containing graveyards, fake things imitating real things, dark foliage, and/or beat up decaying things are generally not light, easy, and fun.
But here we are. Every time I make a new one of these I’m just so pleased to see the results- especially because it usually requires some finagling of balancing natural and artificial light, which is not my strong suit. However, getting it right and being able to execute what I’m seeing in my head with more and more precision and haste feels really good too. For example, in the above photo, I found that ribbon right near a perfect, natural shaft of light, and found the sun overpowering the surroundings, so I threw just a bit of warm colored flash (at 1/128 power) to fill in the surroundings with some additional light. And it helped! And that felt good.
So it might just be an image making exercise, because some of these just end up being a bit weird and scattered. Additionally, photos in graveyards (or, the second a graveyard becomes identifiable as a part of a project) are usually so on-the-nose with whatever they’re trying to say that there’s not much room for playful or cunning subtlety.
They worked well to get me out of the house though. I absolutely did not feel like photographing today, and what’s more, I endured many mosquito bites which I also cannot stand. So, enjoy these photos even more with the knowledge of the discomfort that was visited upon me to take them.