I’ve started professional practices and senior thesis, and both of those classes, as you can imagine, are rather thought provoking. I think, for now, I’ll be leaving the format of going out into the world and “shooting whatever” to the wayside, and it’s going to be a while before I have any finished projects to reflect on, but for the time being, I’m going to switch the daybook format over to digesting whatever shoot I just finished, usually for senior thesis.
At the outset of Thesis I, we were asked to inventory where our work had been and where it was maybe going, as well as what some of the forms and materials we had worked with over the past year. After even just a little bit of thinking I realized that straight photos and words weren’t doing it for me, both in terms of being satisfying artistic things to do, and in conveying what I thought was my point. I’m going to flesh this point out more in a post to come regarding my attempt to do the “great american roadtrip” photo series at the end of last summer, but for now, I’m making a shift to what I think will be a more fruitful photographic practice. More below.
Yesterday I was in Harrisonburg and decided to start working on senior thesis in the mountains near where I grew up- in the hollows and forest haunts I would always use as my go-to spots for taking pictures of trees and rocks and other created things.
The move today, I decided, was going to be film photography and a performance for the camera. I had roughly worked like this with the materials book I made last fall for studio lighting, and it had been an edifying and artistically fruitful experience. So I brought the practice out into the woods- I found a nice spot where I knew the light would shift, and I set about the task of making fire.
To my chagrin, the light meter that was in the film camera I rented from school wasn’t working, so the 6D came along with me to serve as a light meter, and exposure checker. Some of the photos that will be in this post were made for the purposes of checking exposure. Others were more documentation of what was going on or noodling with other photo ideas while I was working on the “main event”.
Despite not being in the pictures, I adopted a sort of persona to get the work done that I was attempting to portray in the photos I was making with the film camera. The whole gist of working in this manner is to get the viewer to ponder the poetic thrust of the actions in front of the camera, or in this case, the actions being performed by the unseen hand acting on the landscape in front of the camera.
One thing, as an aside, that I want to work on moving forward is incorporating the figure into these photos. My landscape photos, for so long, have either been purely scenic, or these odd sort of empty stages on which an action could, or perhaps just did, take place. I have liked working this way, alone and behind the camera, for some time, but the overall effect has been rather sterile, and I would like to bring the figure into the arrangement in order to drive home the point of how I would like people to feel about what’s happening in front of them.
For the longest time I had a bent with projects like this, a desire to sort of be a wild man out in the wilderness subsisting off the land. It was a very Walden-esque desire, laced with the fetishization of self-sufficiency and the American lust for independence. While I was making this fire, I made a little shelf out of sticks and bark to hold the series of successively larger twigs needed to build a fire- I turned stones over to make nicer stepping stones to move around my little fire shrine. I worked and turned the landscape over to facilitate easier means of moving through the environment and the absolute irony struck me, that even if we reverted to simpler ways of living, we would walk down the same technological paths all over again in the name of comfort and a more relaxed self sufficiency.
It also struck me that in the past, a lot of more people just died because they couldn’t find food or got sick or got mauled by a bear or somesuch. I thought about what must come as a result of not having to worry about these things- I thought about the things that seem most urgent, most dangerous in our society, and how they aren’t bears, or diseases, or not being able to grow or find food during the winter.
And I thought about the apparent course of human progress and how it is either a hotter fire, faster legs, a louder voice, or pointier sticks (heavier rocks). Sturdier shelters. I had the comic image of a caveman that was frustrated because the other tribe had a bigger cave.
I took a few other photos. Short of documentation I don’t think I’m ever going to put these photos by themselves onto the internet. I, for a half second, considered scanning and digitally printing the photos I would be taking, but then decided against it. For as much as it’s an apparent hipster predilection for film photography, and for as much as I fret that I use film because it seems more specialized, more esoteric a process, I still do think film better conveys “the point”, so to speak, for a variety of reasons.
I won’t belabor the point, but I’ll keep y’all updated. More to come.