Monday, 5 August 2019

The Indecisive Moment (indecisive photography in Vancouver)

Last week I was in Vancouver visiting family - always a special time. 

Hiking, paddleboarding, swimming and childminding. I loved it all.

Being in the city is always a challenge photographically. I am conscious that I haven't made any new 'work' recently, after aborted trips to New Zealand and the USA, and am feeling a little pressure to come up with some new ideas.

I think the only idea that I came up with after a week of wandering was that of the 'Indecisive Moment'. Indecisive in that I couldn't really find anything new to say about the city or its beautiful parks and forest. Indecisive in what style of photography to go for. And indecisive over how to process what few images I did make.

Henri Cartier Bresson described the 'decisive moment' thus;

 “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

This is the absolute antithesis of how I work in most of my photography. A tree doesn't walk, or a flower run. Dead seaweed, the subject of my recent book 'findings' lies quietly on the sand, unmoving.

I don't usually wait for a special moment; I am not a street photographer, or a sports photographer, lying in wait for that moment when everything before the lens comes together to be captured as something unrepeatable. I am not a fan of seeking out sunsets and sunrises; waiting for moments of glorious light that may or may not arrive. 

I am a walking photographer, capturing what I find along my way.

I did try a few minutes of street photography on the waterfront at Coal Harbour, out of sheer desperation.

I achieved very little as I was shooting from the hip, being discreet, and mostly got photos of hips as a result.

 Later I tried being even more indecisive, by photographing the same scene over and over, waiting for something to happen.

 This was more fun, but the camera got confused and the people walking past were out of focus.

walkers, Stanley park, vancouver

So then I played with grids of multiple photos; each imperceptibly different ffrom the last.

This satisfied my desire to capture multiple indecisive moments, and also my love of the geometric.

But not that interesting really.

multiple moments grid

I tried indecisive birds.

They behaved beautifully unpredictably. I kept my camera still and waited for the ducks to move into the picture.

They did.

But they couldn't decide which way up to pose for the camera.

waiting for a duck



I tried moody black and white images in the forest. Tangled dead trees and people walking along forest paths.

dead tree, beaver lake

walkers, stanley park, vancouver

walkers, stanley park

 At the botanical gardens I enjoyed the rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

I was indecisive about how to capture them. Multiple exposure, regular exposure or black and white. I tried them all.

multiple exposure mess

hydrangea flower

hydrangea flower

I think this last one is my preferred option; regular colour photography. No blurry bits. Just the sunlight filtering through the petals.

I tried night photography from my balcony.

night scene, Vancouver city

Not a great success. I won't show you any more of those.

My favourite image from the trip ( apart from family photos of course) is this one of kitchens.

As I spent a lot of my week cooking it seems entirely appropriate.

I think the moral of this story is 'don't try so hard'.

Wait for the right moments to come along.

And if you are feeling indecisive, then it is probably because you are busy doing other things -  I was being a grandmother and mother for a week- something that gives me even more pleasure than photography.

And this week I am back being a photographer, preparing for my show at Rye Art Gallery.

It features some very decisive moments, as you would expect.

Conversations with Nature at Rye Art gallery

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, 7 July 2019

What sort of artist are you? On influences and style.

Take me to nature with Monet

Two weeks ago I attended an artist development workshop with Matthew Burrows at ABC Projects Atelier. I felt that I needed a bit of a kick to recharge my self confidence and creative juices.

All people who make art have ups and downs of creativity. I was in a dip, but the workshop has well and truly kicked me back to life.

Since then I have been turbo-charged into activity, with a list of tasks as long as my arm. I have so much to do, and project number one is to prepare for my show 'Conversations with Nature' in Rye Art gallery this August. Planning some time for creativity and experimentation is also high on the list..... but as usual my indecision is making it hard to decide where or what I wish to do.

One of the preparatory tasks for the weekend was to come with images of artist that have influenced my practice. I was asked to find classical, contemporary and modern artists, which reminded me that I am really not a big fan of old paintings and elaborate sculptures.

This was confirmed when I made my first visit to the Wallace Collection recently.

Wallace collection
I don't do ornate.

or gilded

or velvet

or flock.

chair not for sitting

I am definately not a fan of chairs that can't be sat on.

Or of men in wigs.

wigged gentleman sculpture

The cavalier may be laughing, but I was not.

Something is wrong with my appreciation of art.

I remember developing stomach pains every time my mother dragged me around the National Gallery as a child.

I fail to appreciate the talent on show.

Maybe ignorance is to blame.

So who did I find amongst my influences?

Well Monet for sure.

It must be because he loves the great outdoors, as do I.

Calming greens and waterlilies.  I have always loved these.

Next came Turner.

Now you see where I get my out of focus style....

Norham Sunrise, Turner

Lying in cool water under a tree. More water and greenery. I loved this as a child, and still do.
Wild swimming done with style.

Ophelia by Millais

More lillies and a profusion of roses from John Singer Sargent. I had this hanging in my bedroom as a very unrebellious teenager.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

I think it is fair to say that these paintings explore the outdoors, just as I do.

Moving forward in time I found plenty to enjoy, and was spoilt for choice.

Rothko was an easy choice.

Norman Ackroyd another.

His prints of sea and coast, birds and waves are full of movement.

Also in monochrome, the photographer Masao Yamamoto

Smaller details, exquisitely presented. And books that I aspire to emulate.

And then, for sheer playfulness, land artist Andy Goldsworthy.

Throwing sticks to the wind.....

And for abstract forms, it is hard to beat Victor Pasmore

 and Agnes Martin, who I have written about before.

It was pointed out to me that I like strongly contrasting darks and lights....  something I was not conscious of previously.

But where did all this get me?

I guess it validates my choice of outdoor subject matter, and my preference for minimalism and abstraction over red velvet and gilt frames. Also my preference for the small details of landscape over the wider view. I haven't mentioned many of my photographic influences; Sally Mann, Jackie Ranken, Paul Kenny and Ansel Adams would  be a good start, but there are too many to mention.

This was only a tiny part of the whole workshop, and more important was a statement of what I believe in, and what my dream for the future would be.

Spending time working out what I want to achieve was a really positive exercise.

As a result, I am turning the house upside down to make a workspace for making things at weekends and when I do not have access to my studio in Rye.

Then I will be able to play every day, and even try some collage like these by Katrien de Blauwer, which I find totally alluring.

 More dark and light.....

And so much fun.

What sort of artist are you?

Thursday, 30 May 2019

A to Z of bookishness - a book by Olive Etti

Olive (my typewriter alter ego) has been busy.

She was set the challenge by the Instagram group  #areyoubookenough to make a book on the theme of alphabet.

What better way to address the theme on the subject of A to Z than an A to Z of bookishness she thought.

So she popped to her favourite shop in London, Shepherds for some suitable paper and started compiling a list of book related words.

She got stuck at Z, and it occurs to me now, that she forgot that the book is printed on Zerkall  paper. Ah well, next time.....

Next she searched for some photos....

The internet has a wonderful supply of images available under creative commons licence.

She started her search here, and rapidly disappeared down a rabbit hole of wonderful old photographs.

She particularly likes this self portrait taken in her days of working for Bell telephones.

She rather likes the way that her right hand rests nonchalantly on her left thigh while perched at the top of a ladder in high heeled shoes.

And then she set to work.

A rather unplanned process of typing and experimenting, in the way that only Olive knows how.

Each time she made a mistake, she tried re-typing. each time she re-typed, she made a new mistake.

So using her motto 'good enough is good enough' she settled for far less than perfect.

She found an old scrap book and pilfered a few images from there, as she knows that people enjoy looking better at pictures better than reading words.

Her old friend, Frenchy has such a marvellous smile. And she used to have a bit of a thing for the Prof.  So she cut them out and did a bit of sticking and glueing.

N is for nonsensical notebook

V is for verso, W is for well thumbed

She got sloppier and sloppier as the project progressed, and eventually sewed the pages together.

Shocked to find that she had fogotten how to do coptic stitch, this took longer than it should.

Luckily Pinterest saved the day.

A to Z of bookishness

She had no time to make a cover, as the deadline was approaching fast, and she couldn't think of a suitable way to cover it anyway. She created a very nifty hanging thread instead.

And here it is.....

Monday, 27 May 2019

you do not have to be good

you do not have to be good

Strange times......

Mixed emotions and a life on hold for a few weeks as my mother dies and we wait for her funeral.

Creativity stifled except for brief moments when words flow.

The ability to express my emotions through written words is something I am grateful for.

So much easier than speaking out loud.

'You do not have to be good' wrote the poet Mary Oliver wrote in her poem "Wild Geese".

I find these words resonate right now.

When you mother is gone, there is no one to be good for any more.

The world is calling, and I have to decide how to be in it.

I wrote a few words last week, which I call a recipe for survival.

Recipe for Survival

Gather fallen leaves and petals.
moisten with gently lapping water.
Add some mid-summer dreams,
strands of curling fescues
and a melody of birdsong.

Mix all in the evening’s half-light,
then rest for forty days
in the distillatory of your mind.
Decant gently into a slender-stemmed goblet
and consume one small sip after another
until the day is done.

I was going to say so much more, but for now that feels like enough.

gather fallen leaves and petals.....

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Throwing grass and letting go in the Hebrides

Luskentyre, Harris

Harris, in the Outer hebrides.

My favourite place in the world.

I went for just four days, determined to do very little other than walk, write and take some photos.

I was thinking all the while about ways to do very little, or as I thought of it 'practically nothing'.

I found a few ways.

Collecting shells on the beach was my first.

On Scarista beach I collected sea urchin fragments. They reminded me of Paul Kenny's work, 'Heaven or Las Vegas', Ross strand, Mayo, 2008, shown below.

Why so rectangular, when a sea urchin is round, I kept thinking.

My fragments were less varied in colour.

homage to Paul Kenny, 2019

I photographed them on my notebook and then dissembled the arrangement, not wanting to copy Paul's work.

I found a number of sheep with lambs to talk to.

lamb and ewe, Harris 2019

My favourite was this brown one.

We had a good chat, eye to eye.

I said more than she did.

I revisited all of my favourite beaches.

I had forgotten how white the sand is, and how clear the water.

Such a sense of space and freedom.

Luskentyre, Harris 2019

And when I had tired of walking on sand, I decided to explore the old coffin road that crosses the island from west to east.

Coffin Road, Harris

By this time I was so good at doing practically nothing that I started to play a little.

I searched for circles of lichen on rocks, but the rocks were mostly unappealing.

Still trying to do nothing in particular I waited for three o'clock.

It came.

I walked on, and was soon drawn to some curling grasses by the roadside.

I pulled some and held it, trying to photograph the curling blades with the road ahead.

Then I threw some into the air to catch the wind.

It flew.

I tried to throw and capture it on my camera; not easy with one hand.

I failed over and over.

But the very act of throwing gave more pleasure than I care to admit.

Finally I managed, just once,  to catch a tendril before it fell.

throwing grass, Harris , 2019

Somehow this one photograph captures everything that I was feeling.... a sense of freedom and lightness.

It is my favourite image from the trip.

Later I wrote some words to accompany it.

First I tried typing a note on my typewriter. There is no option to change and edit as one writes with a typewriter, so the first draft is quite spontaneous.

Later I revisited these thoughts and tried some different words in my notebook, writing and re-writing, playing with verbs.

I call them 'Letting Go'.

Letting go

throwing grass

pulling skywards
throwing windwards






Finding ways to do nothing was a good way to spend a few days.

I won't leave it so long before I go back next time.

Northton, Harris