Newsletter #198: April, 2022
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
Celebrating my 17th year writing this Photographic Newsletter!
Stream of Consciousness in Image-making
I have been asked two questions over the years of running tours, making presentations, or teaching workshops, to which I have given a lot of thought.
The questions were;
I feel your images portray the very spirit of who you are; how do you capture that spirit in your images?
What is your stream of consciousness when you head out to photograph? How do you decide what to photograph and what does your search for photographic art look like?
I don’t think I answered either of those questions very well at the time, but this morning I woke up thinking it was time I put ink to my personal thoughts.
First and foremost, it is imperative that I know my craft. I must be knowledgeable and fluid with all my camera dials and buttons. I must know the basics and how each effects the emotional response of viewers. The basics include the exposure triangle (iso, shutter speed and aperture), ICM, and multiple exposures. All photographic expression is based on how and why I use these options.
I then throw all of the above into the background so that I can head out to photograph with a free and open mind; ready to receive the ‘gift of resonance’.
That resonance is a ‘pull’ toward a certain subject; an energetic vibration or connection that seems to speak to my inner self. I need to listen carefully for that resonance. If I am in conversation with a friend, I would miss it. It requires one’s full attention.
That resonance is, secondly, a visual attraction to a particular composition; one that moves my eyes toward it. Every juxtaposition of compositional elements affects everyone differently. It’s the reason behind why we are attracted to a specific dress or automobile over another.
If the resonance with a subject is clear and powerful, I probably know exactly what I want to communicate and how. I then turn quickly to the techniques or style by which to express that feeling, thought, memory or idea.
If the resonance is subtle or unclear, I stop and listen more intently. I ask myself questions and try to articulate my feelings and then think how I might communicate those feelings.
If my resonance is hidden, but I still feel an attraction to a subject, I will begin a process of investigation and visual exploration. I do this by trying numerous techniques of photographic expression until a resonance begins to unfold. During this exploration I use my camera’s LCD screen extensively to help find the path that leads to a meaningful expression. If I feel an excitement of where my expression is taking me, I follow that feeling. If I feel disinterested, I stop my exploration and move on. I only follow my excitement.
All the above steps are my ‘creative process’. It’s the process I must enjoy most if I wish to be a creative photographic artist. It is the most fulfilling and rewarding aspect of my photography. I enjoy the possibilities. I never feel as if I am owed a great image for whatever amount of energy I put into my creative process. Great images are gifts beyond the creative process.
An illustration comes to mind. After hiking for 10 days across the Itcha volcano (which was part of my creative process), what I remember most are not the book images I made; it was the exploring, grunting over mountain passes, and making surprise discoveries. I photograph to experience life fully, and marvel at the natural world, not just to make great images. Sharing those experiences through publications, stories and imagery is the crowning reward. Art is communicating and sharing.
I try to be conscious of the forces at play and the energetic exchanges I experience. Ideas and outcomes are usually revealed to me gradually. When I feel obsessed or possessed by a subject, I know I am ‘living the dream’, being artistic, and fully realized. During these times I am probably expressing my truth from deep within.
Imaginings Beyond a Single Line
Where I live, I cannot see the horizon line; forests, rolling hills, and mountains dominate the landscape. When my teaching partner, Dennis Ducklow, took me to Gabriola Island as a possible workshop location, I immediately started to make images of the horizon line. I felt a tremendous pull toward it.
In March of this year, my wife Rita and I went to Clare Island on the NW coast of Ireland. I was on a self-directed artist’s residency where one of my goals was to explore the possibilities of photographic expression. As the place where we were to stay overlooked the ocean, I knew I would oversee the horizon line; I was excited.
On most mornings, I would walk out the front door and take up a chosen spot on the front porch. From that very spot I made a 2-dimentional exploration of shape, tone, colour, and texture; all in relationship to a single line, the horizon line.
This was my ocean viewscape for four weeks; two rectangular shapes separated by a single line. Other compositional elements that would play a large role in future explorations include texture, tone, and colour.
The above three images made me realize that the ocean is more than the ocean, different than it was yesterday, and different from what it would be tomorrow. While exploring this horizon line, I also realized that photography was much more than photography.
Each day the clarity of tones differed. Sometimes, small islands or distant mainland features would be visible depending on where I pointed my camera along the horizon line.
Daily explorations and interpretations took me on different visual journeys. The line constantly changed shape and meaning.
Eventually, as my interpretations became more abstract, the words ‘horizontal’ and ‘horizon line’ became meaningless and obsolete. The elements of pattern, repetition, texture and contrast became more important.
What is abstract becomes the representation of nothing. It lies within the realm of imagination, creativity, and endless possibility.
Another morning provided me with clarity, contrast and colour. Repetition of form along with tone, colour and texture had me ‘over-the-moon’ excited.
After the colours of sunrise disappeared, new possibilities of expression became possible.
One exploration led me to this expression. With its textured curtains down each side combined with a baseline, it excited me immensely. Lighting conditions soon changed, however, and my morning on the porch ended.
As our time on Clare Island was coming to an end, the iconic shape of Croagh Patrick (a pagan and now Christian sacred mountain) on the County Mayo mainland revealed itself. Using the effect of textured curtains discovered in the previous image, I explored how I could include this iconic mountain shape.
Croagh Patrick, iconic and sacred, myth and legend, was my final expression beyond the imaginary line.
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