Finding a unique voice with photography is a hard task to achieve. It takes a lot of soul searching and creativity. At the forefront of this struggle is identifying your message, what is it you are trying to say? I am coming to believe that the act of discovering this message is part of the journey my art takes. It can be crippling to try and pinpoint exactly what you want to express with an image to the point of creative stagnation. Sometimes you just have to go forward and keep searching as you create.
Feeling that I’ve been hitting self imposed limits in my portraiture, I have been trying to incorporate ideas that keep reoccurring in my mind. I find these ideas difficult to relate to my aims but I am constantly feeling I want to develop and explore certain concepts.
Before I started portraiture I was developing my own style and sensibilities in landscape photography. I was heavily influenced by Minor White who’s images in my appreciation where more ‘Mindscapes’ than landscapes. From my research he was heavily influenced by Zen and Mysticism.
A Minor White image of a tree would never just be a tree, it would encourage you to ask; What else could it be?. I believe the answers to what else they could be where always going to be hard to explain, to me they are feelings, visual koans for which the written word cannot describe.
For a landscape, my approach would be to have no expectations, an empty mind. Your looking for the “what else could it be?” first, the feeling and not the tree to photograph. Your not looking for nice compositions, instead for a feeling of resonance, when what you see in front of youself harmonizes with your thoughts. As Minor White would say “The image finds you”.
Since starting portraits my approach has needed to change drastically. You cannot wonder for hours the far reaches of the countryside as the sun goes down, looking for a scene that resonates, with model in toe. Before I was a searcher of images, now I am finding I have to be the creator of scenes. For my previous portraits I have been dealing with trying to express feelings, a wanting to be understood. The exact feeling I wanted to express I could never quite pinpoint, I knew the feeling was negative in mood. Primary it was the act of wanting to be understood that gripped me.
No sooner had I began to effectively achieve my aims with portrait photography, I started feeling a wanting to be understood by myself. There was a dark magic, a poetry in my landscapes. When I look at them I feel the soul searching, I see it mirrored back in the elements of the landscape. I feel like I’m looking at the raw emotions of a mind before they are understood and categorised by the brain.
In my previous portraits I see the expresison of the struggle to communicate emotions to the viewer, but as yet I haven’t started to explore what these emotions could be. Recently Ive started sketching ideas, ways to try and incorporate the elements I loved in landscapes into my portraiture. I wanted to express the feeling of the veil of reality being torn away to reveal Minor Whites “what else could this image be?”.
With my love of landscapes I find myself using nature once again. The model stands infront of the fabric which is torn to reveal Ivy, an element of nature I used to express an inner state of mind. A tear in the veil of reality, a nod to the Mysticism and Zen of Minor White.
With planning a shoot out to such a high degree, you loose elements of chance, things to be discovered. For my sketches it was the eye the fabrics tear should relate to, the eye seeing through the tear in reality. In portraiture you need to give room for the models own sensibilities, after all; this is a portrait. Holly suggested the tear relating to the lips. In the final image her interpretation looked and felt better. I think it goes to show that even in the most planned of shoots, there is always new things to discover that will resonate.