Beyond Beauty

This week I have immersed myself in Land Matters by Liz Wells, What Photography is by James Elkins, re read Ways of Seeing by John Berger plus his chapter on Susan Sontag in How To Read A Photograph and finally Photography Theory by David Bate. In search of photographs that are beautiful but also speak a new truth about the land we live in I found Altered Landscapes by Lucy R Lippard. Throw in some week 11 lectures on criticality and a lecture from Sam Laughlin and my head is full.

Some messages I have got are that…

  • photography is about beauty and truth
  • photography has spoken on behalf of the ruling classes following on from a tradition set by painting
  • photography has become a servant of capitalism
  • so many photographs are ‘of’ subjects rather than ‘about’
  • I have been conditioned by my social programming to take photographs in the way that I have
  • there is little control over how a photograph anyone takes will be used
  • I have a lot to learn

To date my work has been for me as audience, pictorially and realism based, seeking to achieve sublime beauty in landscapes. The above is a picture I would not have taken before but interests me now. Previously this lacked any interest as a beautiful landscape so would not have attracted me as a subject. Now I see an image filled with evidence of human impact on the land and the ongoing fight between nature and man. The foreground has been sculpted by unemployed workers on a project to make paths around this hill top for weekend walkers. The fence that has been erected has been blown down by strong winds and erosion from heavy rainfall. Nature fights with mankind. Down below is the town of Pedreguer nestling below the mountains behind. For the moment it has claimed this space for human consumption. The mountains behind are liminal space which was wild, then was used for olive, almond and grape growing and now is returning to the wild or as a place criss crossed with paths for walkers.

To look at the picture is not attractive to me but it does begin to speak a truth about the world rather than focussing on beauty. I can now work on ways of bringing more out of an image like this so that it can tell the truth but also keep the viewers eye interested.

This is taken at the same time. Now we start to get over the idea of change of space in a visually more interesting way.

Here I go one step further and impose a human face barely visible over the image of Pedreguer.

I am not going to stop taking images that give myself and other people pleasure. I will continue to improve my skills and seeing to produce beautiful images. However, for my project I do intend to explore what ‘meaningful’ ‘truth’ my photography can reveal. This is going to be a journey which will end up I know not where.

Categories: Positions and Practice

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.