Outside the Inside.
After having cameras for so long, and taking photographs with that ‘mind app’ for longer, I have always wondered why. I try to remember second by second meeting Neil Liefers assistant in some fancy Soho gallery when I seen that black and white photo of Ali cowering over Liston and finding out it was colour. That he was on the wrong side of the ring the night he shot that legendary photograph and as he was a first timer rookie, they thought “Stick him over there” not knowing he would go on to shoot the photo of the year in my book and then the Kennedys and so much else. Like so many other works that photo really made me think.
Then I think again, it’s not that particular photo so much that inspires me, it’s the fact he wasn’t allowed to be there in the first place, I like this hindrance, maybe the whole story was made up, maybe he was late and didn’t say it, and that was the spot on that side of the boxing ring he got, but I like that part of photography that isn’t allowed, I like the feeling it’s not okay to shoot photos on a train of people sleeping, but as long as you don’t hear the clicking shutter move the film on it’s somehow ok. I do this from the hip listening to music that fits the scene, carefully chosen tracks blast out the sound of the film winding on, if I can’t hear it, they can’t hear it. I get away with stealing.
I always think of Maier, Weegee, Gary Winogrand, Nan Goldin and William Eggleston over Dorothea Lange, Liebovitz even Avedon or Arbus who were maybe a little too slick for my liking [I’m usually wrong]. I say the afore mentioned because they were quick on the draw catching a pulse of a situation, I rather this frenetic way of catching the street than a meticulous set up, it’s about being in a cauldron and working my way out with a flash of a second recording, the bliss of the fight out. If it has to be landscape photography then it’s the cityscape I want to capture, not the hills rolling away under ilford clouds. It’s a city I see and that’s were the life is and It’s not the posh end, it’s where the housing has faded and the money gone, it’s the blackout with thousands of souls.
Why shoot people sleeping, living, creating in the first place, the voyeuristic part I try not to think about but that’s there inside the process. I’m trying to add up all the parts of taking a photo that make me want to keep doing it, what am I actually trying to do?
Early on seeing other photographs started a thing in my head, stills of family probably came first or photos on record sleeves could have had a serious effect on me as a kid as those images came with sound. I can barely look at photographs of my dad now he’s gone, even photographs of myself when I seemed a stupid kid. But what they don’t fail on is the instant remembrance they give me and for me particularly I see the Outside of the Inside. The part that the photograph stopped at, the outside of the frame I missed or didn‘t select, for that split of a second caught the world then and I seen it and felt it. Yes we’re talking about memories and the nostalgia that comes with all that purposeful exposure, picking a type of camera, a lens that’s wide to record as much as possible, and even the film stock will tell you about the choices I make much like a colour scheme for clothes or mood. It’s all recording, it all has good reason.
I’m a selfish loner, recording the world for me. More or less you and probably no one else and if others do get to see these bits then that’s a part of it too. Now in my mind there’s a difference between taking photos to remember the world for yourself and taking photos to put up on Facebook so that everyone else knows your story, your endeavors. I do think lately this is a predominant generation of photographers [maybe Glen E. Friedman would disagree with the term ‘Photographer’] those people who shoot only themselves and friends and family to relay to the world that they are fully functional, ‘getting on without you just fine’ or recording themselves so that they recall it after a blackout or interruption. I’m not sure this is strictly photography in the creative sense. This is not how I feel about taking photographs, I stop breathing when I see the shot develop in front of me, I need to do it even though I cannot sometimes because honestly, I’m not fully functioning myself, there’s something amiss.
I did hear that in the last year say 2010-2012 more photographs were taken in that time span than in the last 40 years. I’d well believe this with the ease that the online ‘social’ can accommodate photography from phones and digital devices, but that’s not why I would take photographs, in fact I’m both happy and sad this is so prevalent in the world and more importantly not going away.
When I think about photography as a ‘way’ I remember that I had been painting for a while at a certain stage and felt later that shooting the abstract lines I was painting could do the same for me and make more sense in my head. I had for a long time drawn and found it tough to break away from the rules I gave myself and started to not want to work like that. Weirdly now though I’m thinking of going backwards and shooting ideas I might feel could work as oils later on and secretly storing a set of ideas, involving balloons, clashes of colour in blocks and the early days come full circle it’s all for the one creative reason, staying calm.
With personal business I always like to hide behind a something, for years it was playing music for people in venues as a DJ, always trying to be obliging and self deprecating to the point I made a good few friends, less money and found networking easy, they became long time friends, I took photographs of them to remember them as well as photos of the world around them, a world inspired by just wanting to leave a mark behind as the time passed. I thought if I could record when I could that the passing would be easier to look back on, if I could record with a camera, hide behind those entire one off moments the passing wouldn’t be hard at all. But then I am collecting memories and these images can be saddening, they can do the reverse of what I wanted in the first place. I can’t reverse that time now or see my dad again and I have to do what I can to get used to that.
I do live in my own world. I’m a complete dreamer and spend as little time as possible in the real world, I’ve gotten away with this for far too long, but along the way I’ve used the work as a way into this other place, But the reality is kicking in. The photos in the future have to change; they have to say something else.
I try to work with space a good deal, like I’m running out of it, If people are involved in the work then they are there to punctuate the fact that there’s space, this would of course exclude the work I do that has a portrait aspect to it, at that level I’m trying to remember myself through other people I’ve met, almost the way songs help to recall a time. The straightforward portrait is in part again a look at a time but more for myself than them.
Straightforward untouched or just honest, much like the INK work on elders and their tattoos, I didn’t want to deceive in those works like fashion photography does, in fact all the portrait work I can remember shooting is done with certain film or a digital process that harks back to classic portraits, again like Eggleston or even Parr. The honesty for me in taking photos of people in these wider spaces or close ups is about how important it is to stick to the reality regardless of the fashion of work being done at any time. This is very difficult because modern photography has a new role involving being deceitful, lying about what is wanted and not really needed. The story’s not being told correctly.
So this bigger question of space in my own work I think could have some more potential, I have begun to record moving footage that doesn’t typically record individuals [except in a space but rarely] and these recordings do more than stills. In one case I walked a beach in the south of France that worked for me and thought it would be useful to keep this place in my pocket, the recording is on my IPhone charging in the wall right now. Another is a sweep of a garden balcony in Brooklyn belonged to my friends, Jen and Marley Lyon on Dikemann street in Red Hook, again a calming place and now forever in the pocket. These moving pieces seem to do a little more than say pure stills, but I feel like I’m selling out on my cameras.
Space in a quickly receding world is a premium, so like the last days of the world which will come sooner than we think, when say fresh water is gone and the sky is covered out by solar panels, we might want to remember what it was like before the streets and fields became closed off or built upon. Maybe that’s actually what’s happened in my mind, I’m recording for the end.
So I look for space, interesting areas of simple colours, blocks of concrete covered in green and glass or the odd unusual skyline interrupted by a noisy woman layered bodies waiting for the world or a train line covered in cables that carry the same noise. Street lamps, men sleeping on the grass, Dogs. Anyone different.
So this is me, this is what I might be happy to do forever more, with a camera I look for writing on the walls, the storytellers and fringe maniacs and in this case since before Christmas the graffiti heroes, the theatre of it, the legends and the marks left on the sleeves of my city. I meet these mark makers and hear their stories, stories just like your stories just spoken differently and It all makes me happy in the recording, I have to do it, I’m better for it “I’m ok”
Nervously I thought this might go arseways but they’re not that scary, they are more like me in trying to remember through their work and leave it behind somehow so that eventually after walking into a place on your own as a lone artist a lone spider you will gather friends together and not leave the same way you came in.
They know you because you did something no one else did, you remembered for them, you learnt lessons through the long and short days and although tough, you came through the other side with something worthwhile to share a creation a message and you’ll never be on your own with something like that, something worth handing back.