Brief: Find a subject you have empathy with and take a sequence of shots to explore the distance between you. Evaluate by whats in the frame, not by your preconceived ideas.
I started by struggling to think of an idea for this but eventually came up with two:
- books – and my relationship to them – I read constantly.
- the coast – sea and the pebbles that I grew up with.
The weather was very dull today and also cold so I started by exploring the theme of books. Our house is full of them, all types and in all stages of preservation. I tried various image ideas and eventually enlisted the aid of my son – who is also a bibliophile – and as long as there are words on the page will read it!
My original images were of the bookshelves, a general bookshelf, some of my photobooks and a closer up image.However I felt these were quite ‘cold’ and didn’t say much about any relationship between me and my books.
I then just picked two books and started to play around with photographing these, both together and separately. I didn’t like the image on the right as it felt much too staged, but the left hand one is often how my books end up when I get distracted while reading, yes, I know it is bad for the spine!
I then thought to experiment with someone reading, so tried a further series of poses, both from close and further away. When I went away to check the focus of the initial images my son had acquired a ‘helper’, we changed the book, for the amusement factor (a little corny’) of taking a photograph of reading a book about reading a photograph.
The problem with this set of images is that the mental distance between me and the subject increased again – so I went back for a further think and with much jumping up and down to refocus worked on some images of myself and a book. The image on the left is ‘marred’ by an accident of the sun, which had momentarily come out and reflected in the lens. The light on the book was, however, making it really easy to see the pictures, win or lose – picture versus practicality. I then moved place in the room and looked at close-up images and more distant ones.
The image I felt was most evocative at the end of it all was this one. I liked the way the blur from the flicking pages echoed my hair, which was exaggerated by the black and white conversion. A completely accidental mirroring, but it catches my relationship with books.
Having carried out and posted this exercise I came across a fascinating article in Photoworks 22 by Sara Knelman, where she talks about her collection of photographs of woman reading, ranging from early black and white images to more modern colour ones. She relates this to the work of Virginia Woolf in a ‘A Room of Ones Own’, and also comments on the considered male feeling the reading was an appropriate pastime for a woman, even though they might not understand what they were reading. She ends by pointing out ‘Part of the beauty and intrigue of these images, then, comes not from the things we can gain from visual cues but from wondering at the imperceptible imaginings of the readers’. (Knelman, 2017) If my family come across this image in the future will they wonder about my thoughts?
Knelman,S. (2017). Lady Readers. Photoworks, 22 pp.138-153