I’ve always been inspired to capture and reveal moments of beauty in my photography. This pursuit of beauty has brought with it wonderful opportunities to travel, to form friendships with equally-passionate photographers, and to embark upon a lifelong learning quest. More recently, I’ve become intrigued by the concept of creating this beauty rather than just capturing it.
In many ways, I compare my photographic development to embarking on a road trip! Initially, like many, I kept to the relative safety of the representational photographic “highway” with its more predictable, somewhat repetitive, less adventurous and often smoother journey.
However, it is the less-travelled alternative route, with its detours and intrinsic mystery, that I now find far more compelling. Travelling along this more abstract photographic path leads to journeys of discovery and unforeseen results. I can ponder, meander, and explore at a less-hurried pace.
Embracing more creative approaches to making photographs has also offered me the chance to artistically interpret, to suggest rather than simply depict, and to express ideas and sensitivities.
Whilst my desire to portray beauty will always be a guiding principle, perhaps this new direction will lead me towards creating images in a different way and with a different intention. Where it will take me and what I will learn along the way is unknown and exhilarating.
“The Intricacy of Loneliness”
Now it is Loneliness who comes at night
Instead of Sleep, to sit beside my bed.
Like a tired child I lie and wait her tread,
I watch her softly blowing out the light.
Motionless sitting, neither left or right
She turns, and weary, weary droops her head.
She, too, is old; she, too, has fought the fight.
So, with the laurel she is garlanded.
Through the sad dark the slowly ebbing tide
Breaks on a barren shore, unsatisfied.
A strange wind flows… then silence. I am fain
To turn to Loneliness, to take her hand,
Cling to her, waiting, till the barren land
Fills with the dreadful monotone of rain.
(14th October, 1888 – 9th January, 1923)
The Intricacy of Loneliness
Loneliness has been part of our relationships and our families, our homes and our workplaces, our communities and our societies for just about forever. The onset of COVID-19, however, has meant that more and more people have felt a heightened sense of loneliness due to the restrictions that have been imposed in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. There are those who enjoy the luxury of space and gardens and views beyond the walls of their homes. Some are also fortunate to have partners and families with whom to share their lives. Sadly, however, there are those who live alone within tiny, enclosed spaces with little to inspire or distract them from their sense of aloneness. There are others, too, who spend their lives surrounded by people and yet feel a deep sense of isolation and disconnection.
As part of my “Cultivating Creativity” course with Valda Bailey and Doug Chinnery, I have chosen to explore this emotion of loneliness. Unlike other emotions, such as joy or happiness which are overt, more obvious and easily identifiable, loneliness is much more obscure, ambiguous, concealed, more elusive, sombre and abstract. Loneliness is an emotion that is harder to define and more challenging to grasp, and it has a subtlety that suggests that something is missing. It is these qualities that I have tried to reveal in my finished works.
For the past year or so, I have been experimenting with the traditional photographic process of cyanotype, specifically wet cyanotype. I love the unpredictability of making cyanotypes and the fact that the end result is largely out of one’s control. For this project, I wanted to explore the combination of this traditional photographic process with our more current techniques, to fuse this alternative process with more contemporary practices.
I chose to create a series of original cyanotypes, working for the first time with single feathers. Feathers are indeed precious objects which can also provoke a sense of ethereal melancholy. It is always so special to discover an exquisite feather and, for me, they hold a particular intrigue.
Following the creation of the cyanotype and after the print was exposed and washed, I photographed the print using a range of different camera techniques. What followed then was a whole new digression into the world of post-processing in an effort to portray loneliness as the delicately complex but understated emotion that it is.
In my portfolio of nine images, each different feather represents an individual, with all of their idiosyncrasies, and each different image offers a window into how loneliness can be interpreted. Some individuals may experience anguish; others may suffer anxiety, sorrow, or distress. Some may feel a wistful longing whilst others may struggle in torment.
Loneliness can be manifested in so many distinct and diverse ways and sometimes it can disguise itself completely.
It is said that the company of others brings “colour” into our lives. Without that company, those who experience loneliness can sense a lack of colour and, for this reason, I have deliberately limited the colour palette for this portfolio. I am hopeful that these more muted colours will allow the work to more effectively portray the sense that loneliness, in essence, is all about absence.
My sincere thanks to “Down Like Silver” songwriters, Caitlin Elizabeth Canty and Peter Bradley Adams, for their poignant song, Broken Coastline, and its moving lyrics from which I have drawn my image titles.