Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is It Real, Or Is It Memorex?

What is that rumbling sound I hear up ahead. Oh dear, I do believe it could be the sound of another working week heading straight towards us. If you are reading this and you are getting yourself together for another week in the hamster wheel, then my commiserations. If you are more of the 'leisure class' then my congratulations to you - it must be very nice to be relaxing into another day. It's the only way to get up really. Just be sure you don't leave that light bulb on more than you have to.
Back in the late 70's there was a brand of cassette tape called Memorex. Their advertising tag-line was 'Is It Real, Or Is It Memorex'. I've always liked that line, because it implies that there might well be a lot more going on in the world other than what you are aware of. In their case, I did not particularly like their brand of cassette as they were prone to lose their oxide at the drop of a hat, however the line was enough to make me buy a couple of packs of tape just in case!
It has actually made me realise (now, roughly 30-odd years later) that the world can be viewed in a number of different ways. This is why I now find myself photographing reflections and shop signs, because there is an inherent air of unreality in these things. What is going on? Are these things living out secret little lives that no one knows about? As mad as that seems,in certain images, there is quite often an interesting juxtaposition of photographic elements that can, if you think hard enough about what you are seeing, create a story in your head.
Thinking about taking a photograph in this way can help enormously.
And it can come down to, are you a 'The world is my frame' or 'The frame is my world' sort of person?
There are really several ways of taking a photograph as far as I am concerned:
1./ A direct (and if you are lucky) passionate response to the world around you - masters like Wynn Bullock and Ansel Adams excelled at this. When I say passionate response I mean that though they might have recorded the ordinary, they have created an image in which you can clearly sense the extraordinary. Sounds stupid? It isn't. It is a deeply unfashionable way of making a photograph these days.
2./ A direct recording of the world. The world is as you see it in the frame. I was here. I saw this. I did this. I photographed this. That's it.
3./ The frame is YOUR world. I am the master of this world. I can create this. I can imply this. I can say something that might not necessarily be what you are seeing. Ralph Gibson does this perfectly. There is story and implicit double meaning in a lot of his work. I like that.
This is all getting rather heavy for a Monday morning isn't it, when all you want is a piece of toast and a cup of coffee.
All I am really trying to say is this: before you go out with your camera and snap away (or spray away if you are digital user and don't want the discipline of 1 frame per photograph) think before you take that photograph. Experiment a bit with an empty camera. Try and look at the world in a different way. Would this be improved if I moved in as close as possible? Would it be improved if I changed my point of view and knelt down, or conversely if I risked breaking my neck by jumping up onto that wall and looking down on the subject matter? What if I placed that figure at the extreme edge of frame and then didn't focus on them? What if I moved back slightly so that new element was in there too so that now it just doesn't look like a snap, but something that has been thought about?
Once you start moving outwith the bog standard 'you-stand-there-I'll-stand-here' mode of taking a photograph and actually start thinking about things before you press the shutter, you might well find an improvement in your photographs. You'll be able to say: "I know it's weird hon, but I like it."
I rather went on a ramble there. Sorry.
Oh, and your FB will probably be moving to a more occasional basis from today - when I say occasional, I mean probably a couple of times a week as I don't want to bore you too much.

The above was made with Rollei RPX 400 at EI 400 and developed in HC110 Dilution G. Camera was a Nikon F2 and the lens was the ubiquitous 35mm f2 Nikkor-O. It was a bleedin' freezing cold morning and everywhere I looked there was condensation.
"I know it's weird hon, but I like it."  

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