November 21, 2016


David Hockney is supposed to have advised artists feeling stumped for a subject to step into their own backyards. This Autumn I've needed no encouragement because the leaf-fall has been late and especially colourful. The picture above was taken only a few days ago; that is in mid November. I'm sure the combination of late greens and reds is unusual this year. Soon I'll have to stop admiring the colours and do something about the leaf fall though. The compost bin calls and my back twitches in uneasy anticipation.


Those of you who have seen previous blogs may be surprised to see a colour picture, such has been my apparent fixation with monochrome. I'm ambivalent about colour and photography. On the one hand I like the drama of colour - the way a colour photograph can get up and smack me in the eye. On the other I tend to be suspicious of the quick fix. All to often I find that the colour photograph palls while the black and white image stays with me longer - gets further under my skin. So, if I dream of photographs (it has been known!) they are monochrome images and if I dream of myself as a photographer I'm shooting monochrome.


Having written of this I paused and went back to print a monochrome version of this picture. It was certainly different and actually not as suited to the scene as the colour shot. I saw how the red path and the silver logs drew me into the scene. The leaves in the foreground seemed to be made more available by the colour - the red surfaces seemed within reach; and through some kind of related process my mind was made to think of our garden and its role in my sense of home. I was sucked into a little reverie.


The experiment provided no conclusive proof in favour of colours or monochrome. It did however make me think about what I was attempting when I shot landscapes. I was reminded that I was trying for a double immersion whereby the camera became an instrument for drawing me into the landscape and as a result the landscape was drawn inwards to change  me:


"Landscapes and nature are not there to be simply gazed at; no they press hard upon and into our bodies and minds, complexly affecting our moods, our sensibilities. They riddle us in two ways - both perplexing and perforating us" (Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways, p341)


The continuing question is whether photographs of landscapes can facilitate this kind of contact. Now there is an important sub question about how monochrome and colour differently shape this possibility. The experiment continues. 

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