No one ever asks me why I take photographs, so I’m going to tell them.
In a moment.
Let’s leave aside the glamour, the quest for approval, the chance to accrue credit from the photogeneity of others; instead, and think about what is going on when I decide to take a photo spontaneously.
Well I reckon it’s a bit like why Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth make a hole in a rock they’re sculpting. That’s to do with
opening up the space in the 3 dimensional form for non-representational purposes.
(Nicholas Thornton, exhibition catalogue, ‘Moore, Hepworth, Nicholson: A gentle nest of artists in the 1930s’, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery )
Take a look at this photo by way of illustration:
This is a useful example because I haven’t, before now, rated it as something I would publish. So, you could say, it’s unsullied by any pretentions.
It’s a photo of a paper napkin on the table at one of my favourite cafes, Trojka
, in Primrose Hill.
We have some juxtapositions of form and line and tone. And, there’s no hiding it, in the middle there’s a big white triangle.
In some ways this is straight out of Moore from the late 1920s.. We have some pre-existing natural form: the growth rings in the table surface; together with an intervention by the artist: in this case, and not necessarily Moore-like, the placing of the napkin with the long edge aligned with the table, not quite on the edge.
When I took this I liked the very ability to arrange the napkin along the edge of the table, not quite on the edge. It expressed my creative freedom to use these elements and satisfied something obsessive compulsive in me.
I liked the fact that with this arrangement, the angular tip of the napkin funnelled out from near the central vortex of the growth rings in the table.
I detect a playful irony: the flexible paper napkin is all pointy and straight lines, manufactured from wood pulp. The table is polished and rigid but displays its natural origins and growth process.
Then sentient me comes along and makes out the juxtaposed co-existence of these two forms to be a big joke.
So, it’s all about me. And that’s just as it should be.
Executive summary: on the evidence of looking at one formal photo, to answer the unasked question ‘why do I take photographs?’ we uncover playful instincts at work. Just as we suspected all along.
Next steps: gather different evidence from other photos in attempt to uncover other motivations.
Objective: Write a manifesto that will give direction to my photography in the future.
- Having a manifesto is better than allowing me to be motivated simply by my instincts.
- A manifesto will have any effect.
- it is worthwhile attempting to reduce my complex motivations down to identifiable, conscious things – even if only because I might find these things interesting.