I’ve started to revisit the beekeepers book again, and moving to the second ‘layout’ on route to the final publication. There is some anxiety associated with getting my head back into the body of work with feelings of just how much of a whirlwind my final year of study was. Talking of which, I’ve also made contact with some of the beekeepers again to capture more images that I feel are missing from the series.
What has really started to excite me again and inspire me to create more work, is my budding photography book collection. During my studies I slowly started to collect photography books, and they helped me to explore the process of other artists better, as finding such information online was, and continues to be problematic. An artists published work is also offered exactly how they intend for us to consume it, and often flicking through the pages offer a unique experience. There is nothing quite like a big well printed photography book!
As i’ve mentioned before (many times?) – while I researched many photographers and their work during my degree, Alec Soth continues to stand out for me. I guess I’m a bit of a fan boy! I related to his story in someway in that he chipped away as a fine art photographer for a decade before he really found traction during the making of ‘Sleeping by the Missisipi’. It’s always good to reinforce that making art is a journey and like everything worth investing in, it takes time. Soth’s approach really fascinated me whereby he followed one lead to another in a chain of events, that ended up being the backbone process of the Sleeping by the Missisipi”s diverse and kooky narrative. His approach to image making was similarly applied to how I made the body of work with the beekeepers. Within a tightly guarded community, I migrated towards the referrals and reccomendations of other keepers. It worked really well, and I’m still so grateful for the warmth and openness that I found, that enabled me to document such a tight-knit community.
This week I captured some fresh portraits for another series, that signalled the end of my downtime, and while it felt exciting once again to behind the camera, I also felt very rusty. Sadly the images were not even close to being in focus once developed and scanned, and my anxiety blew out of control thinking it was user error.
While wasting 4 rolls of coloured film and developer to get to this point is frustrating (and expensive!)- at least it’s not my eyes or technique. The portrait was of James, a Christchurch florist, in his colourful shop and amazing yard where he grows a lot of food. We tried twice and failed. Third time lucky I guess? It could have been worse…. I could have driven out to the mountains to capture images of working beekeepers, that I can’t re-create. I think I may have dropped the camera or it rolled around in my van own it’s tripod- so maybe the issues started then. It is now fixed and something to keep an eye on.
If I was to reflect on my current and budding process, it actually took more than a decade including 4.5 years of study, for me to get to this point with my work. While I’m always hungry and motivated to make new work and develop more series, I’m also at some kind of peace too. Having explored the ‘why’ for so long now, I feel a shift in energy towards a successful formula for research and image making with more confidence. Allowing myself to be as vulnerable as the subject with the setup and approach I employ on location allows a unique connection, and my own style. It’s been a bit of a journey of self discovery I guess to get to a stage where inviting the subject to simply ‘be’ and I capture them, is as complicated as it gets. It feels right and a case of ‘it’s been under my nose the while time’ if I was to be honest. I just needed to trust the process and build the courage to photograph strangers. Similar to my commercial work, I now feel I have a solid process that yields images I’m stoked with, and I’m happy with that. Right now it’s enough. Right now I’m enough.
I adore the work of Alex Soth, Duane Michals, August Sander, Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus, who in my mind also have a drive to simply connect with their subjects in an authentic way and capture that moment. Flicking through their books continues to enforce and inspire me towards- that documenting people and their lives is still as important in 2022 than it ever was and I’m truly hooked. I can’t wait to invest more energy into sharing my art through my preferred medium too- publications.
Anyway, here is another random collection of images that document the past few months. Is there a theme? Not really, but it’s always nice to head out with the camera(s) and experiment with long exposures and panoramas too.