This post was supposed to be about Walker Evans’ Subway series, but I got diverted by a couple of Vimeo clips on Stephen Shore talking about his series Uncommon Places and American Surfaces. The clips are linked below.
I was particularly struck by three of his ideas. The first is the snapshot aesthetic and how he emphasised that by not matting and framing his images at the time, and instead pasting them onto the bare wall. He also mentioned that he felt that smaller images forced the viewer to pay attention to them, if they are interested, and that this opened a channel of communication between photographer and viewer, along the axis of time. I am not entirely sure what he means about the axis of time, but the channel of communication part makes sense to me.
In the American Surfaces clip, he talks at length about the idea of the unmediated experience, which was about “taking a screenshot of his field of vision” at a particular moment, recording whatever was in front of him and took his interest. He mentioned how being in the “right frame of mind” allowed him to see something interesting in ordinary everyday objects.
This all sounds very much like the idea between mindful photography, something regular readers will know I am interested in. That also speaks of the right frame of mind, which is calm and open to whatever image presents itself, as opposed to seeking out things to photograph. I strongly suspect that Shore was an influence on the movement.
A few weeks ago, I went to see my father in Scotland, and took a few hours to revisit my childhood home. I have a plan for a project which involves taking images of the places there that have a particular resonance to me and each of my four siblings. Although my father now lives about 10 miles away, one of my sisters, S, has moved back to the place, and my brother and his wife spend several months each year in a rented cottage there too. I briefly discussed the idea with S, and we made a list of some of the places that were meaningful to her. Some were the same as mine, but not all. This project is just beginning, but a short sample of locations are shown below. I was privileged to live in a beautiful part of Scotland, for which I am very grateful.
I cannot spend the time needed to really get into the project at present, so my work for this exercise will be around the place where I live right now, which is a village in Wiltshire. These days, my interest is more in the minutiae of my locations rather than the big picture. I am trying to practise Mindful Photography, and the type of thing that catches my attention tends to be fleeting and small.I am trying to capture some of the semi-abstract impressions of sight, sound and texture that I feel, which can be seen I particularly in nos. 4,5 6 and 9. They represent some of what I see on my daily dog walks around the village, and all were taken on a single afternoon. If I was going to do this project as a proper assignment, my plan would be to link all these images by a piece of string, and I would accompany it with a piece of soundscape of my footsteps, birdsong and water trickling down the stream.
These images all make me feel happy, which is a somewhat surprising reaction. I had not expected them to speak to me so clearly. I had set off with the idea of picking only semi-abstract subjects, but then realised that a) it would be impossible to get 12 images of this type from a single outing and b) my experience of the village is at all levels of scale, and this should be incorporated into the exercise. The order of the images correctly follows the path I took and begins and ends with my own garden. (No. 11 is not my house, by the way.) I like the limited palette of colours – mostly greens with flashes of red and white. It would be interesting to do the same exercise at different times of year to see how the colours changed.