Picture this: A rainy Sunday afternoon, a train ticket, a camera, several rolls of film and an idea that might sound rather strange, but deeply inspired by some thoughts on photography – Just another normal day in the life of Lisa.
Well, lend me your eyes and ears:
I use the medium of photography to engage with my world, capture and record memories and inspirations, but photography isn’t just a tool to me. I rarely leave my house without a camera and I’m extremely happy when I’m out shooting film. I can spend hours snapping away – time flies when you’re having fun – and, understandably, I have played on my friends’ patience when they are with me whilst shooting. But hey, I’m sure you’ll have similar experience – Camera Nerds Unite!
Put simply, photography excites me, my cameras encourage me – the experimental marriage of expired film and plastic lenses thrills me. The new found process of waiting for a pinhole picture to appear motivates me – I’m hooked on analogue image making and all of its infinite possibilities.
Waiting inspires and intrigues me, I want to know more, to understand what waiting really means. So one thought leads to another and I’m knee-deep in thinking: Can photography be inspired by waiting? How can waiting enable analogue image making to happen? Do I have to be able to see the image I am waiting for? Do I need to be able to see to use photography?
‘Only one way to find out’, I thought. ‘I need to get outside and shoot!’
And so I packed my camera, some film, and with someone I truly trusted, we went out. My destination: a return trip to the next village via a five minute train ride. My goal: take some photographs documenting my travel. The twist: head out without reliance on vision, going and shooting blind.
I am potentially touching on sensitive ground here, and I am aware that any language used to describe disabilities (in all its definitions and senses) is understandably politically charged. Understandings, conventions and language vary from culture to culture and country to county, so please forgive my somewhat childlike ignorance. I want to learn more and engage with anyone who is interested in sharing experience relating to the material discussed here, so please do get in touch with Lisa at touchingwetpaint.com .
I returned home after about two hours, rather exhausted, but very happy and inspired to explore this area of photography more. My mind was racing as I developed my film:
Do I need to be able to see what I want to shoot? Well, seeing your photograph before you press the shutter happens almost automatically, doesn’t it? You either see something you’re drawn towards and you snap it, or you have an idea in your head of what you want to shoot – a mental picture. Sometimes, it’s a combination of both approaches. So I guess, we can answer the question with a ‘yes.’ However, is the mental picture you have in your head as valid as the actual printed image? Is the idea as effective as the real scene you want to replicate onto two-dimensions? Or is it the other way around? Can a flat image do justice to a three-dimensional idea or world, or are we effectively missing out aspects of the bigger picture? Have we put too much emphasis on the visual and are possibly ignoring other senses?
Whilst pondering such concepts and waiting for my film to dry, I came across Evgen Bavčar and something he wrote that I will never forget:
“I know there are always things that escape me, but that’s true of photographers who can physically see. My images are fragile; I’ve never seen them, but I know they exist, and some of them have touched me deeply.”
These words are haunting ever since I read them, and I am incapable of expressing how much these words have touched me. My images are fragile – such a lasting impression. I am unable to put my thoughts into words… I’ve tried to understand how a blind photographer works, how one takes pictures…and then I stop. All I know is I want to be able to experience those emotions, I want to see my world this way… but I won’t be able to. I am visually impaired by the fact that I can actually see my world. When I go out with my camera, I see the photo opportunities ahead of me, I can approach a subject and engage with such, I see it – I snap it, I move on.
I won’t be able to experience my photography without sight, at least for now. As long as I can see, I will have to justify my images, in relation to the actual physical representation they are showing, imitating and recording. Are they doing the world justice? I can have my ideas and notions about how I want my image to be, but I am still relying on tools such as my camera, the light, my choice of film and the developing chemicals I choose. I am relying on tools to create my images.
An idea exists in your mind – it’s strong and three-dimensional, it’s vague and it’s two-dimensional, it’s vivid and nebulous, it’s flat and has volume at the same time. When acted on, they become something physical, materialized concepts. Dare I use those educationally-charged dreaded words, it’s the intangible made tangible. (Ohh, I do need to wash my mouth out now…Anyone got some soap?!)
The images you see here are part of the results of my journey into darkness. I feel slightly uncomfortable using those terms – I don’t understand them, I wish I could, and using words I don’t fully comprehend leaves me feeling itchy.
I used my Canon SLR with my Diana lens and shot four rolls of expired color film. I chose my kit based on the fact that it is the only analogue camera I own, that automatically advances the film. I wanted to use my Holga, but then realized that, once again, I’ve run out of medium format film and shooting sprockets isn’t the easiest operation even with vision, so the Canon it was.
Best choice? No, not at all – I don’t trust the camera enough. I am confident in using it, loading it and carrying it, but we’re not yet on the same page. And believe me, trust is something very important if you’re walking along a busy main road or trying to get on and off trains, all with your eyes closed. However, I’ve already decided that my next journeys will see my Holga and Mamiya, simply because I trust the cameras, so I’ll just file my trip under ‘experimentation’ and move on.
How do you take your pictures? Have you ever really thought about it? Have you ever tried to follow your inner vision and stopped using your eyes to compose the perfect frame?
I am just starting to appreciate this topic and all its areas of investigation, but I’m already obsessed by it – the good kind of obsession though, the warm-cookies-before-bedtime or taking-your-Holga-everywhere kind of obsession – so nothing to worry about for now anyway.
I haven’t shot my masterpiece yet, so will head out again, but not so much to take the perfect picture, but to slowly learn to take photography without using and relying on my eyes. I want to be able to wait for my surroundings to inspire me. I want to wait for the perfect moment. I don’t want to skip ahead, be too fast for myself to catch up. This journey was only the first step into my explorations and I intend to carry on and feed my curiosity and interest as much as I can.