IN PRAISE of SHADOWS
5th June 2020
IN PRAISE of SHADOWS was an abstract photographic project undertaken during a Bailey Chinnery Photography Workshop called CULTIVATING CREATIVITY (https://www.baileychinnery.com).
During an elapsed time of four weeks, participants were required to choose from four themes, interpret the chosen theme in their own style and image and create an "Artist" and "Project" Statement" and a portfolio of images consistent with the chosen theme.
I took inspiration from my fondness of Japan and the content of this Blog Post illustrates the "Artist Statement", the "Project Statement" and the eight image portfolio created during the four weeks.
Cumbria, the Lake District National Park, was my home for the first 20 years of my life.
My weekends were spent exploring and walking the countryside with my father, and it’s to him I owe my love of nature and being outdoors.
We had the best of all worlds including the coast, the mountains and the lakes.
Like many photographers, my photography began with the wider landscape, but I am increasingly drawn to less obvious landscapes and look for detail in patterns, colour, light and shade. My aesthetic is painterly and abstract using various in-camera techniques such as Multiple Exposure and Intentional Camera Movement to alter the shape, colour and mood to celebrate the beauty around us.
Using these techniques, I try to look beyond the obvious and enhance my creativity by eliminating preconceived ideas about how the image will be rendered.
Increasingly, I search for subtle nuances of light, colour and shade to better appreciate the detail of the frequently overlooked.
My overall objective is to evoke a sense of tranquillity and harmony that is deeply satisfying to both myself and the viewer.
‘Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty’ (from the book, ‘In Praise of Shadows’ by Junichiro Tanizaki)
Japan is a fascinating country and its’ culture and people have increasingly become a focus for my photography. The Japanese empathy and respect for all things appeal to my senses but it is the thoughts behind the traditions that I find most intriguing and which create an excitement to discover more.
I bought ‘In Praise of Shadows’ before my first visit to Japan about five years ago and have to confess that it remained unfinished until a few weeks ago when I gave it the time it deserved. All of a sudden it made perfect sense, I was enthralled and my choice of project was made.
The first challenge was how best to interpret the meaning of the book through my photography. My mind went back to my first visit to Japan five years ago and one of my lasting memories was walking the Nakasendo trail, which dates back from the Edo period and is part of feudal Japan’s network of highways.
After walking through the mountains, a little tired and thirsty, I came across an ancient tea house, hundreds of years old. A very elderly man was offering tea and refreshments to all the travellers passing by. There was no charge for the refreshments and he welcomed everyone into his ancient home.
The interior was huge, very dark and full of smoke from an open fire in the centre of the room. Sun beams were thrown into the room from windows high in the walls. The serene, calm beauty of the interior and my host were unforgettable and became the inspiration for an embryonic project to be undertaken from the comfort of my home during lockdown.
My home is full of light with very few shadows and therefore created an interesting challenge to convert the concept of the book “In Praise of Shadows” and marry it to my memories of the Japanese Tea House.
However, further inspiration came from a trip to Greenland last year. I had no preconceived ideas how I would approach the photography of huge icebergs, but all became clear once I was in a Zodiac beside these magnificent forms of nature.
Thousands of years of nature were literally compressed into icebergs whose shape, form and texture were emphasised by the changing light and shade and I realised that I had an example of what could be possible if I chose an appropriate subject for my evolving project.
I chose a black bronze statue which I’ve had for many years is covered in dust and also a black mount board as background in order to create beauty out of darkness. The images were created by using a varied and continually changing combination of in-camera multiple exposures, changes in blending modes and white balance.
The options were many and the results surprised me, not least the appearance of gold which sparkles in the dark, giving light and depth where I thought there was only darkness.
Tanizaki says ‘Such is our way of thinking – we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another gives’.