The Distorting Memory of Place

Having pitched my three ideas to the group, idea 2 – Dreams – was without a doubt the winning concept. It was felt by my peers that exploring the notion of dreams and my memories of them, would give me full creative freedom to experiment in the style of surrealism. However at this point I had decided to combine all three ideas to allow me enough scope to produce a large body of work needed to create a book. That was the idea anyway!

I had already done significant research with a variety of printers/book makers and producing the type of book that would achieve the sentiment I was looking for wasn’t going to be cheap or quick to produce.

So I sat down and did my sums, adding up all the costs to produce a book and installation. It didn’t look pretty, without factoring in travel costs to scout and shoot at different locations or the price of different types of film, should I choose to shoot with this medium, I was looking at spending well over £800. There were areas where I could save money, for example making my own book would save me £350 but would cost me valuable time not to mention my inexperience in this area could lead to a poor quality end result. I could beg, steal and borrow other items such as a table and chairs but again this would only save a minimal amount of cash and could result in the use of something which didn’t quite fit my concept.

The cost wasn’t the only thing that put me off, time was most definitely not on my side and I’d planned to produce a minimum of 30 images for a small book, anything less and I was looking at producing a pamphlet. All three ideas incorporated places which would require different locations, days to organise, hours travelling and then there’s the editing. For the “dreams” idea I would be looking at creating surreal images requiring hours of editing and the possible need for models, costumes, MUA and props to create the images at the time of shooting.

In the end I decided to put the idea on hold, the installation and book would wait, put on the back burner for a later date when I have my own time to do it – you never know it might be a project which happens over a few years and ends in a solo exhibition. Watch this space!

I began to look back at my critical studies essay and the influential photographer that inspired me to write on the subject of photography and memory – Sally Mann. Mann has been a major influence in the way I have developed as an artist over the last two years. In some respects studying her has pulled me back to my roots, pulling me back to why I fell in love with photography in the first place. Although I have an eclectic love of art it is the things that are close to my heart that set my soul alight. When I look back at my life its never with regret, but I do mourn periods of it. It just reminds me that I’m getting older and those aspects of my life I know will never happen again, like the excitement I felt as a child in the lead up to Christmas or the lack of responsibilities and cares I had as a teenager or looking after my babies who are now on their way to becoming more independent. A similar sentiment shared by Mann she said in her book ‘Deep South’:

“Like Proust, we know love emerges from loss and becomes memory, and that memory informs and enriches art.”

Sally Mann

In fact it was her book ‘Deep South‘ that steered me in the direction I now follow for this project. Those that follow Mann know that she uses Wet Plate Collodion as the process for producing her images and it is just that, a process. Not a machine driven practice that comes with today’s DSLR’s.

Like Mann I want to explore the concept of memory of place, the way a place that is regularly visited changes over time and the way in which the memory of it becomes distorted. Looking at memory I am interested in the way in which photography has the ability to capture that but I will be looking at analogue processes for the ability to take on the imperfections during the shoot.

I will concentrate on one location that evokes the strongest and some of my most treasured memories of the area – Elan Valley, Rhayader.

Elan Valley
Canon 5D MkII EF 50mm f/1.4 lens 1/30 sec f/8 ISO 800


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