Interrupting Flow

Our creative thinking – our creative heart –  is never static, it is continuously evolving. It works in partnership with our Eye. One of my favourite quotes is from Joseph Campbell, a US writer, author and mythologist. He wrote: ‘The eyes are the scouts of the heart‘.

Those eight short words distill a profound concept. The eye cannot see without an active beating heart, and an eye that has yet to find its focus can never communicate effectively with its heart.

But when our creative heart is alive and inspired by exposure to the work of fellow artists, and our Eye is sharp, then life gets interesting. No visual journey is ever straightforward, there is never a defined destination and periodically we go ‘off piste’ as a skier might say. We have projects, we explore ideas, we get side-tracked. We change course, temporarily.

I have two projects that are active, and that for the time being are interrupting my usual ‘flow’.

The top image is evidence of one project. My two favourite seasons are Spring and Autumn, and currently in the northern hemisphere it is now Autumn.  For me, the beauty of Autumn exists both in the broad sweep of a forest, and in an individual leaf, and if I had to choose what I prefer to photograph, it would be a single leaf. I agree with John Dunne, an English Poet (1572-1631) who wrote: ‘No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace, As I have seen in one autumnal face‘.

I had an idea to take a fallen leaf and bring it home and photograph it like a botanical specimen. For background I’ve chosen the kitchen floor. Every leaf or small fan of leaves is different. The markings, the colours, the decay are all different. I see the end product as a gallery of small images on an A3 print – maybe nine or so. All the same type of leaf  – Oak as in the two images above. A bit like the way Andy Warhol displayed his prints of Campbell Soups. So far I have about 50 images, mainly of Oak and Sycamore.

The other project is from my archive. As well as belonging to a local camera club, I also belong  to one at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. Recently we had one of our regular members’ meetings to which we bring images to discuss, and one of our members explained how he had ‘photographed’ his collection of transparencies. Not by scanning them, but by projecting them onto a screen (as we all used to do in the past) and photographing the projected images. The results were surprisingly good. I have already successfully photographed all my exhibition-sized B&W prints, and some of those have appeared here on this blog (click on Post by Category and then Print Archive in the Rt Sidebar to view some examples), but I had never thought of doing a somewhat similar thing with transparencies.

I have now dipped a toe in that particular project. I didn’t give myself an easy image to start with – the image below was taken 22 years ago from the summit of Mont Blanc. A day etched into my memory – I climbed it with my son, who was aged 17 at the time. A thrilling but quite daunting experience (we both got back down in one piece), and a very long day – leaving the hut at 0100 hrs and finally back in Chamonix at 1830 hrs. It’s only when you look back at a set of images that you spot the glaring gaps – we never got an image of the two of us on the summit! How stupid was that – I blame the altitude.

The sky is not as smooth as I would like it to be – although I have de-noised it and also added a little gaussian blur.  But I’m pleased enough with the results to want to continue.

Sunrise over the shoulder of Aig du Midi, from high on Mont Blanc.

I did a rough count through my archive – about 6,500 transparencies! No, I won’t be photographing them all, but the project has the potential to breathe new life into images of our children’s childhoods and of events and holidays stretching back to the early ’70s, and before then. And it will be so much faster than scanning them all. This project will be ongoing through this winter and in winters to come.

I’ll let you know how I get on with both these projects.

 

 

 

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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30 Responses to Interrupting Flow

  1. Chillbrook says:

    Two very interesting projects by the looks of things Andy. I love the oak leaves and how wonderful to have so many transparencies to go through. All those memories. I’m just so sad that I stopped taking pictures at the age of about 17 until just a few years ago. How I wish I’d bought that Canon Eos I saw in the window of a camera store in Tokyo. I could just about have afforded it on my bursary. The Japanese Department of Education, Monbusho, were very generous, I’d have some amazing photographs to look through now given the traveling I did around Japan. I’ve some pictures taken with a very cheap point and shoot but certainly not as many as I wished I had from that time. I will look forward to seeing the finished projects. 🙂

    • LensScaper says:

      Ah – yes, the ‘if onlys’ of our youth! I’m looking forward to working my way through nearly a thousand images from five weeks in the Himalayas in 1969. They have survived well although dust specks may be a problem. Kodachrome images remain true to colour but some other makes of transparencies have suffered significant colour shifts, particularly Agfa. I even have images from my father’s SLR in the late ’50s. This could be very time consuming!

  2. Zezee says:

    Really inspiring and I’m interested in your projects here. I too love autumn and agree that it’s beauty is seen widely in a forest or on a smaller scale in a leaf. Love your pics too.

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks for your comments and welcome to my blog. Leaf fall is happening fast at the moment and I am enjoying sifting through the leaves to find the ones worth photographing.

  3. Sue says:

    Goodness, those projects will keep you occupied!

  4. oneowner says:

    I love the leaf shots, Andy. My floors are not as nice as your so I think I’ll purchase a few floor tiles to use in my makeshift studio as backgrounds. The second idea I’ll steal from you is to shoot projected slides. I have several slide trays filled with photos ready to go. Nice work!

    • LensScaper says:

      Floor tiles would work well, although I am still wondering whether to shoot them on an outdoor paving slab in our garden. This project can be repeated next Autumn very easily – all the leaves are coming from my walk to fetch the daily newspaper so I don’t have far to travel for specimens. Shooting projected slides is easy to perform, but although I’m working in 16 bit the skies are often not as smooth as they should be. I’m shooting at ISO 1000 and using Topaz de-noise. I think I may try a lower ISO and a longer exposure with mirror lock-up. Might need to buy a remote control for shutter release. It’s a learning curve. It will be interesting to hear how you get on with this too, Ken.

  5. paula graham says:

    Super interesting. Will follow!

  6. alan frost says:

    I am a great fan of projects and these are entirely different but are both very appealing. I particularly like Autumn project. A selection of small images presented on a single sheet of photographic paper should work very well. I will follow this and the archival project with great interest.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Alan. I was out foraging for leaves earlier, the neighbours will be wondering what I am up to! Yes, projects are incentivising (is that a word?). But you know what I mean, and in the darker evenings ahead I won’t ever be at a loss to know what to do.

  7. Marvelous post, LensScaper; the creative heart is at the center of everything. And the Dunne and Campbell quotes are two favorites. I love your oak leaf images – I have discovered recently that I am more smitten with autumn than I realized, reflected by my treasure trove of saved images.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Lynn. I’m delighted I’m not the only one to have high regard for the Campbell quote. Such a short quote but so eloquent. I was out yesterday afternoon collecting more oak leaves, just a minute of walking from our house. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many acorns as there are this autumn – the squirrels won’t be short of nuts this winter. A lot are buried in our lawn and I’m sure there is one squirrel that is digging up someone else’s nuts and re-burying them for personal consumption!

  8. Those are two ambitious projects. May they and you thrive.

    In the lines from Donne, I assumed he was using face metaphorically to personify the seasons. When I looked up the poem, however, I found that he was referring to the actual face of an aging person. I found an analysis of the poem beginning on p. 74 of the article at

    http://www.myteacherpages.com/webpages/SKearney/files/449819.pdf

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for your comment, Steve. I think quite a few of us have assumed he was using ‘face’ metaphorically – certainly the writer of the article in which I read the quote for the first time. I wonder how many other quotations are taken out of context. Quite a few I imagine.

  9. bluebrightly says:

    It’s wonderful to read about other artist’s process. You write beautifully, and your introduction gives heft to the post. I’ve never heard that Campbell quote, it’s an interesting concept. The leaves project must be giving you a lot of pleasure and I look forward to seeing more. The floor background gives just the right amount of texture. The second project is – well, amazing. My father had so many transparencies – now they’re all with my brother, and I don’t think they will see the light of day. But I’ll keep this in mind, and again, I look forward to seeing more.

    • LensScaper says:

      I wasn’t sure about the floor as a background – still not entirely sure – but I’m going to stick with it for the this Autumn; there will be another opportunity next year to try something different. The transparency project is a trip down memory lane and a valuable one too. Transparencies don’t survive for ever and if the images are to be preserved for generations to come then something has to be done. It’s finding the time to do it all….

  10. shoreacres says:

    I’ve never been a great fan of Joseph Campbell, but there’s no questioning the wisdom in the words you quote. If the ability to see the world around us is a necessary precondition for any creative endeavor — and I believe it is — the first questions to be answered are, “How, then, do we learn to see?” and, “What does it mean, ‘to see’?”

    For me, the starting point always has been this line from Annie Dillard: “The lover can see, and the knowledgeable.” It suggests that both emotion and intellect inform a truly creative vision. The starting point doesn’t matter, but the eventual incorporation of both does, and both depend upon radical engagement with the subject at hand — whether a leaf on the floor, or an Alpine summit.

    You do engage wonderfully well, and both of your new projects will profit because of that. I’m eager to see how you develop them, and how you bring us into those quite different worlds.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thank you Linda. Two questions in your comment. ‘How do we learn to see?’ – I think the word ‘learn’ gives the wrong impression, suggesting a mechanical process. I prefer the word ‘cultivate’ – a word that implies nurturing, working and time. And then the second question – ‘What does it mean, to see’. How does one answer that simply? I would say that seeing amounts to a ‘heightened state of visual awareness’ that becomes a constant whether there is a camera in hand or not – the world has a new depth and detail and the eye is constantly searching and composing. The eye knows what to look for driven by our personalised creativity, but also it is raising questions, finding new visual ideas – both the scout and the explorer. Creativity and ‘Seeing’ are tightly interwoven, inextricably linked.

      • shoreacres says:

        Except that, for me, learning has nothing of the mechanical about it. it’s a process — and one that certainly does involve nurturing, working, and time. I’ve always thought of learning as a reciprocal relationship between experience and reflection: not a single curve, but an ever-deepening spiral.

        As for “seeing” itself, it’s so much more than visual awareness. I see things every day visually that never truly capture my attention: those that do are seen in a quite different way. It occurs to me that to truly “see” something, the “I” must be involved as much as the “eye.”

        In truth, both your way of talking about it and mine are metaphors, and both have value. It’s fun to think about these things.

        • LensScaper says:

          I think we have both demonstrated how difficult it is to explain a concept (and I think ‘seeing’ is a concept) Books have been written about creativity – The Widening Stream by David Ulrich for example) but we all still have to find our own way of ‘Seeing’. I don’t believe we can every say we have mastered it, there is no finite endpoint. Partly because creativity never stands still and our ‘Eye’ yes the “i” (the outward manifestation of creativity) shifts imperceptibly throughout our personal visual journey. Metaphors are the means by which we make sense of something that is conceptual as you so rightly say.

  11. Both are great and interesting projects. The latter, rephotographing old slides, I am sure will bring up a lot of good memories – and take some time, even if you aren’t going to rephotograph all 6500 slides. The autumn project, I really like. It’s a different take, simply because you have chosen the limitations for the project as you have. It will become quite a mosaic whenever you feel like you are done with it. You may have interrupted your usual flow, but you certainly seem to be in flow with these two projects.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Otto – projects, I find, can be very absorbing. I’ve spent the last week collecting leaves and photographing them back home. The simple act of searching for them sharpens one’s eye.

  12. Pingback: Oak Leaves | LensScaper

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