On Photography And Conscience
I may have done something terrible. Since I am a second-born child however I am largely unburdened by conscience and so don’t really mind owning up to it.
(Point of Information: it is generally accepted by psychologists, I understand, that conscience in first-born children develops earlier and more pronouncedly than in second-borns. My source for this is Mrs Barker – who studied psychology to degree level and based her final year dissertation on this very topic. You have to admit that makes her a pretty impressive authority. Since she is an elder child however and I am a younger one you can see how the argument might be deployed in her favour….. though of course she would never do that.)
My conscience is clear, then, but I must confide in my blog, nonetheless, just as the heartless villain in a gothic horror story must scratch out a confession to their diary……
My series of photographs, Working Hands, as keen readers of this blog may remember, was exhibited recently at Beverley Treasure House. In colour. The first few images in the series had been exhibited there before as part of an annual competition. Although I had shot them in colour I exhibited them on that earlier occasion in monochrome because I preferred them that way. When it came to pursuing the series, a couple of the next set looked very fine in colour: these were of Liz The Baker and Annabel The Milliner. My head was turned, I am afraid, and I abandoned the monochrome option and pursued the series in colour from then.
Just before the exhibition opened I had the chance for a free portfolio review (a short interview where someone of experience comments on a series of your images). Just before I went in I was showing Working Hands to someone else whose opinion I value and she said that they looked as if each image had been taken by a different photographer. The actual reviewer said they all looked the same (- and not in a good way….!). I had to admit that I thought the first opinion was closer to the mark.
A few days ago all this came back to me. I decided to go back to the series and convert it all into monochrome to see if I get them to look more like a visual series. This is terrible because it stands the photographic process on its head. You see a photograph in a certain way – you visualise it – when you take it. You shouldn’t really go messing so fundamentally with it after the event. BUT - you can see the results here (or just by going to the Photographs page of this website) and in the two photos above and below. I think the series is way better now. The distractions of colour have disappeared and the subject is clearer. I even managed to get a satisfactory sequence because posture and gesture stand out more. I wish I had done this for the exhibition now.
When I was training as a lawyer it was once said to me that you really want to be making your first court appearance somewhere like Carlisle County Court rather than the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand. That way, you can make all your embarrassing mistakes in relative anonymity. That’s kind of how I felt about my first solo exhibition – you really don’t want it at the National Portrait Gallery, for example. I am deeply grateful to the Treasure House for their help, support, expertise and finance – but also for the chance to make my mistake in relative privacy.
I’ve learnt my lesson though: never let your conscience get in the way of your art!