Meanwhile, in Poland …
1st – Coming back to Poland to carry on with a project gave me the opportunity to use the new FujiX100s that I’d got for myself. A little apprehensive about using digital; I’m more inclined to accept whatever comes off a roll of film than I am to start messing with digital settings and problems with overblown whites and little information in the dark areas. I was apprehensive.
Feels as though all the oxygen has been sucked out of the air; raped of breath, I drop to the sofa – tit circles of sweat in my t-shirt, I desperately try to find some coolness. The heat that develops in the days of a Polish summer is different to that of London; it wraps itself around you rather than aggressively burn and it doesn’t let you go until it’s ready to and there’s little escape from it. If the heat doesn’t get you then the flies will and if not them, mosquito’s advance. The flies here are different. They are not the pesky irritations of home; their passage and flight to you is of no erratic accident – they are truly on some bloodsucking egg planting mission to get to your body and they won’t stop their assault until they have succeeded in their mission or you have swatted, sprayed or stamped them all to death, or to the death with less of them, for you will never get them all – you simply eradicate them from a certain area for a small period of the time because such are their numbers, that they’ll always find a way in – they’ll always return and continue the assault. I’m a fat sweaty English man with fly-spray in one hand and a yellow swatter in the other and my breasts are wet. I look and feel pathetic. The family feel desperately bad for me and have got me a net to cover my bed. I cannot be more thankful – it was lovely to be able to flick as many of the flies from below and off the net between the shattered and fragmented yawns of exhaustion. I was well and truly back in Poland and all the insects came out in force to welcome my return.
The heat is close but the sun doesn’t pierce. I’m lathered up in arm and neck with a concoction of sprays and lotions that will protect me from the insects and the sun. When asked at dinner if I am allergic to anything … dust, heat, grass, pollen – hard work, is my answer. Pretty much everything on the farm. Google translate becomes a much needed friend at times. A sloppy lazy friend with bad English, but enough to get through the important words of a sentence that I want to get across.
I’m afforded the freedom to photograph anything and everything. I’m aware that I don’t photograph to a particular style or make things harsh and shocking. Put simply, I don’t add darkness to a photograph in the context of atmosphere. The masses love that shit, but it’s not for me. I photograph simply what I see, and that’s it. Having said that, I miss film though and although the Fuji is making a pretty decent effort of things, I long for the inconsistency and unknowing surprises that may lurk within a roll of celluloid. I find myself forever humming and hawing about digital and film – which to use, which one to stay with, which one to be the one that I make a constant. I loathe the indecision in me.
8th – Nice to be away from London. Window down. A drive along the unkempt country roads, arm out to feel the warm rush of air against it, thoughts turn sleepy until in the ruin of no more, save for the silent drone of the radio, of the road surface and out there I stretch toward a beautifully faded pastel sky, cradling the crisp clear disc of a Polish sun descending.
10th – The days are dropping fast. Too fast. Where did they go? In less than a week I’ll be back in London. Must escape the thought. Must. Dinner set at the table. A spread laid out for a days work in the fields – a concoction of meat and breads, juice and all manner of different cakes. I find myself only able to get by on that which I recognise. Bread slice, meat slice, cheese, mustard. It has become my Polish staple. Earlier I had another steak tartare that they have always made for me. I love the dish, but this time it’s produced certain odd and awkward moments of tummy rumbling and bathroom visits. I don’t feel ill, just a bit off, but my body seems to want to forever flush something out. I spend a lot of time on the toilet. I tell myself that a mosquito has laid something inside me. I wonder if something will surface a few weeks down the line when I’m on the tube back in London.
13th – I never used to hate flying. I used to love it. To Florida and Iceland – perfect, a real adventure and ride. But somewhere along the way a fear set in and it pretty much revolved around not wanting to die a slow and agonizing death from 30’000 feet. I pray relentlessly to St. Mary throughout the entire flight, often, said prayers being voiced out loud. I’m not religious but wonder if the right people can hear me.
Validation can only come from within, surely? Of God and of the success measured in our work. Only I can know if I have been successful in making well composed photographs, photographs that successfully capture the essence of what I have said they do, else, wouldn’t I be blind in my self-critique and always think that what I shoot is good? You have to be able to rip
yourself your work apart. It is my belief that I will always remain an amateur. I’d like to escape that, but I know for now at least, that my work is below par floating around forever in that area of mediocrity – it’s just not quite there yet, certainly that’s how I feel about it all and how I view my photographs – not quite there yet.. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m very comfortable with it.
20th – I have my own desperation’s, of course. They are personal and they are familiar. But when it comes to photography, there’s an ache that is ever-present, as it has been for other forms of artistic expression and endeavors – and I have a deep sense of need to seek it out and alleviate it and render it in a way that offers me contentment. I have often wondered and asked if we are ever truly content with what we produce, or will we continue to question ourselves, our product and motives behind everything, indefinitely. I only know I want and need to abandon and forget certain aspects of all this and dive into those situations and projects that I feel are of benefit to me and my progression.
I’ve recently seen some burst shots done at a high frame rate, a scenario before him. With that spray-and-pray situation, the photographer has managed to capture a pretty good juxtaposition and relationship between a few elements. The photograph has done well for itself, made the rounds, got the likes and the thumbs up. But when someone pretty much sprays to the extent that they might as well take video of a scenario and simply choose a frame within it that happens to work, the whole idea of street and of photography begins to fall apart for me.
Many things right now, are falling apart.
25th – There are certain events in London that I have down in the calendar to photograph. Last year I missed a few and told myself that because they’re an annual tradition, I’ll simply go to the next one – there was no real desperation or panic setting in if I missed one. However, I wasn’t going to go to this one today as I told myself the same – that it’ll be there next year – but then I realised that by doing so, would be to put it off for two years, and well, that’s just downright fucking lazy isn’t it.
I popped down to the event along London Bridge – slowly becoming my new favourite place to photograph when the sun is out – and soon found the people and the sheep I was after. It is the last of the events that I will attend this year for ‘Hope and Glory’. To be honest, I just wanted to see sheep walking along a bridge in London. It was very controlled though; everyone not in the drive had to stay behind barriers – local RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) inspectors making sure the animals were in good health and not in any mental anguish from being in the middle of London, on one of London’s busiest bridges. I’m sure they were fine with that. If I went into the countryside and asked a sheep where in the world would be a complete opposite to the lush, green, pleasant environment that they love so much, they’d say, ‘Bridge – definitely a bridge, in London, with traffic and people and pollution and people sticking camera’s in our faces, some with flash of course. Silly question. Who is this guy?’
Sit on the train. As mentioned in earlier posts, for about twenty-five years I’ve suffered with anxiety and some fucked up social phobia – doctor’s prognosis not mine – it’s an empty carriage to start, which makes me happy, but it’s London, and when do you ever see an empty carriage. It soon fills up. It soon becomes rammed, stacked and packed. Immediately I become rigid and every muscle in my body has tensed up. I plug in the earphones and put my music on loud. I grab my cap from my backpack and lower it so that I cannot see faces and those faces cannot see mine. I fold my arms and hunker down into the side and window and close my eyes and tell myself the carriage is empty and that I am tired and soon I will be home.
The only situation that I find myself being free of this is if I am with a camera and photographing something. I am free of all things. I am free of all the restraint and fear – I am so tuned in and focused on my thing, on my project, on my want to compose, that nothing beyond that in the moment, matters. It is the only time when out that I can find comfort and peace.
26th – I’ve now decided to come off social media. I don’t find it a good place for me to converse or indeed vent. It always ends up in such a mess. I need to rethink and consider what I am doing, what I want and what my motives are. I need to focus in on one thing and worry for little else. I need to escape and find some real purpose behind my life and my work.
30th – A little two page spread in the latest Amateur Photographer Magazine. They asked for the main shot so I had to re-scan the negative as the one scanned was for online display only and quite frankly, I’d messed up the original scan (I had no idea what I was doing – I rushed it) but this gave me the opportunity to do it properly and get it right. It’s not a shot I would have chosen for print and publication, but I am flattered that they liked it enough to request it. It’s my first time being asked to be included in a feature for a publication, and one that’s in print. I’m not sure if any of my tips will resonate and help anyone. I hope they do. I hope someone reads the issue and feels inspired enough to give this all a go.
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Chili Con Carne burns away slowly in the pan. Mine always burns. I cannot stop this from happening. No amount of Google searching for ways to stop it from happening, stop it from happening. The fan is on but the days have certainly changed and have become cool and fresh; the window slightly lower than a few weeks back to combat summer London heat. Soon they will shut completely and Autumn will quickly walk over to winter and hopefully I will have something started to get my teeth into – to put a stamp on plans to photograph something new for the coming year. I don’t particularly care to be a part of a group or community, I just want to better understand things, know better the people I study by looking at and deconstructing their work and lives; to better understand myself and my own aspirations and motives – what’s the end-game, if there be one at all; have I succeeded in creating and making a body of work that is true to the purpose and vision that I had set for it at the start. That ‘quest’, as it were, is for me to decide and to decide on if I have succeeded in it, and in some respects, that’s only found within. I guess only I will know if I have truly succeeded in it or failed. Deep down I know I have mostly failed.
It’s good to know.
I’m glad I know.
- To see the project from Poland, click here