About two months ago, I was asked by a wonderful friend from my university course, Steph Singer, if I would like to take part in an exhibition evening that she was organising. Run by a company called BitterSuite (www.facebook.com/BitterSuiteUK & www.bittersuite.org.uk/) who are carrying out events to research the influence of music on different senses and creative processes and the such. From their website -
What happens when you see red colours whilst listening to romantic music? Or if you eat sweet foods whilst listening to joyful music?... Can one sense enhance the experience of the other - and how?
They mostly work with classical music, but it was in May that they decided to curate an evening of artwork inspired by a piece of dance music from the 90's, specifically this track.
Steph asked if I'd like to exhibit some photography for the evening, and if I could document my creative process to help contextualise the work in the theme of the evening.
So I did. And this is it.
It conjured up images in my mind of being driven back home in the early evening after a long day out in the nearest town to our village, or from a relative or friends house. Just about the right time of the evening when the local radio station would be starting to play their saturday-night-out preperation music. Not a fascinating image for most, but an extreme time-warp for me. It was this resounding nostalgic image that I looked towards for inspiration. An image that represented my own personal memories towards this music.
“EASY”, I thought to myself, but tried and tried as I could, I couldn’t sketch out an image that was strong enough to represent this specific distant nostalgic memory.
Which is when it dawned on me that it wasn’t a specific memory I should be trying to encapsulate in this image. I had made that trip to and from town in the passenger seat of my mother’s car hundreds of times.
This wasn’t about the actual trip in the car or the actual times I heard the song on the radio.
It was about the fact that this one song had brought this extremely specific yet at the same time non-specific distant memory to the forefront of my mind. I wanted to create an image that captured that intense distant feeling of nostalgia, not that actual specific nostalgic memory that I’d had.
I, as I’m sure everyone does (and if you don’t, you’re lying), occasionally suffer from severe nostalgia-attacks. Crippling thoughts that transport you back to another time, for better or for worse. Something as simple as a look on someone’s face, the smell of perfume, the colour of someone’s hair, a full moon in the sky, a red coat. Perfectly coincidental, random acts of chance that have that specific meaning to you and no one else.
It reminds me of a quote from a book or a film or song or SOMETHING because I can’t remember what. The author or whoever is referring to a woman who has just walked into a room, and states that “She carelessly wore her perfume.”
That is heavily badly paraphrased as I can find no reference of this quote on the internet and it’s probably from something ridiculous. ANYWAY I always read this with emphasis on her. “She carelessly wore ‘her’ perfume”. As if this new woman was wearing a perfume that reminded the speaker of another woman, an old flame perhaps. “Her”.
That might not be what was intended but I feel it sums up what I wanted to create perfectly.
The image needed to be something simple, slightly haunting and ethereal but by no means sad. We tried a few test shots with no movement and no light on her face, but the results came out looking slightly creepy, something out of a japanese horror film, but in vivid technicolour rather than in dirty monochrome. By using just one flash head as a spotlight and adding that small bit of movement, we managed to create so many interesting and curious forms and shapes, but it was this image where the light has just caught her face that added that extra element the image needed. The colour of the hair, the look of pure contentedness. All things that you could see on anyone in the street that would still ruin your brain for a split second because you saw that same look on ‘her’ face all those years ago.
In retrospect, this image ended up being nowhere near what I had originally thought it would be. And I like it even more because of that, because that is how the world works."
|The final image.|
Here are a handful of other images from the shoot. Words can't really describe how appreciative I am of my excellent friend Elisha for being so damn helpful and patient with me all the time. With pretty much anything I've ever asked her to give me a hand with. How much helpful is she? Too much helpful. That's how I'd describe her, in my terrible terrible words. This shoot was incredibly fun, I came out feeling really happy about the whole thing, and it was great to be playing around with one light to such a creative effect. And a seagull landed on my head at some point of the day, so it was a memorable day all round.