RPS International Print Exhibition 2009

Finally, after three years of trying, I have had a pinhole photograph accepted into the highly-competitive Royal Photographic Society annual print exhibition. It has been an interesting process of entering and facing rejection for the work which I feel to be the most powerful I have produced whiist, at the same time, having my “snaps” accepted. I hope it doesn’t sound ungrateful or arrogant to say that I have felt dogged by relative success!

Thankfully, though, this time round I had my personal favourite image accepted out of the many thousands submitted from around the world for the 125 print touring exhibtion which opens in London on the 19th May.

Dream of Flight - Release

Dream of Flight live

Henry Blake played a fantastic set last night at the Blag Club in Ladbroke Grove. His thoughtful lyrics and melodic guitar playing made a beautiful complement to the pinhole photos projected behind the stage. I also got to meet some his fabulous, warm, creative friends. Now I’m looking forward to many more collaborations like this. Check out Henry at http://myspace.com/henryblaketunes

Henry Blake with pinhole photo 'Release'

Henry Blake with pinhole photo 'Clipped'

Dream of Flight on stage in London

London singer/songwriter Henry Blake is using my Dream of Flight series as artwork for his new CD “Songs for the Unknown” (due out imminently). He will be performing with eleven images (the complete series so far) back projected on the stage at the Blag Club, Ladbroke Grove, London, UK on Friday 14th November 2008. I am hoping to be there too so let me know if you can make it and I will look you up. Samples of his music can be heard on Henry’s MySpace page

Gig details below:

HENRY BLAKE performing at:
222 Kensal Road, London W10 5BN
8.30pm Friday 14th November 2008
Cost: £5.00

“The Songbirds”

Will Parfitt, the publisher of “Into The Further Reaches” has kindly given permission for me to quote the full text of Claudine Whiting Bloomfield’s wonderful poem. The anthology can be bought online from PS Avalon

“The Songbirds”

We are all wounded,
of course we are.
Were it not so
we would all fly
a fantastic fluttering,
and burn up
in a glorious blaze.

But something leadens our wings
and makes us adjust
and dip
away from the glorious sun…
an unexpected current,
a bent feather,
forgotten scar tissue.

And each morning,
despite ourselves
we rise again…
finding a current,
creating a current,
to take us skywards.

And each day we hear
horseshoes clattering on the road
worn a little more
and echoing less
then new again and humming
tin-sharp and quick in the air.

And each day the wind
plays her instruments differently
as the trees grow higher
and the branches bend
a new arc towards the earth.

And so I say,
as you preen your feathers
so straight and perfect,
it is the bent one
that keeps us here
where the symphony is playing.

Claudine Whiting Bloomfield

Making “Dream of flight”

I have had several requests in the f295.org pinhole photography forum to elaborate on the thought processes behind the creation of this series of photographs and also to show the setups used. Fortunately, along the way I have catalogued my methods photographically and so have some photographs to show the mechanics behind some of the images. There is nothing particularly complex about any of them.

The starting point for the series came about from poems and articles in Resurgence magazine and a book of poetry I bought based on a review in one of the issues “Into The Further Reaches” published by PS Avalon. This anthology contains many dozens of thought-provoking and inspiring contemporary poems celebrating the spiritual journey. One poem in particular by Claudine Whiting Bloomfield called “The Songbirds” led me over the course of several months to consider the parallels of flight and the quest for spiritual meaning and enlightenment. My reading of her work is that we hold ourselves back from true spiritual fulfillment with our attachment to the joys and sensuous delights of the physical plane, or as she describes it “here/ where the symphony is playing”.

My aim was to explore this parallel visually and show what I see as this ambiguity in our human outlook which pulls in two directions, both equally attractive. The use of pinhole with its characteristic unsharpness and tonal unpredictability helps I hope in gracing the work with a sensuous material presence to contrast with the ethereal spiritual impulse. The choice of background material (used horticultural fleece) also gives an almost tangible texture through the pinhole. The long exposures used – between 5 minutes and one hour – allowed the items within each set to be moved, removed and substituted to create different levels of transparency. Much experimentation was needed as the opacity of a displaced object would vary according to its tonal value relative to the background used and any other elements with which it might overlap.

I have used a number of symbols throughout the series; the egg is fairly obvious as a starting point or origin; the bird equally so; the candle should be taken as a symbol of the creator or the destination of the spiritually enlightened; Icarus as a symbol is intended not to be a literal comparison but rather a metaphor for the desire to escape and the ultimate failure which comes about when the physical exhilaration of flight overtakes the purpose of our being airborne; the fleece, as well as providing a tonal quality, was intended as an echo of a shroud or perhaps a white robe.

The physical setups of some of the images can be seen below. Beyond a few natural materials gathered mainly from the garden over the last few months and common workshop tools like woodworker’s clips there is little that many photographers would not possess. For me one of the joys of this whole process has been the production of often surprising results with very basic and common items.

Dream of flight – release
Release setup 1

Release setup 2

Release setup 3

Dream of flight – the breakthrough
The breakthrough setup

Dream of flight – soaring
Soaring setup

Dream of flight – clipped
Clipped setup