Whilst I have struggled to focus and achieve any forward motion with CS and my BoW since the pandemic started to take hold, I have not been short of ideas and lines of possible enquiry. My challenge now is to sift, distil, channel and discard or develop my (metaphorically and literally) scattered thoughts. I am trying to settle on the right taxonomy of ‘buckets’ to make this process as productive as possible. I like to write by hand (I am a slow learner) but then get frustrated when I cannot do an instant Google search on my scribbles.
- a Leuchtturm1917 scribble ‘everyday’ notebook (A6, almost full) and a project folder in Todoist to capture all the random things that fly around my brain
- a Moleskine which I used to think of as my handwritten learning log but it is quite unstructured and is really somewhere to explore and develop any ideas that make the jump from the everyday book
- a bullet journal for broad research around photographic theory, concepts, themes, artists and photographers (I call this, rather grandly, my commonplace book)
- a bunch of A3 mindmaps which need to be amalgamated and more clearly connected to my research plans
- a ‘study’ book to keep notes around best practice in research, pro tips, guidance on literature reviews, general advice on CS
- a file folder (A4) for longer form notes on texts and key concepts
- a quote library in a Google sheet
- a reference library of photographers in the G-drive, with basic biographical info, links to key projects, genre and notes about what makes their work appealing and/or relevant to my practice and my research
- a sketchbook for visual notes
I don’t have …
- a reliable workflow to turn initial ideas/areas of interest in the everyday notebook & Todoist into an actionable plan to make headway
- a disciplined approach to documenting the flow my thinking and the processes I am going through to develop my work
- a physical scrapbook (Pinterest doesn’t always satisfy)
- a printer to ease the creation of a scrapbook or hard copies for my reflective space
- any spare time
So I need a plan. I will put ‘make a workflow plan’ at the top of my Task List.
I felt honoured to be mentioned in the Editor’s Note of the last edition of the student edge-zine. Catherine quoted from my notes, “The inside spills to the outside and takes root and the weeds of our heart grow everywhere.” I realise now that this is hauntological and seems more relevant than ever in lockdown. Mostly, I am proud of the wonderful collaborations between the other students in the Edge Collective.
Tutor Vicky MacKenzie’s Ten Ways of Looking at ‘Inside’ helped a few thoughts to coalesce. She mentioned a story from Chaim Potok’s novel The Gift of Asher Lev where a drawing of ram did not look too close to how a camera would have captured the animal but was exaggerated to emphasise the ram-ness of the ram. In the story this was explained as an ‘inside look at the ram’ aka an interpretation.
I have to remind myself as an artist to be more thoughtful about this and more analytical about my choices of subject matter, media and approach/execution. Maybe one day I will be able to answer the question of why I spent 25 years mastering my skills to be able to produce paintings that look like photographs and 40 years of experimenting with photography to end up in a place where I now want to make images that look like paintings.
MacKenzie says that the ram drawing is imbued with the artist’s own feelings and way of seeing. Something from the inside is now outside. I know this to be true but it doesn’t always resonate. Most of the time, I just feel like I am a collector/curator/publisher, capturing and keeping snapshots that have appealed to me and I share them in the hope that other people will see something they like too.
The third of Vicky MacKenzie’s ‘ways of looking’ refers to ‘Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo’ by Mary Douglas. This text suggests that what is regarded as dirt in any given society is anything that is considered to be ‘out of place’. This reminds me to consider the time being ‘out of joint’ idea – that is key to hauntology – phenomenologically. And also to use the cover gallery on The Philip K Dick Bookshelf as source material. I am fascinated in covers and the different styles for different countries and changes over the years.
The charge I got from the collaboration for the Inside edition mobilised me to “get the band back together” for this latest edition with a Connection theme, even though I was feeling very sludgy at the time. More on this when the zine has been published.
Nick Cave has written again about grief in his Red Hand Files in answer to the question of how to find peace despite agonising grief.
For us, grief became an attitude, a belief system, a doctrine — a conscious inhabiting of our vulnerable selves, protected and enriched by the absence of the one we loved and that we lost.
Susie’s grief has become part of her chemistry, it moves through her bloodstream like a force, and though she often inhabits the liminal space at the edge of dreams, she remains strong in her powerlessness and obstinately awed by the workings of the world. (Red Hand Files #95)
I think this is a powerful way to reframe the tidal experience of grieving – not to be a victim but to allow it in and to let it enrich us. Avery Gordon wrote that to live with spectres we need to engage the ghost “…as metaphor, as weapon, as salve, as a fundamental epistemology for living…” 
The paradoxical effect of losing a loved one is that their sudden absence can become a feverish comment on that which remains. That which remains rises in time from the dark with a burning physicality — a luminous super-presence — as we acquaint ourselves within this new and different world. In loss things – both animate and inanimate – take on an added intensity and meaning.
… alertness to the inner-spirit of things — this humming — comes from a hard-earned understanding of the impermanence of things and, indeed, our own impermanence. This lesson ultimately animates and illuminates our lives. We become witnesses to the thrilling emergency of the present — a series of exquisite and burning moments, each extinguished as the next arises. These magical moments are the bright jewels of loss to which we cling. (Red Hand Files #106)
I still cannot settle on my hypotheses for an EWP on Hauntology and Photography. I keep thinking I have worked it out and then it slips away from me. Fellow student Sarah-Jane very sensibly suggestion me getting Simon Glendinning’s Derrida: A Very Short Introduction, which is now sitting in my Urgent Reading pile. I am not giving up on Specters of Marx yet. I also, rather recklessly, purchased the graphic guide. Pictures always help. It seems like Hauntology should be more important than ever as I think about the futures we have lost because of the pandemic and the possibilities we could work towards.
Samuel James, a photographer based in Southern Ohio. ‘Into the Night Airs’ rich and lovely, simple images of fireflies. ‘Gathering light with time’. Interested in fragility and ephemerality but also capturing moments of hope and transcendence. Which led me to this gorgeousness: https://hyperallergic.com/116582/the-celestographs-august-strindbergs-alchemical-shots-of-the-night-sky/
Some Lockdown musings…
- Alec Soth: “The thing I’m trying to process now relates to the larger ethical meaning of being a photographer. I’m always conflicted about using people as fodder for my artistic pursuits. And this idea of traveling great distances, driving all over, using gas, flying places, and spreading things — is that really the best way to be in the world? That’s partly why I admire photographers who make work at home and teach us how to be observant of our own lives. What will it mean for me to be an ethical photographer in whatever new world comes out of this?” 
- A wonderful range of cover images here for Camus’ The Plague.
The wires in this particular image were used to make barbed wire fences. They’d been left in a bundle in the house. The issue of wires in my photographs is a very complicated one. Wires are very metaphoric in many ways. What do the wires actually mean? On one side they’re formalistic; the wires are used to tie the picture together. If you look at the work of the painter Miro there’s lots of little black lines. In his paintings we accept those as having abstract formal meaning. It’s the same with my wires. But because they’re photographs and because they’re taken as objects in the world they also mean something as objects. We have to somehow link those formal qualities with the meaning of the content to find our own meaning for the wires in these pictures.
My pictures aren’t just imitations of drawings and paintings they’re transformations. I’m taking those aspects of the reality in front of me and transforming them photographically to other means to create other realities that are beyond just the realities of that place.
Where does the photography start and where does it end? Well, what i feel is most important in all my pictures is that they always say something about photography. Photography is about catching a special moment, it’s about freezing time. It’s a way of telling you that no moment can ever be the same. If you look at this picture carefully you can see that special moment is when the cat looks down at the bear on the floor. If you look at the mattress you see fingers holding the mattress in all sorts of ways. That’s also about catching time and something that can’t be repeated.
All my photographs are an interaction between what people do in the spur of the moment. What you see is 1/500th of a second of reality. These pictures are taken at such a shutter speed that a bullet would be frozen in the air. So what you see is a figment of reality.
… people find it disturbing because they’re scared of looking at themselves and finding out who they are…
These photographs do speak about the shadow side, the underside of the human experience. Not the evil side, just the shadow side. The side we don’t want to be let open, the side we’re a bit scared to talk about.