I have just received and subsequently dropped off a print to be framed, and while I was there talking about the idea behind the shot to the framer it dawned on me that actually it might make quite an interesting blog.
Last year I was looking for a project to get my teeth into, something to display at Stephen Bartels Gallery. Everything was leaning towards Architecture as it always does, I cannot help it, I'm just drawn to buildings! Pre owning a 4x5 I had been watching alot of architectural documentaries, this was all brought on due in part to visiting LA and a photographer that shot alot of it, Mr Julius Shulman.
Shulman shot on a 4x5 'technical' camera which got me thinking, researching and then buying. The first idea was to do a simple B&W 'study' on Brutalism to get used to operating the new movements/camera size. During shooting I met a free runner and I asked him to back flip in the shot to add something other than concrete to the image. This then sparked an idea to introduce people into the scenes, people that use these buildings to do sport or who work in and around them. It would be about functionality within architecture.
I took a few shots (16), sent them off, and they came back destroyed. But it was a blessing in disguise, this led me to going back to developing at home and then sending off the negs to be scanned. I did a couple of test shots, developed them and sent them to a different lab to be scanned, and this worked out quite well, although still costly...
The photos at this point were ok, but nothing special, there was no story/narrative/progression, just photos of a building, albeit a pretty one! Feeling a bit frustrated, I put the whole idea on the back burner and continued to shoot with my medium format camera. In this time I decided that I should stick to colour, it is what I prefer, also I decided to ditch the labs altogether, it was working out too expensive and with the availability of Tetenal colour developing kits, it was now also possible to retain full control of my images. Any errors would be mine and not due to someone else along the line.
A month or so ago I picked the 4x5 back up, bought some colour film and started to work at the idea again. This is when I discovered the instant 4x5 film, which then turned into the "One Shot. One Print. One Owner" project. That success has allowed me to buy my own scanner, dabble more freely with techniques and keep everything in house, and that takes us up to this month (March 2015).
There has been two main influences to how I have gotten to the point of being happy in what is now happening, a famous photographer and artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and a less than famous (all in good time) photographer I follow on Twitter called Jon Wilkening (his Twitter here). Sugimoto, shot an architectural project with a Large Format camera where he made images out of focus, or as he calls it "twice infinity". In these the buildings outline stays the same, but they become softer to the eye! Jon on the other hand produces ethereal pin hole images, often with movement/people passing through the frame. I admire both photographers, their work and experimental techniques and with these guys work lingering in the back of my mind, I went out, took the shackles off and experimented also.
I picked up some expired film off ebay (intially because it is cheaper), and this would later be cross processed in the 'wrong' chemicals (it happened by accident!) which enhances the otherworldly look, it also makes things a little more hit and miss (even more so than normal)! I set about trying different ideas such as dropping the focal plane or moving the bellows during exposure and eventually settled on a techinque where I play with the 4x5s rail movements to throw everything out.
They havent all worked:
Alot of the time in photography it's all about being pixel perfect, flawless and edited within an inch of its life, and while there's no doubt some superb work out there, it is usually the work thats slightly off beat that actually gets me involved or wanting to buy a print (like I did with Jon).
In theory I want to soften the outside (or shoot it out of focus), and blow the lights/colours of the life inside/around the building, this has become "The Lights Within" a project about light pollution in our cities. Hopefully from a distance the print will look 'in focus' and from close up it will be completly 'imperfect'. To add to this imperfect nature I have also decided to leave on the scan edges where the colour 'bleeds' (another thing that happened by accident), I just feel it 'works' better. No doubt this project will be marmite, you will 'get it' or find it disgusting. I'm alright with that, as long as I'm challenging myself and pushing my work.
This is where I am and how I got here, I guess its been about 6 months in the making with many different routes, influences and interpretations. Projects, they do not often work straight off the bat despite how many postings you see on Social Media giving the false impression that they do. It can be frustrating, long and tiresome. The key is not to give up, and do not fret about looking and being influenced by others (I see people worry about this a lot)....take it in, give it a go, run with it.
And to end this, in the words of my framer:
"Who knew it would be so hard to take an out of focus photograph?"
**some example shots below**