Remembering the past to discover the future

Rediscovering my mojo

Facebook does Memories. Depending on my activity in previous years Facebook will remind me that one year ago I did this or five years ago I did that. Generally I don’t share these memories but I like to be reminded of them and am sometimes surprised at how long it has been since the depicted memorable occasion.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been reminded of photographic exploits and activities that I’ve found helpful in my present situation of coming to terms with retirement and in determining the direction I might take in my present photographic endeavours.

Three years ago I led a pinhole camera workshop. I’d volunteered in response to a request from the project leader of an organisation to a photographic club of which I was a member. I made plans for a two-day weekend workshop, starting with an explanation of how pinholes work through making pinhole cameras from recycled household containers to making images and developing prints. Unfortunately due to having to change venue the workshop had to be condensed into a single four-hour session! It took a lot more planning but we did it and had a great time in the process.

Just one year ago I was experimenting with what I called ‘timescapes’, moving a pinhole camera through the landscape during the exposure. The results, as is often the case with experimental work, were not quite what I was expecting yet held an appeal that I have yet to follow up on.

What those two Facebook Memories reminded me of was the period of time over which pinhole has been the focus of my photographic interest: I’ve been making pinhole cameras and images for nearly seven years! Reflecting on this, I realise that my subject matter has been quite consistently that of time expressed in the motion that a pinhole exposure renders in an interestingly and somewhat abstract, blurred fashion.

Right now I feel I am at a cross-roads and in need of some direction. Perhaps it’s a seven-year itch! Yet I still want to capture the motion of time passing, of time itself. For years I’ve used the motion of flowing water, of the movement of clouds in the sky and of plants and branches in the breeze to depict time. More recently I have discovered the expression of time in solid rock formed under geological forces over millennia and in tree trunks formed over decades and centuries as the tree has responded to changing light and seasons.

I see time too in human faces yet photographic portraiture is a genre that has never appealed to me. A portrait that has been drawn or painted resonates with me far more than does a photograph. Unfortunately I neither draw nor paint but I wonder whether there is some way to combine a photographic image with a drawing or painting, blurring the division between these arts to create some impressionistic time portrait. It’s something to be thinking about.

In reflecting on these ideas I may also have hit upon one of the factors at play in my adaptation to retired life. I worked in a seaside town, commuting daily forty or so miles each way. Each day I would find time to walk by the shore, usually during whatever lunch break I could take or either before or after the working day. I would escape from the noise and busy-ness of the day in the sound of the waves on the beach or against the rocks. I would often have a camera (not always of the pinhole variety!) with me and would instinctively make pleasing images that somehow matched the mood I would find myself in. Facebook, once again provided a memory, this from five years ago:

Now retired and living a long way from the shore, I realise that I am missing that communion with the sea and the world into which it transported me. Finding a way to return to it or to recreate it is also something to be thinking about.

Opening my inbox this morning has perhaps shown me a way forward Among the exhibitions listed in a regular email was one that immediately grabbed my interest. It has inspirational promise. A meeting is now arranged, a visit planned and my train ticket booked.

Let new adventures begin!