Shape of Light

I recently went to London for a consultation with the eminent throat surgeon Guri Sandhu. I am fortunate to get to see this leader in Larynx reconstruction and even more fortunate to be supported on the visit by my girlfriend. Whilst we were there we stayed an extra night and took in a few sights, including the fascinating abstract art and photography exhibition Shape of Light at the Tate Modern.

For those of you with a curiosity about how we can shape light to create photographs where the subject is secondary and the interest is in how the shapes, lines, tones and patterns might make us feel, this exhibition is a must. It explores 100 years of photography and abstract art looking at those who have transformed reality, or have used photographic materials to create images with little obvious reference to the real world.

“Shape of Light reveals photography’s role in a wider history of abstraction……Throughout the exhibition key paintings and sculptures reveal the changing relationship between photography and abstract art.” (Tate Modern). The exhibition is on until 14th October 2018.

Here are a few of my photos taken at the Tate Modern inspired by the experience.

 

 

,

Who Am I Now Course – Week 6

This week we built upon our discussions about loss and change. Specifically we focused on fear and how this emotion causes  physiological changes in our bodies. If you would like to read all about this here’s a link to my post on the topic.

One of the key features of fear is that it causes the body to release a cocktail of chemicals that get us ready to fight or flight. The problem with our modern world is that some of the stressful events that cause this physiological change do not require us to run away or fight, but instead to respond skillfully, instead of in our normal habitual way.

The challenge is that we are often unable to access the logic and reason we require – our limbic system (the oldest part of our brain) has kind of hijacked our mind to enable the fight/flight action without interference. So the key question is how can we keep calm and develop the ability for clear thinking in a crisis?

What we need to do is to “redirect our attention in ways that build some of our strengths in what we love, so that we can be with our fear”. To remember that we are connected by love to a whole world. To remember our strengths. Then we can find access to a positive mental state. How do we do this? (More on this next week)

There are many practices that develop this. One that I shared this week that the students started is a Gratitude Practice. In our mindful photography version the students created photos of things, ideas or feelings for which they were grateful. They shared their favourite ones with the group and they’re below. They are also going to continue this for the week.

If you would like to read about the science behind a Gratitude Practice try this

, ,

Who Am I Now Course – Week 5

This week began the final half of the course with an exploration of how we are living now.

Often we live attached to an image of ourselves from a few years earlier. Most of us like to imagine that we are younger than we are and not admit that we are getting older. This gentle but relentless change is a challenge to us all.

However, if we experience a major change that includes a significant loss then the adjustment to this life event is even more challenging. All of the students on the course have experienced a major loss. Brain trauma happens immediately and life is unlikely to ever be the same again.

Any major loss in our life: health, relationship, loved one, job, career leads to grief, and a cycle of adjustment we know as the Grief Cycle. We may well know that the stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. We may also know that they are not linear. However it is unlikely that we will find it easy to live.

Photography provides a means by which we can create photos that illustrate how we feel. It also can be used on an ongoing basis as part of an exploration of how we are experiencing our life. Next week we will be looking at one of the engines of our struggles to adjust to great loss: fear.

After a long discussion about change, loss and grief, an opportunity to reflect how this made us feel was required. The Mindful Photography Practice we all did invited the visual contemplation of a tree, and the creation of photos that illustrated how we felt. Everyone took their time and then shared their favourite photos, and why they had chosen them with the group.

Here they are.

,

Who Am I Now Course – Week 4

This week was all about the application of knowledge and skills learnt in the first 3 weeks and was an opportunity to get personal.

We were all invited to consider a barrier in our life, particularly one that was current. These barriers would generally be things that we are not comfortable with and would like to be different, but quite often the first thing we need to do is accept how it is now. This is particularly challenging when we would prefer the world to be different to how it is.

Every photo below was created in less than an hour in response to this invitation. They are personal to each photographer and represent the emotions caused by the barrier or the barrier itself. Every student opened themselves to this process and shared with the rest of the group what the barrier was and what the photo represented. This is powerful and important work. I congratulate you all on your bravery and honesty.

Who Am I Now Course – Week 3

This week I took the students understanding of abstract photography a step further and expanded their appreciation of using photographs to illustrate how they feel.

After a general introduction that discussed the use of elements of visual design (space, form, colour, line, pattern, texture and space) to influence how a photo makes the viewer feel. I illustrated how our cultural interpretations evoke particular ideas and feelings, for example the colour red represents danger, fire, war, power etc.

In addition to this we discussed how an element of visual design can produce a personal resonance, evoking specific memories particular to the photographer. This relationship between the view/scene and the photographer’s emotional experience when viewing the scene is fundamental to the production of great photography.

Stieglitz and White

To explore this territory we visited the work of Alfred Stieglitz (Equivalents) and Minor White, who was heavily influenced by Stieglitz’s work and produced a famous response – Equivalence: The Perennial Trend.

Both photographers explored this territory. Stieglitz was the first to demonstrate how other objects could represent human emotions with his photographs of clouds. This was his response to the critic Waldo Frank who maintained that his portrait photographs were only great because of the power of the subjects.

Minor White took this further, into the realm of the personal response to a scene, particularly one in nature. He liked to photograph scenes and objects that he felt a deep resonance with.

After examples and discussion and the students were encouraged to produce their own ‘Equivalents’, photos that represented how they felt and a particular time and place. They were then asked to select one to share and discuss with the group, explaining what the photo meant to them and how it made them feel. Here they are.

,

Who Am I Now Course – Week 2

Week 2 starts the process of considering how we can represent our thoughts and feelings through photography. The beginning of this appreciation begins with a bit of creative fun; the creation of abstract photographs.

This week we considered what Abstract Photography is and I shared some ideas for their creation. We talked a little about metaphor and symbolism as many of the students are already experimenting with this. And we also looked at the role of the seven elements of visual design (shape, form, line, colour, pattern, texture and space) and the desire to move beyond the labelling of what we can see.

“In order to see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.” Claude Monet

I shared two key tips and here they are:

  1. Rotate your photos. Looking up them upside down dissolves your ability name the objects and increases your ability to see the elements of visual design.
  2. Don’t delete your photos whilst you are creating abstract photos. When you go out with the intention of creating abstract photos take your time. Create one photo and review it. Look at it upside down. Notice your thoughts, particularly your judging mind. If you like the photo ask yourself what it is that you like. If you don’t like it ask yourself why, investigate those thoughts and feelings. Consider each photo as a signpost for your way forward. Deleting whilst you are creating implies a snap judgement and you are in new lands, your judgements may change. Be open to possibility and don’t delete until much later. Maybe even after you’ve downloaded and waited a few days.

Our intrepid photographers created 2 photos each to share with everyone else and here they are. As you look at them ask yourself how they make you feel.