The journey of being a student at whatever level of expertise you are currently at is always challenging, and often unsettling. The need for external affirmation of progress and merit is hard to ignore. Being in-tuition requires a not only a worthy tutor but the photographer to follow their intuition and steer towards a different direction from the norm and "accepted" ways of making photographs, if of course you are looking to move on from standard "stock images" as part of your portfolio.
Being a professional photographer and running numerous photography classes and workshops for all levels of photographer can take its toll on your own work and energy to create something beyond the purely illustrative and often literal interpretation of the landscape subjects. That well trodden path to honey pot locations and vista's is, of course, a rite of passage for the adolescent photographer who aspires to grow and become an adult, but for the tutor it can become hard parenting task if he/she doesn't take time out for themselves and remember they too need to continue to grow and mature.
Last September I certainly felt that my own work was starting to stagnate and my appetite for making landscape images that I felt connected to was producing diminishing returns for me. So I made contact with a friend and well respected landscape photographer (David Ward) who I felt was best placed to help me regain my "mojo" and also challenge me into creating something more than what had proceeded it. Being in-tuition for me was of course going to be interesting and maybe even unsettling but 6-8 months on I can now look back and see that I have progressed a step further and importantly embarked on a project that in my view puts me back in the "green zone"
To try and give some context to that project - I wanted to be able to create a body of work that had coherence but also reflected my personal interpretation of the landscape - It was important to me that this came deep from within me rather than imitating (even if subconsciously) the work of others and also from "within" the landscape - Suggesting that this is a personal vision or style feels to grandiose but I am comfortable saying that it feels like "my authentic expression". The series was born from seed images I took several years back of close-ups of wood/bark and rock formations - little did I know at the time of creating those images the role and influence they would have in this evolutionary step.
Those early ideas are of obviously fairly literal interpretations of patterns and shapes I recognised in the trunks of these two trees and even the title I gave them at the time shows how concerned my intellectual perspective was to associate them with something tangible and recognisable. The cognitive interpretations were soon to be contrasted with emotional and volitional processes where I could abandon the idea that I needed to be descriptive and concentrate more on visceral than visual influences. Interestingly there must be a basic human requirement to do do this as many of the pieces already published have provoked comments on faces seen, associations with Van Gogh paintings and such like pattern matching identification. This is not something that concerns me or influences me about the collection - Viewer interpretation is just that - Interpretation.
I was also very comfortable with the idea that this collection had no"red" lines or parameters when it came to post processing - I wanted the images to express something deep and not be constrained by some arbitrary judgement about how they compared to the original subject or how much post processing has been applied to transform them from how I witnessed them without that sense of how they would finish looking. Method, equipment and process are just tools to produce the outcome and I really wanted to be unshackled from these thoughts so that the strands of creative thought could be weaved together to manifest themselves a single but unified body of work.
Individual pieces still unsettle me and I am sure I will remove and discard them at some point - but placed in context of the overall they feel a worthy part of this collection right now. This project still feels embryonic and I will continue to nurture it through to whatever feels like maturity at some stage in the future.
Some of you will be aware that the last 12 months have been a struggle health-wise for me as I was standby for major facial reconstruction surgery since March 2015 and it took until February this year for that surgery to take place - I am now well on the road to recovery and things are slowly getting back to "normality". The reason for sharing this is that I have no doubt that my own circumstances surrounding this collection had a heavy influence on these images. Some of the later images, bark 23 and 24 certainly suggest to me - contorted, twisted, part healthy, part decaying faces with the decay on the right side as it is on my face. Maybe I read too much into these things or maybe whatever we are going through in life makes us more sensitive and acutely perceptive to our environment that we notice things that we didn't before. I have often heard people say that when you become pregnant you notice every other person on the street is also pregnant!
Anyway, enough of the psycho ramblings - I am extremely pleased with how this project has progressed and grateful for the support, encouragement, insight and friendship of a great tutor, David over the last year. I hope that my personal development has also enriched what I do with my own clients over the last year - many of whom are facing a similar cross-roads of individuality Vs recognised illustrative images.
I introduced two new offerings to my tuition services sometime ago for those who wanted to embark on a more "project" based development curve. Intermediates Course and Premium Mentoring Service. Having completed 3 of the Intermediates courses now they have proven to be a great way for students wanting to develop a single cohesive body of work to learn and importantly collaborate.
Collaboration is a vital component of developing and my collaboration with David has been a great enabler for me personally but to a degree professionally too. Allowing ideas to breathe and grow, discussing and working with a small group or another individual is a great way to get support, feedback, challenge but also insight and reassurance to stay true to an idea without fear of failure or fear of personal expression.
"A passion for photography combined with deep understanding are the most important attributes of a photographic tutor. Alan combines these two qualities in equal measure. His obvious enthusiasm is bound to inspire his clients and help them achieve ever higher standards" - David J Ward
I hope that many more of you will of course take that next step and join me on the Intermediates or Premium Mentoring service so that you too can focus your attention and understanding on creating something that represents your intuitive calling.