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Casting Shadows

The series of photographs Casting Shadows was created in 2018 when my curiosity in pinhole photography became a reality, due to moving from my studio off the lounge where I’d worked for over 20 years, to a larger backyard shed with a room attached that's now my dark room. The image to the left is a selfie taken in 1988 with an old camera acquired from an op-shop, in the shed when it was a repository for yard junk and my easel.

I’ll admit I’m not up with technology. I don’t honestly respect, care or trust it. It often feels like a baited fish hook, so I’ve held off getting a mobile phone in the hope that I can still remain lost for a little while longer. However, I’m really aware through social media that everyone is now a photographer (those who aren’t artists or musicians or trout-lipped poseurs) and I remember wondering how far back I could take photography for it to interest and have value to me.

As a painter I’m very aware of how a painting can, when the going’s good, invent itself. It develops outside of anything I’m doing to encourage it – often in spite of what I’m trying to do and which I never quite achieve (hence the next painting). So it is with photography, I love the mysterious revealing or developing aspect and it's this that feels lacking in the digital picture-taking process.

Pinhole photography is very much hands-on and really does create a kind of spirit. For me, it’s photography born of a self-made cardboard box with no lens (so I cannot check the subject), there's only a pinhole to let light in onto a paper negative, where the exposure time is guesswork and frankly, anything can and does actually happen.

It can often take a day for me to do just a few shots because my guesswork can be wide off the mark and in winter, with no running water other than an outside hose and a large bucket, recognising and rinsing the failure shots to only go and repeat the process can feel arduous and dispiriting. Why bother rinsing them? Well, they’re my lessons – I study my failures to learn what it is I’m trying to achieve - or more to the point, what the camera is trying to achieve. If I trash them the way we delete displeasing digital images, I stand to learn nothing about the craft itself.

Because Casting Shadows were all indoor poses, the exposures were up to 14 minutes long. This meant sitting as still as a statue, shallow breathing because even the rib cage moving created a blur. As I sat there, I had little idea what the camera was choosing to focus on but hoped serendipity would grace herself and bestow an exquisite result. Yes, it’s very much like a lottery. It’s about inviting chance into a process and respecting that very little will ever go to plan.

The resulting images have a recognisable idiosyncratic aesthetic. They are an analogue image. They are time and light crafted.

I entered two of the Casting Shadows images into the international Julia Margaret Cameron Photographic Award in Barcelona, Spain. Out of over 6,000 entries, both images won the Alternative Processes Award and will be exhibited alongside other category winners in Barcelona in May 2019.

Casting Shadows will be exhibited at Fe29 Gallery, Dunedin 10-28 May 2019. A very limited edition of prints will also be available through the gallery. Click the slide show for more images.

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