This is a batch of slideshows on the theme of A Different Light. Initially, I thought I would be experimenting with long exposures, night shots, artificial lighting, but I came to feel that the working title was broad enough to encompass almost any project that was interesting, that was worth doing, for what point is there in making any statement through image unless you are proposing that your vision is new, that you are showing things ‘in a different light’?
This project was created with the help of funding from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland under its Support for Individual Artists scheme and I am grateful for that.
This latest one, Botanic Alley, was photographed in a back alley near Botanic Gardens in Belfast, running parallel to a street called Mount Charles. This is one of the more elegant parts of Belfast. I have been through it thousands of times and yet never thought to walk up this little alley to see what goes on there.
I love shooting flowers, yet I am always conscious that these can be the easiest and most likely subject. Everyone takes pictures of flowers surely and there is nothing new to be shown or said. I think photography has to work in narrative now, there has to be a story or an observation that is thought provoking. An image that is merely decorative is not enough, though perhaps once it was. This piece is called: Daffodils in the Park. It was captured in the Ormeau Park in Belfast.
I also explored ways of presenting flowers through double exposure shots. I found that doubling a flower with the wet concrete of my garden path created an effect by which the flower appeared to be printed on the surface, two dimensionally. I made a small slideshow to demonstrate this and I still play with this technique.
The Vatican is the focus of religious devotion for millions of pilgrims every year and has been shown on television many times in recent times. To see it in a ‘different light’ I asked what the beggars there make of it.
Regular visitors to this site will be familiar with my last piece based on the Bookfinders bookshop and cafe on Belfast’s University Road, opposite the Seamus Heaney Centre. Playing there in the low light with long exposure on my little Leica X1, I discovered that I could create ghost images by asking people to step out of the shot half way through, usually after 15 seconds.
Last year I worked with artist Carole Kane on a project to recall the Petals of Hope, a series of artworks made by families of the victims of the Omagh bomb of 1998, using the dried out floral tributes left by sympathisers. While there I became fascinated by the memorial erected there by the artist Sean Hillen, which seeks to capture sunlight and direct beams to an obelisk erected on the site of the explosion.
This piece is closest to a reflection literally on actual light. It also draws on the journalistic approach which dominates my other work, when I don’t have a camera in my hand, when words are my main tool.
I am conscious that all of this work could be improved and that I am still learning. I am discovering that, as a writer, I approach the world argumentatively, polemically, that I dissect my subject matter, know it in a temporal space. Photography inclines me to reflecting more meditatively, leaving more for the observer to find. In these pieces, the writer and the photographer in me work together, at least not to the detriment of each other.