Exploring environments and how people can connect with a place on a personal basis has been an on going theme within my work. Beginning my practice with street photography and self portraiture, I have now moved forward into a more directed approach to photographing people within an environment. I am currently practicing staged photography and the conceptual narrative.
My most reliable inspirations I have discovered in support of my practice include Ellen Kooi, Gregory Crewdson and Richard Renaldi; Ellen Kooi is one in particular which I have been impressed by. I find it interesting how she uses the landscape to almost conceal people in her imagery as occasionally, the individuals she photographed are not always obvious. For instance, in some wide landscape images, Kooi places her subjects at far distances away from the foreground, almost hiding the individual from us. This presents an interactive way of exploring the imagery as it makes the audience search around the scene for the subject. I also admire how Kooi gives the sense that the individuals featured in her images may even be aware of the viewer (even when the subject is not looking directly at us) as the atmosphere is suggestive that the subject knows we are there. This strongly influenced my ideas as I wanted to bring a bonding element between the individual and the space. My recent project ‘Look, Listen’ is an example of how I have put this to practice as I determine the sentimental relationship between the place and the person standing before it. I chose to not reveal the individual’s face as I wanted to maintain that mysterious quality and similarly to Kooi, I do not wish to give everything away.
I have also gathered inspiration from other commercial work such as billboard advertisements and music videos. I find moving imagery is just as influential as still photography as this medium uses a similar production method to produce the final representation, whether it be on screen or on a large wall. Wide environments are often used in epic cinema in which the camera journeys through the space from dramatic angles and this influences me through how I can bring perspective to an audience of a space. I find my strengths lie in working within the exterior environment as I am given more to work with when creating dramatic scenery.
Ways in which my practice has developed involve how I have used techniques to light the scene. I have gradually begun to use more artificial lighting as well as ambient lighting. I have practiced this by working within interior spaces in which I have learned how to fire a flashgun off camera. This allowed me to have more control of the light source and gave me flexibility to light different areas of a scene more efficiently. I chose to move forward from my practice in street photography, as I find I intend to explore environments outside of civilisation and visit places where I can be more independent with narrative when deciding what will be placed within the space.
I have also learned how to scan film negatives during post production (‘Look, listen project’) and this has given me another option in how I can develop imagery with colour film. I found these techniques useful when creating a particular atmosphere in a scene; my image ‘Return’ which presents a self portrait in a loft uses lighting well here. I am also beginning to use props as a supporting aspect within the narrative context because I intend to bring more symbolic connection with the individual through supporting objects and materials. Connecting with a place can sometimes mean bringing something with you to commemorate things in life; this could be something such as bringing flowers to a grave or flying a kite. My most recent work which features the individual standing alone in a wide landscape environment uses a flag as a peaceful gesture.
In conclusion, I find my practice is heading in a direction that drives towards the idea of finding sanctuary in a place but also finding peace with one’s self. We all have somewhere where we can go to be content with ourselves on our own or find peace and this is a subject I am interested in pursuing further. I intend to make the viewer feel like they want to be there and represent the sentimental desire and to bring the message that it is okay to visit lonely places as I think this brings the question of: Are lonely places meant for lonely people? Why are fields usually empty? Why do we always have to congregate within the civilised space? I am keen to explore the concept of finding that inner power to go to a place to free ourselves from the everyday routine places we usually find ourselves. For future projects, I am keen to experiment with using more than one person within my work as I intend to bring more presence to my imagery.