Breaking the mold
Sometimes I do things backwards. Or just late. After the fact.
This summer I went to my first ever photo workshops with fine art photographer Trine Søndergaard. I’ve been photographing actively for the past 14 years. Entirely self-taught. Learning by doing. Starting with analog. Manual focus. Natural light.
I was drawn by the visceral, painterly feel of Trine’s photographs and apparent clarity of her conceptual work. I was curious what it would be like for me to work outside of client commissions and need. I wanted to explore personal photography and ways to translate ideas, metaphors, stories into visual expression.
I decided to focus on the accordion, a story that’s been brewing in my for years, to engage the material and metaphors and understand my attraction. At first I did an interview with a musician I know from San Francisco, and shot her at her home with the accordion. But it wasn’t working. It was too literal and documentarian. I kept seeing the story as a film, with soundtrack, voices, a sense of movement in the images. I lay awake all night trying to figure out how to translate something as concrete as a heavy-duty accordion nto abstraction and emotional expression?
Half annoyed, half surrendered, I just said, okay then, let me work with what I’ve got: a funky factory space, some structures, props and light available, the brave accordionista and the feeling and form of the story I’m sensing and put it into play and direct confrontation. The undressing made me uneasy at first. For one, I wanted to break that mold of working with the nude body. Secondly, a naked body dancing with an accordion was a bit beyond my idea. But as I set the elements in motion, I realized that this was in fact, the only way for me to show the musical and emotional embodiment. What appeared did to my surprise express the sense of physicality, movement and transcendence, I’d already seen on my inner screen.
Weeks later, as I reflect further on this experience, I understand, that this is how I’ve worked with clients for years. Choreographing with the elements available. Trusting the process. Even when weird and uncomfortable. Getting beneath the surface to call forth moments of spirit and emotions embodied. If it works, why fix it?
Sometimes we do things after the fact to see
what we’ve been doing all along.
What do you know about your process? Are there things you “always” do? Does it work for you? Process, preparing, is half the battle of any creation, if not 98% of it.
And, I must say I enjoyed learning again alongside a group of very different ‘eyes’ and minds, and got a lot from Trine about moving a concept into visuals, curating your work for coherence and trusting your instinct.
I’ve added a few shots from our final exhibit at the Fabrikken for Design og Kunst in Amager, Copenhagen, and our group of photo enthusiasts.
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