It seemed so simple:
“The obvious way to photograph emotion is through human beings. But…I don’t want you to photograph people’s faces. Choose how you’re feeling this week and photograph a scene which would tell us how this feels…Happiness, boredom, hopeful, fearful.”
One of the biggest elements I struggled with was actually answering that most basic of questions: How do I feel?
Like most people, I’ve felt a lot of different ways this past week – anxious, worried, happy, distanced, loved, appreciated, unappreciated and so on.
A central theme for me this week has been turning 45 years old. It is just another year, for sure. But as I’ve been working on my oral presentation for a proposed major photographic project, I’ve come to realise my childhood (to which my project relates) no longer feels like yesterday, that sense of continuum between childhood and adulthood which I felt in my 20s and possibly my 30s is no longer there. Time has ceased to be a bridge between points A and B and has now become a vantage point.
Age brings with it a repositioning on oneself: Where am I? What am I doing? Why am I doing what I am doing? Am I doing enough? Do the things that mattered once still matter to me? Do they matter in the same way? What should I be doing with my time? How have the people who matter to me changed? To whom do I matter?
The emotions underlying such questions include doubt, anxiety, disorientation and a little bit of loneliness.
So it was these that I set out to visualize.
Barred from photographing human faces for this project, I opted to explore at night (in the hopes that whatever emotion might be there might be piqued further) using colour (in the form of gel filters on a Rotolight).
I’m reasonably pleased with the three images that resulted – not least because they are nothing like my usual work. I feel they adequately capture a mix of anxiety, disorientation and the familiar made unfamiliar. I worry my use of lighting to portray emotion might be a little clumsy.
I tried a mono conversion (below) but feel the original sequence is a better reflection of my intent.
I was delighted to have discovered during my research the work of Natalia Poniatowska, who has done a good deal of work around ’emotion’ – particularly longing and homesickness – and the work of Chase Middleton whose Terminal Mystery appeals hugely to me.