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.

Reeds at night, in red
Jetty at night, blue
Falling tap water in green
Falling water and sinkhole at night, green

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.

Emotion sequence in mono

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.

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