Why How & What?

I've had a couple of busy days lately. I caught up with an old friend of mine from Uni recently, we had a long chat about many many things, amongst them, the future of photoshop, supperanuation, the amount of fossil fuels left in the world and the way this will impact on people's lives, the explosive growth of digital cameras/photography, alternatives to Photoshop's crappy RAW plug-in, just to name a few.

As a consequence of this discussion, plus a recent visit to an exhibition at ACMI, along with my own frenetic involvement with Flickr, I've decide to jot down my thoughts about what it is that I ∗do∗

The best way to clarify issues for my own benefit I've found, is to use the Why, How and What mantra. Again, thanks to my old friend from Uni who showed me this several years ago.

So here goes, the Why, How and What of Stuart Murdoch and his “ART”

In the late eighties I found myself in a situation that was untenable as far as gainful employment was concerned. I for many years previous had had a fascination with Photography, I can still remember looking at everyday objects and scenes and recognising within myself a connection or familiarity with these objects and scenes. It seemed a natural progression for me to follow this instinct and pursue a career or at least a direction in photography. A recent overseas trip with a duty free camera purchase combined with disappointment at the resulting holiday snaps drove this realisation even deeper. I returned to school at 25, no mean feat in itself. I spent the next 5 years studying, getting my feet wet, getting my bearings and generally working out where I fitted into the grand photography scheme of things.

After my 3 years of under-grad I realised the direction most suited to me was as an artist, the reason being, I was interested in strange and subtle visual connections, not making money, I was also interested in the craft of photography in particular the photographic print as an ‘object’. Upon graduation I was determined to get some sort of work that involved photography but not in a commercial sense. During my last summer of undergrad, I had been involved in my old TOP school in their photography department, by generally helping out, and the head offered me a job. At last a job doing what I loved, and access to ALL the equipment I needed to do it. For the next few years I simply photographed in my spare time, made prints for any or all exhibitions I could get my work into, in between teaching at night and being a part time photography technician during the day.

The images and prints I made were of the subject matter closest to my heart, made the way I like making them. After all, Frederick Sommer, Robert Adams, Ralph Eugene-Meatyard had all made beautiful images this way and were some of the many photographers whose work I respected and enjoyed. This alone seemed reason enough, besides, in a world that seemed to be getting progressively madder, finding solace and enjoyment in a pursuit such as photography seemed one of my more sane decisions of the past 12 years (since leaving home and graduating) and a relatively harmless one at that.

I have continued to work the way I was taught in my 5 years of schooling, schooling that preceded any form of digital or computer manipulation at all. I used the best camera I could aford, I spent many hours labouring in a Black and white darkroom making the best possible prints I could. I even realised several years ago that it was possible to make heartfelt and interesting images using the most basic of technologies, cheap, plastic and toy cameras (I had been using a large format camera for most of my work from about 1992 to 2000). In the late nineties I procured a digital camera, now retired, it seemed not much better than a toy, as the file size and the quality of the CCD were nowhere near film. I made over 13000 images with it, which I'm still unsure as to what to do with, I did learn however, that it is often possible to produce surreal and intruiging images with it. Which when sequenced in the ‘right way’ could make for some interesting art. I also learned to use it it an intuitive way, to not be afraid to allow it to make some technical decisions. From this point on around 2002 I was actively carrying the camera everywhere, and using it in anyway I could to subvert what it was I saw beyond the photographic. Currently I am using a Nikon Coolpix 5400 to carry out this task.

Beautiful silver Gelatin Prints is what I have been making for most of my time since graduating. This was in a time where digital and computer still generally were having minimal impact on my output. But in the last few years since about 2002 I have been very prolific with my digital output, I now have enough small digital files to publish 5 books a year with 200 images in each for the next 13 years! Self publishing seems an option, and of course since I started on this path the web has exploded and along with it an explosion in online self publishing.

No comments: