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Influences ~ part 2.

Out to sea on the East Yorkshire coast, shot last week on Kodak Tri-X400.

Four years ago I wrote a blog post titled 'Influences ~ part 1.' - I recall that particular post being well received at the time. I guess Influences part deux is long overdue; one mustn't rush these things...

Before I get underway properly, I feel the need to let you know that today is my birthday. I am feeling particularly under the weather with a few health complaints, and on top of those ongoing conditions, I suspect the dreaded covid may have finally caught up with me, I will do a test tomorrow to confirm! **Violins out**

Writing a blog post is not something I'd choose to do on my birthday, I'd rather be riding my bike on the North York Moors or some such adventure. Cycling is my other great passion if you weren't already aware. We must take the rough with the smooth in this life I guess!

Back to the point, I may digress again however...

Social media: what a funny old thing that's become. It has finally transformed into the ultimate Big Brother, yet what George Orwell failed to imagine is that we would invite it upon ourselves. Facebook, Instagram and Google are now mass marketing, spying machines. One only has to think of something and it appears in our feed with a sinister synchronicity. A few years back social media seemed a really fun way to pass the time in our new connected world. And to be honest; it brought me huge opportunities along the way. I also met some great people who have become good friends. My time on social media is becoming less, and less. This is partly because of decreased interaction, and also the obvious marketing. The last couple of days on Twitter have been interesting too. With tons of photographers setting up Vero accounts, slightly late to the party when Instagrammers tried that about four years ago. I think we need to ask ourselves some probing questions; such as, what exactly are we seeking? It seems a really desperate need, particularly with those Twitter photographers over the past few days. I notice also that the vast majority don't even do this for a living, so why the urgency!? Is it more followers, interaction or connection with something deeper that's missing from this online matrix? Dare I say as soon as one platform becomes popular, it will go the same way as the others, surely?

I could be getting to the point of this post, nearly...

For me, I don't feel particularly inspired anymore when I look at social media. Scrolling mind numbingly through thousands of images that don't seem to stand out or inspire any emotion. And I will of course add my own to that, we've seen it all before. Things have become so familiar on a daily basis that it's now just a bad habit, like smoking. It's killing our ability to think clearly and feel deeply about anything at all. That all sounds very negative, but it's not all bad, honest.

Inspiration comes from something which resonates deep within us. I have my favourite photographers, artists, writers and musicians. All of these feed into the creative process. The biggest influence on my own work over the past 18 months or so have been the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky made seven films, each of them considered a masterpiece. In the words of the great Ingmar Bergman "Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how." - and that is exactly how I feel about those films. As a result I find myself, yet again, at a creative crossroads. Whilst I am unsure of the direction; it is not something I'm afraid of, on the contrary I find it a hugely exciting chapter of this art which I have dedicated myself to.

Should you wish to find out more, here's a handy link! Tarkovsky.

You might not know it without a narrative, unless something sparks similar feelings within you; but my own work is laden with themes of a metaphysical, existential nature; especially recent work. But there's also a spiritual theme, and one of my greatest inspirations comes from the work of author John O'Donohue. In fact I quote him in my Landscape Archive:

"Landscape has a vast depth and subtlety of presence. The more attentive you are, and the longer you remain in a landscape, the more you will be embraced by its presence"

If you feel deeply spiritual about the landscape or natural world you could do worse than take a look at the work of John O'Donohue, very sadly taken from us far too early. Fortunately his insightful wisdom lives on through his literature.

Another influential discovery for me has been that of the 'Analog Sea Review', which aims to represent a community of writers and artists 'wishing to maintain contemplative life in the digital age.' - This particular publication is one that I happened upon completely by chance in one of my favourite places, the Ceilidh Place Bookshop, in Ullapool. To give you an idea, and save me typing, see the sample below for a flavour of this wonderful little journal.

Being true to its own ethos, the Analog Sea Review has no website. But thankfully you will find it easy to purchase, ironically, via a quick Google search, which I wholly recommend you do! Or it could be a good excuse for a trip to Ullapool (other bookshops are available.)

Lastly, to create any meaningful work it's of most importance to draw on our own emotions. Of course it’s quite an abstract concept to talk about, as we all experience a range of different emotions on a daily basis. But it’s our emotions that entice us to make a photograph. For us to point our camera at a subject surely means that it has moved us in some way. Just as with any work of art that we might see in a gallery, we rarely know what the artist was feeling when they created the work, but the chances are that it was driven by emotion of some kind. All art is open to our own interpretation of the subject, some artworks may move us, in a particular way, even though any emotions that arise may not have been those of the artist. And I always say to my students, if something moves you enough to make an image, then that is the only validation you will ever need. Photography and art in general are so subjective; that it’s best to just follow your own emotions, and to trust your inner voice.

Thank you if you made it this far. Despite feeling rather below par I'm off to enjoy a small birthday whisky. Below is a pic of me (a rather rubbish analogous selfie no less) from the same roll of film as the title image at the top of the page, just because it's my birthday!

If you like what you read, please do share far and wide!



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