“the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Hello everyone, it’s Tom here. In today’s post I’m excited to tell you more about my latest body of work, which also comprises my first solo exhibition – Light by the Sea.
Like many artists, I am continually drawn to the “tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the oceans skin”. The sea – continually shifting, yet permanent – reflects, bends and diffuses light, changing how we see it. It is the mutually transformative effect of light and water which I reflected on, with my camera, in my recent work (currently exhibited at the Tighnabruaich gallery in Argyll).
One of the great joys of working on this project has been taking the time to immerse myself in the shape-shifting seascapes of Argyll. Exploring the Cowal Peninsula’s “secret coast,” visiting and re-visiting locations in all kinds of weather through the passing seasons, has lent me a renewed appreciation of the particular and very distinctive quality of light in this area of Scotland.
(Loch Fyne moonlicht)
Although much of my work is abstract, my aim is always to create a sense of place which is both evocative and deeply palpable. Whether I’m working with the shifting wash of moonlight over Loch Fyne (above)
… or pale winter light caught though crashing waves in my Atlantic Tides piece. In short, it is very much THIS place – this coast, this landscape – that I’ve enjoyed exploring in the body of work that makes up the exhibition.
But how do I approach the question of how to represent a certain place?
Photography is often defined by what Henri Cartier-Bresson described as the “decisive moment” – a single split second moment frozen in time. But rather than arresting time through that decisive moment, I prefer to try to extend it – and light is the medium that allows me to draw out time, to stretch it, allowing the viewer a way into my images and the places they represent as a space of immersive contemplation. By using long exposures, intentional camera movements and multiple exposures, I adopt what I think of as a more painterly approach to photography.
Movement is central to my approach, which may surprise you. You’ll find two kinds of movement in these images: the movement of the subject in relation to the camera… or the movement of the camera in relation to the subject. In each case, moving the camera, lengthening the shutter speed, or exposing an image multiple times enables me to bend and shift light in ways that I hope suggest its evocative and ephemeral nature. I’m always looking for interesting ways to transform the time-bound click of the shutter into a drawn-out slow moment of reflection.
One of the challenges of working in the way I do is transporting, handling, and caring for my photographic tools.
I carry a range of stands and tripods, cameras, lenses and filters with me wherever I’m going to work on an image, and I’ll leave you to imagine the amount of time I spend carefully cleaning and maintaining my equipment after a trip out – sand and salt water are never welcome additions in my kit bag!
As I’ve discussed here on the KDD&Co blog previously, I don’t consider my work as a photographer complete until I have printed my work and have a made, tangible object. For this exhibition, in addition to the usual considerations of choice of paper, inks etc. I also had great fun making creative decisions and mounting and framing the work – and thinking about how they would look together in the wonderful gallery space at Tighnabruaich gallery. I would especially like to thank Ros and Neil for all their advice and support in putting together the final show.
To accompany the photographs included in my Light by the Sea exhibition, I also created a series of sound sketches drawing on my embodied experience of these landscapes, and the physical and environmental data associated with the project. First, I recorded ambient sounds of the places and moments in which these images were first created, with my handy Zoom device.
Then I ‘translated’ the lightwaves of the image into soundwaves using a wavetable synthesiser – that is – the literal ‘shape’ of light in the image is re-made into a signature waveform – a sort of audible equivalent of what your eyes are seeing when you are standing in front of the image. And then the image’s actual location comes into play in a different way! Using the Ordnance Survey grid reference numbers for the places where each photograph was taken, I created short arpeggios and chord sequences using the pentatonic scale, enabling the image’s map co-ordinates to take on a melodic form. Finally, using a process of creative layering, I combined the light soundwaves, locational melodies and ambient recordings into the finished sound sketches (please do have a listen, following the SOUNDS link at the end of this post, if you are so inclined)
In this exhibition, I’ve really enjoyed re-creating and re-making a sense of place that I hope is palpable and tangible to those who know this part of the world well, as well as suggesting its beauty and appeal to those who have never visited, but dream of exploring it. I’ve loved capturing the evocative feeling of the Argyll coast – and its endlessly inspiring Light by the Sea.
It was lovely meeting some of you at the exhibition opening, and over the weekend. Thanks to everyone who dropped by to see and hear my work! The Light by the Sea exhibition runs until 5th April, and I do hope more of you get the chance to see, and hear, my work in situ.
(strata / lamina)
If you are interested in purchasing one of the original framed pieces, please contact Ros at the gallery (phone: +44 7932 612957; Email: email@example.com). For those of you unable to travel to Argyll’s secret coast (and I appreciate that’s most of you!), you can now see the whole Light by the Sea collection on my online gallery at ootlier.com and limited edition A3 fine art prints are available in the KDD&Co shop (each print is limited to 25 copies).