available light

Morning everyone, it’s Tom here. I thought I’d pop in today to share with you some of the odd but interesting things I’ve been doing recently with paper and light.

As many of you know, I REALLY like paper! I’ve previously waxed lyrical about the properties of papers and how they fundamentally inform the final presentation of my photographs as made things. I have also written about the joys of using decorative papers in my bookbinding. But I can honestly say I’ve never really thought all that much about the structural and sculptural potential of paper and how I might start to incorporate this into my practice . . . until a month or so ago, when Kate spotted this this book and thought that I might find it interesting.


Paul Jackson, Folding Techniques for Designers: From Sheet to Form

She was right! I was instantly intrigued.

Unlike many kids, I never experimented with origami when I was younger, and it was, in fact, only when I began working with bookbinding and photographic prints that I really began to enjoy the properties and potential of paper. Paul Jackson’s book immediately opened my eyes to the many fascinating and beautiful things that can be done with just one sheet!

The guidance for creating simple structures in the early pages of the book is pretty thorough, and once you get the hang of the folding basics you’re away.

Very soon, I was creating interesting shapes with my single sheets of paper . . .

. . .and finding the activity of folding, bending and re-folding paper strangely addictive, and highly rewarding.

I was struck straight away by how the shapes I formed were simultaneously organic, textural and “real” – undoubtedly made by hand – while also being clean, precise and graphic.

And as I sat folding my papers and watching how the light is reflected, shaded or transmitted through each surface, my photographers eye was repeatedly piqued

I found that, when rendered flat in a photograph, each of my simple little structures took on a wonderfully abstract aspect – 3 dimensional and 2 dimensional at the same time – perhaps almost Cubist!

Indoors for much of the day at the moment, I’m really enjoying photographing my folded papers and am finding that the graphic simplicity of their structures is providing me with a really interesting opportunity to think about light.

My friend Ted Forbes has just re-launched the well-loved “Photo Assignments” section on his “The Art of Photography” YouTube channel. These have been very popular in the past with a real sense of community and collective learning developing around each assignment. In these times of global household isolation, Ted is focusing on projects people can easily do at home. I hope these assignments will provide a platform for those who like to take photographs to come together, to share ideas and support and encourage one another. If you enjoy photography, you might like to follow Ted’s channel, and join me in creating work for the first assignment?

The first assignment of Ted’s new series involves observing and using available light. I immediately thought that one of my little folded paper structures might act as a good subject to observe the changing light through the course of the day (all of the images you see here in this post were shot using the available light through our downstairs window) so I’ve a few to choose from for the first assignment’s submissions.

As I’m sure you can probably tell, I’m now rather excited about the aesthetic potential of folded, scrunched, ripped, curved and curled paper – both as a subject, and as a medium too, for images. And I’m still only on chapter 1 of Paul Jackson’s fantastic book!

If any of you have origami, or paper folding recommendations for me (books? websites? channels?) I’d be very interested to hear about them. Thankyou!

Look after yourselves, and each other.

Tom