I lifted Molly over the wall, and she disappeared. Left alone, I focussed on looking and finding suitable subjects. Breaking into abandoned buildings is fun, and with a large format camera, the possibilities are endless. The hard part is narrowing down your eye, controling the volume of things you can photograph, and trying to tell a story in a series.
Photography is all about abstraction, the art of looking and saying no, no, no, and then yes- and shooting what you want as you arrange it or as it arranges itself in the frame. I sat down first, and thought about what I was seeing. The things that struck me were the uniformity of the foreground subjects available, shapes of abandoned filing cabinets, and furnaces, and the background shapes, rectangles in the form of windows and frames missing from walls. I noticed the wall art around, the colours of metal, and started thinking about a colour treatement I could give to the emerging series in my mind. The possibilites of some kind of very minor solarization through crossing curves in photoshop, mixing up the colours and giving them a metallic sheen came to me. With this vision, I set off looking for subjects.
I wanted to stick with the wide angle lens. On my 5x4 inch camera, I have only two lenses, a 210mm process lens which I use all the time, and a 90mm wide angle lens. which I use infrequently. These equate to a 85mm and a 21mm in the 35mm format, more or less. The wide lens requires discipline and is difficult to control. What I mean by that is, that is it easy for the optics to dictate the composition, dramatic foregrounds with receeding backgrounds and dramatic spaces and so on, you’ve seen these types of shots before. I was keen to aviod this, as it is a cliché, and I like the craft and the technique to be subliminal, to be perfectly in the background, not dictating the viewer to marvel at the equipments’ interpretation and rendering of the scene. This is why I love the 210mm, as it renders the human eye, but slightly narrower in terms of subject selection, and flattens and plastifies the images through the optical compression of a slight telephoto effect.
Each photo of the series of five shows essentially the same thing, a significant rectangle in the middle of the frame. Around the central theme, I selected objects of interest based on subject matter, and also how they would respond to the visual treatment I had previsualised. The metallic vents in the shot below turn a fantastic sheen with the slightest of curve manipulation. Their colour and texture is excentuated and give an eerie reflective quality to the image.
In the photograph of the white unit with grafitti to the side, I wanted the letters to shine out of the print with the metallic effect.
The shot of the theatre or auditorium relies on the frame around the stage to bring it in line with the rest of the images in the series, and the metal filing cabinet and abandoned equipment strewn around the room counter the nearly pristine ceiling with the lovely light patterns on the left of the image.
In the shot of the pipes and the remains of the walls with the big window behind, the hook to maintain the continuity is the window in the background, but the tension is created by the tubes leading in from outside both sides of the frame to the abandoned and broken machine floating in the foreground.
In contrast, the image I used in reveal titled Molly with the orange chair, was an attempt to change the pace and relieve the clutter of the previous shots, to give the series room to breathe and yet unify the images with the continuity of the centre rectangle, this time the remnants of the glue which used to hold up something on the background wall.
The light on the day was excellent, shafts at all angles, white walls for subject fill, the hard part was choosing what to shoot. I explored the floors on my own as my partners in crime for the day had wandered off on their own photo safari. We later met up on the roof for a late evening chat before we climbed over the wall and back to our lives.
I shot these five pictures, one of which I have talked about before on the blog, but the others have been gathering more interest and I am scanning them and will show them as a series in an exhibition somewhere for sure. I haven’t worked on them for a while, but as I sold a print of Molly’s chair recently, the buyer wanted a folio of the five shots to go with the big print, which I duly made up, and this started me thinking about making the bigger scans and files for an exhibition.
I’ll let you know when and where as you now know the why and how, so stay tuned for more. Thanks for looking.
We are condemned to be free…