Sunday, 19 April 2009

Planning, preparing and learning

Well, I started this blog a couple of weeks ago and it has been a bit quiet since. I promise it will be a lot busier from now on. It certainly hasn't been quiet because there has been nothing going on. On the contrary, a lot has been going on. I have been busy making plans and proposals, writing exhibition proposals, sorting out samples of my work, exploring avenues for funding and spending a lot of time playing with equipment and experimenting on Photoshop.

The plans and proposals are coming along very nicely and there are a few things in the pipeline as well as a couple of other potentials. There are some ifs and maybes so am keeping it all under warps for now but will have exciting news to announcing on here over the coming weeks so watch this space. It has been a steep but interesting learning curve for me in putting together exhibition proposals and a strategy for funding an arts project such as this. I am used to planning funding with my charity director hat on and so have some transferable skills but there are new aspects to learn.

I have, and will always have, lots to learn when it comes to the technical aspects of photography too. Over the last couple of weeks I have been playing with my flash gun, using it on the camera and holding it off. Thanks to suggestions from a fantastic American photographer whose work is a real inspiration to me (Steve Paxton) I have been playing coloured gels placed over the flash bulb. Some of my photos will be in the florescent lights of the hospital and the gels can take off some of the harsh edge from the light and some of the wierd colouring effects it can cause. Steve also suggested I used a 'Gary Fong Lightsphere'. I have never heard of such a thing so looked it up on the web to find it to be a kind of inverted plastic bowel that is placed over the flash gun to diffuse light and prevent shadows. There are different lids for different situations, such as low ceilings where the light can bounce off the ceiling and down to cause shadows under the eyes. These are not too easy to come by in the UK and was thrilled to bits to see one single one on E-bay. I placed my bid and kept a watch...until I got side tracked on the last 5 minutes and suffered that really annoying situation where you think it is yours and you are pipped by about £5 in the closing seconds!! A bit more googling found me in the midst of a forum discussion about this simple, yet amazing piece of kit where, thankfully, someone revealed the only UK distributer. My daughters, Hope and Ellie have been wonderful models for me while I experiment with different light balance set ups and various partnerships of a piece of coloured plastic and an upturned goldfish bowel.

Like I said, I will always have new stuff to learn in the technical aspects but I know that I want it is I want to capture. I want to capture something about each participant's own individual journey. I want to capture their essence, a moment, a second that reflects all of this in one of their actions or in their eyes. I have been looking through the pictorial record I took of William before his transplant and his journey through recovery. I think these two are good examples of the kind of thing I mean. Just look at his eyes. You can really see his fear, almost terror in the first one. It is actually uncomfortable for me to see and, if he had not yet had his transplant, they would be all the more heart breaking. You can also read his relationship with his Father, the comfort he is seeking in his cuddle and the way he find that comfort and is beginning to relax in the second picture. The look in his eyes were transient and could have been missed in a blink or moment turning the other way. That is what I love about photography. You watch and wait and, if you react quickly enough when you see it, you can capture these precious moments. Once you have them, they can be immensely powerful. This is what I hope 'Gifts of Life' will be.

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