This is a transcript of my Head On Satellite Slideshow Event presentation. The slideshow was a Pecha Kucha style slideshow where we each were allotted a fixed time of only 20 seconds per slide for our 20 slides!
What is beauty? We automatically think of beautiful objects or people and all these are perfect, without fault or blemish. Look in any media related to advertising. Models airbrushed & retouched. Products that jump out at you. Food that looks so appetising.
This is a western way of thinking. There is another way of seeing beauty & that is a Japanese philosophy called Wabi Sabi.
NO – Wabi Sabi is not what you have with your sushi, but it concerns seeing beauty not in perfection but in decay or having slight faults.
Roughly translated – Wabi can be interpreted as loneliness of living in nature remote from society &
Sabi – is to be lean or withered.
One example is fading autumn leaves which are so beautiful, yet so transient. Thus Wabi Sabi alters our view that new wood, fabrics or paper are not as interesting as those that have a character which are evidenced in its patina & wear.
I started photographing some decaying objects that are certainly not beautiful on first appearances, but I could see the potential in the faded colours and textures & this was exactly what caught my attention.
As photographers where do we start? Those that know my work recognise that I am primarily a landscape photographer. So when I am standing in front of grand scene & the light is just gorgeous my normal reaction is to shoot with a wide angle lens & get it all in.
Then after a while I start to notice some of the elements in the scene- that lone tree, that clump of rocks, or the way the river snakes to create a line to lead your eye into the scene.
Next, if I am taking particular care to observe, I notice the way the light is creating patterns on the bark of the tree trunk, or one rock has interesting lines as the light dances across its surface then do I start capturing those details. So it is unusual for me to go straight in close, yet that is what I did!
One of my friends recently referred to me as being a colour alchemist & I guess I am!
I take a little of bit colour here & find another bit of colour there & make those two colours dominate. Or I twist the colours to the cooler temperature spectrum to emphasise the blues, but at the same time I may target just the red tones & saturate them. Sometimes I do the opposite! Other times I will flip the colours by making them a negative.
If I am feeling a little crazy I might even do two of these processes – So I guess my friend is correct – I am a colour alchemist.
There is no right or wrong, I just push & mix colours until I get the look I like. Often the colours that I thought would work from the original image simply don’t, & I end up getting a completely different result from what I originally thought.
Even starting with the same image I will end up with several variations, depending on how I have mixed the colours – AND- in what order!
Its not easy to tell, but some of you may have guessed that these images have been derived from old rusting, scratched & decaying cars that are all laying out in a paddock. The moment I saw the first one I immediately was drawn to the colours & textures. When I started capturing the images I never quite imagined the final result, but during the course of working with the colours & learning to become an alchemist I discovered that in many cases the camera had captured details & colours that I was totally unaware of – which made the journey of discovery even more exciting.
Not content to print these designs on stiff unyielding paper, I have gone one step further & printed ten of these designs onto silk. This is the ultimate transformation – from stiff rusty car panels to vibrant luxurious silk.
As I was leaving the caryard the first time the owner commented that his dad had catalogued the older cars & if I could use his grid system I could probably find out the actual model of car. I revisited the caryard to retrace my steps to find the cars that were used for those 10 designs. I wandered around with my “cheat-sheet” which was the original captured image & the final design. I’m glad I shot in a fairly methodical manner, as it was not always easy to recognise a car by a photo of a 30x40cm rusty patch. For instance, I found the 4th & then the 6th, so I knew the 5th HAD to be somewhere in-between! Often turning around & walking a different direction was all that was required to locate the car I had missed!
After sitting on the caryard office step for an hour pouring over the old catalogue the caryard owner asked me if I liked old cars, because I “sure was going to a lot of trouble” to find out which cars I had taken photos of.
I showed him my reference sheet saying, NOT REALLY – I just like the colours, patterns & textures. He sorted stepped back& just said uh hmm & let me continue thumbing through the catalogue.
This process has been interesting & challenging, but I have managed to transform something that is decaying & most would say quite ugly into something that is beautiful. The transformation of vintage car wrecks is like metamorphosis. The metal skeletons with their patina of rust, cracking paint & years of decay transform into the most beautiful & colourful designs.
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