Feb 052016
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This is a toughy. Not the picture, but the post.

A while back I posted a picture made in the Bishopdale playground and it has sat with me ever since. There’s something about it that I know has huge relevance to a new body of work for me, but I can’t pin down exactly what it is. There is something about the playgrounds that is making me want to make pictures, and I continue to make the work even though I don’t quite understand it yet.

If any of you can help me shed some light please comment away. Even PM me if you don’t feel like putting it out here.

Frame of reference:
Ever since I started photography seriously, and although it may not show particularly in my work, one of my artist models has been Lewis Baltz. New Zealand photographers Laurence Aberhart and Wayne Barrar are also favourites, and more recently the work of American William Eggleston.

Someone said to me “why don’t you go back and photograph when there are children playing?”. The fact is that I prefer my pictures without any human presence. Just recently I found an interview with Lewis Baltz where he clarified my feelings around this “And if you interpose another human in the work, then he or she becomes the subject…”

One of the other things I have clarified lately is that the pictures I like to make are coming into the more documentary space, although the moment of recognition is coming from a more intuitive place. Which is why I’m struggling to pin down the exact concept that is driving this.

Open to suggestions!

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  8 Responses to “Playground, Hornby, Christchurch, November 2015”

  1. Jenny, awesome posting and well done for putting yourself out there. I am sure we have all been in the position you find yourself in. To me, you have the key recognition in place – i.e. there is something about playgrounds that you need to explore. The next step is to make photographs and explore and develop those inner feelings into an image that connects with those feelings. many won’t then one will. Pounce on those that resonate and ask why! In my experience the subconscious leads the conscious and your challenge is to draw out the subconscious and give it life. This is exactly why I love photography – exploration of this subject WILL expose your subconscious until you get to the point of saying AH, I understand this now. I hope all that makes sense. Trust yourself, get out there and make those photos – they will reveal so much!!

    Now to this image – it disturbs me – it is empty and your composition is precise. It is as if someone has packed everything up tidily and left and I am left feeling like an intruder. there is also something about the low angle that is working on me. I can also see this image as a child approaching the swings but then I should feel excited, but I don’t.

    I really look forward to seeing how you develop this idea. The journey has begun.

    • Thanks Bruce. It’s your second paragraph that really resonates. You’ve captured very much of the sense of these places as I feel it. I’ll keep going, and although I feel some clarification as below, I’ll try and keep open minded and open hearted, and keep going to see what develops, hopefully without “driving” it.

  2. One question, now you are in a different island to your own herd are you missing them……………? (apart from Robbie obviously)

    Thats what I see here.

    • Very perceptive. More than me Ferg – I hadn’t thought of it that way, but while I was, as a result of your turning a light on, illumination has come from another, related direction.

      When I consider the other pictures I’ve been making in this series I start to see pictures of my own desolation. The desolation I feel about the world we are leaving for my grandchildren. My children are fine. They are now (mostly) in a place of safety and security. It’s my grandchildren I feel for. They are the ones who are really going to be dealing with the results of what our generation, and to a lesser degree the ones before, have made for them.

      And then the resonance comes with the pictures I find strangely compelling of the Tract Houses, that Lewis Baltz made in the 60’s and 70’s. The mushroom developments that sprang up in the West Coast of the US that were pretty much the precursors of the desperate housewives subdivisions that we have emulated here. The ugliness and the razing of the earth to push more and more people out there. And the industrial buildings (“Industrial Parks”) in Irving where he photographed the exteriors that were almost identical, with little paths, a front lawn and some shrubbery, and of which, in “Last Interview of Lewis Baltz with Jeff Rian” in L’Oeil de la Photographie, Lewis commented “Walter Hopps remarked that you couldn’t tell if they were making panty-hose or megadeath” .

      That sense of desolation.

      I guess Christchurch has intensified all this for me.

  3. Jenny, i have been thinking a lot about what you say here and have not yet done enough homework on those artists you mention to comment in detail.
    However, i have been reading about creativity recently – especially the book by Chirs Orwig called the Creative Fight. It often is a fight and the fight is not easy as we all know and it takes him 270 pages to talk about it. I suspect there are broadly two approaches to a body of work. One is to have a good idea of what you want to do and then go for it. The other is where we have a vague idea. In this case my way of coping with this is to do two things in parallel. One is to share with others you trust for advice (which you are doing) and the other is to “iterate aggressively” – just keep making images and then reviewing what you have done to see if there is any enlightenment. The important thing during this time is to keep an open mind and not to judge each image until you have a better idea of where you want to go. The worst thing is to stop until you have clarity.

    • Thanks John, a very good inspiration to keep going. And great explanation of the two possible approaches. I like that. One fits with my enjoyment of process, the other will help me deal with the frustration of the “vague idea”.

  4. All I can tell you is what I am feeling and seeing when I look at the image.

    For me it is clearly about the place… (and you are totally correct that a person, or even a recognisable symbol such as writing, would steal the scene)… and it is up to me to make a story that makes sense to me in this place.

    We all have memories of such places, mine are both as a child and as a parent.

    So, for me, this is all about taking me back to another time and another place. Different images in a series would evoke different memories….

    • Thank you!

      About place. Yes. The interesting thing for me has been the places I’ve felt strongly I want to photograph, and those I’ve been less inclined. The ones I’ve stuck with have been those that have felt unsettling for some reason, and they all appear to be in slightly lower socio-economic areas for whatever reason (maybe partly explained above?) But I’m still trying to understand that place thing, and what memories might be stuck down there that I’m referring to.

      I’ll keep pushing and see what comes.

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