Last month I was thrilled to find out that I had been selected to be one of the 2012/13 Artists in Residence at the University of Lincoln. I’ll be blogging thoughout over here but thoughts I’d share my project’s first tentative steps on The Thinking Bridge too.

Since being a very small child, I have always held the belief that I am harbouring a hidden talent that I have yet to discover; a talent so amazing that it requires little effort to actualise but has the power to insight awe and wonder in all who behold it. This belief has led to some monumental disappointments with many potential talents being scratched off the list, playing professional darts,  disco dancing on roller skates and speaking Esperanto to name but a few. Heading for 40 with my hidden talent still eluding me I recently bumbled into another epic fail situation through rejecting rigour in favour of alchemy and the quest for super powers.

My AA2A project is going to explore what will happen to a series of creative relationships developed in digital environments when they are migrated offline and will be documented by analogue processes. Darkroom photography was my first love and although I cast it aside for the speed and convenience of digital photography well over 10 years ago a spark of interest rekindled my passion for film this summer which became the inspiration for my project proposal.

The spark bizarrely took the form of a £3.50 Polaroid camera that I found in a charity shop; I took a chance and loaded it with the considerably more expensive film and headed off on an analogue adventure. The thrill of flipping the chunky camera casing to reveal its lens and flash, the heavy clunk and whoosh of the ejected Polaroid and the nervous anticipation experienced as the image developed combined to elicit ridiculous levels of excitement! With each press of the shutter I was left with a tangible, yet slightly imperfect, outcome of a carefully considered composition.

The whole Polaroid experience led me to consider both the value of photographs as physical artefacts and a renewed interest in exploring the fundamental principles of making an image. Once inducted as an AA2A artist I decided that experimenting with pin-hole cameras would both be an excellent starting point to take my analogue adventure further and a useful device to find my feet within the Lens Based Media department at the University of Lincoln.

I set to work and after a fruitful spell of internet research, I meticulously crafted 20 lightproof cameras which I loaded with light sensitive paper. This however is where my enthusiasm and belief in super powers took over and confused my logic. Instead of choosing one subject and using a series of cameras to photograph it, making an incremental change to the length of exposure each time, I chose a range of subjects, took a single photograph of each and used an exposure time plucked from the air. After 10 minutes in the darkroom, the small black rectangles of photographic paper that I had carefully retrieved and developed told me that I had another hidden talent to strike from the list of possibilities.

Despite wanting to go home to cry into my tin of failure I took Samuel Beckett’s advice to ‘“Try again, fail again, fail better.” I enlisted the help of Dave O the department’s senior photography technician who very patiently helped me to take a more robust research based approach to calculating exposure times. He also introduced me to the baffling inverse square law which reminded me that photography is all about physics.

Had I not have failed I wouldn’t have thought about physics and photography and I wouldn’t have prompted myself to rewatch this film by Daniel Meadows about his very humanistic take on the subject.  After experiencing the sheer joy of creating an image as a by-product of determination I am now happy to continue the rest of my residency learning to fail.

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