Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mining the seam

click photo to enlarge
"Anything you want - love stories, murders, whatever - can be written in these few streets."
Roddy Doyle (1958-), Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter

In a recent Guardian interview the writer Roddy Doyle articulated a truth many artists come to realise - that mining a seam that has close limits, and is well-known, can be more revealing and inspiring than trawling the world for new sensations. He was referring to the suburban area of Kilbarrack on the outskirts of Dublin. For others it has been the landscape around Dedham Vale ( the painter John Constable), the Yorkshire port of Whitby (the photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe), or the county of Dorset (the writer Thomas Hardy). But it's not just the limitations of a location that can offer this kind of liberation and focus: the same interest and depth can also be found in restricting oneself to a narrow subject range.

For the painter John Ward of Hull, it was marine subjects, for photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher it was systematic industrial subjects, and for the writer, Isaac Asimov it was the fact and fiction of the future. One of the best known examples of an artist's almost obsessive focus on a single subject is the attention that the painter Claude Monet gave to his garden and particularly his water lilies during the later period of his life. It's the example of Monet that I think of when I approach my modest lily pond each year as the leaves break through the surface of the water once more. The plants, water and reflections are ever changing, with the time of day, season and weather all contriving to bring something different and interesting to the same small area. The other evening it was the bright glow of the sunset that coloured the scene and had me reaching for my camera.

For my other shots of this subject, taken at different times of year, see here, here, here, here and (if you can bear any more!) here.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 81mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On