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A Lot of the Time, I Don’t Want a Predictable Outcome

Over time, I have become less interested in the predictable photographic outcome and in digital photography’s supreme triumph in image fidelity. You can feel a bit jaded by one two many hyper-real, hyper-colourful ‘stunning’ single images. I prefer expression, impression, interpretation, play, story telling and mystery.

I like blur, fuzziness, longer exposures, digital noise, film grain, montages, low fidelity images, under and over exposure, damaged negatives, and high fidelity images with an amorphous quality.

Tunstall Court, 2012

I recall when I first realised the possibilities offered by digital cameras for experimentation and expression; for expressing something other than the literal. I was exploring Tunstall Court in Hartlepool a few years ago, a late Victorian dilapidated mansion. It is gone now, but its vandalised and graffiti riddled interior was a magnet for the curious. Wandering around inside made me feel sad, angry, and a bit afraid at times; such is the eerie atmosphere of abandoned places.

Tunstall Court, 2012

I had been a few times before, and was satisfied with some of the images I made there, but I had never been able to capture the eeriness to my satisfaction. So, I reckoned the best thing to do was to try a different approach. Leaving the tripod at home, I went light with just an Olympus OM-D E-M5 (original) and kit lens. Even the original digital OM-D had incredible in-built image stabilisation, and I hoped that this feature could be useful. I wandered the rooms of the mansion and with some trial and error, I started getting interesting results exposing for one second; holding the camera still for half the exposure and then deliberately moving for the remainder.

Tunstall Court, 2012

The results of those first explorations illustrate this post. Those first frames in that beautiful, creepy house set me off along what I thought at the time was a photographic tangent, but it has turned out to be my general direction of travel; less predictable but more satisfying images. Beautiful surprises made in joyful moments of experimentation and play.

Tunstall Court, 2012

This interest in experimentation and process has brought me back to film. The second set of images below are recent and were made from a partly exposed roll of film I found in a Pentax ME camera I had bought. I decided to take it out of the Pentax and put it into an untested Yashica YL, a fixed lens rangefinder from 1959. After exposing the colour film of indeterminate age, I processed it in black and white film developer. So much left to chance!

Great High Wood, Durham, 2019

Over the coming weeks, I will be adding galleries of photographs where I have applied the techniques described here, as well as other techniques, to different subjects and ideas.

Great High Wood, Durham, 2019
Great High Wood, Durham, 2019
Great High Wood, Durham, 2019

3 replies »

  1. Chris, I am really impressed with the images in this post, they exude a mystery, they excite the imagination and even hint at an underlying sense of macabre.

    Bravo to you for kicking off the shackles of Sharp, Rule Of Thirds, In Focus etc etc.

    I think your experimentation and thought processes is a lot more involved with the environment that you are working in as opposed to setting up a tripod, aiming the camera then capturing the perfect landscape. Marvellous.

    I look forward to seeing more.


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Originally a blog about photography, I write about vintage cameras, the environment, clothes and anything else I feel moved to type about.

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