Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Mega-bloks and what to do about it…..

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Man… I tell you… mental blocks really aren’t cool. Haven’t posted for quite a while simply because I don’t feel I have anything to say let alone see. Shot some landscapes yesterday on the Holga which was OK – I find NOT doing people a lot easier and zen-like for some reason in this state-of-mind. People (strangers in particular) are not so easy to photograph it seems. I don’t think I’ve ever thought this before but I’m realising that portraiture is quite exhausting and not without its rejections and failures. If only people weren’t so self-conscious. Oh I long for the days when cameras were new and no-one really knew what the hell they were!! I shot some images the other day for Winnunga Nimmitijah (the Aboriginal Health Service) who were celebrating a belated NAIDOC Day. I was prepped by a staff member about the taboo of photographing Aboriginal people, especially without asking (the notion of the camera stealing souls remains prevalent it seems), but I think too there was a sense of cynicism about why I wanted to photograph the event (you know, the ‘not another whitey coming to help us’ attitude – though I heard later that apparently I’m Chinese and got proverbially lumped in with this dominant Asian cultural group despite a correction of my mixed heritage, on my behalf. The attitude being that Asians are all the same aren’t they!? Man if we keep going at this neandethal rate, reconciliation ain’t ever going to happen!). Anyway exasperation aside, I photographed the day for Winnunga and whilst there were no stand-out images, the final 100 that I edited are a good record of the day. In the end not 100% altruism on my part (but what photography is??). To me the access is way more important – the images will come later. Indeed, this has led to teeing up an opportunity to photograph a group of young aboriginal boxers at the end of the week, so I am happy at least in this regard. Plus there is the issue of posterity, which I am a firm believer in – what gets left behind is what makes history. (Read Susan Sontag on the notion of photography as ‘historical traces’ – one of her less belligerent pieces). One learning that I have walked away with is this: it IS worth biding one’s time to get the story. And I know that for me, the lesson has been that perhaps I am not a ‘photojournalist’ type who can jump around in one go and get an entire story without feeling any connection. I think I was devastated for all of 5 minutes (there goes my Magnum dream!) then I realised that I like to work slowly and take my time and that in fact this is probably a healthier approach. The logic of more time, better images. I know that my style is somewhat more formal in composition, not staged so much as still. Still-lives of people I suppose. I also like to return and create more images and I like to walk away with the feeling that the process has to some degree been a collaborative one (where I don’t feel like shite inside for stealing or damning anyone’s souls!). So in turning all this sod over in my brain, the process of applying this to my work is seemingly going to change the nature of what I am doing (well I think so anyway – I told you mental blocks are lame!). The ‘creative process’ I am constantly told. Actually it’s rather like being constipated. I only hope that what emerges doesn’t stink too badly!!

Another artist whose work I have been looking at is – conceptual ingenue – UK photographer, Tom Hunter. His approach reminds me a little of my own (the fact that he photographs his friends; his environment and his community) and I like that he has political intent in his work. Also, the way he infuses his inspiration from artists such as Vermeer into his work is beautiful in that they are simultaneouly homages but also clearly, photographs that tell their own stories in the context of Hunter’s everyday life. My favourite is ‘Ophelia’... simply stunning really… So this is where I am: reading and reading…. looking and looking at other people’s work. I know that I have to also start looking at works in other mediums, not just photography, to draw inspiration from (Chaitanya, you are right as always!)

Below are some pics from a series I’ve been working on about a retirement home. I haven’t quite figured out how I want to express the idea of ageing. I think the idea of ‘sequencing’ (thanks to Jon Rhodes for this concept!) the photographs might be a good way of doing this. I’ve been photographing the residents’ rooms (with the last of their worldly possessions – usually photos interestingly) as well as making portraits. Originally I thought to work in colour, however I like the stillness and formality of the B&W. It seems….. more respectful somehow?

Morning Tea

A room in the North Wing

Sharing Memories

I might well have some new pics to post next week. Until then nightowls…..

Written by Lee Grant

September 11, 2006 at 8:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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