I recently visited the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, a regular haunt. They are currently showing some incredible work by the acclaimed Scottish artist, Jenny Saville I remember her work when she first gained wide recognition over 20 years ago but hadn’t seen much for years. I was totally blown away and would recommend a visit. You really need to see the images in their larger than life scale to appreciate them. The wild textural style seems at odds with the subtlety of the overall final painting from a distance.
While there I saw some of the Francis Bacon images they hold in their permanent collection. I’ve always loved the abstraction in his work and like Saville I’m so impressed that brush strokes so seemingly wild can result in art so nuanced. I’ve always felt a little frustrated that those contradictory qualities are harder to capture in photography. I have been playing around with light from a projector and I calculated I could use it’s qualities to allow more unpredictability and abstraction into my work . I’ve never seen anyone else using light in quite this way and was unsure if my late night pondering on the technique would come to anything.
I first tried lighting a moving model during a long exposure in the studio and liked the outcome, especially the lack of control over what the final image would look like. I then tried shooting a self portrait, largely for the want of a suitable (slightly!) craggy face that would work well for this approach. All rather hard to do while holding the camera at the same time! All this from a man who can’t abide ‘the selfie’. The self portrait has a look of something highly edited but I love that this image is straight from the camera unedited other than a crop. The rather wild look of the image is captured raw in both senses! A couple of days later I was shooting a theatre image for my friend Matthew Zajac and managed to sneak in another projector portrait of him at the end of our shoot.
I’m not sure where all this might lead, I’m always inclined to jump around stylistically but I really enjoyed the lack of control inherent within the process which I think allows more to come from the sitters in that moment. Anything that challenges your normal practices, especially after 30 tears of shooting is very welcome. I also just love to play!