Novella: A New Series

It’s been awhile since I last went out and shot some conceptual work, but now that I finally have, I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about how I am going to organise the images I shoot. In the past, up until my final year at university, I’ve often just shot images that I’ve considered to be “immortalised” (not the best choice of word, might replace that later..) without really paying attention to the idea of creating different series. Upon my final year of university, I had to create “a body of work”, hence my very first series, Out Of Time.

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In a way, I’m not too sure if that particular body of work is complete. I feel as if there is something missing from the set of images, but then maybe I feel that way because all of them (bar one) were shot whilst I was still a student, and now, as a graduate, I feel that my work should move on, should progress in some way.

So, because of this, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about different series of work that I’d like to create. What is is that I enjoy about photography? How am I going to make a series of work so that they look and feel connected? What are going to be the underlying themes for he series? If I shoot more than one at a time, how are they going to be different and will they have very different themes?

At the moment, I’ve got a rough idea for around 3 “major” series of work that I’d like to produce, but 2 of them contain very high ambitions, with (as you can imagine) large teams of models, stylists, hair and make up artists, a lot of cool clothes, exotic and grand locations, sets, sound stages and extensive travel costs. So, being the somewhat realistic fellow I am, I am going to focus on the one that is going to be the most convenient to shoot at this moment in time, which is the series that I’m going to call Novella:

Novella:

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When I was studying for my degree, I came across the work of Stephen Shore, Alec Soth and Todd Hido, all of whom are american photographers who shoot the most amazing pictures of the american landscape. Seeing this work, as well as knowing awesome photographers such as Rachael Bint and Tom Illsley who also shoot landscapes, really got me thinking about spaces and places and how they could feature more theoretically and aesthetically in my work. For Out Of Time, I shot outside, as it the was most convenient and suitable for the images I wanted to produce, but whilst shooting this, I tried shooting some landscapes, to experiment:

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As much as I like them, I feel that I connect better with a sense of human presence in my images (which I think is why I am drawn to buildings and architecture so much, but that’s a whole future blog post!), so I got to thinking about how I could add this to such landscapes. Because I wanted to move on from OOT, I didn’t want to really shoot more images with people outside somewhere (which is pretty much impossible), so I thought about the idea of diptychs and triptychs, (which I have future plans for!), but I didn’t feel that going from one image to two or three really worked. I wanted to create a series where I didn’t have the same restraints as my last one, a series where I could take a long time to create, and shoot a large volume of images and have a whole hit-and-miss selection process. In the end I decided that it would be good to work with a frame that holds six different images:

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Untitled #1 (Novella), 2016

The idea comes from cinematography, where people condense a whole film into any number of separate stills. I really like this idea because the very nature of cinema (time) is pulled apart and looking at a well known film in this way makes it seem very alien. When you watched it, you would have never seen these segments so isolated yet compiled together in such an equally considered but randomised way. Here are some examples of what I mean:

Personally, I like the chaotic nature of these kind of images and the way that allow me to be able to place locations and people together in one frame. Also, I’ve always been a fan of suggesting a narrative, so to create an image where what you see is not so perfectly understood really intrigues me.

I’ve chosen to title the series Novella, which, as you can see above, is a term used for a short novel or a long short story. I’m fully aware that I am entering into tricky territory with this title as I’m referring to what is principally considered to be literature. The reason I have chosen to do this is because I’m extremely interested in the idea of creating genre-bending work that explores the relationship between photography, literature and cinema and the post-digital age of storytelling.

I am going to be very flexible with this series. At the current time, I’m thinking that I am going to work on it gradually in between shooting another (smaller) series of self portraits and shooting fashion, to give me time to consider, collect, evaluate and shoot images.

There are a few things that I’m still unsure about. For example, I’m not at all sure how many images there’ll be before I deem the series “complete”, but I have the rough idea of shooting a lot, uploading and sharing them all but culling them down to a much smaller, concise, selection for website and exhibition purposes. I would, ideally, like to make a book, and probably arrange them out of sequence. (which is another problem I have; how do I title the images without sequencing them, or giving them some form of order?). Also, I’m unsure of how to control the narrative of each frame; I want to compile a lot of different images, but still make sure that there is an idea behind each image. I would like the images to be simultaneously spontaneous, random and considered, but without having to force any kind of certain “this image is about this”. I want the six images in one frame to be the only certainty.

I’m definitely considering this series to be a constant work in process; I’ve created 2 images so far, with a third one half done, but already I’ve had to think about the look of the images. I created the first image ages ago, just on a whim, last year before I thought about a new series, and I created the second image only a few days ago. The first and second image are edited in a vastly different way, with the first being edited in only one colour, and the second with a more considered colour palette. This is something I hadn’t even thought about; how the images are going to be colour graded and edited. I’m really torn between re-editing the first image again in technicolor so that it matches more with the second, or if I should just leave it and consider the future obstacle of what happens when an image from the series will look better in black and white than in colour, or whether mixing black and white and colour images would look good. These are obstacles that I’ll have to work through when they happen, but right now I’m happy to have found an idea that I feel is worthwhile pursuing. Also, I’m quite excited for the future possibilities of where the series could go, particularly the notion of literature and adding/considering using actual book pages and the relationship between image and text.

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