The last gasp of failed photos

I’m just emerging from a month of disruption to the photography, quite apart from lockdown and the American election. Rain leaked in through the flat roof above the darkroom, so I had one week of emptying the room, one week of building work (with masks on) then redecoration. I tried to take longer over putting everything back, cleaning and sorting as I went, not just stuffing the same old stuff back in the same old places.

What surprises/appalls me is how much detritus I carry with me. All working materials of course, all kept as possible ideas, all the boxes of old photos and scraps of old photos, dead ends that might lead somewhere.

I take heart from comments made by the poet Caroline Bird in a recent conversation in Poetry Nation Review magazine. She said “Often the first thing I do with second drafts is to chop off the whole beginning and work with the coda…….the shorter poems in the book did not come from the beginning of a draft but from the end. they are the last gasp of really long poems”

So my collages are the last gasp of failed photos. Photos often hang around for a time, while I stare at them and decide if they work. And if they don’t, I hate to waste them so I tear them up and recombine. Or as in this case I tear up four or five grids that don’t quite cohere in order to make one image that convinces me. It can take a long time to decide what doesn’t work, and the successful idea might be the last chance before everything goes in the bin.

Which is why the detritus has to be kept.

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