First surrealist image

posted in: early work, outdoors, surreal | 0

At the Close of the day

After spending the spring researching and immersing myself in art and photography, I had sketched out several ideas on paper and come June, was good to go. Only I had no models so used myself. I shot three portfolio shots on one roll of 35 mm film. The other two were of a bottle of Mateus wine and the first of my shoe series, The Fetish I. I kind of treated them like a still life shoot and just bracketed the exposures, hence did not use much film. Three to 5 frames were enough. These three images set the direction of my photography permanently. By the end of the summer and eighteen months after taking up photography, I had a style which has hardly changed over all these years and does not need to. There are just more pictures. In a short space of time with little formal teaching and an “I can do that” attitude, I had done what it takes others years to do. I had achieved a style.

One of the facilities I have is finding two ideas and putting them together to make a third. I had seen a picture of a model on a beach picking up a large glowing shell and I wanted to do something similar but with a Magritte flavour. I shot this on the rooftop of the flats I could see out of my window. At first I was scared to get near the edge of the roof because there was no guard rail and I had a minor fear of heights which I had not realised until then. Later as I started climbing the roofs of several abandoned buildings, I lost the fear.

I wanted the picture hopefully to be commercial and cast about for a transparent object I could use. I settled on a bottle of Schwepes. I got a glass bowl from the kitchen and wrapped the inside with tracing paper and put a pocket flash with a slave underneath it. I mounted a Hanimex flashgun off to one side on a second tripod but I could not afford a flash meter so had to go by the exposure index on the back of the flash. The only trouble being I had no sense of distance and afterwards would often ask the model how far away they thought they were. They never knew either but it never occurred to me to buy a tape measure. I bought a flash meter the following year. I shot these with self timer and would have to correct the cloth over my face just before the shutter clicked.

It was very much an experiment because I had never shot outdoors like this before. I had never used a flashgun off the camera before and I was not even sure how long to expose for the sunset. It took years before I got a Polaroid back for a 35 mm camera.

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