Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dark star. Man`s search for meaning*.

Out in my studio on these dark rainy winter days I have been following the trail of studio lighting with myself as the ever available model. From portraits to mirror images to draped figures. There seems only one more step I can take beyond that, so one day I remove my shirt and begin to photograph my own skin. Although I have drawn and photographed human bodies before, it is another much more revealing step to photograph myself. I do seem to be on an artistic trajectory, somewhere high in the atmosphere, with no indication yet where I will eventually land.

A male in my late sixties, I do not worry about overt sexuality in these images or of finding that delicate line between sterile lighting studies and overly exploitive imagery. I`m really just a hairy old guy. So hairy, I`d never realized how furry I had become. I have a strange feeling of compassion as I view that grey hair, muscles trying to turn to flab. My body is also on a trajectory as it speeds back to earth.

With a collection of images in the camera and then into the computer files I begin to wonder how I can use them. It was a revelation for me to make these photographs but to show them to others would be very revealing indeed. I squirm at the thought of exposing myself to the obvious remarks I know will surely follow, but then I shrug it off and begin to search for meaning. If I can use these human images to communicate complicated ideas I will be advancing along my path toward expression of thoughts that transcend the possibilities of mere pretty pictures. With me as a model, I`m already halfway there!

I crop a hand and forearm from a full torso shot and replace natural colour with sepia, turning the palid hairy body into a universal brown tone. It was cool in the studio and the hair is standing on end. “Primate”, I think. Hair and hand. I have found the meaning encased in this image and am well pleased. Human beings think of themselves as the lords of creation and are destroying the earth as a result. Let this remind us all of our intimate fellowship with the earth.

Another day I find an image of my back, leaning forward away from the camera and ponder its possibilities. ‘Primate’ got its share of ribald comment when I posted it on a local photoclub site, just as I feared it might, and this photo has some obvious crude sexual possibilities. The more flack I get just seems to harden my resolve however and I begin to look for meaning in this image. As with the last one, I remove the natural colour and this time tint it red, crop the arms close to the torso and remove the small bit of head that remains in view. A red truncated cross blending into a black background. Now that has possibilities!

What is that black environment the torso floats within? Space? The unconscious? Why not both?
They really are the same in the end. I start to sprinkle dots of light around: stars, I think and if stars then how about a larger one with its rays sweeping across the body. I`m on a roll. The image is soon complete except for a blank space at the bottom. Just put the title into the image. Why not? It is very freeing to cross conventional boundaries and I have figured out by now what meaning this has for me. This I`m sure had its beginning during star-filled nights sailing in the mid Pacific where my sense of self expanded into the universe. Its present meaning for me is the parallel place of the creative spirit which reaches into the dark void and finds new meaning. My head is in a creative space.

Once this picture makes the final leap into the public view its origins within my life experience will not matter much. Perhaps in the end only a few who have something gritty in their own life story will find meaning here and they will find their own meaning, not mine. A new image born into the world. The potential for new meaning.

* ‘Man`s search for meaning’ . by Victor Frankl

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