I have been cleaning up around my workshop, now that it has a new metal roof and has been rebuilt inside and out. Thirty years of ‘may be useful’ bits of wood, full of nails and half rotten, have been going up in smoke over several days and now the last of it, a large pile of red hot coals, breathes orange flame in the gathering darkness. I reach for my camera and begin to create a series of images. I have no set purpose at this point, just collecting, with my thinking mind held in neutral.
I try different angles, swirl the camera around, take low and high angle shots and then on a whim roll a coil of old fencing wire against the flames and photograph through that. I move on to some interesting shots of old crockery, semi-immersed in the coals. Then I do a counter-intuitive thing and turn on the flash. All the bright orange light of the glowing coals is extinguished. Grey ash and charcoal, fissured by bright gouts of flame create a very different mood. When I photograph through the fencing wire this time, I have found a powerful image. Not a beautiful image, it reminds me of the Jan Martel book, ‘beatrice and virgil’ that I have just finished reading. His book is a very creative take on the Holocaust that I made the mistake of finishing just before falling asleep, or in that case, not falling asleep. I recognize my ash, fire and wire image to be existing in that same mind space, creating yet another form of Holocaust memorial.
I am still making photos of beautiful things these days, but when this kind of image arrives I am very pleased. It means that I am expanding my range of expression beyond the beautiful and into more difficult subject matter. My mind is touching things way down below somewhere, and translating them into more challenging imagery.
Cast shadows of a maple branch and its myriad of leaves against a red barn door. A few from the still green tree hover above. The red/green colour contrast sets the green leaves and their shadowy relatives, projected and made visible by the last rays of the evening sun, to dancing. If I turn my mind just so, I can see that this is a companion piece to my image of wire, ash and flame.