Artists Explaining Themselves

I have visited countless exhibitions over the years. I have always been of the opinion that explanations are unnecessary. I often relate this Robert Frost story.  When he was asked to explain a poem he replied, “So you want me to say it worse.” I once had an exhibition where the audience only knew who had taken the pictures – no titles – no explanations. I loved the look of it. Maybe just the fact that I was the maker was too much information. Maybe that would raise expectations in the mind and eye of the viewer – prejudice.

I usually look at works and if I feel satisfied I leave without reading explanations.

However I went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There is a work there by Roger Hiorns which is simply 2 scrap jet engines from a U.S. military plane sited on a terrace.

Sculpture by Roger Hiorns
Two redundant jet engines, form a sculpture by Roger Hiorns photograph Robert Norbury

I remembered seeing his exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield which had a profound visual and emotional effect on me, I never wondered what Hiorns intended us to feel. The exhibition was a number of old engines and steel work benches like the ones I imagine you would find in a laboratory. Plus other objects. At the time I was working at the Hepworth as a kind of resident artist running workshops. I wandered round the work but initially it left me cold. Then someone came in and placed small piles of white powder on the benches and set fire to it.

At some point I became aware of two young men (I think two) in white shirts and black trousers. I watched one of them remove all his clothes and then seat himself on one of the benches. Few people in the room seemed to notice what was going on. I photographed this process. I can’t remember whether I read any kind of explanation but it didn’t seem to matter at the time.

Click the pictures to start a slideshow.

However when I saw his current display at the Y.S.P. I was at a loss as to what it was all about. I don’t think dereliction is an interesting subject any more. I read the explanation and was impressed to say the least. I will still always look at work first then read the explanation but I will read them. The engines are from a decommissioned American reconnaissance plane. Machines designed to reduce anxiety of a threat from another nation. Within the engines are crushed tablets commonly used to treat depression and the symptoms of trauma. I would never have known this without the explanation. I was impressed by Hiorns’s train of thought.

When I take a photograph I rarely have any kind of philosophical intent. The elements of the composition or the main subject impress me to capture them. As I press the button my mind is blank. Maybe that’s why I have had difficulty working on themes or series. I don’t know why I take the pictures but my mind eye and heart are in register when I do.

Heartbroken Potwasher

Today’s office is Starbucks at Hartshead Moor, Service Station. Drinking out out of paper because the pot-washer is broken.

Having visions of a human pot washer sitting in a shitty room behind the scenes having a nervous breakdown or a heart breakage.

Image taken with Huawei P20 pro on Aperture setting at f0.95.  Processed in Lightroom Mobile using my own black and white high contrast pre-set and a little burning in.  I find getting a satisfactory image straight out of the phone impossible.  Same with a camera really.  If you want to learn how to do it get in touch.

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The Tate St Ives

I came to St Ives to be solitary, to think about blogging and my work.

Also to work out the WordPress apps. I have been solitary and tried to think of things to blog about. Of course my mind has been blocked. Until this morning I went to the Tate St Ives. A fabulous building. So I decided to produce a snippet from this trip as a taster.

All the shots were taken with the Lumix G90 which I absolutely adore. Matched with an Olympus 17mm f1. 2 lens. A great combination for the seaside as they are both dust and splashproof. I used the program mode for all the shots and varied the exposure using the exposure compensation feature using my thumb on the rear control wheel. One way for darker t’other for lighter.

I had spotted the woman in cloche hat earlier, I used focus lock again with my thumb to focus on the back of her head as soon as she turned..snapped the shutter.

The guy in silhouette was in the restaurant sitting behind me. Using wifi I pointed the camera rearwards. I was able to compose and take the shot with my phone without ever looking in his direction.

The pictures were then sent to my Huawei P20 pro phone by wifi and processed there in Lightroom.

For What its Worth, Buying Second Hand Books

I do like to support local businesess when I can. However at Barter Books in Alnwick this morning I spotted a second hand book about the photographer Brassai priced at £32. I saw the same book at 81p on Abe books with £2.60 postage, this seller cannot be making any money.

 

Any road here is a selection of photographs inspired by the experience.

Moments

YEARS PASS, AGES PASS, TROUBLES PASS

When time overwhelms us, sometimes a second can save us. This is the miracle of the moment: being, seeing, or taking a photograph. The photo is there you can pick it up like a pebble on a beach; sometimes it will wait there for years like Sleeping Beauty: Let us give thanks for forgetfulness and remembrancess. We recall gardens, riverbanks, windows, faces. We know now that a moment can save us, that a moment never grows old. Over a lifetime I have noticed that everything is woven together by chance encounters and special moments. Unplanned, uncalculated instants. Let us give thanks for spontaneity and the unexpected.

EDOUARD BOUBAT
Paris, February 1993
taken from Les Inédits, exhibition catalogue, 1993.

Picture by me 16 years ago as I cycled to Sheffield.

 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

Picture by me posed by a neighbour.

Real Time

“In the beginning was real time. A woman enters a garden that is bursting with color. She has no memory, only a burgeoning curiosity. She approaches the man. He is not curious. He stands before a tree. Within the tree is a word that becomes a name. He receives the name of every living thing. At one with the present he has neither ambition nor dream. The woman reaches toward him, gripped by the mystery of sensation.”

By Patti Smith from M Train a beautiful book.

These pictures are my retrospective vision of her words.

 

Couple in a patch of light.
Couple in a patch of light.
A Tree I forgot Where
A Tree I forgot Where

Rain

“I can tell Bob Dylan in an instant,” she said. “Because his harmonica’s worse than Stevie Wonder?” She laughed again. Nice to know I could still make someone laugh. “No, I really like his voice,” she said. “It’s like a kid standing at the window watching the rain.”

Haruki Murakami, from Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

When I read this yesterday it got me thinking about rain. So here is a collection of pictures of rain.

I am fortunate in that I have a Lumix Panasonic G9 camera and a 3 lenses that are weatherproof.  An Olympus 17mm f1.2, a Leica 12mm f1.4 and an Olympus f2.8 60mm macro lens.  In the past I have used sandwich bags to protect my cameras and lenses.  Put the camera in a resealable camera bag with a filter.  Pull the bag tight over the lens and screw the filter back on so that it cuts a hole in the bag.  You can then attach a lens hood to keep rain off the front of the filter.  Don’t go swimming with it.  I once did experience a freak downpour with a Canon 5D and this setup and the camera was fucked up to the tune of several hundred quid but insurance paid out for it.  The picture below is my Lumix GX9 and Olympus 17mm 1.8 lens.

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If you are wondering about the strap, its shock cord you can buy from outdoor shops.  There will be a blog about my straps soon.

Here are some of my rain pictures taken with various equipment including mobile phones. Click on any picture to enlarge it and then scroll through. If you look below the pictures you will see metadata with details of equipment.

 

“Your own photography is never enough” About Influence.

There have been many influences on my work and inspiration comes from many sources. I can be inspired by the human form, music, the landscape, the enthusiasm and actions of others, music, to name but a few. The photographer Robert Adams has been both for me. An English language academic in the U. S., turned photographer he has for me all the right qualifications as a guru. I have tried to read Sontag and Barthes but for me they don’t speak the right language. (Notice that they don’t get a link here you’ll have to Google ’em yourself) Adams’s book ‘Why people photograph’ is a seminal work. It is a collection of articles and critiques. Adams once said “Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other peoples pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny but that carry with them a reminder of community.”

Over the years I have developed a visual signature, a creative personality. How did I do it. Influence. I took lots of pictures. I looked at millions of pictures to discover the photographers and artists that I wanted to emulate. I studied their work. I bought books. I have never tried to copy other’s work. I know some teachers think that’s a good way to learn. For sure one of the biggest influences has been Ralph Gibson and for me it is obvious in many of my pictures including the one of the woman in the header above.

However although I don’t copy, often a picture is or almost is a pastiche of something else, for example the picture here of Chloe climbing stairs. When I took it Marcel Duchamps Nu Descendant un Escalier‘, was definitely in my mind.

Chloe climbing the stairs at Vortex
Chloe climbing the stairs at Vortex

On another occasion I was overtaken by a black dog in snow I quickly snapped a shot which reminded me so much of this one by Joseph Koudelka. Koudelka has been an influence for sure. I am fascinated by white lines at road junctions because of this shot.

Dog in the snow at Meltham photographed by Robert Norbury
Dog in the snow at Meltham photographed by Robert Norbury
Winksley Banks North Yorkshire
Winksley Banks North Yorkshire by Robert Norbury

A few words about books. Art and photography books can be expensive and the chances of finding a bargain in a charity shop these days are slim. You can of course view work on the internet. However the Photofile and Photopoche books are really good value for money. New they are 8 or nine pounds new and can be bought second hand on Abe or Alibris. The new ones can be bought on Amazon. The Photopoche ones are written in French. I have around 40 of them and they do fit in your pocket. They are from the same stable and are identical in size.