I am noticing a temptation during this series to ‘one-up’ myself, to do a more ‘interesting’ or weird photo than the previous week. It’s a temptation that I am going to try and subvert as it is not only a denial of missteps or failure or process but it is a drive that seems to say there is only one way to take a perfect photograph, paint a painting, or write a piece of writing. This is clearly not so. There are different tones and contexts. There are thoughtful works, shocking works, works that comfort us or unsettle us or make us think. Even a bad work- especially a bad work – teaches us something or inspires us to do better. Sometimes, what seems to be a weak work may not in certain contexts be weak at all. A weak work can make a collection of works more interesting, provide a low note to a high note. Perhaps it’s attributes may be harder to uncover yet more interesting for that difficulty.
I have only grappled with these thoughts since I started writing this piece but I recognise it as an important issue for me in my work. In every artwork I do I am trying to get it perfect, include everything in the world in it and while that impulse can lead to wonderfully chaotic results its a huge pressure that denies the importance of development. I only see now, five years after returning to college, the path my work has taken, how each work relates to the others, how everything is joined up, how it makes sense in its context in my developmental arc despite my innate anti-structuralism – or whatever you’d call it, this weird dissociated, disjointed take on the world.
Why do I think this photo is weak?It’s pretty(I think) and it is well enough balanced. It speaks of sun and the beach and nature but there are far better nature/sea/beach photos out there. It is not saying anything new. It’s a bit ‘nice’. I like things a little twisty and a little dark and maybe funny or unsettling.
What I do like about this picture is the subject. The holdfast is the root system of kelp. I always liked that name – holdfast. It speaks of strength, determination and persistence in the face of stormy seas.
I was on the beach today in the sun after a rare swim surrounded by nature my mind wandering idly about when it occurred to the saying ‘all we have is each other’ might mean something beyond a do-goody imprecation to be nice. Maybe it means that in the world that is wild and untamed where nothing makes sense, not really, all we have are the stories we tell ourselves and each other about how life is. Our shared beliefs hold us togther, allow us to map out paths, to evolve, develop. These narratives on which we balance are made up, not real, but without them we have nothing…
Another thought floats to the surface. A friend and ex-colleague of mine, Nigel. He equally inspired love and exasperation. He was in a word, indefatigable.
(of a person or their efforts) persisting tirelessly. Tireless, untiring, never-tiring, unwearied, unwearying, unflagging;
Nigel was always Nigel. He was everyone’s friend, he was the same with everyone. He had advice for all, attended all the work night outs and excursions and trips. He would go to the opening of an envelope it was said. He was always doing something. He was proud of his garden and one day he asked me to let him know when there was kelp on the beaches so he could collect some for compost. I did. And he did.
Nigel died suddenly four years ago this weekend. Today when I saw the kelp on the shores I thought of Nigel and how he enjoyed his life and how we must hold fast in honour of friends who are gone, we must hang in there, we must not give up.