People blessed with the gift of sight come to depend entirely and unconsciously on our visual perception. What we see informs our understanding of physical reality yet, as we go about our everyday lives, we do not often scrutinise the process of seeing. Unfortunately, much beauty goes unnoticed.
For photographers, learning to see as an active process is one of the most profound ways that the craft influences and inspires us. Surprises can arise at any moment, and the simple-but-not-easy practice of continually remaining aware of what we are perceiving can totally transform our life experience. This awareness creates a deep connection to my experience of ‘reality’.
I’ve often been surprised and thrilled during my journey into abstraction. When I first started photography, I was most captivated by grand scenic landscapes and the majesty of nature. Yet this was only the beginning of my ability to actually see. And once I started truly seeing, I became enchanted by the basic properties of how physical objects appear to the naked eye.
I’ve since learned that seeing mainly happens in the brain, not the eyes, and this opens up the incredible and infinite universe of perception. In my photography, now, I am much more aware of what I am perceiving, not just seeing, and I notice how my brain kicks into gear when it’s intellectually stimulated by optical effects.
Thus my photography migrated from pictures of the natural world to subjects much more from the manmade realm. One of the astounding things about photographic abstraction is that something made by human hands can become utterly unrecognisable when framed and captured by a camera in a certain way. (Conversely, in all but the most macro- and microscopic views invisible to the naked eye, natural subjects become instantly recognisable by most everyone.)
Along with how a thing appears to the eye, I’ve started noticing more that various materials have incredibly diverse optical and aesthetic properties. In the most important ways imaginable, this revelation has opened up a treasure trove of photographic opportunities for me. The juxtapositions of materials having different colours, textures, reflectance and opacity have become the main elements in my creative toolbox. I enjoy ‘finding’ photographs while exploring outdoors equally as well as setting up still-life arrangements in the studio.
I practice very ‘straight’, minimalist photography—I never rely on post-processing effects, enhancement or manipulation to achieve the finished image. I shoot what I see, and I love making each picture as completely as possible in the camera.
Yet I believe no photograph is never truly finished until it has been printed … capturing an interesting image is only the initial stage of the creative process. The creation and synthesis of a physical object is the ultimate aspiration for my work.
As such, the choice of printing and finishing is an integral part of my method. I strive to match each photograph with a production that will yield its sublime expression. This leads to much experimentation, trial-and-error until I find the best solution.
For me, this also means that working with physical materials is as important as the camera work in bringing the photograph to life. Although I use a digitally-centred workflow in capturing, processing and printing my images, the goal of the entire process is to create something tangible, similar to the analogue process of producing a darkroom print using reactive metals and chemicals. In this way, I endeavour to make the best use of modern methods and materials, advancing the photographic art while respecting its traditions.
Materiality is thus an exploration and investigation into how a captured image can be best expressed in the most elegant and beautiful way through the selection of materials and reproduction processes. My work is a study of aesthetics, not of subject matter: I care about ‘how it looks’ much more than ‘what it is’.
About the image above:
Photograph 2023 / Printed 2023
Clear film on aluminium composite panel
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