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Hope Through Severance – Part 2

  |   behind the scenes, fine art, hope through severance, photography, projects   |   No comment

The fact I had failed my last shoot (If you missed part one of this post, here you go!) despite all the work that had gone into it didn’t sink in until about a week through the recovery work to organise the reshoot. I’m optimistic by nature, but sometimes you get knocked down and I guess I was able to block that for a while. I started questioning wether or not I was wasting so much time on what is effectively just a photograph and I found when you reduce what you do down to what it is, when you take the what, how and why of photography and strip away the how and why you aren’t left with much. The reality was this was just a photography assignment, that this was just a  year 2, semester one project of a BA Hons Photography degree and there didn’t seem to be much point. Though I forgot how I was doing this college assignment; how I was, if you look at it on it’s most basic level, taking one of my most ambitious ideas I’ve ever had for a photograph and going for it. Something which, without the small nudge of genuine encouragement from a few people around me, I would have put aside as a ridiculous idea that, if at all, “I’ll do when I’m 30. After a year long creative drought and after almost giving up on the course/medium altogether, I finally found something worth the effort, I found the adventure in it again.


And it wasn’t just that that was pushing me to go for this, but also what I was trying to say with it. Why I was going this. Donovan (see Part One) talked about ‘vision’, that creative authenticity that he better put as ‘your voice as an author of images’. This was the first time I had ever felt like I was making pictures that felt like my own, felt like they were about something that was important to me. This idea of potential and aspiration,  or perhaps it should be ‘potential in aspiration’ is something important to me right now. It has been knocked down over and over as a childish pursuit of fantasy, a form of escapism but I still believe it isn’t that. I never associated what I’m trying to do with ‘childhood’. Certainly not when there’s a £1500 production on the line.

I think that what some would mistake as childish escapism is much more of an inherent optimism. I believe that our inherent ability to create – to materialise the unmaterialised, to imagine is far too powerful to attach to childhood and nostalgically observe it from a distance as adults, often admiring at it’s intrinsic innocence; how naturally we made use of our creative abilities. I think it’s wrong that we’re expected to leave that behind as some sort of childish endeavour and then ironically find ourselves wondering at some ‘brilliant’ adults who employ their creativity fully as if they had some sort of miraculous gift. Not just in art but in everything; in business, in science, in design, in life. Creativity and imagination are one and the same bar one difference. To imagine is to be a dreamer, to allow yourself to think beyond your current circumstance. To do that involves a certain disconnection from reality but to be creative is to take all of that and actually do something about it. It’s easy (relatively speaking) to be a dreamer with enough practise but to make that jump between zero and one as far as actually executing your ideas go is were your skill in taking what exists in your head and bringing it into reality comes in. Wether you are a artist, musician, designer, business man, teacher or whatever else, we all have a set of skills (we do) that we can make use of. I guess that’s why I believe that sometimes lies and deception are required in visual art in order to tell the truth and that we have a choice, a choice wether to observe the world for all it is worth, or create something worth observing. Sometimes, perception is reality.

So I got up and hit back even harder. I bought back the lost gas, balloons and hardware and tried to pull together a new and bigger crew. But as reality would have it, the weather wasn’t playing ball at all so I decided to start scouting for a new location. One that would be much more sheltered.

I know that in shooting somewhere different I would be compromising that idea of ‘home’ (at least to myself) in the image but I had the intention of turning this project into a series, were the balloons would travel through all the places I would consider fragments of home; the forests of the Mourne Mountains, my physical home, my hometown, Belfast city and wherever I may go after that.

So I figured it was best keeping Lough Shannagh’s shoot for spring/summer time, when it wasn’t basically a hurricane outside. The locations I was looking at would be for the second or third image in the series and even though it felt odd doing the second image first I think it was a smart decision.

However, even though I now had several backup locations the weather still wasn’t playing ball, clocking winds upwards of 30mph most days, topping nearly 50pmh at worst. The deadline was only getting closer and as well as having even less crew this time, I made a decision when I finally got a weather window to shoot the balloon setup on the farm at home and composite. This was by no means an easy call and I battled with it for quite a while as I started to feel that I was compromising the concept but Paul Seawright made a good point the work I was trying to make during a class review- that “Nobody really cares about how exactly the image came about. You don’t want people talking about how difficult it was to make the image and missing it’s intention altogether. Make your work less about the practise and more about your voice.”

All in all, the reshoot was a success! With a few last minute tweaks in the production plan, we saved a bunch of time and it all went much smoother than the first shoot did. You’ll find the behind the scenes video below:

The location was shot a few days later and the final image was printed to 24″x30″, dibond mounted with a subframe for the hand-in exhibition. Pretty happy with it considering the difficulties involved in trying to make this possible. For now, this series’ future is pretty much entirely funding dependant as it costs quite a lot to make this kind of stuff happen. It was certainly one of the most demanding projects I’ve worked on to date but it’s certainly not my last 🙂

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