This week I read the fourth chapter in Patricia Townsend’s book – Creative States of Mind, Psychoanalysis and the Artist’s Process (2019).  Inevitably in a book like this, and dependent upon the artist’s medium, some ideas and parts of the process will resonate more than others.  For me, Working with the Medium, although it included some thoughts and quotations from photographers, it felt more akin to painters and sculptors rather than those using a camera to express themselves.

The stage of working with the medium, follows the initial elation when the idea emerges in the artist’s mind.  At some point, which may not be for a while, the idea must develop from a thought in one’s head.  Some of Townsend’s interviewees spoke fondly about this period as one where the positive thoughts of a potential project remain untarnished by the act of trying to turn it into a practical outcome.  For example, Gina Glover spoke of her disappointment when she processes the first rolls of film:

“I have the film processed and I just look at them and they are often quite disappointing . . . it’s generally always disappointing.”  (Glover in Townsend 2019: 37).

I recognise this disjunct between an idea compared with the early actualisation of it through photographic images.  I start to question how I will actually achieve my objectives and somehow enable the camera to produce something in my head.  Sometimes I think I have achieved something – immediately after a shoot – however, when I start to process the images, they do not convey the feeling or emotion, that glimpse of the ephemeral hiddenness of Skye that I am seeking.  I ask myself whether the location is right and why the images do not convey what I was hoping for.  This process and the negativity and disappointment can go on for some time!

Dryden Goodwin, a photographer and artist, explains this process:

“There’s something about the positive feedback you get from putting a pencil on a page.  For me that relates to how I want to use the camera.  And you know, I suppose there is a kind of relationship between the sort of touching with the eye or touching with the lens . . . there’s nervousness . . . will you be able to find a way of holding that within the limitations of what the camera can do?  But then pushing what the camera can do.”  (Goodwin in Townsend 2019: 40).

I believe that Goodwin is talking here about that close relationship, that closeness that a photographer has with the camera.  I have spoken before about the times, when the images do live up to expectations, and the camera feels like an extension of me.  The camera and I are as one.  Inevitably this feeling also coincides with a deep connection with the subject I am working with.  Townsend describes this relationship between artist and medium as a collaboration or partnership to achieve our ends – I would certainly agree with that.



TOWNSEND, Patricia.  2019.  Creative States of Mind:  Psychoanalysis and the Artist’s Process.  Abingdon: Routledge.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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