In OOP, the need for a high level of camera craft is essential: not only to ensure the quality of the image making but so that what the camera achieves is what is intended. Because OOP requires a high level of commitment, awareness of, and engagement with, the subject in the moment of capture, camera skills need to be intuitive. There is no time to dither over camera settings when all the senses convey an awareness of being – pressing the shutter needs to be immediate and intuitive. The mind needs to be released from the conscious concerns with the camera in order to engage in a creative and non-conscious flow in the moment (more on this in a future post on zonal flow).
My journey through multiple exposure work provides an illustrative case study of how enhancing and developing camera skill can provide the means and possibilise the opportunity to capture essence. I was inspired to take multiple exposure images at the end of my MA Photography when I played with the merging of two images in camera. Authenticity in my work is, I believe, important for the realisation of my aims in OOP. I produce the combined image in the moment of capture, rather than working and changing that moment into something I might or might not have seen, in post-processing.
There is another deeper reason for multiple exposure in camera. With any single shot the photographer’s ‘intentionality’ can be too dominant. With multiple exposure techniques, some of the conscious choices made in the single shot become diluted when the images are combined. As a result, any conscious intentionality should be attenuated and an ephemeral, non-conscious awareness of the reality in the subject comes through. Too many exposures just produce a ‘grey’ effect like mixing too many colours in the artist’s palette. I find, that for me, two or three images superimposed work best. Mostly multiple exposure doesn’t produce anything further than a single shot would have done. But, occasionally, leaving the camera to its own devices, creates a gap in intentionality and ‘the magic’ comes pouring through.
In my early multiple exposure work I experimented with changing the exposure and degree of focus between the layers and some of the images were submitted as part of my Final Major Project. These images provided the depth and luminosity I hoped for, were aesthetically strong and presented layers of reality through the combination of a number of images.
I returned to multiple exposure work early in my PhD merging two images together. I worked with merging an underexposed, intentionally blurred first image and a second in sharp focus, changing the depth of field depending on the subject. At first, I photographed single trees or small groups but then started experimenting with large numbers of trees.
The intention at this stage was to encourage the viewer, not to dwell on one tree or part of the image and rather to experience what it is like to be among a collective of trees. These are a small selection of the Among Trees Collection.
I also combined a first image with a slow shutter speed and the second with a speed fast enough to freeze the action, such as the images taken as part of The Shape of Water Collection.
As I said in my first post in this series, these initial Thought Pieces are an initial summary of how I see each of the ten constructs from both a theoretical and practical point of view. As I spend more time reading and taking images, I hope to be able to enhance and develop my thinking further.