Art is always relational. It asks, how do I relate to my subject? How do my subjects relate to me? How do my subjects relate to my other subjects? And even how do I relate to those around me?
A while back a friend of mine, Gouri Patwardhan, a filmmaker, photographer and artist in Pune, India posted a series of images of baby crows to her Instagram feed.
The series got me thinking about the various wild birds that have kept me company at various times and in different places. I have had the good fortune to “have time”, time to sit quietly in different countries and to watch. One of the things I’ve become aware of over the years are the birds, keeping us company. I’ve watched them along mountain trails and in the woods, from picnic tables, boats and beaches and from covered terraces and porches, in the sun and in the rain.
Gouri’s photographs reminded me though of the one’s I had been taking for granted, the ones that are with me throughout my every day, the ones I watch out my kitchen or office windows. With their visits or lack thereof, they mark the seasons, the times of the day and the changes in the weather.
From there, I got to thinking about the other life that I watch out my windows. With the COVID-related restrictions, looking out my windows has replaced the people watching I used to do from our local cafés. I became fascinated with watching the life going on outside and began to wonder in how many ways I might relay some of it.
I began with some straightforward shots of the people walking below.
I fell in love with the variety of strides, their intentionality, their rhythms, the footwear.
I wondered how else might I convey all that, and I turned to in-camera multiple exposures. I had to attune myself to the people walking below, to sense into their trajectory so I could follow them with my lens and pace the timing of my shots.
With multiple exposures, images are layered on top of images, the textures and colours of the sidewalk thus intermingle with people crossing the path of my lens, creating cosmic worlds on their heads and backs.
I wanted to convey more than just the individuals walking by, though. I wanted to explore the life of the shadows being projected along the streets, so I asked myself, what aesthetic might I create to do that. I wanted to convey this sense of how we are all going about our own business, but how we are also always in relation to others around us, consciously or not.
This is just one example of how relation drives my creativity. The baby crows caught Gouri’s attention. Her photographs of them got me thinking about the birds in general, which got me thinking about the ones outside my window and subsequently about the other life outside my window. This then made me want to discover new techniques, which pushed me to enter the world of digital photography more deeply, which in turn opened up new potential for thinking and creating.
In a perfect world, someone reading this right now will get inspired and take the creative rays these baby crows initiated to entirely new places.