This is inspired by an exercise from The Photographers Playbook entitled ‘Cameras Don’t Take Pictures’, but it’s also partly inspired by Absence of Being by Susan Burnstine and by the unfocused images I’ve been taking lately; I really like this sort of aesthetic at the moment as it seems to leave things unclear and unexplained. One of the assignments in this exercise asks you to recount a dream in ten images and that’s what I’m trying to do. But typically for me, I’m going to write about it too. (Clearly when I start typing I don’t know when to shut up).
Another reason for doing this is that it is a way to start thinking about my next assignment, ‘Languages of Light’. I’d originally been thinking about low light environments for this – specifically places of worship and in the last few months I’ve been visiting places of worship and contemplation, taking images with this assignment in mind. Continuing on with ideas from that path has led me to thoughts about things we can’t illuminate with reason. I prefer that idea as it allows me to be a little bit more experimental and creative. Dreams seem like a good place to start as an experiment at least, but this may be worked into the assignment because I feel there is an opportunity for light to play an unusual part in these images if I can get them right. Either way it gives me carte blanche to play with ideas using all sorts of lighting and to see if they come to fruition.
My experience tells me that there are lots of things that happen in our lives that we cannot explain or illuminate with reason; the main one for me was sitting in the bath crying about the death of my grandfather one Saturday morning. This was entirely out of the blue. I’d had no phone call or message to tell me he was ill, there was nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about that day. It’s not a behaviour I’ve found myself indulging in before or since. I just felt a need to be alone so I got into the bath and sat and cried because I knew he was leaving, I could physically feel it happening. When I had cried so much there were no tears left I came downstairs, walked to the phone and picked it up as it began to ring. It was my aunt; she told me my grandfather had just had a heart attack and died. He wasn’t ill beforehand, no-one was expecting it, but for whatever reason I had known it was happening.
Anyway, this seemingly precognitive dream about Brendan Fraser is a small one of those moments and is the one I’ve chosen to explore with text and images as a prelude to working on the assignment.
After I’ve made the images I will recount the dream and what happened after it for anyone who is interested (it might take some time to conclude this process so if you are interested you’ll have to bear with me). That’s why I’m splitting this into several parts – plus I can’t expect tutors and assessors to wade through all the details. However, to explain it very briefly, I had a dream in June 2016 where a french speaking lady told me to give something to Brendan Fraser when I met him, and six months later I met him. It’s a bit bigger than that, but that’s the basic story. I’ll point out now that I’m not into celebrities or actors so I wasn’t a fan – he wasn’t someone I knew anything about although I’d seen The Mummy and George of the Jungle years before. That’s really, honestly, it. So it’s either meaningless coincidence or it’s what Carl Jung called synchronicity – basically still coincidence, but a meaningful one. Quite a lot of ‘coincidences’ occurred in that six months, so I suspect that it is more than that. However, if there is a meaning in these events, it is yet to be made clear to me what that meaning is.
Research for the images
As has been suggested both by my tutor and in the course text several times for various subjects, I looked at the vernacular as a starting point; basically I googled ‘dream’ and looked up #dream on Instagram. Here’s what came up on Google on 7th February 2018:
Before I drilled down a bit to get into photography it was mainly a inspirational quotes with firmament type images, the odd beach scene, woodland and water, and silhouettes of people with raised hands. Dreamcatchers also came up quite a bit.
I tried to keep a look out for images of dreams during my research trips to Arts University Bournemouth. One idea I’ve had is to use pinhole photography with a home-made camera. I think this is from Susan Burnstine’s work. Perhaps I might try a digital version for the moment as the idea of having other people develop and print films for me is frustrating but I can’t do it at the moment as I don’t have access to a darkroom yet.
The actual dream had photographs in it, and I want to find a way to represent those. I’ve been playing with photos of photos to try and degrade images so that they are unclear but readable. I also like the idea that the slight struggle to visually comprehend these images might induce a feeling of discomfort; for me that could link in with dreams without having to be too obvious about it.
I realise that the temptation is to try and visually retell the dream exactly the way I recall it, but that’s probably not possible. I will have to use representations but I think that works as dreams are often explained as representations of subconscious messages. It’s just another layer to explore and hopefully is more interesting visually than mahogany wardrobes, lost passports and dark wooden staircases.