Funny how sometimes different events can converge and take on the same level of importance to the point where it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins. Everything I read, watch, listen to, every conversation I have, every job I take on brings further meaning and form to my year’s work. It feels like a momentum which will hopefully peak next week when I present my work to classmates, tutors and a panel of invited guests.
As a way of stepping away from an increasingly obsessive addiction to my study, I have found fulfilment in shooting my local rugby league team, Whiti Te Ra. My funny New Zealand story is that I come from Rugby in England, but I never played, let alone understood the game. League was something else again, only played seriously in a far away part of the country I had no connection to.
So why photograph the team? For the pure heck of it. For the fact that I don’t have to consider the best angle for the bride. Or whether a client will notice that the coffee cup on the table matches the tones of the clothing and that this was my plan. Or whether a tutor will be able to find meaning in my rambling.Not that I don’t enjoy those things. But they don’t allow for the freedom of photographic decision making I experience at the league where lens choice, camera settings and my position are decided by external factors which can change in a second; crowd noise, player eye movement, the weather.My choices become a blend of instinct and ability, much as I imagine high level performance in sport to be.
So good luck Whiti Te Ra, the team who are in their first season in a new competition, and who are unbeaten going into tomorrow’s Grand Final. Their season ends tomorrow, in the same week as I draw a line under a six month project which started off as something I intended to drift through, but became something which has consumed me. Which is how it should be for all of us.
As I think of the team’s season, and my year, I’m reminded of a section from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, so here it is.
“There is a love that equals in its power the love of man for woman and reaches inwards as deeply. It is the love of a man or a woman for their world. For the world of their center where their lives burn genuinely and with a free flame.
The love of the diver for his world of wavering light. His world of pearls and tendrils and his breath at his breast. Born as a plunger into the deeps he is at one with every swarm of lime-green fish, with every colored sponge. As he holds himself to the ocean’s faery floor, one hand clasped to a bedded whale’s rib, he is complete and infinite. Pulse, power and universe sway in his body. He is in love.
The love of the painter standing alone and staring, staring at the great colored surface he is making. Standing with him in the room the rearing canvas stares back with tentative shapes halted in their growth, moving in a new rhythm from floor to ceiling. The twisted tubes, the fresh paint squeezed and smeared across the dry on his palette. The dust beneath the easel. The paint has edged along the brushes’ handles. The white light in a northern sky is silent. The window gapes as he inhales his world. His world: a rented room, and turpentine. He moves towards his half-born. He is in Love.
The rich soil crumbles through the yeoman’s fingers. As the pearl diver murmurs, ‘I am home’ as he moves dimly in strange water-lights, and as the painter mutters, ‘I am me’ on his lone raft of floorboards, so the slow landsman on his acre’d marl – says with dark Fuchsia on her twisting staircase, ‘I am home.”