Recently I’ve had a convergence of the personal need to photograph my growing connection to the land around me, paid work which has made use of the land around me, and books which have spoke of photographers whose ability to photograph their surroundings grew over time.
In his book, Why Photography Matters, Jerry L. Thompson discusses the work of the French photographer Eugene Atget. Atget photographed the streets and parks of Paris, and returned many times to the same places, waiting for what he wanted to reveal itself through his camera. Thompson talks about how Atget photographed the old Paris, and himself grew old as he did so. I’m not especially old, but I think I see where Thompson is coming from. Age and time gave Atget the wisdom and skill to see what he wanted to see. I make no claims to be a photographer of the standard of Atget, but the ideas Thompson expresses concerning Atget appeal to me. I don’t think I would have had the time, patience or inclination to make the images I have been making of the parks and green spaces of my town until the last few months. I wouldn’t have felt the need. But I do now.
So with a tripod, time and silence I photograph where I live. I’ve also used the same locations to photograph families, in particular Lynette and her family, whose number should be increasing by one very shortly. Lynette spoke of including native plants in her family images, so we made pictures which featured the harakeke – a type of flax which is seen as a metaphor for family relations and bonds. I wouldn’t have really noticed the flax until recently. I would only have included the flax in an image by lucky coincidence, or by the desire to fill a background with a dreamy green colour. So perhaps like Atget, the passing of time is giving me a greater understanding of where I live and how I can make images which truly reflect where I am. Here’s hoping, anyway.