Go big(ger) or go home
I have begun to look again at photographing the area around me – and spend a frustrating day driving around the Portway and Severn area looking for subjects. I’m not sure what is holding me back, but after driving around for over 4 hours I don’t find anything that even makes it worth getting out of the car. I am intrigued by the mega structures down on the docks, but it seems impossible to get close enough to frame any kind of interesting shot with the pinhole. The gas towers on the M49 prove equally elusive.
I am becoming more and more obsessed with these monolithic structures that tower over their surrounds – so alien and at odds to their environment, strangely malignant, quietly ominous and I am sure they represent a key element of what I am trying to express through my photography and printmaking.
At the same time, I feel a tremendous unsureness around the direction of my work, perhaps just the feeling that there is no natural narrative or connection within the body of work I am slowly creating. It’s a frustrating and depressing day, lifted only slightly as I return home and spot the old telephone exchange from the motorway flyover just as I come into Malpas. I stop and take a short series of images that at least validate the day to some extent.
In the studio on Thursday I attempt the first larger scale realisation of the negative printing technique I have, to this point only tried with the smaller mini-prints. Technically it is challenging for a number of reasons. Simply pulling enough ink through the high mesh count is difficult – pull to softly or to quickly and the pull is patchy, too hard or slow and the paper picks up every hesitation and adjustment in pressure as the squeegee moves down the screen, even picking up the weave of the screen itself. Not that these discrepancies don’t create fascinating marks and variations in their own right – simply that I would like to be more in control of them – be able to reject or embrace the whim of the screen more consistently. Ultimately, I feel this print is a limited success, and nothing compared to the Painted Lady mini-print of the week before. I feel there is much to explore in printing the the negative image over black, but I need to work harder on the transparency, to get the correct contrast in both the mid-tone and the negative layers. I need to improve registration so that the black slab doesn’t create and awkward border around the image. I need to figure out the exact transparency of the mid-tone, to ensure that it doesn’t sink irretrievably into the dense black (as has happened here), and I need to control the pull – so that the ink goes down consistently across the print, and across the prints, to create a viable edition.
Promising but a long way to go…