Haunted motorways and wind swept towers
Following on from the success of the Gas Tower print I am in equal parts buoyed and nervous to be printing this week. To some extent I feel that everything is in place in terms of my process, and the creative identity/construct I have created in The Quiet Earth. In essence I now have a brief, an emotional checksum to test my images against before committing them to print. Some images (like the motorway triptych, or the gas tower) I just simply know are part of the narrative, others are harder to judge, some because they feel like they should be (the pumping station) others because I feel drawn to the image for completely valid aesthetic reasons, which nonetheless do not fit The Quiet Earth.
My prints this week perfectly illustrate the challenge of finding the right imagery. I spend a long evening reviewing and re-evaluating my photography – and it is beguiling how previously discarded images re-present themselves as the lens of The Quiet Earth concept becomes more refined. Two images I feel sure about – an older image from the collection of Water Tower images, that I never fully explored – and an off the cuff image I took when shooting the motorway services on the Severn Bridge earlier in the year. The third - an image of a Bedminster factory rooftop – is engaging, but perhaps too overtly architectural and lacking in narrative potential.
I print the roof tops and car park as simple silver on black prints, and the detail on the rooftop image is very satisfying – it is an excellent print, but I don’t think it works as part of The Quiet Earth series.
The car park does work, partly due to the technical challenges of printing it. The screen is slightly under exposed, so getting the ink through is a real challenge. After several test prints and wash outs I am still missing some of the detail in the lower third of the image, but the hints of detail that do come through, and the actual loss of detail are in hindsight what actually makes this print, creating an ethereality and otherness that aligns it perfectly with the motorway triptych and I am incredibly pleased with the results. This is definitely one of my favourite prints to date.
Finally this week, I attempt another large format print with an image-set transparency from Jupiter Associates. This is from a much older series of photographs – taken from my Water Tower photography study, but it strikes me as a perfect embodiment of the type of image I am trying to create at the moment – full of mystery curiosity and a small element of disquiet.
Perhaps because of the heat, or just poor ink mixing this is a trickier pull than the gas tower, with a small amount of dry-in in the corners. This said it is a very satisfying and consistent print, with a solid edition of 10 that I am happy with.
It is often hard to say with these images whether they will form part of The Quiet Earth narrative until I have screen printed them – the process adds so much and is a truly transformative part of the process. In fact, when this transformation doesn’t take place, when – as with the rooftop image – it merely reproduces the original photography, I know instinctively that the image doesn’t work as part of the series. When, as with the water tower today, the printing process adds a distance, and a depth to the work, when the image suddenly begs the viewer to create a story not only around the image, but around the marks that make it up, this is when I feel I have succeeded.