Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Editing and printing paramontages

When reading about the agency Magnum I came across the idea of using raw images, uncropped or otherwise unchanged and a friend told me that this in the context of the agency’s founders relates to an interest in Surrealism. In my case the situation is slightly different because of the novelty of my form of art, which is not just about photography but also about literature. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the characteristics of an image using graphical manipulation software, for example adding a dark background where the presence of too many light-coloured pixels would impede legibility. I did this recently in order to make an item easier to read and I don’t regret it, and though mostly I haven’t changed the brightness or contrast of images I use in my assemblages, appreciating the nature of reportage that photography offers to the creative, in the past two days I’ve gone the whole hog and use overlays and special effects to achieve different looks.

I haven’t had much feedback from the print shop, though Sam who works there told me he thinks what I’m making is collage. I have become acquainted with the staff, there are two including the business owner who I had a quick chat with the other day on account of the holiday weekend. She didn’t have anything special planned but she asked me if I did and I said “No”. 

Printing is sometimes disappointing because it can throw up results I hadn’t wanted, for example where the text is too small or else the size of the print is wrong (always due to mistakes on my part) but it’s a process and I think quality takes time. I give Pixel Perfect instructions as a measurement along one axis of each item, so for example I’ll specify “38cm wide” and they take it from there, the intricacies of printing being beyond me though no doubt I’ll learn about this aspect of the discipline down the track. I got used to letting them look after the physical object, concentrating instead on capturing scenes and on making verses to go with them, but today I plan to go to Officeworks instead because I have been spending thousands of dollars and want to economise. 

I spend hours each morning right now matching poems with images, usually by going through the folders full of files viewing each one independently while I keep the poetry file open on my computer at an item I want to find something to go with. As I look at each photo I think about the poem and at some point the penny will drop. Other ways this happens are when I think about a specific image overnight and go into the poetry file fresh in the morning, choosing or discarding candidates as the whim drags me. 

On a rare occasion a poem will be completely rewritten on the basis of experiencing again an image, this happened recently with a poem titled ‘Quantum theory’ which is about the discord you see everywhere on social media and how it has changed the nature of the public sphere. This is something that strikes me regularly when I go online and read what people say, there’s something corrosive about people’s conduct that has had generally negative outcomes. I matched the poem with a photo taken earlier this month when I was sitting in a cafĂ© in Newtown.

I’d gone there to attend a book launch but as usual I was too early so popped into a shop and had a cup of coffee while I waited for others to arrive. Fancy keeps me occupied when I’m out walking. When I dropped into the print shop recently it was part of a longer outing during which I bought the low-carb bread I eat as well as some books. I also passed through Pyrmont to visit the barber because my hair had grown unruly. The sun was shining bright all morning and I got home just after 1pm having left the house around 9am. 

Walking along Broadway and George Street, then Market Street and Pyrmont Bridge I was transported back in time. In the first case it was to my days as an undergraduate when I lived in Glebe. Back then Broadway was hardly salubrious though it wasn’t as busy with traffic as it is now. These days because of the presence of international students Broadway is a bustling thoroughfare with restaurants and cafes dotting the strip malls. Before it was a dingy and run-down place you wouldn’t by preference linger in, it had an overtone of violence as so many streets in Sydney had before multiculturalism improved the prospect.

As for Union Street and Pyrmont I lived there for about five years and so know the area just as well as Broadway. Some of the shops on Union Street are different from when I lived out that way, but the barber is the same although he charges me more now than he has done in the past. He gave me a coffee the last time I went because I accepted when he offered, the long walk had fatigued me, but I’m uncertain on thinking about it whether the extra $5 he made me pay was on account of the refreshment or if his rates have just increased. 

Last time I spoke with him about patronage he said it had dropped compared to before the virus. I can’t find any reason to regret moving out of Pyrmont, the new house is probably partly responsible for my creative surge, the old place much smaller with fewer walls to fill up with pictures. I can also get to town just as quickly with the 309 bus going along Botany Road, it only takes about 30 minutes to Redfern or else I can get off at Green Square and catch the train if I need to get to Pitt Street Mall.

That part of the city is always changing with people shopping or meeting up for a meal. Beggars sit there with their pets, their blankets and cups ornamenting the pavements near retail outlets. When I lived in Pyrmont I’d get to Pitt Street Mall in 30 minutes by walking, and it’s about 45 minutes from home now on the bus and train.


Basia Sokolowska said...

Thanks for explaining your creative process. I was wondering where you matched an existing poem with a photo, or the other way around. From what you are saying it is an intricate and dynamic process and I think it is good that you allow for it to unfurl whichever way it feels right and give it time it needs, enjoying thinking about the poem and the image in the evening before.

As for the photo editing software you are using, you might find that as you become more fluent in the software you are using, the more control you have over the printed image. Digital darkroom, which allows photo editing images on the computer is an essential part of creating a photograph, in the same way, "wet" darkroom was for almost two centuries. A final image in most cases was a result of not just pressing the shutter at the right moment, but hours in the darkroom, making this image perfect when printed on paper. Anselm Adams perfected the darkroom practice, and when you look at his photographs you can appreciate the richness of the tonal range he used, and how expertly he played with it.

Matthew da Silva said...

Deciding on a match might be part of a morning's observation of the poems. Sometimes I might think about a match the night before and execute it in the morning. For the most part it happens in the course of a session, which might start at 2am and end at 7am. Last night I had an idea while watching TV that I coulld make bigger paramontages using a different kind of pattern, it seems as soon as I said to you that everything (or most things) would be A4 I was already planning to break the rule. Ideas come unbidden and affect the outcome.

It's interesting to think about photography in the absence of digital technology, and how snapshots used to be much more carefully planned than they need be now that you can shoot hundreds of frames in a short period and then go back to the studio and crop and adjust brightness and contrast etc at will using free software. It seems almost surreal to think of the labour involved in the old days before digital cameras.