Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Spain - Click or no Click

I’m happy to report that the looming disaster which the previous blog entry heralded has not eventuated. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m in the process of writing up the experience as a short story using the original title of “Two weeks in Niguelas”. Sound familiar? I’m not confident that it’s an original concept but will ignore that nagging doubt. More of that in later blogs (Niguelas 2, 3, 4 etc). That's the Fabled Alhambra on the left and some Arabic decorative inscription at the end of this piece. Granada turned out to be beautiful - any city with a lighting system (below left) as beautiful as this has to have a sense of itself as a thing of beauty.

But for now I am interested in the whole experience of travel as seen through the eyes of the camera. I have been observing myself, my brother, other travellers and tourists and asking the question: What are we trying to capture on our tiny screens? The obvious answer is ‘the beauty of these places’, or ‘memories on film’ or more ambitiously ‘the essence of a place or a culture’.

I take a lot of photos myself; my brother outdoes me fourfold; the wives take almost none. They seem to think that the cultural experience is a multi-sensory experience. They shop, taste, smell, see, hear and think and communicate at the same time – it’s the old women multi-tasking cliché in action. My camera, on the other hand, can only capture framed versions of this much larger experiences. No matter how artistic the intent, each photo exists only as a moment in its own right. It’s what the image neglects to show which is the real story.

I tried to capture a day trip to the Mediterranean this week (30 minutes from our cottage in Niguelas) but the impossibility of it was frustrating. How can you combine in the one image the experience of swimming in ice cold, blisteringly clear aquamarine waters while in the distance snow capped peaks mock the sun; this combined with a grey pebbled beach strung out before imported palm trees while foreign tourists sun bake half naked beside umbrellas scattered along a half kilometer of beach-front. I failed. Yes I could probably create a conscious photo essay of the day but that would turn the day into an assignment rather than a family day at the beach. The dilema hangs on a question of balance. When am I the snap happy tourist? When am I fellow traveller in shared conversation with my companions about our common experiences? When am I the artist? And when should I put the bloody thing away and just experience the day as it unfolds in all its rich complexity?

What I love about writing is that it is a reflective process which attempts to capture the essence of, or the narrative of the experience at distance. It allows the writer to mull and shape the competing mixture of events of the day. The photographer must make instant decisions and cannot be fully within the experience, always being the observer rather than the participant.

Don’t get me wrong I love photography and get a buzz when by some fluke I capture a special moment, be it a human interaction, a beautiful place, a quirky moment or just the right play of light on a laneway.

I just wish I could reproduce what I have experienced in my head. It would be much simpler.


Jennifer said...

I have abandoned a multitude of rolls of film (remember those?) and given up taking pictures on a number of vacations because I felt I wasn't capturing it. You're right - it's the reflective process that really captures the experience. But I think it's really cool how two different people can come up with two different collections of photos from the same place. Now I just try to photograph the things that compel me, even if I don't know why, and then reflect on them later. Then write about it.

joanna said...

I am a visual person and yet forget to take my camera along -- blogging has taught me to carry one with me --

I must say your photos are very nice and tell a story by them selves artfully done.


Tess Kincaid said...

Wonderful pics. I like what you said about reproducing what's in your head. I often wish the same thing. It would be so much easier!