Spiral Scratch

Damn. Pete Shelley gone. Woke up this morning to Rain and Wind and this very sad news. The Buzzcocks were and are a big part and firm favourite of mine, and I was fortunate to be able to meet with Pete a few times and tell him so.

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Pete used to call at our flat in the early 80s at Old Lansdowne Road Didsbury Manchester. One of the girls I shared with was Carole Morley and Pete had a crush on her. Whisked her off to Paris at the drop of a hat. I remember him so well as if it was yesterday. A real Northern Gent. I lost touch through the years and this image is the only one I could find in my archives. I am often amazed that not more get lost through moving house, county, city, country. I remember when I first arrived in Manchester and Homosapien was one of my favourite records. I also recall that XL1 had some sort of floppy disk to use with a Sinclair ZX. The original release was packaged with a computer program which featured lyrics and graphics which displayed in time with the music. Non amazing now, but was a big thing then. Travel on well punk pioneer and ace Mancunian songsmith.

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R.I.P., Pete.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

A Pretty Picture

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I chose this image not because it is really all that remarkable. At least not in a unique way. It is just a beautiful image. Sometimes the large amount of photography I produce conflicts with the small amount I decide to share that I pass over some of the images of mine I feel are more generic but still pretty. I let these collect digital dust in favour of the images I see as more unique and that isn’t always fair. Or rather another way to think about it is the reason to pick an image for sharing doesn’t always have to be based on creative uniqueness or even technical accomplishment. Sometimes it is worth sharing something because it is a nice reflection of a beautiful place and time.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Fear

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The truth – I have always been afraid. It is a painful feeling, fear. It sits deep in the bottom part of your stomach and hurts. But it is the energy of survival. I have always been afraid of fear and at the same time grateful for it–afraid of its pain and grateful that because of the pain I can take steps to eradicate it by overcoming that which frightens me.

One who is afraid reacts to it as any animal. If one is a rabbit, one runs into one’s hole and hides. If one is a turtle one pulls back into one’s shell. We have all known people who react to their fear in this fashion. Some call them shy. Some, wrongfully, call them cowards.

But some people react to fear as a wolf reacts. We get angry. It is easier to be angry than to be afraid. It is less painful. The frightened wolf attacks whatever frightens him. But it is fear, nevertheless.

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Fear has been given to us so that we may recognise that which endangers us in this complex world. To avoid injury of one kind or another we need to recognise the danger, whatever it may be. Fear permits us to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of and to evaluate it. It gives us an opportunity to say to ourselves, we don’t need to be afraid of this person or that situation. It is something we can handle. It gives us an opportunity to understand that the other person may be as afraid of us as we are afraid of them. It gives us a chance to deal with our fear.

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Fear is also the stuff of courage. We cannot be brave without fear. One who faces unreasonable danger is not courageous unless that person has first felt fear and overcome it. He is only foolish. I know of no persons who are brave who are not first afraid. So, at last, fear is our friend. Listen to it. It speaks loudly to us. It is not to be ignored. It is to be cherished as our protective partner.

In the end, fear is a gift.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Postal Boxes and Penguin Suits

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No woman in a burqa (or a hijab or a burkini) has ever done me any harm. But Men in suits missold me pensions and endowments, costing me thousands of pounds. A Man in a suit led us on a disastrous and illegal war. Men in suits led the banks and crashed the world economy. Other men in suits then increased the misery to millions through austerity. If we are to tell people what to wear, maybe we should ban suits.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

A Place To Feel

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Photography to me is an emotional endeavour. I am a pretty rational, analytical and logical person, or at least I try to be.

I do love to think and analyse things, situations and people. It is not that I am unemotional; I just value analytical and rational thought in such times over emotional thought.

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But that changes when I get out into the world with a camera. As I said above, photography is an emotional activity for me. I try to photograph based on feeling rather than reason, emotions as opposed to logic. Sure, some analysis is necessary, I still meter and do the requisite math to calculate the long exposures I am fond of, but I get that work done as quickly as I can and it is only a means to an end. I don’t aim to make photos that represent technical achievement or superb rational execution. I like to try to make photos that reflect how I felt in a certain moment and that usually involves photos that contain some sense of the wonder I see and feel about the world when I am out in it as a photographer.

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Perhaps that is why I have taken so well to pinhole and the old world photography processes. These types of photography are less about analysis than they are about intuition; they are less about documentation than they are about a slightly ethereal memory of being somewhere. It is then easy to dream, and dreams tend to be driven by emotion.

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Anyway, the idea for this reflection came about due to a thought I was having regarding the difference between looking at the situation rationally versus emotionally. I was leaning towards the rational perspective, unsurprisingly. Then I sit down at the computer and start editing and looking at images and realised that they showed a very different version of me looking at the world and I found that interesting.

http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Fellow Travelers

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The idea of inhabiting a prison we cannot see, one that we have sneakily built around ourselves, to be chained by invisible constraints (as an artist at least) is a fascinating little topic to dwell upon. Day by day, year by year we grow and as we do we develop patterns, we learn what is “correct”… we become ourselves and that self develops a stable definition. But what if that definition is really a trap. Take for example the common question that photographers, myself included, have wrestled with: what is my style? As beginners it often feels like this is something that must be answered. How can we be any good if we don’t have a definitive style, a sense of exactly who or what we are? But what if in defining who we are we also inadvertently define who we aren’t, or won’t be? Often I am impressed by the work of carefree photographers. What they lack in experience or accumulated technical knowledge they more than make up for in one particular area. I don’t know what to call this other than they don’t yet know what they aren’t supposed to do, so they do everything. They don’t yet know who they are supposed to be as a photographer, so they try many things.

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Having rules can be a great way to learn but at some point if that structure is clung on too tightly it easily becomes a cage and demonstrate this by posing questions such as; can every image in the world conform to rule of thirds? Of course not. So if all you know is that rule, think of all you will not be capable of knowing. Or should every image have odd number of elements? Should every image be colour?

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I think the notion I am talking about is an interesting one to consider and wrestle with, or at least be aware of. It is not a question of depth versus breadth. And that is because, even if you are in favour of depth and focus, within that depth there are still certain constraints upon your creativity… certain blind spots that you are not capable of seeing. And it is really hard to identify something you cannot see. Like a missing tooth, after time we become so use to the gaps in our vision we don’t even see them.

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What to do about this? I’m not entirely sure. I keep being fascinated by trying to be aware of the stuff that I am not aware of. I try to worry at the gaps in my vision and not become accustomed to them. I try to not let myself become too comfortable. Comfortable may be enjoyable but it is also anathema to creativity. And I endeavour to try something new constantly, be it new films or new cameras or new lenses, like this Daguerreotype Achromat Artlens.

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And that is why I have been running around with this thing of recent. It isn’t because I have any particular images in mind I want to create, but rather it is because I want to explore and try to approach things a bit different than I would normally be inclined to do. Of course, my own internal devil’s advocate would say that experimentation and exploration are my normal tendencies so how is that really pushing any boundaries…

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Destination Curiosity

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A couple of thoughts on curiosity, and how it drives and influences how I work as a photographer.

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The effects of my curiosity are both sweeping and subtle, in regards to the decisions I make with my cameras and where it will take me.

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One aspect of it is that I am always trying to do something different, or looking back on things I once experimented with but never explored thoroughly before heading off in other directions. So I make a point to come back and revisit some of those ideas.

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Recently I decided to start working more with the very basic Daguerreoytype Lens and an unusual new film. Ferrania P30.

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I am always curious about rendering the world through such images as opposed to images that are familiar in both sight and photography.

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This is easy enough to do, and these images aren’t the point. It doesn’t really matter if a photo is any good or not. In this case it was about being curious, asking myself questions and then answering them by making pictures. Hoping to capture that elusive lost Image.

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Sometimes I get the shots, sometimes I don’t but ultimately it is not why I am there, nor is it why I pull out that camera. Which itself might sound crazy.

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I don’t solely use my camera to make photos, I also use my camera because it is a sort of meditation and a justification to linger a bit longer.

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Sometimes we get so hung up on how best to make the photos and we fret and worry and ultimately distract ourselves.

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I know this is very abstract and I also know it is easier to say when you have several decades of experience doing as much photography as I have and I know it is easy to claim not to worry about the pictures when you have a whole hard drive full of images you love. I know abstract advice isn’t easy, but for me this is my driver. And maybe that truth doesn’t work for anyone else. I cannot comment on other photographers approach, just my own.

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I can offer insight based on that, invest myself in being there with a camera in hand. I make photos, and by the time that shutter fires that goal has been met, my destination has been reached and the story has been told.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/

Cherry Blossoms And The Theater Of Life

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Every year I plan to visit the local cherry blossoms with intent to find beautiful images, to do something different than I have before, use different cameras or different films, or just look with different eyes.

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Because isn’t the definition of insanity going to the same place to make the same photos over and over again and expecting different results? Something like that. And considering how many years I have been making images, that at some point I have to do something new otherwise I would get out of my mind with the repetition.

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So I only made one trip to the cherry blossoms. No new cameras per se, but a new lens.

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Sometimes life plays out as a weird drama, sometimes a comedy. Hints of tragedy – sometimes more than hints. Maybe this is a scene from a love story. I have a feeling that there are elements of drama and tragedy here too. If not in previous acts, then in ones to follow. We live our lives on a stage, perhaps always. We live our lives in the audience too, always.

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I told you I was going down to the cherry blossoms with different eyes.

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http://www.berndkugow.photos/