As I slowly grew to understand what I sought to express though my photography, I started to create more and more images which came close to my vision. The hard thing about photography is the fact that it is a visual media, and explaining your goals and ideas is often impossible. The closer I came to realizing my goals, the more frustrated I became at my inability to describe them. In some ways this was a Catch-22 - to make the images I had to describe my concepts, and to describe the concepts, I needed images.
Occasionally though, I have met people who have had enough trust and understanding to work with me blind so to speak. I knew L_ quite well by the time she modeled for me, and her working with me was more based upon our friendship than her desire to be photographed, and this freed up the images I made. I seldom work with the nude indoors, but among the work I have made, the images of L_ are certainly among the strongest.
Though I had started working with 4"x5" extensively the year before, in 1992 I was still working with 35mm a lot as well. There are undeniable advantages to a small-format camera, the most evident is portability and ease of use. The more involved I have become with large format photography, the fewer photos I make in the winter. There in 1991 I had started using large format, in 1992 I made a further leap and purchased an 8"x10" camera. The image to the right is one of the first successful images I made with it, thought the lens I had did not quite cover the negatives (this accounts for the darkening at the edges). 8"x10" is certainly an incredibly gratifying format to work in - the negatives are incredible and unparalleled, especially when compared to 35mm negs. There is a richness of tone and a sharpness which is indescribable. There is a trade-off, however, in the 8"x10's weight and inherent restrictions - with only 6 film holders, I can only make 12 images before returning to a darkroom. Thus, while 8"x10" work is among my favourite, the camera tends to sit more than it's used, simply because of the physical demands it makes on the whole process.
Over the summer of 1992, I continued to explore the pull that architectural sites had for me, photographing the industrial waterfront of Halifax, and working on the ruined fortifications of McNab and George's Island. At the time, I was simply doing what came naturally, as I was with the Nude, and finding the results fed the process. It slowly became apparent to me as I rejected newer, "clean" buildings for those worn and weathered that what I found compelling about photographing architecture was not the structure itself, but the intricate effects of nature which became etched on its surface.
As my work with buildings continued, so did my work with nudes. As would be a constant frustration in the years to come, I started the summer without models, and continued to work on self-portraiture, accepting its limitations. One advantage to the deliberate nature of large format photography is that so much time is put into the composition of the image that often the nude is just the final element to an already strong image. Without the ability to view the image on the ground-glass as it is made, I had to rely upon visualization to conceive of the image in the field. More often than not, what actually was on the film was a little different. Frustrating but true.
One of the neat things about photographing the fort ruins on the harbour islands is that they are ever changing - what I capture on film one year may be irrevocably changed by the next; this is true of both natural decay and deliberate restoration. The ribbed tubing on the left was stored within the casemates for several summers, only to suddenly disappear one year, apparently placed somewhere to assist in drainage. These changes fascinated me, and at the time were a central motivator for my documentation. r
Given that I had a new toy, the 8"x10" camera, my first desire was to put it through its paces. I had made some nude portraits of L_ earlier in the year, with great success, but I really wanted to get outdoors and work with the nude and the camera. It wasn't until August that I would have the chance with C_, a friend of a friend. She and M_, who would model for me later, wanted to model together, but the schedules never synched, so C_ and I went out to work late in August. We worked around one of the outer ruins, playing with the light that fell through the trees and building windows onto the floor. Unbeknownst to both of us, etched on the wall above C_ were the faint words "True Love For Ever". This subtle graffiti changes the reading of the image to one much darker, and both C_ and I thought it was a far more successful image though the introduction of the random element than before it.
Though I had stopped photographing bands in a serious manner a year before, I still had a love for good concert photography, so when an amazing band played, I showed up with camera in hand. One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my life was witnessing the rise and fall of Bubaiskull, simply the best band I have ever had the pleasure to experience. The music, live show and sheer power of the band was awe-inspiring, and they developed a hardcore following in the city for the 18 months of their presence.
The close of 2002 saw M_ posing one morning in my living room, Rather than taking my usual approach, and trying to keep the background featureless, I used shallow depth of field to minimize any distractions, focusing the eye of the viewer on the body instead.
approached me about modeling after seeing the work I'd done with a
mutual friend; after meeting to talk the process over, we agreed on a
date, and a week later, began our first session. I started the session
with a simple portrait: K_ had stated to undress, and paused to ask a
question; I liked her comfortable stance against the wall.
like the simple grace of this image; K_'s figure lit by the soft window
ligh, and the non-descript surroundings of the Second World War
last images of the session were a series of large format photographs of
K_ lying on the floor within the concrete building; it was only after
processing them that I saw the faint writing on the wall "My Love for
Ever"; for me, that shifted the image to be far darker and more sinister
than I'd intended.