Is there really any meaning behind it?

Hamish Gill

Tech Support (and Marketing)
I really enjoy taking and making abstract images, but I'm not really sure why...
Pete has commented to me before about finding urban decay a source of inspiration, and I get that! I find general decay, and degradation of mans impact on the plannet interesting ... When you see a long since collapsed building with ivy all over it and a tree growin through it you get a feeling of the passing of time that in our moment by moment lives escapes us. Now taking a photo of that is sort of transferring that long passing of time into a moment.
I have thought about this quite a lot, but the reality of the situation is that once I have taken the photo, edited it and viewed it again that interesting idea of passing of time doesn't occur to me... Not only that, but it doesn't occur to me when I look through the lens... And in fact if someone actually asked me what inspired me to take the images I take, if I was honest I probably couldn't say it was what I have just explained.
I find it all fasinating, but im not sure I can, with honesty, say it is what inspires me as it never crosses my mind when I'm creating these images... I just sorta look at how the shapes are composed and how the colours look... And that's sort of it

The only direct and honest link I can make as inspiration is in fact other peoples photos in a similar style and of similar subject.

I suppose my question is, is this how inspiration works... Just somthing that sits there in the back of your mind and let's you get on with thinking about the image it's self? Or should I be trying to come up with solid reasons for or behind creating images.

There is a lot of bollocks talked about art and what it means... But like a say, I couldn't honestly say very much about my photography other than it's just shapes and colours.

Take for example the image of the flower by the pipe I just took... I could quite easily say that it's about the earths attempt at the restoring beauty, my highlighting of the yellow flower was an attempt at drawing atention to that... Etc etc... A legitimate comment, and possibly the sort of thing you might find written under it if it made it into a photo book where arty types write stuff about photos... But do I belive it in my self? I'm not so sure... I can make the link to that what interests me if pushe to think about it, but if I said it, I'm not sure I would feel honest in saying it.

Please excuse my inarticulate and repetitive way of describing this, I hope it makes enough sence to come up with some sort of response...
Hi Hamish,

These are really interesting questions and thoughts. We have sort of discussed bits of this before and, you are right, we share an fascination with urban decay. Although I don't always get to where I'm aiming I sort of understand part of that fascination. I have always been interested in what happens when we are no longer here. The way our shadow passes from this world. I vividly recall first reading some of the early works of JG Ballard such as the Drowned World and some of his short stories and loved the descriptions of St Pauls below the water and shopping malls blending into savannahs. Empty buildings, decaying facades, buildings overgrown by vegetation, bring that back. But I'm not sure what fuels that interest. Do I have some nihilist wish to see humanity disappear and for the planet to grow over our legacy or am I simply interested in the aesthetic. I'm really not sure.

I have been reading the latest copy of Diffusion over the last few days and there are some interesting things in it that relate to this idea / image / concept business. Many of the artists work using alternative techniques and create highly original images. They are clearly derived from strong imaginative processes and fascinations more strong than those that motivate me. Just the act of creating some of these images (eg huge hand made prints on gold leaf panels etc) mean that these are not just simply an image that was taken because it was simply interesting (as many of mine are). They evolved from a concept that grew into the final printed form over days and weeks and months. It is no trivial exercise to make these images so there must be a real driver to do so. Another artist spoke of how she found inspiration during the process. She is interested in our response to landscape and photographs herself in it but the image itself is not preconceived. The mood it conveys and the way she depicts herself in it are dictated by the way she responds to the situation / view / feeling at the time. This is I suppose not unlike what you were referring to Hamish. We are drawn to something by aesthetics, juxtaposition, or mood even if on an almost sub-conscious level and we record it. We may keep that sense when we develop and print it or we may respond differently to it during that process. And of course, we may react totally differently to that same image when we look at it as a viewer and someone else may see a different 'image' altogether.

Sources of inspiration are wide and varied. I enjoy the challenge of good technical work (be it a good macro shot of an insect or a view of algae growing in micro-fissures in marble). The technique and clarity it demands are satisfying. I can appreciate beautiful landscapes, good sports photographs etc. But if I shoot such subjects they are only a record to me although I can appreciate why others love to do this work and I know there are element there that are as important to them as others are to me that makes this their type of photography.

The work of others is another source of inspiration whether it be the concepts portrayed or the style used (at the moment I am really inspired by the work of Allan Jenkins I suppose we often think this means we are unoriginal thinkers and that they are but of course they were probably inspired by someone else and as long as we are actually inspired rather than just copying (except maybe to enhance out technique) then that is fine. Maybe we are made to think about something in a different way by their images and if that is the case then they have succeeded with their image making. They have changed us. And if, in our turn, we can affect others with our images then we too have succeeded I suppose. Even collectively (and with thanks to you Hamish) we are all doing this through this forum and the dialogue it had created. Where else outside of an arts course could you read dribble like this for example!
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I arty twiddle is part of your inspiration then that's what I'm interested in, I struggle with the arty twiddle, but maybe hearing other peoples is what I need to make some things that go through my head legitimate ...
I have been thinking more about what my recent images mean...
Perhaps for example, the fact that my photos contain little but shapes, and that I find little inspiration in much else is just because there is little that happens these days of much inspiartion ... We are quite an apathetic society, with little to get exited about, especially living, quite literally in "middle England" ... Maybe my pictures represent that apathy ... I dunno...

One idea I had for a series of images not ao long ago was to take photos that documented the recent eastern european emigration into the victorian housing estate I used to live in...
There is a relativly high asian population that lives there, and it fascinated me that I thought of them as English, or at least part of the furniture... If that makes sence? but my initial reaction to the eastern european population was that they were forign ... Not negatively I hasten to add, but just a "blimey, where did these people come from" ... It happend very quickly, one day they wernt here, then the next i work working with them, and drinking with them in my local, i quite liked the idea of taking photos that represented the transition between them being "forign" to part of the furniture if that makes sence ... But I struggled to come up with how to do that... That was the last photography "project" idea I had, and the last time I remember being truely inspired by my surroundings ...
... In fact, that was about 4 years ago... That's sad I think...
Maybe this is my problem, apathy... It is quite rife these days especially amongst my generation of late 20 somethings ...
Hmm maybe i could use that in it's self as inspiration directly for something ... Not sure if I can be botherd ;)
In fact most ideas I have are about people, but it's very difficult taking photos "on the streets" I'm constantly aware of the fact the people might be suspisius of me... It must be a bloody nightmare being a Sikh photographer... Especially if you have a lot of kit in a ruck sack and live in London .... You can just imagine the typical bnp supporting plonker...
Camera, check
Turban, check
Rucksack, check
Must be a terrorist .... Of course typically, this is one of the things that irks me about our society ... But I'm not sure could find a way to comment on it via the medium of photography without risking getting arrested my self??
I'm trying to get inspired to join this debate, because its quite an in-depth question...
Where do I find inspiration for my photographs? I don't think I do find "inspiration" in a conventional artistic term.
I would like to think that the vague and abstract images of day-to-day things are a part of what forms me and my
interest as a human. A picture that has no real relevance, outside of technical ability, to me becomes a validation that I was there, that I seen it, I was interested in it and I recorded it.
However on the flip side, I could take that irrelevant image, make up the arty-farty gumpf, and still pawn it off as some interesting angle of my perception and persona. And the question remains: is that the side of my brain that made me take the Shot in the first place.
Either way, whether or not I feel the need to justify my work should be a by-product of the initial feeling that the image represents. I would also like to think that my images speak for themselves, and the person viewing them can make up the gumpf themselves. For example: If I take a picture of my shoes on my feet; I could explain to you all that it is symbolism for hard-work (there very scuffy), and long hours.
Or I could say nothing at all and let you draw your own conclusions. "Walk a mile in my shoes", or "Homeless guys shoes" ;D
Or you'd possibly think that the shot was a load of rubbish.
It doesn't really matter to me...The fact that you have looked at my shoes and thought about for it, even a nano-second, was the very reason for my picture. Irrespective of whether or not I describe my feelings about my shoes...

So to conclude...I find "inspiration" is built in to me as interest. As I said, if I find it interesting to me, then I must shoot it. If not just as a record of my very existence then as a validation of the subjects existence.

Did that make sense?
I get inspired by the fact I can take photographs. To be able to create something that portrays an emotion of some sort. Mine mostly tend to be lonely and dark. Maybe that's the person I really am inside (listening to Jeff Buckley's Grace as I write this), maybe that kind of thing is easiest to create. Like Hamish I have no idea where a particular idea comes from, you just 'see it'. Unlike Hamish I don't see shape and colours just situations or lines. Maybe a lot of the idea's or inspiration comes from your formative years something you saw or was taught and if you look at a lot of images on the web you'll no doubt pick up something in your subconscious.

The 'Top and Tails' photo was taken on my normal route when I go out. I have walked past and rested at that spot many times and never thought of that shot before, but that day it just floated into my head as I was sitting there. Although I'm always looking round whenever I'm out perhaps the creative side of your brain is a little more switched on when you have a camera in your hand and your thinking in 'images'.

Maybe instead of posting Exif data we should post how and why we took the photo to get some idea as to where the inspiration came from.