I now understand why artists paint with elephant dung, or why photographers convert a flat panel truck into a giant, mobile, pin hole camera. This year has seen a major shift in my work and how I view myself. I have always known that I wasn’t satisfied with taking pretty pictures but struggled to know what more I could do with photography to give it meaning (for me).
This was made more difficult for me because I struggle with extreme social anxiety and so doing anything personal that others might see/interact with is very difficult. This year I finally reached a point, after several years of thinking about projects, where I was able and determined to put some of them into production. By that I mean that I would plan an entire project with a set minimum number of images that would constitute a complete project for me and then begin work producing those images (knowing that the project could still evolve and change during production). This is very different from my previous photography (mostly Architectural and Street Photography) which was undertaken on a more ad-hoc basis, with no clear idea of what would constitute a whole/complete project.
The first of these was my “Loss” project and the second is “Neon Hong Kong”. The topics for both are very different but they both share something in common. For me, the process is becoming as important as the end product. By that I mean that thinking about what constitutes a complete project, planning it, conducting research and doing multiple test shots (and continuing to test even when I think I may have a potentially final image) are all as important as the final image. In the case of “Neon Hong Kong” I have spent several months researching the locations of Hong Kong’s neon signs. From an initial list of over 220 potential locations (many old signs have long ago broken or been removed altogether) I have finally whittled it down to a list of about 125 locations that will be worth an in person visit. My process for this was to visit each location in Google Maps Street View. While the images in SV aren’t necessarily current it still helps a lot because, if a sign has disappeared in an image taken in 2016 it is a good bet that it has not reappeared since. At the time of writing I have visited about 15 locations and have 8 images that I consider may be part of the finished project. I also have a greater appreciation of elephant dung or the construction of automotive pin hole cameras as part of the artistic process.
It just remains to be seen if I am still in love with the process after several weeks pounding the pavements of Hong Kong in 31+ degrees C heat and 80-90% humidity.