Projects: Carnival, Painted
Each photograph in this series was created in-camera during the final hours of the Notting Hill Carnival. As I wove my way through the intoxicating smells and sounds, I navigated the heaving, overcrowded streets. I saw unforgettable moments of panic and elation. Youth, energy and sex illuminated the affluent West London setting; beer, marijuana, chicken and sweat infused the atmosphere. My encounters along the way, from the inebriated lens geek to the film-making Brummy youth worker, integrated me deeper into the carnival experience. Attempting to photograph, capture and curate all of this posed many challenges, but it was nothing short of exhilarating in the making.
Each image is created by an abuse of the camera’s HDR function. A function that requires stillness in order for it to cobble together three consecutive exposures correctly. However, moving the camera and/or shooting moving subject matter will result in ghosting and peculiarities. It is the possibilities within these irregularities that have defined and fuelled my practice over recent years.
As a painter hoping to use Carnival as a subject matter, I would have wanted to sketch and observe the colours and textures. I would have researched costume and dress, drawn upon architecture and attempted to compose the painting back in the studio. As a photographer, I intuitively expand, drag and smear colour, texture, shape and form across a scene on site. I allow for accident, experiment and happenstance to influence the outcome. These days, being back in the studio involves disposing with the countless unsuccessful images, acquiring the desired balance of light and dark and finding the ideal crop.
I am looking to pull apart the constraints of the HDR and reveal it’s innards. To capture longer than a snapshot in time. To delve into what was and what will become. To create a personalised aesthetic that is the direct result of performance, instinct and intuition. To explore the relationship between painterly and photographic completeness. To make visual personal expressions of the world around me. To expand the realms of possibilities both on the inside and outside of the camera. Ultimately, to create a dynamic interplay between abstraction, figuration, the painterly and the photographic.
The streets are a hive of activity as a performer poses for yet another snap. Her headdress explodes across the canvas in a cacophony of colour and texture, completing the composition with a fine balance of the painterly and the photographic.
Navigating through the crowds towards the heart of the party; a figure streams through the photograph causing the right side to be drenched in their skin tone, whilst disposing the most intriguingly peculiar shapes on the surface of the picture plane.
Another large pile of rubbish collates on a street corner. Huddled nearby are a group of police whose presence is felt at every turn. They spend their time answering the most inane of inquiries and dealing with the occasional misdemeanour. Staring blankly at the camera as an exaggerated vertical lens movement pulls the colour from the rubbish over the dark tones of the crowd; ‘more inanity,’ he thinks no doubt.
Chaos! A sudden rush of people, flocking away from some perceived terror, utter confusion – “why are we running, what’s happened?” rings out amongst the fleeing folk. Bursting through the ranks of police, people stream down the multi-million pound roads under guard. The police line heads unknowingly towards the fray; it all soon passes with a shrug, a return to hanging around and a re-unification of the line protecting the forbidden road.
A reveller sees a big camera and poses. An affectionate smile and tilt of the head endears herself to the artist; she is woven into the melee of colour and texture, while people squeeze past her on either side. She leaves perplexed. Why was he waving the camera around like a nutter when he was supposed to be taking a pretty picture of me?
As a float comes past, a trail of partygoers rejoice in its musical majesty. Caught in the fracas is a bright yellow headdress. Collaged into the scene are graphic outlines that juxtapose the futurist with the photographic to express the energy of the moment.
An overwhelming surge of activity pulls the artist deep into carnival’s throngs. It’s formal properties: colour, texture, smell, sound and sex collide towards painterly and photographic completeness.
The carnival-goers unwind; recounting anecdotes of the day. Altering focus during the capture softens the edges and compliments the figures and their costumes. Luminosity engorges the scene as though coloured-in with a teen’s highlighter set. Layers of content become flattened, as time itself is compressed into the canvas.
After the music is gone, between the layers, a window appears. Exposing the road as people begin their journeys onward, remnants of figures and appendage surface on the flat colour dragged across the composition. This presents a pictorial puzzle of particularly peculiar properties.
As the performers walk away towards the end of the day, the massive camera is spotted again. One of five friends breaks the line to crouch and pose with fingers and cheeks as if she knows the insta-famous future. The canvas becomes freckled by the textured mess littered on the streets.