Projects: Symphony of the City
‘Symphony of the City’ seeks to upend the photographic cityscape by depicting a merging of portraiture and abstraction, of documentary and the fantastical. The urban landscape is often depicted as a deserted place of beautiful glossy buildings, stillness, and of photography shoots evoking either sublime light shards of the early morning, else a fairyland of office lighting late in the night. My experience of the city couldn’t be more different. My city is one of sound, traffic, changing weather and a frenzy of human activity. Each on their own path of intention, people rush in every possible direction while I aim to create an image which moves with them.
This series follows a specific narrative. Beginning with the hushed, blurry tones of the city’s waking moments and quiet laneways, the images are barely decipherable. They begin to open up to the day and onto the street in a crescendo against the hard urban surfaces. Shapes become more visible and fragments jostle for attention and dominance. An explosive moment follows. A musical bridge between one juncture and another; between a door ajar to a wide open platform where the city performs its daily production. Sounds burst with volume and overlap. Colour rises up, repeats and splinters. All the while I follow these encounters and my camera mimics the action accordingly; until there is a finale bursting with a cacophony of colour.
Prior to photography, I was a painter so my work is always underlined by the manual making of an image. I’ve purposely adapted the unpredictability of painting to the photographic process by shooting in multiple exposure HDR and shifting with the scene before me. In this way I am technically using the camera incorrectly. The shot you see is one of chance, created on-site and in-camera. It is a not manipulated with post-production software, nor do I endeavour to “capture” a moment in time. Rather, I move across time. Looseness is essential. I open up the camera’s possibilities so that the image you see blends light, activity, time, colour and my personal, physical involvement with each scene.
There's a quiet, muffled sound of hazy grey as the camera lens is enveloped by the surrounding mist. Car lights snake across the shimmer. This is an image I can barely control between the flat light and my shifting camera technique. This is an image I can barely decipher, as if in a dream.
Like waking up slightly, eyelids parting, I can almost see figures shuffling about. Reeds of red and gold float across the surface, searching for clarity. Sombre shades blend into one another in a circular whir of movement.
The scenery finally opens up. The rain is clearing as colours and shapes begin to assert their presence. Light streams in all directions depicting beams of new life and the view follows me as I sit atop the rear of a moving London double decker bus.
Light fragments and the sound shudders. Buildings and red glares attempt to push through the rainy screen which looks set to shatter. The image is trapped behind its blurry surface.
Explosion! At waterfall pace there's a rushing whoosh of splashing light and the image bursts wide open. A frenzy of particles are flung into the air and colour streaks a violent wipe across the urban landscape.
Calm after the storm. Sun breaks through and a blue sky arrives in Venice. A sudden burst of energy ensues and the lively, city bustle begins. Sounds, once muted by the heaviness of rain, become sharp and clear, all clanging together in a racket of activity.
The image becomes more illusive and the light blurs, as movement becomes more erratic. Swooshes of colour begin to meld with confusion. Holding firm in the corners, blocks of yellow and red stabilise the distortions for a scene on the edge of collapse.
The image moves coherently from left to right as it begins to disintegrate in a rush of movement. An orchestra of bicycle bells takes over the Amsterdam airspace. With a sharp twist of the zoom, distant layers are forced to the forefront and weave the composition into abstraction.
Revelling sounds of music, chatting and laughing mirror the overlapping images and patterns of street partying. The central figure greets us with a reassuring smile. It is these personal connections which calm us in the frenzy of central city life.
The orchestra crescendos to a climactic pinnacle. Blue splashes and green fuzz relay the overwhelming surge of activity, pulling me deep into the throngs of the Notting Hill Carnival. Colour, smell, sound and sexual rhythms pulsate through a glorious celebration of costume, fantasy and creative image making.