Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Sunlight Camera, Action

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Sunlight Camera, Action

Article excerpt

A farmer looking through a window notices crops and drainage and the soil type of the land below him. An estate agent sees properties and road access. An electrician sees wires. But the photographer has her eyes half-shut, looking at the light: "You have to practise looking at light. It's never constant. It's all to do with the sun's angle from the earth. It's a question of waiting. While we're sitting here, there are clouds coming over, it keeps changing." She holds up a sheet of white paper, as if to lure something over. Light lands on it at once, as if the sun had already imagined our conversation.

"You have to make a decision. First you think, 'Where's my light?' Then you think, 'How can I use it?' You have to control it, I suppose. You don't take a photograph. You make a photograph. The point is that light has to be funnelled through an aperture of some sort. I try to get people away from thinking the camera is the thing. The light is the thing. The camera is just a means of catching it. That's what photograph means. It means 'drawing with light'--from the Greek."

Light, her collaborator, is a rude, prolific, hyperactive artist. Its pencils move at unthinkable speed, always shooting through apertures and reacting with chemicals to make marks on the earth. It draws the stroke of a tree upwards towards itself. It draws a flower from underground, first thickening the line of its stem, then complicating the leaf form, then brooding and doodling and finally turning the whole sketch inside out to find new colours. Not only film, but almost everything is light-sensitive. Ice is etched by it. Wood is whitened by it. Skin is stencilled with strap-lines. Mud is crinkled with cracks. Forests are tilted. Winds are lifted. The shapes of chairs are bleached into grass. Moons are shrunk and grown and the ground under trees is covered with pinhole images of moonlight. Glow worms are charged. …

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