When we look around familiar environments we tend to ignore or ‘not see’ certain things in them. In this exercise, you’ll explore the absence and presence of an object that you’re accustomed to in order to bring to the surface an altered ambience.
Your purpose here is to convey the trace of the absent person or thing, or to express something of an altered mood by a particular emphasis.
- Choose an environment that you know well, but one where you can move things around without getting into trouble!
- Ask yourself what forms the character of that place for you.
- Take a photograph of the place or ‘scene’ as it is.
- Now remove an item that strongly characterises that place or scene and take another photograph with the same framing, without the key object. This key object can be anything from a bed in a bedroom to the chairs around a table in a dining room or a particular tree in a landscape.
- Yes, you can use Photoshop to remove items in images with the Clone Stamp Tool or some clever selecting and masking as in the photo below, where the surgery has been removed. But it may be simpler just to remove them while you take the photo.
- Place the before/after, presence/absence photographs side by side. But, like the image below, it may not need it.
Execution of the brief
For this exercise my environment was a small part of our lounge, in fact one wall. It sounds strange, but it is a wall that I have gazed at a lot over the last 31 plus years.
We moved to the East Midlands from Cornwall in 1987, the intention was that, with others, we would set up a manufacturing business, make our fortune, retire early back to Cornwall. Well inevitably this didn’t quite work out, we are still in the East Midlands!
The wall I have photographed has two water colours on it given to me by an uncle that I was very close to and who also lived in the village where I was brought up. They have always been a reminder of what we left and consequently have a lot of memories associated with them, they characterise the “village wall” in our house.
Interestingly removal of the pictures left behind a memory, this is symbolised by the outlines left on the wall. I think it makes the wall even more poignant for me and does change the wall’s characteristic and indeed the whole lounge environment.
I wanted to choose an environment or scene that meant something to me which I feel I have done. I would have preferred to have produced a bigger scene/environment image where I could have created more of an atmosphere change but I wasn’t able to do this.
In the images above I very deliberately included the top of the radiator beneath them, I intended this to be a symbolic “underline” to emphasise the pictures and their absence, others will judge if this works or not.