Journey was the theme of recent meeting of the photography group I am a member of. It was quite a reflective and often quite personal meeting with people sharing photos and personal stories around journey.
With summer slowly fading into autumn, I am trying to hold onto the last remnants of the season. While I tend to prefer textured shots in black and white which play with light, the subject matter dictates whether I shoot in black and white or in colour. This is certainly true in summer as colours are often more prominent.
This summer, I visited Canada after a few years away. Visiting the same areas and cities can pose a challenge – how do I keep my images fresh and new? How do I keep from taking the same photos over and over again?
While photographing the same things can show incremental changes over time, I am given the opportunity to see familiar places in a different light. I had this opportunity this past July in Canada. As I was finishing off a roll of colour film in a garden, I stumbled upon some lovely orange and yellow flowers in a neighbours garden.
The colours were fabulous, and demanded to be photographed in colour. I was very happy with the results. The orange, yellow, green and blue played with each other and supplemented each other. I couldn’t have had asked for anything more beautiful and delicate.
I couldn’t have asked for anything else – the flowers were stunning and didn’t need any setting up. The colours blended and highlighted each other nicely.
Living in a couple of capital cities, I have become accustomed to living in close proximity to political power and the buildings they inhabit. I have always found it interesting how nations express their political power and outlook through its buildings they live in.
I have lived much of my life in Ottawa, and had many visits to Parliament Hill. The Gothic buildings show the influence from Europe, but the statues and carvings show a distinctive Canadian flavour.
I have photographed the Hill many times over the years, and know the area very well. Most of my photos are in colour. However, the last time I was in Ottawa, I wanted to photograph it differently. While photographing the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, I was given the opportunity to see the Parliament Buildings, and Ottawa, in a different light.
The weather was cloudy and overcast, and I was taking photos of the Museum with b&w with a high ISO (aka fast film), and it dawned on me to start photographing Ottawa in much the same way. Previously, my photos were taken on slower film - either colour slide film (Fuji Velvia) or b&w film (Ilford). The reason was Ottawa is a very beautiful city and I wanted to capture it’s details.
However, with the weather the way it was, it made me look at Ottawa in a much more rugged, textural and tactile way. Looking across the Ottawa River, the Parliament Buildings dominated the skyline with the clouds making the view moody.
I could have taken the photos with my digital camera, but the pixelated photos wouldn’t give the textured feel grainy film would. The images I wanted to take were ones where the viewer could feel them, and digital pixels don’t feel in the same way as film grain does.
The resulting photos give the Parliament Buildings, Ottawa river and riverbank a less pristine and more punchy feel and look. They pushed my view of how to photograph the Parliament Buildings, and Ottawa for that matter.
This marked the beginning of a shift in my photography. The shift was rediscovering b&w film photography, and moving to the more textural and tactile. I hadn’t realised it at the time, nor noticed the beginnings of this in my previous work, but my current work has consciously explored this much more.
Heather Martin is a London based photographer who specialises in architectural, event and B&W film photography.