“Happiness is to have a little string onto which things will attach themselves. For example, going to my dressmaker in Judd Street, or rather thinking of a dress I could get her to make, and imagining it made – that is the string, which as if it dipped loosely into a wave of treasure brings up pearls sticking to it. […] And my days are likely to be strung with them.”
Virginia Woolf diary entry 20th April 1925
My ongoing project, Emergence, uses the 5×4 plate camera to explore the spectral landscape of the River Ouse floodplains. The work is a personal meditation on photography as an alchemical conduit for magic and the other-worldly. Its wellspring is the diaries of Virginia Woolf, who lived by, and died in, the river. Woolf famously drew on water as a constant metaphor for freedom of the imagination and an entry point to the inner world.
The long analogue exposures are made at dawn and dusk, “a world of shadow merging into deeper shadow” (Eva Figes). A space is left open for chance, loosening the referent to reality. This project reflects a time when Woolf’s death walk and the darkness of life seemed to coalesce. A beauty, invisible to the eye, is revealed on film – thin and delicate; a little string dipped into a dark wave, coming up with pearls.
“A luster here would destroy the soft fragile beauty of the feeble light. We delight in the mere sight of the delicate glow of fading rays clinging to the surface of a dusky wall, there to live out what little life remains to them.” Junchirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows