Friday, 6 March 2015
'weirpearls': the flickers of light from a splash of water
Robert Macfarlane is a word collector. He collectors words that describe the landscape. And when you have a word for something, it changes what you see in the world. It makes it visible and it heightens your senses to what is around you.
In the same way, if you don't talk about something, if you skirt around it or remove the vocabulary from the language, your world view loses a particular perspective.
In this article in last Saturday's Guardian, Macfarlane wrote about the change in language in the Oxford Junior Dictionary, how words like kingfisher, heron and acorn were being replaced by bullet-point, attachment and blog. How a basic lexis that assumes just a modicum of familiarity (and delight, because that is what you feel when you see the blue flash of a kingfisher) with the natural world being replaced not just by a technology-centred lexis but one in which the very idea of passion, delight or creativity has been eradicated in favour of a bland, numb, conformist way of seeing the world.
Macfarlane isn't interested in this language. He collects words that take you out into the land and makes you see it in a new way, but one that is also instantly familiar to anyone who ever leaves the city. Words like smeuse, which '...is an English dialect noun for “the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal”'
'Shetlandic has a word, pirr, meaning “a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water”'
You hear these word and you start seeing them all over the place. Or feeling them, or looking more closely at what is in front of your eyes and wondering what that something could be called. What is the word for the bumpy flow of water over a rock in a stream, or the pearl like shimmers of water splashed into your face, or the blow of the sea breeze on your underarm hair on a summer's day when you're sunbathing on the beach. And when there isn't a word for something, isn't it an excuse to invent one, especially when it is something as recognisable as this:
When Gerard Manley Hopkins didn’t have a word for a natural phenomenon, he would simply – wonderfully – make one up: shivelight, for “the lances of sunshine that pierce the canopy of a wood”
After reading the article, I went for a walk in the valleys where I live and started seeing things that were familiar, but didn't have a name. And I wondered what their name would be. The possibility of language enriched what I was seeing and experiencing. Macfarlane believes that if we don't keep this language alive through the richness of an experiential lexis, then the landscape becomes a 'blandscape'. It becomes a dead corporate site in which to grow bullet-pointed wheat and commitee-crammed chickens.
Experience leads to language and language leads to seeing. And seeing leads to photography. There are many people who work tangentially with these Macfarlane ideas; Paul Gaffney and Andy Sewell spring to mind as photographers who combine the experiential with the psychologeographical. And there's Dominick Tyler who does it in a more direct way with his Landreader Project. Here he matches up landscape images with old and regional landscape terms to create a visual/lexical glossary.
But it is difficult to preserve that gut-placed experience of these words in photography. There is something primal about them, something seasonal and sensory. They are landscape-sense words that connect into a dark part of our lizard brains.
So I wondered about what photography project connected best of all to this idea of language and sensation and history and then I saw Thom and Beth Atkinson's project, Missing Buildings. Well, first of all I saw it and kind of thought nice, but I haven't got £100 to buy a special edition - so no thanks.
But then I heard Rudi Thoemmes of RRB Books and Photobook Bristol praising it to the hilt. And because Rudi is no mug, I gave it another look and clicked through the updates and the texts. That made a difference.
Something that hadn't quite registered before clicked into place with this little text by Jem Southam.
Growing up in Britain in the 1950's meant journeying through cities still full of bomb craters, piles of rubble, vacant lots and the fascinating spectacle of homes sheered off along one end. Wallpapers, doorways, fireplaces were all exposed and added a surreal and almost decorative element to the urban environment. That so many such sites may still exist has been brought home to me recently by the brilliant typological series sought out and photographed by Thom and Beth Atkinson.
You had those bombsites and ruins in the 1970s and the 1980s too. And I saw them But it had never occurred to me that they still existed into the 1990s, the noughties and the twenty-tens (?), even though I see these reminders on a regular basis and they self-evidently do exist. And have been photographed existing.
So it's an example of photography providing evidence of something and changing the way you interact with your urban environment. It's an urban smeuse if you like, but instead of a space made by animals it's a blank wall or empty space made by bombs. It deserves a better word than Missing Buildings. BombGap?
Atkinson's photographs hint at the gut-wrenching violence of what happened to these buildings, the reason there are all these blank walls and dead ends. But it is the paintings and photographs that are shown on the Missing Buildings fund-raising website that also add a sense of trauma to these contemporary dead spaces, and trail of dusty footprints that go all the way back to the realities and mythologies of the Second World War and the Blitz, but also resonate in the same way that Macfarlane's sensory landscape words resonate; by touching on the grand narratives that are hard-wired into us, home, flight, fire, and death.
A collection of wartime documentary photographs depicting bomb damage, taken from Thom and Beth's research for Missing Buildings
‘When it is all over, a few of the wrecked buildings might well be left as permanent ruins… To posterity they will as effectually represent the dissolution of our pre-war civilisation as Fountains Abbey does the dissolution of the monasteries.’
John Piper Architectural Review 1941
Back the project here.
Thursday, 5 March 2015
Yolanda by Ignacio Navas is a modest book (Navas calls it a fanzine). It's about a woman called Yolanda, and it tells her story and that of her boyfriend, Gabriel. This is how the story ends:
She died December 6th, 1995.
I already didn't like Christmas much, so from that year on, I haven't been able to stand it.
It was hard, very hard. I was 25, very young. It was a mess.
- MY UNCLE GABRIEL
The book is small and handy, A5 size. It has a soft cover that looks like the kind of branded wrapping paper you get on a box of chocolates. But instead of Leonidas or Galler (and thank you Philippe, they were fabulous!) you have the name Yolanda on the paper. It's not the best cover.
(and thanks to Nico Baumgarten for pointing out it's like the writing on the back of old snapshots - and nothing to do with chocolate! That's my belly talking.)
Get inside though and you have a series of pictures from Uncle Gabriel's album mixed in with a very spare use of Navas's own location shots (read more about the background here).
All the way through, there's a snapshot feel and it looks like the 1980s however. This is not a slice and dice, mix and match throw a few old pictures in project. The snapshots are the soul of the book and they fit perfectly with the commentary of Gabriel that is slotted between the pages in half-page ten-line snippets that are about Gabriel and his friends and his dead-end life.
We all met up after work, 5 or 6 cars, and in each car 4 or 5 guys, all the gang was there.
It wasn't just taking drugs and laying around. I went to work high when I had 20-hour shifts.
Spent the whole day gong up and down in the van or else no fucking one could have stood it. All year long for two coins, no nothing... God.
And so life goes on; doing shitty jobs and scheming and stealing and dealing and doing drugs between times. And getting hooked on heroin because, '...it was nice, look how stoned we are, how chill we are. And then everything becomes shitty. You eat up your family, you eat up everything.'
Gabriel meets Yolanda, they become a couple, she becomes dependent on him and life goes on. He joins the military, he flees the military (because if you're good it makes you bad, and if you're bad it makes you worse).
He buys a car, he hits 'a grandfather'. From the state of the car he kills the 'grandfather.' But life goes on and things get happy. Yolanda gets a dog and she loves her dog
She kicks drugs, she gets back on drugs because she's too much too young and life without drugs is a life less lived.
And then she is diagnosed with AIDS and it's the end.
So that's the story told through words and all the way through there are these snapshots that are just that; snapshots of Yolanda and Gabriel and their lacklustre holidays and their smashed-up car. It's abook about what lies beneath the surfaces of these pictures that we take, these casual throwaway scenarios that have a backstory that is always there no matter how much we pretend that it itsn't. The words are sparse and clean and matter of fact. They're snapshot words to go with snapshot pictures, and they are full of the heartbreak and sorrow that are still part of Gabriel's life.
It's a great book.
Buy Yolanda here
Wednesday, 4 March 2015
A quick post today on Keizo Kitajima and his Moduru Okinawa, published by Gomma. This is Kitajima's exploration of the nightlife of Koza in Okinawa. It's 1980, the Vietnam War is over and they've stopped dropping the bombs, but the Kadena Air Base and the Americans (especially the African Americans in this book) are still there and so is the bar, girl, and drink industry that sprovides r'n'r for the the remaining, airmen, hangers on who patronise the local dives.
It's a fin-de-siecle 'celebration' where disco and glam meet yakuza and pimp. African-American becomes a Japanese and Japanese becomes African-American. It's the late seventies, things are falling apart, but the party continues at the next bar.
It's a sticky book with sticky pages showing pictures sticky bars with sticky tables and sticky floors. Everything's sticky here. And the pictures are great, all black and grainy blaxpointation fur coats and shiny suits, a portrait of a time in a decompressed half light of a time where the past was clung to and the future never quite happened.
Buy the book here.
Monday, 2 March 2015
pictures from, er, Home
This article by Liz Jobey on Photobooks was published in the FT at the weekend. Jobey interviewed many people who talked about many recognisable things like the herd instinct, the bubble and buzz over content. I certainly recognise the herd thing and try to resist sometimes buying books that are going to sell out just because I know they are going to sell out. At the same time, I like all that buzz nonsense. It makes it all fun and exciting and when you get books which have a big buzz, the reason is almost always because of the content, because they're really good books. And buzz gives people a rationale to buy books. It's not a rationale that has a basis in what actually happens or what actually sells. If you want secondary markets, you're probably better off buying a Peter Lik landscape than a photobook - even the ones that supposedly go for huge prices on ebay. Except of course that they don't. What you see is not what you get.
We all know what the photobook bubble is, but I have to say it's a piss-poor bubble as bubbles go and it's only a select few publishers and photographers who sit within that bubble. If 500 people constitutes a bubble it's about time we redefine what a bubble is, or come up with a new term for it. Maybe a bubblelet would be more accurate. The photography world is made up of little clubs and cliques and most of it sits outside the bubblelet. I like to think that Straylight (ok, I'm a bit of a fanboy and have written about it lots so it's in my tiny little bubblelettino) is outside the cool and noteworthy cliques. It sits in a different more functional territory that is strangely real-world in a non-real-world way.
Two new books from Straylight fit right into that functionality and show social media transformed in to book form; Timothy Archibald's Home is an adaptation of a Tumblr site while Tony Fouhse's Attack and Confusion/Asleep and Waking Up is a greatest hits of Fouhse's killed blog - including work from his excellent Live Through This project.
Archibald is best known for his collaborative project with his son, Echolilia, and Home follows on from this. But now his marriage is breaking up and change is in the air. The book starts with a black and white rainbow and then we're into a double page spread; on one side there's a picture of his two sons on a raft, on the other the raft is there and the kids are gone. The theme is repeated so we get to see what is and what might be; there's presence, there's absence and there's a deep sadness and fear inscribed into the simple black and white pictures. There is distance and isolation here.
There's a hole in a yard which changes throughout. It fills with air, it fills with water, it fills with Archibald's youngest son Wilson. It's a place where things get buried; the past, the future, or the children. Because accompanied this sense of change, loss and loneliness there is danger. A puddle, a pool, a road and a boarded up gateway behind which Archibald's youngest stands. And with that danger is an overwhelming sense of responsibility; death lingers. And so does loneliness.
There is a snippet of text in the book.
You really think you buried it?
Yeah, I'm positive.
Oh well, it's buried so deeply even I don't know where it is any more.
Tony Fouhse's book comes in two parts, and act as a mapping of the making of his photography projects as recorded on his blog Drool, in particular User and Live Through This. The first part is Attack and Confusion and this goes through the thoughts, opinions and stories Fouhse has as he works on portraitute from California, New Jersey and a street corner in Ottawa where the crack addicts gather.
This forms the major body of the book and shows how the portraits were made, tells the story of the people Fouhse photographed, and shows how it was exhibited. It also leads into the other section of the book; one of the users Fouhse photographed was Stephanie, who became the subject of Live Through This, his project on how Stephanie got herself clean.
pictures by Tony Fouhse
The story is told in Asleep and Waking; Journals from Live Through This. It begins in 2010:
'Steph and I have decided to embark on a project together. Expect to see it as it happens, here on drool.'
And then it continues. In a very different way to Live Through This. There is more confusion, less certainty, an emphasis on not knowing what is happening and a focus on things that are completely outside Fouhse's control; in particular the emergency brain surgery Stephanie has for an abscess on her brain. There ups and downs as Stephanie moves back east to Nova Scotia to a happy ending of sorts.
The book ends with Stephanie's own words that say how the project gave her;
'...a chance to stand back and look in actually see what I looked like in the mornings or late afternoons and that pushed me to clean up alot seeing the pictures first for myself. And when its a book then people get to read about my life and I'll always have something to look back on and maybe this will also become a movie (lol)'
It's a diary of a project in other words, complete with the doubts and fears that accompanied its making. In that sense it both demystifies it because it shows you exactly what Fouhse did. But it also mystifies it in the sense that you can see how difficult it was to make Live Through This. As with all good work, it's not easy. Nothing's easy.
But that is nothing to worry about. Don't be afraid of difficulty. Don't be afraid of anything. As Fouhse says:
Fear just keeps you in your box. Which sucks. Live a little.
Buy Home by Timothy Archibald here.
Buy Attack and Confusion/Asleep and Waking by Tony Fouhse here.
Friday, 27 February 2015
from Antone Dolezal and Lara Shipley's Spook Light Chronicles Vol 3 ( We Always Lie to Strangers)
Petapixel posted more detailed complaints on the World Press Photo Winning series on Charleroi yesterday. In the Petapixel account, the series is accused of manipulating the audience through rather imaginative captioning and indeed editing. The complaints centre on the role of Big Phil - he's presented by Troilo as a man hiding in a doorway in his home in an area ridden with crime. But then the mayor says he lives in a nice house and is the life and soul of the party. Well, he would say that wouldn't he. Who know's, maybe both accounts are 'true'.
So as well as technical manipulation in WPP - which I think is really quite clear and simple as far as it goes - there is now the question of false representation and truth.
Take me out and throw me in the River Tiber in a sack with a mad dog and a lobster now (When in Rome and all that). Whenever philosophical mumblings about truth in photography come up, you know you are in for a rough ride of circular arguments, contradictions and a special photographic perspective.
I manage to get by in the rest of my life without worrying too much about truth. This morning, I look out of the window and see the sun shining on Solsbury Hill and somehow don't worry that the weather will change and it will be pissing down with rain later. It doesn't stop the direct joyfulness of the experience from being direct and real. When I have my dinner tonight, I enjoy it and don't worry too much about whether it is really a fish - or even why I am eating a meal that has been done before. I still enjoy it. Truth doesn't come into it. It could if I was of a certain bent. But it doesn't.
And actually truth doesn't come into photography either. It's the wrong word to use. Maybe misrepresentation, bias, propaganda, dishonesty, venality, corruption, denial would be better? Or maybe not? Who knows? Not me.
One of the things I've written this week is a book review of the final volume of Dolezal and Shipley's Spook Light Chronicles for Photo Eye (read a review of the first volume here). This is a fictional narrative that uses text, pictures and the archive to examine the phenomenon of the Spook Light in this Missouri/Kansas/Oklahoma corner of the Ozarks.
I really, really like the series. More than that, I enjoy the series and the way each volume builds on the previous one to create a whole. The first volume looks at the phenomenon of the spook light, the second volume looks at the industry built around it, and the final volume goes beyond the actuality of the spook light to look at what it is like to live in the Ozarks.
Nothing is ever pinned down. Things are left open and unexplained and we are never quite sure where we stand. Stories are told and loosely attached to images that have different levels of the theatrical about them. But we are left with a feeling of what it might be to live in the Ozarks and the way of thinking that exists in a place where history, myth, religion and the land merge into one. It's a documentary in other words - one that hits all of Bill Nichols documentary (film) modes mixing happily together but in a manner that does not have the 'this is true?' question at its heart.
The other writing I've done is a feature on Lina Hashim (who is my other favourite of the month and beyond) for the BJP. Her work (see this post on Unlawful Meetings here) examines her identity and how it is affected through the rules that are imposed on her through community interpretations of Islam, She fuses photography, religion and the way in which photography is made, disseminated and read within that same community.
Some of the time she is a Sophie Calle, sometimes she's a Kohei Yoshiyuki, sometimes she's a Wendy Ewald. She flits here and she flits there between the mixed up messages and the confusion of ideas that are part of her everyday life. And she wants to know where these ideas (why wear hijab, why can't you photograph a face, why is unmarried sex forbidden when so many young muslims do it, why do people pretend it doesn't exist, how can a suicide bomber be a martyr, why is there a market for their photographs, where does all this stuff come from!) originate. It's independent thinking that questions why so many people don't have an independent thought process (or pretend they don't).
The methods push the boundaries and involve a large amount of subterfuge, but that is central to the work and the way it examines where images and ideas come from, and why they are so readily accepted. At the same time, Hashim is quite brutal in her quest for what is not 'true' and it probably doesn't make comfortable reading for lots of people - the stupid, the cruel, the apologetic and the racist for example. But that doesn't stop her. Again, at the heart of her projects there is a huge sense of documentary. Not a documentary of 'truth', but a documentary of belief and where it comes from. And embedded in that work are the beliefs of those who believe. Which makes for a really nice symmetry.
Both Dolezal and Shipley's work, nor that of Hashim is 'true', but it does represent in the most considered and honest of ways the worlds of which they are part. And they help me to understand those worlds and know, in a small way, what it is like to be in those worlds.
Thursday, 26 February 2015
Oh gosh, it's World Press Photo Disqualification Complaints Season again. This happens every year but at least there seems to be a nearing to some clarity on why various unseen pictures were disqualified. David Campbell put this post up on Tuesday, and this echoes these examples from 2014 of what could be disqualified. Absolutely no cloning or healing brush seems to be the answer ( except for cleaning up dust and scratches). No painting, or excessive masking The bottom line is nothing should be added and nothing taken away (or even concealed).
But then entrants also got disqualified for making their picture 'too dark' (excessive toning) or did I imagine that. In which case, what entrants from the past would be disqualified for excessive dodging or burning, or retouching for that matter - the examples on Campbell's website show relatively minor retouching in places and surely that level of retouching must have happened on many occasions.
There are numerous digital tools aimed at detecting manipulation on images - and this points to guidelines on manipulation that are more, not less, rigorous than those in the analogue darkroom days. It seems counterintuitive but winners did not need to show a negative back in the day. Now raw files are mandatory once you hit the shortlist and you will get found out. So in some ways, the rules are more transparent than they were in the past. Or maybe that's because in the past there were no rules.
Campbell points out that perhaps there needs to be a re-evaluation of what constitutes truth in an image, in the cultural sense. These are some of the questions he thinks we should consider.
(and please note that these are Campbell's personal views that are not connected to the World Press Photo. This is me linking his thoughts to the World Press Photo )
How travel to a photographic location was enabled and funded raises a series of questions. Once on location, the composition and framing of scenes necessarily involves choices that shape representations. The editing, selection, tagging, and captioning of images for potential publication adds more layers of decision. Which images are then distributed to media clients for purchase, and how those clients present, sequence and contextualise those images, is another realm of creative choice that shapes the representation of events and issues. As David Levi Strauss has observed, “the truth is that every photograph or digital image is manipulated, aesthetically and politically, when it is made and when it is distributed.”
It's all constructed in this view. Everything is staged, but despite this, we need to consider what constitutes a 'document'. Despite this, Campbell recognises there are different standards for images that aim to 'entertain or please us.'
For them, we can have more relaxed standards. However, if we want some pictures to be able to function as documents and evidence, we have to ensure certain things so those pictures can function as documents and evidence.
I think that those standards are already extremely relaxed and that the World Press Photo consists of images that do 'entertain and please us' in disparate generic ways - photographic genre is at the heart of the World Press let's not forget - and it's to its credit that it has extended the generic possibilities in recent years. But maybe this generic/entertainment centre is part of the problem. Both the fact that it is at the heart of many categories (maybe more than we care to imagine) and the fact that we don't like to recognise it.
But Campbell sees this and thinks that:
We need to focus on the process of photography rather than just its products, and consider the issue in terms of what images do rather than what images are...
I think, following Ariella Azoulay, we also need to understand an image as being one statement in a larger regime of statements, so that we dispense with the idea that pictures alone can testify to all they show. Images can be powerful documents and evidence, but they require other statements, other information, to be truly effective.
So as well as verifying the relationship between the camera and the subject, there's the production and the dissemination of the picture stories to consider - captioning, sequencing, layout and juxtaposition all matter and all need to be considered. As is who funds the work, who publishes the work, who funds the publication and who advertises as Campbell points out.
It's a darn tricky menu of verification especially considering the venality of the owners of most newspapers, magazines and online sites. Ethics are easily overruled in all kinds of ways by even the most superficially respectable of publications. The party line is there to be toed - and now that you have a global ownership of media with shared interests that line does tend to be a one-party line.
So what would be interesting is if someone kind of humourles smile-free press overseer was seconded to the World Press Committee to judge on the places where the winning work was published, consider how it was published and then left free to disqualify that which was not deemed worthy along the holistic lines that Campbell mentions above. But then everything would be disqualified and you'd end up with no winners. You wouldn't even be able to have a bathroom break (as the paraphrased saying goes) so stringent would the ethical considerations be; humourless, smile-free ethicists-over-us are tiresome to put it mildly so let's scrub that idea.
Anyway, the other question is that of the poetic interpretation. The latest controversy to hit the World Press Photo Winner is the Charleroi letter. Italian photographer, Giovanni Troilo won the Contemporary Issues prize for his portrayal of Charleroi as some post-apocalyptic Belgian wasteland where Bladerunner meets Coronation Street with a dose of Pulp Fiction thrown in. It comes complete with heavy lighting and a bit of creative staging. One picture is of a couple having sex in a car park, which has this caption for the World Press Photo: “Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons.”
Sad to say, the photographer put this caption on his website: "My cousin accepted to be portrayed while fornicating with a girl in his friend’s car. For them it was not strange.” But still, that doesn't contradict the world press caption. But the car lights are on so you can see inside which is not quite the way it should be.
The mayor of Charleroi didn't like the work. This is what he said
Troilo’s work should be reevaluated, the mayor concluded. “Charleroi is not, on any account, the black heart of Europe,” Magnette writes. “You will not find one single inhabitant who will recognize his city in these pictures, not to mention the captions that look more like a settling of scores than a reportage.”
But isn't that true of just about every photo essay of anywhere. It's a selective rendering. I'll happily take Bath as a timeless Georgian toytown of elegant crescents and high tea at the pump rooms. Or I'll take it as a city funded by dirty thug-money with a piece of prime real estate that wouldn't look out of place in Ceasescu's Romania. Or I'll take it as muggy valley swampland, the death bed of ambition, a kind of elephant's graveyard where people from London come to die. And many more things.
But for Charleroi, if you can't take Troilo's work, then you shouldn't take the equally fantastical pieces that might have pumped up the city over the years and have appeared not just in city advertorials but also in serious publications around the world. There's not too many of these pieces around I guess, it is Charleroi after all, but I bet there are some.
Campbell also says this covers the more creative possibilities or personal interpretations such as Troilo's vision of Charleroi.. He talks about:
...the exhausted, incoherent and unsustainable position that photography could be objective and true, which is a commitment still so strong we see traces of it every time an image’s status is questioned.
And that is something we need rules on. It is the biggest cliche to say that photography is staged or photography is real. Most people flick between the two visions depending on what side of bed they get out of bed in the morning. Only those in serious denial about either the world or their own independence of thought stick solidly to one interpretation. Yes, we know that pictures are staged, but they still have a huge truth value that is absolutely central to how and why they are made and understood. They belong to that wider regime of statements and we do see them and take them as fact at a very basic level without even realising it; in photojournalism, in documentary, in advertising, in family albums, on phone apps, everywhere. We know it's nonsense but we're not smart enough to not feel that it's nonsense. Maybe because it's not nonsense after all.
And the problem is the ways in which we take pictures as true do matter - and are both far simpler and far more sophisticated than the Platonic, Kantian, semiotic, psycho-analytic, aura-centred, authenticity-based, existentialist, intertextual interpretations that we tend to look at them through in photographic theory god help us.
I'm currently writing about Lina Hashim for the BJP and her Unlawful Meetings work is a case in point. Hashim negotiates that difficult area where what people think, what they say and what they do - and how that affects her multiple identities. It's work made in very difficult f circumstances, but it is work that acts as evidence. It shows young muslims having sex in cars. And as such it shows that young muslims do have sex. And that is visual evidence that goes against the rather stupid rhetoric of lots of people. It makes something visible. And within the context of that 'larger regime of statements' it is accepted as truth.
So today, for me, as I write about Hashim, photography is truth. That's the side of bed I got out of this morning.
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Off to class I go! Good job I've got my pants on
I like dreams, but not anxiety dreams. They are a pain in the brain, but we all seem to have them and they are always variations on a theme. I remember when my daughter was about six months old, I dreamt about where we lived; it was the upstairs bar of a pub and my daughter was crawling around on the floor. We had a Christmas tree. It sat in a bowl of acid for some reason. It was a very dry tree so of course it had candles. There were electric lights as well but no plug; bare wires were stuck into the socket instead.
Photographer anxiety dreams are pretty basic. In the days of film, it was the old film that doesn't wind on dream. Or the film gets lost, or it all turns out blurred. Or it could be your lens falls off (and that has other interpretations), or the batteries go, or someone starts kicking up shit about you photographing. Digital anxiety dreams are nowhere near as interesting. The camera becomes secondary and it all revolves around laptops, hard drives and wi-fi. And I am sure there are many, many more depending on what gear you use or how challenging your work is. Technological failure and fear of discovery loom large in dreamworld.
Writer's anxiety dreams? Lost papers, lost files, Sysyphian writing, a never-ending edit, getting your facts hopelessly wrong, missing a year on your deadline and getting discovered for the imposter that you undoubtedly are.
I asked a gallerist about anxiety dreams and he reeled them off most effortlessly; leaving the door to the gallery open and someone strolling in off the street and nicking all your art. Or leaving the paintings out in the rain overnight. Don't do that. And of course the imposter thing gets multiple look ins.
I remember when I used to teach ESOL students, I'd get the same anxiety dreams at the start of every term. I'd wouldn't find the room, I wouldn't have my trousers on, there'd be a fight, I'd have a nightmare class. That kind of thing. The funny thing was, I once had a first class that was exactly like the dream (apart from the trousers) only worse.
My wife works in the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector anxiety dream is incredibly dull mainly because with this UK government your anxieties are reality on a daily basis. Not completing your annual monitoring form is pretty much as good as it gets.
And then there's the big one, the psychoanalyst's anxiety dream. You'd guess it would be something like the couch collapsing, or Freud popping in the room and judging you, or the transference going too far and you getting caught with the sex-addict patient. But when I asked an analyst, they completely swerved the question and all the options I offered them. Deny, Deny, Deny!