William Oldacre Photography

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The Essence

I read a post yesterday that talked about the essence of a photograph. It made me pause and think about my efforts and why I make the images I do – why I explore the way I do. I also read a couple quotes from Rothko a while ago that struck a chord in me. He was very concerned with expressing basic human emotion – tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on.

In my ongoing self analysis of the WHY of my work I keep coming up against emotion – but whose emotion. Really, I think it’s just mine. So that would make my work a very personal statement. One of enthrallment, depression, doubt, excitement, perhaps even anger – though much less so since I can’t really create when I’m angry.

I keep trying to explain my efforts as a general relationship to the emotion of living, here, now in this frenetic, active place full of potential – the excitement and possibility. As if this is what you’re feeling too. Well, maybe you are but maybe you’re not. So really I can only honestly speak about myself.

So much of what I do is on some level ecstatic. In fact, I just remembered my friend Jeff Joseph loves to call me a pleasure seeker (at some point I should explain and amend that title… somewhat). I get swept up in the flow state, the pleasure of realizing my internal vision and the discovery of potential – it’s a feedback loop for me. I think to myself what if I tried this or tried that. What would happen if I made photographs like this and I try it out. With digital camera’s the feedback loop has become virtually instantaneous. I’m able to drill right down to the heart of what excites me straight away.

This is why music is so fundamental to my efforts. Music readily induces an ecstatic state in me – one which is primed for creating. For example when I shot the source images for Coloured City I was listening to some beautiful music in my car at the time – a lot of the Buddha Bar series – and it was totally getting me into the flow state. So much so I was able to easily anticipate the timing of events and get a tremendous number of promising images in a short time.

But really my current works all began with a discontent. I was unhappy with what I viewed as a limitation – a confinement and I sought a way out – a way around. Up until I shot Metro Motion I struggled with Toronto as my subject matter. I had been shooting the passing landscape as I drove and preferred making landscapes of the countryside. Toronto was the antithesis of this for me. It took a fair amount of experimenting and some lateral thinking to combine techniques and get an exciting result. Once I succeeded in that, it unbarred the way for more ideas.

I want to be clear that I’m exploring abstraction not as a means but as a method – it allows me to uncouple my emotions from the concrete objects around me. For now at least, it feels intuitive and fluid to make images this way.

In summary, lets just say my images embody the excitement I feel about living here – now.

In general, I have an increasing tendency to look inward and naval gaze. And I think if you look for a trend in my work – over the past 12 years or so you’ll find that my images are getting more inward looking and less expansive. I’m progressing toward a narrower field – a smaller focus, getting more microscopic.

I can identify this progression in just about every aspect of my life. On a personal level I’m beginning to wonder if this is counter-productive for me, even unhealthy – that perhaps I should be expanding my gaze outward away from my self. Trouble is I’ve become extremely comfortable with my naval gazing – fortified even. I don’t know if I can change or even if I have the will to change. It would mean upheaval on a massive and fundamental level for me.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how I turn out.