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.
At New Year we were in the Cotswolds visiting my in-laws. While we were there some squirrels had been playing in the trees in the garden. I popped out with my camera to take some photos of one of them high in the trees. While I was doing that my gaze wandered around the garden. It is somewhere that I’ve spent a lot of time when we’ve stayed with my sister-in-law, playing with the children or just chilling out.
Looking around I saw many of the things that the kids and I had played with over the years. I found myself thinking that these were great examples of presence and absence. The swings and slides, the abandoned football, the trampoline covered with branches, placed in front of the goal. The bikes leaning against the house.
All things that were once used by the kids when they were little but now abandoned, never to be used again.
I know that this doesn’t exactly fit the exercise brief but I do feel that it highlights presence and absence.