This photograph was taken entirely spontaneously. Normally, with my fifty-twos, I think very carefully about the concept, about the clothing, about the location and any props. But this was taken at Ben’s while the boys were out, and I had nothing on me except the clothes I stood in. I was lucky in that he lives in the most extraordinary place, and the light that evening was utterly beautiful. I watched it from the window in the attic room, and then took my camera and my tripod down to the meadow and found somewhere pretty. I had no concept in my head, no story I knew I wanted to construct, but what came out of my camera was, quite simply, the truth.
The location is candid, the clothes are candid, and the concept was thought up on the spot with the quote in mind. This is one of the reasons why I like it so much, especially as one of my fifty-twos.
Prep is one of my favourite books, and significant to this week in the fact that it revolves around the life of a girl in the last years of her high school life. I, too, left my school this week. Flicking back through the novel yesterday, I found my old annotations from when I read it first, when I was about fifteen. It was one of the first books which properly spoke to me, and so I underlined the parts which I felt were relevant to the way I was thinking. Some of them I still agree with, and lots of them I find I can no longer relate to in the same way. The quote I used in my fifty-two this week, though, is one which has always been my favourite.
Cross was silent. I wondered whether he had fallen asleep.
That was when, not unlike the way he had that rainy evening in the taxi three years before, he began to stroke my hair. He set his fingers against the top of my forehead and ran them back, smoothing out my hair against the pillow, then set his fingers against my forehead again. Over and over, back through my hair, the glide of his fingertips – I think that maybe nothing else in my life had ever felt that purely, uncomplicatedly good. I couldn’t speak because I was afraid if I did, I might start crying, or he might stop doing it. I shut my eyes.
Sittenfeld C., (2005) Prep, New York, Random House, p289
The moment, in its purest form, doesn’t relate to anything that has happened to me this week. But the line about uncomplicated goodness – that was how I felt as I stood out in the field at sunset. Uncomplicated because I was alone and because I was in a foreign place without ties to anywhere or anyone. Also, the idea that I never had to return to the place which had, in the past months, become oh-so complicated. I was free of college and free of those I had been forced to stay with at college. It felt good.
And also, as I stood in the field and tried to find a visual way to link the quote with my photograph, I started thinking about the act of stroking someone’s hair. The way it is comforting, almost mesmerising, and the way in which I felt this week, for the first time in a long time, very safe. I mean, that I had realised how much love existed around me, and that I could access that when I needed to. That I had realised how much my friends cared about me, and how they were willing to open more doors to me and wanted to know me better. That I was in total control of my life, and how my gap year is beginning to take shape (I’ll write a blogpost soon.)
In the end, I entwined Ben’s meadow and the spontaneous aspect of my story with the concept around hair, plaiting my own and braiding it with reeds. I made them quiet and reflective, just as I was feeling as I stood in the meadow. Later, I tried a concept about tied hands juxtaposed with freedom, and then, thinking about the romantic aspect of the quote, I tied a bunch of reeds like a flower bouquet and held them to the light. Back home, though, I decided I liked the earlier, simpler ones better. They are partially thought-through, and partially spontaneous, and so they are different to most of my other photographs in the set. I enjoyed my spontaneity this week, though. I think it is, perhaps, what I need to inject into my photography a little more.