Where to Start – How About the End…?

So, what would the end of the world look like?

We live in crazy times (haven’t we always!). Wars rumbling on in the background of the West’s consciousness (Yemen), or wars that the world looks at but does nothing about (Syria), politicians who promote division to bolster and their own egos, gun crime, knife attacks, cars used as weapons…I could go on. The end of the world could come in many forms, but societal breakdown and the end of civilisation is probably more likely than being struck by a giant meteorite (I hope I’m not tempting fate there!). Amongst all this doom and gloom it is important to remember that for the majority of people living on this planet, life is much better than that.

Our perception of the state of the world is seriously eroded largely by negative press – camera crews and news reporters try to find the most appalling incidents to make the public tune in. That is essentially their job. Of course, it’s human nature to seek out bad news, but it’s important to remember that positive things are happening all the time that are never reported.

Just like the news reports, fiction often visits the darker side of the human condition (or not-so-human, depending on your genre). It is essential for the development of a plot for ‘something’ to happen. That ‘something’, or ‘trigger’, is necessary for events to take place and a story to unfold, and rarely is it something pleasant.

To write a story it can be quite difficult to actually begin, or ‘put pen to paper’ as the cliche goes. Sometimes it can be good to start with a dramatic event to draw people in, or at least a line or two to pique their interest or create bemusement. Something, anything to grab the reader and make them want to read on.

Another way to start is to imagine the ‘trigger’ event and work backwards. Think about what would lead up to the event taking place, or how and why the main character is involved or affected by it.

This is all well and good, but how to come up with the ‘trigger’ in the first place? Some people use random words, or suggested opening lines, or they look in the newspapers and magazines then extrapolate their own variations on the stories they read. Another way is to find an arresting image and to create a story that leads up to, or runs away from, what is pictured. That’s where this post comes in – hopefully.

The end of the world is a pretty dramatic event and has been illustrated numerous times throughout history – in art, literature and on film. The images below are interesting because they fuse photography and painting to create believable scenes (they digitally fuse the two media to create impossible ‘photos’). Created by Michal Karcz (an artist form Warsaw, Poland), his images appear to encompass post-apocalyptic, alien or parallel worlds and alternative futures/pasts. They could be a good starting point for a story/

What would you write inspired by these pictures? Or what do you use as a trigger for your stories?

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I originally discovered these images a few years ago on the designboom website at this address.

Time Stacks by Matt Molloy

Time-lapse photography has a history about as long as photography itself and the effect of the photographic image on art has had a huge influence.  The blurring of an image has been repeatedly used – whether in the cause of Impressionism, Futurism, or any number of artistic ‘ideals’ – that its photographic origins are sometimes forgotten.

Traditional time-lapse photography tends to create a smooth blurring effect, a softening of the image, a merging of motion into a continuous stream of light.  Matt Molloy, a photographer from Ontario in Canada, has taken a different approach.  For his time-lapse images he has ‘stacked’ a sequence of time-lapsed images, creating a staggered blurring effect.  The images are quite ethereal, bridging the line between a photograph and a painting.

Matt Molloy ‘Land of the Giant Lollipops’

Matt Molloy ‘Sky Sculptures’

Matt Molloy ‘Smeared Sky Sunset’

Matt Molloy 'Sunset Spectrum'

Matt Molloy 'Spun'

Abstract Realities by Serge Najjar

I love architecture and I love photography and it is great to see these two art forms coming together and creating really striking images.
Yes, the architecture is already there, a space filling physical object which can be walked around and should, of course, be experienced first hand; but what sometimes makes a particular building or place somewhere that people want to visit can be down to the eye of the photographer.  A good photograph shows us what a thousand bad ones fail to show – the beauty, symmetry, elegance or humour of a place and it’s people.
The photo’s in the series ‘Abstract Realities’ by Serge Najjar (of Beirut, Lebanon) do just this.  They highlight the repetitive patterns and angles of the architecture and also feature a person, to give both scale and often light relief from the austerity of the geometric lines.
Here a few words by Serge Najjar on his LensCulture page:-

Every Saturday I drive my car towards a destination still unknown and guide myself by my instinct, by light and by whatever attracts my eye. This is when I stop, position myself and wait for something to happen.

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Photographs by Erik Johansson

The photographs of Erik Johansson combine the surrealist eye for the absurd (in a similar way to Rene Magritte) with the visual contortions of the work of E.C. Escher.

Johansson is a professional photographer who has produced work for Microsoft, Adobe, National Geographic, Google and Volvo, amongst others.  It is interesting that he does not try to conceal his digital manipulations; going so far as to produce videos revealing the laborious behind-the-scenes manipulations he has to go through to, as he puts it, “realise the ideas in my mind“.

Considering the amount of torn up countryside, roads scored or dragged through the landscape and general disintegration evident in much of his photography, I wonder if it reveals something about his inner psyche…?

Leaving Home

Go Your Own Road

Fishy Island

Greenfall

Arms Break Vases Don’t

Cut And Fold

Common Sense Crossing

–oOo–

 

 

High Density High-Rise in High Definition – Photographs of Hong Kong by Peter Stewart

Cities are great places to visit, but I would not like to live in one.  The proximity of people, the confinement of endless streets and buildings, the noise and pollution.  Of course some cities are much better than others in this respect; but on the whole the idea of being squeezed into an apartment along with loads of other people where the nearest green space is a park full of other people, is really not for me at all.

This containment of human life is taken to an extreme in Hong Kong where tiny apartments, one repeatedly on top of the other, is the norm for many thousands of people.  This extreme environment is a perfect subject for photographic art – its repeated patterns with slight and occasional variation can create very structured and striking images.  This has been the subject of Peter Stewart‘s photography which has an elegance in its composition, yet the prison like scenes it depicts lends the picture a darker edge then the essentially abstracts grids they portray.

Lai Tak Tseun Apartments in Causeway Bay by Peter Stewart

Montane Mansion in Quarry Bay by Peter Stewart

‘little boxes’ Yick Cheong Buildings in Quarry Bay by Peter Stewart

Oi Man Estate in Ho Man Tin, Kowloon by Peter Stewart

Choi Hung Estate in Wong Tai Sin by Peter Stewart

Photographs by Oleg Oprisco

In my previous post I noted that for me an interesting photograph needs to be either beautiful of odd (or both, of course).  Because of the immeasurable amount of images we see on a daily basis, often without even consciously recognising them, a photograph needs to grab the attention of the viewer in a striking way and different photographers approach this problem in vastly different ways.  I like to find the out of place or an unusual composition that is there without my interference, so I rely on my sensibility in seeing things in a particular way – a photographic equivalent of the ready-made.  Other photographers like to be more in control and create their visions through meticulous staging.  One such photographer is the Ukranian Oleg Oprisco who creates perfectly composed dream-like scenes which combine the jarring unreality of surrealism with the romance of the fairytale in equal measure.

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Reflected Trees by Prince Cavallo

Having posted and written about a number of my photographs on this blog, I have noticed that I tend to gravitate towards a couple of points of interest that can be seen as interrelated.  One is nature – how can anyone not be in awe of the natural world and the beauty of it’s complexity; another is decay – the tragedy of decay heightens our appreciation of beauty because we know that nothing last for ever, nature sees to that; and third is the odd – if an image is not beautiful, in subject or composition, then surely it should be odd to catch the eye.  If a photograph is not one of these things, or a combination of them, then for me it has little interest.  A photograph needs to be arresting in some way or it is merely dull.

The photograph I have chosen this week is largely nature orientated, although it does have a touch of the odd about it.  The muddy bank and the short posts are in focus, so technically they should be the subject of the photograph; yet the shimmering, out-of-focus reflection of the trees (which are themselves physically out of shot) are, as the title suggests, the true point of interest in this picture.

The fact that the beauty of the shot is distorted and half-seen gives it an air of mystery, and the muddy bank grounds the image literally to an earthy reality.  Without the muddy bank I don’t think the photograph would work half as well and it would probably be an abstracted mess of a photograph – or maybe it is anyway; beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Reflected Trees by Prince Cavallo

‘Imagine Finding Me’ by Chino Otsuka

paris, france, 1982 and 2005The photograph above, on first look, appears to be just another holiday snap.  Two girls standing outside a patisserie somewhere in Paris.

Most of that previous paragraph was correct – except that this is not two girls, it’s the same girl twice.  It comes from a series of photographs called ‘Imagine Finding Me’ by Chino Otsuka.kamakura, japan, 1976 and 2005By using photographs of the artist as a young girl, Chino Otsuka seamlessly superimposes herself from a later photograph into the older one – creating an impossible image, a synthesis of two mutually exclusive moments in a person’s life and posing the tantalizing question of what would you say to your younger self?

“The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history.”

Chino often uses self-portraiture in her photography to examine the relationship between belonging, memory and identity, often associated with a sense of place, home, displacement and loss.spain, 1975 and 2005I found the original article on the designboom website, it is well worth a look, there’s even a little video of the artist talking about her work for an exhibition from 2012 in Amsterdam, which included the ‘Imagine Finding Me’ series, called ‘A World of Memories‘.

1984 and 2005 London, UK, from the series Imagine Finding Me

Telegraph Poles

Locks Ash, West Sussex, EnglandI took this photo a few years ago, and I’m not quite sure why I like it so much.

We were out on a walk somewhere near Locks Ash in West Sussex when I stood on tiptoes and saw these telegraph poles receding over the horizon.  In many respects it’s a photograph of empty space, but it is an emptiness framed by the poles.  It set me looking for interesting emptiness – but for some reason, interesting or photogenic emptiness, is quite elusive…

Here’s a link to the photo on my Flickr page – here!