The strange world of photography – John MacLean and Anders Petersen
My boyfriend gave me an Olympus xa2 for my birthday, and yesterday I had my first ever roll of film developed. I’d been working so intensely with drawings so i wanted to experiment with something else. As expected, most of them turned out weirdly composed, blurry and out of focus. But I was actually very pleased with this result, I wanted to move out of my comfort zone and into unknown territory, and this was the result of that. My friend, who’s a photographer, told me that, “you only find out what you are interested in when you get your film developed”, with a roll of film, you can’t see the actual work when it is made, you can’t take the photo out, and look at it, step away from it, come back and reflect on it. It’s just in there, hidden away. Running around taking photographs has been a completely different process than working with a constructed image ( drawing, painting etc.), it’s a much more externalized experience. I feel like I pay attention to detail in a different way, knowing that i have my camera in my pocket. I look at compositions, lines, light and shadow, shapes.
The experience of being in a color darkroom was this completely surreal experience of being in an alternate universe, where sensory communication was the main way of navigating around and interacting with each other. I forgot to listen to the instructions from my very patient boyfriend, I was too busy being mesmerized by the odd, tiny lights placed in the high corners of the room, the strange, light sensitive machinery, the awkward occasional bumping into one another and dropping stuff on the floor, without the ability to ever find it again.
John MacLean’s photography is in many ways quite abstract, and to me, many of them look like drawings. His compositions at first seem irregular for photographs, and are often taken from far above, at a distorted angle most commonly seen in snapshot photography, yet these images are clearly very thought through, and meticulously planned. But at the same time they are all taken at the perfect spot in time, that spot that makes a good photograph great. On his webpage it says:
“With an educational background in Maths, Physics and Geology each of his projects is inspired by a specific question, which he then explores through the trial and error of making photographs. Each question – philosophical, cultural, political, medium-specific – is chosen for its potential to condense his own views into images, to untangle and acknowledge his influences, and to explore the assets and limitations of a treacherous medium.”
I love his approach and idea of the camera being its own master, the camera is letting him use it, but at the end, has such a tremendous impact on how the actual photo turns out. I like that uncertainty, and I’m interested in bringing that philosophy into my photographical work.
His almost cinematic composition is instantly appealing to me, they almost look like stills from a movie. His obvious interest in human behavior seems quite familiar as well, the desire to capture a movement, or a conversation. Most of his photos have a slightly uncanny narrative element to them; the feeling that something is wrong or something evil is about to happen. In the series “Mental Hospital” the photos are distorted, oddly composed, intense images of the mentally ill, here he examines the pathological versus the normative within society, and you get the feeling that he cares for these people outside of the camera lens.