Before you embark and get lost among Roosters Rest Woods, where a lot of photography has been taken such as here, here and here, you first have to climb the picturesque trail that wraps its way up a steep hill. The hill overlooking the neighbouring fields and farms like patchwork not visible in these photos. On the decline, before the tunnel of trees you are greeted with the curious bleating of sheep as they watch in amusement as I jump over fences and gates to disappear amongst the sitka spruces. It was a typical rainy day in Ireland when these photos were taken, not the fun kind of rain that it is a joy to watch where it bounces off everything but the misty kind where it clings to your clothes and saturates everything, and on this day – my camera lens. Although I do like this kind of mist as it adds to the effect of diffusing the scenery, blurring the boundaries of distance and softening the silhouettes of those pesky sheep.
A second cluster of collages for this weeks John Stezaker Kick About. The likes of Ernst Haeckel’s botany illustrations, Anton Kerners “Plantscapes” and some garish dental illustrations make up the smorgasbord of cutouts in these depictions. I have learned that I really enjoy fabricating collages – Like all creatives processes there is a time when everything looks a mess with no cohesiveness whatsoever, but a certain shape will flourish and be a golden nugget that will spark something in the right direction – by moving something here, scaling something there, a whack of colour here, a penis there, things start to manifest into from – like the final missing puzzle piece.
This weeks Kick About over on Red’s Kingdom is the freakish portrait photography of John Stezaker entitled Marriage (Film Portrait Collage), where photographs of celebrities are split into uncanny cacophonies. Because Stezaker drew inspiration from Dadaism and Surrealism by kit-bashing and appropriating images into bizarre collages, I decided to splice together some absurdities in a fun – no fucks given kind of way, all images nicked from the public domain of course.
A further collection of images from my latest short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. One of the most difficult shots to film was the boat scene, I went through a few different iterations of cutouts with varying levels of successes and failures. I originally tried to use the same cutout of the man from the previous scenes but I wanted this scene to be fairly wide angled to show a lot of the landscape as the man moves towards the lighthouse. I had to make a new cutout of our hero about one thirds the size of the original and get it just right as the weight from the LED light and lantern on the right meant that it was heavier and in previous attempts warped the paper and flopped the boat downwards – making it difficult to move across the screen. A nice surprise that happened with this scene is when the cutout was slightly further away from the stage, the blue LED lights lit below bled onto the boats undercarriage and helped allude to water. Another scene that was difficult was the pinnacle moment when the Hero lights the lighthouse with his lantern… the amount of times I filmed this because the characters arm was ripped off because of the weight of the LED is something I don’t want to mention – it actually was disemboweled a few frames after what is shown, but you would never know that.
The first group of stills from my latest short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. Originally the colour of this film was going to be all warming sepia tones coupled with inky blacks, I found this lovely textured brown packing paper thrown amongst the pile of amazon boxes and discarded clothes in the store room of our house, after sticking the packing paper onto the picture frame that would become the stage and lighting it from behind – I soon realised that the paper was too thick and the resulting black silhouettes were not as prominent as I liked, I needed the paper to be thin enough and the light to be strong enough that you could see some elements within the distance of the protagonist, to show more depth but also show that he is moving from a variety of different landscapes. I ended up using white grease paper and as for the colour changes I bought a strip of LED lights for previous long exposure experiments that ended up working well with the grease paper so a lot of the colours chosen for pinnacle parts in the film are meant to bring the viewer deeper into the psyche of the protagonist using colour theory.
Truth be told when I decided I wanted to make a short film for this kick about regarding the strange landscape of Dungeness and Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage and garden I was feeling rather blue when the idea came to me. I don’t know why I sometimes torture myself when I feel sad, but the melancholy song that brings tears to my eyes entitled Twice by one Swedish group I admire called Little Dragon was playing in my head on a loop. A lot of the scenes from The Lighthouse Keeper are inspired by the gorgeous music video which can be seen here. The original story for The Lighthouse Keeper was a lot more melancholy, coinciding with how shit I felt, but I couldn’t accomplish it with just two hands and would have needed an assistant to help me with puppeteering the characters. While sitting on the idea for a while I decided to change the story to a more uplifting one so that I could accomplish it, and I think it turned out a better one.
I then abandoned this project for some time. The stage has been looming behind me for far too long as focusing in on perfectionism of the sets, lights, and movements of the characters felt relentless, trying to delve into a different medium one that is hands on and one that I can’t delete away mistakes was at times really testing. I really wanted the film to be as analogue as possible and for everything to be shot in camera, but realising it was an impossible approach and that I would have to rely on trickery done right to look like it was all in camera was the right methodology and ended up as a far more enjoyable experience. I leaned on newer technology as well as predeceasing technology that old films did so well.
A lot of behind the scenes footage has been filmed of what went into the making of this short film but I think I would rather let it be and not ruin the magic by showing how it is done… or showing the many instances where the stage toppled off the table, or when the characters arm flew off, or when my fan for the weather scene took everything along with it. Dismantling the stage, folding the grease paper, popping the many tools and props into jars and putting the little characters to rest in neat folders feels nice but in an odd way as there is something so unique and cherishing about finishing a film that you made with your hands, my bedroom certainly feels a lot roomier now that the stage is no longer.
A final set of dust and gleaming hair strands in relation to Gaston Bachelards words of lived in spaces. Sometimes I would vigorously pat the rug where these unheimlich mounds lay to get some dust orbs to show up in camera, sometimes it worked sometimes not, but it was always a joy to see when the camera picked them up.
As I played with various areas around my house I found other unbeknownst oddities in the depths of livid in spaces – an apple core, or the tendrils of one of my favourite but fraying jumpers. A while ago before these photos were taken, I had to change a lightbulb in my bathroom – the light source being one of those little spotlights that are embedded into the ceiling, to my horror upon unscrewing the light – the many mummified carcasses of bees fell from above the crevice and glided their way down to the floorboards.. I definitely should have hoovered more throughly. You can see one of the little fellas in these photos, having him rest on a clump of hair and dust feels like something you might see on natural history about cordyceps where the spores of fungus have attached to the brain of an inebriated insect and ultimately burst through the shells of the little critters.
A second set of macro photography inspired by the words of Gaston Bachelard. Being the hirsute kind, spiralling hair clumps who knows from where and floating dust orbs make up the most of these compositions, illuminated by a tiny but mighty LED light with sweet wrappers used as gels. Most of these photos were taken in my bedroom where a grasp through my rug pulled out bunches of hair. I loved when the camera was able to pick up mounds of dust caught in the webs of hair shafts, like an insect glued to a spiders web.