As part of my Harena Now project work, I have been conducting more sand experiments with out-of-date Ilford black and white photo paper.
The paler images shown below are the straight copies of the paper after I decided the 3-hour exposure would suffice, while the stronger colours of the others are created through Photoshop.
The purpose of this is to show the impact of natural resources (sand, seawater and sunlight) against the impact of further interference with the human hand, and how the choices I make change the original image.
The original images are also not fixed – over time, and especially if displayed in the light, they will disappear. The second set are copies of the originals, and in that sense will live on and never fade away (yes, I appreciate for the purpose of this project I have digital files of the originals too).
To continue as a species, we will of course need to use natural resources, but, in relation to the sand issue, we need to start looking at alternatives and more sustainable practices of sand use.
I came across the work of photographer David Ondrik. His work, Inheritance, has been made in response to the “treasured gift or uncomfortable burden” of receiving his father’s woodworking tools after he had died.
Ondrick states that the photogram process was an ideal way to make use of these items, himself not being one for woodworking. He describes this work with sentences such as, “The black shapes in the images reference an event horizon, the outer boundary of a Black Hole, beyond which light cannot escape” and compares it to pieces of memories and experiences of a lived life as it is created from multiple small pieces to form a larger artwork.
But it is the decision to not fix the image that aligns with my own thinking. Ondrik says on his website that the images will “change over time, mirroring the way memories and experience shift and evolve. In front of these images, there is room for quiet meditation and reflection, an opportunity to safely confront the traumas of existence”.
For me this work is mesmerising. I could sit and look at it and find multiple layers of meaning and beauty within.
This is something I hope viewers of my Harena Now images will do. I hope by considering my work they will be able to face the trauma our existence can have on the world we inhabit.
I have been planning to have my artworks made into glass installations to be shown at locations effected by the sand crisis. And this is something I aim to pursue for my cyanotype images. But I have also been considering having my lumen prints displayed behind a curtain, with a sand timer next to the covered image. Viewers will have the time it takes to turn the sand timer over and let the sand trickle through to look at the work before being advised to close the curtains.
Much of this thinking is tied up in ideas of time – how little we each have of it and yet how much we can impact on our surroundings simply by being born. There is a sense of frustration attributed to the idea of closing the curtain when the timer runs out and walking away or moving on to the next image. Do any of us take the time to contemplate where the human species is heading, what will we leave behind, if anything at all, when we fade away? And, in our infinitesimally short human life (compared to the age of the earth) why does anyone care about the world around them? And is that why we seem to be hurtling headlong into more and more environmental problems (I know it’s not all bad – I’m an optimist at heart), because however passionate about our subject we are, deep down there is the notion of it being someone else’s future problem?
If my work can spark questions, debate and, hopefully, answers to such thoughts; if people will look at what they see and contemplate the ideas I am putting before them, then I will be satisfied Harena Now has at least had some impact in raising awareness of the sand crisis. Whether environmental art can change the world, or, more appropriately, the mindsets of those looking at it, is for another blog post.
Ondrik, David. Available at: https://davidondrik.com/artwork/inheritance/ [accessed November 22, 2017]