Monday, 10 March 2014

‘Swirl’ – a personal reflection on one image by Phil McMenemy

As artists why do we produce what we produce?

Why do we create what we create?

Why do we work in the way we do?

Is it a conscious act or is the unconscious at work?

In a previous life I worked as a psychiatric nurse with children, young people and their families and was always interested in the unconscious drives behind children’s behaviours and the possible reasons for these behaviours.

I think in the same way about my work – at times more deeply than at other times - why do I do what I do? Need it be a hidden process?

The image I’d like to share today is a very important and very personal image – ‘Swirl’.

This was and still is an important image in terms of my career as this was the first time I had ever won a national photographic competition (it is an irrelevance that this was the first one I had ever entered!) The image won first prize in the Scottish Nature Photography Awards competition (natural abstract) in 2010 – and brought attention and questions but not fame!!!!

It was only later that I was able to start to piece together the componenets of this image - jigsaw – it was quite revelatory.

Capturing this image was the first time I had ventured forth with my camera following the death of my beloved dad – following a degenerating period of ill-health and infirmity due to an industrial illness – mesothelioma – asbestos induced cancer, basically.

It was a tough time but a time full of love, treasured moments and long journeys – both physical and metaphorical.

I was proud of the role I played in dealing with dads illness and remain so – but I was in a place of mixed emotions: pride & contentment and extreme sadness, conflict (turmoil) and feelings of loss about dads death – after all we only have one father!

I think, on reflection, that this image completely and truly captures my emotions at this time. The turmoil represented by the vortex of swirling within the image and my contentment mirrored in the stillness and stability offered by the ‘solid’ leaf and my loss by the presence of ‘dead’ space.

I view my photography as a completely emotional journey and the images created as emotional pieces. I instinctively withdraw from talk of technical proficiency and the purely technical merits of my work – this, to me, misses the point. For me emotionality has to come first.

This is my photographic truth.

Phil McMenemy

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