Monday, 26 June 2017

Tom Langlands - The Poetry of Photography

When I'm not taking photographs I am writing and when I am not writing I am taking photographs. That's pretty much the way life works for me but the division between words and images is far less easily defined.

I love reading and writing poetry and have come to realise that poetry by its nature generates images in the mind and the fact that the subconscious mind has generated the image helps make the poem stick around in the memory for longer than it otherwise might.

I have started to explore this combination of poetry and imagery and have discovered that one can inspire the other. Sometimes I see a scene or an event or a photograph that generates an idea for a poem while at other times I have a poem in my mind and I seek an image that will compliment or raise the profile of the poem. It is a powerful combination.

At the moment it is very much early days for my ideas but one that I am starting to explore more and more.

The following image of a graveyard was taken at a slow shutter speed and with intentional camera movement. It wasn't until I saw the final image on the computer that it made me think of how we create death - not just as images with a camera but also as products of our mind. I then wrote Death by Words and combined image and poem.

Hebridean Lament started as a photograph that I had taken and it conjured a dark, sombre mood that was both literally the end of the day but also a metaphor for the end of life. It was several months later when I found the words to express how I felt about the image.

Message in the Sand was also a case of finding the image first. I stumbled across this dead gannet on a remote beach on Harris in the Outer Hebrides. I have no idea how it died but the way its body lay on the sand made me think of how we treat this planet and the price that life pays for putting profit first. The poem came several weeks later on the back of the image.

But sometimes it is the other way around. I was contemplating the birth of our first grandchild and was considering how a baby would regard its impending birth and what the lottery of life would throw at it - both before its arrival into the world and immediately afterwards. These thoughts found form in The Big Lottery. I then got my hands on a scan of an unborn baby - not my image - and combined the poem and scan. For me when viewed together they are each greater than the sum of the parts.

Therapy came about when my daughter was making paper origami table decorations and I happened to contemplate this ancient asian art-form. It seemed like good therapy and that was the inspiration behind this piece. The image was snapped on a phone in the fish section of a garden centre.

For me there is always a fine line between different art-forms and just as artists create works in 'various media' I like to work with words and images. After all a picture is not just worth a thousand words it can also be a thousand words.

Tom Langlands

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