Yesterday I had the rare and great honour of photographing legendary Glaswegian photographer Harry Benson. He spoke to a group at Waverly Gate about his life with a camera and his work at large, covering stories for magazines and media. A picture adorned the front page of his presentation: a floor spread with a copy of all of the covers from his editorial commissions. A snapshot of a lifetime given over to one craft.
It is easy to overlook the inspiration and humility that someone at the far side of their career can offer to someone at the start. Harry spoke to photographers, lecturers and students alike. A message – to have ideas and stick with it. Simple to the point of profound. His is a story with all the chapters in place, a sheltering sentiment as we all begin to write our own.
At the moment the posts aren’t exactly ten a penny. It has been all festival over here for the last two months (you may have noticed) and what a joy it has been to be able to lift up the carpet and show the insides and my own take on it. And the feedback….i won’t even begin. Just the experience of doing the EIF was life changing enough, i can barely take into account the great ripples in motion for my life in the aftermath. It makes me have to close my eyes.
I have not really stepped aside and laid down my thoughts since the festival ended. What actually happened was a a very abrupt stop. One minute i was taking pictures hell for leather, the next i was not. All was still in the air but my ears were ringing. And on cue the wind whips up and winter settles in again and Edinburgh tries to remember what it did before the commotion and puts the good times to the back of its mind. That brief, eerie silence before the pace is picked back up. What to do when you cannot keep pace with the machine. I’m still dwelling on the good times. Four years of them.
You can’t talk about memory without talking about time, and sitting on the edge on my bed i feel let down by both. To try and crystallise the last four years of us together in my head: an impossibility. You only draw attention to the great void of forgetting. And it is only when something has changed for good that you fear the obscuring of all the luscious moments that became it in memory. You would desperately discard all the facts and insight and sophistication, all those numbers and dates in perpetual oblivion, to feel the old weight and hear the familiar notes. All that bloated rumination for a seconds glimpse of a humdrum scene. To surrender all the world’s knowledge for just the vapour of a scent. Of her.
Our selective memory is not without mercy, even if it is without control. Tiny fragments connect. In the smell of rain, or burning toast, or a warm quilt, or seeing old handwriting, or the sun on your neck: orbs of the past that unlock the treasure chest. Like a snippet of conversation, a glimpse into the past. Without warning, you are elsewhere in a younger body. Back at the start, back to the anchor. Hand in hand in the sunshine, carelessness on the air, with nowhere to go.
Four years under the microscope. I can only shake my head at the scale of it. Like yesterday and forever at the same time. These are the things in the foreground when change is on the air. Beyond the lists and inventories. When your boxes are packed and groaning, you sweep your old floorboards and switch off the lights for the last time, before heading out into the dark. You panic about the nuts and bolts falling off on the move, the great material convoy to a new pasture. A situation as old as the world. The ensuing grapple with memory as it gradually withdraws the old scenes that buoy me on. Only to realise that it is doing a packing of its own. Saving the most precious and private things, encrypting them beyond retrieval, for when they are needed.
For now. For our old flat together. Where my ears are still ringing.
Huge apologies all. I haven’t forgotten about our corner of the web over here, it is long in need of a dusting though.
Like all troughs, there is a huge crest of activity coming this way. Stay tuned for info and some footage on the Edinburgh International Festival Photography exhibition, and the launch date this month. Not just that, there is a fully fledged, upholstered website on the way to soothe your eyes (and ruin my brain). An unearthing of neverbeforeseen personal as well as commercial work. It has been an exciting month and there are some very cool projects emerging but there is also a proportion of personal woe that, no doubt, shall all be shared in due course.
Anyone living down in Leith, all i will say is look out. Its time to batten down the hatches.
It has arrived! Today is the first day of the Edinburgh International Festival and it is time to get to work.
I want to get a series of posts rolling over the next month that show the tiny mechanics of this great Festival. It is a performance of sorts itself, simply on sheer scale, and i am looking forward to documenting my way through all the smoke and mirrors. Without diluting anything with words, stay tuned and Behold!