Musings on creativity for photographers and artists by Rob Hudson

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Below is the preface to the book: Landscapes of the Mind: the photography of Rob Hudson 2011- the present. I have no intention of publishing, it is for friends, family and the eyes of those to whom I'd like to introduce my work only. I have decided you can see the preface though. You lucky people!

2011 was the year I lost touch with reality. Some of my friends might claim I never had much of a grip on it, but I actually mean photographic reality - the depiction of ’things’ for and of themselves.

Although I call myself a landscape photographer, I'm not much interested in the form of the landscape itself; I'm more interested in how we as human beings relate to it. I don't mean man's impact on the landscape either - that would be far too ’social documentary’ for me. I mean the way it inveigles itself into our subconscious. It's the archetypes, the myths and stories that we can tell and explore through the land, the way it affects our emotions and imagination and how it defines us and we define it.

Primarily I see myself as a storyteller and just as all good stories have grounding in reality my photography has a grounding in the physical world. As it must, that is what photography is. Yet, as fiction would be nothing without imagination, my photography loses its grip on reality to express its messages more fundamentally.

I experiment endlessly in my photography, you'll find multiple exposures, double exposures, camera movement, long exposures and negatives in my work. I am very much in agreement with Lazlo Moholy-Nagy when he says “The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of 'how to do.' The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.” I know that the simple act of photographing something has the power to transform something to ’other’ and there is power in that. But I also realise that the photograph is not ’real’ and that, therefore, I have nothing to apologise for if my photographs are one step further removed from reality.

I am also fascinated by words and how they interact with visual imagery. In two of my major projects you will find I have used poetry to add a layer of meaning and explanation to my work. In Skirrid Hill I took the words of Owen Sheers and literally went out to find ways to express them in the landscape. That was the point when I began to lose touch with reality - with things - when I realised the power of allusion and metaphor. In my current series Mametz Wood I have reversed the process: making images using double exposures and then finding the words in David Jones' In Parenthesis to express their meaning. I also use words to define ideas, I work as I've said before like a creative writer, building ideas, building and deepening concepts, exploring notions. Without those words, even if unseen, my work would be more (even more?) shallow and simplistic.

Fundamentally I hope that my images, for their lack of reality, are more real. I don't want to say ’look at this’, I want to express something more essential, more to the core of who we are and how the landscape affects us. The metaphor is human, there is beauty AND meaning in a metaphor, it is essential to art, some may say it is even a defining characteristic of humanity. For me, too much reality creates a distrust or a muddying of the metaphor, the ’thing’ predominates.

It's too easy to be one dimensional in photography. It is essentially a very simple process (despite what most photographers tell you) and that perhaps, in part explains its wide appeal. When I look at photographs I want to find the poetry of ambiguity, I don't want ’right and wrong’, ’left or right’ or visual one liners. I want it to inspire my imagination. I want it to puzzle and intrigue me for a long time. If we hang photographs of things on our walls we often see through them quickly and past them easily. It's only through the depth and layers of ambiguity that we can engage our emotions and our minds at the same time. That is the peak of achievement photographically: when engagement becomes personal.

We are complex creatures and simplicity slides through us all too easily, it is the culture of instant gratification; the swift burger that neither fills nor sustains us. We want for more.

So perhaps you could look at my photography, open your minds, trust your intuition, and let me know if I have achieved that sustaining poetry of image that engages your imagination? The search will continue anyway.

Rob Hudson, February 2014.