On The Road

Not Kerouac, not Dorothy and not Mandalay, although I guess there is a little “Oz” in the Ruby lights.


Our mobile wet-plate darkroom is “on the road” after a few days fitting out. The main work has been the insulation, light-proofing and getting plenty of efficient ventilation. It is designed for three people to work inside and needs a good light trap, so with the ether, alcohol and other chemistry, fresh air and temperature control is uppermost in my mind.

In summer temperatures reach the the mid 30s centigrade most days, so it would get uncomfortable and affect the chemistry so cooling it is very important.

There is so much to see in Languedoc, I have a list of “projects” I plan to make into a series of portfolios, most of these ideas are within an hours drive from Villa Roquette and look like keeping me busy for several years (I hope).

I took the darkroom van on a short trip today, just outside our village to a spot in the vineyards overlooking Montblanc. I will use this as the first test for a wet-plate next week. But today I just wanted to see that everything stood the test of bumpy farm tracks and steep hills – so far, so good.


I expect to be using the rooftop camera platform a lot, it gives me a great advantage from the roadside for a lot of the landscape work I am planning – the platform is a strong steel grill, which the feet of the tripods fit into perfectly and safely.


Inside I have just fitted work surfaces and plenty of storage – I have ideas about pumping water for washing plates and securing the silver-boxes etc. I will make haste slowly, most importantly I want to get out and get some plates made

The Value of an Image

Stating the ‘value’ of anything is simply a way of placing its desirability in relation to other, similar, items or to establish its usefulness in relation to a situation (a lifebelt to a drowning person for example is very valuable). If photography is used to show images which cause a reaction which helps in any way – the image of the naked, burnt girl in Vietnam, a Mother bathing her child in Japan who was crippled by mercury pollution, a Spanish soldier falling dead – these images are photographs which can be seen on a screen, on a wall or in a magazine and have a high value, they do something.

But to put a price on an image which is a digital presentation on a screen, or a printed version of this is, for me, ridiculous. I have just put some prints into an exhibition locally – a little gallery asked me to let them show a few of my new photographs, so I printed some (on paper and glass) on a theme – there are five other photographers showing. Most of course, use digital equipment, edit this with software and get them printed. They then ask hundreds of euro for these ‘prints’ – how can this ‘value’ be determined – by pressing a button hundreds, thousands of similar prints can be created, to me this is obscene.

I could not give any value to my prints, made in my darkroom. I was happy to show my ideas and what I am doing, but it is over 35 years since I had my last exhibition (where I sold stuff) and I am returning from a twilight zone into the light again after all these years. A digital camera can record an important event and can be used to manipulate light to show a pleasing or a disturbing image, in this case the ‘camera’ operator should be rewarded by society for their perception – but as a digital image is only a lump of binary code, intrinsically it is worth no more than the cost of the print. A crafted piece of paper, or glass, tin – whatever – with an image which shares a feeling or massage is unique – the artist has touched it and put life into it – The Greek philosophers had a word for it arete (ἀρετή) – the best translation is expounded (pun) by Ezra Pound (I love this quote or EP – ”If a patron buys from an artist who needs money (needs money to buy tools, time, food), the patron then makes himself equal to the artist; he is building art into the world; he creates.”) Ifthe artist then shares this – only then can it have true value.

I have stopped looking at any digital images if possible (it isn’t of course) and refuse to digitalise anything I make, so I doubt you will ever see my recent “real” work. There is so much dross overwhelming all media and so many people are using awful apps to make more rubbish ‘(hipstamatic for example).

It is sad – after many years I now refuse to use or own a telephone or watch and limit my keyboard time (or try to) to an hour a day – slowly I am getting free (perhaps).

The Value of Virtue

I believe that all things we do should be available to be shared without restriction, creative work and ideas especially as this triggers feeling we do not (yet) understand and which seem to be really important – perhaps other periods of human existence were closer to the value (not monetary) of art – perhaps some peoples living today are more in touch with the significance of art – perhaps.

This brings me back to the focus of my thoughts and the relevance to what I spend my time on (or as much as possible of it) which is to create images which share a feeling.

I have been saying these images have no monetary value – should not be sold or traded – I am also saying that if the creator of art (image, tactile, sound or whatever) is removed from the direct creation, this expression is dead – it has some relevance – as does a cut flower or a stuffed animal, but compared to the field of poppies or the running herd of deer – it is dead dead dead.

Take the analogy a little further – put a picture of a dead animal on a screen or print it in a book – it still conveys some feeling, but nothing to the emotion you may have seeing the dead child blasted by a bomb in Palestine on the floor in front of you.

Art and invention should be free for all who wish to share.

In a couple of previous posts I try to understand a little what virtue means. For me it is a word more attuned to what I feel is the essence of something created to be shared and which contains something more than just the depiction, or rendition of the painting, poem, tune or image offered to me, it contains some of the identity of the artist. At some point the creator of the work has directly touched or been intrinsically involved with the piece presented.

Somehow this essence of the artist is shown, or transmitted to be shared by others- perhaps this is why a live performance is more involving, more satisfying than a recording, print or digitised image, even though the copy may be technically, acoustically or perceptively more tangible.

The virtue of reality is intangible and how strange that virtual reality means something completely different, almost the opposite.