July 25, 2004
  Just Another Landscape

(1985, London. Image copyright Hamish Reid)

Just another landscape... seen from an unusual angle. One of the images on the first roll of slide film I took after deciding to buy my first camera. I didn't know what I was doing then, but I knew what I wanted to show the world. Even with that first roll of film the intimate surrealisms of isolated bits of the body -- all surfaces and colour, textures and curves -- obsessed me and drove me (or rather formed themselves in the image in ways I could never put into words). The image itself? It only works as an abstract for most people, just a colourplay or lightfall, with -- for some -- a mild erotic tinge. Just about everyone thinks it's been manipulated. And it's not technically a good image, and probably not aesthetically interesting to most people, either. But it's almost purely iconic for me, standing in for something (and someone) that inhabited my life and kept me going during the cold grey years of London....

After I learned to print Cibachromes, I printed this up as a 10x8 and entered it into a beginner's print competition at The Camera Club (just off Leicester Square in those days; I was a member until about 1991). The old guy doing the judging got around to my print, picked it up, tried holding it in a bunch of different ways, then finally held it upside down (it was supposed to be an anonymous competition, so I just sat there poker-faced). "I don't know what he did to this print to make a woman look like this", he puffed. "I don't know what motivates young men to do such awful things to beautiful bodies. You can't even see her face. There's nothing recognisable here. I'm not even sure it's a woman, actually." (or some such guff). But the beauty was right there -- staring him in the face -- and recognisable in those unfamiliar surroundings, or the evocation of those surroundings. I hadn't done anything to the body or the image -- I wouldn't have had the wit or the ability at that time -- and I slunk away afterwards, thinking I'd failed because "everyone" wanted to see past the strangeness to the familiar, when it was the strangeness that was familiar. Or they wanted there to be some sort of key to it all, when there wasn't any underlying mystery there at all -- it's all surface.

Well, maybe it was just him. But I never did another competition (at least not in London).

It's probably way too late to leave a comment on this. And, let's ask the question: Why leave a comment anyway? Is it to see my name "in print"? To make my views known to potential millions? To communicate with the originator?

I think it's the last one of these. I know it's not either of the first two – my name's in print and my thoughts are available for all to see, all too often. And what I want to say is about the way that the originator has communicated with me by making this image and making it available to me.

I keep coming back to it. I saw it soon after it was posted, and it was unlike any other piece of nude photography I had ever seen – and still is, for that matter. I completely share the originator's feelings about "the intimate surrealisms of isolated bits of the body – all surfaces and colour, textures and curves", and equally I share what he dismisses as most people's view of the image as an abstract. To me it's sublime, and to be sublime it must in some way be abstracted from reality.

So this time I've come back to it and felt the need to speak. I hope that the originator has some kind of notifier in place so that he knows when a comment is made – for I doubt he looks back this far "just in case...". I'm not concerned if two people or two million people read this; but I am concerned that Hamish does.
"Anonymous" (and for once I have absolutely no idea who's behind the comment...) -- thanks for the note. I'm always amazed when anyone "gets" one of my images...
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About Me
Hamish Reid is a photographer, designer, and software engineer living and working in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. This is his full profile.

You can get hold of Hamish at xyzphotolalia at ylayalixyz dot com without the xyx's.

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