ARTIST STATEMENT – LOUISE MANN
Poets have a passion for using words. Sometimes the meanings of poems may be simple
and clear, but sometimes abstruse or metaphysical. However, only a fool would ask
a poet to explain her poems through visual imagery.
I see feel and respond to my world visually, through photography. I see my photography
as a form of contemporary art; just as a painter uses a brush and paint, I use a
camera. Here is how I started to respond to my world with my camera:
My first chosen subject was Boranup Forest, near Margaret River in Western Australia
– purely because I love the spirit of this forest which is a regrowth forest and
therefore a triumph over past logging practices. I thought if I could unlock a passion
anywhere, it would be in Boranup. I had tried to photograph the forest many times
before and, to me, my results were sadly lacking. Frustration led to determination
and I kept going back. I thought maybe I needed a different camera or a new lens
Alone in the forest one day, the idea came to me that it was not the equipment that
was at fault at all, but my own approach to the task. All of my ‘sadly lacking results’
came as a result of shooting within photographic norms, doing the same thing over
and over again. I remembered a phrase from a distant past training course, unrelated
to anything photographical: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always
get what you’ve always got”. It had never made profound sense, until now. This thought
unlocked a plethora of ideas.
I looked around me and then shut my eyes and concentrated on the feeling of the
forest without the sight of it. It was a useful exercise that helped me recognize
that when I am in the forest, all of my senses are at play. When my camera looks
at the forest, it is ‘only an eye’. It can only record what it sees. The camera
cannot hear, smell or sense temperature or touch textures. The task then became
not to photograph the forest, but to capture the strongest elements of the forest
as identified by all my senses. I needed to capture an impression of the forest
instead of the forest itself, because as living beings, when we visit a place like
Boranup and then we depart again, we leave with the impression of it in our minds
as recorded by all our senses, not just a photographic record of what we’ve only
So came the idea to wash away some of the visual information, which the camera would
normally capture in the scene, in order to highlight less but stronger elements.
I felt if I could do this, it would raise the level of interpretative response in
the viewer. To achieve this with the camera was the next challenge – I’d figured
out ‘what’ I wanted to do, and now I had to come up with the ‘how’! I started with
the instruction book for the camera, read it, and then threw it aside. I set about
breaking all the rules and instructions contained within, shooting far more intuitively
than ever before. When the camera said ‘no’, I went to manual mode and did it anyway.
I didn’t want correct and accurate – I wanted art, freedom of expression and spirit!
My journey in photography from that time started to net results I was much more
comfortable with and indeed more comfortable about showing to others. My general
approach is to create the image I’m seeking in a single exposure, creating the effects
in-camera and limit post capture manipulations to that of standard colour adjustments,
cropping where appropriate and blemish removal.
My works now are far more about intangible sensory and spiritual elements than ever
before – photographing what can’t be seen and communicating beyond what is represented
by form in the image.
My latest works evolved from a starting point of exploring the use of light itself.
Living in Western Australia, too many times I've heard other photographers say 'you
can't shoot images in the middle of the day here - the light is too harsh'. It's
true we have harsh light and I set about seeing what I could do with it at all times
of the day, again using my intuition instead of the rules. I wanted to show the
glare in the middle of the day and retain the delicacies of wet sand, reflections
and water and I wanted to juxtapose this whiteness against both the warmth and the
cool of our afternoon light and present all of this in a style which belied photography.
The goal of shooting light as the primary subject brought me to secondary subjects/forms
of dogs and people, the everyday visitors and users of these iconically Aussie places
which provided me with this vast range of light conditions to work with.
Everyday I am surprised and excited by the world around me. The best days are when
I head off on another tangent where I’ve not been before, a direction in which I’d
never imagined I’d go, and discover something new and then I confirm, again, that
I can still surprise myself.