Text and photographs by Daniel Murtagh.
There are those… for whom life is a charge to keep,which resembles a look out post on a hill above a vast sea. With eyes looking out for what may come washing up on the beach… chaos is necessary to these souls .It breathes the very meaning of life into their nostrils. For these souls a routine is death and they eye the masses who kept away from the beach and in fact built walls to better and more easily define the order of life. These people are eyed with both boredom, envy and pity.
For we… the ones looking out at sea… have seen the very movement of the stars and tracked the whole of history in a mirror. For we ourselves are making it, and all the while we feel banished from the world as it has been stamped and labeled. For in our hearts we know there are no labels for the things we invent, from bits and pieces found on those shores long ago and all throughout time, others of our kind walked these same sands. We have found them in our time and in theirs. Because they call to us still. And we call to them.
As creator I am looking for an experience, as one might enter into a film and yet dictate the outcome. A record of my own reality projected through a lens retained in a dialog called memory. I am a portrait photographer who selects models much like a film maker would select subjects for his films. For me a particular face represents to varying degrees, an opportunity to express something personal. A portrait should offer a window to a kind of personal logic, where the familiar blends dreamlike with the expressive and sometimes surreal possibilities.
For me there is an ideal balance found by expressing emotion and sensuality with woman as protagonist, the unknowable part of myself mirrored in the ideal of nature and love and the need to bridge a certain duality. Throughout history this idea has been reflected in both sentimental works and works that achieve the sublime.
The emotions expressed are rooted in time that speaks to the essence of sensuality born of being completely present, sensuality as a state of consciousness. That is how I define presence. If there is anything purely modern in my work its the sense of melancholy for the quietude of the time these images seem to represent. My attempt is to reveal something embedded in every person, the desire for a place of solitude and love. This is as fundamental as it gets in the human realm and it reaches beyond any fashion of politic, and though this approach may elevate the viewer. Its true aim is to bring him closer to his own humanity.
By forming a bridge to the past, one can be faced with the present in all of its irony and jadedness and ever present need for recognition, and access to the soul in a way that it desires to be recognized and not merely observed in a time flooded with advertising, and the so called popular culture. I believe there is a need for a return to the Romantic and even heroic in art, exemplified in painting around the turn of the 19th century. While embracing the Modern and journalistic aspects of the medium of photography which manages to capture more than any other medium, that singular moment which is an expression of both artist and subject. It is the artists job to make the subject reflect himself.
Portraiture is a relative term or genre in photography and my version of it is centered mainly on arranged portraiture or “portrait sittings”. Within the presence of a person is the potential for self delusion-which conversely, can be an opportunity for invention ie: the influence of artist over subject. I believe it is important to express an identity of self in all arts including images that are of other people. For who better to represent another side of you than an artist with his own history of introspection and self expression, and gifts of incite through concentrated observation, and influences of art.
The experience of making a Portrait is a mirroring experience and a form of transference of persona from artist to subject. In some way you enter the frame as your mark is made throughout a process of decision making. It is the artists goal and mission to allow for his own presence to emerge in the work and Influences are a tool. Something that can be used. Photography’s unique powers of story telling can be borrowed freely and instinctually in a portrait shoot , and location can take on a feeling and mood that informs each decision.
The strengths of film narrative can also be used in a way unique to photography.
One still image can imply multiple narratives. Narratives that none the less remain fixed in time. Time is photography’s strength in some ways and this can be traced to painting. A perspective meant to inspire or illuminate through its Presence and set like notes in a musical score. An experience meant to reward the listener with a depth layered in with each performance. Rembrandt used light sparingly he saw the power of darkness. Vermeer used light to imbue his works with light of the divine spirit .Light as metaphor.
My goal Is to Produce, Design, Edit, and publish a book to be titled ‘Mirror’ and build a show around it. This would be followed by a series of smaller books. While I have been shooting steadily for 18 years and built a large body of work. This would be my first book. I have hand developed every single roll of film and printed every image. My work in digital has been slow and I feel I have, after 3 years, formed a dialog with it.
That can stand with my black and white work and not argue with it. I do contend however that for me black and white is still best left to film and silver impregnated paper.
For the future I see myself traveling, I have great desire to make a series of images of families in rural parts of Europe, for which I intend to seek a grant.
For more photographs please visit Daniel Murtagh website.