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Chestbomb

So let’s start with what this is for. In the beginning, my blogging was intended to identify for myself my purpose – to hone my skills and interests to help inform myself, really. Done.

So now what is it for? I did certainly find myself restrained by my own perception of what I thought people would like or be impressed by, and I censored the parts I thought they wouldn’t respond so well to; even if I liked or preferred these. That seems a bit mad really, the opposite of what I want to achieve. I want to head myself towards a state whereby I can fully express myself without fear of judgement.

Not that I wont BE judged, but that I wont validate or define myself by that judgement. Meditation helps a lot with this. Anything which drags you away from the minutiae is purposeful. Minutiae is my favourite word of the moment. It has become my byword for anything which allows us to lose sight of the big picture – which is basically everything / every minute. At this stage of our evolution, our whole consciousnesses have become overwhelmed by the minutiae. This can be beautiful and amazing, and it can be heartbreaking and awful. To me, spending an hour writing about my fears and worries is to be absorbed in the minutiae. To then make oneself aware of the fact that life will pass by very fast, we will die (relatively) soon and in 100 years we will be a distant ancestral memory, is re-affirming the big picture. Little things both matter and do not matter. They matter to each of us on a human level.

I am a strong believer in the importance of empathy and the belief that we need more of it. But allowing ourselves to see our own insignificance can remove pain – an an explicitly basic reminder that ‘all things must pass’. We live in an insanely complex world, where we become so bound up in the minutiae that our whole emotional and often physical state can be affected by things which are transient. Our tendency to become focused on these things is often greatly influenced by consumer culture. But if each time something makes you feel bad you can stop, take a breath and think – how much does this matter? Will this be a problem in 1 day / 1 week / 1 year? – you may find, as I have, that the problem immediately shrinks. Usually when I really pare it back I find that the only thing which stops me from letting it ALL go is my son. He is the only thing that when I ask the question – does it really matter – the answer is usually yes. He is what at my core of being is truly important, the rest is just management of circumstance and how you respond to it is within your control.

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If, as Keats so famously wrote, beauty is truth and truth beauty, surely a pertinent exemplification of this has to be the result of a simple but primordial chemical reaction, the product of which we named Fire. Fuel+O2+Heat incited by pressure, equals. Darkness into light; a way out of the malicious shadows, yet the creation of a state charged with it’s own instinctively vicious propensities. Bearing in mind the hypnotic and electrifying effects which fire continues to inspire in us today, in our info-heightened, over-subscribed, post-hacking world of anti-innocence, it is mind boggling to attempt to imagine the not just life-changing but existence-changing effect the unearthing of this awareness must have had on its discoverer. For unlike today, a Neanderthal person would not have been able to share an enlightening experience with their fellow earthlings across the way. Each community would have had to come to the knowledge in their own time, the technique passed down through generations for millions of years until the fateful day someone invented the match, reducing the skill of fire inception to merely owning opposable thumbs. Have you ever tried to light a fire using just a pile of brush and sheer will, imploring your hands to spin, spin those sticks faster!? It’s hard. I failed. An embarrassingly cliched product of my upbringing and environment, I soon scrambled off to find matches; the enveloping cold air surpassing my desire for that particular scouting badge.

The physical and psychological powers of fire are often tragically underestimated, lending an ominous counterbalance to its intense beauty. So why do we find it so mesmeric? Is it aesthetic? Or, as is more likely, it is rooted in our dependence as well as in our fear. We all know that fear and power hold a certain attraction, despite our protestations of distaste for that fact. Both embody an element of excitement, our adrenaline levels rising to combat a potentially dangerous situation. It’s sexy, it’s kind of taboo, it’s what drives almost every kind of pornography you can think of and despite your protestations dear reader, statistics suggest you are likely to be in some way a consumer of that particular industry. We fear it, thus we are entranced by it, it thrills us; car-crash rubbernecking. It’s also undeniable that we must have an instinctive basic attachment to something so key to our very survival. Although it is powerful, we often, as I said before, underestimate its speed, force and completely indiscriminate nature. We have ‘controlled’ fires, we use it for fun, it warms us and cooks our food; we believe we hold the power. But despite all of this, the visual spectacle of a flame, from the endearing initial flickering to awe-inspiring and terrifying explosion, continues to capture us in a unique way.

To photograph a flame, a fire, is fantastically easy or frustratingly difficult; satisfaction being entirely dependent upon the effect you’re after. A good while ago I gave up trying to portray exactly what I was seeing, when I realised that the outcome of my shots captured less the exact visual image I was perceiving and more the behaviour of the process and material. I now realise how much more interesting this is to me, the frantic jitters of the flames caught in a series of moments; the longer exposure tracing their journey back and forth, up and down, like trapped insects searching for freedom without knowing why. Colour of course plays a part, the brilliant purity of the red and yellow flame providing the ultimate contrast with the blackness of night. The scenes beg to be photographed, painted. As I’ve always said, Nature herself is most certainly an artist.

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