Aged 14, my confidence and love for writing was shattered by a teacher. She praised a brilliant essay – mine – based on a painting of our choice. The romantic image of a Carl Spitzweg painting I picked had freed my imagination. After reading my essay out in front of the class, the teacher stated it was unlikely the pupil had written this herself and she therefore had to disqualify the work. I was pushed off a flying carpet, too speechless and humiliated to protest. My creative writing went underground. I wrote poetry, in secret.
Images inspire me, they tell stories. Photography came to my rescue, not so much in the sense of recording concrete reality, but more in the sense of sub-creating it. Light attracted as liquid poetry that fell through shadows and sculpted fleeting life. I discovered my knack for framing the essence of a story. And in the spaces between things I looked for something transient emanating from other spheres. There were moments in my life when finding words for these other dimensions became imperative, like, for example, when working as still photographer on a film-set at the shore of the Red Sea. In poems like ‘Riverhead’ and ‘Sleepless Sun’ I tried to encapsulate such instances: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/poems/
Photography started out with a process of reversal – getting the positive print from a negative film – which is being superseded by digital bit-structured data, leading us into new metaphors for time and space. The tiny window of the laptop I’m writing this text on has become my interior sanctuary. The window of its screen frames worlds well beyond my garden – microcosms and macrocosms. My grandparents would have called this feat magic, which it is, of course. Computers have become our second brains, compilers and recorders of our imagination, easy to share.
In search for the invisible hand that animates the unseen, I remember coming upon the technique of frottage by Max Ernst. He was intrigued by the reversal of textures achieved when rubbing surfaces with a soft pencil – be it weathered wooden planks, bark, textiles, netting … For Ernst the results evoked superimposed images and visionary associations.
Not only artists find surprises in the textures of surfaces. Who does not occasionally pause before a weathered wall, lichen-covered gravestone, the grain in a wooden plank, a windswept cloud, a reflection in glass or water, or detect resemblances and fresh arrangements in the shape of cliffs or in the veins of plants? Unexpected patterns call for unfurling, inspire a collage, a scientific idea, a poem, a story, or painting.
We rub off impressions from the ambience around us, especially first impressions – scents and sounds, tactile sensations, patterns of light and shadow, textures, colours and shapes, anything that attracts or repels us.
In a psychological sense, we rub off qualities we find in each other – in parents, siblings, friends, strangers and public figures we admire or despise. From what impresses us we extrapolate and find recurring resemblances. As our imagination sparks random associations involving all of our senses, a theme becomes reflected in our heart, as in a mirror, and informs our personal myth.
It’s what my novels are about, which, I hope, will also have a universal appeal.
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Most of the photos on this site are mine. A selection can be found here: http://500px.com/ashen