These two photographs of hay stables in Valais, Switzerland, are 45 years in the making. I took the first image in 1972 during a school camp with my first camera, the fabulous Kodak Instamatic. This started my lifelong fascination for photography. When I received the prints from this film, I was annoyed at the glitch in this one image. However, four decades on, I feel that this imperfection makes the photograph perfect for me. It showed me that with a camera, it was possible to capture a sense of time and space that could last a lifetime.
This year I returned to the region for the first time since I made this photo and I was excited to recapture this moment. Of course that is not possible, just like standing in the same river twice. However, I managed to make a photo of a past moment, which is now destined to become a new memory.
Both photos were taken in the Fiesch region, Valais, Switzerland, 1972 & 2017
Choosing a ‘best of’ list is not a natural thing for me to do as I don’t have favourites in my life. I don’t do bucket lists or top ten books, movies, music etc. My preferences change all the time, it’s what keeps me focussed on the present. As a photographer this is vital. I do, however, like the challenge of selecting my best images for the year because it gives me a chance to select and re-frame photos. It’’s about finding the strongest visual narrative. I do this with every series that I create, be it on a daily or monthly basis. These images have in some way captured the emotion of the moment.
Taking photos is a challenging notion for me. It means getting closer to people, the environment and myself. Photography has always been a way for me to discover the world anew every time I lift the camera to my eye. It is at times confronting, even scary but ultimately liberating.
My goal for 2015 is simple: I want to stay in the uncomfortable zone, take less photos but better images.
“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.” Albert Camus
This year has been a busy one for me. I was lucky enough to travel for my photo and art projects. My work continues to concentrate on time and space. I am exploring the essence of a place through its people and their environments. In 2013 I visited some of my favourite countries; South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Switzerland, Turkey and of course my current home base, Australia.
The age of digital photography is both a blessing and a curse, resulting in 1000’s of images being taken. Selecting the right photos is more time-consuming than taking them. My working philosophy this year has been to narrow the images down to the essential, that is to capture the emotions of the people or places I am photographing.
Here is the selection of my 12 best images from 2013.
The pear trees are as old as their marriage. For the past sixty years Herr Straub has been removing the unripe fruit in the autumn then storing it until St Nicholas day, when it will be ready for eating, or transformed into a host of pear fladen by Frau Straub. While he attends to harvesting the apples and pears, she collects the quinces from the tree in the garden. Overhead the birds circle then alight on their favourite tree branches.The Council asked Herr Straub to cut down the trees that line the stream meandering through his land. The trees that have given him a livelihood, are also home to a diverse range of birds and insects and they stabilise the waterway. Herr Straub refused.
The Straubs are farmers who know that if you look after the land, it will look after you. We say goodbye and Herr Straub brings us a pear; the only ripe one he has collected. We suspect he had kept it aside for Frau Straub, and accept his offering with thanks, assuring him that we will share it.