When I was a boy, it was our summer treat to be taken to Brighton for the day. We were forced fed Brighton Rock and Wall's ice cream and plonked in a deck chair and told to paddle in the water and brave the wind. (both exceeding good for us)
I remember thinking 'So, this is life?'
Last time I was to go there was when I was eighteen, on the back of a friend's motorbike but was equally unimpressed.
But here I was again in late July running a workshop entitled 'Photography and the Creative Mind'
I arrived a day early to get the feel of the place, wandered along the beach in a southerly direction looking for my B&B and walked into a beach monstrosity. A sort of giant pole without a giant pole dancer with an equally huge metal doughnut on top
And in the Guardian a few days after I get back I see it again. Look at this
It's that tower! It is!
Now, living as I do in Italy, where this would be a giant chicken perch or a Fire Dept observation tower on top of a mountain, I couldn't help but condemn this as a visual aberration and in no way did I think that it could be anything other than basic functional, like something to do with radio, electricity or gas or sewage. These were my first thoughts.
But it turns out to be a costly work of art.
And this is where we did our morning exercises on the my workshop, right beneath the monstrosity. We did Ci Kung and played a few mind emptying games and turned our bodies into sounding boards, under the ugliest object imaginable. So that set the theme for the weekend; ugliness and beauty. To these add weird.
What is he talking about? I hear you mumble.
And what has all this nonsense got to do with Photography?
Wrong question, I reply. But I'm glad you asked.
(Mind you, you would have to have been there to fully understand but I shall attempt to explain, if inadequately).
And it's this, that.......
'The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable' ......Robert Henri
That photography isn't just about the eye, or the brain, or indeed the mind, it is about the total absorption of our entire being from head to toe, in the very actuality of the moment. So when Robert Henri writes above, about 'that wonderful state', this is what he means.
And the weekend was about that, turning our entire beings into sounding boards, tightly drawn drums, alert and within every nuance of shifting time.
And the participants were wonderful. They were game for every twist and turn and trick I played on them and, incidentally, produced some excellent imagery. But that is quite beside the point. Because they were the products on which I was focused; cameras are mere machines and three years olds are photographers nowadays
And I sent them away with a survival kit and much to ponder on, much more.
I hope they don't forget.
Look out for more photography and the creative mind workshops on the Starstone site and watch out for more in UK in 2017 and one in Venice planned for winter when the city is dark and moody and haunted and tourist free