Sandra Crisp LG: “Your photography practice includes documenting urban space and dwellings at twilight such as TWILIGHT and NIGHT WINDOWS series evoking a ‘filmic narrative’ which is ambiguous and open to personal interpretation by the viewer – Presenting a potentially nostalgic sense of time and space whilst capturing the rich blue hues and pale golds present in the fleeting timescale of twilight.
I wonder if you can kindly reveal more about your photographic process such as planning and preparation, cameras, tripod, lenses, lighting or whether you choose (or not) to use any digital post-production techniques in your practice – As much as you are happy to reveal.”
Judith Jones: I have been creating Twilight images for about a decade now, more recently the narrative has shifted towards a reflection of a deeper underlying dialectic. One that has unfolded as I worked on this series of works, one that was, I believe, in my subconscious and it was only through creating the images did it become apparent to me how many layers of meaning there is to these works and how personal they are for me.
Twilight is an unsteady time frame that can capture filmic images. I am extremely interested in the interpretation of images and although the images have a personal meaning I aim to create photographic artworks with an open-ended narrative, one that can be constructed by the viewer. The images I compose stem from a desire or need to express personal life experiences, this is a very important first step and one I believe is true for most artists. Constant research into philosophical theories and critical reading also play a huge part in how the narrative or the concept for the work evolves.
However, you are reading this because you are interested in my ‘process’ of photography, not the concept behind the images, which frankly would result in a much longer ‘essay’.
I’m always on the lookout for suitable locations, one where I know, or rather ‘feel’ I can create these unsettled filmic narratives. Once a location is found, I will take test shots both in the day and at night. To start with these would be just using my iPhone, capturing ‘rough & ready’ test shots. These are mainly to ascertain the direction I wish to capture the final image, i.e. where the camera needs to be, what lens I will need, and to consider where I wish to place lights within the scene or how much ambient light there is or rather will be at twilight.
I have a fairly good technical knowledge of how blue a twilight sky will be on any given day & how long it will last for after sunset. I have to take into account the humidity, time of year, cloud cover, pollution etc. The time frame I have to capture an image at twilight also varies, the black of night can quickly descend over a blue twilight sky during the autumn months. So I need to plan. Often I only have time to capture 4 or 5 shots until the twilight has disappeared, but if I’ve planned well this will be fine. However, on average I will need to visit the location 3 times to capture an image I’m happy with.
I do a lot of pre-visualization and some images can take months to capture.
‘In The Night Garden’ as shown here, took about 9 months. I got permission to take photographs on the disused community farm and waited…and waited…
I wanted the weeds & undergrowth to get to a certain height. I wanted to see how much they would grow and spread within the greenhouse and then my aim was to photograph the scene just as they got to the stage where they have started to die back. I lost count of how many times I returned to this location to take test shots. When I decided it looked close to how I had envisaged I returned with my lights, camera, lens of choice and very importantly tripod, and I got the shot!
I usually need someone to help me position any lights I use and I have to remember to give clear instructions rather than expect them to instinctively know where I want them. I admit to getting frustrated at this part and do have to try and stay calm and be polite! It’s useful to use a phone to communicate in this situation as my bellowing & screaming across a road ‘NO, NOT THERE’ does not go down well with anyone who is passing or in fact neighbours that may be nearby.
This work involves long exposures, so lights can be moved during the exposure and I occasionally do some light painting, using an LED torch, my iPhone and I’m particularly partial to using car headlights… It has been known for me to abandon the tripod & camera during a 90-second exposure & inconveniently block a road whilst I position my car using the headlights on full beam, which I have to time very, very carefully, just for a fraction of the total exposure needed. Something I would usually be very embarrassed about doing, but with a camera, I don’t care how I get the image! A few years ago I used my car headlights so much I drained the battery. We were in a dark lane deep in the countryside with no Internet or mobile signal. Luckily part of the scene included an old fashioned telephone box, which, thankfully at that time was still working… We waited about 3 hours for the RAC to rescue us, (& yes, you only do this once) … I was not very popular!
So along with a good sturdy tripod, I use Hasselblad cameras with Zeiss prime lenses or the new Hasselblad X1D prime lenses. The lights I use vary, it depends on the ambient light and the composition I am aiming to achieve.
By now I think you have all realised that I don’t do a lot of post-production work in my photography. I do use Photoshop to print the images, I also check the exposure and occasionally add a little more light or shadow detail, but other than that the image has to be created in the ‘taking stage’. Sometimes I think it would be kinda easier to change the image in post-production, but I guess my work is as it is because of the way I capture it and I’m going to keep it that way…Well for now…
Judith was recently awarded the Howden Art Prize at the 2021 Wells Art Contemporary Exhibition held in Wells Cathedral for her image ‘Rural Retreat’.
Rural Retreat can also be seen at the current The London Group Exhibition ‘In Plain Sight’, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Elmfield House, Dowell Street, Devon EX14 1LX, 27 August – 30 October 2021.
‘Concrete Castles’, Bodmin Museum, Bodmin Keep, Bodmin, Cornwall PL31 1EG 27 July – 4 December