The taking and subsequent selection of a photograph to inspire a written piece, involves a visceral reaction to the image in question. The arising text is borne of the same response. As is the aim of this endeavour, spontaneity and freedom are at the heart of both. It therefore interests me that the subject of today’s piece is the reason I was drawn to what I have captured; the lens is focussed on the choice itself – and by extension, me – rather than what story or poem might have arisen from it.
My instinct is that this is a direct result of the creation and publication of yesterday’s piece, Defiance. It was the first item written as part of this project where I put my work under the microscope in the aftermath. While it was far from my mind at the time of interpreting the image and writing the piece it inspired, I wondered if it might be read by some as a critique of the restrictions that inspired this project in the first place. An age-old dialogue then ensued within concerning the artist’s intention, the audience’s reception, and the relevance and importance of either, not least to the art itself. I concluded, in the spirit of this project, that the creator must be free to do just that, and the consumer must be free to interpret.
But what occurs in the moment where the writer/artist is drawn to analyse their own instinct and output in such a way? Fear? The desire for control? The notion that they’ve perhaps made an unintended statement, or revealed a personal truth either known or unknown to themselves? Indeed, perhaps fear could be said to be the overriding factor at the heart of all these concerns.
In any event, of two things we can be sure; analysis is an insightful and healthy response to any work of art, but if permitted to become obstructive, it has the potential to undermine artistic freedom, creative impulses, and the very reason for this project. I recall the statement I made on day one:
‘Everything I photograph and write as part of this will be created in the spirit of complete spontaneity and liberation at a time when neither can reach fulfillment in the elements of our lives in which they would normally appear.’
Defiance was created in this spirit, and not least for its honesty, so is this; the contract remains fulfilled.
When I stood beneath the viaduct in Balbriggan this morning looking up at one of its arches, what you find pictured here is what I saw. The word ‘exposure’ instantly came to mind. Given I had, the previous evening, put my own spotlight on myself and my work, I found it an interesting response.
As with ‘defiance,’ it is a word which has much good to say; but in its duality, could be perceived as holding negative connotations for the present time, given all valiant efforts are going towards limiting our exposure to COVID-19. As with both words, therefore, being open to their multiple meanings is key in any reading of them.
In the case of this image, I saw exposure as revelation – light upon brickwork unveiling the very architecture of creativity. I saw art as unmasked and presented for consumption – that it can do nothing for anyone as long as it is in shadow. Nor can the artist herself remain there, as this is a place where exposure takes on a negative meaning; where the fear-inducing prospect of risk invokes vulnerability, and offers myriad reasons not to do anything.
To expose is to permit something to be seen. It is an act that can induce relief, discomfort, even great pain. It requires courage and bravery, and can ultimately be freeing.
It may seem a contradiction to write and publish something so forensic in the name of liberation and spontaneity, but on the contrary, this piece arises from precisely those two things. Were I to cultivate a story around this experience rather than convey the experience itself, that would have been to move it closer into shadow, and thus away from the spirit of the undertaking. Having declined to do this – you might even say, defied the impulse – I can continue with the openness with which I began.
By Emma Hynes
This image and story are part of a project I have devised called There Are No Fixed Stars, my creative response to living with COVID-19 restrictions. On 22 October 2020, Ireland’s highest level of protective measures was invoked nationwide for a period of six weeks. Starting on that date, and continuing for the duration, I plan to capture a new image each day, and write a piece inspired by it. The only restrictions are that I take the photograph and write the text within this timeframe. To receive these daily posts to your inbox, you can subscribe by hitting the follow button to the right, and entering your email address. They will also be posted to my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles; I may even read a selection on my YouTube channel. You can follow or subscribe to any of those at the links below. In a time when variety, freedom, stimulation and spontaneity are necessarily inhibited, my hope is to experience these each day through the creation of something new, and that the resulting pieces might do the same for anyone who chooses to view or read them.
YouTube: Emma Hynes
There Are No Fixed Stars
Day One – A Creative Response to Now
Day Two – Suspension
Day Three – From the Perspective of the Dahlia
Day Four – The Writer at Dawn
Day Five – Beneath the Viaduct
Day Six – Nature’s Book
Day Seven – The Lighthouse
Day Eight – Formations
Day Nine – Rebirth
Day Ten – Light Source
Day Eleven –Takeaway
Day Twelve – Vigilance
Day Thirteen – Defiance