Over the last few years my photographic practice has become part of the way I make sense of life – an important creative outlet, which has also become a way of exploring the emotional connections I make with the world around me.
As a fairly cerebral character I spend a lot of time seeking to rationalise my art and place it in a context, selecting themes and seeking to create images with a strong narrative content… and yet, my best work involves no analysis other than the now routine, even ritualistic, operation of my camera. The best pictures come when I surrender control and allow my emotional responses to direct my image making. When I do this successfully, my images still act as responses to the themes and ‘projects’ I am working on, but they also take on another dimension, they become about something deeper something that I can rarely articulate but that leads others to respond to the images in different and revelatory ways.
The way in which I present the images becomes an important part of this process, recognising that anything I do in this regard directs the viewer. To my mind, there is no right or wrong way of interpreting an image it should simply provide the potential for interaction and engagement. It is the level of this engagement that makes the image more or less successful. Creating the space in which this interaction can occur is crucial – a delicate balance between providing sufficient context to engage the viewer, to draw them in, and the temptation to give them everything and leave them with no work to do.
I often seek to create this space with music, but the relationship between the two is not a simple one. Music has become a significant source of inspiration for my work, driven by a series of recent collaborations with friend and pianist Stuart Ellam who, like me, was looking for a way to make his art more accessible without directing his audience. It is too easy when working in this way for the music to become an accompaniment to the pictures. Alternatively, the images become illustrative – a forced and often ill-informed visual rendition of the composer’s work. Yet, at its best, this interaction leads to a resonance – the music adds meaning to the pictures which in their turn offer new interpretations to the music.
As much as I have tried to avoid it, it was an unavoidable step for me to also explore my own spirituality as part of this process of picture making. So, it was with some trepidation that I set out to deliver a commission for my sister, a church minister …and yet the responses to this work suggest that it has gone further than anything I have done previously in achieving the two aims I have for my work – creating images with a strong narrative content, while at the same time leaving the viewer free to create their own stories and responses to the work.
Inevitably, words become part of this process and I have written words to provide a context for each image. They are all based around a religious text that was very familiar to me, however, working with this text artistically has led me to explore it in a way that I have never done before and helped make sense of it for me. The journey I went on with both words and images became an exploration of contemporary themes as well as the timeless qualities of human existence – birth, life, death – and the insecurities that seem so prevalent in much of my own experience of life. But, as I find with much of my work, I couldn’t pursue these themes without reference also to the hope and vision that sees me through the dark times and drives me to seek to make a difference…
Alone series of images by Mike Colechin
And so it begins…
A journey towards an uncertain destination surrounded by adulation…
To face death is to embody the human condition
…but, even your closest friends cannot share or even comprehend that burden.
Feeling abandoned, you seek solace in a garden…
Your greatest desire is to sit alone, to be unseen, invisible.
You must see, you must know, you need to be there …and yet when the moment comes you are found lacking.
The guilt of that denial almost destroys you…
Power flows through you like a river rushing towards the sea.
It washes you clean, leaves you empty, bereft.
You now have what you desired, and worked so hard to get for so long
…how could it be such a hollow achievement?
‘It is you who has betrayed me.’
Why does it hurt so much when those words are spoken by someone you have loved?
You had rationalised your actions, even justified them…
but, now that the deed is done, you are alone and despairing.
Everything leads to this
…the brutality of a painful death at the hands of those who use torture as a means of control.
Your last breath a cry of total isolation…
The emptiness of grief.
The futility of death.
The injustice of losing your child.
The only response you can give is to sit in vigil among the gravestones and weep…
How can you not be afraid when the things that are happening seem so incredible?
They must be an illusion, an apparition, a hallucination
…further evidence that to protect yourself you are abandoning reality.
Do you dare to grasp this gossamer thread and hope?
ABOUT MIKE COLECHIN
Mike is a Nottingham-based photographer whose main career has been in engineering and research, disciplines that inform his art but do not define it. He typically takes a narrative approach to his work, creating images that tell stories and evoke emotions that run deep within the detailed landscapes that he generally chooses to photograph.
You can contact and view more of Mike’s work through his website and other online presence
Unless otherwise stated, all words and images in this article are © Mike Colechin