Exercise 3.3 – A childhood memory

The memory I have chosen to recreate is from the oldest dream I remember. I must have been about 7 years old at that time, and I remember being in the middle of a wide avenue, near the beach, in my home town of Naiguata, Venezuela. The avenue had about 4 car lanes, and being one way only, it did not have a traffic island in the middle. My hometown is a popular resort destination for beachgoers from the capital city, Caracas, which is only 25 miles away, and the infrastructure was built to withstand the masses of people descending upon the town every weekend, sometimes exceeding the town population 4 or 5 times over. However, during weekdays the place was deserted and there were rarely any cars around. I would always be there playing or goofing around after school, but in my dream I was standing in the middle of the road, and the tarmac around me had disappeared, leaving just a black hole, with me standing in a small island in the middle of it. I remember peering at this hole and associating it with death. I also remember feeling like there was no possibility of scape, but there was no fear of harm either. Just no movement. I was there static, standing in the middle doing nothing.

The dream had a profound impact on me for some time, and I remember going back to the avenue and trying to sit down in the middle of it, when traffic was at its calmest. I had an impulse to do that, but I cannot remember anymore why. It was like a dare, but the details of everything else that I though at the time about the dream are a bit blurred now. Only the original dream remains vividly in my mind.

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Sketch recreation of the dream, using pencil, ink and watercolours (snapshot of my sketchbook)

It is difficult to recreate this memory in full for a variety of reasons, so I decided to recreate aspects of it instead. The key element for me is calm in front of the abysm. I tried to sketch various ideas around this, including me standing in front of a precipice or in the middle of the road. Some drawings around these ideas, from my sketchbook, are reproduced below

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Standing in front of darkness – pencil
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Various ideas about standing in the middle of a road (left hand side in a road in Seaford, East Sussex. Right hand side, in Moor lane, City of London) – pencil

I tried to develop some of these ideas into photographs using a variety of techniques, from straight shots to combinations of images to double exposures. My use of multiple exposure / image combinations in post processing came from a desire to give the images a slightly unreal look, in fitting with the memory coming from a dream. Here are some of the preliminary attempts I made:

Image 1: 28mm lens. 1/100s at f4. ISO 50. In camera multiple exposure (two shots). This shot is a variation of the theme of me standing in front of the abysm, with the latter represented instead by the thorny hedges.
Image 2: 28mm and 85mm lenses. 1/160s at f5.6. ISO 50. In camera multiple exposure (two shots). This is another variation of me standing in front of the abysm, this time represented by the white cliffs at Cuckmere Haven, Sussex.
Image 3 – 35mm lens. 1/1000s at f5.6. ISO 50. In camera multiple exposure (three shots). A variation from the previous shot, with me trying to climb out of the abysm.
Image 4 – 21mm equiv. lens. 1/160s at f8. ISO 200. With this, I tried to replicate the effect of standing in the middle of the road, just like in my dream. The road here is also quite wide an unmarked, resembling some of the conditions of the original setting. The road, in an affluent area of Bromley, is in a very poor state of repair and there is virtually no traffic, other than the occasional local car moving very slowly (to avoid the multiple potholes), for which it was safe to take this shot.
Image 5 – 41mm equiv. lens. 1/60s at f5.6. ISO 200. This is another attempt at recreating the scene of me standing in the middle of an empty road. I particularly liked this setting because is rather bleak, but the road, connecting Chislehurst with Bromley, is usually very busy and it was not safe for me to stand in the middle here. I tried to manipulate the image in post-processing to move my body to the middle of the road, but did not like the end result.

My final image for this exercise is shown below. This was achieved by combining multiple exposures of the same scene during post-processing

Image 6 – 28mm lens. 1/400s at f2. ISO 50. Three exposures combined in post-processing.

What I particularly liked about this image, a variation on the theme of me standing in front of the abysm, is the slight sense of danger created by the jitter from combining frames. It also creates a dream-like, slightly surreal look. The other element I like is the dark part at the top of the image. In reality, it was just a small depression less than a meter deep, but by darkening the shadows significantly here, it gives the impression of being much deeper.



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