“No matter what kind of camera you use, the photograph is taken in what seems to be an instant. I want to put time into what we perceive to be an instant. I do a lot of time-based photography.”
Terrance Hounsell has been taking photographs since high school. The naval architect uses a wide range of cameras, from a 19th-century wooden camera, for which he mixes his own chemicals in his own recipes, to digital, pinhole, and infrared. Working with infrared, he creates “light sculptures,” which, over two or three minutes, build up bit by bit: check out his entertaining video on YouTube.
Hounsell, who has won several Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards, and has had artwork purchased by The Rooms, has three works in Red Ochre’s new “Still Life Spring To Life” group show: “Foggy Dew,” “Two Solitudes,” and “Codroy Estuary.”
“Two Solitudes” shows two rocks in ocean water, “they are in close proximity, but, being rocks they can never meet,” Hounsell said. “I’m primarily a landscape photographer, and the landscape in Newfoundland is about geology. And our lifetimes are just a flicker in geological time,” he says.
So, Hounsell shot this photo with a three minute exposure, “to introduce time. The rocks are stationary, but the ocean is moving. And movement implies a time factor.”
It’s the way he sees the world, as if it were a series of finished photos. He probably had no choice but to become a photographer, he jokes. But there is more to his art then taking constant random snaps of his environment.
The camera is a tool, bringing the image to canvas. It may be more high-tech than a paintbrush or graphite pencil, but it is still a means to an artistic end. And one that ideally communicates between creator and viewer.
“You do have to step away from the work, you can’t guard it and explain to everyone that sees it what you meant,” He says. “When you are on Bell Island at the clifftops looking down, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But the photo might have no sense of that height. You try and make the art contain some of the emotion you felt. It the art is successful (the viewer) will think, and question and feel.”
Sometimes he takes photographs mostly for himself, concentrating on the process. Part of that practice is trying, as Picasso advised, to see the world as a child does.
Hounsell’s “Foggy Dew,” which shows an exquisite halo of dandelion puff, comes from that. Hounsell grew up in Greenspond, “where our Internet was the landwash. You’d just go out in the world and look. The act of looking is quite important. A dandelion is something we generally hate and want to get rid off. I don’t normally go for a broad landscape, I look for details. This is an ordinary object presented in an extraordinary way.”
This drive is to get out and to observe results in some lovely imagery.
“Ninety per cent of my work is about a nice aesthetic. People just like to look at it. We move so fast. Most of the billions of photos taken in the world last year were seen on somebody’s iPhone for three seconds. With digital cameras, there’s no investment, so on Facebook there’s 37 pictures of what someone had for lunch,” he says. “But working with the big wooden camera, it’s so much effort to take a photo. It’s such a slow process.”
At yet, “Foggy Dew” did capture a very specific, special moment.
“Yes, that’s not water (in the white fuzz), it’s vapour, it’s fog.”
Then this was enlarged to a scale allowing for a crisp, compelling symmetry.
“It just looked right. But a lot of compositional stuff is going on in your head.”
Hounsell might also wait a while for those right few seconds. Another of his photos, of the Mad Rocks in Bay Roberts, “took me 37 trips” until the elements were in the counterplay he sought and captured.
He has a “sun card” that tells him where the sun will be at any time during the year, so he can revisit sites in different lights. It’s all partly of his timely method.
“You see the images, decide on the tools, and think, how are you going to get there?”
Other work in “Still Life Springs To Life” includes paintings from David Baltzer, Sylvia Bendzsa, Gary Saunders, Natalia Charapova, Louise Markus, Rene Butler, George Horan, and Brenda McClellan, and mixed media pieces from Jennifer Morgan and Veselina Tomova.
The exhibition runs until April 11.