Visual Poems

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“Many talk about following their hearts, of being aware of the moment, perfect or otherwise, of pursuing beauty and seeking joy, of bursting through the many layers of time, place and rhetoric that serve to chain us. But the lives they lead sipping artisan Americanos tell a different story. We both have a fear of turning out like that. So we’d chosen to do, not just talk, we’d chosen to push ourselves further, to live the life we laid claim to, to put as much space between ourselves and the Café Flores as possible.” Lamia Hossain, Toronto, August 2013


I want to create something fresh but I’ve no money for new materials. I look around my room; there’s a 30 year old Practica 35mm camera. I press the shutter and it sounds like a real camera. Yes, that should be part of things. I’ve no film but I have got several boxes of photographic paper. I cut it into little rectangles, load it into the camera then visit Karl Farrer. Karl has a darkroom in his basement. I use the camera as I would do a pinhole, adjusting exposures according to the strength of the sun. Karl does the same using a Rolliflex that he found in a public toilet in Broadstairs some years ago. The results are interesting.


We decide that the images look like stamps. Without knowing it, we’re heading into the world of Artistamp, a postal stamp inspired art form practised worldwide for over 60 years that we personally know nothing about. Yet.


The images made on Direct Positive Photographic Paper are my favourites. I love the stripped down, no-frills process. The paper is loaded, the image is made, developed in chemicals and then it’s ready to show. There is no need for a negative or Photoshop stage, unless an image needs sharing online, or could do with a little dodging and burning. This is very honest photography.


For the art lover this is a unique photographic product. Each image is a one off. There is no print stage, what comes out of the camera is the image on offer.


My wife Lamia and I spend a summer travelling. First we go to Greece to visit one of our favourite cities, Athens, where we stay with our friends at the Attalos Hotel. From Greece, the home of Sappho, the guardian of gentleness that we so admire, we move on to England then Lamia's home in Canada. I'm using the 35mm Artistamp process, she the Box Brownie Pinhole and also a 35mm SLR/Analogue. We follow Byron as well as Sappho and then begin to find our own path.


We keep the photography simple, developing our images as we go in makeshift darkrooms fashioned from hotel bathrooms; if we do happen to work on an image in Photoshop we adhear to the NUMA rule, that is, No Unnecessary Messing About.


Usually in the art world the term ‘Ambitious’ is used to mean ‘Big’. Ambitious artists make big work for big galleries that sell it for big money to people with big houses. All very nice, for some; terribly crass and nasty for others. The entire output of our particular 'Ambitious' project, however, will fit into a regular sized stamp album.


The photographic results of our trip feature in the book and film 'the Photographers; Visual Poems from the White Hour'. Here is a film telling more of the project, and several images from the book.


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