Self Portrait

Recently I spent a week in South Australia working in the sand dunes along the coast between Streaky Bay and Fowler’s Bay. It is one of my favourite places because it is a vast empty space. It is quiet.  It is an escape from the complexity of urban life. Nature is always on show in the dunes as wind and water combine to slowly transform the landscape.   I have been visiting these dunes for thirty years or more. They are always different and never fail to offer a new and rich visual experience. There is something magical about the way wind and water interacts to carve anew and to shape and reform the old.  I particularly enjoy the dunes just after rain as most of the marks of human activity have been softened, if not erased, and the dunes regain their pristine beauty.

This morning I went out alone with the intention of scouting locations for a model shoot later in the week or, hopefully at the edge of the evening – the twilight of that afternoon.

The morning sun raked the dunes teasing out texture and pattern.  I walked up a low dune and spun round to see where I had been. The image was there waiting for me to see it. The outline of my body seemed to hover; growing out of the dune’s shadow and it was difficult to see where one shadow commenced and the other finished. I appeared to be growing out of the dunes.  My footprints offered a link between camera and my shadow. I had a self-portrait.

What appeals to me is the illusion of the shadowy figure, its distortion generated by the low light and the intermix of trope such as line, shape, texture and colour. These elements made for an image stripped of detail but rich with suggestion, implication if not sensation. The figure has been reduced and simplified and it is this abstraction that gives the image the strength I like. I wanted the image to be bold and dynamic and make the most of the available light playing across the dune face and its swale. For me the highly textured footprints offer a metaphor about journey and I like this because it is authentic as well as symbolic of where my photography has taken me in my life. Yes, the image was unplanned; I reacted to what I saw but also to what I felt at the time.  The walk across the dunes that morning was a lonely one. When I turned and saw the shadow I laughed out loud and claimed, “You silly old fart, you are not alone after all.” Sheepishly,  my eyes quickly explored the large dune complex I had entered to make sure no one heard me talking to myself. Relief. There was just my shadow.