Daily Photographs - A process to investigate my visual perception
I select one photograph
from those I took that day
wherever I happened to be
and I publish it
I find my images in everyday life. Several times during the course of the day I stop in my tracks because something has caught my attention.
In the early 1990s, I began to carry a camera at all times. From then on I have been taking photographs of those instances. While I followed an impulse to create the images, I had no use for them. In April 2006 as a way to store the photographs, I started to display them on my website nolden.com.
Unexpectedly the project evolved. Within the neatly arranged stream of photographs I began to notice recurring themes and a particular way of capturing them. What had started intuitively became a process of self- exploration, documenting and thereby investigating my visual perception.
Over time the project has been instrumental in uncovering and developing my own personal aesthetic. Furthermore, this photographic project has strongly influenced my moving image work.
Why does a particular aspect of physical reality catch my attention?
I seem to have a heightened sensitivity for the marginal, the fleeting and the subtle which often goes unnoticed. There is a tendency inside me to hold on to those aspects of reality, both physically and mentally. While this is not an answer to the above question, it might be a hint at an innate part of my personality influencing my attention.
However, I am aware that beyond this personal observation, the concept of attention as part of the process of perception is complex and multi-layered. I continue to explore this subject in my work.
Nothing I photograph is staged or arranged. I do not manipulate my images. I photograph what I find in passing.
I am not interested in narrative. As a consequence, people only feature as part of the visual composition, they are not portrayed. I document the visual appearance of reality at a particular moment in time.
I am drawn to an aesthetic that seems to be derived from the functional and unembellished urban surroundings of the Germany of my childhood.
I am interested in shapes, relationships between them and the photograph’s boundaries. To me, taking a photograph is like drafting a layout, except that in a photograph, the process works backwards as I try to lay bare the constructing lines of reality.
When I started the project my photographs had an aspect ratio of 4 by 3. In July 2011 I changed to 16 by 9. This was a direct influence of my moving image work where this more widescreen format was becoming common. My compositional use of the image’s boundaries made this a significant change.
When I started the project I published photographs immediately after taking them. I was fascinated by the technology which allowed me to do that (I had set up a way to post images on my website directly from a mobile phone, a process similar to what would later be known as 'Instagram’).
Quickly I revised this method. I realised that only by looking at all of a day’s images together do I see which one strikes me as interesting, which catches my attention. This is a snap decision. The process is similar to that of choosing what to photograph.
In fact, after choosing from all of visual reality when taking the photograph, it is a selection of a selection. However, at this stage I completely disregard the photograph’s origin in physical reality. To me it is an entity in itself that is only judged for its own aesthetic merit.
Initially I posted every photograph I found interesting, sometimes several per day, sometimes none. This seemed a natural response to the intuitive and therefore irregular frequency of taking photographs. Over time I began to see problems with this approach.
Right from the beginning of the project the date had been the only additional information I supplied with each image. As I realised that the change of my image-making over time was at the core of the project, the day as a clearly defined unit of time became part of the project, the smallest unit of measurement in the continuum of time that this project was charting. In mid 2011 I decided to acknowledge this by publishing exactly one photograph each day and I have done so ever since.
This rule forced me to select an image even on days when my first impulse was that none of the photographs was sufficiently interesting. To my surprise, some of the images I would have previously disregarded gained value later on as I saw them next to the other images. Unconsciously this prompted me to explore views of reality I had previously disregarded.
Over numerous iterations, this project distilled the essence of my visual perception. Themes emerged: SPACES, LIGHT, SURFACES, PLANTS. The result is my own aesthetic, a representation of my visual perception.