Throughout the course of 2017 my photographic efforts have been focused on what I titled Occult Project 365 where I captured an image every day for a year based upon an occult theme. This was undertaken as a means of encouraging me to focus my photography and to help me develop what I felt was becoming ‘my style’. Now that the year has passed I wanted to reflect on some of the things I’ve learnt and observed throughout the course of the year.
Just what is occult?
It became clear in the very early stages of the year that the word occult and what it entails holds a very varied meaning to people within the occult community. For some the word is a label that covers the multitude of magical practices that exist and for others the word is taken on its literal meaning - hidden. As I worked through the project I found myself spending a lot of time contemplating the occult nature of the days shoot. This lead to images being posted that at times I feared were not being understood and the idea of adding supporting text to explain the image was considered but ultimately decided against as writing a lengthy description felt improper and unsuited to the intent. Part way through the year I also started to question the veracity of social media as a platform for sharing my work. I often describe using it as feeling like I send an image into the void with no knowledge or guidance on how it will be received. The nature of platforms such as instagram also encourages quick and disposable consumption of media instead of inviting the viewer to take a moment and contemplate the image all the while presenting the image in a limited small format that is heavily reduced in quality.
It also became clear through looking at the level of engagement with the images that occult trends were a driving element in acceptance and interaction. Widely understood symbols and artefacts seemed to drive higher engagement as did the use of specific colours over others. This reinforced my motivation for the project as I became aware that that whilst the whole project was ‘occult’, a whole element within the project itself was still very much occulted from view. I hoped to guide people to explore images beyond their immediate understanding, to discover more and therefore open new avenues of enquiry and study.
Down the rabbit hole
Just how is this occulted view manifesting? It is akin to a spiralling rabbit hole whereby gazing into the entrance will not reveal its entirety but as you go deeper, as you navigate its twists and turns then you get to see more and more, but only ever seemingly so much at once. Only with hindsight from your current position do you see the entirety of the moment for without certain information serving as a precursor the meaning remains occulted. This exposes the dual nature of the occult image, that of mystery and of revelation. When the image contains elements beyond our understanding it then serves the purpose of feeding the mystery that all so often is the driving force behind the seeker, the motivation that keeps us searching for more. When the image becomes revealed and undersood it then serves to encapsulate complex concepts, practices and information in a manner that maintains its secrecy whilst keeping us free of the bounds of language.
Throughout the year I have developed a methodology of approach to my photography, a view that I want to explore further. Outside the remit of the 365 idea, I will be able to explore more complex themes and weave together more intricate images to represent them. I hope to be able to schedule the use of people in some of my images also although this will be in a limited manner. I plan to run another project through 2018 on which several ideas are currently being explored.
A Thank You
Throughout the year it has been quite revealing to discover that so many people have enjoyed the images I have been posting. Feedback is something often not forthcoming but when there is it is very revealing. It encourages me to know people are getting inspiration and use from the images and it is informative to learn of the different ways in which people can see the same image. Thank you to all those who have supported me through 2017.