SECRET PLACES OF LANAZAROTE
Norman Warwick meets photographic artist, Adriyana Hodge.
As Adriyana Hodge and I agreed that it might be beneficial to conduct our interview as we walked around the room looking at her exhibition and stopping at various items on display whilst doing so, we were asked by the young lady behind the bar whether we would mind if she joined us. She explained she was an art student and would love to hear more about the photographs on the walls surrounding her.
Adriyana graciously acquiesced to that, but before setting off en route with myself and the young lady, she paused to take infinite care and precision to re-adjust the first image which had slipped, invisibly to my naked eye, from being set fair and square.
When it finally lay to her satisfaction, I joked that it was somehow incongruous to see Adriyana setting to the perfect angle a photograph of a nude model who was sitting in what looked a pretty awkward position at a dangerous angle halfway down a sheer cliff face.
She laughed and revealed that usually I take a black towel with me, for situations like this, so that when she is nude and has to sit or lie down on something on such an uncomfortable surface I will lay that our for her and place, and hide it, it so it doesn´t slip, so that she is comfortable while I am taking the photographs. And then yes, I do like to also take care of the alignment of my photographs too. I don´t like anything that appears skewed or off line, so yes, ….just an adjustment.
You say that the comfort of the model is important to you, but are they in any way uncomfortable?
Oh yes. Definitely !
Physically,…yes, I think we can see that. But does any negotiation take place prior to a shoot with the model about her physical and emotional comfort?
Sometimes I try to negotiate a pose, and that depends a little on whether the model is experienced or not. If they not experienced models I will guide them if they wish but also I will advise them to relax, and forget that I and my camera are there and to just connect themself and to just feel whatever emotions they have and to make movements they feel appropriate and then I capture those moments. And on this photograph called White Swan the wind and the landscape helped us so much.
What is the reaction, particularly of a new model, at the end of a shoot?
They are usually very proud and pleased with what we have achieved. They are genuinely pleased they have been part of it and always seem happy and eager to see the finished product or end result. And it is when they see that end result that I get my reward, because so often they say wow, this is really moving, I love myself, I feel beautiful and this is incredible. That, of course is what I want to achieve,… for them to love themselves for who they really are.
Given that we have talked about physical and emotional comfort and the emotions of pride produced by a shoot, I have to say that to me as a layman, it seems that the great thing you have produced in each photograph is how you make the model and the landscape, however inhospitable that landscape can be at times, seem intertwined as one, somehow.
Yes, but remember this one of twenty five or thirty photographs I might have taken of this pose, and I have had to wait for the right moment, the right light, the right expression and placing of hands and limbs etc. or the relaxation of the face, or the look of the eyes. This is not the only one, but is one of many I select from. I end up with many photographs to work with on my computer to edit and create the one that works best for me,…and the model.
How important is that sense of isolation to the model?
That depends on the model, but we also place her feelings first. We always try to pick remote places, of course, because we don´t other people in the photographs,….unless they´re naked. That´s just a joke.
I think the sense of isolation from these photographs reflect as much about the island as about the models.
Adriyana led us to the next photograph, Drago Protector, which also served as the cover image of her black and white anthology, Body Poetry, of her photographs and responses to them by a well known poet,.
The book was a collection of thirty three photographs and poetic repsonses, and they were in black and white. The poet, Carlos Calatayud Prats, and I, worked on this project together. It was entirely a joint collaborative work. But this photograph was so beautiful in colour that I decided I had to produce it in colour as well. It is a picture of the Drago Tree, unique to Lanzarote, and this one was on an abandoned landscape we had to climb down to, … and there was The Drago Tree. We took so many photographs in that ´secret garden´ and this Drago Tree was just so phenomenal. I´m still just mesmerised by it.
Its interesting to me that in some ways the viewer has to search for the model in the photograph.
Yes, because the model is not the primary subject. In this photograph, the primary object is definitely the tree. In the poem that accompanies the black and white entry in my book, the Drago is referred to as the protector, who has stood guarding that landscape for thousands of years.
Even the sky in this photograph seems slightly threatening, almost as if Drago Protector might have to defend the landscape against the elements.
Yes, there is drama here. A lot of time that tension is created by photographing against dark or cloudy skies.
This is one of the exhibits that has already sold, isn´t it? And am I right in say that some customers request an adjustment to the size of the photograph, I guess depending on where they might want to hang it in their home.
Yes, and that is quite acceptable, for us to change the size, so long as the quality of the digital print can be accommodated
Adriyana explains that in this particular case she had actually increased the size of the photograph because she is so impressed with it, and she informs us that, of course size of exhibits go some way to dictating their aesthetic placement even though that order of exhibits might be telling an identifiable narrative, but she is pleased she was able to make that change and relocate it from its original position without disturbing that narrative.
She also points out a photograph in which the model is one of daughters.
´This was a birthday gift, but I borrowed it from her and was able to present it for a wider audience.
We then come to one of the photographs that had struck a chord with me on our first visit to the exhibition on its inaugural night. I explain that the setting, in what could pass for a Nordic landscape, and the white clothing of the model reminds me very much of the sirens I had been told about when holidaying in Norway (and in Wales, too.) There is not quite menace here, (in fact none of the poses of the models in this exhibtion seem threatening, although all the women and men seem strong and capable). When I put that to Adriyana, she already has a response.
This is a site on Lanzarote. It’s a cave called The Cathedral and is a site I had been looking for over a number of years. David Penny, everybody on Lanzarote knows David Penny and he seems to know everywhere on this island, was able to direct me to it. However that was some while ago and I couldn´t actually find it at the time. I did stumble on another cave that I was able to include in Poesia Corporal collection, but I had to ask Dave again, more recently, because I really wanted to include this spectacular cave in The Secret Places of Lanzarote. He helped me again and when I found it I knew for certain we had to include it.This is not a dress the model is wearing by the way, it is a piece of fabric I had, but it serves its purpose well. The ´dress´ is really important because the size and scope of the cave is huge and dramatic. The clothing gives a focal point and, somehow looking like a waterfall, it lends a sense of perspective too. You wouldn´t get the scale without the fabric being draped the way it is. I have called the photograph The Lovers, in part because my next project is to create a pack of tarot Cards, seventy eight, of course, and this photograph could represent the card known as The Lovers.
I comment on the foreboding nature of the long, thin shadow that falls down the centre of the photograph, and Adriyana points out the shadow produces the shape of a Cobra, and tells me that it is even more apparent at the entrance to the cave itself.
It is becoming increasingly clear just how preparation, selection of location, model and pose, quality control of the photographs and the subsequent selection process have been important to the success of this collection
I was so excited by this location particularly and this one especially, that I was gabbling away, saying yeh, we have GOT to have this, and the models were laughing at my enthusiasm.
I have always been fascinated that although the art forms I work in are different, from poetry to song, to biography, to fiction and short story, and I feel as if I approach them all differently, I´ve actually come to realise that the building blocks I use to create my work are common to all those genres. I´m also aware that although I don´t like getting lost in real life, I can get lost completely when writing, and it is that feeling of being lost that actually is the generating point.
Exactly, because we as artists sometimes feel we are being guided. We ask for guidance and in most of this process I have felt guided. I have an idea, but when I get to the scene and meet the model I might not then know whether or not she is professional or not, how much I will need to guide them and how to allocate time during the photo shoot. I have to consider the props I am using and often the model is doing great but the props are not quite right and I think oh no, I should do this again, and stuff like that. Mainly, it is just pure guidance.
Writers learn to their cost that they might have to ´kill their darlings´, that is to say perhaps the two favourite lines they love and are so proud of, that are actually getting in the way of the development of the poem, Does that happen to photographers, too?
Yes, absolutely particularly when selecting final photographs for exhibition. This is where my friend Rebecca (shown far right, with Adriyana) was great in helping me with that part of the process for The Secret Places Of Lanzarote. Not that one, this one, remember what you are trying to achieve. She was great.
We come then to a photograph of a male model who appears to emerging from or submerging into the wet sand at the tide line. He seems exhausted, perhaps, or even grief stricken.
He enjoyed this shoot, He loved it. He hasn´t modelled much before
but he is a really good looking guy. That is always a bonus for a photographer, when a model, male or female is attractive and photogenic. This scene I think looks like he´s been drowning or struggling ion the sea and he has just hauled himself to land, He has no energy left but it as if he has saved himself.
It strikes me as being almost Rodin-like in his muscularity and stability, almost as if he has completed some arduous Herculean task and somehow found his humanity again. I´m rambling but I can feel the story there.
Yes. The point of that story, perhaps, is ´save yourself.´ Don´t wait for anybody else to do it. Save yourself, even if you are exhausted. Even if you feel you have no strength left, save yourself.
Has he just landed back on his homeland or is this a new place to him? Is he now a stranger here, or ….?
All those questions are there- So many stories,…
We have now arrived at a study of who I learn is a German model, and I am struck by her incredible Rapunzel like hair. I wonder if Adriyana, when settling on the ´picture´, is aware of the fairy tale notion it evokes. Perhaps, I think, Adriyan reacts to firy-tale in much the way of the late writer Angela Carter, but I forget to make that reference, so have filed it away for a later date.
That´s it. Fairy tale,… I love fairy tale,…and fantasy. That is my world , really. So this is one of my favourite photographs and in colour it is even more amazing. People often look at the picture and ask where the water is coming from, but there is no water, it is an illusion caused by the light and the location.
We soon reach a landscape that seems to almost of science fiction. It is a photograph of the same male model we saw earlier and again, he looks in some distress.
It is great when a model can get inside his or her character and create facial expressions or body language that tell the story. This guy is great at that.
Adriyana brings a full skill-set to her work, creating not only photographic images but also even posing questions with their titles. One photograph shows a female model, seemingly looking straight ahead. The picture is entitled Window To Your Soul. There is a typical Lanzarote window behind her on the wall of what we assume to be a house, or home, but that window is behind closed wooden shutters. I was reminded too that in English we have a saying that ´the eyes are the window to the soul, though where the idiom first came from remains unclear with some believing it might have older Arabic origins. The title makes us wonder to whom the word Your refers. It might refer to the model herself, perhaps, or a friend or lover of hers. Adriyana suggests it could also be her own reference as a photographer to her viewers.
You can see in her eyes that the model seems to be meditating, looking inwards, perhaps, and she is in a kneeling position as if praying. This next photograph, and they seem to speak to each other, is called Prison Walls because on this window, there are bars. It is broken, though, and we might consider that she used to be in this prison but she is now free. The prison is now in ruins it appears, so perhaps, knowing she is free to do so, she has returned to look at it from another perspective. She could be revisiting prison or may be is still in the prison of her mind. Perhaps escape and freedom are something she has to come to terms with. You can loosely tie a horse to a tree, and even if can loosen the rope it does not try to escape. The horse will remain at the tree. I love the fact, though, that this model is framed by the window and the ruins. In England for a while I worked as a carer, but in my time and in my breaks I always had a camera on me. I used to live in Portsmouth where there were lots of old ruins and interesting locations like cemeteries.
I tell Adriyana that I sense a yearning in the model, for something I guess she cannot have, and our young lady from behind the bar says she loves how the model is only touching the building with the tip of an outstretched finger.
This photograph still fascinates me. There was just something on this finca that caught my eye. The model seems to me to portray a girl who is going to deal with her demons. You say you can sense a yearning in her for something she cannot have, but I love the fact that the model creates a relationship with this place.
It seems to me that Adriyanya, deliberatly or not, has given us a clue to what seem to be recurring themes within in this exhibition of The Secret Places Of Lanzarote.
Of such stuff is legend made.
We hope to conduct and publish a who, what, when, where, why interview with Adriyana later in the year and we will comment on the rest of the photographs when we do so, to keep things in context.
Remember, though, the phrases that every picture (photograph) tells a story and that a picture (photograph) is worth a thousand words,…..so before reading the rest the thousands of words I could write about Adriyana´s work it would be well worth your while to visit, if you are able, the exhibition of The Secret Places of Lanzarote at Julio´s Tap Room Bar in Costa Teguise (left).
So excited am I by this collection of Adriyana´s work, that only last Friday night I re-visited it, accompanied by my friend, the England-based writer Anthony JM Brady (here on holiday).
photo tony dee Firstly though, we took advantage of the lovely venue the work in which the work is being shown. Tapas in a beautiful, quiet courtyard, as the sun slowly settled, all washed won with a glass of draft Capitan, served by a lovely, chatty, multi-lingual lady, was fine way to start our cultural evening. As a dessert Tony and I had waffle, ice cream and chocolate sauce and a chat with the owner/chef who swapped stories with Tony of London in the Kray Twins era, though the conversation was all about pubs and boxing clubs-
Of such stuff is legend made.
My wife Dee has already seen Adriyana´s work so wandered over the square to the market so Tony and I might take in the exhibition and pontificate at our leisure. Whilst we did so, there were several patrons of the pub sipping their wines and beers and at the same time casting an eye over, and discussing, Adriyana´s photographs adorning the walls.
I was delighted that Anthony JM Brady, to give him his most esablished pseudonym, seemed as excited by the work as am I, and that he, too, looks at a photographic work of art knowing that it will produce as many questions as answers. Because he and I are each writers and interrogators we decided that, having spent a good while going through all the photographs in the exhibition, we should conduct a vox pop questioning of anyone in the vicinity, (such as those shown from the opening night in our cover picture at the top of the page) who would have noticed the works.
One couple even confessed that had actually read of the exhibition in our article published on these pages a fortnight previously
There was an absolute consensus that the photographs were aesthetically pleasing, and that they did indeed awaken an interest in The Secret Places Of Lanzarote. Indeed, one of the most noted photograph was of a beautiful sun-set framed girl in a yoga pose on a deserted beach. It was great to further learn, though, that many of the people Tony and I spoke to had already interpreted or created their own story-lines from the photographs.
Of such stuff is legend made
Indeed, Tony (shown right, discussing The Secret Places Of Lanzarote, with my wife Dee) responded in e mail to me with his initial response to Adriyana Hodge´s ´s wonderful exhibition and has promised further thoughts in due time. Meanwhile, we reproduce in full, below) that e mail of his initial thoughts and look forward to publishing his more specific comments in a couple of weeks time.
THE NAKED HUMAN FORM;
Modern art, arguably always open to discussion, shows us even more explicitly than the art of the past, that the nude does not simply represent the body, but relates it to all structures that have become part of our visual and imaginative experience. The Greeks related it to their geometry. Their surviving examples are mostly presented as stand-alone figures or groupings without background.
Twentieth first century humankind with its vastly extended experience of physical life, and more elaborate patterns of mathematical symbols, must have at the back of its mind analogies of far greater complexity. Indeed, humankind has not abandoned the effort to express the naked body – whether male or female – visibly as part of itself.
The Greeks perfected the sculpted naked male in order that those who viewed it might feel like a God, and in a sense this is still its function, for although we no longer suppose that God is like a beautiful man, we still feel close to divinity in those flashes of self-identification when, through our own bodies, we seem to be aware of a universal order. The same conception is equally applicable to the naked representations of the human female form.
Lately, in conversation with journalist Norman Warwick, I recalled my recent visit to Florence where, I viewed on the Uffizi Gallery crowded pavement, the displayed replica/copy statue of the original David by Michelangelo. Thanks to the fine art degree educated guide, I learned something momentous, provocative and mind-altering about the beauty in the naked human form.
Put simply, Michelangelo’s David mocks the arrogance, deceptions, political intrigues, cheating, truth distortions, deliberate motivated hostilities etc., etc., between the principal Florentine ruling families of the time. Stripped of every conceivable adornment, every vestige of mystery, David is Michelangelo’s: Not what you see – but what you get. Rather – Here is nothing to hide. This representation of the human form is unadulterated, inescapable Truth.
John Keats was later to qualify Michelangelo’s David statement:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
In other words, beauty is all we need in order to discover truth, and truth is in itself beautiful. This is all we, mere mortals, know, but it’s all we need to know: we shouldn’t go hunting for answers which we don’t need to have. Implied in these last lines of Keats’s poem – Ode on a Grecian Urn – is the suggestion that we shouldn’t attempt to find concrete answers to everything; sometimes the mystery is enough.
He goes further on the theme of beauty in another poem – Endymion
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness..”
But this expansion on the theme of beauty is a digression considering a personal experience in Florence, since Norman suggested that we make a date to visit a local exhibition on the naked female form by Adrianna Hodge. This we did: so these thoughts are a mere aperitif of what is the main course of what I will write about soon, following our visit to Adriyana’s work in Lanzarote.
© Tony Brady.
So look out for more of Adriyana Hodge on these pages in the near future.
Meanwhile, after a short break Steve Bewick returns to the air waves, , with his Hot Biscuits jazz programme on mix-cloud. This is a live session from the Steve Oakes Quartet, led by Steve on guitar, Edward Toots Kainyek on saxes, Tim Franks drums and Elliot Roffe Bass. A hot quartet recorded at the Creative Space. There is more in the mix mix from Art Themen, Andy Panayi Jazz, Neil Angilley Trio, Samara, Barb Jungr and the Sam Braysher Trio. If this looks interesting tell your friends and follow Steve by opening the embedded link below