This website showcases my current work in the areas of filmmaking, art and photography.
Latest: click here to view the latest images from my Class 12 trip to Russia & Ukraine.
Finding my way in multiplicity
An exhibition of labyrinths the CCCB gallery in Barcelona culminated in a labyrinth of mirrors in which the viewers were invited to become spectators of themselves. In the process of participating there is a constant distrust of the labyrinth's ability to guide you, and a sense of caution that you are suddenly going to walk into the glass itself. The contrast between air - our reality, and glass - the reflected interpretations of reality, is so slight that any effort to distinguish between them becomes impossible. When you are sucked into the labyrinth contemplating its apparent simplicity if the walls were not mirrors, would be simple, yet when the walls are mirrors, a multitude of reflections, that diverge from the reality of your path confound you sending you astray, unconsciously allowing you to comprehend yourself, to scrutinise your movements, resulting in an intellectualising and therefore a certain artificiality to your movements' impetus. And this artificiality was in no way lessened by the presence of the camera. In this environment where multiplied reflections distract your wary gaze, there is little ability to concentrate on the labyrinth's deceptive infinity - although there is only a small amount of mirrors, their amplified reflections induce feedback upon one another, creating an infinite mirror hall: here the condition of space is momentarily subverted, and the deceit of this careful arrangement is ultimately what cons the eye.
I am one, yet light and glass renders me divisible, enveloping me in a profusion of entities each isolated, and then merging, each imitating one another with a precision that is alien to invention. Each entity is formed by the reflection in the glass, that is refracted from the glass to my retina. They are divergent, yet contingent upon the presence of me, and the mediated presence of my gaze - reflections that I cannot see are staring in their opposing directions, mirroring my subtlest of reactive impulses: yet if I cannot see them are they there? Are they present without me sparing a thought for them? It is those unwatched reflections, those hidden glances that I cannot meet that are forgotten in the moment, and are foreign to the definite; they are left to presence, they are gaps filled by the brain, for the human vision cannot regard the infinite multiplicity of a hall of mirrors indefinitely, it can only converge an element of that multiplicity. It is complex, yet not entirely impossible to distinguish between the real, and the refracted; to ascertain that subtlest of divergences from reality. Further away, when the reflections become dilated or contracted the contrast in apparent; yet those, closer to are harder to distinguish, save for the slight misting of the mirrors - that subtlest of sheens resulting in an alterity of opacity. Sometimes the real, becomes the reflection, and the reflection the real. And I am oblivious to it.
Film/TV & Animation collaboration
Our recent Film & Animation collaborative project at the ECA (Edinburgh College of Art) allowed us the creative freedom to explore the primal elements that define story and character - the emphasis was on the exploitation of creativity in it's raw state; as opposed to technical virtuosity. It certainly provided me with the opportunity to express my ideas artistically and the project inspired the potential combination of animation with live action. We were provided with fairly generous limitations - while one project should be over 30 seconds the other should be under 15 seconds. The limitations of the short film, were crucial in allowing us to be more creative. By using the limitations of time, and providing us with a selection of images - we already had a world defined by these two constraints in which we could explore our ideas.
Lonely Hearts animation setup in the Animation department. Glass was used to provide depth and efficency, and the 2D characters, props, and background scenery was animated on these planes.
The longer project entitled Lonely Hearts is a fusion of live action and animation, exploring the theme of love. A girl goes on a series of dates with a number of peculiar characters, and eventually prefers to be with a cardboard man she's constructed from newspapers. Instead of using green-screening techniques we utilised rear projection both for it's simplicity in postproduction and as a way for the actor's to experience a more distinct tangibility while they interacted with the animated backdrop. The animation was a created using stop-motion 2D characters and props arranged on a number of glass panels, that had the dual purpose of providing depth by the number of planes, and increased ease, and fluidity of the animation process. Shot using a regular DSLR camera, and Dragon Stop Motion as the capture software of choice, the animation provided us with a spatial awareness and a distinctive motion of the waiter character, which contrasted from the live action and as a whole ultimately created a depth in it's dichotomy of movement and style.
Rear projection setup for Lonely Hearts - using this technique instead of greenscreeing allowed the actors to have a more tangible and immediate interaction with the animation.
In the shorter project entitled 2 - Perception of Love we where keen to explore the inner workings of the process involved with love, and it's relation to perception. We generated a large volume of ideas, that were largely reactions to our provided images - in this project we were essentially concerned with an image of a drops of trickling rain on the window the countryside in motion behind it. The patterns that formed in the fluidity and amorphous ephemerality of these streaks of rain where like the fusion of rivers, their mingling signifying the possibility of new relationships forming. Another image of a pair of glasses on a table highlighted not only connotations of perception - namely a stimulation of the visual and the intellectual qualities of the brain, but a definite conflict between the tangible and the intangible. From this I was immediately lead to the concepts of identity and the slow and exhaustive process of revealing and discovering. An image of glass, and the use of obscuring people and objects, therefore creating barriers between them arose. My reference was a piece I saw at the Venice Biennale entitled Others which examined these themes in relation to the alienation of immigrants in society. These partially obscured figures, in which the hands were solely rendered in clarity and the remaining body was reduced to a compound blur, in this instance took on a certain metaphor for the process of discovery that occurs when you meet someone for the first time, and you gradually gather and assemble minuscule pieces in your mind, instinctively and sometimes naively making connections between these seemingly disparate elements that are defined from an acute amalgamation of morphological and intellectual stimulations. Initially only distinct elements of that person can be discerned, and other elements are hard to resolve.
2 - Perception of Love is an exemplification of a miniature process of discovery, it's simplicity derived in a walk, a build-up and the passing of two people. This passing can be seen as a climatic event, or as a small moment, but crucially the moment itself is inherently undramatic, not to the point of lack of recognition, but the moment can be incredibly subtle. It is the delayed reaction to the moment that is poignant - for the passing of two people is so rapid, so instinctive, and immediate that the moment exists, an to an extent lives in the mind. In the mind it is elevated to a place of importance, and significance, the fleeting moment is enhanced, drawn out; invention becomes reality, and the mediation of that reality, creates associations, provoking judgments, and juxtapositions. In the process of discovery fragility and beauty coalesce; in a way it is the very danger of the process of discovery that is beautiful.
2 - Perception of Love
By: Amy Sheilds, Miryam Lacey and Ad Howells.
Written, directed and animated by: Ad Howells, Miryam Lacey, and Amy Sheilds.
Cast: Kirsty Louise Jones, Devin Wallace, and Amy Sheilds.
Rainbows devoid of colour
I like the idea of taking an image and rephotographing it in order to interpret it in a different way. These - HDRs (High Dynamic Range) images, shot around East Lothian caught some of the light from the window, creating milky white reflections across the images. I found something compelling in the giant white streaks of light that pervaded across the image like rainbows devoid of colour, creating something otherworldly fused with the subtler hues of the sunset. For a minuscule moment digital photography has gained it's tangibility once again - the sheen of the paper has become the protagonist of the image, but the idea has, ironically been lost once again in the usually pristine quality of a computer display (where images can be seen without the texture of paper or canvas). Here the presentation of the images, the accordance of light has entered into the landscape itself. Two worlds are fused in a strange combination of seeing and feeling, both are now able to obscure each other, and envelop each other. Two worlds - one the presentation of the images, in a city buzzing with a steady onslaught of traffic, the other a landscape outside, have been married with pixels, squashed into the same space by a haphazard fusion of light.
The Bridge in the Dwindling Light
As the light was dwindling rapidly, I managed to catch some of it's last vibrancy in this photograph of a bridge at Aberlady.
The photograph was created using the HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique and was my first successful image captured with my brand new Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I was a fascinated by the diversity of colours, the rough wooden texture of the bridge, and the slightly turquoise shadows. Shot on a wide angle lens at 24mm, F4.0, I was able to capture to curvature and structure of a large amount of the bridge, while simultaneously focusing on the detail and texture. The depth of field also focuses the eyes towards the point of interest, while the background is able to melt subtly.
The intention of this experimental piece was to explore the rarely seen elements of nature and elevate their status to a point beyond their everyday insignificance. It was important that the minutiae, and the triviality of a piece of sheep's wool, or the single strand of a spider's web could be magnified to the point of great importance. The rhythms induced by the wind on these delicate objects, and their quivering motion, juxtaposed with the hard, definite solidity of a bridge was particularly fascinating. The dichotomy between the fragile and the strong was exemplified in this way.
The End of an Era
The rose is turning away from the light, relinquishing its fascination with its very potent companion. While the daylight draws the feeblest outdoors with far from inscrutable magnetism, while plants live on its rays - their fragile stems and leaves displayed quivering and outstretched under its power, as if praying; the rose, strong and healthy shields itself from it. Its head, a majestic red crown adorned with the fascination of the light's elusivity, droops, relentlessly defying such inescapable ambiguity, and longing to escape its evasive quality. Instead it turns with the profound apprehension to the uncertain darkness. Yet one leaf turns back, hesitating, as if it desires one glance at the previous world, one glance at the certain. This leaf protrudes itself from the rest of the flower, like a child that is being carried, screaming away from its parents that is turning back with longing eyes for that last awkward glance. Or perhaps it is the soldier leaving his comrades; as he turns with apparent confidence, one hand betrays his inclination, signifying a hint of hesitation, with one motion of the hand his body has easily rid itself of determination. The rose reflects the same unconscious disposition, the curve of its body seems unwilling, and while its head is bowed towards the dark, it is still struck by a glimmer of light.
The rose is turning away from an era, as I turn away from mine. It is uncertain about the possibility, it is uncertain about the darkness, and the knowledge of the daylight seems unquestionably comfortable. It doesn't know what awaits in the future of the darkness beyond. It doesn't know whether the darkness is but a small fluctuation in some prevalent light.
The rose was given to me by a child from Class 1 at the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School. The rose signifies not only the transience of our lives but also an indication of optimistic simplicity.
Upcoming posts in connection with The End of an Era
A Decade in Images will include the most fascinating, and poignant images that define the decade. Both personal images and potraits and a series of landscapes will be inlcuded.
Class 12 trip to Russia & Ukraine
In July 2010 my Class from the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School travelled on a leaving trip to Russia & Ukraine - here is a selection of images from the adventure.
click to view gallery
I call it the flipside: How I created this image - my process and vision (currently in development WATCH THIS SPACE)
The flipside refers to a blog post that has another side with a different interpretation or elaboration on the latest entry, it was introduced on my Turning 18 entry.
(Ideally I would like the page to flip round to the other side, though this would involve Flash, which I can't get my head around, instead the flip can be imagined - it's probably more exciting that way!)
How our art can become scattered around us
This torn and rather neglected picture was found discarded in the bathroom. One day I glanced down at my own alter-ego staring back at me with a little suprise and then excitement that a piece of myself, a scattering of my art had found itself in an entirely different place. How startling it is to realise that all around you representations of yourself are staring up at you.
Another Dread, maybe slightly too late
Is it the indefatigable efforts made by Hollywood to always repeat ridiculously successful films with new iterations of the same film with concerningly similar titles, or merely a chance for others to try and better the hugely successful, award winning Dread? Here, I am drawing parallels between my first film, shot in 2004, in the barn beside my house and edited on my home computer to a 2010, newly released feature entitled under the identical name, that appears on the itunes site.
Six years later, Dread returns it's ghoulish head, with new energy, this time, however the terror is portrayed in a more appropriate 18 rating, which guarantees undeniable terror, unlike it's feeble counterpart. Having not yet watched this new version it is difficult to guage it's similarities. The title and the font seem largley identical, however the similarites end here: while my film Dread is the fantasy quest for a lost amulet, with unconsoius resemblances to the Lord of the Rings trilogy - I was only 13 at the time! - this new incarnation seems profoundly more distrurbing, hence it's eighteen-ness.
A poster text blowup illustrates the similarities between the font used in this 2010 film, Dread - Lionsgate UK Ltd, copyright MMIX Cinema Three SPV1 Ltd, and my 2004 film with the same title.
Myself shooting my film entitled, Dread, in 2004 when I was 13 years old.
I turned eighteen on the 15th of March 2010!
When I woke in the morning I followed a path of pink circles, downstairs to the "big room" (as we always call it) where I glanced a huge "one" and a huge "eight" cut out of cardboard, beneath it were presents.
Screening of the day: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 3D.
(Ideally I would like the page to flip round to the other side, though this would involve Flash, which I can't get my head around, instead the flip can be imagined - it's probably more exciting that way!)
Hopefully there will be more to add to this entry in the future, keep your eyes glued to turning eighteen - even if other entries, that pretend to be more exciting, though actually are not, suddenlly appear.
How RIGID can we become?
Rigidity surrounds us, while we often chance to stand mystified in apparent wonder, regarding the monuments, bridges, temples, pillars and all manner of structures from antiquity, with a deliberation that strives only to remark at their ungraspable strength, we remain naïve at the ever so tenuous yet significant grip that rigidity holds upon us. We cannot escape its symmetrical and deliberately balanced construction, in the forms of man made structures, yet equally we cannot tear ourselves away from the pressure it exerts upon us. When we find ourselves in a situation that proves demanding, the long, elongated, skeletal hands, poignant renditions of rigidity itself, reduced to the unalterable structure that appears to highlight our mortality, grasp us, ensuring a tension that is uncompromisingly firm and unyielding in it’s discomfort. The hands illustrate the aspect of are conscience that triggers tension, anxiety, stress and an agitated edginess that confines itself to the very fibrous tissue of our muscles that serve under our often tenuous command.
As the hands serve merely as unconscious manifestations of the tension within us, this tension constantly strives to retain invisibility, and while we often physically appear free from its grasp it’s power often proves unshakeable and when the hands dwindle away, their grip delivers a strain, perhaps of some untimely unease in the shoulder or awkward twinge of pain in the neck, that lasts for some time. For the moment that we suffer under their grasp we feel inflexible, fixed in an apprehensive and inconstant stance in a place that feels so densely impenetrable and constricted, to the extent that the very air proves itself to be surprisingly firm, oddly hard and we become as solid as a tortoise shell, clenched in an uncomfortable, self-constricting anguish – designed for nothing, merely as a form of precaution to soften the impact itself, so that when it strikes some of it’s power becomes diminished by the experience of previous anxiety that preceded it.
This tension proves to be destructive, however the destruction that it causes can be braced, and it can be met with a force that quenches it’s desire for control, for it is the very lack of structure and control that demands it’s existence. By depriving it from achieving control, order should immediately be distilled, so that the panic does not assume it’s incredible grasp. The tension lives on rigidity, it is like water to its thirst. It’s strength lies in it’s invisibility, however this tension can be externalised, turned inside out, so that it can be paraded in it’s beautifully vulgar glory, viewed in a predicament unpleasant to behold, so that it can be demoralised, frowned upon, laughed and jeered at – so that, when it reaches the height of infamous and incredulous ugliness, it loses the power to assume control, becoming unrecognizable and insignificant.
We can become as rigid as we like; however, rigidity proves itself to be inferior to our more refined characteristics, such as flexibility, change and movability. It defines itself in its inability to be changed or transformed – this strength also brings it weakness, for it cannot adapt to different circumstances, and therefore it cannot live.
Here is a selection of images that show tension and rigidity in structures around us.
Please check out other exciting entries,
Reassurance in the repetition of things
The scene in which we are introduced to the Man and Boy in The Road, a 2009 film adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel, under the same title, serves to exemplify the relationship between father and son, in which the son relies on the father for comfort, reassurance and help. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, father and son are part of a numbered few, surviving in the last remnants of a civilization that has been reduced to scattered gangs of thieves and cannibals. This shattered world is a canvas upon which father and son are tested to the limits of their consciences, ultimately they a bound by love, but can this love be taken to the extent that the father takes it, as he considers killing his son rather than letting him be consumed in a way rather more grotesque?
The boys reliance and devotion towards his father is beset with difficulty, while the father solely cares for their own survival, the boy proves to be evangelical in his desire to help others, as an old man they meet on their travels expresses: “When I saw that boy I thought I'd died and he was an angel. I never thought I'd see a child again”. However it is the relationship that establishes the characters and their position, so the boy grows, to the extent that he can survive without his father.
The Road (2009) Production still
The relationship between father and son is bound by inseparable love; while the father lives solely for the future of his son, the son relies on his father for reassurance and help. The boy’s desire for reassurance is illustrated in the way that the father and son survive, their belief is that they have to “carry the fire” that burns inside them, this becomes a mantra that keeps them going, preventing them from reaching despair.
The Road (2009) Screenplay
The two characters in The Train to Eternity, a screenplay that I am currently writing, share a relationship that is not unlike the father and son relationship. Sebastian, and 80 year old man assumes the role of the adult, father figure that constantly watches over his son, keeping him from harms way, while Piccadilly, a 22 year old man with short-term memory loss, is naïve, questioning and inexperienced. Although at the surface, he appears to be lively, hyperactive, perhaps over-emotional, underneath he is inherently laid back, unaware, with the constant reliance of his elder, more experienced friend to look after him. Unlike Piccadilly, Sebastian assumes the appearance of one calmer, under control, illustrated in his dialogue and actions, beneath this deceiving veil, he is deeply agitated and anxious – this cannot be seen by Piccadilly, and is his deepest flaw. For, Piccadilly cannot understand what his friend has gone through, nor that they can only coexist, not dwell in separation.
The Train To Eternity (2010) Screenplay
Father and son stories interest me, as Joe in The Biker confronted his fears and anxieties, which partly manifested themselves in the relationship with his father, The Train to Eternity examines a father and son relationship in the abstract, unbinding the cords that make such a relationship, and tying them into something, where the basic knots that form trust and love exist without the genetics.
However when Piccadilly comes to meet his father, he remains as emotionally detached, if not more so, that he had been with Sebastian. The story is one that forms itself in Piccadilly’s mind, it does not serve to explicate anything other than his emotional journey, which peaks in activity and enthusiasm at his “birth”, at which he delivers a repetitive stream of questions concerning his immediate situation, from then there is a downfall, plummeting towards his “death”, at which his entire “life” becomes forgotten – the cycle continues its inexhaustible constriction into a circle, as a train does, for eternity.
Dan and Joe in The Biker - production still.
Goodbye 2009 hello 2010
2009 wasn't awful and 2010 will be even better. But there is still a sense of loss and uncertainty that always escalates during the strange jump that occurs from the depth of twilight of one year to dawn of another, time travels in a way that is unpredictable, and the year ahead immediately strides towards you like a great giant wielding some unfortunate weapon, until you become diminished in size and daunted by it's impressive vastness. But this vastness is a canvas that can stretch to infinite proportions, like elastic, in a way that is unconstrained, devoid of anything... only possibility.
To find an object that encapsulates change and describes the passage of time would be intresting. The icicle is one such object, composed of water, it drips constantly and with a cadence that measures it's melting, to the point when it is non-existent, merely a puddle of water that later evaporates. The year that is behind us is like that, although it has melted into nothingness, it still remains vivid in our minds, and with the new year stretching ahead, we have already started the dipping of another icicle, shaped differently, and let it's drips resonate in time with our heartbeat.
As you have most likely guessed - we have a great deal to learn from 2009, and by looking at our experiences over the previous year we can often see that huge fissures and cracks that opened themselves and claimed to be perilous anxieties are now, merely miniscule bubbles - severely diminished in size, not unlike the tiny imperfections that manifest themselves on the skin or the minute bubbles of air that appear inside the icicle itself. By looking carefully at the icicle, we can learn things, we can learn of the imperfections in nature and their resonance in the larger scheme of things. In other words we can use the cliched phrase: "It allows you to get perspective on things."
As I ask myself the obvious question: what was best in 2009? I should also consider, ludicrous as it may be, what is best in the formation of this icicle? You can probably answer yourself. After all, the year can carry a multitude of experiences with it. The icicle provides the answer, and the icicle is 2009, however weird that may appear.
Image: An insignificant icicle - in my garden.
25th December 2009
It was with delight that we ventured into the bitter cold, all dressed up in our mittens and hats, safe inside our protective layers. It was so cold that my hands kept on shaking every time I reached for the camera slung around my neck, but despite the chill factor I still managed to capture some great images. I haven't had the experience of shooting in the snow before with my DSLR, everything seems more difficult and every move has to be careful, just to make sure that I don't end up upside down in the snow.
Capturing images of such intense light and shadow is difficult, the stark white of the snow and the tracks etched deep into it, set against the golden light of the sun, creates an atmosphere of nature laid bare. There is something fascinating about the golden sunlight meeting the footprints in the snow, all the nuances normally invisible to the naked eye are exaggerated, and for a moment the snow becomes golden yellow, set against the blue, creating the impression of warmth even in the bitter cold.
This lighting often known as the "magic hour" by cinematographers, and the "golden hour" in still photography creates an atmosphere which captures the dying light of the day, it is at a position in the sky where long shadows are cast, and these mingle with the snow, silhouetting the branches.
The single drop of snow appears fragile, small and insignificant yet we are drawn to it's importance in the frame, and it's precedence over millions of other drops of snow. This fragile drop immediately becomes important, giant and engulfing, like a single person in a crowd, or a fish in the ocean.
Myself in the snow - Dad took the shot on his iphone.
My Dad in the snow with his hat.
A tree branch in the snow - frozen and fragile.
A tree in the snow covered with green lichen.
© Ad Howells 2010