Insomnia – Cinematic story?


Bed Check from the series Insomnia – Hotel Noir  photograph copyright of Douglas Stockdale

Again, another comment by Anita regarding the development of this series and an observation about the cinematic feeling she is getting. Cinematic is just not a term that I casually drop into a conversation. So my first reaction was that this is an industry term of hers, working with the film studios in LA.

But subliminally, that term kept banging around and until it dawned on me, what was the big difference in this series that was so vague and lurking in the background, but yet because I was so close to the work that I was doing, that I was missing. (Okay, one of those Duh!  in the middle of taking a shower things, when I usually let my mind aimlessly wonder and free associate)

Egads, Anita was right, I was developing a kinda Cinematic storyline. Rather than photographing what was, e.g.  a Robert Frank or Friedlander series and the such, I was trying to photograph the experience it felt like, in a kinda Cindy Sherman sort of way. No wonder I was having such issues with this series, this was totally outside of what I thought I was doing, but in retrospect, exactly what I was in fact doing.  I was not thinking cinematic story in 2006 when I started this.

This is one of those Aha! moments. You know when you may be thinking you are photographing the urban landscape, but then you figure out it is metaphorically about your personal relationship with your Grandmother kinda of thing. (No, that is not what the urban landscape is about for me, just an example of what could be a weird Aha! moment)

So how did this come about, eh? Going from natural landscape photography to a cinematic story is a pretty big conceptual leap. But recall, when I started working on Insomnia, I was already into my series In Passing, the urban/rural landscapes series with the roadside memorials, which was becoming an introspective look at my own mortality.

I started the Insomnia series, trying to photograph places, events and people that were doing something that actualized my own feelings at the time. Really thinking a Robert Frank type of series, in line with my other urban landscape work.  Since I am not a people person photographer, or at least I sure was not at the time, I was very uncomfortable photographing someone doing something. So I defaulted to the next best thing, a patient model who could understand my silly directions & intent, I could photograph myself doing stuff. In retrospect, that was the Cindy Sherman moment.  And it seems one thing lead to another, where I eventually started pushing and pulling furniture, to help create the “scene” to be photographed. I would get an idea about a feeling or emotion, then I would kinda act it out for the camera. Yesheee.

Well at least I have found a missing conceptual link, that is at least starting to make this series easier for me to understand. About time, eh?

Thank you Anita, for your continuing feedback and comments on this series. I hope you now understand how valuable I feel your participation is.

Best regards, Doug


8 thoughts on “Insomnia – Cinematic story?

Add yours

  1. (Please forgive me if this a repeat. I think I sent my first attempt to comment off to cyber-heaven.)

    You are incredibly generous to thank me for my comments. I appreciate it.

    It is a joy to watch this series unfold. I recall when you discussed your experience with the struggle between head and heart. This series would appear to be the outcome of that encounter.

    Your recent series of posts provide an education in developing a series. I wonder if you will incorporate some of this material in your book and workshops on photobook publishing? The techical side of that undertaking is daunting enough, but the questions that you have tackled here are the real roadblocks. I hope your examination of the development of this series will be accessible. Perhaps you are working on two books simultaneously.

    On a personal level, your posts have deeply challenged me to dig deep and keep working to grow. You have charted a course, but set high marks.

    By the way, judging by the state of this series so far, it would appear that you are doing a good job at a number of “cinematic” jobs—director, actor, cinematographer, property department, lighting grip, to name a few. :-)

  2. Good question as to how much of this background information will be included within the “Insomnia” book. I have only a faint idea of what the text will be included, first trying to figure out which photographs and then pairing & sequencing. Maybe I need someone else to write the introduction and provide the perspective and context?

    For the book workshop, to illustrate a point, I will draw on this. But what I am sharing seems really more pertinent to my creative process, as non-linear as it is.

    Okay, so just what does a lighting grip do, hold the lights?

  3. Since you have chronicled so effectively the evolution of your process and the way you arrived at this series, it would be a shame if it weren’t put together in one of your books. (I know—easy for me to say. I wouldn’t be struggling to fit it into a book.) I think many of us (I am a perfect example) need to be more concerned about putting together a series that is worth putting into a book. That’s what is so inspiring about your work and your posts. You have been quite open about the bumps in the creative journey, but then the real payoff is that you are producing something so deeply personal that it is universal. You are in the midst of quite an impressive mental and emotional juggling act. Most people can’t combine talking about creative process in a meaningful way while producing meaningful work.

  4. Anita, a good alternative while waiting (for who knows how long) for my book, you can find the book “Photo Projects” by Chris Dickie, published by Argentum. I purchase my copy at Barnes & Knoble. A nicely written book with a lot of great case studies.

    Perhaps another workshop subject for me, eh?

  5. I am familiar with how some cultures do not like to have their likeness captured as it takes “something” away from them.

    But I don’t think that is the case for me. I am a bit of a shy guy and most of my family & friends don’t want to have intimate photographs taken or shown to others. So more to do with honoring another person’s privacy.

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