Although I trained and work(ed) in Civil Engineering I also trained myself, through night school at the local Technical College to use a lathe and other machine tools. I spent four years making a 5" gauge live steam locomotive amongst many other projects and have a well equipped workshop, that doesn't get much use these days apart from making parts for the ageing lawnmower.
For a short while the other day The Lathe became an artefact, a found object but only when I had a need for it to be. At all other times it is just there, it gets oiled and run to keep it in good condition then covered over. Suddenly when studied through the viewfinder it was different. I saw more detail, the swarf from the last job (what was I making ?) and the worn paint from years of operattion. It not only has its own history ( I bought it as a ruin and refurbished it) but where are all the things now that were made with it. The previous users, what did they make with it ?. So for a few minutes this tool had a different life, a photographic subject, a model. Simply lit with florescent tubes and a single work light I spent a few minutes removing items from the suds tray that were not needed and took a couple of frames on 6x6 Acros at EI160. Metering was with the incident meter in the main and with a spot meter here and there to check for any out of DR areas. There were none which was obvious to see but 6x6 makes you check and check again. The next day I processed the film in Diafine, scanned, PP and printed to 24"x24".
The photographic exercise here was to see more of the capabilities of Acros in Diafine and even after years of seeing better and better IQ this took my breath away. Shadow detail, micro detail, tonality and a feeling you get when something is right but not quite sure why. But, The Lathe was doing more that being an inert object that got its picture taken for a film test. Now it did have a platform to tell its story. It has been invited into the house where more people can see it, ask about what it does, what it made, where was it made and why do I have one. But is it art ?. Duchamp entered a fountain (urinal) as an item of art into the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition. The committee rejected the work as not being art, and The Fountain is nowadays probably one of the most recognised items within the art world. In 1925 Edward Weston photographed his toilet bowl. Weston saw beauty in the shape and was careful in how he dealt with viewpoint to deliver an image that was beyond being a toilet. His daybook entry says "Photography is realism - why make excuse".
I am currently looking for three pieces of my work to enter into a large open competition that will exhibit in King's Lynn during October. I have never entered an "open" before and cannot imagine how the selectors choose from all types of flat art. Last year a photograph won the top £2000 prize so there is some hope rather than expectation that this may happen again. The Lathe may just be one of my three.
The Lathe - (mock up of Matt and Frame)