Oops, the Nekresi Monastery article I expected to write for this week will have to wait, though its photos are ready. Something equally interesting has captured my interest.
Some friends and I recently visited a steel materials stockyard in the city, on the edge of the great Eliava Bazaar. We had looked around to find one which wasn’t roofed, demonstrating a certain divergence in the steel sellers’ and my own preferences: They want to minimize rust on their product (forming as a result of rain and snow), whereas I want to photograph the rust and am not interested without it. We found what we were looking for, and then returned so they could video me taking my shots, part of a documentary film they are making of me as an artist.
The best parts of all the various sizes, forms and gauges of Fe on display, for my purposes, are the giant flat sheets or plates, stacked according to thickness and size. These are still quite new and have a bluish sheen which contrasts perfectly with the reds and oranges of the corrosion slowly forming on their surfaces. I roamed around and began shooting, aiming straight down and trying to get my camera’s plane of focus perfectly parallel to these flat surfaces, in order to achieve sharp focus everywhere. The curved or flat sides of square or round tubes were less interesting to me, though not at all less colorful, simply because they were older and also would be much less in the sharp focus which I wanted.
Because I can find beauty everywhere, it was not hard to be delighted. The alien worlds and freakish landscapes were sights I have never seen before, just lying out there in the open for anyone who will (or can) notice and be dazzled. I even bought a couple of small squares, about 12 inches on a side, for 7 GEL each, to take home as souvenirs. These I had to decide about: Spray varnish onto them, thus fixing their patterns and arresting further development, or leave them in, say, my bathroom to continue slowly rusting more each day?
In the end I opted for the fixing. One square has a man’s neck and head on it, in profile, mouth open and speech visible in front of him. His thoughts rise above him in a series of small balloons. The other square simply features a tree alone on a hill, its leafy branches blowing sideways in the wind.
Home again, to post-process in photoshop. This was largely about increasing the saturation and contrast of the images, making them pop and become even more other-worldly. Then I went a step further from reality: I also made black and white versions, which are full of contrast as I raise or lower the amount of brightness of six different colors relative to each other. Now what you see has never existed in nature, because rust on steel is always full of its own colors. That’s fine with me. I’m not out to document reality but to find or make beauty everywhere I go. Even something as entropic, mundane and undesired as corrosion from moisture on ferric surfaces can be transformed into little planes of existence which sparkle with imagination.
I may go back in a few days, once the current rains have dried on the steel and brought more rust, or people have bought a topmost sheet or two, giving me new material with which to work. I may also try getting as little as possible in focus, by angling the camera in relation to the plane of each sheet.
A final thought occurs to me, impractical in my situation but waiting for someone with the means to make it work. This would be a Timelapse of the same piece of steel, over weeks or months, say one shot a day as it continues to rust. It would need constant lighting daily and a camera devoted to the task. Maybe someone will do it, and take RUST to a whole new level even from that which I have found. Until then, open your eyes and see what is there right before you. See.