And being that I was about to return to Svaneti for the summer, I decided to make another visit to my favorite place for seeing rust in Tbilisi: a massive open-air steelyard at the Didube end of the huge Eliava Bazaar.
While good rust can be had at any jarti (scrap metal) yard, and in many other places elsewhere too, relatively new sheet steel has a certain mix of its own bluish tomes and the super-abstract traceries of freshly formed rust jumping out at you in reds and yellows. The warm hues really do seem to float above the cooler ones when they are next to one another, due to the way our eyes and brains perceive color.
The weather was warm and cloudy, an ideal day after light rain long enough ago to both develop rust further and then dry off the steel, because I need it not to be wet for my photos. But once I got there, the sun began to peek out a bit, nearly overhead, making me have to shift my position to avoid shadows on my flat, horizontal subjects.
I first looked at the topmost sheets of new steel wherever I could find them: it had been a few months ago that I was last here with my film crew, so I could reasonable expect some sales to have revealed at least one new layer on each pile. In this I was not disappointed. The color ranges and literally unimaginable forms lay spread out around me, and I started shooting, simply using my camera’s 18-55 mm kit lens. It’s really just a matter of composing a scene in the rectangle of the viewfinder, eschewing formal centered-subject balance for something more interestingly off-center. Although all of what I’m seeing is abstract, it either suggests something concrete or represents a purely alien scene, which suits me fine.
Once I exhausted the flat sheet steel, I then began hopping and climbing onto adjacent I-beams and square pipes of large enough width to be able to shoot with the same lens. The steel used in these forms gives much more warm colors and less bluish ones, but there are still endless fantastic shapes and compositions to discover in this palette. I was sweating a little, but nothing was going to distract me from the shapes, landscapes and compositions dazzling me. I ended up with over a hundred new images, then headed off home to begin “post”, the processing of the RAW digital files.
My workflow with rust is simple. Correct edges and square grid lines. Improve color, trying to make it as close to that of the originals as possible but tweaking both contrast and saturation where necessary. Save both a full-size lossless version in 16 bits per color channel of RGB and a smaller, 8-bit JPEG version to go in my master folder of JPEGS for quick searching. I began immediately, and was stunned all over again by the forms emerging on my laptop screen. This time, too, I began naming some of the images based on what I saw in them, as I posted a new album of them to my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/anthony.tony.hanmer
Then it was time to pack up and leave for my Svaneti home and my dear wife, waiting for me. Stay tuned for news of a group exhibition on rust in which I hope to participate in Tbilisi this autumn.