Ian McKeever

Slow world

The painter Ian McKeever says this about the process of photography:

’ … one begins with the fullness of what is seen in the world, looking through the view finder of the camera. This is then reduced, first to black and white, then to light and shadow. It is a process of distilling and stilling.’

This could also refer to the process of writing poems. Poets (like artists or photographers) develop innate view finders which allow them to focus on what is essential. The poem is the reduction of that focus, distilled and stilled, sometimes so much so that a single object loses clarity, becomes an abstract of itself. That’s what I find in McKeever’s photographs; a way of developing which exaggerates light and shade, which makes us see the shadow rather than the thing which casts it.

McKeever photographs interiors. There are windows in his rooms, but they are never visible. The shadows of their panes are cast over walls and chairs, a hint of an outdoors which can never come indoors. In his rooms it is always late afternoon, there are never any people.

Writing this suddenly makes me think of the poem ‘Snow’ by Louis MacNeice. I like the 'suddenness’ of my recollection, because his poem is about a 'sudden’ vision:

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay window was
Spawning snow and and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

Both a photograph and a poem slow the suddenness of the world, stretch an instant to something timeless. MacNeice said that 'Snow’ was 'almost a piece of factual reporting … I was in fact on the day which occasioned the poem sitting in my room beside an open fire eating tangerines and there were roses in the window and outside it did begin to snow … What excited me was the sudden awareness that all these things were going on at the same time in their own right …’ The photograph too is a piece of factual reporting: this light on this wall at this hour.

As I look out the window where I sit, no snow, but a light mist of rain.