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  • Madeline Shann

Learning about Light and Colour



Though I’ve been waiting so long, organising, anticipating, researching, it doesn’t feel exciting now, coming out to shoot in this, these bleak, colourless days. It reminds me of the atmosphere created with horrible success in the apocalyptic films The Road and Children of Men, the stifling grey, the sense of nowhere to go, no birth, no bloom, no new life.

It’s weird that in retrospect, despite the various striking events from those films, that aesthetic choice is one of the things that has haunted me the most. The grey. That unrelenting sense of misery. The creeping-fog feeling that nothing grows, or thrives, or blossoms, that there’s no sky.

Such a fine layer of air over the planet. Such a tight bubble around us. It seems absolutely incredible that we just pump poison into it. More and more everyday. It is crazy. It’s like smoking a cigar in your diving helmet.

Its frustrating trying to start this project in the worst season I could have picked, and in such a bad type of winter, for weeks now just featureless grey.

Every year we rehearse. What if everything was dead? What if the ground was hard and cold and nothing grew? What if the sky was dull? And every year we do the same thing; hunker down and wait for it to end, certain that it will end.


It feels hopeless. It feels like there's nothing to wish for and nothing to save. I’m looking around for things to make art with, for things to share, to find ways of tapping into a world that makes people feel alive, and bewitched, and happy to be here, and I’m struggling to find things. Light and life are so conspicuous by their absence now, after days of this.


And then I wrote this: A Play in Three Acts


ACT 1:

I’ve ordered lights,

They’ve not arrived yet and I miss them already.

I feel both meanings of the word now:

“Not dark” and “not heavy”

The test shots are unusable, even as test-shots.

The camera does its best but honestly.

At this time of day, at this time of year, located entirely within my kitchen I cannot make an Aurora Borealis.

I’m so sorry.

It depresses me to look at it to be honest.

Weeks and not a single magic hour.

There’s not been a sunrise, no sunset either, just the slow, begrudging turning of a dial, from black

to grey

and back.

It threatens to snow but it doesn’t really mean it.


The photos from up home are bright, dazzling winter days.

Electric blue skies, sparkling white snow, shining sun.

From here you wouldn’t know there was anything bigger,

Any such thing as bright, as blue.

The sky is sealed.

A dirty ceiling.

It's a cliche to let it get you down

It's (absolutely) pathetic fallacy

But what's the point in getting the camera out for this?

What's the point in anything?


ACT 2:



But Then

The day of the shoot

The sun came out

For twenty five seconds and we caught them all

We even caught twenty of them on camera

And at the end of the day,

on the way home

The part of the sky where the sun lives

Raised the blind just a few inches

Said I’m still here.

There’s still something to fight for.


And off the train, the night sky wasn’t grey, or black,

It was blue,

Like a felt-tip

Bright, dark blue.


ACT 3:

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