Through the Lens

Through the Lens

Raoul Slater


28th May 2013

Photographs by Raoul Slater

Raoul Slater shares with eARTh what it is like to photograph a festival such as Floating Land, again and again. Documenting the Floating Land arts festival may well be the best gig a photographer could ever have. I have worked the last three – ’07, ’09, and ’11 – and am keenly anticipating this year’s celebrations because of the unlimited brief I will be given, the unrestricted access I will have to participants in the workshops, and because of the exceptional works that will be created.

When working at the scenic Boreen Point festival site, I’m just as likely to become intrigued by a bird or a fungus as I am by one of the sculptures. The organizers appear to be delighted with any photo I take, whether it is of the event or the environment. In fact, they seem happier seeing me down in the dirt stalking a toadstool or stripped to my budgies in the water after an egret than when I am making a record of one of the works of art.

Participants in the festival’s workshops (or their guardians, in the case of school children) sign photographic waivers.

Essentially a bird photographer with little experience making human portraits, I have come to appreciate the freedom the waivers bestow. I can treat people like birds, sniping away at the edges of workshops with a long lens and tripod, capturing fleeting expressions of delight or delinquency as they pass across the faces of enthralled students.

As for the art pieces, they never fail to challenge and inspire. The setting helps tremendously – the changing moods and light of the lake can turn a single sculpture into a kaleidoscope of works. Two months out from the festival I have been going to “camera-gym”: practicing new techniques with which to capture the nuances. Light painting, join-ups, neutral density filters, black and white conversions, large format printing – I plan to be ready.

(Egret Splashing, Floating Land Festival, 2011. Photograph by Raoul Slater)

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