Inside this issue
The Enigma of the Swamp by Theodor Paues
Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.
During the pandemic, many photographers were forced to spend time in their ‘local’ areas (for some definition of local). This might have been in their local park, a stretch of woodland nearby their town or village or a more rural location that was more easily accessible. It seems that for Theodor Paues, adapting to the new normal wasn’t quite as hard as for many. Theodor’s work has changed over the last few years, from his first forays into landscape photography (as documented in On Landscape) to the changes in approach that transformed his passion from craft to art.
In his previous article, he describes how mediaeval sculptors would say that they are just removing the stone that wasn’t needed to reveal gods work. I would suggest that Theodor’s swamp approaches seem a secular version of this phenomenon. As he says “It’s not documenting what I see or experience, it’s bringing out something else and I am often surprised at the end result”.
How does this manifest itself in the book?
We have a collection of images that document a forgotten place, a liminal space on the edge of the parks and local communities. A bog that would be seen by most as ‘useless’. But the images within come together and communicate a cycle of life through the seasons; of growth and decay. Glimpses of order, both found and organised, preserve moments of recognition.
The locals, who may just catch a glimpse of a peculiar five-legged figure with rubber feet disappearing into the gloom, must wonder at what possible reason they could have to wander here and yet the explorer returns with discoveries after each visit. Some discoveries engage long enough to find themselves captured in the pages of the book we browse.
But for all of this space's hidden treasures, the explorer is not alone. I can only imagine the intimate photographer's reenactment of Livingstone and Stanley’s meeting next to Lake Tanganyika - “Mr Strand I presume?!”
The book is in Swedish but comes with an English translation and is an eloquent description of the creative processes involved in the development of the project with a celebratory introduction singing the praises of the swamp by his fellow bog lover and swamp denizen Hans Strand.
I leave you with Theodor’s comments in the last essay of the book…
“Maybe a fragment of The Swamp's reality has always been inside me. Unknown and unredeemed, but still a part of my person. As an intuition, a silent companion in life, when my conscious thoughts were enough. Now partially uncovered.
One part of me wants to return to the security of who I was. But there is no turning back. The feelings and thoughts that emerged in my encounter with the swirling world of The Swamp are now irrevocably etched into my consciousness. I am all this now, for better or worse.”
You can buy Theodor’s book from his website, theodorpaues.se, which is itself, well deserving of exploration (with the assistance of Google Translate for we who are stuck with a single language).