Salt Moon by Simon Harsent and David Harsent
Salt Moon is a collaboration between photographer, Simon Harsent and poet, David Harsent. It began as a series of slow-exposure photographs of moonlight reflected in the ocean. “This series of photographs presents the viewer with a fixed record of the fleeting forms of light and water – capturing the transient and elusive nature of both sea and moon from a constant point,” Simon Harsent said.
Haunted by the images Simon’s father, David, responded with a startling sequence of poems. “The first two or three lines of poetry fell into my mind and the first fragments of a narrative formed,” he said. “I could hear a music, but wasn’t sure whether it was his music or mine. I think it was the subtle variations in his images that gave rise to staged repetitions – a sort of ostinato - in the poems.”
The result is their first publication together Salt Moon.
In their own words
Simon Harsent: In the calmest sea, in the stillest waters, there is always movement. This series of photographs presents the viewer with a fixed record of the fleeting forms of light and water – capturing the transient and elusive nature of both sea and moon from a constant point.
The moon, acting as both light source and active protagonist, controlling as it does the ebb and flow of the tide, is seen against the sea’s canvas. The image becomes fractured against this moving backdrop and the resulting fragments, these splinters of light, combine to provide a record of a particular moment in time, as individual and unrepeatable as a fingerprint. The resulting reflection has a painterly quality and yet appears almost granular – like an ultrasound scan of the ocean, as if nature has been broken down into its component parts and then crudely reconstructed by the camera for the viewer. This in turn creates an interesting tension, the abstraction of the scene makes the familiar seem remote, creating a push-pull response that itself echoes the tides of the sea.
However, these pictures also raise questions of causality and assumption, for although it seems almost irresistible to assume that the sea is the author of these patterns, twisting the lunar light into new shapes, it is of course the moon that is the catalyst for movement – calm and stoic, behind the scenes.
David Harsent: I first saw Simon’s Salt Moon sequence some years ago. I was moved and oddly perturbed by the cold beauty of the images, and I had gone back to them from time to time. I suppose images charged by his images were in the making, and I could sense that. It was like being reminded of something that hadn’t yet happened. Much later, the first two or three lines of poetry fell into my mind and the first fragments of a narrative formed. I could hear a music, but wasn’t sure whether it was his music or mine. I think it was the subtle variations in his images that gave rise to staged repetitions – a sort of ostinato – in the poems.
I’m not going to try to describe how the photographs affected me and, eventually, caused lines of poetry to fall to hand; obviously, the poems themselves do that. I will, though, offer one moment as evidence of the depth of response I felt. I was about half-way through my sequence, and looking at the Salt Moon photographs every day – first looking, then deliberately walking away. It was a meditative process, but in no way restful. One morning, I found myself caught up in the images in a way that was half-dream. I seemed to be below the surface of the sea and looking up at moonlight striking the skim. I think I stopped breathing and I felt my heart shift. I didn’t write that day.
Printed by Guillemot Press, Salt Moon is a limited-edition section-sewn hardback, printed on Mohawk Superfine papers, with embossed casebound cover and printed dust jacket. 60pp / 28 photographs / 190mm x 290mm.
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