Hanabi (2021)

The fun thing about participating in The Kick-About is the way it produces these intense bouts of creative exploration, sending me off in different directions every two weeks and often exerting a tight grip on my imagination. What’s really nice about The Kick-About is the way these moments are fleeting, and when I’m finally done with something, I’m done.

With regards to the specific prompt for the KA#40 – exquisite illustrations for Japanese firework catalogues – I was as much drawn to the elegance of the illustrations’ portrait format, as to the visual pleasures of the fireworks themselves, which gave rise to this final turn of the wheel. These latest panels, which take their name from the Japanese word for firework (or fire flower), derive from the sleek letter-box format of the short film Whizz Bang Ooh Aah, which in turn derived from a series of photographs with soap bubbles as their original subject. They make me want to see them printed very large in a hushed and darkened room, lit by soft white light.

Short Film: Whizz Bang Ooh Aah (2021)

Thanks to The Kick-About No.40, I went shooting off on another short-lived, if intense, trajectory inspired by these beautiful and poetic illustrations of fireworks. I’ve been sharing images resulting from my photography of soap bubbles, which was the safest way I could think of – in a short time – to work with colourful displays as fleeting as fireworks. I really enjoyed some of imagery, finding in it some of the explosive qualities we associated with pyrotechnics. What these experiments couldn’t express was the kineticism and noise of a good firework display, so I was further tempted to have a bash at using the photographs to produce some moving-image. Whizz Bang Ooh Aah is the result, my intention being to get close to that moment at the end of a big organised show when the sights and sounds become almost over-whelming, before the abrupt outbreak of darkness, silence – and applause!

After Flowers Of Fire #5 (2021)

A few last squibs from my photographic mission to ‘blow things up’ in response to the firework theme of The Kick-About No.40, only the only ‘blowing up’ taking place in the production of these images was me blowing down a short length of hosepipe into some very soapy water. All the breaking apart and bokeh derives from focusing through the resulting bubbles, producing these immersive, layered constellations.

After Flowers Of Fire #2 (2021)

A second assortment of ‘bubble-originated’ photographs forming part of my attempts to emulate scintillas of firework-inspired sparks for the purposes of exploring The Kick-About No.40. It does look as if I’ve been photographing handfuls of sequins or similar, or puffing smoke and glitter into the air. More prosaically, I was sitting beside a big bowl of soap suds with a length of hosepipe in my mouth, blowing mounds of bubbles into existence, before capturing all the points of lights, froth and facets in the view finder. Another run-of-the-mill day at Red’s Kingdom!

After Flowers Of Fire #1 (2021)

The Kick-About No.40 inevitably got me thinking about ways I might make fireworks my photographic subject without burning down the house in the process! I settled upon an equivalent phenomena that shared both the ‘rainbows’ and ephemerality of fireworks, filling a large white bowl with water and lots of washing-up liquid, and setting about blowing large heaps of bubbles. I was able to focus on, and through, all the multiple planes of the bubbles, which I soon learned produced these nicely ‘explosive’ qualities. I was reminded of the moments just after a rocket explodes, so not the big sky-born chrysanthemums, but the petering out of the last few sparks against the smudges of smoke. I took a whole bunch of photographs, always trying to find the next most expressive composition, and all the time racing against the inevitable popping of my soapy installation. There’s a few more to see over the coming days.