Kenneth Madden


Kenneth is a thirty one year old native of Galway City, Ireland. He has had a keen interest in photography since the age of ten when he bought a 35mm camera and chased sunsets to the nearby beach. He bought his first SLR camera before Kenneth moved to Guatemala to learn Spanish and do volunteer work. It is this manual Nikon camera that captured the images from Guatemala, taken between 1999 and 2000.

Kenneth works in the area of social work. He now uses a digital Nikon SLR camera (D3 and D200 for those into technology) and likes to experiment in all areas of photography from landscapes and portraits to fine art photography. His focus has more recently been on revealing the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is explored more fully in the exhibition entitled Reflections on Light and Shade. Kenneth likes to keep as faithful as possible to the original image and therefore does not manipulate his images with Photoshop (excluding the obvious conversion from RAW format and conversion to black and white etc).

Philosophy of Photography

I used to think of photography as ‘capturing moments’ but something about that sat uneasily with me. Surely to view photography as the capturing of a moment requires that I can define a moment? Now that was tricky.  A moment must be different from what proceeded it and what followed it. It must be separate to be definable. So if it’s separate then there must be a boundary. But how can there be a boundary if this boundary can be arbitrarily shifted so easily in time? The mind could struggle with the concept of time and moments and moments in time etc until it’s in a knot.

And then there was a seeing that the ordinary is extraordinary. All along the ordinary life I took for granted; blood pumping around my body, simply breathing- was seen to be the very thing I was searching for in one way or another. Simple life was beyond description and there was no need to search as what i had always searched for was what was flooding through all of my senses. Beingness, Aliveness (God, The Tao, Buddha Nature, Brahma- call it what you want)-that can’t be found and can’t be lost. It was like the refocusing of a camera lens. I was always looking at it but the very search for it kept it hidden.

There was a period then of thinking I had done something to make this happen (namely meditation) but there was also a clear seeing that there could be no path to here. No way to approach where or what you already are. There are no paths, there are no teachers. Simply this, now, here and you are in no way seperate from any of it. After the initial seeing of this I meditated for a period of time but realized from the start that there was only meditation. Similarly I saw that there was no such thing as spiritual practices in that everything can be seen as a spiritual practice. What I’m pointing at has nothing to do with what I thought of as ‘Spirituality’ or ‘God’. Although it was very obvious that almost all major religions and spiritual traditions were pointing to it- or better said pointing to THIS and by THIS I mean literally whats happening now and the absence of a separate “You” in it. Neither does it have anything to do with being a somehow better and or integrated person (Self development and progressive endeavour keep us striving for something that’s always just beyond our reach in some future time that never seems to arrive).  What then does it have to do with photography?

Photographs were no longer evidence of a past experience on my linear movement into the future towards my death. The photographs are NOW because there is no boundary between when they were taken and when they are looked at or any boundary is simply a thought, that is illusionary. The idea of past present and future is born at the moment of a contraction into separation from the whole. This separation creates the idea of subject and object (me and that over there).  There is then a distance between this and that and between both apparently separate objects there is movement that creates past, present (mostly a thin sliver) and future.

So instead of capturing moments i see photography as capable of instilling a child like awe at the world, revealing that ordinary life is in fact extraordinary. Perhaps it is that when looking at things there is a ‘me’ looking, judging, evaluating and relating. When looking at a beautiful picture this ‘me’ can momentarily drop away revealing immediate intimate beauty. Beauty that you are not separate from. This can happen when viewing any form of ‘art’ and often when doing an everyday task. We forget ourselves all the time but its such an ordinary occurrence it’s not noticed.

They say that a picture paints a thousand words. In order words the picture can be pointed to by an infinite number of words but the they are never what they point to, they are never the picture. Words are the “finger pointing to the moon” they are beautifully dualistic. Of course a photograph is simply light reflected-a dance of light, yet it is beyond any interpretation or description of it. For me this simply shows that life is so immediately and intimately present that any need to understand it or describe it falls away. The “I” or “me” can be seen for the concept that it is- the presently arising thought. The boundless expansion that follows its falling away is beyond any effort to describe it. I found that it (this, now) was a million times more incredible then my mind could have ever imagined and yet stunningly ordinary and simple.

So as far as I’m concerned great photographers don’t take beautiful pictures. There is simply a revealing of what’s right before our eyes, that the ordinary is extraordinary, every moment is the best moment. That is to say- This is it.

May 2008

Kenneth Madden