Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Notes on Intuition

Mar 27, 2021 - Michael Swann

“Intuition? They say intuition is sort of feeling and intellect going at the same time. It’s a knowingness.”

– David Lynch


“You go by intuition and the ideas that come, and if you don’t understand them right away, just think about them as they gather together, and something thrilling for you can come.”

– David Lynch

I’ve never been one to trust my intuition; self-doubt and a general tendency to over-think quashed that ability a long time ago, and yet, all of the art I love, by many of the creators I admire, was produced with a certain amount of reliance on intuition.
When I arrived in Garabandal for the first time, to start making work for ‘Noema’, I immediately felt a sense of defeat. I wasn’t making the images I knew I wanted to make, they lacked the mysticism that the space, and the events that occurred there, possessed. By the time the camera was primed for every shot, I had questioned why I was about to press the shutter, and then proceeded in accordance to whether or not my conviction for that potential image was strong enough. On returning home, and going through the process of scanning the film and making selections, very few were of any use. Following David Lynch’s quote above, I had focused too heavily on intellect and not at all on feeling.
There was one image, however, that did stand out. Wooden fencing forming a horizon line across the frame from both left and right, not quite meeting at the middle. Above the line, the beginning of a wild, grass covered hill, and below, a slightly different terrain of jagged rocks. Among the rocks there is a patch of burnt earth; this image shows just one, but in the area outside the frame, these patches were numerous. I took this image as it was situated just up the hill from a location known as ‘Los Pinos’, a cluster of pine trees where many of the apparitions, including the very last, took place, and where now, 60 years on, the locals and pilgrims base much of their worship. But the image itself, to anyone but myself or those who know the area, gives none of this context. I had no clue as to why these patches of burnt earth were there, and for that reason I clung to the image; it possessed questions that even I, the person who made it, couldn’t answer. This intuitive image formed the foundation of my shooting process from that point on.
The works of David Lynch have inspired my journey with photography since the very beginning. He allows himself, as creator, to be driven by his own ideas as if they exist outside of himself. In fact, they may often emerge from within his subconscious; very few of us could claim to have a complete understanding of our own subconscious, so why try to rationalise every idea that we pluck from it? Instead, in the making of ‘Noema’ I tried to follow my intuition and avoid prematurely over-analysing why I was drawn to any particular scene; this resulted in a series of images that, with every new edit or sequence, I see new connections and symbols within.