Saturday Evening Post #83 :Nothing in Art must look Accidental

Many years ago, a lifetime in cat years in-fact, I was visiting a friend who invited me to view a portfolio of photographic prints that he had been given.

“What do you think?” he asked.

When I look at someone else’s work, I like to take the time to ‘live’ with the images. To let the visuals ‘ooze’ down into me and see them with the intent of the maker.
Now these were substantial prints. The smallest would have been about 20×24″ (50x65cm).

So I began to turn them over. After three or four of them, I was struck with the singular feeling from each one.
They were all landscapes, and more ‘Land” than “Scape”.  Small details of rock, or tree, branch or pool, edge or small surface.
Let it be known, I’m a minimalist at the best of times, and such an approach to line, form, shape, tone, pattern are a preferred photo hunting ground from me.

Yet, as I continued to turn the prints over, it became clear to me, that what I was looking at were, if nothing else, simply technical exercises. No intent to involve the viewer. Just segments of something.

“So?” I was asked.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “I think there is very little of the maker to be seen in any of these shots.”  “Most are a jumble of visual elements that don’t hold in a cohesive way, allowing me as a viewer to be part of the experience.” “I can’t determine how the maker felt, did they like or dislike the scene, was it a happy time or a strain.”  “The maker certainly has put a lot of time into the making, and I’m not sure if they made the prints or had a lab produce them, so it is quite a time and monetary investment, but I’m struggling for the ‘Why”.

Freeman Patterson, once said at a seminar, “Nobody can ever hide behind the camera. Accept the fact that when you make a picture you are revealing a little about yourself. For us most subjects have a symbolic importance.”
And I guess that is what I missed in the portfolio, the symbolic importance.

I’ve worked a range of genre over the years.  Even spent a week as a horse photographer. But I moved on from that quickly when I discovered how smart horses are.

I also worked for awhile photographing classic cars for car-mags.  Having an inherent interest in the subject, I found that it was much more than a technical exercise of showing off the car, or the working parts.  Classics are put together, sometimes over many years by enthusiasts, and I enjoyed being able to find those special little touches the maker had put into the vehicle, and bringing those for others to share and delight in.

Content and style need to work together to covey feelings and ideas for the viewer to experience.

I really enjoy exploring buildings. Not so much the whole structure, but the little touches that either the builder, architect, or owner has put in to say, “This is what I enjoy”

Where-ever I’ve travelled, both in Australia, and overseas, looking for those little moments of bouncing light, or delicate colours or interesting arrangements of elements, that stimulates me to bring the camera to my eye and frame an extension of the makers original vision.

One of my fav lenses for this sort of work is a 70-200mm zoom. The narrower angle forces me to be very specific and include only the absolute essentials.  I’ve often thought that if I had to only have one lens on a desert island, then the 70-200 would be my first choice.  Second would be a wonderful old 105mm macro – a manual focus lens.

While our group was doing the tourist thing a little while back BCV (Before Corona Virus), I took off to walk the side streets and enjoy the smorgasbord of shapes, colours and styles that the owners had on show.

“Nothing in Art must look Accidental” Edgar Degas