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


11 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #83 :Nothing in Art must look Accidental

  1. Interesting thoughts here. I think it shows if the photographer loves his or her subject, whether it’s a bird, or a tree, or a landscape, or whatever. There’s no love in just being technically clever – “See what I can do, aren’t I wonderful!”.

    A very skilled photographer like you, David, has the technical skill, but it is there to serve your subject. Ones like me just do our best for the subject and hopefully get better technically as time goes by!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Eleanor, thanks for that, someone once said, “Spoon in the Love, it will show.”
      I like your “To serve the subject”, expect to see a Saturday Evening Post on that sometime. I will credit.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. While it is good, some may even say important, to be technically correct. I do prefer to view the work of anyone who takes a more holistic approach to creating images, bringing out the nuances of the subject. Your header image here is fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David, Frank Capa’s photo of the moment a Spanish Soldier is killed is hardly technically correct, but carries a poignant, if not shocking motif. The symbolism is hard to ignore. My first shot of Blackie the Cat on the Verandah, is neither technically correct, nor memorable. But to me significant, as it is the first photo I ever made. 🙂
      People often say, “oh, I don’t take very good photos.”, but its not so much a technical thing as they haven’t learned the visual language to make it all work.
      Freeman Patterson went on to say, ” It’s in being myself and in making photographs that communicate what I see and what I feel about what I see.”
      It’s why we keep going out camera in hand. 🙂
      Stay warm


  3. Interesting story David, you have had quite varied photographic vocation. The way you depict your subjects is remarkable. I love the way you catch the moment , the expression and the light on each of your masterpiece images, it always inspires me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Ashley, ahh, but I’m not much of a plumber, or a motor mechanic, and gardening will never be the better because of my meddling 🙂
    I have been fortunate throughout the years to have had the benefit of some superb mentors. Almost all of them have used the approach of getting me to ask the questions, and then going off to find the answers.
    The photo here was a bit of hit and miss or more likely waiting. Once I’d seen a possibility it was just a matter of the right moment.
    Thanks for the kind thoughts. Hope all is well with you and yours


  5. G’day David. I must admit: I am binging on your posts today. I’ve even shut down my trusty laptop to enjoy your photography on a big screen. Thanks for the intellectual feast too. Reading your Saturday posts a bit later has also one great advantage – I can read other people thoughts and your replies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Adam, And I really enjoy coming back and reading what others have to say, even if only a few words. I try not to be too controversial, sometimes I think I’m better classified as an iconoclast as I like to highlight the vagaries of the moment.
      Sometimes for the Saturday night I just have to do a rewrite as I sometimes tend to go head-over heels on remembered moments of my potted career.
      All good fun.


      1. If you’re rewriting – you’ve got two Posts #83 😉
        I don’t put much importance to numbering though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This reminds me of a time. I was at an ancient Egypt museum exhibition. In the middle of a small room incased in glass was an intricately embossed sarcophagus. People came n went. I stared, side stepped, stared some more. I eventually dropped to a squat and on a final round trip around the glass was cross legged butt shuffling around. Then a gentle smile and perhaps a glee louder than I had intended escaped outward. Across the glass the person stopped, looked at me and contrary to the many that must have passed by, stepped over and thought who’s this nut, came around kneeled beside me and asked what is it. This was at a time when I was deeply seduced in leatherwork. I was making gear for local “living history” buffs. I always stamped my makers mark, somewhere and was pretty sure many artisans do, did. I’d found this makers mark. In the dozens on dozens of edging glyffs, in one corner one was facing at a different angle. Subtle but noticeable in the detail. This maker had not deviated a pixel all the way around until this moment. At that moment, centuries of time n space ebbed into singularity. We were together, in his workshop and I watched him hammer the point. Very specific, very intentional, no accident. He was saying, I am.


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