Some musings on where photography and art meet in photographic practice.
The parrot and the mermaid
Mindfulness is a direction that’s gaining some traction in photography and art; the notion that connecting with the environment around us in a deeper way can bring emotional wellbeing. In a busy urban setting, the ability to step back from the pace around us and see the everyday for its small details of light, simplicity and beauty is a useful psychological tool and a necessary state for the photographer. Within a landscape, zoning out from mental clutter and being in the moment requires effort. Some photographers talk about their emotional state as a major contributor to their photography but I believe the opposite is true. In photography and art, for me it’s about responding to the location using present senses and leaving emotions temporarily to one side. A state of emptiness for an over active mind is a good base to begin with but increasingly the creative intellect takes over. An internal monologue starts to develop where scenes are processed and judged for photographic potential. Through intense scrutiny compositions reveal themselves and entice, what I would call mermaids, often in the form of dramatic lighting, or colour. Every photographer I imagine, has their own triggers. They are of course a trick and resisting the path to them requires an intellectual effort so hence the parrot which is the constant voice that drives the photographer away from shiny cheap shots that fail to offer photographic potential towards stronger successful images. Where mindfulness is less about success and results and more about exploring in the first instance, the parrot and mermaid are both two forces that live in the moment drawing on the photographer’s wealth of creative experience.
Why a visit to the National Gallery in London can be useful
As a young teenager a school trip visit to the NG in London seemed a worthy thing to do. The paintings were old which was the important thing about it. As an 18 year old, a second visit was in mind of art movements and styles particularly contrasting brush work as well as varying types of lighting within scenes. Think of Turner. It was in October 2019 when suddenly I made the connection with a scene in front of me that took me back to that visit. Whilst there was no one thing about what was in front of me that resembled any particular painting, the quality of light; the direction it was coming from, the intensity and the colours the light helped to lift reminded me of how some masters used to understand suggestion with light and not entire revelation. You can see my image in the Spain Autumn gallery half-way in with the river in the foreground. Why I like the photo and why it reminded me of old paintings is the scene in modern landscape terms is compositionally quite weak, the abstract graphical approach is absent as indeed it was for the master painters who were interested in light and scene formed within a framework of romanticism. Instead it suggests and offers a subtly that is out of step with most photographic landscape ‘in your face’ imagery… Photography and art meet in an organic way.
All about the series
Increasingly I judge a portfolio based on the number of images that relate to each other with reference to place, style or set of intentions. Creating a coherent sequence where the images represent a whole as well as the individual merits has become my methodology and also how I judge others. I have a dislike of broad galleries which may extend to various landscape scenes where the tone, colour and compositional approach are all varied. I even prefer in some cases to shoot the images all vertically including a continuity of style and approach perhaps even limiting lens choice. Within a series it’s also worth looking at the ordering of images to create a narrative based on grouping textures, colours etc. and seeing how images side by side relate to each other. You can view more of my Spain landscapes here.