An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Autumn in Brisbane

It’s Autumn in Brisbane and there is a definite chill in the air, though it is only noticeable in the early mornings and late afternoons as our days are still reaching a warm 24°C.

Autumn in Brisbane only lasts for a few weeks and unfortunately we don’t get the magnificent Fall colour display experienced by those countries in the northern hemisphere.

However, the milder temperatures are most welcome here after the searingly hot days of the past few months, as is the sight of Mother Nature discarding the bright colourful garments of Summer for the more muted tapestry of dark reds, oranges, golds and pale yellows.

I visited one of my favourite places yesterday, the botanical gardens at Mt Cootha. It had been raining and the gardens were shrouded in a light mist with the sun just managing to break through every now and again.

You could tell it was the very end of Summer.  The ground was strewn with a thick carpet of fallen flowers and the trees bore only the remnants of the brightly hued blooms so reminiscent of the heady days not so long gone.

Wandering through the gardens I was suddenly aware of the strange looming shapes of the Frangipani and Poinciana trees whose forms seemed to dominate as more and more of their leaves dropped to the ground.

Structure and texture seemed to become so much more evident and I was aware of colours and patterns on the branches and trunks of the trees that I had never noticed when they were full of foilage and flowers. 

The last of the Camelias were perfectly displayed on the thinning branches with plenty of room to open up and spread their delicate petals.

The light yesterday was also different. It was wistfully soft, almost surreal, and the very slight breeze was scented with the slowly rotting flowers and curling, crunchy leaves lying at the feet of the near-naked trees. 

Everything seemed to be holding its breath, ready for the dormancy and hibernation of Winter.

The season of Autumn has such a melancholy and reflective feel about it - almost a tinge of sadness for the loss of Summer. 

Romantic poet, John Keats manages to capture this sadness of Autumn's fleeting beauty so well in the final stanza of his wonderfully evocative poem Ode to Autumn. 

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's all in the detail

I take photographs because the act of looking at something in detail makes me slow down and actually look at the life I am living.

Seeing life through a lens helps me to get out of my own head and connect with the world. It is like seeing the world in a heightened state of awareness and it has become the way for me to express what I see.

Sometimes I have the feeling that if I don’t see it through my viewfinder, I haven’t really seen it at all …

For me framing is everything, and I often feel it is better to frame tightly and focus on the important details that tell the story rather than go for the larger picture.

So many photographers err on the side of including as much detail as possible and their images become busy and cluttered and all too often, the story is lost.

The wonderful thing about the photographer’s frame is that we are in total control of what we put into it. And, we can change the whole feel of the image simply by moving in closer or stepping further back.

The following excerpt from ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ by John Szarkowski explains this further:
“To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer’s craft. His central problem is a simple one: what shall he include, what shall he reject? 

The line of decision between in and out is the picture’s edge. While the draughtsman starts with the middle of the sheet, the photographer starts with the frame.”

“The photographer’s edge defines content. It isolates unexpected juxtapositions. By surrounding two facts, it creates a relationship. The edge of the photograph dissects familiar forms, and shows their unfamiliar fragment. It creates the shapes that surround objects.”

“The photographer edits the meanings and the patterns of the world through an imaginary frame. This frame is the beginning of his picture’s geometry. It is to the photograph as the cushion is to the billiard table.”

You know intuitively when you have the winning combination of the right framing and the right light, and it is not always what you set out to achieve.

Photography, by its very nature, is unpredictable yet it is this very aspect that makes it so interesting and an on-going challenge.

Unfortunately there is much redundancy in photography, so many similar versions of the same subject or theme, so many clich├ęs. It is important to learn from successful photographers but it is even more important to develop a unique voice that sings out.

For me that voice lies in the details. After all, photography is all about being limited to what fits into the frame. It’s about finding the literal truth of your subject and then focusing on that.

Many times I have set out to photograph specific people and events and, because I cannot help myself, I have zoomed in on hands, edges of fabric, curves of stringed instruments, interesting angles, expressions and reflections.

In the end the strongest images from these shoots have been the incidental ones focused on the tiny details.