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 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.


  1. Fantastic post and images!!!! I love too many of these photographs to specify. :) Great job, Renee and very, very true!

  2. Outstanding post and Amazing images! Once again - you've left me breathless!

  3. Beautiful Post Renee! Your images always Inspire! Thanks for sharing.