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Friday, August 25, 2006

When There’s Nothing to Add...

Mike’s reaction to the hot rod show reminds me of thoughts I’ve had about two other photographic subjects. A client, a fancy Inn that has bought quite a bit of my work to hang on the walls, has beautiful formal gardens that they’d like me to photograph. But as I’ve found in the past, I love to look at a formal garden, to walk around and absorb the ambience but I find absolutely nothing to photograph in one because the landscape architect and the gardeners have said it all already. Formal architecture hits me the same way. In decades of commercial illustration photography I found architecture—beautifully designed buildings and interiors—the most boring of assignments because, again, it’s all been done by the architect and decorators and I really have nothing to add. I guess I can’t get that interested in simply documenting another person’s creative work.

At the same time I’m drawn to vernacular architecture and have made whole projects of this sort of subject.

I’ve also sometimes photographed wildflowers.

The Inn even bought a big print of this picture, whose subject couldn’t be more unlike their manicured formal gardens.

Maybe the owners who've lavished such loving care on the hot rods have left us nothing else to add.

Posted by CARL WEESE


Blogger Tony Rowlett said...

Does the current or upcoming version of PhotoShop have a "telephone pole remover" filter? I sure need one, and it looks like you and Mike need one, too. (See Mike's otherwise beautiful shot of the old car while he was laying on the ground!)

4:24 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

I've often had the same feeling as Carl Weese about photographing gardens: as the garden designer has done all the work in creating the art of garden, you have a "nice" picture almost anywhere you point your camera — like shooting fish in a barrel. The same feeling extend to close-up photographs of flowers, say, orchids: as you use the lens' macro capability the background is thrown out of focus and with the flower almost anywhere in the frame you have a "beautiful" picture — and deadly boring. Then, there are sunsets: you point your camera at it, click, and another "beautiful " picture.

I think the point is that taking pretty pictures of beautiful things leads to trite photographs, usually an exercise in kitsch. Now, it is possible to go beyond this, but one has to be, as Carl sugggest, motivated to an unusual degree to make a photograph of such a subject that is not trite. A few years ago I put together an axhibition of photographs of Thai temples in which I tried to show how the builders were able to create a Buddhist harmony by integrating wild colour and flamboyant shapes — and to do this I had to take parts of temples to illustrate the concept of the whole: a different way of seeing, which was an interesting exercise.

The best thing I've seen done with flowers is Friedlaender's book, Stems. But, sunsets?


7:58 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"telephone pole remover"

I've never wanted a telephone pole removed from any of my photographs, nor will I ever. If it's there, it's there.


8:02 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Tony, are you serious about removing telephone, or electric wires? To me, the ideaof creating these types of "pristine" scenes that don't actually exits turns truth into a lie. It's not at all the same as manipulating B&W contrast, or darkening skies, to create a feeling to represent your vision of the scene — this is getting at a deeper truth. But removing modern artifacts merely creates a lie, and is yet another road to triteness and kitsch. I've got to say it: art is about truth...and form.


2:05 AM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

If I ever begin to find beauty boring and trite, that will be my sign that it's time for me to put away the camera for good.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"If I ever begin to find beauty boring and trite"

Ah, but what is beauty? Therein lies the rub.


9:39 AM  

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