Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Image of the Month: May

Art is a hard concept to define clearly.  What makes something art?  Does it have to be beautiful or visually pleasing?  Do all photographs have to be "picture perfect"?  What separates art from the mundane nature of daily life?  Can an object or experience I encounter in my daily life and mundane environment be classified as art even if it's "not pretty"?

Enough with the questions already, I think you get the gist of where I'm going.  I know the medium of photography is typically viewed on a linear spectrum of documentary on one end, and the polar opposite being the interpretative, with a variety of storytelling narratives in between.  So I think the expectation is if one is not doing documentary work, or real, unaltered imagery, then the opposite should be visually pleasing and artistic. To that end I challenge that general assumption and believe one can capture images not typically considered "pretty" and create a beautiful interpretation.

Case in point.  If you're familiar with my work you know I'm not globetrotting around the world capturing glamourous images of lush, magical landscapes, or inviting ethereal spaces of remote locations.  Rather, my scope is typically more limited in distance.  So every so often when not out shooting locally or spots around the USA, I like to challenge my eye to see with more creative intent; a good exercise in fine tuning visual acuity.  So sometime this past winter I challenged myself to stay inside my house for my photo assignment and only capture images out of daily, mundane objects and transforming them into artistic, beautiful images.  This again, without re-arranging objects surrounding me, or going to the extent of building artificial studio scenes.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
At first glance, this may appear as an imaginative image, specifically one that creates a new world in the viewer's imagination, or is considered "unreal".  However upon closer inspection it might be more apparent that this creation is just a normal, average, everyday element in one's home.  One without any re-arrangment, but rather something we walk by in our homes on a regular basis.  A flower vase of nearly dead flowers, (daffodils) ready to be pitched into the compost pile.  What's different is the view (aerial rather than the typical frontal plane), approach (soft focus that blurs the edges), and juxtaposition of primary elements (bright, colorful flowers with the background of the monochromatic black and white chess board squares).  So while limited to the confines of the interior of my home, without any re-arrangement of artifacts, I was able to translate this simple scene into a "work of art" by a creative approach.  What first attracted me to this potential image was just the bright colors, then the unusual play of the colors upon the graphic element of the black & white chess table background.  I was particularly intrigued with making "dead" flowers look beautiful beyond the inherent limitations of cut flowers life span.

My overall message is that even with limitations of location, or abundance of mundane artifacts of daily life surrounding you, one really can improve visual acuity and actually see beauty out of normalcy without ever leaving home or taking flight.  It just takes practice, patience, imagination, and the ability to really see your immediate world as something other than.

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