Photography is one of my most under-utilized passions… one of the things in this world that I could be *really* passionate about, but in order to “do it right” (as my right-brain, OCD-mindedness demands) I’d pretty much have to devote myself to it full-time. And I’m scared that if I was to throw myself entirely into photography, then it would become “work” and I wouldn’t love it as much. Or, in order to make ends meet I’d be forced to take the kind of pictures I don’t like to take — like posed wedding photos — and in the end photography would end up being classified in my mental filing cabinet as “things that suck the life out of me.”
I cannot let this happen.
So, although I have a wonderful and fantastic Nikon D80 that’s mine, all mine, to play with and learn from and experiment… sometimes all I need is to pack my little Sony Cyber-shot in my purse and take a break from drunk self-portaits to compose a photograph or eight that makes ME happy. Nine times out of 10, the “happy” shots that I pick out of the 100s I take will be similar to this selection from my recent trip to Charlottesville, Virginia:
I like to zoom in on objects until just the bones, the structure or pattern of that object remain, and frame my picture within that limitation. Here you see tent panels from the Charlottesville Pavilion stretched out like fingers in front of a relatively bright sky, illuminating the webbing between. The two blue balloons — set free by loose-fingered children — add spots of color and interest, and I also ended up liking how the stage lighting creeped into the shot. It really brought out the puckered folds of the tent material, as well as enforces the direction that your eye takes through the photograph (starts in lower left corner and follows the fingers towards the upper left). The warmer light also casts the idea of a sun and light rays throughout the photograph. I should convert this to black and white and see what it looks like…
As an undergraduate, my minor was art with a concentration in photography. I came home one weekend to photograph an assignment, and took this great shot of the neck of a crane backlit against a dramatic sky. The stark, architectural shape of the metal object against the gathering, organic shapes and gradients of the clouds created a captivating photograph, and I still find myself drawn to the same kind of juxtaposition of man-made and nature-made now, years later.
When I look through a lens, it’s the details that matter. In a coffee shop it’s not the baristas, the music, or the WiFi that want to be photographed — it’s the arrangement of logo-clad mugs and travel cups on a bookcase, the eclectic furniture, the patterns and textures in the fabrics on the chairs and sofas, the raindrops on the window. It’s the rough twill of a coffee bean sack, the sheek, angular lines of roasting equipment and the artistic swirl of cream and coffee that remains in my caramel latte even after I’ve sipped more than half of it away.
When I’ve got a camera in my hands, I try to remember to look up as it’s so easy to be-bop along with your camera in macro mode, zooming in on flowers and bugs and fabrics and cat whiskers… But sometimes the best surprises come from choosing a different angle. This photograph reminds me of a glass of amber-colored beer, and while I was in fact drinking a beer at the time, this photograph is actually of the light fixture hanging over our heads in a dimly lit brewery/restaurant. I love it when I can take a picture of something so normal, so everyday, and it captures that object in a way that makes you stop and really look at it. To see the ordinary in an extraordinary way…
I’ll always love texture. The rough, matte surface of brick and mortar as a background for the shiny brass of a bare light fixture. The comparison of a repetitious rectangular shape against the curvy, sinuous lines of bent metal. This image is comprised of a relatively simple subject, but I feel it is framed well (using the rule of thirds) and fields that same kind of juxtapositioning that I’m drawn to, where shapes are outlined or highlighted against a dramatically different background.
Looking back at what inspires me, at what moves me, I am so glad that I studied photography in college. One assignment in particular allowed me to discover Paul Caponigro‘s work — a collection of beautifully still, reflective and insightful black and white photographs that move me every time I look at them. My assignment was to emulate a photographer’s work, and I found a single book in the library on Caponigro (in fact, I’m still looking for a photography/coffee table book on Caponigro that I can purchase, so if you’re ever in an obscure bookstore and find one… think of me!). I was immediately drawn to his work, and thoroughly enjoyed trying to capture the same spirit of everyday beauty revealing itself in unexpected ways. Paul strove to showcase the ability of the ordinary object to reveal it’s nature in an extraordinary way. Specifically, refer to his 1964 image, “Galaxy Apple” where a galaxy of stars is revealed in the speckled skin of an apple.
I believe that in some small way, whenever I take a photograph that makes me happy — whether due to its composition, the study of shapes/light/tones of color, natural repetition or the surprise of a discovered nature of an object — I will always be emulating Caponigro.