Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Copy or An Original?

   A painting is above all a product of the
artist's imagination; it must never be a copy.
- Edgar Degas
The Poetry of Place: 13 October 2014

   I remember reading about how the art world reeled with the advent of photography.  The painted portrait was dead, they all said.  With the camera, what was the point?  Of course, that did not turn out to be the case because the painter could do things the camera couldn't.  The painter could infuse his subject with feeling and emotion...not so the poor photographer who could only record what was in front of him.

   That idea has also been proven wrong and now the photographer has a choice; to clearly and realistically depict what "is" or interpret the landscape, or whatever he is photographing, through the lens of his heart.  When he does, he is paying homage to Degas' statement that an artist must never copy.  This artistic edict isn't often applied to photography but perhaps it should.

    Although I make no claim to mastering the evocative and personal image, I try very hard to step beyond merely representing the landscape, which is, of course, a perfectly acceptable thing to do.  After all, contemplation is seeing things as they really are, in the here and now.  But I want my photographs to also reflect the spiritual essence of place, not just its material reality.

   You can do that with your choice of framing as well as the way you process the image later on.  What do you emphasize?  What do you play down?  What moved you when you were there to make the image in the first place?  It is not an easy thing to do but, for me, it is worth attempting.  It requires that you progress beyond the role of silent witness and to forge a bond and connection to the landscape and that, whether you make a photograph or not, is always a good thing to experience.

    Fellow contemplative photographer and blogger, Kim Manley Ort, recently posted a thought provoking essay on keeping your photographs "alive".  You might like to read and reflect...


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