Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Why did you photograph that?"

Georgia on my Mind
   I often hear that from people who look at my images, especially images that are semi-abstract like this one on the left.  I have to ask myself the same question and sometimes the answer amazes me.

   This image was made in Santa Fe, New Mexico during a long day of wandering the streets, visiting museums and galleries and generally gathering in impressions.  Looking at the files later I remember thinking, "What  the????", when I looked at it.  Was it one of those "mistakes" one sometimes makes, when the shutter released prematurely? Then I remembered the context of the image.

   I had just spent a couple of hours wandering the galleries of the Georgia O'Keeffe museum absorbing the beautiful compositions of her semi-abstract renderings of the New Mexico landscape.  This was my subconscious rendering of a similar theme.  I entitled it "Georgia on my Mind".

   So much of what we observe and take in during the day settles into our unconscious mind.  It later manifests itself in our photographs.  This photograph reminds me that we often draw from that storehouse of the unconscious if we allow ourselves to abdicate some of the external controls photographers love to assert.

Visitor at the Shrine
   I later remembered it when I visited the shrine at Chimayo, New Mexico and what was initially unconscious became a conscious decision to render the scene in a unusual way...leaving the majority of the image "empty", isolating the focal point way off center but balanced by the small roof below.

   I visited the O'Keeffe museum almost as a pilgrim would a holy shrine.  I have loved her paintings since I first discovered them 50+ years ago.  I remember flying to Washington DC twice to see the National Galleries retrospective of her work in the late 1980's.  Oh yes, I was a devoted disciple.  I just never knew how my admiration of her compositional style had influenced my photography until I made the photograph above.

   So, to answer the question posed in the title of this post, "Why did you photograph that?", I guess I would point to the powerful role the subconscious mind plays on our compositional choices.  I love that idea.  It is why I make a point to visit museums as much as I continually stock the shelves of my unconscious.  There is no telling when it will later manifest itself in a photograph!


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