There are a lot of people who will look at a few of my pictures and say “Why on earth did you take a picture of a ____?”, referring to my subject matter sometimes being slightly less obvious than flowers and trees. I was fascinated by an old sewing machine at Charleville castle and that was one of the pictures to have generated such a response.
Until recently, it bothered me quite a lot when I got that puzzled reaction. But then I had a breakthrough…
I think there are two kinds of people, when it comes to evaluating photographs (as an artistic endeavour). The first will look at the subject of the picture, and judge the photo on the merits of the subject itself. Then, you get the other group who judge the image as an object in its own right, and base their opinion on that, irrespective of what the camera was actually pointed at – it’s the physical representation of it on the screen or print that counts. I think that’s why there’s a lot of photography that I don’t ‘get’, as such, because it is based on the subject of the image rather than the aesthetic properties of the colours/shapes/lines that represent that subject. That’s why so many pictures of pretty girls are popular, or fields of flowers – but is the photographer just basking in reflected glory by adequately capturing a straight representation of that inherently beautiful thing in their images? Does the makeup artist/gardener take equal credit?
I suppose it all ties in with my own motivation to take pictures – to show something of the subject that wouldn’t have been apparent to the viewer at the time. Everyone knows what a tulip looks like. But I want to take that tulip, and make a picture of it that makes you notice the delicate petals, the way that the colour changes from the base to the tip, the way the light glows through them when the sun is shining. It’s not showing something that wasn’t there, but hopefully it’s making the experience of looking at the picture just as appealing as looking at the real thing, and maybe even then some. I think that also explains why I come home from places like Charleville castle with a gigabyte of pictures and none that could show someone what the building actually looked like. I would like to think, though, that from looking at the shots I took, you would be able to tell what the building felt like.