Monday, January 01, 2007

Less or more?

click photo to enlarge
"Less is more", Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), German architect

"Less is a bore", Robert Venturi (1925- ), US architect

If you were to question the artists, architects, designers and photographers of the twentieth century, you would probably find that many subscribed to one or other of these points of view. The "modernists" would usually be in the Miesian camp; the Post-Modernists would support Venturi's view.

These two dictums, absurdly simple though they are, get to the heart of one of the key underlying issues in the art of the last one hundred years. Mies in his architecture, painters like Mondrian and Rothko, designers such as Dieter Rams of Braun, and photographers like Paul Strand, emphasised the importance of the "significant form" unencumbered by decoration. They believed that deeper truths could be revealed by concentrating on the essence of form, line and colour. Now, whilst a building like Mies' "Farnsworth House" was widely appreciated for the purity of its conception and realisation, people like Venturi and Philip Johnson (eventually) thought that such structures lead to a dead-end. Consequently the Post-Modernists introduced ornament, "humour", "knowingness" and "irony" into their work. Some like this approach - I don't, I'm definitely with Mies!

And that's probably why I saw and photographed this composition near Knott End, Lancashire. The simple arrangement of the arc of winter trees with the tracks across the field, pointing them out, appealed to me. I composed the shot with the visual weight of the trees just left of centre, and the tracks to the right. I burned in the rather dull sky, and saw this shot as an opportunity to finish the shot in sepia-tone; something I've wanted to do for a while. The photograph was taken with a zoom lens at 96mm. On this very dull day the was camera set to Aperture Priority (f4 at 1/160 sec), with the ISO at 200, and -0.3 EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen