Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cockerel feathers and painting

click photo to enlarge
Whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not, fine art painting exerts an enormous influence on photography. For someone like me, with a lifelong interest in painting, and education in the history of art, the influence is quite overt. But it exists for most photographers, even if it's at a subliminal level, in terms of their choice of subject, the way they compose images, the colours they choose to use, the effects that they incorporate and apply, and in many other ways. In fact, these influences have become so firmly embedded in photographic practice that their origins are often no longer acknowledged.

I've recently been reviewing my photographic output of the past few years and one of the things that struck me was how clearly some of my shots seem to draw upon what I've observed in, and know of, the art of painting. Take this image of Lancaster seen from the Lune Aqueduct. It clearly draws its inspiration from the Romantic C18 and C19 English landscapes of painters such as John Sell Cotman, as does this evening view near Gosberton, Lincolnshire. Victorian painters who observed contemporary life through town views - artists such as James Tissot and William Powell Frith - seem to have influenced my image of Greenwich Park, London. My liking for the architectural drawings of Hugh Ferris comes through in this shot of Canary Wharf, London, whilst the influence of C17 Dutch landscapes are evident in this view of the River Welland. As a final example, Pop Art looks to be the inspiration for this shot of corrugated metal with the stencilled word "ACE" still visible.

I was thinking further about the influence of painting on photography whilst I was processing my image of cockerel feathers. It's the second shot of this subject that I've taken in the past few weeks, though this time it's a different bird (called Henry!). As I looked at the group of curved, orange feathers they reminded me of the freely-applied brush strokes of Jasper Johns and Jack Tworkov. The subject and composition is in the tradition of semi-abstract painting, a style that developed after the invention of photography, and which drew some of its characteristics from the more recent medium, reminding me that the traffic of influences is now in both directions.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/200 seconds
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On