Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Art and water lily leaves

click photo to enlarge
Yesterday I speculated whether reading about the influence of oriental art on western art, design and photography had influenced how I conceived my image. In fact, whether it is acknowledged or not, fine art painting is always a major influence on photography. In the early days of Fox Talbot, Daguerre and the other pioneers of the upstart medium, photographic portraits, landscapes and still-lifes, in particular, drew strongly on the precedents in paint. I suppose, in a way, it was like the designs of the first railway carriages: they looked like stagecoaches because it was difficult, initially, to see beyond what was the tried and tested vehicle. But as the railways (and photography) developed, so too did the forms that they used, and the influence passed back and forth between the two forms of representation. In his fascinating book, "Art and Photography", Aaron Scharf shows how painters as disparate as Ingres, Etty, Manet, Delacroix and Courbet used photographs as sources for their finished paintings. He then goes on to describe how painters and sculptors such as Duchamp and Boccioni developed their images and forms with reference to multiple photographs or photographs with blur.

When I compose a semi-abstract image I don't do it with conscious reference to any painting that I've seen. However, I am aware that the aesthetic choices that are made during that process must, in some way, be influenced by what I've seen and read: we are after all, the sum of our life experiences. Today's image doesn't, for me, have any oriental overtones. However, if it was a canvas I'd say it has something of the 1930s about it. Not the 1930s of the International Style, Moderne and the illustrations of Tom Purvis that seemed to be at work in my photograph here, but rather the colours, shapes and lines that Kandinsky brought to painting in that decade.

I make no claims that this photograph is art, of course. It is simply a composition that pleases me for the colours and shapes of the water lily leaves combined with the lines of the iris stems that have fallen into the water. And, whilst it is a straightforward representation of this section of the pond I don't see it as a description of the plants at this time of year, so much as a semi-abstract composition that makes use of them.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm (60mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On