Simplifying Lines and Color

Summer Gardens

My first love was words and writing one learns that the most fundamental editing a writer does is to go over the words one by one and eliminate unnecessary words or phrases while clarifying the idea one is trying to express. Editing words is at the barest of levels simplifying.

I apply the same principle when I edit an image although this being a more recent activity I may yet have much to learn about simplifying lines and color in an image. There is, of course, black and white for the ultimate simplicity in color and converting to a pencil drawing for simplicity of line but line seems to me even more complex than color.

Reading Rolina van Vliet’s Abstracts: Techniques and Textures was helpful. She started out with her take on what “abstract art” was by delving into the common meaning of the word “abstract.” From this she derived her two main “assumptions” about Abstract Art: a) there is no connection with reality and b) there is an inventive connection with reality.

This was illuminating. Abstract Art is not reality but neither is it completely divorced from reality. To my mind, it is reality from which are abstracted what the artist does not consider essential to the image and and the use of reality as a launching-off point for adding the artist’s own vocabulary for expressing his or her inner vision (or feeling) in the image.

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Collage Is Not Easy Business

Then and Now L0018s

Heretofore I have not utilized collages to create multilayered images. I need to but there’s a kind of resistance to doing this. To layer two or more images in one feels to me like a destructive act, treachery in the creation process.

This would, of course, be treachery if I were subscribed to doing only photo-realistic images – which I am not. It must then be habit, the cursed, cursing habit of the familiar.

I wonder if my reluctance does not stem from a fear of failure. As long as I confine this powerful technique to my purse of potential devices I can look forward to digging it out when the situation requires the stronger weapon for survival. Then the odds favor the bold.

Collages are really easy to execute. What is challenging is its aesthetic use, not just for the sake of appearances but for intrinsic meaning that is the creative intent.

This is then why I have not until now employed collages. There are technical subtleties for using them in an image, subtleties that require new skills to effectively deploy. I’ll also need an archive of harvested and digitally created textures and sundry images to add as elements in the composition. It’s like using movable type during Gutenberg’s times. A composition needs elements, structure, background i.e. wash, etc. Collaging layers then is just one technique among several that I’ll need to avoid being disingenuous or to appear duped and facile.

A powerful technique requires a correspondingly deeper understanding to support the deployment or one demeans the process, loses the fierceness of true enterprise!

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Playing with Concepts

Emergency Exit Only 9985s

I didn’t want to label this “conceptual art” because it’s not quite “conceptual art.” But it’s the closest I’ve come to capturing an image with an underlying concept albeit not as acerbic as I would like.

Having come to the party late I am still exploring boundaries and working my way to contemporary art from the Greek, the Baroque, the Impressionists.

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Through Rain-Soaked Glass

Rain Disfigure 0703sanalog

Nowadays we have tons of digital filters that can just about do anything we want to modify an image. Photoshop alone has dozens of filters, some of which go back to the earliest versions of the software. Then there are the third-party plug-ins like Nik and Alien Skin.

But we forget that these digital filters often have their origin in analog effects either while shooting film or in the processing of the film.

This image is of a glass-domed, glass-and-steel modernist building that I shot through the car windshield then with a thick layer of streaming rain. The image was disfigured by the uneven refraction of light through the moving layer of water.

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Golden Hour

Golden Hour 9867s

When I was starting to shoot I heard about the Golden Hour. That’s when the sun is near the horizon so its rays are almost perpendicular to the earth’s surface creating gorgeous landscapes. I shot with this light again and again then moved on to other discoveries about light and techniques for utilizing its various manifestations.

This evening I noticed the light from inside the house and went outside but it was the air now soft and pleasant after strong winds had blown off the high moisture content earlier in the day that grabbed my attention. It was only when I got to the road and noticed the low-lying clouds near the horizon that I thought of finding an open space to shoot the sky.

As luck would have it there is this open space just north of the city’s busiest mall that I’ve shot before. I turned into the parking lot of the Italian restaurant and started shooting. That’s when I re-discovered how ethereal the world looked suffused in this light I had forgotten about. I had forgotten because I started shooting models and shadow and darkness became my new love objects for adding depth and mystery to images of people.

But for landscapes, there is early morning, early evening and this special hour if you catch it, the Golden Hour, when the world is softly golden and one recalls the golden apples of the Hesperides that conferred immortality to any who ate them.

It became the 11th Labor of Hercules to steal them to win over Eurystheus. These images are a photographer’s golden apples from the Hesperides, nymphs of the evening tending Hera’s garden in the West.

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Times Square, NYC, 2013

Times Square People 7584s

With this shot at Times Square, NYC, I am starting to add the year the photo was taken. I have archives going back to 2008 when I started taking photography seriously. Most of these pictures looked awful back then when I had different aesthetics than I do now. What has changed?

A viewer commented on one of my posted photos: I like to see catch light in the eyes! The model, an older gentleman wore a cap so his eyes were shaded but I shot him in ambient light so light was diffuse, no catch light!

I don’t like to beautify photos although especially for young women I might soften and smoothen the skin. The last couple of months especially I’ve found myself eschewing structural editing of photos. I do modify lighting and contrast as I did in this photo where I wanted the foreground person to be darker than the background person so the contrast between the two would be obvious.

We change with time. For now I find myself shifting away from the stylized editing that many photographers employ, what I call pictorialist photography, and going for more structural realism.

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Black and White

Midtown Manhattan 6982bws

This is Midtown Manhattan from Roosevelt Island. There is something serene, something calming about black-and-white images. Color can distract as much as they entice and entertain. With black-and-white it’s just lines and shapes and the modalities of hue that add an appearance of dimensionality but for me there is the translucence of pure light.

A black-and-white image is classic photography without the modern bells and whistles, without contrived painterly effects. It’s just me and the light.

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