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Author Topic: Expressing Impressions Through Photography  (Read 648 times)

Michael Erlewine

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Expressing Impressions Through Photography
« on: May 29, 2016, 12:46:52 pm »

For me close-up photography is always a challenge to express the impressions (and experiences) I have when I look at nature. A photo I am happy with is one that gives the impression I have of, let's say, a misty morning at first light, not only what I see, but also what I feel, what it does to me. And that impression (and photo) is meant to be a doorway to the experience I had when I took the photo that left its impression. Anyway, that's what I wish to convey.

I am impressed by the grandeur of the natural world, especially the spaciousness of those perfect small worlds at the close-up and macro level, like my imagined impressions of a being the size of an insect, the sheer spaciousness and vast emptiness of nature surrounding them. Perhaps my day-to-day life is not empty or spacious enough (I know it's not). Anyway, I delight in the space that these small worlds provide their micro-inhabitants.

My photographic technique has been a long and often tortuous path that has involved learning patience and the discipline of practice. If I did not get something out of peering through a crystal-clear lens at nature’s minature worlds, I would not be doing it. For me, photographing nature is a meditation practice in itself. It is its own reward, regardless of how the photos turn out. My weakest area is finishing photos. I tend to leave them somewhat unfinished. I just don't care. Indeed, for me they are but impressions, like the impressions in the grass in these lines by Yeats:

"The grass cannot but keep the form,
Where the mountain hare has lain.

That is what I mean by "impressions." These impressions, these photos, are not an end in themselves (not just something to look at passively), but are meant to take me out of myself not only visually, but also experientially. For me, a good photo (like vertigo) thrusts me beyond its two dimensions out into the actual experience that the impression came from. Impressions are sensual; they must make sense, and always lead or point to an experience. A photographic Impression is the residue of a life experience, a freeze-dried extract that can be restored. Just add realization and experience them.

I should add that I consider all writing and language, including the language of photography, to be simply a reference or pointer from itself to a life experience we can have, and not just something in itself – a photo. In my opinion, a photographic impression should bring release and a sense of space and beauty. Photographers intuitively know this.

My photographic vision is of a clear dream, meaning a photo with some extreme clarity or resolution (something in extreme focus, at least partially), if only to send the message that anything not clear is intentionally not clear. These little islands of stacked focus are my reality check, and, unlike one-shot photography, there often is more than one focus point in a stacked photo. That which is not in focus in a stacked image paints an impression, a gesture to the imagination as to the dream-like nature of the reality we live in. I can’t forget the little round we sang as kids:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

In other words, I include the areas of sharp focus to state that what we see is real and then have the bokeh (blurred areas) to remind me that all of this is also just a dream we are having, an impression. I am impressed by natural beauty and I like sharing those impressions through photography when I can. I am impressed, and that impression is what I want to see in the photos I take, an impression that beckons the viewer to an experience, to their taking the plunge into the very sense of it, to be drawn into the actual stuff which made the impression in the first place. Call it a reminder. A good photo brings increased awareness to us.

So, a photo to me is an impression, a reference or pointer beyond itself to an experience available to us in that instant of seeing. Aside from their informational value, snapshots don't interest me. A “picture” of a flower can be just that. I look for more than that in an image.

To get my attention, a photo must be a link beyond two-dimensions into three or more dimensions. It must render out an experience that I cannot avoid, perhaps reminding me of what is always just beyond the confines of my daily grind. A good photo brings awareness beyond where I am at in the moment of viewing it. I am transported, despite myself, into a larger reality from which I return refreshed. I remember in that instant something of what life is actually about.

In my opinion, this is the function of art.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2016, 12:56:46 pm by Michael Erlewine »
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