"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
My husband is tolerantly indulgent of my passion. When possible, he will drive the rutted and dusty, or icy back roads turning a two-hour trip home from the city into six hours, stopping frequently and waiting patiently while I take pictures of whatever strikes my fancy along the way. He appreciates a lovely landscape, a wildlife photo and especially pictures of our children, grandchildren and pets, but when it comes to ‘art’…well it’s all subjective, isn’t it? For him, it is all about the subject. The sky could be disastrously blown out, the colour dull and the composition terribly unbalanced, but if a granddaughter has a sweet smile on her face, or there’s a horse in the frame – it’s a good picture!
And really, that’s what the initial attraction is for most people. Being able to let go of objective perception and allow oneself to react to a visual image as an emotional experience alone is something many of us haven’t been able to do since we were very young children. Most of us have to relearn that ability as adults, if we so desire. If looking at an image doesn’t ‘do anything’ for you, there are two possibilities. One: you are trying to let yourself ‘feel’ it, but there is nothing there that speaks to you, or two: you are busy looking for an interesting subject that isn’t there.
Allowing your heart, your soul, or your right-brain, (however you want to label it), to ‘feel’ an image is a learned skill for most of us over the age of five. Once we’ve learned the ‘artistic’ skills of turning our infantile scribbles into ‘subjects’ – as: ‘how to draw a face’, ‘how to draw a tree’, ‘how to draw a flower’, etc. – then the ability for shape and colour alone to evoke an emotional response is suppressed. It gets pushed into that instinctive part of the brain that may no longer be accessible to our conscious mind.
I took the above picture with a little point and shoot in 2009 (before I bought my DSLR) as I took many pictures of the beautiful frost glazing the windows in my home. I soon discovered that frost pictures are fairly ‘cliché’. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them posted to the internet, most of which are pretty patterns but nothing more in my eyes. However when I saw this one on my computer screen it hit a deeper sense than the merely aesthetic. The impression of a landscape was there but there was more than that. The title immediately popped into my head, which doesn’t always happen and I knew I had something I liked. Not loved, necessarily, technically it’s nothing to write home about, but something I wanted to share.
After I posted it to Flickr I was touched when I received an email telling me that it had stirred up feelings that the sender had been struggling with. The image had made her think about something that was painful to her, but that she felt she had needed to deal with. I was conflicted about this at first, not wanting to cause anyone pain, but in the end I was gratified that something that I had created, and that moved me, also touched someone else.
This may be a nothing picture to you, even if you are able to see with your heart, and that’s quite alright. Individual experience and instinct work together to interpret all visual stimuli. Unconsciously, we all react to colours and light or lack of either. Soft and sensual or sharp and geometric shapes may hit somewhere in the emotional centre of the brain. Sensations of experience may be evoked by the quality of an image as much as by the subject, or the way the elements come together, but are we always aware of that?
There’s a difference between appreciating a technically perfect photo or painting and being emotionally moved by one. I want both. I want to be able to make the technically perfect and create images that reach beyond the aesthetic to emotionally connect. To make a connection is my ultimate goal when I post an image to share. I don’t know if that’s more of a challenge with realistic or subject-centered images, or those conveying only an impression of a personal reality.
Rather than leave the reader with only my attempts and for further exploration of the concept, I offer this link to a small, but inspiring collection of wonderful Abstract Impressionistic Photography from the Colour Lovers website. Enjoy!