Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beauty vs. art vs. everyday

I have been reading a lot of books on photography recently, and this has made me feel a bit depressed. Of maybe the reason for the depression is what is called "spring depression" in Finnish, the effect of hormonal balances changing due to increasing sunlight. Of just the after effects of flu.

In any case, there is a lot to think about on this front. For example, most photographers seem to aim for "beauty" in their work, and many factors of beauty are universal (bright colors, contrast, harmony, etc.), so there is a quite uniform look in these photographs.

As an example, the recent Wildlife Photographer of the Year book contained a lot of impressive phtographs - but taken together, it was just too much of the same.

Well, of course there is also the category of "art photographers", many of whom aim to challenge the concept of beauty, some being hailed by critics or buyers or both.

But what is left is the everyday. Well, there are art photographers also in this field, but I don't count them here.

I have a feeling that most amateur photographers are in the "strive for beauty" category - but are there alternatives? What can be done with everyday subjects? I mean here such things as "this is how our living room looked like when the children were young" and "this is what I found on the street". Are such subjects worth exploring?


Dennis Allshouse said...

I think you do some nice work that's not in the Beautiful category. There's more to art than just the obvious.

Here's a blog you might want to check out that addresses these concerns ( the photographer/blogger can be a little abrasive at times!)

Dennis Allshouse said...

Here's another photoblog you might like, thought I posted this yesterday, sorry if this is a repeat.

Juha Haataja said...

Thanks for the links, both are excellent sites.

I visit Mark Hobson's blog once in while, mostly for the photographs; he is very, very productive.

I have been pondering whether I should think more when taking photographs - currently I'm trying to work in a subconscious mode, avoiding too much reflection. (And maybe also being too tired after work to think at all.)

Markus Spring said...

"(And maybe also being too tired after work to think at all.)" A valid point, definitely - especially if you have to work intensively in the abstract realm.

And of course the amount of thinking that leads to art is difficult to estimate (and apply) - think too much and you get cramped, think too little and you remain in the shallow areas, concentrate on the gear and you won't leave the ordinary, ignore the technical limitations and you might loose the one extraordinary image. It seems there is no correct highway, just meandering passages (to borrow from a blog title) which are very individual things.

And maybe the label of art to some images can't be decided now, instead time might tell. The commercial art world probably is a universum of its own, if it's really art what they trade I sometimes have difficulties to see.

Juha Haataja said...

@Markus: Well written - I guess one has just to take one step at a time, feeling the moment. Too much living in the abstract, at least it feels so.

Cedric said...

It may just come down to individuals. You work in the abstract so you crave the everyday, you work in the everyday so you crave the abstract. There's a photographer called Ed Yourdon who shoots the everyday. His photos are neither beautiful or arty in the conventional, photographic sense of the words but they work, on some level. They convey something that is hard to put one's finger on. Like your own photos Juha.

The thing is that in the same way that beautiful images can leave us flat (as in the example you give of wildlife photography of the year) or artistic images can leave us dumbfounded, some everyday images can leave us, well, bored.

As for amateur photographers, I would have to say that many strive for technical excellence rather than beauty for the sake of beauty. And that's okay. But I suspect that the best images, the ones that have that universal appeal, whether they are of the everyday or of art, are made purely and simply for the joy of creating. Or maybe I'm just being too idealistic or naive.

All subjects are worth exploring in my book but it still takes something, a je ne sais quoi (I don't know what), to make an image, any image, something worth resting your eyes on.

Juha Haataja said...

@Cedric: I do hope this is true: "I suspect that the best images, the ones that have that universal appeal, whether they are of the everyday or of art, are made purely and simply for the joy of creating."

Andreas said...

I love image #1 on this post. Outright excellent.

@Cedric: I just spent half an hour browsing Ed Yourdon's images. Excellent as well, and I love the way he uses fictional conversational statements to convey his feelings. Works extremely well.

Regarding fitness for being subject of my images: what catches my attention is a subject. It's not beauty. May be but needs not.

Juha Haataja said...

@Andreas: I tried to capture this a couple of times - gate opening, going home from work - and never really got the exposure right until here.

Andreas said...

As a side note: I first didn't realize at all who this Ed Yourdon is. Shows just one more time that Photography today seems to be a hobby of IT people :)

Juha Haataja said...

@Cedric and Andreas: Thanks for the hint about Ed Yourdon, both the photographs and his work in IT.

"Photography today seems to be a hobby of IT people" - or maybe: "IT seems to be a hobby of photographers..."