Vanishing Lines, Old Mill Station
I like to think that every time I go out photographing, I’m embarking on a brand new adventure. If that sounds a little grandiose, don’t expect me to apologize. Photography is my passion and – just like a short story writer or novelist who looks at a blank sheet of paper and wonders what worlds and characters they can bring to life upon it – I go out within my local environment (in this case it’s the Old Mill Station) wondering what images and shots will present themselves to me for me to capture.
The American documentary photographer and photo-journalist Dorothea Lange once said:
“To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.”
I’ve thought a lot about this quote, and how it applies to me as an art photographer. After all, what is there is there, and it’s not really influenced by my thoughts and considerations. If I take a picture of, say, a building, how can my preconceptions limit how that building appears?
But then again, what I choose to shoot, and how I choose to shoot it is down to me.We can view an object in millions of different ways from millions of different angles, each of us with our own perception. So the way I decide to shoot a picture does come down to me – therefore I am the one in control. If I let my preconceptions govern that control, then they will surely influence the choice that I make.
Generally, I like to be relaxed yet focused in my approach to my photography, and I often feel rewarded when randomness brings a telling shot my way. I leave my preconceptions at home, and allow myself to be surprised by what I find. A few blog posts ago I wrote about my photo of Sugar Beach in winter and the way I was able to capture something that was completely out of the environment of which it had been designed for, as well as completely unexpected. Sugar Beach in Winter is one of my favourite art prints, and served as just reward for allowing the shot to come to me, rather than my going out and searching for it.
Take my shot above, which I’ve called ‘Vanishing Lines’. It’s a simple composition,taken inside the Old Mill Station here in Toronto. Railway tracks are synonymous with appearing to be endlessly parallel, and I wanted to compose a shot that used tracks as the basis of the focus, but incorporating other elements as well so give more of an effect. The man on the left of the photograph seems to be striding purposefully away, whilst the woman on the right is dithering. Perhaps these two people are complete strangers … but just maybe they are a couple who have just broken up, and now a barrier exists between them, just like the barrier of the tracks between the platforms. The man seems comfortable with the separation, but perhaps the woman is hurriedly texting her best friend to tell her the bad news.
Of course, this may all just be in my imagination, and the pair are complete strangers after all, The man had most likely alighted from a train that had just left the platform, while the girl was probably waiting for her train. However if I had waited and used my preconception of thinking the shot would have looked better without people in it, I never would have captured this possibility.
As Dorothy Lange says, when we absolve ourselves of our preconceptions, we allow ourselves the opportunity of encountering true beauty in the most unexpected of places. That’s why I allow photography to fuel my heart, and it’s my heart that I follow. Doing this always seems to lead me towards making some truly wonderful discoveries.
Like this art photograph? Buy a print here.
View the colour version of Vanishing Lines – Old Mill Station.