Sometimes our eyes can fool us. How many times do we glimpse something that’s unusual “out of the corner of our eyes” only for it to revealed as something quite mundane once we’ve focused properly?
Of course as I work in a visual field I need to know how vision works. Did you know that a lot of what we see isn’t actually there? Your brain doesn’t have the time to process all the information your eyes tell it, so it gets a little lazy, and only processes things that have moved. If you stare at one single fixed point for more than a few seconds you eventually stop seeing what is “there” and instead see what was “there” when your brain decided to take a short break!
So – sometimes seeing is not believing. Take my art print of the Marina above. You’d perhaps be forgiven for thinking this art photograph was a commission for a holiday brochure. Notice how the bright sunshine etches strong shadows along the path leading forwards. Can’t you just imagine strolling along that path, then continuing your walk across the beach,your toes digging into pristine white sand?
If you’ve been following my blog of late, then I know that you haven’t been fooled. If you dig your toes into the “pristine white sand” of the “beach” ahead of you you’re quite likely to lose them to frost-bite! The beach is a thick layer of ice and snow which has formed on the water as winter seems in no hurry to let Toronto loose from its icy grip. This was not some warm summer’s day – it was very cold and very windy. I love the juxtaposition created by this shot – clear blue sky; the kind of shadows you’d expect to be created by a scorching sun, both contrasted by that band of whiteness that could be sand, but is actually ice. It’s my job as a photographer to create art photographs and art prints that compel the viewer to take several glimpses before they can work out just what it is, precisely, that is going on.
When you place together several contrasting elements it really does reinforce the theme of a photograph, and makes it much stronger. As the cinematographer Conrad Hall – who worked on such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Road to Perdition – once said:
“Contrast is what makes photography interesting.”
I can certainly buy into that. The photographer Ansel Adams, whom I have spoken about before, said:
“Our lives at times seem a study in contrast … love & hate, birth & death, right & wrong … everything seen in absolutes of black & white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of grey that add depth & meaning to the starkness of those extremes.”
As an illustration of this I’ve also produced a monochrome print of “Marina Winter 3” here. The same image looks so different, and it is not just the absence of colour that does this. The railings and the shadows really do seem to draw you in, and you feel you are being sucked into the photograph itself. I’m quite proud to have achieved such a three-dimensional effect on a two-dimensional image. The lamps and the shadows they cast helps create a series of frames that adds to the depth. The effect is also there on the colour version, but I don’t feel it’s as intense, so I guess Adams is correct – it is the shades of grey that add depth and meaning.
I don’t know which version I prefer – monochrome or colour. I think I’m drawn to the colour as it suggests a promise that brighter, sunnier and much warmer days are finally on their way. But I do love the moodiness of the monochrome version. What about you? Monochrome or bold bright colour?