What’s in a Fence Post?
One of the aspects of photography which really appeals to me is the opportunity to capture the seemingly mundane and – by photographing the object and giving it focus – allowing it to become something more than just the sum of its parts.
As an example, allow me to present to you the art photograph above. I don’t think you could arrive at a more mundane subject – one of the billions upon billions of fence posts that exist all around the world. But when you think about it for a moment, each fence post is like a fingerprint, in that no two fence posts are alike. I am sure there was nothing that stood out about this post when it was first pummelled into the ground, but time, the elements and nature herself have all worked together to ‘bless’ the post with a uniqueness. There is still nothing special about it, other than its uniqueness, but couldn’t the same be said for most of us?
It seems each time I look at this photograph I see something different. Some pattern in the lines which have been etched across the now aged wood. I can see something, but then when I blink, it has gone – to be replaced by something completely different.
Looking For Lines
As a photographer I am drawn to lines. When I create an art print, I am taking something as a whole and placing borders around it, in effect framing the subject. Every photograph you see has to be framed in some manner, and nearly all of the time that frame consists of four straight lines at right angles. It’s really satisfying when the subject of a photograph either creates its own framing, or enhances the framing I have created for it.
The American photographer Sam Abell once said
“Photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.”
I think that part of my job as a photographer is to help turn something simple into something special, just as Abell says. How many people ever to stop to examine a fence post? It’s something virtually nobody would even think about. By capturing such a simple subject I can give this humble fence post one moment in the sun – I wonder, what do you see if you take time to examine the many lines and angles in the photograph?
The Bokeh Technique
I’ve focused on the subject of this print whilst maintaining a pleasant background around it, even though the background is completely blurred. This technique is known as “bokeh” – from the Japanese word “boke” which means “blur” or “haze”. It’s quite a difficult technique to pull off – the picture should remain natural-looking despite the fact the effect is often created artificially. I like to think it’s to photography as harmony is to melody in music.
The fence post pictured can be found in Coronation Park here in Toronto (you’ll have to work out which fence post by yourself!) which is now recovering from being covered in snow all winter. Finally, now that spring is here I can set out with my camera again and see what winter has been hiding from me all these past few months!