Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Harvest Vortex

PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: It's always about light, but it's not enough to stop there. Images like this point up the fundamental importance of tonal balances. How bright was the brightest straw catching the late afternoon sun? How dark, how penetrable were the shadows? No photo, painting or movie can make the constant adjustments eye and brain make in understanding what is seen. Photography can't duplicate the visual, and more importantly, it is not my purpose to try.

The problem I'm solving is not, "What did it look like?" but "How do the forces of the composition balance & resolve?" Here, I found it essential to create continuity as the rough texture of the straw became shadowed. A bit of glare on the left, too deep a shadow on the right, and the eye hesitates. As the eye moves left to right, it must be able to move smoothly through these zones; the photo must remain essentially one rectangle of even texture. At the same time, the shadow area must be dark enough to give form to the whole composition.

When I printed this for the Gunn Library exhibition, I found I needed to reinterpret those balances. Print on paper is a different medium than computer screen. Neither has much in common with what we see.