•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Paneful Composition


EDWARD WESTON: "My eyes are no more than scouts… the camera’s eye may entirely change my original idea, even switch me to different subject matter. So I start out with my mind as free from image as the silver film on which I am to record, and I hope as sensitive."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - Perhaps this car image is redundancy? ...it is, I promise, the last of the series, but the image accompanies an observation or illustration of the mysteries of photographic seeing. ...and besides, I like it.

The process of the shoot took me steadily closer, first in the driver's window, then through it, closer until the grit on the dashboard nearly scratched my chin. "Noir Technicolor" seems to represent the optimum for sharp focus on both the steering wheel and the dash grit. Leaning closer, the soft focus grit made "Farm Noir." The car door was stuck; I couldn't lean further in; I thought I was done.

I gathered up tripod and camera to climb down from the culverts on which I was uneasily perched, when a flash came at me as if out of the corner of my eye. I was just pulling back lens, head, tripod - - - I had been in just this position near the start of the sequence, shot unsatisfactorily and moved on - - - but this time I saw it in a new way. I had a sense as if gears had suddenly meshed, and I knew that the car and I could travel. In yesterday's shot I had caught the logic of the things: steering wheel, dash, and through the windshield with it's wonderful shades and shapes. The gestalt had shifted now. I saw a rhythm of forms, flickering planes that were previously concealed. I was in sync with a different reality and knew just where to put my camera to balance the composition. Why had this shot been invisible fifteen minutes earlier on the way in? The light seems not too different.

The photographer's job is always to refine and simplify the complexities in front of the lens. However, much I may work on this consciously, the simplifications require changing eyes. Noticed or not, new images only form when the gestalt shifts. It is the practiced spirit behind the singer's voice that shapes & characterizes the sound; the photographer's eye must become like the singer's voice.

To make this composition work in the exposed image it had to be processed differently, not for contrast but for greater evenness of tone. The eye must be able to move easily from the driver's window to speedometer gauges, and on - from shape to shape. The viewer's eye follows a very different path here than it did in the noir images, and the outcome is different as well. Is this composition more abstracted than the noir images?