Thursday, July 16, 2009
PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Yesterday's photograph, more than most, raised questions regarding the complex relationship between a photograph's subject and its meaning, and it evoked an interesting group of reactions from readers of TODAY'S. One referred to the, "musical sky." Many commented on what one reader described as, "objects standing at drunken angles." Several people commented about the humor of the image and one even said it made her laugh. Although, like other images of this series, it was taken at Peggy's Cove, and its subject is the barrens around Peggy's Cove, the meaning is something quite different, something that can't be put into words, something that language can only talk around.
The difficulty is that photography, in a way not true of any other art medium, is always about a subject that has an independent life; we always photograph SOMETHING. While a painter can work with nothing but imagination and paint, our medium is light that comes to us from the real world and usually reflected off of things. Even after a photographer has distorted that real world, the audience still looks to find the traces of its real-world origins. Given a photographic abstract they quickly ask, "What is it?" in a way they never would if it was by Kandinsky or Miró.
On the other side, viewers often approach a photograph not looking to see more there than the apparent subject. Is it the photographer's task to find ways to make them look further, or is it enough simply to lay out the composition and leave it to the viewer to enter deeply or to stand at the margins?