Quiet Moments

At heart I am a bit of a minimalist, and I do love a good photorealistic painting, which is why the late Jeffrey Smart has been one of my favorite painters ever since I first saw his work in Sydney back in 2003.

So it would come as no surprise that I look for similar-style scenes to photograph. It’s the precise positioning of every element in a Jeffrey Smart painting that I find most engaging. Unfortunately, the very mechanical nature of the photographic medium under normal circumstances prohibits such fine placing of the elements at least for someone of my Photoshop skill level.

Photography does have the decisive moment, but that’s more about capturing a fleeting moment, a slice of time as it flashes by. What appeals to me in this picture is its contemplative restfulness. We can see that this isn’t a fleeting instance of action but a period of quiet stillness, made visually enjoyable by what we know as the appeal of vertical lines, disappearing perspectives and frames within frames. But without what Kandinsky explained as the tension within the frame, a tension that’s supplied by the almost perfect positioning of the people, it would be a dull lifeless image.

If it was a painting it would be ­­possible to correct the problems of left leaning, but in a photograph, despite the wonders of PS, when you correct that problem, other dimensions change, so more work is required.

The end result would be different, more constrained image, and not a picture I like.


FujifilmX20, f5.6, 1/250sec, ISO200

The Implications of Books and Thinking

The original idea for this post was to write something linking classic dystopian literature with a novel dealing with present issues of politics and power. I wrote three pieces in which I attempted to link Zamyatin’s 1921 classic dystopian novel We (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_(novel), with Richard Powell’s 2000 novel Plowing the Dark http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plowing_the_Dark) but none were coherent enough to post. In fact, all three articles sounded more like conspiracy theory rants than a muse on the change in thinking about political hegemony over the past century and the unchanging reality of power. It was my intention to use two quotes, this one from We:

In the same way we’ve tamed and saddled what used to be the wild nature of poetry, poetry today is not some impudent nightingale piping—poetry is government service, poetry is usefulness.

And the other from Plowing the Dark:

“You have no idea how horrible it is to give your life to a thing you think represents the best humanity can do, only to discover that it’s not about beauty at all.

It’s about coercion and manipulation and power politics and market share and the maintenance of class relations.”

Ideally, I would have drawn parallels between the two novels and linked them to a dystopian society. One that was an imagined future, and one which is the current reality, but I don’t have the argumentative skills to convincingly make the connection, which is frustrating, but not something I can do anything about.

The picture is a very simple setup. The 10-centimeter high sculpture was placed in front of a few dark cushions and a red one was placed head high. The picture was shot using a +1 close-up filter with the lens set to macro. This creates a very narrow depth of field throwing the background totally out of focus despite the aperture size. A speed light with a DIY snoot set at 1/28th power created the highlight rimming the back of the figure, as well as separating it from the background. A piece of white board reflected light into the front of the figure. The figure on the right has had the glowing edge filter in Photoshop applied

70-200mm, f6.3, 1/5th sec, iso100