The Art of Simplicity and Acceptance

(Disclaimer: These are my personal own views and ‘might’ be an excuse to post some of our recent New Zealand images but I’ll it entirely up to you to agree or disagree ! )

Does this image reflect peace and acceptance? Glenorchy Lagoon certainly gives me a tranquil feel when I’m there and I hope that is translated to you as the viewer.

Lately I have been reading a few magazine articles, skimming through a few social media threads and even discussing over skype the concept of art in photography. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am viewed as an artist, then it’s a great bystander effect for an intention that is much simpler and far less cerebral. It has been a little disappointing that some of these articles have voiced an opinion that to tread the well-worn path is tantamount to committing some sort of artistic disservice to one’s self.  There has also been a tendency to favour wordy exposition over direct communication often with only a somewhat veiled message (translation : huh? what did you just read?). While none of this is new, I feel that social media’s penchant to polarising debates have resulted in an ‘arty’ faction criticising the ‘artless’ many.  I would make the argument that there is an art to simplification , a skill to stripping back one’s intentions and  messages to their bare essentials without the need for extraneous distractions.  I would also make a plea that part of being an artist is simply accepting that others may have a different point of view which is no less valid than your own, just different.

Tasman Lake : My intention was to wade to the other side but I was unable to because of strong currents. No near death encounters, no stories of surviving icy waters ( I was in comfy waders) , no deeper meaning to the image than just capturing the beauty before my eyes.

Personally ,I try to err on the side of ‘dot point’ prose rather than a ‘text wall’ approach. I make attempts to write in an uncomplicated manner as possible rather than using obscure words and quotes to bolster an artistic frame from a simple message.  (oh crap, did I just use fancy words? Let me simplify that : I write, you understand. That is my goal!)

Perhaps simplicity of thought is reflected in simplicity of the scenes we are attracted to?

I remember one of my high school teachers describing the considerations one makes when attempting to write a poem. He introduced the concept of word economy and attempting to condense entire lines of thought into a simple representative verse.  Commonly these days, I see quite the opposite : where lines upon lines of prose result in a single message that is either obscured of left intentionally vague.  In the right frame of mind, it can be quite fun to read these articles or image captions as one is consistently trying to decipher the hidden meanings behind the drawn out text. I don’t have any issue with such articles, only when the echoing chorus of support considers this to be the only valid style of writing.

I shot this image of the Wakefield Falls runoff with the intention of a monochromatic end result with a short textured water exposure and textureless flowing sky from a separate long exposure. Unfortunately I cannot give you what my deeper profound meaning for this image was but you are welcome to interpret one for yourself 🙂

There are a great many photographers who explore the realms of writing and philosophy.( I do not consider myself one of these as I just state an opinion every time a light bulb appears in my mostly dimly lit brain). I think there is great value in the approach of deriving a deeper meaning behind any given image but in all truthfulness, that is not our intention. I’m sorry to disappoint if you thought otherwise of our images but we are literally trying to recreate a scene and emotion from a given moment in time. Our thought processes are very predictable and systematic at the time of a scene. It becomes a question of how I translate a scene where my thoughts are literally a broken record playing back a repetition of ‘Wow’, ‘this place is soooo amazing’, ‘I’m getting goosebumps looking at this amazing scenery’ (among other calmly said expletives). The image caption hopefully reflects this.

I hope this image from Isthmus Peak conveys to you the same sense of wonder as the light sprayed through gaps in the cloud.

Once an image hits the post processing phase, it’s a question of how I want to glorify a scene such that you as the viewer can have that same broken record playing back in your head to some degree. In order to achieve that, I try to eliminate unwanted technical distractions like strange colour shifts , impossible looking light sources, elements that any local will know have been manipulated. Ironically, many of those issues arise not from ‘over’ manipulation but rather, global manipulation that hasn’t been considered enough. The qualities of the image itself hopefully reflects this.

The Aurora Australis over Lake Wakatipu was an accidental highlight of the trip. I made a decision to stay warmer with this image since the less intense aurora in the evening were processed ‘cooler’.

This overriding theme of simplicity is one that suits me and one that I am frequently escaping to after experiencing the stresses of a day job that requires more analysis than what I feel like deriving from a hobby.  This is what I hope our presentation to social media reflects in a somewhat cathartic manner.

The Wanaka Tree was possibly the simplest shoot for us to get to , but we weren’t going to avoid it just because it’s simple or that other people have photographed it before. There are many versions of this tree, but we don’t have any and I do want our version of it as a memory of the conditions and location.If it’s good enough on its own merits, it might go into the portfolio.

I would propose that the presentation of a photograph does not need  any ‘artistic’ cerebral afterthoughts in order for it to be considered valid.  To criticise an image for having no such thought process seems to show a disdain for those whose intentions (like ours) were not ‘artistic’ to begin with but whose result may still be considered a type of art.

Jetty shots and selfies are often targets of criticism. “I don’t do selfies” . “I don’t do jetties”. That’s fine but accept that other people like photographing all manner of subjects. Doing this by myself , it was a fun exercise to take a few frames before I was in the right relative position between pillars.

But wait you say, these are surely first world problems that we need not argue about yet result in passionate discussion which can sometimes degenerate into frank argument?? These are examples of the many whose moderate opinions are out voiced by the bitter outrage of the impassioned few repeatedly stating their case. Perhaps it’s just me but I see a theme there that goes beyond first world comforts and is the root of many of our invented world conflicts.  What can we extrapolate for our day to day lives from the disastrous consequences of world events brought upon by opinionated factions refusing to accept any other model of thought? Perhaps acceptance that our life circumstances are all different and that these circumstances frame our differing world views.  Relating this to our insignificant little arguments of art in photography:  seriously, I don’t care if some wish to exclusively photograph deep and abstract images of obscure subjects, so why should these artists care that others love to shoot beautiful landmarks that have been photographed many a time before.

We do try to photograph frequently shot scenes differently. The Moeraki Boulders are one such scene. Whether it’s a shot we treasure depends on the end result and not simply because it’s different or shot with ‘higher’ intentions.

Just keep it simple if it suits you. Shoot what you feel like shooting  and don’t complicate the issue by imagining that you may be somehow artistically superior for picking the less chosen path. There is an art to simplicity.  By the same token, go out and explore that untrodden path , stray away from the masses but please place that at higher personal value and not promote it as having higher intrinsic value for everyone else. And I say this as someone who values experiencing and viewing images of locations ‘off the beaten path’.  I may not personally appreciate the serial icon shooter (derisively named as ‘trophy hunters’), but who am I to hand down condescending judgment on the photographer whose motivations leads him/her to do so. There is an art to acceptance.

The Ohau range shot with multiple planes of camera movement. We have so many ‘fail’ frames from this fun exercise. Whether we did achieved this in one frame or through complicated post processing may matter to you, but in presenting the final result, I can only expect people to like the image if the image itself is any good. The story itself is a separate issue.

Peace all!

Posted on October 27, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Love your work – very inspiring & heartfelt comments… thank you! 🙂

  2. Great to see The (famous) Tree from a different point of view. And all the other images (especially Isthmus Peak and Glenorchy) also stunning …

  3. Well argued and written, art is in the eye of beholder. I always enjoy your images and aspire to making at least one that is as good 🙂

  4. All my images are made to please me, not from some lofty artistic notion/philosophy or theme. Is it art? Of course it is! It is still a form of creative expression/outlet. I can’t paint or draw but I can see beauty and as you say “wow” factor in a scene that I don’t have the ability to draw or paint, but I can photograph it and through post processing create something that is pleasung to the eye as art. Everyone has different tastes, some will like what I do, some won’t. Does something need to be founded in lofty philosophical notions, social commentry or observation to be art?

    • Well said Peter. I agree with you but I do also admire those with artistic intention to begin with (providing they aren’t condescending in their approach ). I think many feel that the added philosophical musings somehow elevate images to beyond what they are at face value. I’m not one to agree with that , and neither are you it seems 🙂

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