Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reality versus illusion

If you are of a certain age, you may remember the advertisements with the tag line "does she, or doesnt she?", referring to hair colour. For the record, I dont, and am naturally "silver". It amazes me that young women purposely dye their hair grey. Does that mean I am fashionable? I doubt it.
These days, sometimes its difficult to tell if something is real or manufactured.
You can build decks from manufactured materials that are guaranteed to last years longer than real wood. We can purchase rocks for our gardens that are made to look like the real thing. There are porcelain tiles made to look like marble. I could go on, but this is beginning to sound like one of my favourite shows on HGTV.
Lets get back to the first point I was trying to it real, or just an illusion?
Recently, I have been experimenting with creating images using several photographs. This image was created using elements from three different pictures – the shadows created by my bedroom blinds, a self portrait, and a picture of a crow from my backyard. I hoped to convey a feeling of sadness in this image called “One Crow Sorrow”.
That question pops up in photography more often than you might think. These days, more people than ever have a camera that they carry around constantly. Cell phones have created more photographers than ever before. And "real" photographers debate about what makes a "real" photograph. As in many other forms of art, there can be a snobbishness to photography that is a little intimidating sometimes, especially for people lacking a bit in the self confidence department. As a matter of fact, some people think that photography is actually not an art, but thats yet another debate.
If you snap a photo with your phone, is that photography? If you use a point and shoot camera, are you more of a photographer than someone who uses a phone? And if you use a "professional" camera, does that make your images better than the ones people take with compact cameras? The advance in technology has made it possible for more people than ever to capture stunning images and also to manipulate those images either with preset effects available on our phones, or more sophisticated editing using computer software.

Some argue that it isnt true photography if the image is edited and adjusted afterwards, and I have to admit that I used to be one of those people who carried that belief. But isnt that what the pioneering photographers did in their darkrooms? Sure, their processing techniques were not as sophisticated as the present day, but they did manipulate their images to create the vision they wanted.

Now in the digital age with software that is more and more complex, there is a genre called conceptual photography where images are created that might be a whole made up environment.

What makes a beautiful image? I would say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you are documenting the world around you, or making art combining images and software manipulation, does it matter what other people think as long as you are happy with your results? Its a different story if you are trying to earn a living with a camera, but if you are an amateur like me, I would say that its our own satisfaction that should drive our pursuits.

For almost forty years I used my camera to document my life and the world around me. A couple of years ago I listened to a presentation called "The Great Reality Debate" by Dublin Shore photographer Kas Stone, where she discussed the ability to use sophisticated software to shift images from the "good" pile and create photographic art. That opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and I started experimenting with my own photography.

This has taken me down an unfamiliar path, which has often been frustrating. I wanted to label myself as "artistic" and was trying to force something which didnt come to me naturally.

I studied conceptual photographers and sketched plans for creating my new images in a notebook. As my husband will tell you, I can be a bit intense and single minded about things sometimes.

Then, as I was talking with my granddaughter about life choices she will be facing in the coming years, it hit me. I should be giving the same advice to myself. Dont try to be something youre not, be true to yourself. Do the things that you are truly interested in, and the rest will fall into place.
Documenting life with photographs doesn't have to limit artistic abilities. This is just an image of sand. With a little help from nature, not photo manipulation, the patterns in the sand look like trees.
As a result, I am trying to be more comfortable with the fact that I enjoy documenting things, but that doesnt mean I dont have an artistic eye. I see things in a different way. And if other people look at the same scene and dont see my vision, thats okay. We are all different, with our own interests and talents. And thats something good to focus on.

Published in the South Shore Breaker - April 19, 2017


  1. WOWSA. Can't believe that first shot is a mix of three shots. It's brilliant and conveys the lonely sadness you were aiming for.

    Since I don't even know how to combine three shots I'll stick with just snapping what I "see" ...but as you ably demonstrate, what we see can be open to interpretation.


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