I love my camera(s). I can’t be without either my phone or digital camera just in case I see something worth capturing. Even in New York I had to have the means to take photographs with me at all times (or especially in New York perhaps would be more accurate).
Today, for example, we went on a family walk to Attingham Park. I cannot go somewhere such as Attingham Park without my camera for there are many interesting images to be captured there. I love to take photographs. I’m not a photographer, though. I’m just an artist who uses a camera (because it is quicker than using a pencil).
Here’s one of the photographs I took today.
It’s of the ground beneath my feet. But I like it. It is ordinary. I like, as I do with drawings and paintings, to try to make the ordinary, extraordinary.
It’s another photograph of what was below my feet. (I also took many photographs of things above ground level.)
Last week I received an email from someone who thought I might be interested in this article. I was. I love the image, a photograph by William Eggleston from an exhibition in 1976, discussed in this article. It inspires me. I’d even say it was one of my favourites. I agree with the article; this photograph could be the most important photograph of the 20th century.
The article argues that this is an iconic image of that century, a picture that changed the history of photography for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it was in colour. At the time in which it was exhibited, ‘serious’ photographers only worked in black and white. Colour was seen as below high art. This is ironic if you consider how ‘uncolourful’ the photograph is. It is the lack of overall colour and the clever use of the limited pallet that make this image powerful.
Secondly, it is a photograph of a rather boring, everyday object. It is reminiscent to me of the paintings of George Shaw. He paints ordinary scenes which I think evoke a similar feeling of disquiet in the viewer. They show, through a scene devoid of obvious life, a presence of life. They tell something about the society of the time.
Thirdly, this photograph was important in terms of composition. I am very interested in composition. I believe that at least half of the quality of any given image, whether it be a painting or a photograph, comes from composition choice. The perspective and framing of this image allows the viewer to create their own narrative around the photograph and that is what I think made it so monumental, more than the use of colour or the subject matter. The real power in the image is the narrative, or potential narratives, surrounding it.
It is photographs such as this that inspire me to keep taking pictures or ordinary things, in the hope that I can one day make something extraordinary. Eggleston certainly did.
Israel, M. 24 Sept 2014 ‘Is This The Most Important Photograph of the 20th Century?’ Huffington Post. Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-israel/is-this-the-most-importan_1_b_5863002.html [last accessed 28 September 2014]