“To abstract is to draw out the essence of a matter.” – Ben Shahn
The more photographs I make, the more I realise that I’ll never capture everything in a scene. And the more I try, the busier and more confused my images become.
I’m learning to focus my brain as well as my lens; to make judgements about what is important to me; what I want my image to say. Sometimes that means taking an image into the realms of abstraction.
“The less there is to look at, the more important it is that we look at it closely and carefully.” ― Kirk Varnedoe
“What does that represent? There was never any question in plastic art, in poetry, in music, of representing anything. It is a matter of making something beautiful, moving, or dramatic – this is by no means the same thing.” – Fernand Leger
Protesters against TPPA, Auckland, 2015. Image: Su Leslie
“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” – Diane Arbus
The tiptoeing part of that quote definitely resonates with me when it comes to photographing people, particularly candid shots. It’s not something I do often, and my general rule of thumb is to make my presence known, but unobtrusive.
And when I’m happy with the results — definitely an Oreo moment.
Chatting to the neighbour. Our local sheep are so used to people, they approach, rather than run away. Image: Su Leslie 2019
Sunflower. Image: Su Leslie 2019
Image: Su Leslie 2019
‘Damien Hirst Looking for Sharks.’ Sculpture by the Sea, 2018. Image: Su Leslie, 2018
Bike bits No. 1. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Bike bits, No. 2. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Cheesy corn bread. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Image Su Leslie
Image: Su Leslie
Close-up; purple agapanthus buds. Image: Su Leslie, 2017
Image: Su Leslie, 2017
“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” — Charles M. Schulz
A favourite camellia. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Shoe art, my friend Claire’s studio. Image: Su Leslie
Detail, ‘Invisible City’ sculpture by Anton Parsons, Lambton Quay, Wellington NZ. Image: Su Leslie
I recently saw a photo which consisted of a square of pale pink wall. On the very far right of the image, was a rectangle of black, and tiny cluster of brighter pink flowers.
I loved it! The simplicity and minimalism of the shot is so totally outside my photographic aesthetic or vocabulary.
Seeing Patti’s choice for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge — Filling the Frame made me realise how much I do exactly that. I try to minimise distraction and guide viewers to see the my subject more clearly by presenting it front and (generally off-) centre.
Yet the ‘pink-wall’ image achieved exactly the same goal, focusing my attention not by foregrounding the flowers, but by filling the frame with “white space.”
“A curved line is the loveliest distance between two points.” — unknown. Children’s art class. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Art begins with the line; sketches, paintings, even three dimensional works.
It seems to me that the urge to mark lines on a surface is quite fundamentally human. From paleolithic cave art to toddlers “redecorating” walls with Mum’s lipstick (true story — but it was my brother, honest); in all times and at all ages we seek to explore, document and indeed change our world with lines and all that flows from them.
Or as art historian Sir Kenneth Clark put it:
The difference between what we see and a sheet of white paper with a few thin lines on it is very great. Yet this abstraction is one which we seem to have adopted almost instinctively at an early stage in our development, not only in Neolithic graffiti but in early Egyptian drawings. And in spite of its abstract character, the outline is responsive to the least tremor of sensibility.
At a cultural level, line-making helps to define humanity.
At a personal level it makes us happy — and sometimes deeply unhappy.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso
The joy children experience in making art can so quickly be extinguished by external — and internal — critics. “That’s no good” becomes “you’re hopeless at art”, which becomes “I’m not creative.” I actually heard a woman at an art workshop say that while introducing herself to the group.
I started writing this post for Debbie’s One Word Sunday, where this week the word is lines. Then I realised that when I talk about art, and about making art, I am also talking about happiness. So I’m adding the post also to the Lens-Artists challenge| happiness is.