Silhouette

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Sunset, Christmas Beach, Herald Island, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie

We all know what a silhouette is — but do you also know the origin of the word?

Silhouette originally referred to a style of  portraiture popular in the mid 18th century, that depicted a person — usually in profile — as a solid shape. When done well, the subjects of these simple representations were clearly recognizable.

So you might think that the word silhouette means something in relation to this art form. But you’d be wrong.

Étienne de Silhouette (1709 – 1767) was a French nobleman who briefly served as Controller-General of Finances under Louis XV. It is commonly believed that his attempts to bring the nation’s finances under control earned him a reputation for penny-pinching.

The term à la Silhouette came to mean things that were seen as cheap — like the shadow profiles which were much less expensive to produce than traditional painted or drawn portraits.

Over time, the word has taken on a much wider meaning and now refers to pretty much anything that is backlit and appears as a dark undifferentiated shape on a lighter background.

Lens-Artists’ Weekly Challenge | silhouettes

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Taking a break

img_5126 Watching the sunset, Castlecliff Beach, Whanganui, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

We tend to think of relaxation as a personal experience — the places and activities and moments that refresh and recharge us. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to find our attempts to relax utterly thwarted by the presence of too many other people with the same intent.

But sometimes it seems, relaxation can be collective. So many people arrived at Castlecliff Beach in Whanganui to watch this glorious mid-winter sunset, the little carpark ended up full. Families were picnicking on the beach, others in their cars, and a couple of groups lit driftwood fires. No-one played loud music or behaved badly; we were all too focused on enjoying nature’s theatre.

Posted to Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge — Taking a Break

Dreams within dreams

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“All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.” ~Edgar Allan Poe. Image: Su Leslie 2018

The boy-child is studying digital media at university and recently made this video for an assignment. He’s really proud of it, and I think it’s quite professional, especially as video is a medium I haven’t really come to terms with yet.

He’s taken what was an exercise in using green-screen, and given it a very dream-like feel. The soundtrack song is Call Me, by Korean singer and DJ, Park Hye Jin. I have no idea about the surreal title.

Posted to the Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge | dreamy

 

 

 

Detail

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“The detail is as important as the essential is. When it is inadequate, it destroys the whole outfit.” — Christian Dior

A couple of years ago, I went to an exhibition called The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture, at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

I doubt anyone could ever call me a fashionista, but I do love beautiful things — and that  exhibition was a feast of beautiful things.

“A dress is a piece of ephemeral architecture, designed to enhance the proportions of the female body.” — Christian Dior

Understandably, the gallery lighting wasn’t great for photography,  but I hope these few images can convey some of the design genius and attention to detail that has made the House of Dior famous.

Posted to Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | detail

Light and time

‘Favourite’ is a word I use a lot. There is so much I enjoy in the natural world and amongst the fruits of human culture, that I find myself talking about favourite beaches, parks, bush walks, books, music, foods, museums, artists … the list goes on.

What I’ve come to realise is that communicating my enjoyment is a pleasure in itself — a favourite thing in fact.

For most of my life, communicating has meant writing, and I still take great care to craft words that will resonate with and spark a response in readers. But increasingly, my words are supplemented (and sometimes replaced) by images.

So on this day (if you ask me tomorrow I might have a different view), my favourite thing is photography. The photographer Elliot Erwitt conveys the feeling well:

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. — Elliott Erwitt

The title of this post comes from the wonderful art critic and painter, John Berger

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time. – John Berger

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | favourite things

Delicate

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Hydrangea. Image: Su Leslie 2019

The Oxford Dictionary offers several definitions of delicate, including Very fine in texture or structure; of intricate workmanship or quality”, “Easily broken or damaged; fragile” and “Requiring sensitive or careful handling.”

There is much in nature that is fine and intricate. And as we humans are discovering, such things are also easily damaged, and require much more careful handling than many of the systems and institutions we have developed seem to permit.

Posted to the Lens Artists Photo Challenge |delicate

 

 

 

Singing in the kitchen

Close up shot of garlic, ginger, coriander, lime ... some of the ingredients in Sarah Tiong's Asian Vinaigrette. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Garlic, ginger, coriander, lime … some of the ingredients in Sarah Tiong’s Asian Vinaigrette. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

“Cooking is a language that express harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humor, provocation.” Ferran Adrià  — head chef of the elBulli restaurant

Harmony is all about combination. About striking the right notes to create something pleasing. This is just as true in cooking as music. Flavours, textures, colours, even temperature must be balanced.

As a cook, I definitely fall into the enthusiastic amateur category, but with practice (lots more hours than I ever put into learning guitar), I am beginning to create food that is closer to “well-crafted pop song” than “open-mic night at the local folk club.”

For which my boys are ever so grateful.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | harmony

 

Making space for the viewer

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

I think of simplicity in photography (Mies van der Rohe’s famous “less is more”) as more than the limiting of elements or a paring back of visual noise. I think it is also about creating space for the viewer to make their own story from the image.

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What do you think? How much do you like (or loath) ambiguity in an image?

Thank you to Debbie at Travel with Intent for reminding me of Ansel Adams’ statement that “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”

And thanks also to Amy at The World is a Book for hosting this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | less is more.