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?
Silhouetteoriginally 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.
Auckland city skyline. Image: Su Leslie
Morning mist, Greenhithe, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie
Hamilton’s Gap, Awhitu Peninsula, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie
Image: Su Leslie
Morning mist, Greenhithe, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie
So you might think that the word silhouettemeans 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 termà 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.
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.
“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.
‘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
Waves hitting rocks during a storm. Muriwai Beach, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2018
My phone has been pinging all day with wild weather alerts. It has been wet and windy here, but apparently over much of New Zealand high winds, lightening strikes and massive rainfalls have caused havoc.
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.
Newly emerged Monarch butterfly dries its wings before taking off. 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.
pan-fried tarakihi fillet with rosemary lime crumb, roasted butternut squash and watercress. Su Leslie, 2018
The ingredients: prawn and soba noodle salad with avocado, grapefruit mint and yuzu. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Prawn and soba noodle salad with avocado, grapefruit mint and yuzu. Image: Su Leslie 2018
Lunch; grapefruit, rocket, walnuts and feta salad, dressed with an orange mustard vinaigrette. Image: Su Leslie, 2018
Good together: aubergine, garlic, ginger, chilli and lime. Image: Su Leslie 2018
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.
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.”