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

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Batten down the hatches

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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 more to come apparently.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | wild

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.

 

Getting creative with an old desk

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Refurbished; old writing desk bought from a charity shop. Image: Su Leslie 2019

My student son lives in a shared flat, which means he has to keep most of his belongings in his bedroom, and work there too when the shared spaces get too busy or noisy.

So when I saw an old drop-front writing desk, it seemed a perfect solution to his need for both a workspace and storage.

In its original state, the desk was a bit dull and sad-looking, but it’s amazing what a few coats of white paint can do!

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As bought. The wooden finish was a bit shabby, and too dark for a small bedroom. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I remember from my flatting days that rented houses never have enough lights or power points, they’re always in the wrong place, and there’s generally nothing you can do about it. So with the Big T’s help, I’ve fitted power and lighting to the desk itself, with a four-outlet power board (with USB ports) and a LED light above the desk area.

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Integrated power-board makes it easy to use/charge laptop, phone, etc. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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LED light attached to the desk should make the work area usable in any room. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Imagining how the desk would look as my workspace. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

Having brought the desk indoors to photograph it, I’m realising how useful I’d find something like this. And it does look good with the black & white chair.

Posted to the Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge — creativity

“dusted with spices from a million flowers”

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“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Words are ingredients that writers can combine in infinite ways. And as good cooks sustain and nourish and delight us with the products of their craft, so too will good writers. Sometimes it is the smallest phrases — the careful choice and arrangement of just a few words — that bursts into our consciousness and remains a delicious memory long after we put down the book.

For this week’s Lens Artists Photo Challenge | delicious

New views and processes

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Cooling off. Polymer clay doll form after baking. Image: Su Leslie 2019

When we look at a piece of art, it is easy to forget that in its making, it may have gone through many stages or forms quite different to the end result.

Polymer clay doll-making is an excellent example, often beginning with a wire and aluminium foil armature around which clay is formed — sometimes for the whole body, but in many cases just for heads, hands and feet.

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Once the clay is sculpted and baked it must be cooled before the soft materials that will form the body can be attached. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Clay, especially small pieces, are extremely fragile and need to be properly cooled before the next stage can begin. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I have made dolls in the past, but these belong to students at a recent workshop held by an artist friend. I was there solely as the photographer.

I must say though, it did rather inspire me.

Posted to the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | something different

On the imagined lives of posts, benches and other old things

There is beauty in the old and the worn and the weathered that goes far beyond the aesthetic pleasures of  haphazard and irregular colours and textures and forms.

It is the beauty of imagination.

Who hasn’t looked at a solitary, bleached and lichen-encrusted post and wondered about its function, its past, the people who hammered it into the ground, and those who leaned on it to climb a fence or open a gate.

And the weathered park bench, being progressively claimed by the surrounding garden. Who sat here to catch their breath? Or check their Facebook, send a text, write a poem or a love letter. Who read a book, planned a dinner party, solved a problem, proposed marriage or ended a relationship here?

Do you feel it too?

Posted to Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | weathered

Nature’s architects

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Paper wasp’s nest. Image: Su Leslie 2018

When we think of architecture, it is usually in terms of human achievements — skyscrapers, cathedrals, public buildings, that weird house round the corner.

But of course humans aren’t the only species to build individual shelters or indeed entire communities; beavers, birds, termites and paper wasps are just a few species that actively construct their living environment.

Paper wasps get their name from their ability to create a papery substance from collected fibrous material and their saliva. The queen uses this to build a nest into which her eggs are laid. The nest is also used as night shelter by adult wasps. If the queen is successful in attracting worker wasps to help her, the nest will continue to be used, and grow, for the queen’s lifetime.

Ultimately the nests are abandoned, and degrade naturally.

Unlike most human architecture. I read recently (Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth, The Guardian, 25 Feb 2019) that this most common of human building materials is the second most used substance on the planet after water, and probably the most damaging to our increasingly endangered environment.

“By one calculation, we may have already passed the point where concrete outweighs the combined carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet. Our built environment is, in these terms, outgrowing the natural one. Unlike the natural world, however, it does not actually grow. Instead, its chief quality is to harden and then degrade, extremely slowly.”

It is an uncomfortable article to read — so I thoroughly recommend that you do.

I guess it’s a sign of how distressed I have become at the state of the world that I have responded to this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge with a post not about the undoubted majesty and beauty of so much human architecture, but by thinking about how other species also create functional, beautiful structures with a much lighter footprint.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
Frank Lloyd Wright