Martian Chiaroscuro


Image Credit: HiRISEMROLPL (U. Arizona)NASA

My friend Gil sent me this exquisite image from NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, which includes the following description:

“Deep shadows create dramatic contrasts between light and dark in this high-resolution close-up of the martian surface. Recorded on January 24 by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the scene spans about 1.5 kilometers across a sand dune field in a southern highlands crater. Captured when the Sun was just 5 degrees above the local horizon, only the dune crests are caught in full sunlight. With the long, cold winter approaching the red planet’s southern hemisphere, bright ridges of seasonal frost line the martian dunes.”

Add the influence of scale to perception of curving organic forms defined by light and shadow.  For comparison, two steps down in scale from my Form:Convolution series: First, Last Judgment fresco detail designed by Georgio Vasari, inside the cupola of Florence Cathedral, Rome. The second image, a withering croton leaf.

Detail, The Last Judgment
Fresco designed by Georgio Vasari. Inside the cupola, Florence Cathedral Rome. Photo Copyright ©2014 Jeanne McRight. All Rights Reserved.
Convolution: Croton Leaf
From Form by Jeanne McRight, Pix-Photography. Copyright©2014 Jeanne McRight. All Rights Reserved.

“Reality does n…

“Reality does not exist by itself. It’s an intellectual construction; and photography is a tool to negotiate our idea of reality.”
– Joan Fontcuberta

– Catalan photographer/artist/writer/educator Joan Fontcuberta, as recently stated in the film made by the Hasselblad Foundation, which accompanied the announcement that he was the recipient of their 2013 International Award in Photography. 

Capture is only one aspect of how an image is perceived – think of all the other variables. Somehow we are able to “get” the image despite its modification by camera noise, shine on a glossy print, monitor color calibration, viewing context, your own unique eyesight, 256 greys, ad infinitum… 

Fontcuberta’s pithy observation brings into question generally-accepted industry standards of photographic excellence. Is it time for a change? Our expectations are driven by swiftly-changing criteria, culturally based. Photographers’ passionate quest for the newest capture and production technology says something about photographic values as they exist now, very different from the past.

One can’t help but wonder what’s down the road.

The shape of content

Every now and then I reread my battered copy of Shahn’s The Shape of Content. Shahn said,

Forms in art arise from the impact of idea upon material… so that thinking and belief and attitudes may endure as actual things.

Form is the shape of content…

An artist-photographer and teacher whose career spanned the Depression and WWII eras, Shahn was considered a modernist in his own practice, yet I find that there are wise words in this book that transcend the art world’s ideological shifts. Still a good read, especially for those who like to think about the role of structure in their work.

Lately I’ve revisited my thinking a lot about form, not a unique activity for humans of course, judging from cave art and the constellations.

Emphasizing “form” over other concepts is tricky since it’s so inclusive, but it will be interesting to try in my next series of photos.

I welcome your thoughts and comments always – please do share them with me.