“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.
Photographing art works…
Even though I’m working on a lot of commercial shoots these days, I’ve set myself to concentrate on form. You might think that would be easy when it comes to photographing the new sculptural teapots by ceramist Wayne Cardinalli. The artist has done all the hard thinking, right? The truth is, the angle of view and every shift of lighting changes how the piece’s shapes are perceived. The ceramist created the 3-dimensional form; the photographer must now create a 2-dimensional expression of that form. Technical skill is required but more than that, intuition is needed – an understanding and a feel for what the form is about.
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.