Same location, similar content but very different origins

I have noticed that some of my images, whilst superficially very similar, have quite different origins for their compositions. For example, these images, were both taken at Skaw on Unst on the same day:

This image followed a pattern I have seen and used before. I instantly saw its potential as a piece of “Public Art” and arranged the composition to make it look far more like I am celebrating an artist’s installation rather than a mundane concrete support for an antenna – its actual purpose. The positioning of the clouds was also deliberate so as to give the impression that the steel girders are chimneys. Overall, this image was deliberately contrived and composed to achieve a quirky, mildly humorous photograph.

This image, whilst superficially, very similar, had a quite different origin. I did not initially perceive this brick construct as an independent element within the scene. Rather I saw it, halved, as shown here, with the pool of water cradling its base, and the clouds plus the horizons of the land and the sea pointing towards it. In other words, I saw the whole picture as a series of interrelated shapes rather than as individual elements of a composition.

The next diagrammatic version explains what I perceived more clearly.

Was my seeing this a moment of “visual indeterminacy”? It was certainly a fleeting moment of initial perception that was soon replaced by an understanding of the various parts as discrete elements.

From then on, I used my memory of my initial perceptions to compose the final image.

The following image was conceived quite differently to either of the ones discussed above.

I saw this as a pleasing arrangement and alignment of the lines that connected the foundations to the derelict shed and the horizon. It is a consciously composed image where the reality of independent elements has been challenged by moving the camera until the separate components were forced to connect.

The image to the left has no narrative perceived by me and was seen as no more than a nicely balanced arrangement of disparate elements, in particular the tracks, block houses and the rocks.

It is a conscious design that leaves everything except the stability of the image unexplained.

Here are further examples, from different locations, where I had an initial, short, almost two-dimensional perception of the scene that was then used to construct a final image from my memory of it:

Initial (indeterminate) 2D perception


Final Image






This instantaneous visualisation of the whole and or relationships between elements that exist visually but not in reality is not a new phenomena for me. However, having recognised, in 2018, and understood they way it works for me, I am now deliberately following that path and not trying to over-think the compositions.

Images from the same locations as those above but that were more “traditionally” seen and composed follow:

By “traditionally” composed I mean that I saw what looked like a pleasing arrangement of elements and moved around to achieve the final composition. There was no instant visualisation and usually little “potential narrative” to be developed.

Of course there is narrative potential in this image to the left. However, at the time I only saw it a an interesting arrangement of the building, the man-hole and the fence. Unlike the earlier scene from this location this is easily perceived as a three-dimensional image rather than being two-dimensional.

“Potential narratives” as a source of composition will be discussed in a later blog.

Conclusion

The above demonstrates that even at a single location, on the same day, my motivations for making individual images can vary significantly. There are at least 4 different sources of inspiration from my day at Skaw on Unst!

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