Reference Point

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Does this image make you a little dizzy? Or perhaps off balance? It should. Yet it is merely a photo of a wrought iron railing. The difference is the reference point. We are used to making solid, constant things our reference points. In this case you would probably not be at all uneasy if I had taken the photo with the building straight on the horizontal and thus made the railing diagonal. That is, after all, how we stand when we look at things. But by making the bottom of the railing horizontal to the bottom of the picture frame (even if it doesn’t appear that way because on the descent of the steps), it makes you feel rather topsy turvy.

I have taken photographs for years. Decades even. But I now find that I have the time and the energy to start learning the craft seriously. Even with much technical skill to learn, however, there is one thing I have always known: that photography, as is true of any art form, must elicit an emotional response from the viewer. It may be awe, discomfort, outrage, sorrow, amazement, a feeling of being drawn in to the photograph, or even that sharp intake of breath that signifies absolute wonder. But a feeling must exist in the viewer or otherwise to them, it is just a picture. Not everyone will necessarily react the same way to the same work of art, or even to the same artist. But if a photograph doesn’t move someone, then it remains an object, not art.

Painters, musicians, writers, potters, photographers, dancers – at a fundamental level, we are all trying to do the same thing. We are all trying to get good enough at our craft to convey what we feel when we encounter the world.

And that is a life long process.

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