One can make a simple experiment: to stand on a plain or at a shore and to look out on the horizon. The question is: where within the field of view is the horizon? Right, it is close to smack in the middle. But this exercise is not quite straightforward. When looking straight out, everything close to us becomes blurry and we tend to ignore, or only half-see, the foreground. The angle of view of sharpest focus is much smaller than the overall angle of view our eyes can cover. This influences where we see the horizon and we really have to concentrate in order to see it in the middle of our overall field of view.
The above experiment also only works on a flat plain like the open sea. As soon as our position is elevated or depressed our perception of where the horizon lies changes. Where is then a good position for the horizon in a photograph? That is an excellent question and thanks for asking. Let’s think about it.
If we see nothing, then this does not mean that nothing is there. John D. Barrow, The Artful Universe
It is not really news that human perception is limited. We hear only within a certain frequency spectrum, we can only see within a certain range of wavelengths and only things of a certain minimum size. Our perception is also optimised for a certain time window.
No wonder then that humans have been wondering forever what it is out there that we don’t perceive. The “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns” to quote a former U.S. politician. Photography can stretch into some of these unknowns but that opens questions of its own.
“It is like an autumn evening under a colorless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.”
Kamo no Chōmei, An Account of my Hut, 1212
Many aesthetic terms and concepts are elusive. That might be because they often seem to stem from emotion first and only afterwards are translated into concepts. Something, we can’t quite put our finger on and still can’t resist to try. And while the concepts often seem culture-bound the underlying sentiments, I believe, often are universal.
One of the most elusive aesthetic concepts I have encountered is the notion described in the quote above and called in Japanese “yūgen”.
If you have followed this blog for a while, you might remember the earlier post about Mu Qi Fa-chang and his painting “Six Persimmons”. Truth to be told, until now I had never seen a persimmon and knew the fruit only from that painting. Not many persimmon trees around here, I can assure you. So you can picture my surprise when I recently found in our food store packs with persimmons. And actually six per pack! Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a pack and do some arranging for a modern take on the Mu Qi painting. And as it often is, this kind of doing provides its own kind of insights.
This is just a short note that again one of my works, Birch Cubism I, has won a nomination at the Black & White Spider Awards in the category Nature/Professionals.
Like the last time, it is a picture that doesn’t quite fit into the genre landscape photography – and, interestingly, the Black & White Spider Awards don’t make a distinction between nature and landscape photography, either. Instead they distinguish between categories “Nature” and “Wildlife”, which kind of leaves cityscapes (often counted as landscapes) to seek for another home.
Maybe this seems like not such an important topic. My work so far has also stretched from architecture to abstract to nature to landscape. There is no rule that binds a photographer and certain photographs to a single genre. Still, as a photographer one is often required (for marketing and other purposes) to summarize what one’s work is all about. “Whatever interests me” is in that context not perceived as a good answer. Therefore, this question kind of keeps popping up in my mind. But more on that later.
Again, there has been overall excellent work among the submissions so check it out! These competitions are a good place to see what is state-of-the-art in photography and they do show what other people are working with.
There are a few places and views to which I am drawn over and over again. And as I keep taking photos of the same scenery, it feels like I am trying to do a kind of 36 views of Mt Fuji. Which I am not. At least not consciously. So why am I returning? After having thought about this for a while, I think I might have an answer. And one, that in a way surprised myself.