The probably most popular painter in Finland (based on the crowds at his exhibitions here) is Pekka Halonen (1865 – 1933). Among the painters of the Golden Age of art in Finland (around the turn of the 20th century) he is somewhat unusual. He was a boy from the countryside who didn’t quite fit in with the in-crowds at the time. Still, he was and is highly regarded as a painter of the Finnish landscape. One could even claim, he is the painter of the Finnish landscape.
For this still (rambling on) series on the different work-outs for the art of seeing, Halonen provides a good example how painters can be worthwhile study objects for photographers. And, indeed, there is a number of things one can learn about landscape art from Pekka Halonen. Especially about compositions, which are in his case often quite unusual. What impressed me most, though, when I first encountered his art was how he was depicting flow in nature. Let me explain…
I once saw a documentary about Bhutan and how it had changed the measurement of its government’s success from the gross domestic product (GDP) metric to a metric of gross national happiness. As if that alone wouldn’t be intriguing enough (and I do think others should follow that example), there were scenes from a school were children had written on the wall lists of the most important values. One of these values, prominently written in large letters was: resilience.
What a thing to teach to children already in school! In a creative life it seems to me one of the core skills to foster and develop is just that: resilience.
Twice a year I engage in an activity that I feel is as necessary as it is painful. I review my photographic output for the last six months. It’s necessary, because from time to time I have to judge my photos against my evolving vision of what I want to do in photography.
It is painful, because invariably I come to the conclusion that the photos were not as good as they should, or could, have been. When I did this around New Year I came this time to the conclusion that my output should become more stringent.
All photos are in a rectangular format. Our photographic window to the world has a geometrical shape. We are so used to this, that one has to think for a moment to realize that this is a rather strange state of affairs. When we look around a landscape our outlook (literally) hasn’t any shape and there are few to no rectangles or squares in nature.
In a way, the rectangular shape of the view in a photo indicates already that there is a person looking. Somehow, consciously or unconsciously, a photographer has to take this into account, when taking a photograph.
Have you ever heard of the Heliocentric Helios Console? I thought so. Still, from a recent article on Open Culture we can learn that this mixing desk was once used in recording classic rock songs from Stairways to Heaven to After Midnight (and that it is now up for auction in case you still need Christmas gifts). One has to love the name, though, which sounds like an egomaniacal sun. But it maybe gets to your head if all the planets circle around you…
For me this piece of news was a reminder of how strangely the relative obscurity of this device contrasts with the cult of the recording device I perceive in photography.
Photography, at its core, is the art of selective seeing. Everything else is just technique.
The budding landscape photographer often starts with a frustrating experience: one enters a captive natural scene, raises the camera to the eye and presses the shutter. The results will hardly ever be satisfactory. Why is that so?
Since introduction of the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900, people have used photography to document their lives, to create memories. I never quite embraced that. I don’t enjoy seeing myself in photographs but also on many occasions I preferred being in the moment rather than documenting it through a lens.
Recently, however, I attended an event that made me think.