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.
With stringent, I mean a few things. As I mentioned in the last post, it is good to have a certain correlation between the geometry of the frame and the geometry in the frame. My own compositions often feel to me being too lose and lyrical – as if the eye would be rambling a bit. You might have heard of the Edward Weston quote that good composition is the strongest way of seeing. I think that means capturing a scene in a way that it seems there is actually no other way how it should be seen. Something forceful, seemingly inevitable in the way how elements are placed. This I mean by stringency. And one way to approach this is to reduce the elements of a picture to the absolutely necessary. A kind of mental and visual, almost monkish austerity. It is, by all means, the opposite of lyrical rambling in the landscape.
Then, we had a nice, overcast day with fresh snow and I went out to one of my favorite places on the coast. It was wind still, moderately cold and I was warmly dressed and comfortable. The sea had this light gray color, wonderfully contrasting to the snow, which had frozen to the trees. There were no people or even tracks of people around and the forest seemed like a magic kingdom straight out of the Snow Queen. The silence was only occasionally interrupted by muted calls of two young swans gliding through the water.
These are the moments, when becomes almost too serene to photograph. Existence seems reduced to just looking and breathing. Still, my new-years-resolution regarding stringency in my mind, after a while I set to work. I composed carefully and soon came up with something that at least was not lacking in austerity:
Later that day, I was back at my desk and looked through the photos of the day. And there I noticed that the more the session progressed, the more I had drifted back from the self-imposed austerity to my lyrical ramblings. The last picture of the day was the one on the top of the post. I had to laugh out loud when I saw this. Well, I was firmly back into the territory of poetry…
Maybe, on this cold and lovely morning, I was just too happy to be austere.
As life goes.