Notes on Composition I

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A beginning photographer can hardly evade advice on the question of composition. As reward, he/she is told, wait more pleasing photos. Usually then follows a list of rules (with immediate advice that rules sometimes need to broken), like the Rule of Thirds, the Rule of Odds, use of leading lines and so on. But is only goal for a photographer to always make pleasing photos? I don’t think so. Therefore, I believe it is a fair question to ask what we really want to achieve with composition.

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To be, or to make.


Before starting on the series on composition that I announced in the previous post, let’s take a moment and look at another topic, the photographic process. Before any thoughts regarding composition or design come into play, the landscape photographer has already made a decision; he/she has selected a subject or scene.
How is that selection made? And why? These seem pretty fundamental questions in making a photograph, but often, artists stay very quiet about them. Why is that and what is going on?

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What is Art?

DietmarTallroth-0001.jpg“You know it’s art, when it’s bigger than two metres and priced higher than five figures“. This quote attributed to British photographer Martin Parr nicely highlights not only Parr’s sense of humor, but also some of the friction between photography and the art market. The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones in turn has become quite (in)famous among photographers as he regularly declares that photography is not art. This begs to revisit the old question: “What is art?”. Here is my attempt of an answer.

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Nature Deficit Disorder

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A few days ago I found on the BBC website an article about “nature deficit disorder” (NDD for short). The term comes from a 2005 book by Richard Louv titled “Last Child in the Woods”. The condition is not strictly a medical one but a cultural one. Still, Louv sees it as a reason for increasing obesity, stress and decreased emotional wellbeing among children. Louv’s book triggered a number of nature education programs for children, aimed to have children practising outdoor sports, learn to name things they encounter in nature and take a scientific interest. That sounds all pretty good, doesn’t it? Yes it does, and still, there might be a fundamental misunderstanding at work.

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Taiko – Finnish Art Online

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The Dragon, Kopparnäs, 2016

Yesterday a new webshop for Finnish art called “Taiko” opened to the public. The idea was born when the founders visited an artist that had hundreds of unsold works on stock. Any effort to make it easier for both the artists and the general public to find each other is already a laudable effort. After all, Finland is a small market and space for exhibitions is highly sought after. But the site is also very professionally and nicely done, including a feature to upload a photo from your living room to test how the work looks at the wall…

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A Young Master

In 2015 the small and courageous Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki held an exhibition about China’s Changing Landscape – Contemporary Ink. It showed how modern Chinese artists (yes, there is more to China than Ai Weiwei) reinterpret classical Chinese working methods and motifs. While the whole exhibition had a freshness and energy that made some Western artists look tired and repetitive, it was one single work there that took me by storm.

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