A significant amount of photography attempts to capture the reality that we see around us, often in the best possible light. As a result, most of the advances in photography have been aimed at achieving ever higher fidelity in capturing these images. Recently, in digital photography, sensors have become more sensitive causing ISO ranges to expand, white balance is corrected ever more accurately and many other innovations have been programmed into the complex computers that we call digital cameras.
Of course, this is not a bad thing, as it has allowed many people to get much more satisfactory results in photographing all matter of subjects under a wide variety of conditions. Moreover, today’s digital cameras provide their users with a sense of instant gratification well beyond that of even the near-instant output of Polaroid cameras. The added bonus of being able to delete a poor image has brought the masses back to photography on a scale that dwarfs the success of even the legendary Kodak Brownie camera.
One side effect of this renaissance of photography, is that the post-digital diluvium of imagery may give one the impression that everything ranging from the quotidian to the sublime has been recorded by someone somewhere. How many times have you heard someone say, as you proudly show them your work, “I have a photo of that, let me show you!”, and they bring forth their smart-phone to show you their record of what you thought you were the first to see through your viewfinder?
I have to admit that there have been numerous times that I looked at a scene in front of me, weighing how I might want to photograph it, and felt the pressure to come up with a novel approach to creating the image. Yes, each individual photographer views the world in their unique and personal fashion, but is it enough differentiation to satisfy our creative urge? Personally, I have refrained from photographing certain scenes that might be considered over-photographed. Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick, ME, comes to mind; this may be the “most photographed” lighthouse on the East Coast of the US. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to photograph it, as I do have a vision in my mind’s eye of the lighthouse under a particular set of conditions; suffice it to say that I haven’t been there under those (very harsh) conditions.
Rather than replicating the great work that has been done by many photographers before me, I started looking for an alternate take on the world around me. Yes, I still photograph what all of us see around us in the standard manner of faithful reproduction of the scene. However, from time to time, I have been doing some experimental photography to try and reveal some of the things that our eyes don’t see, but that are still there. After a little more than a year of experimenting, and learning some new tricks that can be performed with a zoom lens or through camera motion and careful timing, I have started to pull things together into a more unified portfolio, titled “Abstractions”.
The goal of this portfolio is to show some of the layer underneath the immediately visible that I see, when I look at the world. This view is exposed only when I manipulate the camera or the lens, and never through post-capture processing; also, no special camera software or firmware is used. The images come to me when I am on location and are inspired by the sense of mystery that I derive from that location. What first started as pure experimentation has evolved into a new set of skills that uncover previously hidden insights. An image unfolds in front of me as I visualize it, and I plan an approach on how to capture it. The success rate is not 100%, but the results are interesting and encouraging in exploring new avenues of creativity that may otherwise remain cryptic.
The subjects that I have approached with this experimental methodology have ranged from fire to flowers and urban landscapes. Each set of subjects evokes their own, specific set of moments in the space-time continuum that ask to be recorded in a particular fashion; some have rendered surprises and few have been disappointing. There have been times when several attempts were needed to find the right balance that extracts the correct alternate sense from the subject; each subject has a series of alternate views that can be uncovered through opening up to the flow of energy that emanates from it. Many more await discovery.
In a sequel to this blog post, I will describe some of the details of the process that I use to create the images seen here and in the Abstractions portfolio. That post will be published some time next week. In the meantime, more images can be seen in the Abstractions album on the Frank Jansen Photography Facebook page.