Tension between light and dark

Vermeer, Master of Light

Last year I visited the Netherlands to both spend time with my family and get some vacation in as well. As my mother is advancing in age, I try to visit every year, particularly, since travel is getting more difficult for her.

During this visit I wanted to explore a couple of cities that I hadn’t visited for quite a while; one of these was Delft. The city of Delft dates back to the 13th century and has played a significant role in the formation of the Netherlands, as it was used as the de facto capital by William of Orange during the 80-year war to liberate the country from Spain. Another great aspect of Delft is that the center and a lot of points of interest are within walking distance from the central train station.

Another claim to fame of Delft is the painter Johannes Vermeer. As I came across the Vermeer Centre, while in Delft, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth of coverage and wonderful exhibit. This museum is located just off the Market Square and is in a replica of the building that housed the Guild of Saint Luke (a guild for painters that was common across cities in early modern Europe ).

Tension between light and dark

One of the things that always drew me to the painters from the Dutch Golden Age is their use of light and shadow, also known as chiaroscuro. This technique centers on creating a significant contrast between the light and dark areas of a painting. As a result, it creates a dynamic tension between light and dark. This tension brings drama and interest and allows for a voyage of discovery within the image, as our eye is drawn to light first.

The Vermeer Centre’s exhibit last September detailed the different uses of light by Vermeer, as that is a key aspect of his genius. The setups detailed various light sources and how they were used in different paintings by Vermeer. For a photographer, this was a wonderful reminder to use light in all sorts of ways, often rather simple, and generate looks that are nothing short of stunning.

I took the photo in this post at the Vermeer Centre, as I was drawn immediately to the simplicity and power of the still-life that was set up on the basic wooden table. It gives the sense of that age and is simple to replicate in any studio.

Author: jansenphoto

A Fresh Perspective Photography is more than just a vehicle for capturing the world around me; it provides me with a palette and a set of brushes, with which I paint not only what I see, but also look to express the emotions that are evoked by the scene in front of me in that moment. Growing up in the Netherlands exposed me to a wide cross-section of visual arts that laid the foundation of my photographic view of all that surrounds me. Early influences were the Dutch Masters of the 17th century, to whom I was introduced by my grandfather during museum explorations; favorites among them are the scenes of quotidian life depicted by Jan Steen and Frans Hals and the vivid landscapes of Jacob van Ruisdael. My classical high school education was supplemented by the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, where I spent many a lunch hour exploring its great collection. Here I was introduced to surrealism with a particular love for the approach taken by Salvador Dali; Dali also rekindled my appreciation for the work of Hieronymus Bosch, who often showed the folly of us mortals. Universal Connections My approach to any photographic subject is to look for understanding first; in this I look to establish either a connection between the viewer and the subject or capture the connection of the subject with its surroundings. The captured image then aims to portray this connection from a perspective that is part of my personal interpretation. This interpretation is often a form of externalized introspection, which may alternately display the connection of isolated beings and items with their environment or highlight the whimsy of the profound world, in which we find ourselves. The universe is full of connections, many of which are waiting to be discovered; part of my journey as a photographer is to document these connections. Any assignment, be it an event, a product shoot or a portrait session is always approached through communication with the client; this is where the first connection is established. Ideas are exchanged and a collaborative plan of action forms, ultimately resulting in a set of images that aim to exceed the expectations of each client. And, lest we forget, it is important to have fun while practicing the serious business of photography!

15 thoughts on “Tension between light and dark”

  1. On our second trip to Holland in 1993 we visited Delft, and came away with a pottery pig. We loved what we saw of the country and thought the people were wonderful and welcoming.
    I love your picture.

  2. Lovely exploration of ‘chiaroscuro’. Makes me want to be there. The paintings by Jan Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch are amongst my all time favorites

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