… on… beyond the subject….

I once read something that got me thinking about how I photograph different subjects. I’ve started becoming more interested – not in just photographing a subject but actually photographing in a way that may allow people to look beyond the subject.  How do we frame a subject?

Urban Void

Is the frame to be ignored for the subject?
Investigate the setting. Investigate the frame.
Can you see behind? What is hidden by the subject? What is revealed by the frame?

How does framing a subject tell us more about the subject than the subject itself?

For many in our image conscious culture life beyond the frame is frequently unthinkable.  I think the opposite is true.  Looking beyond the subject can deepen my appreciation and understanding.  It inspires more questions on the journey that can propel the viewer further into the world of the image.

Urban Frame-Up

If you’ve followed me for some time then you know that I am a big fan of abstraction.  And so often my images have been composed only of the subject itself.  I haven’t changed As one friend told me “you actually think in abstract.”  Maybe I’m just starting to expand my view to include a larger world and larger context in which the subject appears and that – for me – is just as interesting as the subject itself.  That’s why I love images like the ones I’m posting here where the subject almost seems like a void – a vast emptiness that nearly fills the frame of the image but is framed by its surroundings.

I like the contrast between being and nothingness (as Sartre would phrase it).   I find the tension between two opposite things utterly compelling.  Existential imaging?

SHOW ME EVERYTHING – by Tindersticks from the album The Something Rain

7 thoughts on “… on… beyond the subject….

  1. I enjoy your thinking and your photos Terry. I understand you to say that if we cropped out the trees and grass in the first photo and the architecture in the second we would be left with a space completely filled with pure abstraction, and this presents an entirely different visual concept than the photos shown here, in which the abstractions become objects in the world and create narrative…?

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    • yes. abstraction is usually isolated to it’s purest form through presentation. And you are also correct in that I think abstraction when it is more closely linked to the world around it (like I’ve shown in my photos) adds or creates a different narrative which can be more interesting and lead to new understandings.

      I was out photographing this morning and thought more about this offshoot of my work. On a purely technical level it starts with inverting negative space by using an abstract object to block another object/subject. This inverts the relationship of a subject to it’s frame or at the very least questions, “What is framing?” I suppose on a more metaphysical level it starts with the fact that I question all reality and perceptions of reality almost all the time. I am interested, and simultaneously concerned, by the rapid advance of immersive technologies (i.e. virtual reality) and how that will change humanity. In this context I want to re-ask the age old question, “What is art?” Yeah I’m delving a little into surrealism here but unlike surrealism which relied heavily on dreams, symbolism and perception altering methods I am photographing what actually exists. And what actually exists has it’s own obfuscation. Maybe this type of imagery could be called the fine art of obfuscation.

      I’m curious as to what you think.

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  2. “you actually think in abstract.”

    would like to hear more about this (?)
    I know David Lynch is one of the many people (artists) who thinks in abstract.

    makes me wonder if i do (?)

    cheers, Gavin.


  3. My first thought was Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. He talks about the Studium – that in the photo which ‘constructs/represents’ the context, culture, social and historical backdrop – in essence the whole of what sustains and produces the meaning/image in its cultural context. Then the Punctum – that which pierces the image/viewer – the ‘offset / jarring / against’ element, the ‘true meaning’ often unintended or at first hidden or subtle.
    When I write a tune I hit lots of wrong notes – it’s often a wrong note that I keep and which then makes the tune work. We try and ‘learn’ art but are led to our greatest heights by accident.
    With the abstract – the rules must be present in order to show where they are broken. So the ‘frame’ enables and creates the abstract ‘focus’. Often the abstract is in fact the Studium – which serves to foreground some ‘punctum’ in the ‘frame’, even when that frame is ‘all that is not the abstract’. So the artist aims to show the image, but accidentally reveals everything else.
    We cry for freedom, but without rules there is no game to play.
    How about that for a pretentious first comment on my return 😉

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    • What a magnificent comment. Nothing pretentious about it – gives a lot to think about. An absolutely wonderful addition to the discussion. Great reference to Barthes. I’d read Camera Lucida a couple of years ago – you’ve given me reason to dig it out of my personal library to reread. Thanks again. 🙂

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