July 30, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray

"...it is a mistake to think that the passion one feels in creation is ever really shown in the work one creates. Art is always more abstract than we fancy. Form and colour tell us of form and colour - that is all."
(Quote from "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde, 1890)

I think this describes one of the most frustrating experiences every new photographer will have when they show their work around: Not everybody shares their enthusiasm for an image simply because the passion with (or in a wider sense: the context in) which the photo was taken was lost on the beholder.
There are two dangerous courses that result from such frustration:
- one tries to shoot what pleases the crowd; with the risk of becoming a copy-cat.
- one proclaims: "It is enough if I find this image beautiful" and risk to stop improving.
Both paths will not lead to the desired result: to evoke (or convey) feelings, or even passion through the artful use of form and color.

That inspires a nasty question: What is it in "abstract art" that evokes feelings?

I posted this on some forums but response was scarce. Someone ventured along the lines that something in the colors or forms of an abstract image evokes memories which are coupled with feelings. Perhaps not a bad guess. But that would mean that you as a photographer hardly have control over what feelings you evoke with abstract photos.
My theory is that abstract art relies more on the primary effectors of color and form. Like round forms are associated with the feminine, red is associated with warmth/love etc. You get my drift?
So it is indeed easier for the beholder to associate "things" with a more abstract image than with a very realistic, explicit photo that tunnels your thoughts quite strongly. Perhaps the same mechanism that makes many films of books a less satisfying experience for the reader of the book - because the explicit images in the film restrict the associations the reader of the book had or even contradict them.
So coming back to the quote from Oscar Wilde: It might just be a hint that the highest explicitness and realism in an image not necessarily evokes the most favorite response to it.
Erotic photography is certainly one example where this "insight" is considered a platitude.
And Bjørn Rørslett comes to mind with many intriguing images that are quite enigmatic. See for example his "Colours on Colours" gallery.

Anyone likes to comment?

Interesting reading: "OK... I just do not get it???"

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