Lone wolfs and the serial photographer

Ever since I started to be more serial, I mean serious, about photography the question of series has occupied me. The company of photographs…

On one hand I’ve felt critical to series since it seems to be a shortcut for dilettantes; none of your photos are exiting or really interesting by themselves, but choose a “theme”, make a number of pictures around the theme, and the viewer will be more friendly in his evaluation of your ouvre.

This has made me avoid themes, and also series. Of course I have my favorite subjects (for me mainly birds), but this is something that comes from inner attraction, not a plan or worse, strategy.

However, I more and more realize that company DOES matter. Of course the best thing is to make lone wolfs, pictures that stand squarely on their own feet, need no company to support or enhance them. But then nothing need stop you from putting them in a thematic series. Everybody might benefit by a company of lone wolfs.
Another side of the coin is about perception. If you look at the output of a photographer you are probably looking at more than 1-2 pictures. You might look at 20 or even 100.

This makes the presence of “company” inevitable and leads to the question: In what order or disorder should one view the pictures? And for the photographer: In what order or disorder should I SHOW my pictures?

What I have on this site is disorder. BW and color, animals, portraits, street scenes without any order or guiding thought. And that is okay.

However, perceptually each thing seems to be influenced by what comes before and after. If I am famished a dinner will taste differently than if I had just been eating. Coming out into the sun after having been shut up in a dark room is different than if you are living with open windows all day long. Etcetera.

The same goes for pictures. And while I do want to avoid the strategic, somewhat sneaky shortcut of making my pictures look more attractive and likeable by making series, I also do not want them to look less than they are by putting them in poor (here meaning random) company.

The picture before and after might or might not harmonize with the current picture…

And this also misses out on another important thing: the elephant (as in the tale of the elephant and the blind men). Same elephant seen from different sides and angles can be not only interesting, but even illuminating. Same animal, different tail, tusk, etc. Same theme (birds), but different birds, colors, wings, compositions.

So my disorderly attitude now seems a bit unfair to the viewer, and also to the photographer. One very simple move is to simply select all the portraits and show them together, the same with birds, etc.

I just need to find a good portfolio program and might convert my site soon to a more series-friendly gallery.

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Food for sight

No, you don’t have to have a camera. But it can help. It has helped me to be more aware of our Visual World, the sphere of Things to See and the very real (but seldom talked about) nutriment “Food for Sight”.

I would say I am enjoying life more since I started to photograph. Of course there is a shadow side to this; turning into a maniacal Hunter, always on the lookout for the Next Great Pic.

But my hunter instincts have mellowed, I am more relaxed. Still, I notice that before I started going around with a camera I noticed less of the beauty of the world, was more visually undernourished.

So I can recommending photography for the jaded among us, we who risk falling into the well or Resignation or Nothing New Under The Sun.



There is so much joy to be gathered by looking at the world. And most of it is free. A car costs money, food costs money. But there is a universe of beauty for our eyes that nobody is charging for.

Just looking at each other can be a source of happiness. Look at the trees and their autumn colors, all the smartly designed everyday objects, a sports car, a warm smile, handsome shoes, a lovely coiffure.

Even a wind turbine can give visual joy. It is not “sweet” (many photographs I see are too sweet) but then we wouldn’t want to just eat sugar and cakes all day. Our eyes also need salty, sour and bitter sights.

Even umami.

wind-turbine
Wind turbine, La Palma
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Some strangeness (a kind of manifesto)

Let’s talk attitude.

When it comes to attitude towards the audience my aim –in writing/thinking, composition (and also photography) — is to meet you halfway on the bridge.

I am not looking for anything instant, not a “like” (Oh, how nice/ beautiful!) and not “What the f*ck is this??”. I believe both the artist and the audience should take steps.

If I pre-chew everything for the recipient HE will not learn anything. If I just make a concept art-exercise and ask the viewer (in Emperor’s new clothes manner) to imagine things  (as when calling a glass of water an oak tree, that just happens to look like a glass of water *) then I am not learning anything, more than being slightly clever. Then yours truly have it too easy.

* (Note re. the oak tree thing: “On one occasion when it was barred by Australian Customs officials from entering the country as vegetation, he [the artist, Michael Craig-Martin] was forced to explain it was really a glass of water.”)

No, let both parties work a bit and masticate. (The artist of course more than the viewer.) Here, as in philosophy, harmony is found in the right proportion. Not too little, not too much.

ornament5b negThe same goes for beauty, something I am old-fashioned enough to consider important, but also worth pondering.

I am with Francis Bacon who said “there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion”. What I consider a worthwhile, a viewwhile picture, should have some strangeness in it, something that makes you stop in your tracks and say “hm…”. Maybe even [in the voice of Wayne Campbell] “excellent…”

The amount of strangeness can vary, but should preferably never be totally absent. Otherwise we enter the world of BBB pictures (Beautiful But Boring/ Boring But Beautiful) and the showroom of bland, “pretty” and streamlined photography.

Here are some examples of BBB by yours truly. (I only show them as warning examples, for a hopefully deterrent effect.)

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I used to like pictures like these, but today they are like city doves; too common. Let’s aim higher than that and cultivate our taste, both as photographers and lookers-on.

I might not sound like a “gentleman” here, but who cares? The situation is critical! We are drowning in BBB while there is a grave shortage of strangeness in our visual universe. I aim to contribute at least some small quantities.

And by the way, I still like doves.

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