It’s All in the Details
I am not a big picture person.
In my professional career, I was master of the details. I thrived on solving intricate, discrete problems; researching solutions; documenting results; developing action plans. I lived in the nitty-gritty, the day-to-day minutiae, figuring out how all the tiny pieces worked together. And I was really good at it.
Not surprisingly, that detail orientation, that way of seeing and working in the world, has followed me into my photography.
This week, we kicked off Kat Sloma’s “Find Your Eye: Starting the Journey” e-course in which I am participating. Our current assignment is to create an “Inspiration File” – a collection of our best images. Not necessarily best in terms of technique or execution. Not the ones which received the most Flickr comments or the ones that drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from family or friends. No, what we are looking for are the images that make our hearts flutter. The ones that provide that jolt of recognition, that frisson of excitement. The ones where we say to ourselves: “I love this”. Even if no one else “gets it”, this image moves me.
And as I have begun that process of review and contemplation, as I study my work, it is readily apparent that details are my way of visually interpreting the world around me.
I am currently reading Twyla Tharp’s excellent book “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life”. In Chapter 3, Tharp discusses what she calls our “creative DNA…those strands that govern our creative impulses”. In describing these strands, she uses the focal length of a lens as a metaphor for the way any artist sees the world:
“All of us find comfort in seeing the world either from a great distance, at arm’s length, or in close-up…Each of us is hard-wired a certain way. And that hard-wiring insinuates itself into our work.”
Close-up is my focal length.
My images are not sweeping or grand. You don’t get a sense of place or context from my shots. I fill the frame with my subject, forcing the viewer to see the details that engaged my eye. There is rarely a narrative or story except for that told through line, form, shape, texture. The play of light and shadow. Abstract geometry. Rust and decay. Shiny reflections. Images that ask: “what is it?” These are the common threads that wind themselves through my work.
It’s not to say that I don’t experiment with seeing the big picture or taking a middle distance viewpoint. After all, that is part of the learning process.
And yet. Close-up – this is the way that I see the world.
Photography has given me this gift – a way of capturing my unique vision. A way of saying: “This is beautiful to me”. For me, it’s all in the details.
What about you? What is your “focal length”? How do you see the world?