A state of grace - the photography of Sergio Larrain

It seems that some photographers have the capacity to enter a special state and produce works of wonder. They can somehow see what we struggle to, and,seemingly without effort, produce work of ineffable beauty. Sergio Larrain (1931-2012) was one of those photographers, in my view one of the greatest that ever lived. One his most oft repeated quotes is also one of the most revealing and profound: A good picture is born from a state of grace.

The power of the triptych

The creation of visual art is widely varied, not only in terms of the medium used, be in a digital sensor or oil paint, but also in the final form in which the artist presents their work. Although the single painting, photograph or composite has always been my favourite, I have also been drawn to works of art made up of different images arranged together, in particular the triptych.

The triptych (traditionally a painting made up of three sections) originated from early Christian art, and was primarily associated with altarpieces, although over time the form was used by artists in a range of contexts, including sculpture and paintings with non-religious themes, such as ‘Carnival’ by Max Beckmann.

‘Carnival’ by Max Beckman, Oil On Canvas, 1943.

‘Carnival’ by Max Beckman, Oil On Canvas, 1943.

Photographic compositing - an introduction

Any reader of this blog will be aware of my interest in the photo composite as an art form, and it is certainly an area I wish to develop personally and write about more. This post is intended both as my “central reference” about photo compositing, and an account of my journey in trying to employ the technique in my own creative expression. I hope that it will be both interesting and useful for others.

The beauty of trees

A woodland with shafts of light falling though the trees.

For as long as humans have walked the earth, trees have been our companions. They have sheltered and sustained us, provided food of themselves and for the animals we preyed upon. It’s no wonder that they have become so entwined in our imagination, and seem to reach out to all our senses; attracting us not only by their latticed beauty but also with their smell, sound and surprisingly their touch (who hasn’t run their hand along the bark of a tree or marvelled over the smoothness of a Horse Chestnut)?

Trees are sometimes a source of fear, not in themselves, but by creating the dark forest that can hide our enemies. They rustle, they crack, they groan. Conversely they offer shelter and shade and life giving oxygen. They are beautiful, inspiring and practical. We hug trees, we play on trees, we destroy them, worship and adore them. We hang people from their branches, burn them for warmth, we make them into tables and whatever else we can imagine. But, despite their utility and beauty (or possibly because of it), trees remain humankind’s conscience and solemn witness.

And I would like to be simple and devout, like the oak tree.

Wonder, respect and humility. A book review.

Professor Howard Zehr is known widely for his extensive work on Restorative Justice, and is the author of a number of books one of which, ‘The Little Book of Contemplative Photography, Seeing with wonder, respect and humility’ is the subject of this review. I have been increasingly drawn to this approach to photography (the subject of future posts), and Zehr’s book has heightened that interest still further. His own reason for writing the book reflects my own interest in pursuing the goal of Contemplative Photography:

I have written this book in part to encourage myself to slow down, to heighten my imagination, to renew myself while I gain a new view of the creation and the creator.

Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire. Brimham Rocks, located in North Yorkshire, is a rewarding place for photography and one I would recommend to anyone. The intriguing rock formations were formed by coarse-grained sandstone (known locally as Millstone Grit) being eroded over the millennia by glaciation, wind and water. Walking around the site reminded me of visiting a huge sculpture park, and I found the remarkable shapes of the rocks excited the imagination and offered an excellent study of form and texture.

A photographic record

Running parallel with my interest in photography has been my interest in the photograph as a historical record. Although this subject is huge and one I would like to return to, it can hold a particular interest when photographs provide insights into the lives of those who hitherto you had known only in one context. For example the relationship of a Grandson to his Grandfather. My own Grandfather, who was 105 when he died, was a case in point.

The square format

The square format has long held a fascination for me, encouraged as I was by the early photographs my father took using an old Rolliecord. My Dad used transparency film exclusively, and the final images were diffused with a beautiful light that now conjures up the nostalgia of my childhood.

© WT Jones, c.1960.