I am fascinated by the ocean, it’s ever changing moods and the possibilities that it offers. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy Hiroshi Sugamoto’s Seascape images so much.
I’ve been thinking about composition and how to use the psychology of how we see to make stronger images. This is something that I first came across in Vincent Versace’s Books (also see here).
Vincent teaches us that:
‘The unconscious eye “sees” in a predictable manner. It first recognizes light areas and then moves to dark ones, sees high before low contrast, records high before low sharpness, notices focus before blur, and focuses on high color saturation before low.’
I feel like the seascape images ignore the ‘rules’ of composition but still manages to hold a space for us to look deeply and remain engaged with the image. In the Sea of Japan image above I find that my eye is drawn immediately to the horizon line and then explores that dark shapes in the ocean surface before being drawn back to the horizon line. Then the whole process repeats.
I do wonder whether these images work better as stand alone images or as part of a series where you get to experience the ever changing moods of the sea.
How about you? How do you see this image? Do you prefer a stand-alone or the series?
I continue to think about and torture my friends by asking them about making Art and making photographs specifically. What is it for? Who is it for?
There are so many ways that we can use our time why make art if it’s not putting food on the table? Why make art if there’s no waiting audience for it?
The answer that I keep coming back to is that for me, and I suspect many others, creating things is an internal drive. I just have to do it. The world gets out of balance without the ability to create things. Nice if there’s and audience for what we’re making but it’s not the reason for making it.
Where things get a bit wobbly is when you have expectations for what you are creating. Whether it’s the standard that you set for yourself for quality? Whether it’s the ‘likes’ on Instagram or the number of pieces sold. Focusing on these things as measures of how good the work is will inhibit your progress as an artist.
Instead it’s much better to focus on the process of creating. Thinking about how many days did I get out to photograph this week, this month, this year or how many photographs did I ‘finish’ – take through the edit process and print? Seems to me a much better way to measure our creative output.
I often fall into the trap, as I suppose many people do, of being generally dissatisfied with the work that I’m producing. I make images that I like just often enough to keep me engaged but it can be tough to keep going especially when we’re surrounded by an onslaught of great work on social media.
The guitar teacher Tomo Fujita tells his students ‘Be Kind to Yourself, Don’t Compare, Don’t Expect Too Fast, and Don’t Worry.’ Good advice for anyone whether they are trying to learn a new skill or to be creative.
The other advice that I turn to when I’m struggling is what Ira Glass said about ‘The Gap’ (see video 3 below). He’s describing the difference between what you know is good and want to be able to do and what you’re currently able to achieve.
Check out the illustrated video below.
The solution of course is to do a lot of work. Bang it out even if you don’t feel like it. Just keep going. You will get better, you will evolve and you will close the gap.
Checkout the full interview ‘Ira Glass on Storytelling’ in the following videos. This should be required viewing for anyone in the creative arts.
I must have been living under a rock to only recently have found Rachael Talibart’s seascape work. She is perhaps best know for her Sirens photos, a series of storm waves named after mythological beings. A book of the same name was published by Triplekite Books in 2018. As an aside I can’t believe I missed this book since I thought I had all of the books that Triplekite had published. I found her work through the recently published book, Tides and Tempests, that further explores her interest in storm waves but also the coast in general.
It sounds like Rachael has had a lifelong relationship with the sea having grown up on the South Coast of England, spending time as a child on the family sailboat. She describes herself as a poor swimmer and a poor sailor who is happier and safer viewing the ocean from the shore. Reading between the lines in the introductory essay to Tides and Tempests it sounds like she had lots of ‘fun’ on the sailboat as a child. These episodes really do shape your life both as an adult and as a child, either pushing you away or drawing you in. Personally I’m glad that she is drawn towards the ocean and chooses to capture the majesty, power and potential that the ocean offers. Check out more of Rachael’s work on her website here.
Also check out the videos that Rachel put together below. Scroll all the way to the bottom to hear Rachel talk about her work and her process.
Check out the mini-documentary/interview with Rachel that Sean Tucker put together below. Sean is worth a ‘Friday Inspiration’ slot of his own. Until then check out his YouTube channel here.
I am filled with admiration for people like Joni Sternbach, who not only take a large format camera into the field but because she is using a wet-plate collodion process the photographic plates must be prepared and developed on location too.
The project that I’m most familiar with is – Surfland. It’s a project that was started ten years ago and has taken her to local surf spots on both coasts of the US, to Hawaii, Uruguay, Australia, France and England. It is a fascinating exploration of surf culture across the globe and well worth a deeper look.
Check out the Surfland project on Sternbach’s website here. There are also a couple of books associated with the project that can be found on her website here or from amazon.
I first came across Robert Adams when I was looking for the answer to the question ‘why do people photograph’ and found his book ‘Why People Photograph‘ and then later I came across his book ‘Beauty in Photography‘. These small books are collections of essays covering topics such as collectors, humor, teaching, money and dogs and discussions of Photographers such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Meiselas, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. I have enjoyed reading these books and get something new out of them as I reread them with a deepening understanding of photography as an art.
Why People Photograph must have been on my bookshelf for almost as long as I’ve been taking photographs, almost 10 years now, and yet it was only last year that I realized that Robert Adams can not only write but he is a well know photographer too! How many other holes in my appreciation of the history of photography could you drive a truck through?
I’m at my beginning of my exploration of his work, and I’m doing so by starting with his most recent projects first. Photographs taken around his home near the Oregon coast of the forests, coastline and meadows, very different subjects to the photographs of the American west increasingly spoiled by the urban sprawl that brought him to prominence. This work can be found in ‘The New West‘ a new edition of which will come out in the summer.
With all the snow that we’ve been having here in New England you would think that I would have had time to finish working on my images from Japan wouldn’t you? A reasonable expectation but I’m swamped here at the moment. More about what’s going on in a few weeks.
I’ve mentioned here before that I generally take a lot of frames when I’m out shooting, particularly when I’m photographing water. With flowing water each frame will be different and potentially offer something unique. Also worth exploring is a range of shutter speeds – I generally try to keep some sense of motion in the water rather than blur the water completely with a very long exposure.
I’m still working on the image above – I’m happy with this version but will now live with this for a while to learn what I like and what I like to change.