thinking with pictures

Seeing what’s behind the picture

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sunlight late in the afternoon

late afternoon golden winter light

Browsing the deluge of carefully composed and produced images at or one of the user groups like “panoramas” or “landcape” gives the impression that these visual feasts are static features that a person can revisit. But part of the process of reading photographs is to remember three things. (1) This is a frozen moment captured and circulated; that just before the shutter was released things may have looked different and that just after the image was captured the elements may have moved, as well. (2) Outside the image frame is a wider context. Perhaps this distracts from the composition, but nevertheless the wider context is worth holding in mind when savoring what is presented within the four sides of the frame. (3) There is historicity: specific time, season and calendar date are worth knowing so that the image is not purely anonymous abstraction. While the play of shape, texture, depth and composition may form a pleasing tableau, nonetheless these subject all belong to the field of space-time constraints and are subject to various restrictions, trajectories and purposes.

panorama with cloudscape

Galveston Bay – summertime

In other words, the illusion of stability and beauty of light is communicated by still photographs. But to fully know the moment captured, one must supply the missing parts: (1) the timeflow before and after the shutter was snapped, (2) what lies outside the field of view composed, and (3) the specific place and time, including the relevant cultural footnotes or significata and the forces of the natural environment at play in the moment, too.

[cloudscape: Louis Vest at flickr creative commons]


Author: gpwitteveen

Better Outreach is my aim. See to know more.

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