Sunday, February 06, 2005

It could be real

Photographs are amazing.

If you don't agree, just think about it for a moment. Imagine you've never seen a photograph before; imagine cameras haven't been invented. The only two dimensional representations of the world you have ever had access to are drawings, or paintings - pieces of art composed as much from details from the imagination of the artist as from accurate representations of the real world around them.

Now imagine seeing a photograph for the first time. An accurate, true to life impression of reality captured forever on a piece of paper, like a still window onto a past life. Isn't that amazing?

Except photos have become much more than that. I can use any number of tools, from the powers of composition and imagination to the power of a computer, to make an image be what I want it to be. The photograph above is of water boiling in a pan. I know that's what it is, because I took the photo. I know that the water is in a pan, that the hob the pan is on is green, and that steam from the pan is steaming up the kitchen windows. But there is no pan in the photo, no hob, no kitchen, no rest of the world. Just a pattern of bubbles, turned blue by my mind's eye (with a little help from Gimp). Out of context it has become nothing more than an abstract pattern, beautiful but meaningless. It is no longer a representation of the real. Like a painting or a sculpture, it is as much a work of imagination, whether yours or mine, as a reflection of the world.

If I was a more skilled photographer, I might be making images that mean something, like the holocaust memorial photo I mentioned a while ago, where the composition and context turns accurate representations into something symbolic and meaningful. Maybe I could try.

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