Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Fine Art Photography [Robert Mapplethorpe] – An article by Goff James

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography Beginner’s Guide to Photography.

This week I will be, again, taking a look at Fine Art Photography and looking at an image by Robert Mapplethorpe.

As I have stated in previous articles one can learn so much about photography by looking at; and, talking about other photographers’ work.

Fine Art Photography “photographic art”, “artistic photography”  may be defined as;

  • possessing no universally agreed meaning or definition,
  • referring to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer.
  • not merely capturing a realistic rendition of the subject, but aiming to produce a more personal – typically more evocative or atmospheric – impression.
  • describing any image taken by a camera where the intention is aesthetic rather than scientific, commercial or journalistic.

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/fine-art-photography.htm

  • as a type of photography that represents an idea, a message, or an emotion wherein the artist has something that they want to convey in their work.
  • not being about capturing what the camera sees but about capturing what the artist sees.
  • using the camera as a tool to create a work of art revealing the vision of the artist and making a statement of that vision rather than documenting the subject before the lens.
  • that the recording a subject is not the main purpose.
  • using photography as a means to express a vision and make an artistic statement.
  • the intentional execution of an imagethrough choosing the elements in its structure, framing, appearance, presentation and technical excellence.
  • representing or conveying an idea, a message or an emotion.
Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 11.48.21
Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily , 1986

The initial appeal of this close up still life lies in the sensitive way the photographer presents a crisp edged highly stylised minimalist black and white image of a single inverted calla lily.

In so doing the image is imbued with an energised dynamism that underscores it with a powerful presence. The image is iconic in the manner in which RM explores botanical still life photography as a means of art making that transcends genres.

The lily dominates the picture plane through carefully orchestration of the composition by placing the flower directly in the centre of the frame and the use of sophisticated lighting.

The image’s subtle gradation of light displays the well-defined lines and the natural shape of the lily. The flower is lit from above which emphasises its paradoxical combination of strength, fragility and ephemerality.

The image’s shallow depth of field and clarity accentuates this and is enhanced further by the careful staging; which, in turn emphasises the meticulous attention to the harmonious arrangement of the dominating sculptural form and underscore its powerful physical presence within a highly controlled environment.

The lily divides the picture plane both horizontally and vertically creating a stark juxtaposition between the contrasting white and black elements.

The leading line of the lily’s curving stem and flower head is echoed by its shadow cast and the of the thin descending sepal which leads the eye directly into the curving blurred pool of light at the bottom of the frame.

The blurred line of this pool of light leads the eye around  the shadow of the lily accentuating the presence and sensuality of the lily itself which hovers above it.

The image with its monochromatic minimalist elegance and subtle gradations of grey tones found on the flower’s trumpet head draws the viewer into the composition to explore the image’s spatial juxtapositions and relationships.

It is the contrast between the black and white that creates and intensifies the dramatic tension of the image.

The stark white flower head juxtaposed against the extreme black background isolates the object and suffuses it with an air of timelessness, poetic, melancholic and symbolic qualities.

It is these qualities that make the viewer reinterpret any self-imposed initial superficial narrative.

The downturned lily can be viewed as a cipher of both masculine and feminine sensuality as well as reflecting a classical physical beauty and aesthetics.

I am obsessed with beauty, I want everything to be perfect, and of course it isn’t. And that’s a tough place to be because you’re never satisfied.

Robert Mapplethorpe

“Taking pictures …and trying to get the best possible view of it.”

Robert Mapplethorpe

It is the sublime erotic element of the lily, that adds to its intrigue, with its drooping head without thinking of the flaccid male member, or the lily’s frilled fringe without visualizing the female vulva.

The very precise architectural shape, perfect form and covert sensual suggestive nature of the flower engages the viewer that demands a response and interpretation of the presented narrative.

The image initiates a discussion with regard to variety of social issues that includes sexuality, race, mortality and death.

I like to look at pictures, all kinds, and all those things you absorb come out subconsciously one way or another.”

Robert Mapplethorpe

I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along.

Remember the things which I have referred to in previous articles about taking photos and creating photograms; the same applies to considering your own photos, other photographers’ work as well as applying different artist’s ideas too.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

Remember there are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it.

Your photographs are your world.

You can do what you like. 

Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

 Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust enjoy the process.

Happy Photography. 

Thank you for your visit.

goffjamesart.wordpress.com

Art Photography Poetry

Reference List

https://www.artblart.com/tag/robert-mapplethorpe-calla-lily/

http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8524/robert-mapplethorpes-sensual-flowers

http://www.collection.whitney.org/object/11521

http://www.mapplethorpe.org/

www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/robe

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/robert-mapplethorpes-petals-and-penises-a-ravishing-new-book-and-major-retrospective-reassess-the-a6911966.h

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/robert-mapplethorpe-11413

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-mapplethorpe-robert-artworks.htm

Photography – Fine Art Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Image and Genre – An article by Goff James

20171027_102333abcde Eight FBO
Goff James, Eight with Two Squares, 2017, FL 3.54 mm, Exp 1/8 sec, f/2.6, ISO 400 Copyright (c) 2021 Goff James – All Rights Reserved 

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography Beginner’s Guide to Photography.

In previous articles I have spoken frequently about the value of looking at and discussing not only ones own photographs; but, the works of other artists and photographers’ works too.

The above image is one of my own fine art images.

This is the image I will be talking about today.

Fine Art Photography / Photographic Art / Artistic Photography / Creative Photography  – Definition

Fine Art Photography may be defined as;

  • having no universally agreed meaning or definition,
  • referring to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the artist/photographer that involves a combination of differing processes – photo-collage, photogram and photography,
  • producing a personal conceptual impression in which the narrative maybe evocative, atmospheric or provocative,
  • primarily being about the artist and where the intention is artistic aesthetic,
  • an incorporation of mixed-media, installation art and assemblage art,
  • not about capturing or documenting reality objectively but going beyond the literal representation of a scene or subject,
  • intentionally being artistically subjective,
  • capturing what the artist sees – an expression of vision,
  • the camera being utilised as a tool to create a work of art and containing elements of artistic control,

“Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes art when certain controls are applied.”

Ansel Adams

  • revealing that it was created by an artist and not by just the camera,
  • involving an original, deliberate creation and that every aspect of making the photograph in the field and in the photographer’s post-processing digital studio, including the printing, are an individual expression from within the artist, 
  •  not re-presenting objective reality literally but rather through subjective intent.

Reference List

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/fine-art-photography.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-art_photography

20171027_102333abcde Eight FBO
Goff James, Eight with Two Squares, 2017, FL 3.54 mm, Exp 1/8 sec, f/2.6, ISO 400

The image is a composite creative art photograph made up of four different layering processes – the first being a photogram constructed from organic and inorganic materials, the second being photo collage made up of elements pasted onto the surface of the photogram and thirdly a photographic image taken of the work and the final elements were attached in the photo editing process.

The image was taken indoors in normal natural daylight conditions. The camera, in auto mode, was hand held directly above the final composition. Within the image the depth of field is particularly shallow due to focussing so close.

A large aperture of f/2.6 was selected to maintain as much sharpness as possible. As the subject was static a long exposure time of 1/8 sec. A slow film speed of ISO 400 was utilised.

Consequently only the very centre of the image can be considered to be in the sharp zone.

However the multiple foreground objects remain clearly defined whilst the background and the objects therein and their edges lack precision and are softened through blurring.

The crispness of the number eight was achieved by introducing this element in the photo editing process and with the use of layering and filters.

From a compositional perspective the cropped numeral eight, on the blurred grey hued background, dominates the frame and is located off centre towards the left frame edge.

The five subsidiary elements are comprised of;

  • the two thin lines that extend across the image from bottom to top,
  • the six fragmented rectangles set one upon the other at the lower right frame edge,
  • the two square shapes – the one situated top right of the composition complemented by the other and found in the bottom left section and finally
  • the triangle descending from the top left frame edge.

The muted background monochrome hues have been accentuated during the photo-editing process through colour adjustment and the use of a Difference Layer.

The editing modifications that have occurred have accentuated the crisp outlines and colouration of the foreground shapes making the overall composition sharp and strong.

The process of creating this image contains within itself a sense of creative irony in that though there is a degree of artistic control this image which is unrepeatable contained the seeds of its its own destiny.

There was no certainty with regard to the initial stage how the selected object would have been recorded even though the projected light source remained static.

The process of creation, from the outset, was inherently unfixed and dynamic and the final outcome was similarly defined.

The staging of the composition reflects the influence of Cubist artists such as George Braque (1882-1963, French), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973, Spanish) and the American artist/photographer Man Ray (1890-1976)

“… colour acts simultaneously with form but has nothing to do with it …”

George Braque

The reasoning behind this work was to permit the image to act as an inspiration for a painting composition.

However the image works as an independent piece its own right.  The figure eight acts as the pivot for the composition. The shapes appear to have been stencilled onto the surface.

There is no concrete evidence to suggest that the number eight acts in some overt way as some kind of symbolic or subliminal gesture other than as part of the title of the image.

The work is intrinsically a study of shapes within shapes and their fragmentationt in a narrative inspired by movement.

The image not only possess a provoking geometric asymmetry, a feeling of monumentality but also an exploded perspective which is accentuated by its broad spectrum of monochromatic shade and texture as well as its minimalist abstraction.

A pleasing counterpoint is created through the use of contrasting light and dark areas as well as the varied textures employed. The viewer is drawn into a strange world  and has to search the image to truly perceive all its content.

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality. There’s no danger then, anyway, because the idea of the object will have left an indelible mark.”

Pablo Picasso

The image echoes the genre of photographic construction built up from multi-layers possessing no solid centre but is open to space. It contains a variety of solid shaped elements that seem to float around the dark coloured figure eight the focal point of the composition.

The light background is more representational of the natural world. The monochromatic nature of the composition, the various shapes and contrasting textures  creates a sense of rhythmic cohesion.

The composition is a shallow arrangement of planes made up of mundane everyday materials, objects and processes.

The pictorial element represents a conglomeration of fragmented forms devoid of volume.

The image represents an aerial view of a shape-scape set within the framed edges an empty vista which permits the viewer see into and through it into to the background. The work is characterised, to a large extent, by its very indeterminacy.

As Surrealist poet Robert Desnos wrote in 1923, Man Ray

“… succeeded in creating landscapes which are foreign to our planet, revealing a chaos …” 

Speaking of Pablo Picassos Cubist work André Salmon stated

“ … delivered from painting and sculpture…[photography] … liberated from the imbecilic tyranny of genres.”

Reference List

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265487

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1088?locale=en

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-braque-georges.htm

More photography by Goff James

I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along.

Remember what I referred to in previous articles about taking photos and creating photograms; the same applies to considering your own photos, other photographers’ work as well as applying different artist’s ideas too.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

Remember there are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it.

Your photographs are your world.

You can do what you like. 

Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

 Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust enjoy the process.

Happy Photography. 

Thank you for your visit.

I cordially invite you to subscribe to Goff James Art Photography Poetry at goffjamesart.wordpress.com (Doing so will allow you to be notified whenever new content is published on my blog.

goffjamesart.wordpress.com

Art Photography Poetry