We were looking at the photograph in question, trying to decide what exactly it was that made the final edit so much more absorbing than the others. Technically, it wasn’t the best of shots. The foreground and subject were blurred, the distant landscape hazy, there was, in fact, little in the shot that made it interesting. Technically.
I suggested he do a basic edit, the type that I, for example, might do to try and salvage a shot, just to see what happened. Not a lot, to be fair. It didn’t look a great deal better. On face value, it was an unpromising image. So what had made him choose this one to work on when he has so many others of far better technical quality and with far more interesting subjects. He didn’t know. It had ‘something’. It just spoke to him.
My son had been reviewing some of his favourite shots from the past few months since he started playing with cameras. He has graduated from a very basic point and shoot set up to a decent one, and yet some of his best shots were taken on the basic camera. But then, as his friend had pointed out, if you dine with someone and they cook you a fabulous meal, they don’t tell you how good their pots and pans are. They can either cook or they can’t, and that indefinable ingredient that makes the difference to what is served on the plate comes from something within themselves. The food has ‘soul’.
It was, I believe, Picasso who said that you should learn the rules like a professional so that you can break them as an artist. That too applies equally in kitchen or virtual darkroom. Or, for that matter, in any creative pursuit. You can cook a perfectly good meal by following a recipe, just as you can learn photography by following the rules and learning the technical mastery of kit and composition. Either way, anyone who can follow those rules will be capable of producing excellent results. But that special something that turns both the making of food and photograph into an art is, I think, the ability to express the inner self through that chosen form; the ability to put that magical spark of being into what one does. To share, perhaps, a glimpse of the deeper self.
Nick has recently been learning the ropes with his camera and has become evident that much of what he is learning he already and instinctively knew… it just ‘looked right’. Of course, that is the thing, these so called rules are not a perfection in themselves, but the extrapolation of the scientific analysis of what constitutes a beauty that appeals to the human eye. A formulaic generalisation. I wonder what it is that makes the difference between that beauty that will always be pleasing and an image that really speaks to you somehow, that speaks to the emotions.
We too analysed this particular picture and came to a few fairly scientific conclusions the rule-book would appreciate and a few it might not. It certainly breaks a good few. We looked at some of Nick’s other pictures and found that the ones that appeal most are the ones that draw you in and make you feel as if you are seeing through his eyes. Though you wouldn’t actually want to, given that his vision is double and bounces since the attack. Perhaps it is the wheelchair-height perspective… a child’s height view… that manages to capture that wonder at the world that we lose as adulthood claims us and which Nick himself revels in since he came so very close to losing his life.
Whatever it is, and even though I am not the most impartial person here, I admit, there is something, somewhere, that makes them more than just pretty pictures. He says he wants to do street photography… freezing moments in time… but not just on the streets, in the landscape too. He wants to take what the world offers and put his heart into it.
“What do you think?” he said, waiting for my comments on his latest photograph.
“I think that is what makes you an artist.”
*Best viewed on Nick’s flickr page