Seeing Past the Object
Objects vs areas of interest
I, and many others, spend a lot of time going on about how photography is about how the photographer sees things. Equipment, genre and just about everything else is subordinate to the eye/brain combination. Put another way, a person with a well developed eye will take a more compelling photograph with a cellphone than another person will with a five thousand dollar DSLR.
This is hardly a new thought but it is one that many including myself have struggled to explain well. This is my latest attempt to illustrate the point and it may work or it may be too obvious to be of use – you can be the judge. If it is the latter I have only wasted a couple minutes of your time.
How many seperate things do you see in the photograph at the top of this piece? I would guess that someone who doesn’t practice seeing in
the artistic sense will answer two, the chess piece and the playing card. I would also guess that the visual artist’s answer will be three. The three being the queens head, the chess pieces and the letter “Q”/partial heart combined.
The reason for this is that non artists interpret the world around them in terms of objects and that this makes an object’s boundaries the most important thing. The photographer or artist sees the scene in terms of the visual weight of different elements and realizes that this bears little or no relation to their weight in real, three dimensional, life. The edge of the card is very important in the real world but significantly less so in the image.
To shift gears slightly, the image works (or at least I think it does) because it is three elements arranged in a pyramid which is one of the most pleasing and stable compositional shapes. If the viewer finds this image satisfying it is because they see the underlying pyramid structure (albeit usually unconsciously). They are, in effect, seeing the image in the abstract. If they find the image unbalanced they are probably seeing the objects only.
Good photographers learn how to see past the object.
By Steve johnson