22 November 2006

Experimenting with avant garde photography

OK, this is really wonky, but I just wanted to try something surreal to see how I liked it. And it was a way to learn another technique in Photoshop.

I don't normally do still lifes, unless the main element is repeated patterns, which the superimposed image qualifies as. I shot this setup of a bunch of safety pins this evening, thinking I might do something interesting with it and then title it "Safety in Numbers." The fun part was selecting just the safety pins and none of the background, turning that into a mask, making the background transparent, thus making the photo mergable into any other photo I chose. But what photo to blend it with? I figured one of another herd of "somethings" that might be seen as attacking the safety pins might do the trick, so I pulled up this one from my trip to New Zealand last fall. Yes, while I was driving down the road (on the left side, you'll notice -- they drive on the "wrong" side of the road down there, to us North Americans), a herd of cattle came right at me and stopped me in my path. I had my camera handy on the passenger's seat next to me, because there were so many things I wanted to stop for and hop out of the car to photograph. This one just had to be done from inside the car, though.

Safety pin silliness aside, the main picture here is another example of one of my favorite genres of photography, which is the humorous justaposition (the "Jesus of the Hoops" from last week was another example). I'm talking about natural juxtaposition, not doctored up in Photoshop. Things I come across which make me laugh, and which I hope bring a smile to the face of the viewer. You'll be seeing more of those here in the coming days. As well as more of my nature shots, etc.

So what's my verdict on whether I like surreal photography? I need more practice if it's going to be successful, and I probably need to study the genre some. It's never been a genre I've appreciated looking at, so why I ever tried it is beyond me. Well, I guess the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan said, and Neil Postman latched onto. In other words, a medium shapes what we communicate with it. Because I could do this in Photoshop, I wanted to try. Not necessarily a good reason to keep doing it. I could wax philosophical about technology and whether we should do things just because we can, but I'll stop there. What do you think -- about the photo, surreal art/photography in general, and this philosophical question? I know I've picked up a couple of additional readers lately, so I'd love to hear your comments.


Iambic Admonit said...

I love it! I love the photo and your thoughts about it. I love how perhaps you were just fooling around with an image-layering technique, and how you were possibly playing with an idea about safety/herds/etc, and you came up with something, almost inadvertantly, that's both fun to look at and has potentially "deep" thoughts to go with it. You could write a whole essay about the cultural implications of this photo, if you wished, even if it were all hogwash. :)

I spent a good deal of time in museums in D. C. this week, looking at lots of photographs & other art, and I'll try to post about it in some detail either here or on I. A. I wish you could have been there to talk about the photos with me!

~ Admonit

Rosie Perera said...

I'll refer readers to Admonit's and my exchange about photography and surrealism in art, and other related matters, on the post titled "Shutter & Palette" over at Iambic Admonit, the blog we co-write together.

It's true that this photograph was almost inadvertent. I'd love to be able to say I knew what I was doing before I started it, but that is often not the case in art. Sometimes the final outcome and its true meaning are discovered in the process of creating. An artist has to be open to possibilities. I have a friend who is a painter, and she often doesn't know what the painting is going to look like when it's done. She might start with an idea of combining certain colors, and only when she's applied several layers to the canvas already will the form of the subject matter emerge. She did a beautiful one of a tree this way recently, but she didn't know it was going to be a tree when she started.

I think I was also subconsciously playing around with the idea that life is sometimes weird -- surreal even. Sometimes the only way to express the frustration or anxiety, or whatever the feeling is when you face reality that is too bizarre to wrap your head around, is to produce surreal art.

Finally, I think this photo falls squarely in the genre of humorous juxtapositions which I enjoy. I like to come across them naturally, but why not create them out of thin air (or 1's and 0's) as well? I will always state whether I've doctored up a photograph or not, as that's only fair to the viewer. There's a particular kind of thrill that comes from finding a humorous juxtaposition that was "accidental" rather than staged. It suggests that God has a sense of humor. One might even say he is a surreal artist at times. I'll post a photo tomorrow that's an example of this.

Rosie Perera said...

I think I just realized where some of my inspiration for this photo might have come from. I saw again an ad which I'd seen before, probably prior to November 22 the first time. It was an ad for the Discover Card, and it had a bunch of scissors on the loose, roaming the streets, cutting up people's credit cards when they dropped them (or rather "fed" them to the scissors, which is what it looked like they were doing). Strangely surreal and imaginative. I don't normally enjoy advertisements of any kind, but this was quite cute, and it made me wonder how they did the special effects. You can watch it online here (click on "Have Some Fun"). And no, I'm not being paid to give Discover business. Like I said, I don't like advertising. You'll never see Google's AdSense on this blog! For someone who hates ads so much, it's pretty embarrassing that my inspiration for a photo might have come from an ad. But it might equally have been that the reason this ad appealed to me so much and stuck with me was that it reminded me of my photo.


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