As I mentioned in Monday’s blog, I get a lot of inspiration from other photographers. But paintings are also an influence. I have recently acquired two original watercolours by Michael Morgan RI. I really enjoy his use of colour and composition and my image, ‘Yellow field before the storm’ reflects my admiration for his style.
I am presently studying for an MA in Victorian Literature and Art and I have found, perhaps rather unexpectedly, that my studies are also influencing my photography. John Ruskin wrote, in relation to Turner’s great seascapes:
“It is a great advantage to the picture that it need not present too much at once, and that what it does present may be so chosen and ordered as not only to be more easily seized, but to give the imagination rest, and, as it were, places to lie down and stretch its limbs in; kindly vacancies, beguiling it back into action, with pleasant and cautious sequence of incident; all jarring thoughts being excluded, all vain redundance denied, and all just and sweet transition permitted.”
(Modern Painters, Vol III, Part IV, Ch. X).
Well, who am I to argue with Ruskin and Turner? I enjoy compositions that are pared down to the minimal, devoid of distracting elements, that create space, ‘kindly vacancies’, for the imagination to become involved.
I also enjoy creating images inspired by favourite poems or novels. My image, ‘Lonely walker’, was inspired by the poetry of Robert Frost, and ‘The road goes ever on’ accompanies a quotation from Tolkien:
‘The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.’
I love going to the movies and the theatre. When photographing the castles of Northumberland, I found myself wanting to create moody black and white images reminiscent of stills from epic films. Perhaps I was also subconsciously channelling Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth which, while not in black and white, certainly had plenty of mood and was filmed on location in Northumberland.
My greatest influence, however, is not found in art, literature or movies. Nothing inspires me as much as being outside, preferably somewhere quiet and solitary.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote: “Nature is an infinite sphere of which the centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere”. We encounter nature daily; we can hardly avoid it, even if it is only in the form of a humble fly who crawls through our open window or the scent of distant park flowers on the breeze. Taking time to notice nature enriches my day beyond measure. The more I look, the more I see. Have you ever taken the time to watch a honey bee? I mean for several minutes or more. Watch how the light glistens in its wings as it hovers before its chosen blossom, forelegs outstretched for a gentle landing.
Notice how the evening light catches the soft hairs on its back, and its eager tongue, already prepared as if it cannot wait to savour the sweet nectar.
It has become a cliche to speak of mindfulness, or living in the moment. I don’t know if our lives are busier now than they were a generation ago, or a century ago but, for me, a full life must still contain moments when all its demands are put to one side. Photography has opened my eyes to daily treasures. And the digital age has added the joy of sharing them.
Sometimes, however, it is also good to put the camera down and simply look, listen, smell, taste, touch. That’s all; I am going outside now.
“If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”
Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)