First, if you're in or near NYC, you need to go see the CHIHULY exhibit. Second, this piece is the second in a series going deeper into my process and craft of photography. It's both an out-loud reflection and self critique but also a way of opening up more about my approach so that I can learn from my own voice as well. Thanks for joining me.
I would have loved to be in the studio as the CHIHULY team put this piece together. Did they sketch out some master plan? Select a color palette? Or let themselves go willy nilly? Did the canoe come first or did that come later as a clever after thought? Was the reflection - for many the main subject - a focal point as they started or a brilliant realization as they started? I've been asking more of these questions as I interrogate my own process more.
As I looked around me and saw photographers with tripods, with huge zoom lenses, and those with iphones, I realized they were all basically doing the same thing - standing about their normal height and honing in on the boat or a part of the boat from a few different perspectives. These shots would look vaguely similar down the road. Nothing wrong with that, but it made me wonder whether there were other ways of seeing the artist's work.
With a little intentional hand shake a low angle, both the piece (and the photograph) take on an entirely different meaning. For me at least, this second perspective accentuates the artist's intent to play with light and highlight the power of glass to bend, transform, absorb, and reflect it in all different ways. Here the colors act more as ghosts dancing on the water with their partners. The edges of the balls soften and the different shades, gradients, and sizes - the forms - become more salient.
As I continued my journey around the garden I tried looking for different ways to express what I was seeing and how I interpreted what the artist had created.
I loved this because because of the endless options it offered. Nestled in a reflecting pool, these glass rods shot up out of a wood pile. But I was more interested in the way that they had a never-ending presence in the reflection below. At just the right angle, you can't quite tell whether you're looking at the reflection or the 'real' thing and so my intent here was to capture that sensation of surprise and wonder. Could the artists have designed it for this moment? Who do they let in on their little secret?
I began searching for even more ways to understand what I was seeing - slowing things down, changing the angle, swiping left, swiping right. I realized in that process that creating intentional blur is more than just about slowing the shutter. It requires really understanding what story you want to tell and how much the blur plays into that. Do you want to totally abstract the shape or just nudge it out a bit? What emotions change as more or less blur is introduced and what do you gain and lose with those choices? I realize there was also a delicate balance of how much motion to introduce within the chosen shutter speed and whether that motion followed one direction or many.
There are so many questions to answer but I loved how this exhibit gave the opportunity to experiment with new ways of seeing.