Have you ever been in an art gallery and heard someone “explain” a piece of art to a companion? If you have, then you might remember a touch of annoyance at what was clearly a wrong explanation. Later, when I think about such incidents, I’m amazed by the way exactly the same image can draw different reactions from people. That is a lesson for me, when I create images. What I show can be totally different for different people. The grass flowers in the featured photo evoke in me a sense of their softness. I have memories of walking through fields of kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum) and feeling the soft bunches of flowers brushing against me. To enhance that feeling, I made it into a high key photo, so that your eye cannot easily focus on the edges. The soft morning’s backlight cooperated with me in this. I also remember the touch of coolness in the air. But what does this image convey to you?
Images contain much more than the single purpose you might have in mind. This is why images are obscure ways in which to convey meaning. When I took the photo of this spotted owlet (Athene brama) nesting in a hole in a concrete block I though it showed the adaptibility of all living things. Today I think of it as a study in contrasting textures, the hard shadows on the man-made structures contrast with the soft fuzziness of the shadows on the owl’s feathery coat. In order to emphasize texture, I desaturated the colour of the bricks. Who knows what I might see in the image a week from now?
I look on people’s memories as an ally in the making of images. When I spotted this cliff covered in moss on a bird-watching trip, I took a few photos so that I could study the identification of mosses later. But someone else said “Ooh. It looks like a rainforest in miniature.” Sure it does. He leveraged his memory to make a photo. But then a bunch of other bird-watchers came along and started taking the same photo and saying the same thing. That’s how association works in our minds: creating recognition, triggering mimicry. That’s something that politicians and advertising work on very much better than poor sods with cameras. But today I can turn those same images into a question: do you really have to see the contrast between hard rock (!) and moss to recall the softness of running your hand over a moss covered wall? Or does the lower image, with no rock showing, do as well?
Spiders are among my least watched photos: too many people have an aversion which triggers instantly. I love the colours, although I’m shaky at their identification. But spider webs? They are among my most liked photos. Sharp focus is needed to capture a spider web. To me this is a fairly good spider photo: the light was just right to glint off the strands of silk in the web, I caught the colourful spider in sharp focus, and there is still enough of its environment to tell you how this wood spider strings its large web between trees to catch insects which fly about two meters above ground. Do you see the softness of spider silk when you see this photo?