About five months ago I described my indecision regarding goals or approaches in my horse project. I can now happily report that I’m still unresolved. It appears that simply making lots of photographs doesn’t necessarily result in refinement. I’ve decided to consider this a good thing, since that’s how it is, anyway. Perhaps one lesson can be drawn: to every style there is a season. Lately in Montana the season has been winter, and a look noted earlier has remained prominent, namely one featuring the texture of snow, especially falling snow, sometimes combined with motion-related texture.
Complicating the mix are photographs that seem to have a narrative element, typically a humorous one (this may be missing for viewers who can’t imagine fun and cold weather going together).
From last fall come the more sculptural studies in strong sunlight:
Another category is the close-up portrait, which also comes in both sunlit and snowy varieties:
Enough already! It’s beginning to feel like a stampede… However, just reviewing the large number of accumulated images has helped me clarify a couple of things. The first is that the framing is becoming a more important part of it for me. I’ve always liked the square format for its own sake, but the especially nice thing in this context is that it allows me a second go at framing as I crop from the original rectangle (I only cut from the long direction). I’m not by any means always sure what I’m doing with the cropping, but it feels like the thing to do. Even though I like the original version as well, many images seem to be strengthened, and I also like the consistency of it.
The last point is closely tied to the second thread, namely my ongoing play with abstraction. I’m learning to work with the frame, alongside texture and tone, to define larger shapes I find appealing. I think it’s also affecting me more as I capture images, though it’s a bit hard to say. Photographing happens in some sort of fog I can’t recall clearly afterward, and never remember to notice during.
If I haven’t led you to any overwhelming question, at least I can’t be accused of insidious intent. For me, a simple visit with the horses is a sure way to brighten my day–all the more if there’s a blizzard. With a few inches of fresh snow on the ground this morning, I have to get going…
Update 1: I completely forgot, in my hurry to get out, that one thing prompting me to musings on this topic was that I had just seen a filmed interview with Aaron Siskind, in which he mentioned the importance for him of the framing in his series of photographs of young men diving into Lake Michigan. Called Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation (see more at George Eastman House and Hasted Hunt Gallery), the interest is in the abstract shapes made by the divers’ bodies. That’s the major commonality with my horses; differences include the absence of cropping into the bodies themselves, the reduction of detail to near silhouettes, and the elimination of environmental information such as clouds.
Update 2: Melanie’s comment #7 seemed very insightful to me, so I put together a few quick comparisons with Degas paintings. Some of these would be closer with my original (uncropped) images, but I think some common concerns are evident, especially regarding merging, cropping, and composition of shapes.
Pairs that partially merge in the bodies:
Similar to above, overlapping of limbs or other extensions; simplified environment:
Configurations and interactions of larger groups, environment essentially cropped out:
Inclusion of a bit of environmental context: