(Any hyperbole you find in this post may be credited to my growing passion for opera…)
Nothing pleases me more than when two distinct lines come together in a surprising way. They could touch, cross, form a point or run parallel. Actually, I am also quite pleased when shapes do the same thing – combine to create an entirely new shape.
Putting graphic elements together is extremely satisfying for me. I don’t know why – but it is not new. As a kid, as I would stare out the window – daydreaming (perhaps that is why my report cards regularly said, “if only she would pay attention in class…”.) I would tilt my head this way and that, trying to line up the cross bars of the window with trees, poles, or buildings outside, until the alignment of the two would make crosses, or parallel lines, or even new shapes.
After indulging in this quirky pleasure for 60+ years, I have gotten quite good at it. Actually, I have made a career out of it. My work has always utilized this “gift” (?) starting with putting layers of reflections together. My LATEST work takes this even farther. Let me tell you how this goes in a typical shoot…
I have a large mirror held upright in my studio. I tape some shards to it creating a graphic mess. Then I put one model in front and another behind the mirror. This is the start. After fussing with lights for a bit I confront the chaotic mess – a jumble of lines, and fleshy shapes. At this point I often get irritated with myself – why do I put myself through this? The pressure is to find some interesting relationships within this mess. This self-abuse and “monkey mind” go on for the first minutes, sometimes longer other times shorter. It stops when I begin to see something – and my explorer self takes over. It is a very slow process organizing this visual chaos – luckily, I love doing it… once I stop the self-talk and just get into looking at the forms.
Why does this work?
Well, for one thing it gives me a different framework to begin exploring shapes. I’ve been photographing the human form for so many years, in order to continue the challenge of seeing it in a new way I put up different mirror shards, redefining the familiar shapes.
As Gary Zukav writes in the Dancing WuLi Masters:
“True artists and true physicists know that nonsense is only that which, viewed from our present point of view, is unintelligible. Nonsense is only nonsense when we have not yet found that point of view from which it makes sense.”
When he says “the point of view” he is talking directly to us photographers. Point of view is CAMERA ANGLE! The importance of exploring (or playing) cannot be overstated – it is the foundation of seeing in new and unexpected ways. This is particularly evident when working with reflections in the mirror shards, as the transformation from even the slightest shift in camera angle can be drastic.
This blog post can be summed up neatly and poetically by Nietzsche:
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”