Philosophy

Photography as a method of re-discovery by Glenn Dixon

Birchip_iphoneography_Farm
'Where Mathematics is paradoxical is that the more you look into something, the less you understand it. Mathematicians have gone crazy worrying about what a straight line is!'  

- Masao Morita | Independent Scholar.


The above excerpt from the Takeo Co. publication ’Subtle' applies deeply to the discipline of photographic expression. In photography, it is possible to create a very literal representation of the world around us - that is to show someone in another space and time how something looked to the naked eye. On a more stimulating and engaging level, photography encourages people to realise how much they did not know, or had previously overlooked within the world around us.

Photography, much like mathematics, is the process of losing our understanding of the ordinary and familiar. Powerful photographs challenge and often expel our expectations. A seemingly simple photograph depicting cracked paint on a rusty oil drum contains a dynamic sense of scale, beauty and complexity - out of which comes the possibility of re-discovery.


Photograph above:  Banner photograph courtesy of  xisman via Instagram
Carousel below: Found textures on the farm s by Glenn Dixon Visuals via instagram.

Zen Gardens: Simplicity within complexity by Glenn Dixon

Zen_Garden_Daitokuji

A Zen garden is meticulously maintained. Every day contaminants are plucked from the surface, the garden is watered and the rocks are raked. This perpetual aspiration for cleanliness contributes to a gardens profound and unique beauty. The impossible whiteness of the stones imparts to us a quiet and respectful awe. The rocks represent the flow of water and sea, the sea becomes an empty vessel for us to store our own meaning within.

"[Zen temples] embody the commitment that is needed to preserve beauty through daily effort. Their pebbled white gardens can be taken as a symbol of this principle of preservation.”

- Kenya Hara. White (Lars Müller Publication)

The careful placement of rock and plant elements within a Zen garden create a dynamic sense of scale. When you pause to consider a particular niche within a garden, you receive an impression of vast natural vistas viewed from a considerable distance. With a small step to the left or right, you are reminded of the true scale. The garden seems to be an infinite regress of landscapes.

It is difficult to capture or represent this beauty in a photograph. A photograph is perfectly suited to preserving a moment visually within a rectangular composition. The beauty of a Zen garden is not found solely within the present moment but in its previous iterations and configurations.

Zen_Composition_Daitokuji_2


Mini Doc: Trusting the process by Glenn Dixon

Tim Denshire-Key is a designer, thinker and doer based in Melbourne, Australia. He is deeply interested in sustainable design, social innovation and service design. In short, he likes to make things. For as long as I have known Tim, his understated manner, subtle humour and insightful creative processes have sparked my curiosity. It was a great pleasure to collaborate with him on this project. You can check out his web presence via this link.

Thinking in shadows by Glenn Dixon

Thinking in shadows_ Kyoto

The Japanese author, Junichiro Tanizaki (1886−1965), has suggested that Japanese aesthetics evolved within a culture acutely sensitive and receptive to shadows*. In his 1933 essay, ‘In Praise of Shadows’, Tanizaki suggests that this notion can be partly attributed to Japanese architecture. The low, sprawling roofs of traditional homes and temples shape the light in a very unique way. The rooms within are set a modest distance from the eaves, resulting in consistent illumination all year round. The shadows become more prominent the deeper you proceed into the recesses. It is in this seemingly eternal semi-darkness that materials have been explored, manipulated and refined to become objects that are inseparable from Japanese culture.
 

‘We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows’

- Junichiro Tanizaki.


We in the west light our spaces in a very different yet thoroughly comprehensive manner. At the flick of a switch we unceremoniously push light into every section of a room, thoroughly eradicating the merest hint of gloom. Sought after architecture adopts sweeping windows and skylights to capture and distribute the sunshine. It is suggested that Westerners are drawn toward things of an overtly shinny nature. I cannot help but liken this sentiment to imagining myself as a magpie. We value the clearest diamond and would never dream of serving our guests dinner on tarnished silver or brass. We like clarity and luminance. As a collective, we are not very comfortable with darkness.

It seems that the Japanese have traditionally been captivated by the subtle and transient qualities of the world around them. In a darkened room ones senses are heightened. The power of sight is diluted. One pays careful attention to the taste, sound, temperature and smell of a space. They begin to notice things that are previously undetected. The shimmery heat rising from hot soup, flashes of gold reflecting off an embodied kimono. Beauty for the Japanese is most prevalent in the experiences afforded by shadow.


*I must point out that this is a crude paraphrasing and the text has been interpreted for personal reflection,  learning and sharing. I thoroughly encourage you to pickup a copy of the original as nothing else will do it justice. My aim is to make readers aware of this engaging resource.

Moving between cinematography and photography by Glenn Dixon

Sometimes I think like a cinematographer and at other times like a photographer. Often my creative intentions are beyond the capability of the specific tool in hand. If I happen to have a still camera around my shoulder, I sometimes wish the pictures could move and vice versa. On a boat in Antarctica, a photographic mentor explained that he could tell I was a cinematographer as my photographs felt 'cinematic'. I'm still not quite sure what that meant. At times I feel stuck in limbo between the two mediums.

The moving image differers fundamentally to photography and must be approached with careful consideration. The elements that create a powerful photograph are not strictly interchangeable with motion picture imagery. While they share commonalities you cannot simply copy and paste.

The addtion of time changes everything. Photographers press an eye to the viewfinder in eager anticipation. They have one frame to tell a story. The decisive moment at the peak of the action lures them like a trophy. Cinematographers perceive action a little differently, they think in sequences. The record button is triggered, the action commences, climaxes and then looses momentum. Master cinematographers sense how much lead in to include before the action peaks and how to nurse us through the come down. Cinematographers move the camera through a space in a graceful and fluid motion. The camera seems to invite the action, the composition beckons the subject/s to move through the space within. Cinematographers are not concerned with each frame being a beautifully crafted frame worthy of being hung on a gallery wall. The consideration is on the shot as a whole and how the shot will move into the next. The movement from beginning to end. They have the flexibility of allowing the subject to move in and out of the frame at will, something that is rather rare in photography.

If you switch between the two mediums frequently as I do, you must be aware of the side-effects. Photographers making the shift to motion picture work often reveal traces of their alternate lifestyle. Some giveaways include zooming in and out sharply to re-frame the action during the shot and/or sudden and violent adjustments to focus.