Photography

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

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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.

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Maptia - A world of stories by Glenn Dixon

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I am very excited about the new Maptia platform. This service allows you to view stunning articles published by some of the worlds most inspiring writers, photographers and adventurers. There is no cost associated with creating your own profile and publishing your own stories. I am blown away by the quality, depth and diversity of the articles I have read so far.

It was a wonderful surprise to find my Antarctica story, An Offering from the Wanderers, featured as an editors pick!

Maptia_Editor

I am particularly impressed with the interface in which you compose your articles. It is simple, minimal and precise. I love the way photographs can be presented full screen or integrated into the body of the article. There is a small selection of carefully considered text formatting options which results in consistent formatting throughout the website. As a user, you appreciate the fact that the designers have put a lot of thought into this. They do not overwhelm you with superfluous formatting options or style palettes. You are free to focus on making your story as powerful and emotive as possible while Maptia takes care of the rest.

Here are a few stories that have inspired me; James Morgan's Last of the Sea Nomads, David duChemin's My Name is Akeno and David Lazar's Visions of Myanmar.

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.

The reflective lens by Glenn Dixon

Nishi Hongan-ji

Kyoto, Japan 2013

Some people feel more comfortable behind a camera lens than within its field of view. Be wary though - behind the camera you cannot hide. When you create a photograph or piece of moving imagery, you cannot escape being represented within. We may not see your physical form but we can certainly gauge how your presence is received in the immediate environment. When photographing people your manner and emotional state is reflected inside the subject's eyes. If you are awkward, disrespectful or rude it will show in their expression. The camera is a mirror.

For me, image creation is as much about cultivating relationships as it is about exposing celluloid to sun. If you are tentative or reluctant to get up close and engage with people your images will be equally as distant - physically and emotionally.

A portrait captured through a wide angle optic has a sense of inclusion and intimacy that the identical scene framed through a long telephoto optic lacks. The photographs above, Nishi Hongan-ji, were created using a mid-long optic. To me, they feel less intimate than the proceeding photographs captured up close with a very wide lens. The diagonal lines are exaggerated, pulled and strengthened by the wide angle perspective. As a result your attention is pulled dramatically into the heart of the story.

Wood carving workshop

Nara, Japan 2013

I find approaching someone who does not share a common language easier than requesting a photograph of an English speaker. With limited oral language you are forced to communicate warmth and respect through your body. This can be a lot of fun as you can turn your lack of language into an amusing joke at your own expense. You are vulnerable, on unknown ground and at the mercy of a stranger. More often that not people will warm to you if you are politely inquisitive and genuine.

If you do not wish to be emotionally exposed and represented in a photograph, perhaps the safest place for you, rather paradoxically, is to hide in front of the lens.

The man represented in the photographs directly above was a dentist. For him carving teeth is second nature. Just after taking his portrait he admitted in a hushed tone, 'The mouth was easy. The other parts very difficult'.