Sunday, April 6, 2014

Photos as Source Material

Recently Martha Sielman, executive director of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) put out a call to members. She is crafting a presentation on Creativity, which she will present at the British Festival of Quilts this summer. She intends to sample a number of artists about their sources of creative ideas.

In drafting my response to her, I had to think about how I use my photos of urban landscape as source material for compositions. What is it that makes one image compelling, and another not? It was a challenge for me to articulate what elements I look for in an image.

My choices are, of course, highly individual and intuitive. I like the suggestion of volume, of three-dimensional shape. I like to indicate the form of the buildings with different values of colour, or with cool/warm contrasts. When I traveled to Amsterdam I fully expected that I would capture some wonderful images, but the street scenes there are mostly flat facades. And when I visited Santa Fe, I was disappointed that I just couldn't find the "right" kind of views. Still not sure why.

Negative space is important too. What kind of shape is made by the sky?  I like a sky that is punctuated with chimney pots, aerials, or water towers, something that “hooks” the sky to the buildings below, that makes the sky more interesting.

Sometimes I like to look for an unusual point of view, whether it’s from an upper floor of an adjacent building or simply looking up at a tall skyscraper from the sidewalk. 

Other aspects that appeal to me are strong diagonals, the rhythmic patterns of windows, and contrasts of old and new, or round and rectangular. 

Other artists that Seilman discusses will no doubt have very different sources of inspiration, including perhaps nature, music, emotions, and even the materials themselves. What sparks your creativity?

I find potential in my urban images, some more than others, and thinking about what makes the difference gives me insight into my process. This might just make me better at choosing subjects to photograph and surer at editing the results.

1 comment:

Maggi said...

A fascinating insight. Interesting to read about the disappointment in Amsterdam as I too would have expected them to provide a good source of material.