Monday, January 30, 2017

ARAT, Hrummph!

by Carol

Last Thursday Cathy wrote a beautiful introduction to our new month's theme - "Shadows". I chose that theme with exactly the thoughts in mind that Cathy expressed so perfectly. The groundhog and his shadow inspired me to choose the theme for February, but I too had thoughts of Peter Pan in mind as I considered it. So I am going to use my space here today to throw out one more thought about January's theme (which ironically was chosen by Cathy!) - 'Branches.'

In the latest issue of Lenswork, Editor Brooks Jensen has written a thoughtful piece that ties directly in to my personal approach to photography. He tells of being slighted at a social event by a city gallery owner for continuing to publish landscapes, pronounced as if it were a dirty word. Jensen introduced to me the acronym ARAT, which stands for "Another Rock, Another Tree." It has risen to popularity as part of a general denigration of landscape photography as boring. It goes without saying that Jensen does not agree with that thinking, but he uses it as a teaching moment.

If you are a nature photographer, he asks you to think about how many rocks and trees you walk past every day. Why did you not choose to photograph each one? What was it that drew you to the one out of hundreds that you did photograph? If landscape photography has become banal, perhaps we are not translating what we personally feel as we look at that tree well enough to make the viewer share it.  He puts it like this:

"Isn't it obvious that a magnificent tree and a photograph of a magnificent tree are two different things......We are asking a lot from a two-dimensional, small-scale, media based reproduction {if we want a viewer to} have the same experience we have when photographing the real thing."

That's where all this ties in to my love of contemplative photography. Whether you are photographing trees and branches as we did here last month, or the shadows we are going to feature this month - or whatever your particular focal interest, it is our goal to show our viewer what drew us to that particular moment in time. What spoke to you? What exactly are you sharing? What did you see that someone else might have walked right past? How can you translate the feelings you felt standing under that tree?

The answer is attention. Truly Look (with a capital L) at the detail that called to you and make art from it. Add your personal vision in. (I am reminded of a post Leigh wrote here years ago about a tree in Oklahoma being photographed by many different people)

"Art is something you make, not merely record...I can easily visualize a book of 50 photographs of artwork, each unique, each wonderful, each insightful, each inspiring, all of which use trees (or rocks) as their subject, but whose content is far greater."
                                           Brooks Jensen

I have so greatly enjoyed this past month's gallery of trees and branches and I am looking forward to seeking the shadows with you this month. We are all so grateful for your continued collaboration here at FOL. Our Flickr and Instagram galleries are just chuck full of your wonderful talent! Its a pleasure to share the beauty of the world with you all!


Dotti said...

It's no secret - I have learned to better appreciate the beauty of winter trees. This has been a learning curve for me. These photos are beautiful, Carol! The third one in particular made my heart flutter. I think in winter I have a hard time seeing the trees for the forest!

leigh said...

Yes! Love this Carol! It's all about conveying the feelings of what we see at the moment that we click the shutter. Beautiful photos!

terriporter said...

Wonderful words and photos to go with them! I have to admit that, prior to this past month, I hadn't given bare branches a thought but wow, everyone's photos have been so inspirational and I won't look at bare trees the same again! Causing the viewer to see what we want them to see and feel what we want them to feel is what makes a photograph different from a snapshot. This is so perfectly conveyed in your photos, Carol.

Cathy H. said...

Wonderful post, Carol! I love all parts of nature, but I find myself mostly taking close-up pictures. I sometimes neglect the whole scene. January's theme of bare branches has me seeing the wider picture. With the help of Kim Manley Ort's wonderful classes, I'm learning to pause before I click the shutter button. I'm trying to be more thoughtful about what I photograph. It's hard for me. I get excited and start snapping away! I've spent many hours this month peering up at trees. I know I'll enjoy February looking for shadows! Shadows are a little lower and maybe I won't have a neck ache from looking up!!

Roxi Hardegree said...

Enjoyed this very much! I'm a huge fan of trees. Usually gravitate toward the artsy but I just LOVE that last image.

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