Conversations Between Objects
Composition. That's a word that sends chills down my spine. People talk about composition as if there are rules for how you make a good composition. And I say, throw those rules out. To me, there are no rules for anything. The only rule probably, is when you go out carry your camera and make sure you have film or a chip in it. That's the only rule. But that's just basic boy scout preparation. But for composition, for a, a still life, or a portrait, or anything, I say, and it served me well for 50 years and more, make it interesting. Push things around so the frame is alive. Don't be, don't be too precious. It's so easy to say, "Ohh, ohh, ohh, if I, if I move this you know, I'll lose the composition." If you really feel concerned about where you put your objects take a pencil and make a little drawing around the bottom of the object so you knew that the square thing was here, and the round thing was here, and the bowl was here, you know. The great Italian painter,...
Morandi did that on his table. If you look at my Morandi book of still lifes, you'll see that he drew thousands of little circles on his table to show where his positions were. But it also showed how flexible he was. And how he could move his objects around in any relationship he wanted. So, I, I think that it's all play. You put an object down, the first object and maybe you just make a portrait of it. And you find where it reveals itself most fully. And where do you see it most strongly. Where do you connect to it? And then maybe you add another object. And it's possible that they start to have a conversation. Maybe it's about one is big, and one is small. Or perhaps it's about one is black, and one is red. So, and, and you'll choose other objects to come into the game. It's like you're the coach and you're bringing in the players so that they'll play the game well for you. I'm not kidding when I say this. This is a, a kind of child-like activity, making a still life. And how sweet it is when you bring these objects together and after a while you discover their, their energies. Their conversational approach to seeing each other, or being with each other. And you'll be surprised that you can say things with these objects that you didn't know was on your mind. But the objects themselves kind of tickle you, or they kind of suggest something. And so you think to yourself, "Ohh, I'll just put them closer together here." And then you look in the camera and you think, "Ahh, that's interesting. And if I add a little something over here." Bing. (energetic ensemble) So it's, it's a game, and, and as I say, there are no rules so what can I teach you? I can't give you any rules, but I'd like to be able to give you the confidence to play with a kind of open-heartedness, and a willingness to surprise yourself at the things you choose, and how they bring meaning. Really, some kind of significance or poetry, or even drama to the, to the little world you are making on a tabletop, or the floor, or the hood of your car, or. I mean, anything can be a still life and any place can be the background for. So, just move them around in the light, add light, or boost light, or darken the area. It's in total control and it only comes to you when you have a sense of play. Ever since I started making these still lives, people have asked me, "How do you know what to use?" or, "How do you know what to choose, or buy?" And, and I thought, "Well that's really an important question." How come all the objects that I've chosen happen to have something in similar character to each other? I've got a lot of dark objects. So, what's, what happen to me that I chose those things? I'm a guy, people have known me as Cape Light, Mister, Mister, Mister light. And here I am working with dark objects. And I think that something attracted me to these dark hand-made thrown away objects. And I got on their wavelength and so, my appetite has driven me to look for things that speak to me in this odd, strange, slightly surrealistic way. So, what I'm really saying is, each of us, as an individual, with our own quirky personality, has an appetite for things that other people don't. So by finding what it is that really appeals to you, not say, "Oh, I'm going out to buy a bunch of fruit, and I'm going to make a fruit still life." Maybe you only want to pick damaged fruit. With the bruises, because the bruises tell you something about decay. Or maybe you only want oversized, perfect fruit for the American market. That it totally inedible, but they don't, they don't give themselves up. They always look pretty. They taste terrible, but they look pretty. So maybe you want to do something about plastic fruit and how the difference between real American oversized fruit and plastic fruit is hardly any difference at all. I don't know. I'm just throwing these ideas out. But, I'm really saying that everyone has a a through line from the inside of you to the world at large. And by identifying these things, your particular preferences for things you will make a statement about your take on the world. And people will recognize that you've chosen these things and you found the right form to photograph them in. So every step of the way, you're delineating your identity, and character, and personality. And this is what photography can reveal to you. We've discussed this before. This is a search for identity. Your photographs, which are your selections of specific moments in the world, give you a precise identity unlike anybody else. And so when you put your photographs together, people have a chance to say, (gasping) "Oh, wow, you really chose interesting things." Or, "You make interesting frames." Or, "You find interesting people." Or, "You know how to make a landscape really come alive." This is all about you. It's not about me. It's about your search for your photographic identity. A way of bringing your personality into the game and having other people appreciate you for the originality of your mind and your eye.