A good friend has a house just off St. Louis’ Forest Park; a gorgeous home in the Beaux-Arts style with grand proportions and splendid architectural details. He’s gone to enormous effort to renovate and decorate it back to its turn of the century grandeur. I’ve featured it in my work on a number of occasions.
Of course, when I walked in the first time I was a kid in a candy store trying not to eat everything all at once through my camera. It took a couple visits before I politely asked if I could capture photographs, to which he was, of course, happy to accommodate. But you don’t want to just walk into a man’s home and start shooting photographs without asking.
Once I’d started shooting it occurred to me I didn’t know what the heck fire I was doing. It took a couple attempts for me to figure out how to capture his home properly. For me, every new subject is like that.
There’s a way to capture photographs that is definitively ‘photography’ and another way that forms the basis of ‘art’. I really don’t know how to define the difference; it’s almost like the more perfect the photograph, the stronger it is in its own right, the more difficult it becomes to drag an artistic vision from its pixels. I’ll point again to my post of January 30, a gorgeous capture from the roof of The Last Hotel in St. Louis at sunset. It took four attempts before I had something I felt happy with. By comparison, the very next post on February 3 was pulled from an OK,, but not great, photograph. Even though it was captured in the same place at the same time on the same day, I was pointing in the wrong direction, so the light isn’t quite right, it was the incorrect lens, so the composition is off, and the original exposure was a little flat for my tastes. But get the computer involved and open my artist’s eye and it became, I think, a very good work in very little time. It’s the imperfections in which providence lives.
On to today’s work and the automobile, the second I’ve done with my nephew Sam Woodson. As I’ve written, automotive design was my first love and continues to be a passion, and yet there’s very little of that in my portfolio. I have to conclude it’s because I haven’t really figured out how to shoot it in such a way as it leads to ‘art’. Along comes my good nephew Sam with a couple shots of his cars he’d like artsy’d up, and it turns out there was something in each of them that had me thinking, ‘yeah, I see something here’. And I think, from what he captured, I think I see better how to capture new automobile photographs myself. I think. Providence.
Now, back to my friend’s house in St. Louis, and the reason I brought it up; there’s one room, a gorgeous front room with a majestic fireplace and a grand piano and southern-facing windows in which the light is filtered so beautifully by flowering trees just outside. I’ve only partially caught that room; its complete panorama has eluded me. The reason is that at the end of the room there’s a striking painting of a bearded lady. A queen; classically elegant and royal, in an ornate frame. And she has a beard. AND I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH HER! Because if she’s in the composition, no matter what kind of art I create, she’s going to draw the attention. She’s going to seem like something I added rather than captured. She’s going to co-opt the vision.
One day, I am going to walk into that room, and I’m going to know how to handle her. Providence!
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.