Amateur photographers spend a lot of time searching for suitable subjects for their lenses; whether it is a landscape, a portrait or a still life the subject matter is usually the starting point and everything else follows from that. The guest speaker at Bangor and North Down Camera Club raised a few eyebrows when she suggested that from an artistic point of view the subject should be secondary in importance to the structure and composition of an image. Susan Abraham introduced a thought-provoking perspective to picture making when she displayed a range of artwork based on photography and offered her analysis of what photographers should be striving to encapsulate in their images.
Susan is an Administrator for the Engine Room Gallery in East Belfast and has had a wide and varied career in Art and Design, both as a teacher and as a gallery executive. Examining the structure of an image she displayed pictures which used colour,shapes and contrast to achieve harmony. Light and the awareness of its nature,she maintained should be the all-pervasive influence on photographs and paintings alike .
She then suggested that the artist or photographer should not necessarily set out with the intention of capturing an image. Following a well trodden path to a location leads to conventional images – and convention can be boring. Pictures, she maintained, are all around us at all times. The ability to see the moment and seize it is the basis of good art in her opinion. Henri-Cartier-Bresson featured in her explanation – his “ decisive moment” is still relevant generations after he coined the phrase and if the photographer seeks patterns, textures and symmetry they are to be found everywhere if we can learn how to see them. Susan suggested that to capture an image that excites the viewer one should shoot what excites the taker of the picture. The challenge is to capture your own excitement.
Some lively exchanges ensued as some members challenged the ethos of images not being subject driven as well as the apparent relegation of some technical aspects to a lesser importance. Susan accepted the differing viewpoints and accepted that art must be subjective to a large extent. Nevertheless she left an appreciative audience with another quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson, “You just have to live and life will give you pictures.”