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Destroying detail


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Destroying detail

30 Nov 2020 10:34AM   Views : 304 Unique : 210


Some time ago, one of my friends here recommended watching a documentary on YouTube, about the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. And I found, when I finally got round to viewing it, a dedicated artist who has been successful enough to be able to explore the byways that interest him, and produce images that are unusual and challenging. Two series captured my eye: one produced by discharging 400,000 volts through film (producing beautiful, organic shapes, a cross between lightning and the veins in a leaf), and the Architecture Series.


In the executive room at Louis Vuitton, there’s a view of the Eiffel Tower from the window: on the opposite wall is a photograph which would not fare well in a camera club competition. Centrally composed, with the camera tilted upwards, it is unsharp, to put it mildly. Shot with an 8”x10” cut film camera, an amazing level of detail would have been possible – so, simply, why?

Because, the film explains, removing the clutter of detail allows the architect’s original concept to shine through… Quite a weird idea in many ways: but it’s something that I find makes a lot of sense: I find that my own pictures can also be about destroying detail, to allow myself to see a particular part of the truth of a subject. This happens with Lensbaby lenses, with pinholes, and with shallow depth of field: all allow the photographer to simplify the image.


Of course, detail can be beautiful – but it isn’t always. Sometimes, examining the leaves blinds us to the beauty of the tree, and the wood. (My optician has always been puzzled that I don’t wear my glasses all the time – but it avoids the distraction of detail.)

In the end, though, I believe we can all claim some kinship to a genius – because we are all concerned with sharing the beauty that we see, and we all imprint a little of our inner vision of the world in our images by what we photograph and how we select the views to share.

I think…



dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1778 England
30 Nov 2020 10:36AM
Destroy detail with a soft lens, or mysterious, angled lighting (as in the shot of Geoff Amos outside Bodyline Studio). Recently, I've had a weakness for using a very wide aperture lens, as in the bus stop shot at the top, and the portraits of Emi1 and Celia.

Is it cheating to retain small sharp areas? Mr Sugimoto might think so...
30 Nov 2020 12:49PM
We need Mystery, it's as fundamental to Art as it is to Belief. Both areas deal with the mystical... "the inarticulate speech of the heart," to use a line from Van Morrison. But I think some, without realizing it, fear that, fear the unknown. Because it can mean relinquishing control.
So I've seen photographs, often landscapes, crammed with so much pin sharp detail they seem unreal. Open up the shadows and tell me everything, leave me nothing to wonder about... No thanks.
dudler Plus
17 1.5k 1778 England
30 Nov 2020 4:34PM
Alan - I know that you get it, possibly better than anyone else that I know!

Mysticism is wired into our brains, I think: and I suspect that you're right. People fear what they cannot define and control. But how limited this makes our lives...
SlowSong Plus
12 9.5k 30 England
1 Dec 2020 11:36AM
That's why one of my favourite photographers is Daido Moriyama. He has no pretentions, just walks around with a small camera snapping everyday life and abstracts. Very contrasty images with no finessing of detail. I've tried it. It sounds easy, but it's really not.

1 Dec 2020 7:03PM
I can understand his thinking "concept to shine through". How often do we look at an image a go wow look at the detail in that Are we looking at how good the equipment used is or the ability of the photographer to capture a sharp image rather than the picture itself ? The only time I zoom in now is when I'm looking for a new lens. It annoys me when you see photo judges looking at a picture with an eye glass, you wouldn't go to the Tate and do that.If you took a photo of a Monet some people would probably be more blown away by the fact they can see the individual fibres of the canvas than the subject when blown up to100%.
A sharp detailed glossy image is pleasing to eye, a thought provoking image no matter the resolution is pleasing to the mind.
1 Dec 2020 7:15PM

I can't help but take high contrast with no finessing of detail pictures on my budget ! Sad
pablophotographer 9 1.8k 396
1 Dec 2020 11:07PM
Funilly enough he would be my topic for H Smile

What amazes me is that he creates pictures without even a camera sometimes!
He used film on a table to record the spark of lighting he caused by bringing together two oppositely charged electrodes!

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