I have found myself coming back to the Human/Nature exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and mostly to one image by Bart Michiel made in the present-day of the World War I battlefields near his home in Belgium.
The images have been described as very subtle by the art critic Alice Thorson. Michiel is quoted as he seeks out “happenstance traces and features on the land that refer metaphorically to combat“. In the case of one photo, the tractor tracks cut through a field that “evoke the tanks that rolled through the area during the battle of Verdun”. Yep, I agree, that is subtle.
I will admit, being an engineer by education and practice, to photograph subtlety is not easy for me. And when I do, I am not sure if what I am subtlety hinting at is noticed. Because when I have my left-brain rational hat on, what is the point if you do not get it? Which is back to that whole conceptual innovation thing, eh? Maybe it is also a trust thing, that I trust you to think about what you see and the possible ramifications and come up with some interesting conclusions.
And sometimes when I am trying to be subtle, I feel like I have created something so subtle, no one will get it. But don’t get me wrong, I also have issues with explaining everything, such that you don’t want the ending of a mystery spelled out to you in the very first chapter. Perhaps why I loved the movie Sixth Sense. I did not see that ending coming. At all.
So I will continue to work that fine line between being so obtuse that only I understand my implied meaning and bonking you hard on the head with a (photo)hammer.
And upon some more reflection, the ability to see and translate thoughts into photographs improves over time with practice; looking and more seeing. And more photographs, more printing, and some more looking. Connecting the hand, the head and the heart.
And to trust myself with taking chances, that maybe I will have gone too far, but if I may have failed in one attempt, that I will eventually discover something about myself in the process.
Best regards, Doug
BTW the serial photograph with this post is from my journey to explore subtlety.