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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Forms 形

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.
Louis Sullivan, 1896

形 Forms / SML.20110221.7D.07459

形 Forms / SML.20110221.7D.07459

There is a reason behind my madness for forms in my design and in my photography (more on SML Flickr). It is the backbone of my art education. When you remove the subject matter and see only the forms – i.e. the shapes, lines and space – you are looking at the overall construct in its purest.

I enjoy photographing bridges. They are not ”travel photography” – I photograph them because they are the purest expression of utility. Not a wasted bit was devoted for decoration.

Manhattan Bridge HDR / SML

Manhattan Bridge HDR / SML

Colors have an unfortunate side effect of being distracting. When we remove color, we can more readily see its forms. Here you see the same sequence of images reprocessed as black and white. Without the color information, the forms are more readily seen.

Manhattan Bridge HDR BW / 20051002.10D.35448-35450.HDR-BW.RP2008 / SML

Manhattan Bridge HDR BW / 20051002.10D.35448-35450.HDR-BW.RP2008 / SML

I bought my first digital camera in 1997 in order to study forms. That I do not need to buy TMAX + Tri-X in bulk, snap shots, run to the darkroom and get all worked up with chemicals, and then wait half a day to get back to the darkroom to spend even more time to print means that I can quickly see results and retake as necessary.

Forms / SML.20110221.7D.07464

Forms / SML.20110221.7D.07464

Now with the iPhone and iPad, the instant gratification effect is still a lot easier. I walk by a place and I just snapped and voila.

Human Logistics Forms in Yellow 黃色人流之形 / SML.20121023.IPH5 / #hk #cn #street #forms

Human Logistics Forms in Yellow 黃色人流之形 / SML.20121023.IPH5

Often when people look at “abstract art” they would say that they don't “get” it. Well there is nothing to get — which is exactly the point. They are study of forms – forms which evokes emotion even though they represent nothing concrete.

形 Forms / SML.20120910.G12.00219

形 Forms / SML.20120910.G12.00219

Photography is not about your skill and technique, nor is it about how pretty the subject matter is. Good photography is pleasant to the eye even if the subject matter is not intrinsically beautiful.

Forms / SML.20110221.7D.07453

Forms / SML.20110221.7D.07453

Being able to photograph beautiful objects to create a beautiful result does not make you a good photographer. A good photographer should be able to turn even the ugliest thing into something poetic. That shows skills and technique. And that is exactly what my Deadyard project is about.

Deadyard Forms / 20091125.7D.00557.P1.L1.C23.BW / SML

Deadyard Forms / 20091125.7D.00557.P1.L1.C23.BW / SML

By taking photographs of trash and dirt which are repulsive to others, I force the viewer to only respond to the forms. Taking abstract art one step further – I wish to get a positive response to the deadliest matters.

SML.20050610.10D.34579

This project started way back in 2005. I have gained some positive responses but almost everyone told me that although they like it, they would not want to see it hanging on their walls. This probably means that I am not quite there yet. But I hope that someday I will be.

7 comments:

Lin Li said...

The kinds of artwork that people want to hang on their walls at home are not necessarily the best art. Most people prefer decorative, happy art in their own homes. Strong work which offers a different vision is often not decorative.

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