I I look at the pictures of a lot of photographers – past and present – for inspiration and ideas for my own work. But I also look at paintings. This one really grabbed me.
The painting is by Mary Morant, a local artist whose work I’ve admired for a long time. I saw the painting in an art show here in Darien. It’s called “Kate” and it’s a fairly large piece – 24 inches by 30 inches. There was a lot of good art in the show, but I kept coming back to this wonderful painting. Here’s what I like about it:
1) The composition is very simple and therefore very powerful. There’s nothing extraneous in the frame.
2) The light is gorgeous – and it feels very real and true. I love the way the light catches just the edge of the girl’s face, the play of light and shadow on her back, and the way the light catches a few stray hairs. The light is strong enough that it “blows out” (in photography terms) what is printed on the booklet she is holding. This is just the way our eyes would work in this scene if we were looking over the girl’s shoulder. Painting (or photographing) in such a harsh light, where the sun is high in the sky, is very difficult. Mary nailed it. Even the earring is lit perfectly.
3) The background. The tones and color of the green (grass?) is a perfect complement to the tones and colors of the girl. There’s a “narrow depth of field” as we would say in photography, so the background is out of focus. Again, this is how a viewer might perceive this scene, putting the emphasis on our main subject.
4) The mystery. Where is this young lady? What is she reading? What does she look like head on? (If only Kate would turn her head slightly so we could see her face!) What is she thinking? The beauty of Mary’s painting is that our imaginations are given free reign to run wild. Here’s what I came up with – the girl is at her high school graduation, which is being held outside, and she’s following the program as the ceremony progresses. Perhaps she is looking for the place where she will be called up to receive her diploma. She’s reflecting back on her school experiences and also wondering about what the future holds for her.
Studying and thinking about Mary’s painting – and other works of art – informs my own photography, in both conscious and unconscious ways.
Brava, Mary Morant! You can see more Mary’s work at her website.
Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.
“Individual, Indelible, Iconic Images”