20 July 2013

The magpies’ flight at dawn over No. 3 Line

South of my place, the terrace drops via a steep, rough paddock to Te Awaoteatua stream. On the far side another hillside, even steeper in places and with extensive stands of kanuka, rises to the ridge you see here. Beyond the ridge, No. 3 Line follows the valley of Tokeawa stream. Birds live in this sky.

I thought briefly about cloning out the magpies — after all, they're almost indistinguishable from specks of dirt, aren't they? But they were there at that moment, and the reason I pressed the shutter at that moment was because they were there — I have several similar photographs from moments just before. That something so apparently insignificant can change a photograph to such an extent, ... well, it fascinates me. Those two tiny specks fix a precise moment; none of the preceding photographs (which are almost identical otherwise, save for slight differences in framing) can be pinpointed in time as precisely.

Moreover, arguments about whether to talk about photographs (or other artworks) will probably rage for as long as anyone's around to photograph or view the photographs, but I lean towards the view that if you need to say something extra (and that includes the title), the photograph (or other artwork) has mostly failed — the photograph should say everything that needs to be said. (I said I lean towards that view; I'm not confident enough to claim it as a belief.)

But what if the title and the accompanying words, not just the photograph alone, are part of the artwork?

(Apologies for the white on black text. When I set up this blog I didn't intend writing more than simple captions.)

[5 July 2013, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 234 mm, ISO 200, 1/500 at f8]

All content © 2013 Pete McGregor


Zhoen said...

I suspect too many words get in the way of visual art. But a small nudge, a whisper, a suggestion, like a good frame, can bring it into focus, point out the humor, add a layer of meaning. Too much pins it down like a dead butterfly.

I have a photo of a mass of cherry blossoms, and a bee. Makes me smile every time I look at it.

Relatively Retiring said...

The magpies live there, as you say. That sky is their back yard, and I agree with Zhoen.
But I wouldn't mind if my local magpies were tiny specks. At the moment they are determined to move into the kitchen, and I have to keep a bead curtain in front of the open door to deter them. This morning I saw them analysing the beads. I guess they will have them stripped out by tomorrow.

Elephant's Child said...

I am a bit torn here. Indeed every picture tells its thousand words, but sometimes a caption will point the subjective viewer in a direction they would not otherwise have taken.

pohanginapete said...

Too much pins it down like a dead butterfly — I agree, and well put, Zhoen.

RR, ours are a very different type of magpie but, like yours, not short on personality. They're not likely to invade kitchens, though — too many people consider them pests, so they're often persecuted.

EC, that's very much how I feel, too.